Beginning a blog featuring our many and varied suppliers has been at the pinnacle of my ‘to do’ list for the last three months. I must admit to suffering from ‘blog block’ and am anxious to do everyone justice.
I’ve been stuck too, on finding a way to concisely yet lovingly describe my visit to the potteries in Stoke-on-Trent last year and what it meant to me. That blog will come, it’s half written, but because of my failure to write anything more, it has set back this whole project.
So, I’ve decided to start with something I know a lot more about, is even dearer to my heart and much closer to home. My studio! It also occurred to me that it is an excellent opportunity to introduce myself. Although I’m sure the more regular readers of Ben’s blog and visitors to the website will know that I am the Bridie often referred to and I am the Hall in ‘Pentreath & Hall’.
Ben and I are old friends and we began the shop together back in November 2008. It wasn’t until early last year that we had the idea and indeed I had the means, to separate the shop from Ben’s architectural practice and make it, its own business. Boring details for you, but the opportunity to take on a vested interest was so the right thing to do at the right time. I’d had some pretty intense family bereavements and had lost all enthusiasm and focus for most things. Forming a business partnership with Ben was a tonic for this.
At the same time that we were fleshing out our partnership agreement (crucial!) the flat above the shop became available. It was as if the stars were aligning. I needed a studio to base my self and my homeware range, where better to be? After years of working on my range at home, the wheels finally fell off. I was spending more time hanging from the fridge door wondering what to eat rather than working out what the next decoupage design would be. And I had developed a great fondness for a boozy lunch out.
Having an office and a creative space above the shop was the key to making it all work. As far as how I thought my studio space might work, I knew I needed a lot of storage and a lot of work surface. I make most of my range by hand in my studio. The candles, decoupage, intaglio boxes, scholar’s sets, stamp collection on a string , are all made on site. To store all the materials for these many different disciplines, I had an entire wall fitted with shelves from floor to ceiling and I was completely seduced by this double-ended plan chest from Drew Pritchard. It was commissioned in the mid 1950’s for the Welsh National Library and it seemed perfect for more storage, 16 huge drawers, and a massive surface to work on and around.
Love is blind and I had completely overlooked the fact it needed to be dismantled to be brought into the room by three builders then reassembled taking those same three men half a day to complete the task. It looked fantastic. There was barely more than a couple of feet spare to move around it. It was good to work on but its dominance ruined the space. The studio could really only cope with one person at a time and it was awful to move around, I had to resolve this.
The only thing was to take it on the chin and call the builders back to dismantle the plan chest and start all over again.
I wanted two working spaces that were long and high but not too deep. A lot of floor space was important, to help with flow moving between workstations. I wanted one wall clear that I could wallpaper from time to time with different colours and patterns on which to hang and style out my work and see how it all looks.
So far so good. Recently I’ve had an obsession with malachite, so I chose the Fornasetti pattern by Cole & Son to get the ball rolling and painted the other walls Farrow & Ball ‘Stone Blue’. I love the malachite but I’m pretty fickle with these types of thing and can see a wall of marbled paper, maybe lightly lacquered, starting to gain momentum.
As I mentioned earlier, a lot happens in my studio, from making up gesso to blending the ingredients for my range of scented candles. Things are going well and I have a couple of exciting projects in the pipeline. A series of decoupage plates using images from the Soane Museum archives has been talked about and I’m working with a set of Piranesi prints that Ben owns for a little collection of Pentreath & Hall decoupage. Two new candle scents are being developed. The first, to conjure a woodland in spring (if you pop into the shop this week you’ll smell one of the prototypes burning), the second, a piney sweaty smell. It has the working name ‘Hunt’ which is the vibe.
I am always looking for interesting stores and boutiques to work with, so if you are a shopkeeper and if anything strikes a chord here, please do get in touch.
I’m also on the look out for a bright and enthusiastic part-time studio assistant. If you would like to see the job description drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward on the relevant information.
I’ll look forward to posting again soon. On reflection it wasn’t so bad. Look out for my profiles on the workrooms and time-honoured processes of some of our best-loved products soon. I think a visit to Peter Hone’s should be next. If you have any questions or ideas on who I should profile, leave a comment below.