Independent Design Collective is a craft based gift shop located in the vibrant Southville area of Bristol, featuring and promoting designers and makers from the local area. We were lucky enough to interview Chitra Tarling about the shop.
Hello! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?
I’m great thank you!
What made you decide to set up Independent Design Collective?
From a very young age, I have always wanted to own a shop selling my own designs. I studied furniture design at University and have worked in retail for over 20 years. Since moving to Bristol (from London) 5 years ago I have been selling my own pieces of timepiece jewellery, stitched art work and wooden candle holders at local markets.
I met plenty of local talented people at these markets and wanted to include them in my dream. The shop I found was the perfect size, location and with stunning windows and a beautiful door. When this opportunity came up I couldn’t say no, it was a ‘now or never’ moment.
What does your shop sell?
My shop sells a variety of pieces made by Bristol local creatives. We stock work from over 25 different artists. We currently sell, prints, photos, greetings cards, coasters, beauty products, string art, jewellery, candles, crochet pots, plant holders, tote bags and much much more.
Why did you call your shop Independent Design Collective?
I went through a number of different names and asked friends and family for their ideas too. After a lot of discussions with my husband it just came it me and sounded ideal. I know it is a bit long, but it can easily be shortened to IDC.
Have you always been into design and craft?
I have always been interested in art and design from a young age. My grandmother taught me to draw and my mother taught me origami and craft. From then I was hooked and I eventually choose to study furniture design at UCE in Birmingham. I worked in furniture sales while I lived in London but I was desperate to follow my dreams and so we moved to Bristol a few years ago. Bristol is a vibrant city full of independent businesses supported by the locals. I stated out with a small box of my jewellery, candles and cushions to sell at a local market. Each market I attended I learnt something new and my business grew slowly and steadily.
Where do you source your independent stock?
I met many Bristol artists when I was trading at the markets for 4 years and so when I first opened the shop I contacted them directly to see if they wanted to join my venture. Now, artists approach me and as long as they are offering something different and are local to Bristol I try and take them on and fit them in the shop
Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?
Social media is everywhere and if you are not a part of it you are not moving with the times. Social media is a form of free advertising and has helped massively in growing my business and even in selling products. So many people browse Instagram, Twitter and Facebook all day and then want the items they see.
Who inspires your shop?
I have honed my own style over the years, but everyone takes influence from others around them. I have admired several independent shops in London and Bristol and have tried to emulate their style in to my shop.
Do you have any favourite pieces from your shop that you adore at the moment?
That is a very difficult question as I adore everything I have in the shop. If I wasn’t 100% on the pieces we have in store, I would struggle to sell them. I am passionate about each piece and every designer has their own merits.
What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your Instagram page?
I will continue to showcase new artists and designers joining the shop. I will also promote our workshops happening throughout the year. So far we have held beginners crochet, beginners knitting and make your own face mask is coming up at the end of April.
Can you tell us a little bit about the events you are currently holding?
There are a couple of events coming up, firstly we are taking part in the Southbank arts trail on the 12th and 13th May. One of of jewellers will be stamping silver rings with shapes and letters for customers while they wait. Secondly it’ll be our 1st birthday on the 29th July and so we’ll be celebrating by holding a raffle. It will be happening over the same weekend as Upfest, so I’m sure it will be very busy.
What’s your typical working day?
We are open Tuesday to Saturday 10am till 6pm every week. I am here most days, but every so often we have a few volunteers help cover the shop. I normally post on Instagram and Facebook first thing. I then check the displays and make sure they are looking tidy and smart. I also try and redo the window displays each week, just to feature something new.
When it is quiet the shop also gives me the opportunity to make more timepiece jewellery for my other company Karve Design.
What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business off the ground?
We are only 8 months old, so still relatively new. I think the hardest part has been advertising what we are and what we offer. Getting people through the doors and looking at all the pieces made my local artists and designers. Being a small independent shop means budgets are low and anything we can achieve through low cost or free advertising is very important.
Every purchase helps, not only me and the shop but also all the artists who sell with us. We are strong believers that every penny spent in a local independent shop goes back in to the community.
Do you have any exciting plans for this year?
The workshops we are holding in the shop is the biggest challenge for this year and they are already quite popular. As I said previously, we will also be celebrating our 1st birthday, so I’m looking forward to that.
What advice would you give to people looking to define their own style?
Be unique and always be yourself.
Do you have any advice for anyone starting their own shop?
Research, plan, sort out your finances, find a good location, try and keep your overheads low and believe in yourself. It takes time and effort but if you really want if to work if will.
What’s next for Independent Design Collective?
We haven’t got many exciting plans at present as we are still taking each month as it comes, but hopefully next year we’ll be more established and will be able to see what’s next on the horizon.
What’s the best piece of creative advice you’ve ever been given?
I have been given a lot of cliches as advise, such as, ‘follow your dreams’ ‘if you can dream it you can do it’ but strangely I never really believed it to be true.
I just kept my head down, worked hard everyday and here I am running my own shop. I couldn’t be happier.
You can take a look at their website ‘https://independentdesigncollective.com‘ for more information about the shop. You can also find Independent Design Collective on Instagram ‘https://www.instagram.com/independentdesigncollective/’.