Our last Seek Inspire Create event of 2019 happened at the start of November, this time in one of my favourite UK towns – Frome. I visited Frome for the first time just over a year ago, and it was the creative community there that was partly the inspiration to hold these events. The town is packed with small independent businesses and as we discovered while planning and executing the event, everyone knows and supports each other, they often collaborate together and generally just immerse themselves in a creative way of life. Everyone that we approached to be involved were incredibly warm and welcoming to us and we really did have such a wonderful day.
With these events, I aim to bring 91 Magazine to life – meeting the people who run beautiful independent shops, hearing from inspirational women and getting creative as we take part in a making workshop. We also eat delicious food together, chat, laugh and get inspired by the attendees who join us on the day. Here’s a little run down of the day in early November, captured by photographer Jemma Watts.
We kick off the day with a tour of three independent shops in the town. I always aim to have an interesting mix of shops that are different but also compliment each other. This was an easy task in Frome, and we in fact managed to squeeze in an additional shop this time as I felt it was too lovely to pass by!
Our first stop was Kobi and Teal, right at the top of Catherine Hill – a cobbled street in Frome dominated by independent stores. Owner Nick gave us a comprehensive overview of running this kind of business; the challenges involved and why he particularly loves being based in Frome. As I mentioned before, it seems it definitely helps being surrounded by others doing similar, but different things to you. Kobi and Teal stocks a mix of some of Nick’s own designs with lots of work from other independent designers and makers. He also has a small gallery space where he regularly rotates art shows, bringing another dimension to the space.
A few strides down the hill and we stepped into Frome Hardware – a small shop with a big offering. Utilitarian in style, this store sells a range of useful, but beautiful hardware goods, alongside some pieces by independent makers. Owner Dan, an ex-school teacher, told us his story and how adding a laser cutting machine has made a huge difference to his business. He can create a whole manner of personalised items including signage and etched glass and slate. For the event Dan had etched the 91 logo onto enamel mugs for all of us to take home – and he was even able to add personalisation to the other side of the mugs on demand! Such a fun thing for the group and a lovely memento of the day.
The third shop we visited was Resident. Owner James’s aesthetic is contemporary and minimal with a focus on well made objects, clothing and skincare. I love how his range of goods contrasts with the old building they are housed in, as James have left things like the old floorboards and the fireplace intact. Again, James talked to us with passion for his business and a love for Frome, which he explained has changed dramatically since when he used to visit as a child.
The Seek part of the day should’ve been wrapping up at this stage, but I couldn’t resist taking our guests in Studio Ashay before we headed for lunch. We only came across this shop when we arrived the day before, as owner Donna May had completely rebranded and relaunched since my last visit to the town. She sells her own range of garments, all lovingly made in her studio at the back of the shop, and these are complemented by a small edit of items from other designers and makers.
The inspire section of the day is when, after fuelling ourselves with some delicious food, we take the weight off our feet and enjoy hearing from some of the inspirational women based in and around Frome, focussing mainly on topics around running a creative business.
We were welcomed by the lovely folk at Eight Stony Street where, after taking our seats, we all admired the perfectly framed view of Catherine Hill and enjoyed the sun streaming in their floor to ceiling windows. Founder Kent kindly shared with us the story behind the restaurant and wine shop, were the ethos of supporting small producers and ensuring the business is run as ethically as possibly shone through. We then tucked in to the most delicious vegetarian and vegan pizzas, sourdough bread and triple cooked chips. Soooo good! Our attendees also had a chance to dip into their goodie bags as we chattered.
Tummies filled, we took a few steps along the street to Fromie Gifts – the venue for our talks. A small but perfectly formed shop, owner Nicki had miraculously managed to arrange the space to fit all 12 of us in comfortably. Nicki kicked things off with the story of her small business which aims to embody the creative community spirit of Frome, selling locally-sourced gifts and generally bigging up all that is great about the town.
We then heard from creative business mentor Fiona Barrows who talked to the group about brand-storytelling and why it is so important to communicate your value in our over-saturated market. We learnt about defining your ‘why’ in what you do and also how to communicate what makes your offering different. There was lots to take it but luckily Fiona provided the group with a workbook to take home, meaning our learning didn’t end here.
Finally, Lizzie Jones of State of Liberty took to the floor. Lizzie runs online well-being retreats which you can do in the comfort of your own home and she was talking to us specifically about how to manage stress and anxiety when running your own business. It can be so easy to get caught up in the immediacy of trying to get everything done, but Lizzie taught us how to look after ourselves first so that we can best serve our business and our customers or clients.
Everyone came away feeling inspired and re-energised, and with a last little browse around Fromie Gifts (and a few little purchases!) that concluded the inspire part of the day.
The final part of the day is when the group get a chance to channel all that new found creativity and inspiration into making something with their hands. We headed back up Catherine Hill to houseplant heaven, Pilea Plant Shop.
Surrounded by plants, owner Lula instructed our group in making a macrame plant hanger. We drank tea and ate some amazing pastries supplied by Rye Bakery, before everyone became immersed in the task. It’s so lovely to end the day making something that each person can take home as a little memento of the day, representing their own creativity and the joy found in crafting something with your hands.
After each of these events I’ve reflected on how amazing it is to spend time with fellow creatives – people that get you, that know where you are coming from and can even offer ideas and support. I know I am biased, but I can’t recommend taking a day out like this for yourself enough. Taking the opportunity to have a break from the every day and soak up the creative energy that can be found at these events is so worthwhile. We don’t have the next one planned just yet, but hopefully we will have more to come in 2020. Signing up to our mailing list is probably the best way to hear when the next one is coming up! I hope to see you at an event in the near future! 🙂