Indie of the Week #32: The Calm Gallery

Back in 2007, a couple of students unwittingly set a slogan in motion. Typography fans Hayley and Lucas Lepola were at university when they decided to do a screen-print of the old wartime poster ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ in different colours. And so, the Keep Calm Gallery was launched with just three prints.
They could never have predicted the extraordinary popularity of the slogan, or its many tedious parodies - 'Freak Out and Break Stuff' - anyone? Fed up with people asking them for the parodies on mugs and laptop cases, which they don't sell, they changed their name to The Calm Gallery last year.
“We still like the sentiment of the original phrase”, says Lucas, diplomatically, “but we just wanted to distance ourselves from it all as it’s such a small part of what we do”. The pair still sell the prints they originally started with, along with nearly 200 others by artists such as James Brown and Chase and Wonder, plus postcards and tea towels. They also run a sister site called Alphabet Bags.
Who are you? We are Hayley & Lucas Lepola and we run The Calm Gallery.
Where can we find you? which we run from our studio in rural Cambridgeshire.
Describe your store in five words: Handsome prints, fun thoughtful gifts.
What makes you different? We like to think that our large collection of beautiful designs sets us apart from the rest. We take great pride in attention to detail in everything we do and ensuring our lovely customers have the best possible experience when visiting The Calm Gallery.
How you decide what makes the cut? Generally if something captures our attention and is something we would hang in our own home, or give as gift ourselves, then it would definitely be the sort of thing we would like to add to our collection. It’s also important to us that prints are being made with great care and using the best materials. We want the prints which we send out to be enjoyed for many years to come.
What were you doing before you did this? We started The Calm Gallery whilst still at university in Birmingham back in 2007, so to be honest we haven’t really done much of anything else. Lucas worked briefly freelancing for a marketing company, but since we left university our focus has been on working with artists we admire and experimenting with our own designs. 
If you were starting again what advice would you give yourself? Organise paperwork from day one. Boring we know, but so important. Stop working from home earlier, before there is stock taking over every room in the house. When it comes to book-keeping and accounts, learn the basics but then outsource when you have got the grasp of these so you can focus time and attention where your real skills lie.  
What are you most proud of? When we look back at the last six and a half years we feel pretty proud to have created and grown The Calm Gallery together as a couple. It has not always been easy but we feel extremely lucky to be able to work together every day and collaborate on things that we love doing. Aside from this, we feel most proud thinking of the fact that people all over the world are hanging our prints on their walls and giving our products as gifts to loved ones. This makes us pretty darn happy.
Do you have a favourite thing in the store right now? That’s a tough one, there are so many items we love right now. But if we had to choose we would probably pick Double Merrick’s three prints La Lune, La Terre and Le Soleil. We love the vintage classroom wall chart style of these big, bold screenprints. They look really impressive hung together and could hang just about anywhere.
What's hot for 2013? Our postcards have been pretty popular this year. Perhaps people are making the time to write to each other more often but they also make great mini prints that you can pop easily in an off-the-shelf picture frame. The cheery messages and bright colours are particular popular; who wouldn’t love receiving a friendly card in the post?
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.