For a gift with a difference, head to a museum shop. Not only will you find one of a kind accessories and stunning designs, but you will also help support the museum's activities.
Looking for original, unusual gifts, or perhaps a little something special for yourself? Then head to a museum shop or an art gallery. These days, museum shops are not just a place to buy a last-minute travel memento. Their collections are virtually as enticing as those on display in the display rooms, and often feature striking, cutting-edge designs, luxurious limited editions or contemporary re-interpretation of great ideas from the past. Most of the products are also available to buy online so you can get them easily wherever you live in Britain. And best of all, you’ll know that everything you buy directly supports your favourite museum or art gallery.
Image courtesy of Musikfan – RMS/Wikimedia Commons
The Barbican Art Centre is celebrating the art of Jean Paul Gaultier with a major exhibition on the French couturier’s most iconic designs and, in parallel, the Barbican Art Gallery Shop has stocked up on a fabulous range of Gaultier fashion and accessories, including this delightful punk teddy bear keyring. £35, through the Barbican Art Gallery Shop.
The Tate Gallery Shop is well known as a fabulous place to buy art materials, books and gifts – their craft kits for children are amazing – but it is just as great for home decor and really stunning fashion accessories, many of which have been designed exclusively for the Tate by leading British artists. One such is this 100% silk scarf by Turner-prize-winner Grayson Perry. Inspired by the silk maps given to WWII pilots to help them escape if they were ever shot down in hostile territory, it features a playful ?map’ of the art world conceived to help aspiring artists navigate around the establishment. £67.50 through the Tate Gallery shops.
Artist Jacqueline Poncelet designed a range of blankets and cushions, which were then woven by traditional Welsh mill Melin Tregwynt, as part of the Tate’s Made in Britain programme, which aims to pair up artists and British manufacturers. The result are luxurious, beautifully made pieces that combine Poncelet’s eye for pattern and the soft hues of the Welsh landscape?both blankets and cushions come in three colour ways that are reminiscent of Spring, Summer and Autumn in Wales. Cushions start from £30, blankets from £230 through the Tate Gallery shops.
As it befits a museum that’s all about design, the V&A shop is packed full with striking jewellery, home and fashion accessories. Take the Constellation earrings by acclaimed Turkish jewellery designer Evren Kayar, for example. Inspired by antique maps of the night sky, they feature faceted labradorite ?planets’ on slim sterling silver branches. Every piece is handmade in Evren’s atelier in Istanbul. £295 through the V&A shop.
This handcrafted clutch by Italian designer Sylvia Pichler of Zilla is as glamorous as it gets. Pichler, who traded as an architect is known for borrowing materials from other trades and this bag is no exception – it is made from gold-hued steel foil. The clean, stream-lined design helps showcase the clutch’s stunning texture. £150 through the V&A shop.
The shops at The British Museum offer a truly eclectic choice – where else can you find medieval-style jewellery alongside replicas of Roman statues, prints of 18th century Japanese artwork and contemporary laptop cases? Special exhibitions often inspire the choice of products, as with this Amber pendant necklace, which is reminiscent of the simple ones worn by the Vikings. Designed by Polish design studio Amber Hall, it is handcrafted by Polish artisans. £40 through The British Museum shop.
This gorgeous, hand-sculpted perfume bottle features a masterpiece within a masterpiece. Not only does it boast a stylish, contemporary design but, painted inside its glass is an iris flower reminiscent of a woodblock print by Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige. £315 through The British Museum shop.
The Kantha style of embroidery comes from an Indian region called Nakshi Kantha, where it has been used for about 200 years and yet it is thoroughly modern with its floral and geometric patterns interspersed with bird motifs. Handmade in Kashmir from 100% silk, this scarf is a perfect way to wear this year’s folk trend. £80 through The British Museum shop.
Sir John Soane was a connoisseur and admirer of beauty and there’s little doubt he would have appreciated the many fabulous objects stocked in the shop of the museum that bears his name. The jewellery selection is particularly interesting and includes three great pieces by Anton Heunis, including this stunning crystal cluster necklace, handmade in Heunis’ Madrid workshop using rare vintage glass, Swarovski crystals and semiprecious stones. A matching bracelet and ring are also available. £185 through the Sir John Soane’s Museum shop.
The Science Museum Shop is packed to the rafters with for gadgets, gizmos and robots – if you ever need a micro drone, this is the place to go – but it also stocks a fabulous collection of hi-tech homeware, including the sleek, slim S7 lamp by Nicholas Pichelin. This versatile design can be used as standing, reading or bedside lamp as the flexible tube it’s made of can be given whichever shape you want. The lamp head can pivot 360 degrees so you’ll always find the perfect lighting angle. £399 through the Science Museum shop.
Nostalgia is big at the Imperial War Museum shop: patriotic posters, Forties style jewellery and wartime kitchen scales all have a place there, as does some fabulous Aviator fashion including the gorgeous Irving flying jacket that would make any man very happy indeed. But perhaps the best find is this Bakelite phone from the pre-digital era. It’s a genuine vintage piece, showing some signs of age, which has been reconditioned to work on today’s phone lines. Perfect to channel the retro trend. £150 through the Imperial War Museum shop.