Saturday, 18 December 2010

on the telly !!

Another busy month at Little Walton Bank ! We were on a BBC regional programme called Inside Out, it happened two weeks ago and it's been none stop ever since. We've had lots of brilliant feedback and importantly lots of interest from potential stockist. A big thankyou to Bennett's for allowing us on their feature.

I've also had 2 of my special friends  help me out with a new photography shoot, they were very patient and brilliant, so another big thankyou to  Mister Simon Stevens and Mister Dom Marshall...both are very talented in their own right, if you get the chance google them to see for yourselves. Here is one of their shots, doesn't it look good !

No time to rest here we are in the throws of sorting out our first trade show in January. It's a whole new ball game and another set of skills to gain, to be honest I'm terrified but very excited !

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas from Little Walton Bank x x x

Monday, 29 November 2010

open studio........

I just wanted to say thankyou to everyone who came and participated in the open studio event on saturday. I thought I'd do a visual blog and give you lots of things to look at from another great day at Little Walton Bank........

Sunday, 7 November 2010

finding a shop and the BBC visit for tea !

So by now the product is slowly being signed off, shape first then pattern...this tends to take a long time in the ceramic industry, it's quite a complex process, luckily the factory were great and made things as painless as possible.

While the prototypes were being generated I was tasked with naming the company, it was going to be so easy and obviously the name of our house Walton Bank.........but it already existed as a farm shop in staffordshire , we went through all sorts; walton and bank ( a dragon comment - stuffy solicitors ) , walton-bank (a Jak comment  bad for google ), there was nothing left to do but go to the pub and have a brain storming pint later Little Walton Bank was conceived and we think it's perfect !!!! With the name in place we could start getting the business stuff be honest Hayley did a lot of this, we also started to talk to Jak about our future website.

I enlisted Graeme's ( very patient husband ) help to get the logo sorted, he's a mac genius, I drew the house and he turned it into the logo it is today, this is going to sound bonkers but we spent hours agonising over things like ; should we include curtains in the windows, what about wellies at the door and the list goes on............we hope you like it as it is special to us.

With our first production ready prototypes Hayley arranged a meeting with the lovely people at Bennetts. We pitched to them in the brasserie over coffee and to be honest it wasn't like 'The Apprentice' it was a great experience. I must say the reaction made us feel very proud, they loved the product,  the branding,  and the story. They agreed to be our first customer !!!!!! Not only this they happened to have the BBC in making a programme about retailers, so within minutes we were agreeing to them calling in at the studio and filming at Little Walton Bank. All very exciting, I'll let you know when/if we get aired but watch out for me throwing a pot!

Ian and I talk pots
At this point I must mention the website and our friend Jak....who has had to have the patience of a saint. We tried lots of different visual ideas to get the site off the ground and to be honest we were going round in a big circle...aesthetics v's technical the end Graeme came up with the visual solution, we'd been scanning in my sketch book for moodboards and then somehow he had the idea of using it as a backdrop for the homepage..Eureka moment..I left him to it and the results are there for everyone to see.....Jak scratched his head a lot and technically made it work and I must say we get some great feedback so it was well worth the time and effort.

Okay we are more or less up to date so from now on we'll be blogging in real time and there is quite a lot going on so hopefully you'll be sticking around for more postings...................

Sunday, 17 October 2010

finding a factory

so I've got the design concepts well underway and now all I've got to do is find a factory that can make it.Simple !!!

I'm not sure if any of you have been to stoke-on-trent but it's a bitter sweet place, the demise of the pottery industry has really taken it's toll, there are some amazing industrial buildings that are now shells of their former selves. The amazing thing is if you start to walk around the back streets you will find tiny potteries ( and some big ones too ) that are still managing to make beautiful products, the skill of some of the craftspeople employed in these places is quite breath taking. Anyway this is what I did I walked around the back streets of stoke and wandered into any small pottery I could find, most of them were very supportive and to be honest if you are willing to talk pots to anyone in stoke you can have many interesting conversations and pointers of where to go next.
the old Shelley factory

My main issue was the breadth of making skill I required , some factories could only make mugs and some could only slip cast items and the real deal breaker was the fact that I needed plates and bowls.
typical potbank

With this in mind I decided to be brave and contact one of the larger potteries. With a couple of phone calls we agreed to meet, I was quite concerned that they'd not take me serious so I took one of my Dragons with me for back up. This was the turning point, they liked the concept and agreed to help me out.....things just got serious. Realising how much it was going to cost just to get proto types I decided to sell my car ( and it was a very nice car ) , borrow some funds ( thanks mum ! ) and turn this idea into reality.

