Fenella Smith has turned her idyllic country childhood memories into a thriving homeware brand. Complemented by her passion for dogs and animals in general, her upbringing and close family ties have inspired her charming collection of ceramics and fabric designs. With a focus on quality and craftsmanship each of her products, from cushions and tea towels to pitchers and dog bowls, make for timeless future heirlooms. She chats to The LuxPad below about her charity work and balancing family life with running her own brand…
What were you doing before your created Fenella Smith, and how did the idea of creating your own brand first come about?
I previously worked for The Hope Foundation in Calcutta, a wonderful charity working with street children. Part of our remit was to support their Skills Centre through product development, this inspired me to start developing product of my own. Along with a passion for ceramics and design which I inherited from my nana Adelaide!
You work with both fabrics and ceramics – do you have a preference and does the design & creation process differ much between them?
I love both as they require such different skill sets. I did a fashion degree so working with fabrics is always so pleasing. I work directly with all of our factories and use no sourcing agents so I have close control over all production. The process of producing a product from weaving linen to hand casting a mug requires such skill, I love working with these amazing people that produce our goods.
Of all your designs which one is your favourite and why?
The Labrador. This was our first design, I made a dog bowl for my beloved Bramble and I asked my brother Greg to draw a picture of her, it all began from there. (She’s currently sat on my feet, keeping me warm).
What is your favourite part of your job and what element would you get rid of if you could?
I love my team, they are so loyal and hardworking and never fail to make me laugh. I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing, I feel fortunate to be running the brand with brilliant people. I miss my 15 month old daughter Finty a lot but I still only work 3 days (and a lot of evenings!) so we can hang out and play.
What has been the hardest challenge of setting up your own brand and if you could go back and do anything differently would you?
I don’t believe in looking back, of course I’ve made the odd mistake but I think how you manage the hardships is in the end what defines you. It is hard setting up your own business and you need tenacity in bucket loads. I love what I do and I think that’s clear to all who meet me so it’s never felt like a true hardship!
What is your most treasured possession?
My watch. My father gave it to me when I turned 21. He’s my role model and my mentor. He has worked so incredibly hard so that my brothers and I could have a very happy and secure childhood. My beautiful watch is a daily reminder of his love and support.
If you could be any animal for the day what would you be and what would you do?
We have deer in our garden and I often marvel at the peace that exudes from them. I’d happily be a deer, they move so quietly and gracefully. We have such busy lives that to achieve such peace would be a wonderful thing.
What advice would you give to those who are looking to set up their own home accessory brand?
Be clear what you want to achieve and always be kind and grateful; help comes from the most curious of corners. Setting it up and getting established will cost more and take longer than you think it will!
How would you describe your own home style and what is your favourite room in your home and why?
I have an elegant minimalist style which is daily shattered by the chaos of 4 children (I have three step kids) and 2 dogs. In all honesty I love white and I like everything to be clean, but I want my family to have perfect country childhoods so my housekeeper is always cleaning up mud and chaos! We live in an old Georgian farmhouse, where the front door is always open and a mountain of wellingtons live outside… it’s rarely quiet!
What does 2016 hold for Fenella Smith?
We have so much going on with new products for Dogs Trust and a fabulous Bakeware range including nested bowls and mixing bowls. We are also developing a children’s range which will take some time to come to fruition as I will be working with a lot of new factories.
Explore the range of Fenella Smith designs available at Amara now.