Get to Know... Calico Collective

Get to Know... Calico Collective

An interview with maker Calico Collective as part of our 'Get to Know...' series.

 

Tell us a little about yourself and your business…

Hello - I'm Charlotte from Calico Collective, based in South Manchester. Calico Collective is centred around creating consciously crafted, small batch homeware and jewellery. Much of our inspiration comes from natural colours and textures, resulting in an artisan product range filled with earthy tones and organic shapes - the perfect way to bring a sense of serenity to your home.


Where are you based?

Manchester


Tell us a secret about you?

It's not really a secret but I'm SUCH a morning person! Early to bed and early to rise, I never sleep past 6am!


How do you make your work?

All of my homeware is handcrafted using jesmonite - an environmentally conscious alternative to resin and a much more accessible alternative to clay! Each product is mixed by hand, with pigments added to create soft, muted tones and poured into silicone moulds. Once set, they are released, sanded down, washed, dried and finally sealed to create a water resistant finish. There's not really any special tools involved, it's mostly just lots & lots of buckets and jugs!


Describe your studio…

I'm very lucky to have a little studio in a makers community called Makers Quarter, just on the edge of Manchester and Salford. It's small but mighty - with three lovely windows allowing for lots of natural light, too many desks to freely move around and a floor that shouldn't be terrazzo style, but is terrazzo style 90% of the time when I've not had time to sweep! The best thing about my studio is that it's surrounded by other makers who have become a huge part of my life (both at work and outside of work), plus there's a lovely little coffee shop just outside!


Tell us about your materials - where do you source them from and are they important to you?

All of my jesmonite is sourced from the closest supplier to me - which is less than an hour away in the Wirral. I've always bought from them and always will - not only because they're nearby but they care about the makers! Other than that, I use recycled crushed seashells from the coast of Devon and all of my moulds (well, the ones I've not made myself) are hand made by other small businesses based in the UK.


Why is it important to you that your work is made as responsibly and sustainably as possible?

I want to leave a mark but in a positive way. For me, creating pieces that are not only a wonderful addition to any home but that are functional and built to last, is really important.

Much of my work is made to order and always in small batches. Although this can mean longer working time for orders, wholesale and stockists, it allows me to make only what will sell and also offer a custom order option. This then means there's never really any waste in terms of material, all of the leftover material in my buckets is crushed down and using as terrazzo in other pieces - it never goes to waste!


How and why did you start your small business?

Calico Collective was originally a lockdown hobby! I was in the fortunate position to be put on furlough from a retail job back in March 2020 and, having not long finished a creative degree in theatre design, decided I needed to keep my hands busy! I started out with lino prints, then jewellery, then jesmonite homeware. It was never really the intention to 'start a business' and I never imagined that I'd be where I am today - but I wouldn't change a thing!

Even once we came out of lockdowns, jobs in the theatre industry were few and far between and I think I quite quickly realised that it wasn't the career I really wanted to settle into - so I feel very grateful that starting up my business has (so far) worked out!


Any fun facts about your business, or achievements you want to shout about?

I'd love to shout about my pop up shop! In November 2023, I took the opportunity to open my first little Bricks & Mortar space in West Didsbury, Manchester. It was always going to be short term (I believe we'll be closing at the end of Jan 2024) but it's answered a lot of curiosities for me! I don't often sit back to reflect on what I've done over the past 4 years but it's definitely my biggest achievement to date!


What do you love most about your small business and do you have a favourite piece of work?

I love that my small business has given me so many opportunities to meet people, not just locally but across the UK and even further afield. I've never felt so connected to a network/community of people before this.

A couple of years ago, I was commissioned by the owners of Makers Quarter, where my studio is, to create a large table top for the communal kitchen. It was (and still is) the biggest piece I've made and it brings me joy whenever I see it.


What do you think are the benefits of people supporting independent business?

Keeping money circulating in your local economy. There is so much value in word of mouth for small businesses too - since having my pop up shop I have really seen how beneficial it is to really integrate yourself into the local community! Plus, there's so much more variety in independent shops!


Tell us about your favourite purchase from a fellow maker. What is it and who made it?

Ooh I have a custom padded laptop case from my friend Liisa - who runs Sävy Living in Manchester. It's handcrafted using gorgeous terracotta and beige linen, and I get compliments on it wherever I take it! Another is a coffee mug made by Dylan at Artists Poulton - the perfect size and a delicious aqua blue colour. Plus I love that with his ceramics, you can see the finger marks from the making process.


What are your favourite things about PRIOR - both as a customer and a supplier?

As a supplier - the organisation! I love the delivery note spreadsheet, the automatic stock updates, on time payments and regular updates. It makes such a difference to not have to feel like I need to 'chase' things up as I know that you've put so many incredible systems in place to keep track of everything. The best I've experienced!

As a customer - I've only been able to visit a handful of times when I come down to visit friends, but the shop is really inviting! There's always someone lovely to greet you and the selection of products is next to none - there's always makers who I've not come across before and I go away every time having followed at least 10 new businesses on instagram!


Do you have a goal for where you’d love your business to be in the future?

A permanent joint shop and studio space is the dream!

Much of my brand ethos / plans for the future are centred around giving opportunities to new, emerging small businesses to showcase their work in a physical shop and support them in this process. When you're just starting out, it's hard to know exactly what 'retail ready' means for products and I'd like to set up some sort of mentorship or process for supporting other businesses in making these steps!

 

View Calico Collective's handmade collection at Prior Shop here.


(Interview date: 10th January 2024)
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