Country and Eastern is a very, very special place.
I’ve been trying to think about how to write this blog post that will convey exactly what it’s like stepping inside the shop - a former 19th Century roller skating rink - for the first time. It does feel special, but not in an intimidating, walk-carefully-or-you-might-knock-something-over way; it’s more like walking into a beautiful museum, because essentially that’s what the place is. As well as finding an extensive range of the most beautiful fabrics and interiors from all over the South Asian corner of the globe, you’ll also find one of the most eminent and well established collections of South Asian arts and crafts in the UK. In the same building, Country and Eastern and sister organisation the South Asia Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection (SADACC) live side by side, which makes for one of the most unique Christmas shopping experiences you’ll ever have.
Country and Eastern was established 40 years ago by Philip and Jeannie Millward. They’ve always worked closely with their suppliers and their craftspeople, so that traditional techniques such as woodblock printing, handloom and rug weaving, embroidery and ceramic painting are kept alive. They both travel extensively - from Turkey to the very east of Java - to personally select the items that you see in the shop.
Which brings me back to trying to describe to you why you should do your Christmas shopping there. Hopefully, these pictures will show you exactly why, plus reveal some of the stories behind some of the items in this incredible place.
Beautiful, handpainted Christmas Stars, prices starting at £1.95 for a small one, up to £3.95 for a large.
Upstairs, Country and Eastern sell a spectacular range of bed linen (including duvet covers, pillowcases and quilts), all in a range of patterns, prints and colours. Philip explained to me one of the more unusual methods used to dye one of these fabrics: mud resist. Mud is applied to the cotton in order to mask out a design, then sawdust is thrown at the fabric, which sticks to the mud and encourages it to dry. The fabric is then left in the sun so the mud is then fully dried, and then dipped in indigo. As a result the whole fabric is dyed a deep blue, while he mudded areas are left as the original colour of the fabric. The outcome is a range of one-of-a-kind fabrics in bold patterns, with tiny hairline flecks of colour where the mud has cracked.
Pictured: Shimla Blue Quilt (dyed using mud resist) hung over banister.
Price for quilt: £92.00 for a double and £128.00 for a King
These soft, colourful pillowcases are made from parts of saris, stitched together and then quilted!
Pillowcases pictured (oblong) start at £24.00 for the cover
These Kimonos come in all sorts of beautiful colours and patterns, mostly printed by woodblock. They are so soft (without being the slinky kind), and would a perfect cosy wrap that you could wear all year.
Prices for kimonos range from £28.95 - £39.50
Norwich, Paris and Paisley were - during the 19th Century - the worldwide capitals for fashionable shawls. 'The Norwich Shawl' was a coveted icon, and this scarf is based on one of these classic designs. It is completely unique, and made in Ludhiana in Pakistan. The colours are more vibrant that can be done justice in this picture.
Scarf pictured: £19.95
These scarves and cushions are made from Yak's wool, by NGOs in the Himalayas. The scarves come from the Western region, and the cushions from an Eastern region so remote that the craftspeople drive 8 hours to pass them on to be transported here. The wool is surprisingly fine, and these would make a wonderful, wintery gift.
Scarves start from £24.00
Cushions are £21.00 for the cover, and £25.50 including the inner
Visit Country and Eastern online – www.countryandeastern.co.uk
To visit in person the shop is open Monday- Saturday, 9.30am - 5pm
Greater Anglia has Advance fares from £10 one way between London Liverpool Street and Norwich. Trains run every 30 minutes. Greater Anglia also serves Colchester, Ipswich and Diss on the Norwich line. Direct trains also run from Cambridge.
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