The tale of the Curious Merchant in North Yorkshire
- Credit: Kevin Gibson
Whether you yearn for a dishcloth with Scandi vibe, a vintage French bathtub or just need to feed your candle habit, Alison James has you covered.
The Curious Merchant in the centre of Masham in North Yorkshire makes a statement of intent with its super-festive foliage-strewn doorway and window panes that lure you to treasures inside.
This is the playground of Alison James, herself the curious merchant, who brings you treasures to fill your home and create a sanctuary that can be whatever you want it to be; from Scandi calm to provincial France.
There are lovely linen aprons, cushions made from vintage grain sacks, soaps from Marseille and Swedish antiques.
You can buy haberdashery, rustic tin pots and posh pins and needles that come in perfect brown paper packages – tied up with string, naturally.
Alison has settled in Masham, living in a village close by, after a lifetime of travel and glamour. She has worked as a chef to rockstars and royalty and spent years on the road with the world’s biggest bands – cooking for them and acting as unofficial ‘wardrobe mistress’ (having worked in textile and fashion design too).
She spent a great deal of time in France, hence her love for the French vintage pieces that are scattered throughout the shop; from lovely napkins to pretty glassware. And candles. Lots.
But the surroundings - the place is the old Barclays Bank - and contents of the shop have more than a nod to now. Having travelled extensively with bands across Scandinavia she also found a love for the clean, Nordic aesthetic and brings labels to her store that are rare to find outside of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
As she says; ‘My passion is to have things here that aren’t in others shops. I travelled a lot and always had a ‘little black book’ of labels and brands that you couldn’t get in the UK.’
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Hence the dishcloths (towels too) by a Nordic brand called Humdakin. Who knew you needed a sexy dishcloth? (Reader, I bought one – it won’t be going near a dirty pan though). You’ll also find crockery made in small batches by businesses supported by Fairtrade.
She will be giving a gentle rather than garish sparkle to Christmas.
‘My style is what I would call modern rustic’, says Alison.
‘I love natural textures, shapes and forms as well as vintage glass. Subdued colours and soft shapes – I always have an eye on sustainability and eco-friendly products.’
22 Market Place, Masham, North Yorkshire, HG4 4ED
Tel: 01765 689811