Denise Lewis describes her online shop Blodwen as a “Welsh Ralph Lauren” and it’s an easy shorthand to explain what she’s trying to create. With a keen eye for reinvention - and presentation - she’s transformed traditional Welsh crafts into chic, contemporary items which include farmhouse-style furniture, blankets and homewares. Her Heritage Blanket Collection resurrects an almost forgotten 18th century pattern, while her bold enamelware range (pictured above) incorporates the familiar 'Caernarfon' pattern found in traditional tapestry blankets. Blodwen is about building a community and working together, employing local people and using local resources - "bringing the craftsman's way of life to your way of living" goes the strapline. You may not be surprised to learn that this rural-chic comes at a price, but it's one that feels more justified than most.
Who are you? Denise Lewis founder of Blodwen.
Where can we find you? Online only at www.blodwen.com
Describe your store in five words: Hand-crafted luxury homewares from Wales
What makes you different? Blodwen is all about preserving and reviving traditional rural skills by designing collections that fuse together age-old craftsmanship with contemporary style and utility. All our collections are handmade in Wales and all our packaging is bilingual: Welsh and English
How you decide what makes the cut? I design collections that are iconically Welsh - in other words pieces which are rooted in Welsh rural life and then give them a modern twist. Quality is also paramount, I work with a selection of hand-picked master craftspeople and artisans who bring to life my designs with the best possible skill and attention to detail.
What were you doing before you did this? I spent 20 years in the telecoms sector, most recently eight years as Global Director of Corporate Affairs for Orange, the mobile phone company.
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Don't think it's easy!
What are you most proud of? I'm proud that in only three years my collections are now showcased at Liberty's of London, The Conran Shop, Heal's, SCP and other high-end retailers around the world.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? My current favourite Blodwen product is the Heritage Blanket Collection - a new collection of blankets, throws and cushions resurrected from a Welsh weaver's pattern book dating from 1782. Having discovered the archive I worked with the local museum and local textile college to revive the most beautiful textiles which would otherwise have been lost in time. It’s been a real community initiative - and a gift for lovers of textiles everywhere.
What's hot for 2014? For me 2014 is about textiles and wood. With the Heritage Blanket Collection, I'm trying to re-establish the tradition of giving textiles as gifts and heirlooms. Precious tokens which can be handed down through the generations, much as they have been in Wales through the centuries. I'm passionate about the 'Pinwheel' and 'Hiraeth' (meaning longing) blankets which are unique and very beautiful.
The Werin (meaning peasant) Furniture Collection is based on traditional farmhouse furniture and has a wonderful Welsh Dresser and flip-top trestle table and bench all made from Welsh oak. [In rural Welsh farmhouses the tables were always flip-tops as one side was painted white, for high days and holidays, whilst the other was in the natural wood for day to day domestic use].
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.