Commentating

PULSE LONDON TALK. “As maker and retailer – the things I have learned”

 

As both co-owner of Pentreath & Hall and being a decorative artist with a commercial homeware range, I was asked by Pulse London to give a talk last Sunday about what it was like making the transition from being a maker to a retailer. So I presented the following and thought it worth sharing with you too.

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I’ve been asked to talk about my experience of being a maker and how that evolved into then becoming a retailer. But the two have evolved quite naturally together over time, there hasn’t really been any kind of linear progression, it’s been more a case of just going with the flow. I’ll start at the beginning, from when the shop opened and then I’d love to share with you a few things that I’ve learnt over my time.

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Give me a museum and I’ll fill it – Pablo Picasso

As a child, I was actively encouraged by my grandmother to collect salt and pepper shakers and keep a scrapbook, mainly with pictures of Princess Diana. Unquestioning, it just became something that I did. Decades later I look at my life and my work and I am literally surrounded by collections. I have become a collector of collections. Ebay is the source of the nile when it comes to laying ones hands on a ready made collection these days, all the hard work was done sometime last century. It makes me sad to think of them being sold in such a way but also happy they can be united with the kindred spirits of their creators from another time.

There is no doubt they provide an important and bottomless source of ideas and inspiration to me and are also a touch stone to the not to distant past I feel I have to have a physical link with. Undoubtedly the days of building a collection as a hobby are all but gone, time is too precious to flounder about along coastlines searching for shells or fossils and stones and the resources are no longer so abundant. Early C20th collectors could be seen to have ruined the party for others, egg collectors went a little of the rails for example. I treasure the rocks and minerals, the shells, the eggs and the corals I have. I know I won’t hold onto them forever but while they are with me they will be loved, and looked at and wondered over again and again.

It’s not only the victorian hobbyist who’s collections I admire, these daffodils displayed (of course collections and displays go hand on hand – two of my favourite things) at the Chelsea Flower Show a couple of years ago still make my heart sing. The Wedgwood bowls help.

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Good things come

I want to say I’m going through a phase, but maybe I should say I’m emerging out of one that has dominated the way I have thought about consuming for the best part of my adult life. By consuming, I mean first and foremost the way I spend my money and what I spend it on but perhaps it can be applied to all areas of consumption in my life. 

It started earlier this year when I had had been thinking long and hard about my dressing habits. I liked clothes but had no idea how to shop for them or my body shape or dress in a way that conveyed who I was and/or wanted to be. My normal shopping routine was scroll through ASOS click on what I wanted, guess the size and proceed to the checkout. 8 times out of 10 the garment was wroooooong and as it was so cheap instead of going to the trouble to return it, it would stay in my wardrobe with its tags still on until it would be taken to the charity shop. My thinking being at least I had a good feeling someone less fortunate than me would be getting a bargin.

I had a little savings I could have some fun with so I researched personal shopper/stylists/wardrobe consultants until I found one who understood what the brief was. To say it wasn’t emotional would be and understatement. I was surprised at the feelings it stirred up inside me about how I saw my size and body shape and also at the items we chose together that I never would have dreamed of wearing in a million years. These have become my favourites and make me feel like a million dollars. The most interesting thing I took away from the experience is that each item was of premium quality, beautifully made and therefore beautifully fitted. I have found the saying ‘the clothes maketh the man’ definitely applies. Not only have I felt a lot more confident in myself, I have a beautiful wardrobe I like to take care of and a lot less tat cluttering up my life. I now approach clothes shopping in a more considered way where I identify what might be missing or what might want updating and research the best pieces that can fill the gap. More often than not I’ll need to save up and in doing this I treat it with more care than I would normally, which in turn again makes me feel good! I’ll admit in moments of boredom I’ve fallen off the wagon and found myself with an unwanted acrylic white bikini and wooden soled clog ankle booties, but all in all I’m learning that the value I place on my clothes comes out in the value that I place on myself. Now I know this isn’t going a great way to save the Whales and minimise the global carbon footprint, or maybe in a very round about way it is? The point is I’m spending less but getting so much more. 

A few weeks ago I had another knee operation which turned out to be a lot more complicated than initially thought and kept me housebound for two weeks. Then ready to go back to work, my face swelled up so I looked like a hamster, another week at home. The swelling is starting to go down but the cabin fever is at an all time high. A very thoughtful friend sent through a link to the New York Times ‘T Magazine’ latest profile on one of my and Ben’s favourite interior decorators/shop keepers and friend Robert Kime. It profiled the flat above his shop in Bloomsbury and his cottage in rural Cumbria. Reading the article and looking at these images reminded me of what I have trying to apply to my consumption habit  all over again. Why not wait for the best and make do until you get it? No more ‘that’ll do’ no more ‘if it breaks I’ll just get a new one’. Why not focus more on bringing fewer things into your life that are beautiful and that you want to take care of forever, which in turn will take care of you by becoming a part of your living aesthetic. Again, it’s not saving Whales, but I can think of fewer nicer things than starting the day with a good coffee out of your most favoured coffee can, or bringing in some freshly cut flowers to go in the prettiest vase you had ever seen. Using your best everyday because everyday should be the best. Do you know what I mean?

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The Curio Q&A with Bridie Hall

 

Fabulous new interiors magazine Curio, headed by Editor in Chief Tara Germain, features a Q&A with Yours Truly today. Click on the magazine cover to be taken to the link.

 

The World According to…….Me!

 

Interior blogger Charlotte Minty has written the nicest profile featuring Moi, I’m chuffed.

Click on the image to be taken to the page.

 

The World According to………Us!

 

The LivingEtc blog Life.Style.etc asked Ben and I a few questions about the way the world goes. Click on the image below to see what we thought.

 

A little boost

I can’t tell you how pleased I was to see Ben Pentreath Ltd being listed as one of British Vogue’s “Top 100 Online Stores”. The honorable mention made my day!

Putting down the Ritz

Last Friday as a farewell treat to my dear friend who has been helping me out for the last month we went for High Tea at The Ritz. Have you ever been for High Tea at The Ritz? The rooms are spectacular, a nod to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with some strategically placed Union Jacks, a stroke of genius. The people were a complete let down (sorry people) or rather the women, groups and groups of women of a certain age with a certain style of dress playing make believe at The Ritz before, no doubt, heading off to a matinee. It was so disappointing and I was rather ashamed that I was one of their number (is it wrong to say that?). So while we enjoyed our tasty little sandwiches, scones, creme caramel, strawberry flan, petit fours and litres of tea (all perfectly fine) after taking in the grandness of the Palm Court there was very little left to look at and it got quite boring quite quickly. I suppose I had been hoping it was going to be filled with people that actually stay at The Ritz and that Joan Collins would be there and the people watching would be out of this world, instead it was women slipping out of their high heels and into their more comfortable homely pumps, smuggling the menus into handbags even though they were allowed to keep them, I started to calculate how many of those menus must now be displayed on the sideboard in peoples homes across the nation, it was so boring I started costing out how much revenue I thought the Palm Court would take in a day and concluded it is probably The Ritz’s bread and butter, that’s how little there was to watch. Before long (maybe a half an hour longer than I would have preferred) it was time to go and I was glad, not before noticing the carpet on the stairwell going down to the loos, simply perfect, I wish the people could have been as much fun as the carpet.