Shop from students this Christmas

A Features compilation

This December is concluding a really difficult year; a lot of students have coped with the uncertainty of this year by setting up small businesses and showing their creativity. We wanted to use this edition to encourage our readers to do their holiday shoping from these Durham-grown start-ups.

Earth & Ocean creates beautiful jewellery pieces using natural materials. Many of the pieces are made from gorgeous local Seaham sea glass while other earrings are created with brightly coloured polymer clay. Livia set up this business during the pandemic, after picking up and collecting sea glass for many years on beach walks. They are a perfect gift for friends and family, and something really personal and specific to the Durham area. All orders are carefully made, photographed and packaged with love. Have a pop over to Earth & Ocean’s Etsy shop and follow along on Facebook and Instagram, all with the handle @earthoceanearrings.


whatpheemade was started by Phoebe as a way to turn her hobby into a business during lockdown. After knitting for years, Phoebe enjoys the act of making ‘something physical rather than only studying’ and has continued her business past lockdown 1.0 into the university year. From jumpers to baby blankets and wash-cloths to accessories, her finely-crafted items will make a great gift this christmas. Now feeling that she has got her ‘head round’ how to ‘efficiently run a small business’, she is working on Christmas decorations, so keep an eye out on her instagram account and browse and buy on her Etsy, both @whatpheemade.


ELNAILZx is a presson nails business run by fourth year master’s student Eli, who also happens to be one of my best friends. She started the business over the summer, creating her own designs as well as taking customised orders. Her nails are beautiful, handmade and really high quality.

I had never been one for press-on nails before Eli’s business, but now I’m rarely seen without them. The nails are customised to fit your nail perfectly and you can make them your own, choosing the length, the shape and the design. You can find her designs on Instagram and Etsy at @elnailzx.


cydsline, set up by Durham Graduate Cyd, started at the beginning of the first lockdown in March when Cyd was hunting for a unique present for a friend’s birthday. Wanting ‘something that couldn’t be found on the highstreet and which wouldn’t harm the environment’, she bought some fabric paint and ‘the first cydsline tee was born!’ There are over 30 designs to choose from and you can also ask for a personal customization. Cyd’s favourite design, and a bestseller, is ‘Durham Nostalgia’, an image of the cathedral which she hopes ‘serves as a lovely reminder of all the happy times in our wonderful city.’ With Christmas coming Cyd has just started releasing limited edition wash bags which can be ‘personalized for that someone special this year’. All products are 100% Organic and Fairtrade so you can rest assured that you are shopping sustainably and supporting a fantastic student start-up.To see the designs and get your hands on a gift follow @cydsline on instagram.


Petricolour Project – previously known as TinyTrinketStudio – is a small, independent jewellery-making business run by a fellow Durham student. Specialising in polymer clay earrings, Petricolour Project has additionally branched out to encompass many different styles. From dainty, light-weight clay earrings, to bold statement pieces – there is a huge mix of choice, with the option for custom-made orders. Set up over the summer of 2020, Petricolour Project has grown hugely over the past few months, recently taking the steps to have fully plastic free packaging, making this local business a perfect option for buying Christmas presents without coming at any cost to the environment. There are a variety of different collections on offer, viewable at the Instagram handle @petricolourproject, all of which are handmade with care in our very own Durham.


Siobhan Prints: I always knew my friend Siobhan was creative, but I didn’t realise she drew until, during the first lockdown, she posted a story on Instagram asking if we could follow the new account she’d set up to sell cards to raise funds for the NHS. Since then, Siobhan’s Etsy store has grown, and I’ve even commissioned some prints myself.

Siobhan’s product line has grown from A5 thank-you cards to include movie and theatre prints of various sizes, personalised illustrations, and even customised vinyl portraits. The illustration I have hanging on my wall of one of my best friends and I this summer is a cheerful reminder of sunnier times. The personalisation means that a portrait from Siobhan can make for a really thoughtful gift.


Shopping local and shopping small, if you can, are great ways to make giftshopping more sustainable, ethical, all while supporting small businesses. We hope that this festive season, you’ll take a look at the small shops we’ve highlighted and find something that will bring joy to you and your loved ones. Happy holidays!

All images are sourced via the business’s social media.

llustration credits:

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