The first anniversary of the Virtual Tea Towel Museum is a ‘big deal’ for me. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to maintain it, or just get people interested in it. But things have turned out well.
For the celebratory In Conversation With…. I wanted it to have a personal significance. Then I found Charlotte Berridge, by accident. I was born and brought up in Ealing but left many years ago to move to the Midlands. I have always been disappointed by the fact that I hadn’t got a tea towel of Ealing, to remind me of my origins; I tried on many occasions to find one, to no avail. On my last visit, when I was returning my mother’s scrapbooks and Mayoress’s Badge to the London Borough of Ealing, at a formal ceremony, I decided to make a concerted effort to find one. Surely, the Queen of the Suburbs would have one? Rather than trail around numerous shops, my friend, Liz, decided to google ‘Ealing Tea Towel’ and found one by Charlotte Berridge. Using her initiative, she then googled ‘Stockists of Ealing Tea Towel by Charlotte Berridge’ and came up with ‘All Original’, on Ealing Green, which was virtually opposite where we were. My lucky day. Charlotte also does prints, one of which was of Walpole Park, and my only disappointment was this was not translated into a tea towel; Walpole Park is the site of the oak tree my mother planted, along the Mayoral Walk, in 1958, when she was Mayoress. But you can’t have everything!! There is also a print of Charlotte’s of Pitshanger Lane, where my parents used to live; again not a tea towel!
It seemed to me that a tea towel designer who lives in Ealing, works in Ealing, designs tea towels of Ealing, and familiar surrounding districts, would be my ideal In Conversation With…. for this special occasion so I am delighted that she agreed to take part. Here is her story, we started with her background:
”I have a BA(Hons) in graphic design and illustration from Bath Spa University. After many years working as a Creative Director in magazines, I took a little time out to deal with some health issues. I decided I didn’t want to go back so started work on some illustrations just to keep my creativity flowing. One day, I wondered if anyone else might like my illustrations too so I put together a collection of 10 Ealing products and signed up for a stall at a local Christmas Fair. It was nerve-wracking but an exhilarating experience. I was overwhelmed by the positive response, and beautiful compliments, about my work so that’s where it all began.
I am a designer and illustrator; I launched my business, just little old me and my two cats in my studio (well actually it’s the spare bedroom) in November 2015, starting with Ealing (my home) and have gradually expanded, by designs across more areas of West London”.
Do you originate from Ealing? “My parents are based in Suffolk and I moved to London straight after college. My partner and I finally bought a house together in Ealing about 9 years ago. I instantly fell in love with the area. I always get a real buzz walking around West London, discovering its many beautiful parks and buildings”.
How do you sell your goods? “I have a website but you generally find me and my stall at various local events, fairs and markets. All my products are available at ‘All Original’, a fabulous independent gift shop in Ealing Town Centre, where different designers, like me, rent shelf space. My Ealing tea towel is my biggest seller. Tea Towels make great gifts to send anywhere in the world so it’s always great getting orders to send overseas. My tea towels have been sent to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and Columbia to name but a few.”
But which is your favourite tea towel? “I love all my designs. I couldn’t sell them if I didn’t! A lot of work and research goes into each one, they are pretty labour intensive to design. I guess I love my Limited Edition Park Prints most. Wandering through my local park (Walpole Park) is where I first came up with the idea for the business”
How do you see the future? “I hope to expand my designs across London, one postcode at a time!”
Did you always dream of being a tea towel designer? I wanted to know. “I originally wanted to be a fairy (I was born on Midsummers Day so, as a child, I believed I actually could be one!). I toyed with the idea of being an architect but with seven years training my parents did their best to put me off. I come from a very creative family so it was no surprise to anyone that I became a designer”
What do you like most about what you do? “I love the freedom of working for myself. My poor Mum isn’t in the best of health at the moment so being able to juggle my time to help look after her has been a blessing. I really enjoy the researching my illustrations (especially my Pub Prints), deciding what building to include and gaining as much local knowledge as possible so that the designs, and places I include, really resonate with people’s memories of their little corner of London. I constantly have lots of ideas and new areas I want to draw but never quite enough time, and certainly not enough money, to produce all of them. Picking the ones I think will work for me and my business to help me pay the bills is a fine balancing act. I am learning all the time.”
“I’m a big supporter of the ‘Just A Card’ campaign. justacard.org want to encourage everyone to buy from designers, makers, independent galleries and shops. All purchases, however small, even ‘just a card’ (or a tea towel!) are vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses. I believe supporting your local community is much more rewarding, and ultimately, essential to stop the homogenisation of our High Streets”.
Thank you Charlotte for taking the time to be part of the Virtual Tea Towel Museum. On 4 May 2018 I wrote a Tea Towel Blog about Charlotte’s Ealing Tea Towel, which I love. Go to http://www.myteatowels.wordpress.com to find it.