Introducing… The Coexist Shop
Alongside The Canteen, the Coexist shop is the most public-facing part of Hamilton House, acting as a window into the type of creative work that goes on inside the building.
The shop has just celebrated its one-year anniversary, having become a permanent fixture in May 2015. But it began life as a pop-up shop two years previously, started by our very own Gem Burgoyne, member of the front of house team and a prolific artist-designer-maker who specialises in creating marvellous clothing and jewellery from up-cycled materials, and who also has her studio in the building.
In 2013, Gem was working on markets, and began running workshops with other artists. Inspired by the people in her circle, she saw a need for a space that showcased their work:
I’d been working from home for years and couldn’t believe all these people around me weren’t being represented in the front of the building. And the public didn’t really know what went on behind the closed doors.
At first, the pop-up shop only operated during June and December. Running on no budget, all furniture and fittings were built out of found objects and repurposed materials. Initially intended as a space to sell products made by Hamilton House tenants, the shop is now open to designers from outside the building, but everything sold in the shop is made in Bristol, demonstrating a commitment to supporting the local economy and fostering creative talent from within the city. The shop functions on a commission basis. As Gem explains:
We don’t buy stock in order to sell it, we represent the artists and the designers and the makers. We earn 40% commission and it’s on a sale or return basis so people put their work in the shop and when it sells, then that’s when they pay the commission.
The advantages of this is that it allows the shop to take a risk on products that might seem a bit odd or out there. For sellers, it allows them to test the market and see what kind of products are popular.
Providing a supportive environment for local producers to make a living from their work is crucial. With plenty of experience of navigating the business world as a small-scale independent designer, Gem offers this advice to aspiring makers and creators:
If you’re trying to make a living, the main thing for me is, you need to represent in your price the true work that goes into it, how much time you put in, what the cost of your materials are and then, if you’re working in partnership with a shop that’s selling your goods, to make sure that you still get paid a fair wage after that.
Within the next six months, Gem hopes that the shop will become a space for workshops run by “people who are working in the shop, so that would be people skill-sharing, running craft workshops, teaching people how to make some of their products.” The shop is also soon to offer gift vouchers, for those wanting to purchase presents that support local artists.
Keep your eye on the monthly Hamilton House programme and newsletter, which will soon start to feature profiles of the many talented sellers whose work is on offer here.