The experience feels all-encompassing when you walk into Midgley Green; from the scent of the soaps and candles, to the light illuminating the embroidered textiles, potteries and baskets. Is this what you wanted to achieve as shopkeepers? SEAMUS: It’s so important. The shops we remember are those with smell, textures and colours. It’s being creative. I think people thought we were a bit mad when we were doing it up because every detail needed to be perfect in our minds. I don’t think they understood that to open a bricks-and-mortar shop now you must go above and beyond. You can’t just open the door. We also really like the interaction having a shop brings us- we are quite old fashioned, I suppose. If someone walks in we give them a lovely greeting and have a good chat with them, and that way of doing business really suits us. For some, I feel like we are introducing them to the world of British makers. We’re always arranging the shop, our [perfectly matching red-headed] 18-month-old shop dog, Bailey, often by our side.
You are both artists, something you can definitely sense through your curation, interior styling and Instagram. Tell us about your journey, from beginning university in Cornwall in 2008, where you both studied fine art, to now. SEAMUS: We’ve always worked together. We met in our first year at Falmouth University, and with our workspaces side by side, we were always bouncing ideas off each other. After we completed our fine art degrees, we had a studio and exhibitions in Cornwall, but couldn’t see the next step. We decided to take a break and moved first to Portishead, our thoughts being that our own practices were coming to an end, for the moment anyway. However, we wanted to be creative and we’d met some interesting people, so we started curating work for them. KATHERINE: During this time, we also began managing The Ethicurean in Wrington, which became our jobs for four and a half years. We opened our online shop Midgley Green in 2015, focusing on the ethos we’re passionate about: British makers creating functional and beautiful products. This meant there was a two year crossover with the restaurant and the online business. We had no time off, but it was great because The Ethicurean was being led by four young and highly creative owners and we learnt a huge amount. It wasn’t ours, though, and we always knew we wanted to work for ourselves.
What prompted the leap to opening the physical shop and how did you find the premises? SEAMUS: We live close by- around 10 minutes away- and although we were thinking about our own premises, we weren’t seriously or actively looking for anything. When number 26 became available we viewed it as an empty unit, and we could see the beautiful floor, cornicing – everything. The well-crafted details perfectly paralleled our business. KATHERINE: It was actually quite a scary moment, because we were still at The Ethicurean. We had to decide: could we give all of that up and actually do this? We opened on the 22nd of March 2017 and strangely, just like when we launched online, the first thing to sell was a cheese knife!
How has it gone so far? KATHERINE: Happily, we’ve discovered that this part of Clevedon, which is full of independents, is the right place for us. People are coming in, spending and investing. Some have even taken detours to specifically visit us through discovering us on Instagram. SEAMUS: By starting online, then opening a shop with relatively low rent, it’s actually been a very reasonable and manageable way to start a business for us.
Could you tell us about a few of your favourite makers? SEAMUS: Gosh, so many. Jacob Bodilly, a potter based just outside Wellington, Somerset. What I love about his work is he’s just so invested in British studio pottery and is interested in this long line of what’s gone before him, and his work reflects how he’s taking it into the future. We’ve helped each other; Jacob’s producing his beautiful work, while we are providing a platform, selling and repeatedly returning with more orders. We also both love Bonfield Block Printers based in Dorset, because we love stomping about in the countryside and they incorporate rural folklore into their work. They’re interested in old stories from country life, traditions of hedge-laying and charcoal burning. Also, Temper Studio, who we found in Wiltshire and design architecturally influenced furniture and homeware. We have worked with them collaboratively from the very beginning. People become our friends and that’s how we like it.