Shop spotlight on Stuff of Dreams. This is a unique online gift shop selling contemporary homeware and unusual gifts. You can pick up some interesting artisan made products ranging from Malawi woven trays to traditional Congo throws and Tunisian Fouta Hammam spa wraps. Or you might like a one of a kind vintage Japanese kimono cushion. The collection is exciting and diverse ranging from bright and bold African woven bowls and printed aprons to simple sustainably sourced ash wood candle holders. Working with artisans and collaborating with carpenters and jewellery makers adds to the eclectic offering. Stuff of Dreams is a second job for Di and Martin, who both work in the television industry. I caught up with the busy duo to find out more about their online adventure.
Selection of Products
Meet the Stuff of Dreams Owners
This online business is owned by Di Humphreys and Martin Hutchings. They are a couple who co-founded the e-commerce website and run it together. Di tells me how they met – “It was many moons ago on the film set of Alan Bennett’s drama called The Insurance Man starring Daniel Day-Lewis. It was about Franz Kafka with locations in Bradford and Liverpool doubling for Prague. The design element was crucial and Martin was the Assistant Director while I was the Assistant Costume Designer. We had to work very closely with the BAFTA winning designer, Geoff Powell, so there was plenty of opportunity for interaction!”
Martin Hutchings and Di Humphreys
Di and Martin tell me about their backgrounds. Di trained as a Fashion Designer at the London College of Fashion before joining the Royal Opera House as Assistant Costume Designer. She adds – “I moved to the BBC and got my first break as Costume Designer on Debbie Horsfield’s The Riff Raff Element. I went on to design for many more dramas and I am now Series Costume Designer at EastEnders. Any spare time I do have is spent developing our own online business.”
Selection of Products
Martin talk me through his background – “I studied English at University. Afterwards I worked at the Royal Court Theatre and then headed off into the BBC. I’m a Freelance Director, so have worked on numerous dramas, including the setting up of Waking the Dead and Holby City. Although my son and I now have a short film, Crossing Over, in post-production, my principal focus has become the running and development of the online company.”
Selection of Products
The idea of setting up a business together stemmed from their yearning to find a new project. They elaborate – “We decided to set up our company to change and mix up our lifestyle and have a new direction. Working in the creative industries is one thing, but having a business that allows you to channel that creative energy into sourcing and creating things that you love is infectious! We enjoy the whole process of finding and designing new products, watching our own ideas come to fruition is a wonderful thing. It was a challenge but gave us a real sense of purpose and we found great satisfaction in engineering the transformation. We already have a studio at our property so it made total sense to set up a digital interiors and homewares business and work from home.”
The website and business name, Stuff of Dreams, is actually a Shakespearean phrase (such stuff as dreams are made on) and also Bogart’s last line in The Maltese Falcon (The stuff that dreams are made of). Di and Martin comment – “We thought that the combination was catchy and a heady mix of substance and desire. It also gives an insight into the wonderful ‘stuff’ we sell online.”
View the Stuff of Dreams Products
Di and Martin talk me through their product offering. “We sell contemporary items with a handmade twist. Many of the brands that we include on the website are ethically produced or made here in the UK. Our focus is homewares and interiors. This includes cushions, kitchenware, lighting and candle holders. We also have a unique range of gift items including hand-made jewellery, scarves and keepsake items for children. We enjoy sourcing interesting new things from around the world but also giving fabrics, materials and crafts that we source a contemporary edge. Our ethos is that everything must tell a story and make a fantastic addition to the home. These are appreciated by our customers who seek contemporary objects that reflect craft and care in their design and cannot be found everywhere. They are constantly looking for something fresh and unique and can appreciate creative touches like hand finished detailing and a beautiful gift box.”
Half Silk Cushions
They have collaborated with a number of artisans to produce exclusive products. Martin tells me about the Groove Lamp. “This has been made in conjunction with a local woodworker called Nick Vinden. It has been created with revolving sections so the grooves can be lined up in any configuration. You can choose to have this made in Farrow & Ball colours. He has also made candle holders and tea light holders for us.”
Another collaboration is with local jewellery artisan called Andrea Kamasova. Di tells me – “Andrea handmade a beautiful necklace of stranded cotton thread for us called Umoya which means ‘Wind’ in Zulu. This is very elegant and also delicate, created by hand weaving with a macramé technique to achieve a gentle two tone tassel effect. There are three colours; white with black, taupe with black and ruby with white.”
Di and Martin also support African producers including Zenzulu and Monkeybiz. They told me – “These companies really empower people, often women, to a better, happier and more financially secure future. Sourcing products from these ethical, Fairtrade producers was really important to us and we love the eclectic feel their products bring into the mix. Monkeybiz, for example, makes colourful beaded animals which is a one-off collectable piece of art. Each product bears the name of the artist.”
Purple Horn Cow
You can also find a great selection of one-off cushions on the website. These include a selection made from vintage kimonos and fabrics Di picked up in Japan. You’ll find some lovely images including storks, butterflies and flowers. This one shows gold butterflies fluttering around pretty flowers of bright red, pale pink and pastel blues. Finished with a hanging red tassel and pearl beads, it is just delightful. The Half Silk Cushion is also fabulous; it’s made from Indian silk with a pure linen back.
Butterfly on Flowers Cushion
Buy the Stuff of Dreams Products
If you want to buy yourself something interesting or a thoughtful gift for a friend have a look at the website Stuff of Dreams. To give you an idea about price points; you can pick up art cards for £2.75 and Lavender bags £7.90 at the lower end. The more expensive items are the three tier Groove Lamp for £180. They can ship products all over the world.
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Courtesy of Stuff of Dreams. Thanks: Di, Martin and Lara Green.