With winter drawing in, there is nothing better than closing the curtains and getting your home all lit up for the festive season. Here at myCornwall, we love all home-grown talent, and in our last issue of the magazine, we touched upon the fabulous design company, ‘Emporium of Illumination’; a bespoke hand-made lampshade business that has grown from humble beginnings in Helston to become a very profitable and popular small business.
So, here is the designer and creator, Kirsty Jones, answering some of our questions about her company and showcasing some of her best designs.
Hi Kirsty, thank you so much for being part of our Online Feature.
So, how did you come up with the idea of Emporium of Illumination?
In 2013, I had, what seemed like an endless journey trying to find the perfect illumination. I searched everywhere and I failed to find a lampshade that I really LOVED and that was within my price range. I have always adored fabric and so I thought; I will make a lampshade myself which is exactly what I did! The adventure that followed was incredible; I was asked by a friend to take some lampshade samples to his wife, when I mentioned that I had started to make them. At the time she owned a vintage store and was interested in adorning her vintage lamp bases with handmade, bespoke lampshades. I took a sample set to show her and as I took one out of the bag, a lady walking past her shop, ran in and literally bought it out of my hand. I knew then that I had a business idea that could really work. Within 3 months I was part time in the “day job” and 6 months after that I became a full time illuminologist! Emporium of Illumination was born!
Did you have any previous textile/fashion experience?
None at all! But I have always loved design, fabric and hunting for treasures from a time gone by. I love mid-century design and I get very excited about Scandinavian patterns and fabrics. I have been lucky to travel to lots of parts of the world and whenever I do I always go in search of new (and old!) fabrics to add to the Emporium of Illumination gang! I have also had the opportunity to collaborate with a number of designers, such as Rachel Cave, to develop exclusive fabric collections. I have learned so much from these experiences which I hope to build upon in 2017!
What made you decide on lampshades?
When I established Emporium of Illumination I was unaware of any other businesses, based within Cornwall, that were exclusively offering handmade, bespoke lampshades as their only product line. From the endless search that I and lots of my friends seemed to be having for the “perfect illumination” I knew that there was a gap in the market that I was determined to illuminate! I love the versatility of lighting and the endless possibilities that creating handmade, bespoke lampshades can offer an interior space. A well-made and designed lampshade is a relatively inexpensive way to change how a room looks and feels.
How difficult is it to create your beautiful designs? Is it time-consuming?
I am asked this question all of the time. The time to make a lampshade varies according to the size and the fabric that I am using, as well as how close the deadline for the commission or show is! It is my full time job and so I don’t find it difficult but I am a self-confessed perfectionist and so I take time to quality assure each and every lampshade that I make before I am happy to add the Emporium of Illumination tag to it!
Do you a have strict criteria over the fabric you use?
I prefer to use organic cotton to make my lampshades from as this lends itself so perfectly to being made into an illumination. I tend to avoid any fabric that has any elasticity within it or is too heavy as I am unable to produce the quality finish that Emporium of Illumination has become associated with! See I told you I was a perfectionist!
What’s your favourite design of lampshade?
This changes on a day to day basis but I have some favourites for different reasons. For example, “Larkspur” is a fabric that was produced by Alexander Henry and it was the first fabric that I ever sourced from overseas and so to me it signifies the start of the Emporium of Illumination adventure. I love the work of an American pattern designer called Jenn Ski! Anything that has been created by Lucienne Day, Marian Mahler or Peter Hall is mid-century heaven for me! I am also a HUGE fan of Liberty fabrics and I find it very hard to resist their temptation whenever I visit the store!
What is your proudest business moment?
I have to be honest and say that I am so proud of myself for believing in myself enough to set up Emporium of Illumination and to have worked so hard to develop a profitable creative small business in just 3 years. Every day there is something that makes me think ‘well done me!’ Recently, I was in a store that stocked my illuminations and I overheard two customers saying that ‘they must be Emporium of Illumination lampshades because they are amazing!’ It is fab that my brand and the quality of my work are recognised and I appreciate this every day!
How inspirational is Cornwall in your designs?
Cornwall is such an incredible place to be a creative business owner and designer/maker. As a community, Cornwall appreciates and values the creative entrepreneur and actively supports the independent business model. It is fabulous to live in a part of the country where there are so many people making their living from creativity. This promotes a supportive and nurturing environment which has wholeheartedly been my own experience. So many people have offered their advice and support and took a chance on Emporium of Illumination when it was an unknown and for that I will always be so grateful.
Where do you go to be creative?
I tend to head out to our amazing coastline to gain inspiration. I find that the beauty of our corner of the world is the perfect place to absorb and process my creative ideas or fine tune the development plans that I have for Emporium of Illumination.
Favourite Cornish spot?
This is so hard to narrow down as there are so many to choose from but I do love Lelant beach. It is always stunning, in any weather, at any time of year and is still fairly undiscovered by the masses!
What’s next for your business?
I am in the process of designing two bespoke lamp bases which I am SO excited about, one of which I plan to launch in a few weeks time! So watch this space!
In 2017, I plan to undertake a refresh of the branding for Emporium of Illumination and to further grow the business, through additional lighting product lines. My immediate focus, however, is the totally crazy Christmas season which is almost here……wish me luck!
Thank you Kirsty for answering our questions. Everyone at the magazine wishes you luck for the festive season and upcoming year of business!
Find Emporium of Illumation through her Etsy Shop
Or via Facebook
Kirsty will be showcasing some of her beautiful designs at the Etsy Maker’s Cornwall Christmas Fair at St Ives Guildhall on the 2nd-4th December. Head down there for some beautiful Christmas gifts/inspiration