The day after we moved home from London, I burst into tears as I drove my mini-van into the Sam’s Club and Target parking lot. Everything I grieved about leaving our quaint mews and walkable lifestyle in London seemed to be epitomized in that strip mall. I kept my head down as I entered the brightly lit, beautifully marketed sensory overload that is Target, lest I see someone I knew and have to explain my tears. As I headed to the back of the store for the moving-back-in essentials- toilet paper, paper towels. trash bags- I had to walk by the newly launched Magnolia Home display. They do that to us on purpose! I love you, Joanna (I really do love to binge watch Fixer Upper with my 13 year old daughter), but as I turned over the plates and touched the cloth napkins, I noticed that, as I suspected, they were all made in China. And so began my strained relationship with what had previously been my go-to store.
There is a tension between convenience (thank you for being open until 11pm when we realized that we were out of toilet paper and down to our last bottle of wine on the night before Thanksgiving!) and authenticity. As grateful as I am for easy access, the items we purchase and use most days are disconnected from the source, and therefore easily discardable. This is fine for my paper towels (which I still want to use less of), but having seen the real thing, I don't want to settle for replicas, just because they're cute and affordable. Artificial flowers and plastic trees are suggestive, but their scent will never evoke a memory, or their texture instill wonder. When I buy napkins or a trendy blanket at Target, I will not think of the fields where the sheep grazed, or the women who hand-printed the design.
That trip to Target remains an inspiration for Briton Home. This year for the holidays, we are offering British wool blankets and scarves, hand-printed tea towels and napkins, and ornaments carved from wood salvaged from drawers at Oxford University, among other things. I'm sure it is possible to find these types of items at the mall (maybe not the hand-carved birds!), but I can say in good conscience that I am offering the real thing. There are very few stockists in the US for the products we offer, and everything is made in Great Britain. I have seen the looms that make blankets and have met the artists who created the designs and the woman who helps to print them on the fabric. I even visited with the man who carves the birds (and who hurt his back and so we had to wait for them). The beautiful items they create are luxuries, generally only available at small shops in the UK. It is a labor of love to make them available here.
Whether or not you find a gift or an item for yourself from Briton Home, I hope we can all think more about each of the items we use. Knowing the source and story helps us to better appreciate everyday pleasures like reading a good book with a warm blanket!