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Pearl Lowe

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Frome Artisan Market

Posted: 19/09/2011 00:00

The past has always been my main source of inspiration. When designing for Peacocks, making my own dresses or planning my stationary and soft furnishing lines, I always look to antiques and vintage fashion for ideas - both of which are found in abundance in my local town of Frome.

Tucked away in the Somerset countryside, the cobbled streets of this Saxon parish contain some of the most adorable second-hand shops and vintage textile stores in the country. Catherine Hill meanders through the centre and is home to Poot - a vintage clothes emporium with one of the best collections of dresses, shoes and hats outside of London, as well as Polly Anna, with its gorgeous range of antique furniture and home d├ęcor.

Halfway up stands The Crowman - a sprawling cove of colonial relics, Victorian paintings and yellowing classics lining the walls, whilst dotted in between are haberdashers, vintage homeware and furniture stores. At the top stands Bramble and Wild, whose arrangements of poppies, pinks, hydrangeas and roses can always be found around our home.

If this wasn't enough for me to fall in love with the town, throughout Summer it is flooded by even more vintage finds with the arrival of the Artisan Market.

On the first Sunday of every month collectors pile in to line the street and sell anything from handmade toys to paintings and cooking utensils. It's an opportunity to see what some of the local collectors and crafters have been up to and for everyone in the town to share their thoughts and ideas.

I pick up a pastry from the chefs at the Chapel in Bruton - a truly unique restaurant and a favourite amongst my friends and I, with one of the best menus and in one of the most beautiful settings I have ever seen - and make my way through the crowds of people to see what the market has to offer.

A brass band sounds from the hill and multicoloured bunting dance above. It's pretty, perhaps even twee, but that's part of the charm and unlike many attempts made by people to recreate a village atmosphere, one appreciates the fact that this is authentic. The smell of sausages carries in from a stall to my left and the sun begins to poke through the rooftops on either side.

Talking to one seller, she tells me that the market is an opportunity to showcase some of the more unusual items in her collection. She says that the people here are open-minded and always keen to talk to her about trade. "They want to ask where I get my stuff from," she says, "they want to know its history." Another woman selling hand-stitched quilts says, "People just want to have a good time here. They want to support people that have a real love for beautiful objects."

It's not about the price or about passing trends, it's about finding special objects that mean something to you. Looking around the crowded street, one has the impression of being part of a community; and not just of people living in the same place, but of people who share a passion for vintage finds. When looking to the past for ideas, it's not just the things I buy, but the way I buy them that inspires me. Speaking to sellers and discussing ideas over locally sourced food is just as important as the things I bring home at the end of the day.

Frome and its Artisan market are in the spirit of everything I try to create; with that on my doorstep I never tire of ideas. For anyone living in the area, a visit here is a must and for those living further afield, it's a day out certainly worth making the drive for. Empty your car boot and bring a good pair of flat shoes (the hill is very steep) and make sure you save room for all of the delicious pastries and cakes being sold on stalls in the local cafes.

See Pearl's pictures of the market below

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