A Moroccan-inspired, Beaminster Christmas
If you’ve wondered around Beaminster Square lately, you would have no doubt spotted the return of a wonderful Summer treat in the form of Saffron Maroc’s Christmas Pop-up Shop, taking up the space between Brassica Restaurant and Pomegranate. A feast for the senses, and surrounded by colours that excite and usher in memories of faraway lands and hand-crafted splendours, we chat to Saffron Maroc owner Fran Wood about the shop, the products, Morocco, and the amazing Trompe L’Oeil painted furniture by local artist Katinka Stampa Orwin taking pride of place too.
“I have lived in Beaminster for a number of years after marrying my husband and joining him on his family farm just outside of Beaminster. But I am also lucky enough to have a house in Morocco which has served as a getaway and a base to explore Morocco from too,” she tells me. 10 years ago, Fran decided to buy a ‘pile of rubble’ as she describes, and restore a riad to its former glory once again, for her and her family to use whenever they wanted to get away, but to also offer to visitors who were looking for somewhere to stay, whenever they wanted to explore. And it was this investment that has developed into a wonderful little business called Saffron Maroc, both online, and now as a pop-up shop in our own town square.
You walk into the Beaminster store, and you’re immediately greeted by an abundance of colours and textures. Faint scents of orange blossom, jasmine and cinnamon usher you in allowing your eyes to adjust for a minute to the displays of colourful wool, wood and ceramic. From traditional wool blankets (some new, some vintage) hanging on the walls and ceramic mugs in all their striped beauty that sit on another shelf on the wall, to a centrepiece arrangement of natural and organic Argan Oil skincare products, both from Morocco and the UK, you are instantaneously transported to an eclectic world of the unique and unusual.
“I’ve enjoyed the development of a shop-based retail form of Saffron Maroc, chatting to people who come in and watching them get to know new and unusual things,” Fran says. But Saffron Maroc isn’t completely new. Usually running as an online shop only, Fran’s day-job is working on the family farm in the apple orchards on the road between Beaminster and Bridport. But every so often, Fran decides to showcase the range of products available in a pop-up shop, as she did in the summer months in Beaminster, earlier this year.
The product options range from Morocco-inspired, and created, homeware products which includes scatter cushions, blankets and throws, décor and more, Fran has also been instrumental in using Moroccan fabrics to create her own unique products. I marvel at her version of Christmas stocking, handmade by Fran from beautiful silks and felts in an array of colours – and sure to brighten up any mantlepiece. I particularly take note of the smaller sizes of stockings, which are perfect for housing 1 standard-sized bottle of wine. No gift wrapping needed. Apart from the handmade Christmas stockings, Fran also hand-pours a range of eco soy wax candles into ceramics that she brought over from Morocco herself which area also available for sale.
Katinka Stampa Orwin Furniture and Art
Partnering up with Saffron Maroc is local artist Katinka Stampa Orwin, freelance artist based outside of Beaminster in Dorset who specialises in Trompe L’Oeil Painted Furniture & Murals. Pick up a beautiful mural of a mouse to play ticks against your skirting board, or a beautiful hall table that has appears to have a bowl of fruit placed on top, but on closer inspection, is only an oil painting on the table top itself. “Katinka is a master at innovating and elevating all that boring brown furniture you have at home,” she says. And it’s evident from some of the pieces in the shop!
“The shop is open up until Christmas Eve – and deliberately so, for all those men who come shopping on the last day with a look of panic on their faces,” she laughs. “And when all these products are sold out, I return back to Morocco to stock up and supply through my website again.” Exactly the nature of a pop-up shop. It’s there for a short while, before it disappears again and returns at a later date with new things to offer.
She draws my attention to the Argan Oil products available, and taking a look at the Saffron Maroc website, it is clear that supporting causes that empower and enable people is close to Fran’s heart. “These Argan Oil products are made from a women’s cooperative based just outside of Essaoira, a city on the west coast of Morocco where all the Argan Trees grow. The products are organic and are really great for sensitive skin types, packed full of vitamin E- and fatty acids that hydrate and protect the skin,” she tells me.
And if you’re looking for something for him, Saffron Maroc has a beautiful selection of cow-hide bags and satchels, and woven leather belts which make for completely unique gifts. Fran believes in supporting local industry and knows many of her crafters and suppliers personally. From the weaver that has his business around the corner from her house to visiting the local souk for some vintage, pre-owned treasures, Fran brings a truly eclectic selection of gifts and must-haves with a difference, to anyone looking for something truly special this year!
Don’t miss your chance to pay Fran a visit, and pick up something truly unique for yourself, or for someone else! For more information about Saffran Maroc, visit www.saffronmaroc.com.