Local Yass business Merchant Campbell has won Country Style Magazine’s ‘Legends of the Land’ award. Merchant Campbell received several nominations, which owner Margot Shannon was thrilled with.

“I was so surprised and blown away. Apparently, we had quite a few nominations and when they told me, I was so shocked to be winning. That in itself was the most enormous reward, that people took the time to nominate us. I am really humbled, and I am so grateful, but shocked!” said Margot.

What Margot loves most about her business is telling the stories behind her products. Among them is pottery created in Good Hope by Helen and Danielle Cattell, a mother and daughter business that moved to the Yass region from Sydney. 

Further from home are the shepherds from Kashmir, India, who stitch one-of-a-kind cushion covers designed by and exclusive to Merchant Campbell. Margot explained that the shepherds only stitch during the day when the light is good, while they mind their Cashmere goats. 

“We design cushion covers with them, as one man speaks English. We choose the colours; they’re all made from scratch. Even the fabric is woven for us and they dye the wool for us. No one else has it, and I love that,” she said. 

Merchant Campbell – Margot & husband Chris source handmade goods overseas

“It’s the same with guys in Indonesia or Morocco, or wherever we buy from. Whether it’s our beautiful lamp bases from Wagga, or our socks from Crookwell, we know the makers.”

Margot said she doesn’t want to sell products that could be bought anywhere. In her quest for uniqueness, most importantly, Margot wants to let handmade products and their creators shine. 

“I want it to be available in Yass. Not in Sydney, not in Melbourne, in good old, down-town, regional Yass,” she added.

During lockdown, Merchant Campbell was able to continue communicating with artisans and offering employment. Often, the artisans come from remote regions and complex backgrounds, so their established personal relationships with Merchant Campbell were essential. 

“We deal directly with them. That is the greatest reward— that we’re also encouraging traditional handicrafts that have been passed down, often from mother daughter or from father to son, and we can pay them the price they want. There’s no middle man. We can say honestly, ‘I have paid you fairly for your good work’,” said Margot.

“It’s also building relationships and understanding between countries, which is what we need more than ever, I believe.”

Currently, Margot is in India with her daughter. Together, they have already spent three days in Delhi buying beautiful block printed fabrics as well as small brass pieces from a Tibetan man.

“We’re on the plane now to go to Jodhpur, where we’ll buy handicrafts and see all sorts of things. It’s a frontier town in Rajasthan on the edge of the desert, it’s pretty remote,” explained Margot just before her flight took off.

“We’ll drive from there to the capital city of Rajasthan which is Jaipur, to buy handprinted fabrics and soft furnishings like clothes and tablecloths, quilts and throws.”

In Jaipur, Margot will also look for jewellery, as the city has the best hand cutters of stones like sapphires, emeralds, rubies, and semi-precious stones.

“We’ll go up to Kashmir after that, to see our artisans there, then we’re to fly to another area near Mumbai.”

Margot said that running Merchant Campbell takes an enormous effort, as with any growing small business. Inspired by a fascination with handicrafts and handmade items, along with a love of shopping and dealing with people, Merchant Campbell has been a vibrant addition to Yass for five years. 

“My husband, Chris, has been the most tremendous help, and it’s his business as well. I’m also indebted to our staff, they’re extraordinary, and we’re very lucky,” said Margot.

Southerly Jones