Helen Osgerby of Simple Shape
26 May '15 —
Simple Shape is an amazing new online shop that features modern handcrafted products made in Britain and Ireland. The shop is incredible to experience, full of inspiring imagery and maker stories. Helen Osgerby is behind the enterprise and she shares insights with us on the background of her shop.
An avid enthusiast of design, Helen began appreciating well-crafted, original products at an early age.
"When I was sixteen I saved hard to by a giant wicker chair (we had to tie the lid of the boot to the back of the car to get it home and it took up all the space in my bedroom but I loved it!). My best friend gave me bespoke 6ft wrought iron candle sticks for my eighteenth birthday (the very idea that you could have something made-by-hand just for you was completely amazing)."
The style and curation of Simple Shape is impeccable, but unlike many emerging design shops, there's a practical down to earth sensibility that makes the shop entirely approachable.
"I studied English and have worked in the media (breakfast television, PR and Marketing and for an television presenters agent) and have three children. All of these things, it turns out, have been a wonderful training ground! "
Operating purely as a curator, Helen has a perspective on design and craftsmanship that is more holistic and practical, a view that extends beyond production and form. We get a further look into the ethos behind Simple Shape.
Tforia: How did you conceive of the idea?
Helen Osgerby, creator and owner of Simple Shape: In the summer of 2014 it dawned on me that the clock was moving fast towards 40 and I had a 'Dead Poets Society' moment! I decided that it was time to get on and do the thing that I had been a quietly passionate about for a very long time.
T: Do you think there is a gap in the market for certain products or design?
H: I think it feels like the perfect moment for a business that celebrates and values careful, process-led work. A business where knowledge and skill, history and tradition, form and function in designs that are both useful and beautiful is at the forefront. I hope that Simple Shape will be able to become part of the antidote to the mass market, offering something in addition to fast-turn-around fashion-led design.
The mass production of furniture and product, whilst it has without doubt given people cost effective options, has encouraged a throw-away attitude which damages people and place and planet. Simple Shape celebrates the designers (their attention to detail, their thought, precision and care) and the production (methods that preserve traditions, encourage local industry, maintain skills) and sees the value that comes from pieces that are made in a slower more considered way.
T: There are many other sites that sell "Made in Britain" products as well. How do you see Simple Shape as a different type of shop?
H: Oh there are lots and lots of places where you can buy goods that have been Made in Britain - that's a wonderful thing! But there's so much of it that it's sometimes hard to know where to begin for consumers and frankly most people don't have the time to research and source special more individual pieces.
The aim for Simple Shape is to build a business that can be trusted as the go-to place for excellent handmade, hand crafted design where you know the customer service will be great too.
T: How did you discover the artisans you currently work with?
H: This has been the most exciting part, finding the makers and selecting the pieces to include in the collection. We have met in lots of different ways - trade fairs, visits 'open studios' like the superb Cockpit Arts in Deptford, Instagram and...by accident! I met Elliott from Elliott Ceramics when I went to talk to him about printing techniques. I was telling him about my new idea and the plans for the business. He said, very quietly, 'I've made some porcelain cups'. He showed me some of his very early pieces and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. They were so beautiful. That was an exhilarating moment.
T: What are some of your favourite pieces?
H: That's like asking who your favourite child is - I couldn't possibly choose! I truly have only brought pieces for Simple Shape that I absolutely love. I would, without question, use everything. It is such a battle when new things arrive to make sure that they make it onto the website and not into my home! The first collection is conceived to live alongside the things you already own so everything would fit in incredibly easily.--