It is no secret about my passion for Cornwall and its peculiarities. It is by far my favourite place to be in this country. I love the footpaths, the stunning views from the sea, the inquisitive food, its history, and the amazing craftwork that we find in every single Cornish town or village.
Needless to say, I am in love with the amazing work of Helen Round – a British textile designer and printmaker who does classic designs inspired by the flora and fauna of the countryside and coastline. Her designs and fine line drawings are a fine example of how to capture the surrounding beauty of Cornwall.
Read my interview with Helen on her career and the brand that provides handcrafted work made by artisans using ethically sourced natural materials for sustainable living.
Midlands Traveller: Tell me a little bit about your background in business.
Helen Round: My background is in Fine Art Textiles and Printmaking. I have always loved fabrics and made things from a very young age. After my two children started school, I returned to work as a teacher, working in adult and community education.
After 10 years of teaching, with my children growing up, I decided to use my creative energies to start my own business. My passion was to make things that were both beautiful and practical from linen.
Like many small business owners, I do a bit of everything. When starting the business, I used to make all the products myself. As the business has grown and developed, I have employed a small local team to help me.
I still do all the designing myself. I enjoy researching new product ideas and fabric colours, spend some of my weeks on marketing projects, catching up with our stockists and working on new designs.
MT: How did you come up with the idea of a business like yours?
HR: I have always loved making things and when my children started school I returned to teaching. I ran the contemporary craft programme at Plymouth Art Gallery and Museum and worked in schools devising and delivering creative art weeks.
I was so busy that there was never any time for my own creativity. I made the decision to cut back on the teaching and started to design and print my own fabric. From the kitchen table, my business was born!
MT: What is the main inspiration for your designs?
HR: Living in Cornwall provides endless inspiration for my designs. I love walking and in this slow pursuit, often find plenty to stop and stare at, take photographs, and add scribbles to my sketchbook. Inspiration comes from the flora and fauna of this wonderful part of south-east Cornwall.
MT: Tell me about Helen Round’s mission?
HR: Using traditional craft techniques and ethical manufacturing, we make beautiful things that tread lightly on the earth.
I combine traditional screen printing and hand-making techniques to create a fresh contemporary collection of high-quality products which sit well in both a modern and country setting.
MT: What is unique about your business?
HR: Our designs and approach to business is unique. Very few UK textile designers use traditional screen-printing techniques at scale in the UK or use a team of artisan craftspeople to make their products.
Our choice of sustainable materials, particularly linen and bamboo, together with our stainable, ethical approach to supporting local employment make us stand out.
MT: What is your kind of clientele?
HR: Our customers are looking for beautiful, useful, high-quality products that will last. We work with great suppliers who stock our products for sale, have a lovely little shop in Mount Edgcumbe Country Park in Cornwall and people can also buy directly on our website at http://www.helenround.com. People buy our products for themselves or as memorable gifts for friends and family.
MT: What are the challenges of a business like yours?
HR: I think lots of small business owners will tell you that keeping all the balls in the air at the same time is the biggest challenge of any business. Particularly when you are making products as well as marketing, sales and fulfilling demand. I simply love it!
MT: How is your business helping people to be more sustainable?
HR: I have always recycled and made thoughtful purchases. All our materials are sustainably sourced and Oeko-Tex certified, meaning the manufacturing process is free from harmful chemicals. We use linen fabric, not just because we love it but because it is so sustainable.
It grows with no pesticides, just needs rainwater to grow. We use bamboo for our reusable makeup wipes and face cloths, another fast-growing, sustainable plant that needs 35% less water than cotton and releases 30% more oxygen and absorbs more carbon dioxide than other plants.
We recycle and reuse as much fabric as possible. Many of our smaller products are made from studio off-cuts of linen, minimising waste. Any much smaller fabric scraps that are not used in the studio are sent to local schools for crafting projects.
We cut, make, and print our products in our Cornish Studios which has a very positive impact on our carbon footprint. Wherever possible, we source all materials as close to home as we can.
All our packaging is recycled wherever possible. We won’t buy any single-use plastic packaging, but we do reuse any plastic packaging that we receive. We feel it is better to do this rather than throw it away.
As we move towards becoming a waste-free business, we continue to add exciting new products to our Eco Collection, promoting a sustainable way of life. Our Eco Collection includes reusable items that remove the use of single-use plastics in our everyday life, such as Reusable Sandwich Wraps, Reusable Snack Bags and Eco Soap Bags.
Our products are made to last; we make useful things that can be treasured.
MT: What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting a business like yours?
HR: Go for it, be prepared to do every job that you ask other people to do! Small businesses are very hands-on and remember that you never stop learning.
MT: What are the next steps for Helen Round?
HR: We are on a steep growth curve, through a mix of developing new products and building our customer base.
Our business is international now and I am looking forward to visiting some of our stockists in the US and further afield when I get the chance.
We had an amazing trip to New York at the beginning of 2020 and I think the possibilities for growth are significant in the US, as well as continuing to build our profile and customer base in the UK.
We love working with small independent businesses that provide quality and variety, whether online or on the high street.
We are always keen to find new and different ways of working and are hugely grateful to all the businesses that have supported us, worked with us and with whom we have shared expertise!
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