“We always had an aspiration to run a shop of this ilk, but [back in 2007] we had no experience and no financial backing”, says Lucy Payne, one half of the husband and wife team behind the gallery and bookshop Material. With London out of the question the couple returned to Lucy’s home town of Ludlow, in Shropshire, where they had spotted a gap in the market for a gallery with a slightly edgier, urban aesthetic. Much of the local population either works in London, or used to, and were looking for that in their lives. Incidentally, many of their early customers were Londoners weekending in Ludlow.
The couple have since opened a shop on Rivington Street in Shoreditch with the books and artworks laid out much as you might imagine them in your own home. Lucy acknowledges that their style has developed dramatically since they started and they’ve noticed a shift towards food books with more of a design sensibility. It’s one of their main draws, along with children’s books, and now with paper-cutting workshops with Poppy Chancellor running twice monthly in the shop they seem to be comfortably navigating the zeitgeist.
Who are you? Lucy A Payne, partner at Material.
Where can we find you? 3 Rivington Street, London EC2A 3DT & 131 Corve St, Ludlow SY8 2PG www.materialmaterial.com
Describe your store in five words: inspirational, eclectic, innovative, creative, colourful.
What makes you different? All of the above.
How you decide what makes the cut? After an item is presented to us, we have to still be thinking about it the next day/ week/ month. Our joy is obsession. Be it a book, original artwork or a gift card, in our minds, it has to be something we couldn't live without and, once they've seen it, neither will our customers. Even with unfinished products or work in progress, if the design or product is right and we see the potential for development or even a collaboration opportunity, it makes the cut.
What were you doing before you did this? I studied Surface Textile Design for Fashion at LCF and spent a few years interning, working freelance and part time in a Vintage clothing store. My business partner and husband, Joe, studied Graphic Media Design and Illustration at LCP and is also an interaction designer.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Trust your instincts but don't overlook or judge anything before you give it a chance. Never spend time worrying about what everyone else is doing as that is time wasted and stay ahead of the game with admin and paperwork- it's a full time job in itself.
What are you most proud of? Our progress. We started in the midst of the recession with very little and have slowly grown and built up a solid business.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? This changes from day to day. Right now, I would have to say my favourite item (although I am slightly biased) is the tea towel we produced in collaboration with Marcus Walters for the Toast Festival we participated in at the beginning of June.
What's hot for 2013? Fool Magazine.
Every Wednesday 'Indie of the week' celebrates the best independent stores around. These places sell interesting and varied collections of design-related things you don't see everywhere else. They may support young or local designers or be great at finding unique things from around the world. By thinking a little more creatively about what they stock they are fighting the bland homogenisation of so much of the high street. And since I'm down with the realities of modern life, online only stores count too, because a beautiful and easy to use website is just as delightful an encounter in cyberspace.
Do you you have a favourite store? I'd love to hear from you.