WHAT WE LOVE: Handcrafted bunting swags the charming shopfront of this unique shop and workshop overflowing with delightful stitched, painted and handmade goods.
WHERE: On East London’s wonderful Columbia Road, the location of every Sunday’s bustling Columbia Road Flower Market.
WHO: Artist and teacher Jessie Chorley.
Established in 2007, Jessie Chorley is an independent artist’s shop and studio. Jessie uses a variety of techniques in her work. Hand embroidery, lino printing and brass etching, paper craft and pen and ink illustration to create a range of products from brooches and bags to journals and embroidery kits. In the studio at the rear of the shop, Jessie runs her masterclasses specializing in and exploring her unique approach to embroidery and patchwork techniques.
Where do you make everything? All items are handmade by me in the workshop to the rear of my shop or from my small studio flat in East London. I have a small team of three wonderful women who assist me in my studio at busy periods with packing and finishing. Yes, it’s busy and you can catch me often on a Sunday stitching away on something, whilst also looking after customers.
Which products are Jessie Chorley best sellers? My handmade Altered Journals & Memory books. Hand-printed and collaged luxury greeting cards, my DIY embroidery kits, and my hand-embroidered one-off embroidered and patchworked clothing.
Who are Jessie Chorley customers? Like-minded individuals who appreciate the one off and the handmade. The preciousness of time, slow stitching and printing techniques.
How has the internet impacted your business? Hugely. 70% of my business and annual turnover is from my online shop which is powered by my daily and personal Instagram feed that documents my life as an artist, designer, tutor and dedicated independent shop owner.
Jessie Chorley at work in her shop.
What is your creative process? As an artist my work is strongly focused on the handmade using traditional methods. A huge part of my inspiration comes from my passion for re-using discarded materials and objects. Whenever possible this is implemented in my complete making cycle, from the initial design to the end product. My handmade Junk journals are made from discarded hard back books that I give a new lease of life and title to before they go out in to the world to start a new story as a Journal, Diary or Memory Book. My embroidery is predominantly worked into vintage and found fabric cut directly from items of pre-loved clothing. My hand-collaged and printed greeting cards, wherever possible, are created from discarded card and papers, combined with new, but recycled papers.
Who inspires you? Louise Bourgeois, French brocantes, my mother, textile artist Primmy Chorley, and currently the paper collage works of Picasso, especially his etching and Lithographs.
What inspires you? Currently the main hall at London’s British Museum and in particular a collection of hand etched brass portrait coins that date back to the 16th century. These and many other items from the museum have hugely inspired my latest collection of hand etched brass token brooches which I am about to launch this Spring. I have been drawing at the museum weekly over the last few months. Sketch booking regularly is a huge part of my creative process.
What are your most prized possessions? My velvet pin cushion, my favourite needle, currently a very bent one after much stitching this month and my big table at the shop that I make a lot of my work on, and also run my masterclasses around. The table was given to me by fellow artist, Janet Bolton, after I went to her house for lunch and came back with this glorious table in a taxi.
Before I was a shopkeeper, I…. was home schooled in rural North Wales for my entire education by my mum, and fellow textile artist, Primmy Chorley. I went on to study fine art at Goldsmiths College in South London. I graduated in summer 2005 and set my business up straight away after firmly deciding that I wanted to carve out a life for myself as a maker. My main goal was to support myself financially purely through my work. I started my business both online, with a simple web site back in 2005, and also at Broadway Market in Hackney on a table top stall….the rest is history! I love and cherish this life that I have hand crafted for myself. It’s incredibly hard work, full-time making and designing everything that you sell in your shop, not to mention actually running the shop. I have a good team that help me at very busy times of the year, or with jobs that I can step away from like packing and some simple screen printing. The majority of the making is completed by me and I would not have it any other way. After fifteen years of being in business this summer making my work and designing it still gets my heart beating.
Why did you open Jessie Chorley? It kind of just happened. It was a dream that came true and something that I drempt of since I was a small girl making shops on the hill side from stones and mud and wood while growing up in Snowdonia North Wales far away from my now beloved and busy City life that I call Home. It all started one day when I was invited to sell some items of my work in a shop on Columbia Rd after being seem at a local craft event, Columbia Road being the same rd that my shop is current on now. I then ended up personally moving upstairs at 148 Columbia Rd and opening my own shop & Studio. I moved to my current shop premises here at 158a Columbia Rd in May 2010. My customers from back on the Broadway market days, have loyally followed me each step of the way on this creative journey as a shop owner. Many coming in weekly for updates, just to say hello, to bring me a coffe or bun on a sunday, or for a Birthday, Valentines or New Baby card.
Did you have prior retail experience? Market stalls only and craft fairs. I ran a market stall for six years just up the road from my current shop on Broadway Market Hackney E8 from 2005. A partriculary good way to Start in business as you have small overheads and can monitor what the public think of your work/stock/creations.
What is your favorite thing about owning an independent shop? You are in control of this beautiful space, and life style.You can play and maipulate what your customers react to and you can currate a life and give yourself a routine doing something that you love and cherish. Especially if like me you personally hand design and make what you sell this brings huge satisfaction both to me and also to the thousands of people who visit me each year both here at 158 a Colubia Rd and also at www.jessiechorley.com
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to open a shop? It becomes your whole life so be prepared for putting in the hours and a lot of overtime. Be clear and organised both with display and your routine for your shop. This will benefit both you and your customers long term. Keep to strict opening hours so not to dissapoint your visitors and fans. Keep track of your customers, create a mailing list. Have a well organised and daily updated Instagram feed that documents your life as an indipendent shop owner. Become friends with and support other indipendent shop owners, and small businesses. They will become your therapist in the tought days and you theirs on the rainy days.
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be..? A pop-up shopkeeper, online shopkeeper and traveling artist and tutor.
What are your favorite local independent businesses? Pollocks Toy Museum,The Cloth House, Soho; Ezra Street Market on a Sunday, just off Columbia Roa; Mero Retro, Dalston; Traid Charity Shop‘s Brixton Branch is always good, Newmans Stationery, Bethnal Green Road; various stalls and traders on the Jubilee Market, Covent Garden and Old Spitafields Market on Thursdays; Labour and Wait for a treat for my home and Loop knitting shop, Islington.
I wish I could… Own my own shop instead of renting. This is a long term worry, especially with rent increases and when I want to make major changes at the shop. Perhaps one day…I will keep on stitching and see where it takes me.
ON THE FUTURE OF RETAIL
“Small is beautiful. Independent shops and studios, and the handmade and one off. Creative hands-on experiences like my embroidery workshops. Workshops that encourage the making of your own necessary items such as clothes or food for yourself and your family and the appreciation of how such things are created and the process of their creation. A slower pace and practical hands on experiences. This is still what I believed when I started my shop back in 2005 and its still what I believe wholeheartedly and live by today.”
158a Columbia Road, London
Columbia Road Shops