Alumni Christmas Market 2023

As the festive season approaches, we’ve curated a selection of gift ideas from our vibrant alumni community for your Christmas shopping list. Take a browse through our recommendations and discover if any capture your interest.

UpCircle – Anna Brightman

At UpCircle, we make sustainable skincare products from ingredients that would otherwise be discarded. We’re stocked in household retailers like Holland & Barrett, Ocado, The Fragrance Shop, Sephora, Look Fantastic, Superdrug, Deliveroo, Whole Foods US, Walmart and more. Our brand has seen staggering growth in the last seven years, selling hundreds of thousands of products per year, in over 45 different countries. In fact, an UpCircle best seller sells every 90 seconds. We have over 25,000 5* reviews and a cult following that we fondly call our “UpCirclers”. It all started when we discovered that more than 500,000 tonnes of coffee grounds that are consumed each year in the UK alone are sent to landfill (where they produce methane). On discovering this, my brother Will and I decided to start collecting coffee grounds from cafes across London and transforming them into skincare products.

But it’s not just coffee! We’ve come a long way since then and now upcycle more than 50 by-product ingredients – upcycled oat husks, rose petals, hibiscus acids and orange peel wax are now all being rescued for our latest launches. We’ve also extended the circular approach that we take to our ingredients to packaging too, and have now refilled 65,000 pieces of packaging via our ‘Return, Refill, Reuse’ scheme.

Our products are universal, unisex and high performance without the high price tag. They are natural, organic, vegan and cruelty free – which make them an ideal choice for York alumni looking to gift skincare this festive season. Moreover, our wide range of high-performance products cater for each and every skin type, ensuring there is something suitable for everyone, regardless of their skincare needs or preferences.

Additionally, by gifting UpCircle products, you are supporting a brand that promotes ethical consumerism and sustainable practices. The act of giving these gifts serves as a way to encourage the consumption of environmentally conscious brands, and spreads the word about how we as a society can consume better. The story of UpCircle, our origins and brand – transforming upcycled ingredients into award-winning skincare – adds a personal touch for the eco-friendly consumer, making it more than just skincare but a symbol of innovation and environmental responsibility.

Why not try our Festive Trio Cracker or our Under The Mistletoe Bauble – perfect stocking fillers for this festive season!

Though we are proud to say that we are certified B-Corp, certified organic, certified vegan, certified cruelty-free, certified plastic negative, palm oil-free, sustainable, handmade in the UK and housed in 100% recyclable packaging (that’s a mouthful!), we recognise that these claims need to be sustained and maintained. In the new year we’re excited to say that we are working on our first fully recycled product packaging, which we hope to expand to the full range in due course!

We’re also delighted to share that UpCircle has been selected as a finalist for the multi-award-winning Sky Zero Footprint Fund. Now in its third consecutive year, the £2 million advertising fund uses the power of TV advertising to tackle climate change by supporting campaigns that drive behaviour change for a more sustainable world. The fund attracts a highly competitive pool of entries with many businesses creating game-changing products, services, and campaigns to drive more sustainable consumer choices. 

The opportunity poses a vast array of opportunities for UpCircle; ultimately, our aim is to bring the brand to new audiences, offering skincare that is better all round. Our purpose is to encourage change and inspire more sustainable actions by telling the story of UpCircle and showcasing our hero products. We can’t wait for you all to see it!”

Visit the online UpCircle shop

Asgard – Jim Glazzard

“I started making reproduction Viking-age artefacts in 1999. While working at the world-renowned Jorvik Viking centre I spent a lot of time looking at the original finds and wanted copies of these for my re-enactment hobby. Alas, many of these wonderful items were difficult to obtain, so I made it my personal mission to learn how to make them. I found my background in archaeology, having graduated with a BA in the subject from the University of York in 1994, helpful for understanding the objects and finding further information about them.  

Through trial and error and a lot of hard work, I managed to make my first antler comb and in the process brought to life the ancient art of comb making. I have lost count in recent years of how many I have made, we estimate in excess of 100. I also began making objects of copper alloy, such as cloak pins, brooches, and other personal items, later moving into reproducing Viking-age jewellery in silver. 

Soon, fellow re-enactors and colleagues from the Viking centre had seen my work and I was getting bombarded with orders to make more for them. In 2002 my partner, Catriona, and I founded Asgard Crafts. Very quickly, it went from a part time hobby to a full time business. We realised very quickly that to do justice to my work, we had to be 100% behind the business and thus it took over as the ‘day job’.

In 2004 we moved to Scotland, establishing a workshop and shop in Wester Ross, at an old Smithy that had been converted to a heritage centre. It was here that we developed a range of pewter jewellery based on Viking-aged designs and started supplying them wholesale to other shops. 

In 2011 we moved from our now cramped shed in Wester Ross to an industrial unit on the Isle of Skye. Our range of designs grew further, and we invested in bigger casting equipment. In 2015 we left Skye behind for Argyll, an even bigger industrial unit and more staff. At this point the business was re-branded to Asgard, to reflect the changing nature of products supplied. 

An exciting area of the business is museum work. It is such a wonderful experience to create a replica that will be seen by thousands of people. Our biggest project to date involved a horse bridle, which is now on display in the Manx museum in the Isle of Man.

Asgard is also proud to support the heritage industry by producing reproduction jewellery and objects based on Viking-age designs that are sold in the gift shops at National Museums Scotland, Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Jorvik Viking Centre, and the Historic Environment Scotland sites at Maes Howe and Skara Brae amongst others. The products supplied can be specifically tailored to enhance the visitor experience, and their sale provides much needed revenue for the Heritage organisations responsible for these sites. 

