“Arts, crafts and vintage are huge at the moment because people are fed up with mass produced goods.” That’s according to Liz Barley, who, along with Helen McKeown own The Fair Ladies Craft Emporium; a craft shop, party organiser and workshop, based in Fivemiletown Buttermarket.

“There’s lots of interest in arts and crafts at the moment, with our sewing and furniture painting classes going well,” adds Beth Jones, who runs The Hum Bug, on the Shore Road, Enniskillen.

Liz – originally from London, but living in Fermanagh – explains the appeal of home-made goods: “They are made with love and affection, rather than in a sweat-shop. People want to support the local cottage industries, there are too many skills hidden at kitchen tables and in peoples’ sheds.” Liz specialises in embroidery and personalised gifts, while Helen (from Clogher) is into up-scaling furniture and ‘deco-patching’.

Meanwhile, Beth (from Omagh) opened The Hum Bug as a cafe over one year ago. In January, she decided to diversify the business into a furniture and hand-made clothes store. “There’s lots of quirky stuff here, from furniture I have gathered at car boot sales and decorated, to unique kids clothing,” she says.

The Fair Ladies opened on January 12 and currently stock colourful products from 25 stockists based in Fermanagh and across Northern Ireland. They are also trying to secure stockists from across the border. Work-shops and classes at the premises include cake decorating with Parisian-trained pastry chef Baiba Lauze, and wet-felting. They also do kids parties and intend to contact local schools to run art workshops.

Initially, the pair had wanted to set-up in Enniskillen. Liz explains: “We wanted to rent in Enniskillen as it is quite quiet at the moment, but the rates were so high – around £12,000 for the year, which we just can’t afford.” They were put off Enniskillen Buttermarket because the previous arts and crafts shop has just closed there. Instead, they chose Fivemiletown Buttermarket, adding: “It is such a beautiful building, and being a community initiative, we don’t have to pay rates.” For the past 23 years, Beth has been pre-occupied with raising seven sons (now aged between seven and 27). When she reached the age of 40 she decided: “I want to do something for myself.” She enrolled in an Art and Design course at Omagh South West College. From there, she completed a degree in Textile and Fashion at the North West Regional College, based in Derry. These studies gave Beth the confidence she needed to open her own business, along with her oldest son.

Her advice to those considering opening their own business is: “Do your sums and do a lot of research.” She and her son decided that the sweet shop will attract local school children during term-time, and the arts and crafts will attract shoppers and tourists in the summer.

Her next furniture painting class will take place on March 8. “People are interested in what you’re doing so what better way to show them than to have a class, where I can demonstrate and help them?” Beth states. The children’s parties, complete with vintage tea-party, are increasingly popular, she finds.

Liz concludes: “There are pop-up shops all over England, so why not here? We love everything crafty and want to promote the local cottage industries.”