I think I mentioned Hayley earlier on, well Hayley is the most upbeat, positive, enthusiastic and go getter person I know. I once flew to New York with Hayley, we started talking when we sat in our seats for take off and we didn't stop till we landed. Hayley was at the time ( and still is ) up to her eye balls in restuarant stuff...her and her brother own 3....but she always found time for an afterwork meeting, usually on a friday when we were both ready for the weekend. She focused me, made me do lots of branding stuff; who was my customer, what did the end user look like, what were their hobbies, likes , dislikes etc etc. I think we covered every possible scenario !  With her help Little Walton Bank started to get a personality.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

the design issue.....

It's very strange, in fact I think it's a pride thing, once you've shared your dreams with a few people and people you respect at that, you feel like you 've got to go and actually do something to prove you're not just all talk. So having shared the dream with my dragons the next thing to do was to put my money where my mouth was and give us something real to talk about. One of my special dragons kept telling me to remember that the design was the easy bit for me, with that ringing in my ears I felt an enormous amount of pressure to come up with something brilliant.....this resulted in a few sleepless nights and times of blind panic and lots of ideas that ended up in the's that pride thing again. Once I'd calmed down I started to tackle it as a design project.

Now if there are any fellow pot geeks out there you'll probably be as in awe of Midwinter, Hornsea and TG Green as I am. Midwinter looks as good today as I'm sure it did in it's heyday, there is something amazingly refreshing about the product, the shapes and patterns just do it for me ! I decided to be heavily influence by the shapes of midwinter. The plates are made in the same way and dare I say some of the craftsmen at the factory ( more of later ) originally worked at Midwinter.

   my little sketchbook of mugs

So the plates and bowls came together pretty quickly, the mug was
a different challenge. Our home needs from drinking vessels has changed quite a lot from the 50's, so the challenge was to create something distinctive and practical, now I'm not that bad at mugs so I came up with the little walton bank mug relatively quickly. I knew it had to function brilliantly, the handle had to be comfy for a wide variety of users from delicate hands to the big butch ones - the mug is quite a personal piece of pottery - we all have our favourites and we all have ones we hate using , lets be honest it's something we actually put our lips to , it's a very intimate piece of equipment. My solution is quite simple - to take the shape of the plate ( a soft square ) and combine it with a round, lets face it circles are a big part of our lives, echo this on the handle and we've got a practical yet beautiful' been designed to be used, generous capacity and yes it keeps your drink warm for longer, most people want to hug it.

With the shape sorted the pattern side of things started to take shape. I decided to stick with the things I love, colour, texture, words and a little bit of retro....
moodboard for 'birdware'
With the pattern gaining momentum I decided it was time to be brave and show my dragons how the design was progressing. So over a glass of wine I started to share the concepts....they liked the design/ style direction and felt I had enough information to find a factory who would be willing to make it.

At this point my studio space at Little Walton Bank was my second home, I'd come home from work sort the children out and when they were tucked up in bed hot foot it to my desk to get things going.
my studio

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Where to start !

Welcome to Little Walton Bank, phew it's been quite a few weeks for our new company, the fact that it's taken 18 months to get here is a story in it's own right. If we were in a film I'd probably make the screen go wobbly as I take you back in time to one night in January in 2009............

That night I returned from work, had a glass of wine and made the decision that has shaped the last 18 months of my life. Why couldn't I create a new tableware brand , I'd been designing under a big pottery brand for 16 years ! I felt that the consumer was being offered little choice and at that time was faced with a barrage of  imported products that lacked soul and integrity. It seemed to me that my beloved english pottery industry was collapsing around my feet. I'll warn you now I'm known for being a bit of a pot geek. Anyway...I contacted a few old friends from the industry and they all took me seriously! to be honest with my lack of business background I thought they would laugh me out of the room when I told them what I had on my mind, they all seemed to think it could be more than just a dream it could be a reality. These friends from now on will be called my Dragons and to be honest without them I wouldn't have got this far. So as well as working full time and looking after my family I started to put a plan together...planning isn't my strongest point so I enlisted the help of a very special friend Hayley....more about Hayley later. Oh and my little sketch book, which now features as the backdrop for my website, never left my side.

Oh at this point we are now about 6 months in...we needed to find a house as our house had been sold... We knew we wanted to stay in our lovely town Ashbourne , the only issue with living in a beautiful historic town is the short supply of interesting houses, this was move number 4 in our 14 years in this town so it had to be right, to be honest we were getting a reputation for our constant itchy feet. The estate agents eyes lit up if they caught us looking in their windows and with the help of our very patient and brilliant estate agent we heard about Walton Bank or Little Walton Bank as we now affectionately call it. It's an old Georgian listed building with room for a studio and a pottery. At this point I'll just let you all know that my husband Graeme Reed is a brilliant artist infact you should check out his website  Anyway Little Walton Bank gave us the space we wanted , kept us right in the town and was quite a curious find as it was a jail in the Napoleonic war...yest we've got bars at some of the windows and hooks on the cellar ceiling. We loved it instantly and jumped through hoops to secure it, we moved in July 2009.......thanks Jo !

                                             Little Walton Bank July 2009

....story to continue later..................