Maud & Mabel was launched as an online shop in 2011 by Karen Whiteley. A concept born out of Karen’s love of ceramics as an art form. An idea, that despite Karen tried to ignore, would not go away, and now she cannot imagine herself doing anything else. The beautiful gallery space and shop in the heart of Hampstead village, expands Karen’s original concept to include wood, textiles, metal, glass and jewelry artists from around the globe.
Who designed Maud & Mabel? Everything is curated and styled by me, with some help from my creative assistants. They come from a variety of arts backgrounds, ranging from fine art to textiles. In terms of the shop itself, our paint was kindly gifted by Farrow and Ball.
What is Maud & Mabel best known for? We specialise in clay, cloth, and wood. More specifically, we stock hand-thrown bowls and mugs which mould to fit your hand; butter-soft cashmere from Umbria in Italy; featherweight wooden utensils; and hand-turned chopping boards and serving platters. We’re known for our subtle, understated aesthetic, and for the diversity of our portfolio. We carry well-known artists such as Akiko Hirai, Abigail Schama and Jane Bustin alongside up and coming talents such a Valigi, Elliott Ceramics and Fukushima’s best-kept secret, Kenta Anzai. Sue Pryke’s individually slipcast vitrified earthenware jugs are very popular, and come in a beautifully muted palette of matte blues and greys. Akiko Hirai’s stoneware ‘ponds’ are another bestseller, and are a real collector’s item.
Where and how is your product sourced? I source directly from the artists themselves, and we have over forty artists and makers on our books hailing from the UK, Japan, Finland and Italy. Every single item in the gallery is thoughtfully crafted by hand, and one-of-a-kind.
What makes Maud & Mabel so unique? The number of makers we show under one roof makes it a very special and inspiring place to be, as does the standard of the selection. We’re also very proud of the shop’s atmosphere. It’s a very welcoming and tranquil shopping experience, and we like to welcome guests with mint tea and fragrance. Most importantly, we believe in uniting contemporary craft with elegant design, and in marrying the old with the new. We celebrate imperfection alongside perfection, and we covet the simple and the meaningful. Everything we stock is designed to be used and treasured, adding a touch of magic to the everyday.
Who are Maud & Mabel’s customers? Our central Hampstead location means that we are always surrounded by creatives from a wide variety of interesting backgrounds. We work with a lot of well-known artists, architects, designers, actors and musicians. All of our customers are of equal importance, and we pride ourselves on creating a tranquil shopping experience for everyone who visits.
Karen Whiteley, shopkeeper at Maud & Mabel
Who inspires you? My family, and especially my Grandaughter, Darcy. She’s a precious old soul far beyond her years, and keeps me very centered and grounded. I’m also inspired by Tadao Ando, Lucie Rie, Akiko Hirai and Kaori Tateybayashi.
What inspires you? Aesthetically, I covet simple, welcoming interiors. I’m hugely inspired by the Japanese zen design principles of shibui, which prioritise principles such as restraint, subtlety and imperfection. One of my favourite traditions within that is Golden Repair. This the practice of fixing broken pottery using a lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic, emphasizing fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. Though the technique is largely visual, it actually diverts attention away from the sheer appearance of the object, and instead draws attention to the life it has lived. The world would be a better place if we could all apply this to our daily lives.
Before I was a shopkeeper, I… worked as a stylist for Sam Haskins as an assistant at the Casson gallery, at a time when studio pottery was truly thriving. I also raised my two wonderful children, travelled, and taught yoga and meditation.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? Understanding budgeting.
What task do you like to delegate? My shop window displays.
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? Trust your instinct, and avoid impulsive buying if you’re not truly in love with an object. You should wholeheartedly champion and covet everything you sell.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Keep it small, stick to your principles, and listen to your gut. Always stay true to the aesthetic you believe in. It’s also important to hire staff who share your values and enthusiasm, who are interested in the products and aesthetic. Having knowledgeable, passionate staff helps a great deal with sales, and with the atmosphere of the space.
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? Edmund De Waal
What is your perfect day off? Breakfast in bed with a book in hand, followed by a whole day cuddled up with Granddaughter, taking her on a long wintry walk on the Heath and teaching her new things about nature. Then, I’d finish the day with a home-cooked meal and a night out at the cinema or theatre with my partner, David.
Favorite neighborhood coffee shop/restaurant: The breakfast at Mani’s is a favourite, and they serve great Monmouth coffee. Ginger & White is another favourite, and they do the best marmite and cheese toastie in Hampstead!
ON THE FUTURE OF RETAIL
“The internet has changed everything for stores, and at times things can feel bleak. But I’m confident that small, independent businesses like ours can thrive, as long as we find our niches and perfect them.”
10 Perrin’s Court, Hampstead, London