Flo Tea Set

Profiles: Catherine Colebrook

Catherine Colebrook PictureHomegirl London pays homage to Catherine Colebrook.  Cath makes an adorable range of colourful products with a nostalgic nod towards patterns and fonts of the 50s and 60s, sprinkled with her very own magical contemporary spin.  Her wares include; prints, aprons, tea towels, oven gloves, ironing board covers, cushions plus plenty of personalised pieces.

Her business started back in April 2006 from the kitchen table and has gradually moved to bigger spaces in her home – the second lounge, then the basement and now she’s eyeing up retail premises.  Today, she’s stocked by a vast amount of retailers and is known for her clever and witty slogan designs plus her colourful retro-inspired patterns.  I caught up with Cath to find out more …

Q: Tell me about your design background.

A: I caught the sewing bug from my Mum and Grandma.  I was absolutely fascinated by how clothes could be constructed from a length of fabric and the love affair began.  Some of my earliest memories were of standing on a chair whilst my mum pinned up the hems on homemade dresses – “Watch the pins!” “Stand straight!”  My Sindy doll had the best wardrobe in town and my aspirations of becoming a fashion designer to Lady Diana were born.

 Pink Hydrangea Linen Cushion

Pink Hydrangea Linen Cushion £44

After A-Levels in textiles and art, I dreamed of buying a one-way ticket to Paris where I would be instantly snapped up by a leading fashion house … instead, I set up my own dressmaking and alteration business specialising in wedding dresses, in our spare room.

Then ‘Casualty’, a brand new cutting edge medical drama, burst onto our screens and rather bizarrely I decided to become a nurse.  I shut up the spare room shop and moved to Bath to train.  Fifteen years, one husband and two children later I was working in A&E with the medical advisor to ‘Casualty’ and ended up in a couple of episodes as ‘Nurse in the background that looks like she knows what she’s doing’!  The circle was complete and it was time to follow the original dream.

Q: Why set up your business?

A: It was very much a combination of things … firstly, a creative itch that needed to be scratched, throughout my time in A&E.  I had also worked on numerous interior design projects and made wedding dresses for most of my friends.  Then, it was time to make a lifestyle decision – my daughter was about to start school and I was desperate to be around for the school run, nativity plays and sports days so starting my own business would give me that flexibility.

Q: Where are you based and why?

A: I started on the kitchen table, whilst my six month-year-old son took his afternoon nap.  I then took over one of our reception rooms for a couple of years.  Three years ago we moved into our basement which was converted to house the business.  I’m currently eyeing up a shop with space where I can also work at the back, which is incredibly exciting.

Q: How many people work at your company?

A: There are now three of us working here; Debs, Bex and I.  We all get on really well, being friends before turning work colleagues.  There are also numerous companies around the country making things for us too.  We are absolutely passionate about supporting British business and very proud to have everything made in the UK.

The Ultimate TV Dinner Tray, £22

The Ultimate TV Dinner Tray £22

 Q: Describe your design style.

A: Colourful, hint of the 50s and 60s, often with a humorous slant.

Q: Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?

A: I do like a good rummage in a charity shop.  I found an old typewriter last year and that inspired the typeface for the alphabet coasters and placemats.  Debs, who works with me, is a very funny lady, so we bounce around ideas for the humorous stuff.

Q: Tell me about your collections.

A: Slogan Collection: Witty sayings like; “Save Water Drink Wine / Champagne,” “Carrots Improve Your Vision, Vodka Doubles It,” “An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away – A Lemon A Day Means You Are Drinking Too Much Gin.”  These sayings are featured on aprons and coasters.  Plus a collection of sayings on mugs starting with the words “You Can’t Beat A Nice Cup Of …” with the additional words; Champagne, Gin, Wine, etc.

Save Water Drink Wine Tea Towel

Save Water Drink Wine Tea Towel £9.99

You can't beat a nice cup of, Mugs

You Can’t Beat A Nice Cup Of … Mugs £9.50

Alphabet Collection: Coasters and placemats featuring letters of the alphabet.  You can select any letter of the alphabet when you buy a set.  An idea designed to give you endless fun spelling things out while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or your dinner to arrive at the table.

Alphabet Coasters

Alphabet Coasters £3.50

Alphabet Place Mat

Alphabet Placemats £8.95

Flo Collection: Simple 1960s style patterns with a contemporary feel.  Five designs and five colour-ways available as mugs, teapots, make bags and wash bags.

Flo Tea Set

Flo Teapot £38 and Mugs £9.50

Orange Flo Washbag, £18

Flo Orange Wash Bag £18

Pop Collection: This collection is a little bit Scandi and a little bit 60s.  Available in two colourways; Yellow and Taupe.  A fantastic way to brighten up your kitchen.  All our Pop designs come as an ironing board cover, apron, oven mitts and oven gauntlets.

Ironing board cover

Pop Yellow Ironing Board Cover £18

Pop Yellow Oven Mitt, £14

Pop Yellow Oven Mitt £14

Bespoke Products: We offer a large range of bespoke, personalised products which include; Christmas Sacks with your initials on, aprons and prints.

Personalised christmas sacks,£20

Personalised Christmas Sacks £20

Personalised Library Classic Print

Personalised Library Classic Print £48

Q: What’s your fascination with retro?

A: A lot of my designs have a retro twist with a feel for the 50s and 60s.  I was a child of the late 70s but I remember my grandma’s house which was filled to the brim with textiles and patterns from those eras – so I find it quite comforting.  My grandma was full of fun and ignited my love of sewing.  She came from a generation of women whose mantra was ‘Make Do and Mend.’   I’d like to think that a combination of those patterns, a stiff upper lip and a sense of humour come across in my designs.

Q: Which designer/artist do you admire and why?

A: Orla Kiely for her beautiful colour palette, clean designs and she’s a huge commercial success – what’s not to love and admire?

Q: What’s the best thing about owning your own business?

A: I love it when someone buys a new design for the first time, and you think phew, someone loves it too.  I also really enjoy the business side of things; it’s like playing a game, making gambles here, and educated guesses over there!  But the absolute best thing is doing something I love, that fits around my family.

Q: What one piece of advice would you pass on to someone wanting to set up their own business?

A: Be prepared to work stupidly long hours, there will be setbacks, but keep hold of the dream.

Q: What’s coming up for the rest of 2013?

A: The possibility of opening a shop is ever so exciting. There are lots of new products in my head which will hopefully make it out in time for the trade shows early next year and I’m looking forward to the craziness of Christmas; long hours, it feels like ‘Ground Hog Day’ for weeks on end, but oh the joy of the last post and a cheeky mulled wine!

Here are the prices for some of the products to give you an idea on costs; personalised prints £38-68, personalised aprons £26, make-up bags £6.50-£12, wash bags £16-18, aprons £23.30, coasters £3-6, ironing board covers £18, mugs £9.50, oven glove and mitts £12-14.  You can buy these products from www.catherinecolebrook.com.

Credits: text by Homegirl London, images courtesy of Catherine Colebrook Limited, special thanks to Catherine Colebrook herself.