The Turpentine

By Kate Marsden

An example of how important word of mouth is in supporting our campaign today, as this week’s featured shop heard about it from me – so keep talking about it folks!

I’m heading to the rather awesome, yellow loveliness of The Turpentine in Brixton where they sell amazing products and you can learn something new too…

Tell us a little about you. What do you do?

We are Amber, Jude and Alice, a trio of female entrepreneurs and founders of the Turpentine - an artsy boutique and workshop space in Brixton. We met at Uni over a decade ago and collaborated on projects for years, but it was when Amber walked past our shop with a 'to rent’ sign in 2014 we finally took the plunge and opened our shop.

The Turpentine showcases the amazing work of local and UK-wide designers and makers. From jewellery, prints, gifts and children's goodies to our Drink & Draw, Life Drawing, Painting and Jewellery Making workshops, we are all about the joy of creating. We encourage others to find their creative outlet at our regular evening workshops, and also offer bespoke classes for those crafty corporate outings or arty hen parties.

Last year we also launched our own jewellery brand, Form London with the mission to make beautifully made, infinitely wearable pieces that make as little environmental impact as possible.

What does a typical day involve?

I run our jewellery brand so most of my time is spent at my home studio making, I do 3 days there and 2 days in the shop. I love being in the shop, talking to our customers and being surrounded by the lovely things from our designer makers, but I find it very hard to focus here! Amber runs the shop side of things and Alice is our financial guru and marketing head – we each have our expertise and work in synergy.

Where do you work? What is your shop like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

Our shop is in Brixton, we happened to all end up living here so it seemed the most natural place for us to open our store. We love the community vibe there is here and how people are really supportive of independent businesses. Our shop is quite bold and industrial looking with brick walls, concrete floor and OSB and scaffold shelves – we pretty much made everything in the shop as we had a shoestring budget.

I'm a bit of a workaholic - the problem of doing what you love is it's very hard to stop and take a rest! When I do manage to prise myself away I like to go on long walks, read classic sifi, work on our garden and hang out with friends – which generally involves a considerable amount of gin.

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing shop/gallery owners at the moment?

The uncertainty of the moment has definitely affected buying habits; we have particularly noticed a shift in our courses with sales of our best selling 6 week workshops being over taken by our shorter one-off workshops, I suspect that is a consequence of the political atmosphere.  I guess, as with any business at any point in time the challenge is to try and notice changing buying habits as quickly as possible and be fluid enough to adapt.

What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?

We have just launched our jewellery brand - Form London, and are building our stockists. We're hoping in the next couple of years we will open a second shop with workshop space so we can have the shop, own range & workshops all in one place.

Do you have any tips for fellow small business owners and designer/makers who are reading this and may be just starting out?

Just start! Get yourselves out there and refine as you go, it's takes a lot of trial and error so the sooner you get going the sooner you'll get to where you want to be. That being said there is a need to be careful not to over stretch yourself, know what you do best and focus on that and grow gradually. Also make sure to take a moment every now and then and look back at what you have achieved, it's really easy to berate yourself for everything you haven't yet done and not see how amazingly you have done.

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 think the message behind Just a Card is great, small actions speak loudly in volume. Although only a small purchase card sales are our bread and butter and with that we can support the artists we stock too. It's a win-win for everyone, the customer gets a lovely unique card that they would have likely paid similar money for in a chain, whilst feeling good that they have supported an independent shop and the artist who made it. Designer makers are very conscious of their provenance too so it is more likely the card you buy from an independent is from recycled stock and printed in the UK – more jobs and less carbon footprint than a card printed abroad by a larger company.

How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?

It's huge, people vote with their purchases and we can only keep going if people keep 'voting' for us. But it's not just for us; we're in a lovey position that through our customers we can help artists to keep doing what they love too.

Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently?

We were put on to the Just a Card campaign by Kate Marsden of Made By Mrs M and after looking at the website found ourselves nodding along to the aims and blog posts.

Instagram is our platform du jour though I have to be honest that I'm rubbish with that side of things! Give me a saw over a computer screen any day!

What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

By spreading the word and continuing the conversation, we have the poster up and will keep 'voting' with our purchases.