At Grain & Knot, Sophie handcrafts wooden goods from her home studio, creating tactile, fully functional wooden kitchenware from reclaimed timber. Using her Appear Here opportunity, she hopes to inspire others to get involved through interactive workshops in utensil carving, catapult making, concrete casting and brush making. We speak to the designer Fred Rigby about how he worked with Sophie to turn her dream space into a reality.
What were the priorities when designing this space?
Sophie makes everything out of wood, so we wanted to hero those pieces whilst in-keeping with the handmade feel (even the nails were hand forged). We displayed her carved pieces all around the store using a Shaker Rail (an American design feature) and installed pegs to hang her spoons and spatulas. Her pieces needed to stand out, so we limited the palette. We used natural ebonising to turn the oak black and Douglas Fir for the workshop benches.
How did social media play a part in the design?
We wanted the space to evolve as she evolved, she could make something then hang it straight on the wall. We had to make sure it wouldn’t look sparse in photos (thinking of Instagram) if she sold a lot of stock at one time, so we kept it minimal. It needed to look like a scene in a real workshop to make it seem authentic on social media, like a slice into Sophie’s working life.
Nature is a key theme in Grain & Knot’s work. How did you incorporate this into the central London location?
Through the materials, such as oak and cork. I also asked her to collect all her offcuts so we could spread those around the window stages. It was a nice way to re-emphasise - almost as proof - that everything is handmade.
How did you keep sustainability at the core of the design?
All the oak was from England and the dark brown cork from Portugal is ethically grown and smoked. It’s a huge part of her brand’s ethos.
Sophie wanted her customers to touch handmade products in the space to feel their quality, something they couldn’t do from a website. How did the design encourage this?
By hanging up pieces everywhere. Like you would on a clothes rail, we lined the walls, so people were invited to pick them up. It wasn’t too neat and tidy as we wanted people to feel like they could get stuck in.
Sophie said she wanted the design to “break down the barriers” between customer and shop. How did the space lend itself to Sophie’s envisioned workshops?
The benches were placed in the middle so people could sit in groups. The stools were agile, acting as plant holders throughout the day, then used for events in the evening.
What was the feedback on the space?
It was great. The focus was on Sophie’s work, which was the main idea and we pulled it off. We didn’t want our work to clash. As a pop-up, naturally, it was a short project but it was amazing to see it come to life so quickly and gain so much traction on social media.
Why do you think crafts workshops are becoming so popular?
People are bored of staring at computers and want to use their hands again for something other than typing. If I don’t make something for a while, I get a niggling feeling to create a physical object. Others definitely feel the same but don’t have an output like me, so I’m lucky.
More generally, what are your top 3 tips for anyone designing a retail space?
Always refer back to the key ethos of the brand; think about how a customer will move through the space (its usability); consider materials and colours that you can apply to different objects.
What do you have planned next?
I just worked on a gallery in Bath owned by Rosa Park, editor of Cereal magazine, who is stocking and selling my furniture. Next up is a pub in Hackney, which entails a lot of pint drinking research, obviously!