On the 8th of July at 10.00am we opened our doors to the public. 15 Cross Street, Oswestry was our home for 16 days.
When we decided to take on the shop, it was a whole company decision that included lots of visits to look around. We had been part of a pop up shop in Soho, London, last Christmas, with This Because, and it was very successful. This next retail experiment, in the premises next door to our Designs in Mind studio, was a great opportunity to trial the idea 'could we take on a permanent shop?'
Instantly you could tell everyone was excited by this project, and that it was going to be something special. In the 8 weeks from saying 'YES' to the wonderful people at Halls Estate Agents, who offered us this opportunity, we had a lot to do.
Design and make a handmade product range to complement existing JOLT products
Complete the JAPAN collection to launch at the shop
Find some great partners to work with to complete the product range
Transform the internal space of the shop- painting, building and cleaning- making it be, the JOLT brand and create excitement in Oswestry
Form partnerships with local artists, writers and the library to create a programme of workshops that will take place in the shop- this is not just a shop but an interactive and engaging place to be
Gain local, regional and national attention through social media and press releases to make sure that people know this is happening
Deliver customer service training to volunteers- members of the Designs in Mind studio
Ellie, has been a member at Designs in Mind and has moved on to be a volunteer. For the 16 days of opening, she took on the role of Assistant Shop Manager.
"The whole experience has given me more self-confidence, especially knowing that I was trusted. I absolutely loved and enjoyed the whole experience. My family saw how enthusiastic I was and especially my husband who said how proud he was of me for seeing the project through from beginning to end. My friends have seen a cheerful and enthusiastic side of me that hasn't been there for a few years. When are we going to do it again?"
It was not only Ellie who was amazed by our 16 day adventure in the shop...
From studio to shop
1. The shop made visible lives and stories that can often be hidden
'My lasting memory of the shop is that 'mental' doesn't have to have a closed dark door. I was able to connect with shoppers and passers by, telling them who we are and being me at the same time'
2. The shop sold work that has been made and designed by members of the Designs in Mind studio, adults referred through mental health services
3. Makers got immediate positive feedback seeing work they have made sold
'I can't believe it, people are coming in and buying something I made, I feel so good right now!'
'I think people are impressed by the creativity and surprised by the high quality of the products'
4. The shop became a safe space for makers to communicate and chat to strangers
'I put my name down to volunteer because everyone was. I was terrified. I didn't think I would be able to talk to anyone, but once we were open it was fine, everyone was so lovely and interested in what we were doing.'
5. New roles and responsibilities were created from studio to shop- shop fitting, management, marketing, sales and facilitators
'I was in my element fitting the shop out- laying a new floor, constructing a window display area, painting the shop inside and out. Managing others to help with the work was also great. I was able to put ideas forward and really be part of the team making this happen.'
'I loved working on the till and mingling with people. The Food Festival brought even more people in and we received so many positive comments'
A Safe Space
1. Mental Health became part of everyday life, on the high street
2. The shop was a safe space for people to talk about mental health without judgement, stigma or shame
3. We had 1441 visitors to the shop over the 16 days and nearly everyone had a story to tell about mental health
'People think I'm a single Dad, but I'm not. My wife won't come out. Most mental health services are a big commitment, with appointments that can be cancelled. I can see that if the shop was open all the time, one day I might be able to get her in, and who knows what might happen. She might get the help she needs.'
'I'm struggling on this medication, I don't want to keep talking about it at home though as people think I'm just complaining.'
'I want people to stop bullying me at school'
'I know 3 people who have committed suicide- who do I talk to about that?'
So much more than a shop
When you walk in to our studio you feel the energy, the warmth, you hear laughter and chatter, and you see the hive of activity, of creation and making.
When you walk in to our shop we created that environment.
With Hirameki on the wall, inviting people to draw what they see and a whole programme of drop in workshops everyday including 'Crochet your way to calm', 'Book Doctor', 'Infusing writing in to your life', 'Wild reading', 'Pom Poms' and 'Storytelling for wellbeing' people of all ages came in to the shop to play, chat, make and think.
'This was a lovely gentle inclusive session, lots of exchanges of ideas and information, I believe everyone went away with something of use. It was informative but in a very casual and relaxed way. As a result of the session we had a lady re-join the library and take out several books she also joined her child up to the summer reading challenge, to read six books throughout the school summer holidays. Another lady borrowed a book of short stories for a family member who is currently unwell, I also recommended they read for their own solace. This feedback summed it up for me...
“it was nice to know that I am not on my own and it’s not too late for me” '
Book Doctor- Oswestry Library
And in the evening we sold out a programme of screen printing and lino printing workshops, giving people an opportunity to try for themselves some of the skills that have been used to create the products in the shop. (Ah-hem.... new programme of workshops available now- Workshops!)
16 wonderful days have come to an end and we are still talking about it every day. Having a permanent shop is definitely part of our future and we can't wait to be back. We are looking hard for space in November and December and hopefully a permanent shop from early 2018.
Thank you to everyone who made this a success, please keep in touch and we will see you all soon
P.S- you can still shop online!
The last saw dust is hoovered
The last screws unscrewed
Boards and boxes lifted
stored wherever the studio could
The Shop now the empty shell
But left on its walls with many of our story’s
We’ve not closed it’s door
for we have opened many more
This is not the final end to its journey
it’s the start of something new yet to be told
will continually be stitched in embroidery of time
We’ve all been the team that has carried the dream
and fulfilled to reality the stamp of the town
we’ve added our name
With love to our town……
from us all here at Designs in Mind and JOLT.
Sarah J Holden