We have undertaken work for films, T.V. programmes and adverts. We have  also worked with a number of European folk metals bands and produce branded merchandise for them.

In 2018 I returned to the University of York to complete an MA in Material Culture and Experimental Archaeology. I have since embarked on a PhD to investigate Viking-age non-ferrous metalworkers through experimental archaeology.

In 2019, while I was working on my MA, we decided to open our very own shop located in York. You can find us at 14 Little Stonegate, York, YO1 8AX. The Asgard shop sells a range of reproduction Viking-age designs, as well as clothing and other merchandise inspired by the material culture of the Viking Age. 

The shop is the ideal place to find Christmas gifts for the history nut in your life. Asgard also has a stall on the York Christmas market, selling mead and other seasonal items.”

Visit the online Asgard shop

Shared Earth – Jeremy Piercy

“I set up Shared Earth in 1986. Back in my university days at Wentworth in the early 1970s, studying English, I set out to establish one of the earliest Fair Trade shops in the UK. Right from the start, a key aim was also to protect the environment – I recall those early days behind the till, where customers requesting bags with their purchases earned a frown, while those who opted out received a smile.… Today, Shared Earth is at the forefront of tackling climate change in the gift industry, highlighting the need for using sustainable or recycled materials; its bamboo socks for instance are far less wasteful than cotton socks – and soft and cosy too, designed in-house and making excellent Christmas presents. Shared Earth also pays extra for biofuels, to compensate for the CO2 emissions caused by shipping products around the world.

Shared Earth has been at its prime location near York Minster for over 30 years now, valued by customers far and wide for its unusual and quality products, mostly handmade. Woolen gloves, socks, hats and jumpers from Nepal are flying off the shelves at the moment, but the shop has so many different ranges that it’s a wonder they all fit into the two shop floors available. If you can’t make it to the shop, or you’re looking for heavy items like soapstone chess sets or carved wooden coffee tables, go to www.sharedearth.co.uk for online sales. You could also visit Shared Earth’s shop at 71 Bold Street (awarded ‘Best Retailer in the North West’ earlier this year).

I’m turning 70 this month but see no reason to retire. I love what I’m doing so much, it’s like a hobby. I’m so lucky, having a job which benefits other people and the world we live in, it’s immensely satisfying. Customers too can feel they’re not just spending money, they’re benefiting others, and supporting a business and producers who are helping to create a fairer, more sustainable world.”

Visit the online Shared Earth shop

Rose Basista Prints – Rose Basista 

“Hi I’m Rose and I make playful prints and little embroideries inspired by nature, folklore, and things I find amusing.

As an actor I’m lucky to have time between roles to work on personal projects. I’ve always drawn and painted, but more recently have enjoyed making lino prints. The printmaking process forces you to slow down and connect with your hands, and working with materials that are natural and feel and look beautiful is very important to me. 

With my embroideries I’m inspired by illuminated manuscripts, and the often strange figures and symbols they contain. My curiosity with Medieval art is definitely rooted in my time as a History of Art student in York.

I hope my work can bring some charm and joy to a space!”

Visit the online Rose Basista Prints shop

Geordie Gin – Stuart Lamb


“The idea for Geordie Gin was first mooted over a drink with a school mate in a pub overlooking the mouth of the River Tyne. We both had previous experience of being small business owners, although in very different fields. Geordie Gin emerged from a deep passion for distillation and an appreciation for Newcastle’s heritage. My background in Chemistry, Chemical Technology, and Economics at the University of York played a pivotal role in laying the foundation for this venture and led me into working in the Solvent Recycling Industry where distillation is extensively used. The desire to create a premium spirit that encapsulates both craftsmanship and a nod to our local football pride inspired the inception of Geordie Gin.

Our ideology revolves around celebrating the artistry of distillation while remaining rooted in Newcastle’s legacy. We envision Geordie Gin not just as a spirit but as a representation of our city’s vibrancy and its cherished football heritage. The fusion of 11 predominantly black and white botanicals, including cardamom, liquorice, lemon peel, white peppercorn and vanilla symbolises our dedication to craft and tribute to Newcastle United.
As a company, our aim is to continue producing exceptional spirits while remaining deeply connected to our local roots. Our distillation plant, nestled on the banks of the Tyne, serves as a testament to our commitment to staying local, supporting the community, and preserving the area’s legacy.

Our almost unique selling point was that we did, and still do all of our distilling under vacuum.This has the advantages of low energy usage and a reduction in the production of any off flavours. In other words the flavours we put in ( our not so secret recipe) are the flavours we get out. This culminated in achieving a World Gin Silver Medal for Contemporary Gin in 2020 for our Geordie Gin Classic. Recently we have introduced a second gin to our brand; namely Geordie Ginger.


Geordie Gin is crafted with meticulous attention to detail, making it an ideal gift for the York alumni community. Its distinctive flavours and the heartfelt homage to Newcastle evoke a sense of nostalgia and pride, making it a unique and thoughtful present for the holiday season.”

Visit the online Georgie Gin shop
Using the promo code YORK76 will get you a £5 discount

You can read more entrepreneurial stories here. If you are an entrepreneur and would like to share your story, please fill out this form for Enterprise Works.

Businesses and entrepreneurs interested in Enterprise Works should visit york.ac.uk/enterprise or contact enterprise-works@york.ac.uk.

Recommended Articles

Leave a Reply