You will have seen Georgie Faulkner Bryant’s creative designs on a popular Channel 4 home interiors programme. And today, the Shaftesbury-based artist and entrepreneur is opening her first retail space on Salisbury Street.
Alfred called into ‘Decor By Georgie’ on Thursday afternoon, as final preparations were being made for Shaftesbury’s newest soft furnishings and interiors shop.
“I’ve been running a bunting rental business for eleven years,” said Georgie. “I wanted to expand and design home decor – items like tablecloths and cushions. The natural thing for me to do was to find a workshop with a shop front, so I could run both businesses from the workshop and have a showroom.”
Georgie has worked with the Channel 4 TV team who make Kirstie Allsopp’s home decor and craft programmes. “It’s been really good working for them because they are quite open to my wacky ideas. So I get to play around and test lovely designs that other people wouldn’t usually be interested in. I do all of Kirsty’s Christmas programmes, so all the bunting that you see on set is designed by me.”
So what inspired Georgie to launch her bunting business eleven years ago?
“I used to be an events organiser. It was quite difficult because we would have to spend a lot of our budget on flowers or balloons to dress the event. The problem with those decorations is that you often have to throw them away the next day,” Georgie explained. “Because I was a textile student, I used my skills to make designs that could be reused again and again. That’s where I came up with the idea of renting it. I was sure that other people would have the same problem.”
When Georgie completed her foundation course in arts and design, she started her first textile business. It was backed by the Prince’s Trust. “I learned a lot and, thanks to that, this business has been really successful,” she said.
Before choosing Shaftesbury as her base, Georgie ran her business from Cornwall. “Because it is quite far from the rest of the country, I had to make sure that it was an online business and that it worked. Thanks to my website and a local courier company, I could get the bunting all over the country. When I hopped up to Dorset three years ago it was very easy to move the business. I can, essentially, operate from anywhere.”
Georgie found Shaftesbury’s location ideal. “I originally come from Sussex. I didn’t want to go all the way back there. I thought that being here offered so much more opportunity. I’m near to London so I can get better fabric suppliers than in Cornwall. And we have so many boutique festivals around here. It was a no-brainer, really.”
Georgie will continue to run the bunting business alongside the shop, because she’s been able to expand. “I still design the bunting. Years ago when I started the business I did make all of the bunting myself. Now I have a team of people who come and help sew it all up and make it look beautiful.”
So how does Georgie work with customers?
“Our clients can come to us with a brief and they can tell us what they want – the size, shape and colour. We can then make something beautiful for them. We love to design and people come to us because they love our craziness, uniqueness and colour.”
And Georgie says she has had some unusual bunting requests over the years. “I made Neolithic bunting for Stonehenge. It was a bit of a challenge. I had to think outside of the box. That job was all about lino prints and dip dying.”
Georgie says her Salisbury Street shop, which was last used by Stomp Shoes, was perfect because there’s both a retail and working space. “We’ll run the bunting hire from the back of the workshop. The showroom – the shop front – will be dressed and full of beautiful things for the home and for parties. If people want to have something unique for their garden party or dinner party we have lots here,” she said.
Georgie says that she has found Shaftesbury’s creative community both inspiring and supportive. “While we have been setting up the shop, we have had the door open. People have been able to wander in and have a chat and see what we are doing. The reaction has been incredible. People’s eyes have been popping out on stalks, because of the colour. They love touching things, because everything is so tactile here. We have a lot of beautiful fabrics that you don’t usually see in Dorset. I source them from around the world and interesting places in London.”
You’ll notice a touch of Bollywood glamour in some of Georgie’s textiles, which she uses in her door curtains and table runners. “I am interested in Indian and African fabric. I have beautiful ribbons that I have collected in Hong Kong and from other trips around the world. It’s my dream job. It’s like being in a sweet shop. People can come in, pick up the fabrics that they like and we will make something for them.”
Georgie’s store will also be offering unique furniture through her collaboration with another designer. “Stevie, who works with me, has started the Lovely Chair Company. She is so talented. She has a real eye for finding beautiful old pieces and bringing them back to life with unique fabric. We are very excited about having her pieces in the shop.”
Georgie has received a great deal of support and encouragement from other retailers in Shaftesbury. “I’ve had lots of advice because of my association with Shaftesbury Fringe and helping to arrange that. I have got to know so many shopkeepers and business owners around the town. They have all given me fantastic advice and have said that they will support me. I feel ready.”
So, on the eve of becoming a shopkeeper for the first time, how does Georgie feel?
“Nervous – and excited. Both at the same time,” laughed Georgie. “I am really excited about seeing what people think and whether Shaftesbury is actually ready for this amount of colour and texture. I think it will be a different type of High Street experience coming into my shop. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of colour. I am an artist I have to be true to myself. I have to make things that I absolutely love and I just hope that I attract people who love them too.”
Decor By Georgie is open between 10am and 5pm, Monday to Saturday, at 7a Salisbury Street.