By Kate Marsden
Snowden Flood’s little treasure trove of a shop on London’s South Bank is a bit of a hidden gem. Perched up on the first floor of the Oxo Tower overlooking the river, she stocks her own work as well as that of other designer/makers. Read on to find out more about Snowden, and why she supports the Just A Card campaign, then make sure you pop in the next time you’re on that South Bank stroll!
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
Hi Kate, I’m a designer-maker/artist/shopkeeper!
What does a typical day involve?
I split my time between working at home and in my shop so it depends where I am. I am trying out a new way of organising myself so that I focus on 3 main things per week that I want to achieve. I used to have an endless to-do list that I added to all the time, so never finished, and realised it was making me feel bad. Loosely, I start the day by dealing with customer enquiries and orders first thing and then I focus on the things I need to do. If I’m in the shop, I do the accounting and admin first thing to get it out of the way (hate it). If the shop is busy I just help the customers, pack web orders and make the shop look nice.
Where do you work? What is your shop like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
I work either at home in my house in Brixton, where I have a small office and a large table in the living room for printmaking, painting and drawing. Or I work in my shop on the first floor of the Oxo Tower. My space at Oxo was supposed to be my studio, but I found it difficult to design there as I’m too distracted by my customers (I like to chat to them!), so I turned it into a shop. In addition to my own work, I also now stock pieces by a great bunch of designer makers plus antiques that I source. It’s a very small & friendly welcoming space, with a carefully curated collection of things that I myself love and like the ‘story’ of. My desk faces the river so I watch the boats going up and down and the people passing by beneath on their way along the south bank - it’s a wonderful place to be and I feel very lucky!
When I’m not working I paint, draw or make my prints. I do stuff with my son and we take Gretel, our mini schnauzer, for walks - Dulwich Woods is our favourite. Before I was a designer maker, I was an artist for many years, so I still love to go to galleries and see all the great shows. I run and swim and also I love to cook. When I’m working at home I often stop and make a cake if I’m a bit stuck. Finally I like to go to markets and auctions, I’m a terrible magpie.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing shop/gallery owners at the moment?
Rates and greedy property development are huge challenges at the moment - the high street is getting to be a very difficult place for the little people. I live between Brixton & Herne Hill, where independent shops have been hit very hard by developers wanting them out, so that they can put large chains like Waitrose or Wahaca in their spaces. I also think that customers are very accustomed now to getting deals and offers on everything, so they want to buy cheaply. That’s quite a challenge when you are selling quality things that someone made in the UK, you just can’t do that for peanuts. Our main challenge at Oxo Tower is getting people to come upstairs - the signage is abysmal and most people don’t know we are here.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
My main ambition for my business is to work on a lot more new designs. I really underestimated how much work having a shop would be, so it stopped me in my tracks a bit just dealing with all the admin! I’m happiest when I’m creating though, so that’s what I’m pushing for over the next few years.
Do you have any tips for fellow small business owners and designer/makers who are reading this and may be just starting out?
Maybe to try not to do everything all at once! When I started my business I was determined to sell all over the world, do X amount of commissions, show at Maison et Objet twice a year etc. As a single parent I just about worked myself to death trying to prove myself. I did achieve all those goals, but in many ways I wish I’d approached it much more simply and just kept focussed on the products and on looking after myself. Having said that, I’m now going to say the opposite and say to try everything and see what works for you. Another thing that worked well for me as a designer maker was joining communities like Hidden Art and Craft Central - when you are running a little business it’s great to be part of a community and be able to get involved and learn from them and from the members.
Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?
I love the Just A Card message - it’s so important. I think we all have to think about the kinds of neighbourhoods we want to live in, and if we want independent businesses rather than Sainsbury’s Locals on every street, to really go out and support them. Even though I have a shop myself and always have loved to shop at independents, I’ve still found that I had to really make a shift in my thinking to maybe pay an extra £1.50 to go and buy that book from my local bookshop rather than Amazon - because I really really want that bookshop to stay in my community!
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
Well we’ve had the poster in our window for some time now, and a framed flyer on the counter. It sparks lots of interesting discussion with our customers and people think it’s a great campaign. I’m proud to be a part of it in this tiny way.
Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently?
I heard about it on Twitter. I tend to use Instagram the most but I’m on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest too. Instagram is a bit like crack for me I’m afraid and I can easily lose half an hour scrolling through!
What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
I believe it does take a bit of a shift to see that the way you shop can have a big effect on a whole neighbourhood and community. For me for example - I don’t have enough money to do all my shopping at my local farmers’ market, but I can afford to buy a few things there. And if I am buying gifts or cards for people, I make sure to go to local shops or to markets like Brixton or West Norwood Feast or places like Crafty Fox Market etc. to check out the wares, and help support the little businesses as best I can. Also to share information about Just A Card and spread the word.