Interior Design Blog

Interview: The New Craftsmen

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During the recent London Blogger Tour at{mine} organised together with Design Bloggers United we visited one of our earliest beta members, the venerable The New Craftsmen. We were treated to a creative workshop with artist-in-residence Lola Lely and a phenomenal dinner with furniture designer/maker Gareth Neal and Bobby from The Bothy Project who talked to us about their Mindful Living exhibition which launches in-store today.

Afterwards, we caught up with one of the founders, Natalie Melton,  to ask her some questions about The New Craftsmen, and what Mindful Living means to her.

The New Craftsmen work with some of Britain’s finest craft makers to showcase the materials, skills and craft products of the British Isles – a concept created by you Natalie alongside Mark Henderson and Catherine Lock. Tell us how it came about.

Back in 2010, I was overseeing a project called ‘Crafted’ – a mentoring programme for exceptional craftmakers. I met Catherine at Decorex and she explained that her passion for craft had taken her on a road trip around Britain meeting different makers – we immediately bonded over our mutual interest in Craft. I introduced her to Mark Henderson – who was a mentor on Crafted – knowing that his passion for craft was matched by Catherine’s. They began to talk about how to develop a new kind of platform and showcase for makers; not a gallery per se, but a place that celebrated functional craft as well as the aesthetically beautiful – and crucially, that told the stories of the makers behind the objects. A year later I left my job and we drank lots of coffee, wrote a business plan, raised some finance and opened a pop-up shop six months later.

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Natalie Melton, Catherine Lock & Mark Henderson

The founders have an interesting mix of backgrounds and skills – how do you work together?

We have a really broad skillset and experience, but I think those different perspectives are invaluable. Marks background is luxury – and as Chairman of The New Craftsmen he is wise counsel & fantastic advocate of what we are trying to achieve, as well as bringing a lifetime of retail and brand building experience to bear on what we are doing. Catherine is Creative Director – she oversees all the product selection and development and the visual and creative output of everything that we do.   I’m the Managing Director -so I’m focused on ensuring that the whole operation runs smoothly and that we are constantly seeking out new opportunities to grow and expand, & supporting our makers to realize their commercial goals.

You like to collaborate with designers and makers rather than just sell their products – why is that?

We like collaboration – and we want to challenge our makers to push and develop their craft as much as possible. It also means that a visit to us offers an opportunity to purchase and buy completely original and fresh new work – so hopefully our customers appreciate that too!

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Lola Lely’s Atelier at The New Craftsmen

We visited you during your recent ‘Atelier’ series – where makers recreated their workspaces in your store; what were some highlights of the series of events?

Seeing new work evolve in front of us; each of the makers bringing a different dynamic and energy to the space, learning more about their practice and how they work and – of course the home made biscuits from Laura Carlin and Stuart turning his workshop into a G&T bar at the end of the day!

How was it to have eight leading design bloggers over for a workshop and dinner as part of the London Blogger Tour?

It was fun! It was great to come face to face with the bloggers – we have huge respect for their output and visual take on the design world. We loved how they occupied and explored our space. Cooking, serving, and sitting down for dinner with them was fun – albeit quite stressful – would it live up to their expectations?! But hopefully it gave them a sense of our spirit and how we like to do things – sociable, personable & intimate – just as if they had come to mine for dinner.

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The Dinner setting with the bloggers self-made placemats

You gave us a preview of the Mindful Living series which examines how the objects we surround ourselves with can affect our mood & well-being. You asked furniture designer-maker Gareth Neal strip back his life to a pure set of objects that can fulfil his needs both mentally and physically, and asked him the following questions – which we’re now asking you!
What would your living environment be?

Light-filled, open-plan, modern, clean – and I’m lucky enough to be able to tick three of those boxes at the moment!!

Which 10 pieces would you choose for your environment that enable your way of living?
  • Notebook & fountain pen – a gift from my dad
  • My Spotify account and something to play music through – I’d really struggle to live without music
  • A big supply of freshly roasted coffee from The Counter Café & a hand thrown mug from Matthew Warner to drink it from!
  • A linen and wool throw from Catarina Riccabona
  • An electric toothbrush
  • An oversized velvet sofa for relaxing
  • My bike
What meaning do these pieces – whether practical or emotional – have to you? How would this way of living – the environment and the pieces within it – make you feel?

I think combined they offer up a vision of what I would need for a perfect day – clean teeth and coffee, music to get me going, a bike so that I can get some fresh air along the canals of East London, pen and paper to make notes (or even write some letters!) and sofa and blanket to curl up in at the end of the day. Days like that are few and far between at the moment – being so busy running a business certainly makes you value the opportunity to enjoy some pretty simple pleasures.

 I love where I live (Hackney Wick) and its industrial landscape married with so much wildlife and parkland – I can see Victoria Park, the canals and waterways and Olympic Park all from my flat and relish days spent pottering locally with my daughters.

You have been a beta member of at{mine} since the very beginning – how are you finding it? What are you looking forward to when we launch publicly?

Its always fun to see other people’s homes and the love and care that they put into creating spaces that reflect their personalities – and I think seeing how that grows once its launched publicly will be interesting. I love how people create little vignettes and styled shots – it’s a great source of inspiration!

Thank you Natalie!

//Photography: Susanna Vento and Linda Elmin for Design Bloggers United ; Portraits: The New Craftsmen //

 Read more about The New Craftsmen workshop and dinner here:

Bungalow5.dk: Lola Lely, The Bothy Project

Ems Designblog: The New Craftsmen, Mindful Living

Vosgesparis: The New Craftsmen

Happy Interior Blog: Mindful Living

Varpunen: Mindful Living

Hviit: The New Craftsmen

2 Comments

  1. Great article, lots of new and wonderful things I discovered here. Including your fabulous website and blog. Thank you!

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