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Everyone thinks the idea for Vigour and Skills came about in lockdown. But really, the idea had sparked years earlier – it’s just that the pandemic gave us the time and space to bring it to life. We were working in fashion marketing and as a music and events photographer. But we were both involved in the conversations happening across these industries about the provenance of certain pieces or brands and what that might look like in the future.
The vision we had was an online lifestyle destination that showcased the best of what Britain had to offer in terms of craftsmanship across multiple categories. We wanted customers to have much more transparency over what they were buying, and more access to information about how, when and where it was made. We’d started planning to launch Vigour and Skills, but when the world suddenly shut down in March 2020, we had a lot more time to think about it more seriously.
We started with about seven or eight makers. We’re very grateful to them because they really believed in our vision before anything was up and running. Some of the early sign-ups included Ella Bua-In, Kate Brigden, Emsie Sharp, Rosanna Clare, Katy Warriner, Michelle Wong, Tim Walker, Shakti Ellenwood, Tone Von Krogh, Charlotte Jonerheim and Clair Murphy. They span all categories and walks of life. While, right now, people often think of Vigour & Skills as just being about homeware, our dream is to make it a real 360° lifestyle brand.
These days, we find most of our makers through word of mouth. Their community is so strong – they really work to support each other, so that’s how we find out about the latest names and players. All we’re concerned about at the end of the day is that each maker is committed to telling their story in an authentic way and that what they make is made here in the UK. We’re not into representing brands that claim to be British, but actually import most of their goods from abroad or outsource the production. We want to shine a light on everything that’s made here in the UK.
There’s no such thing as Vigour and Skills DNA. We don’t go out into the marketplace only looking for brands that sit within a certain aesthetic or that we think would sit well together on a website. It really just comes down to what we like and what we know will stand the test of time. That’s what people appreciate about handmade, local craftsmanship. It’s special and it’s designed to stay with you, from home to home, forever – until you potentially decide to pass them down the generations. These aren’t pieces or items you ever grow tired of.
It’s very interesting to see what sells best on the site. There are certain categories – like ceramics and leather work – which have a constant stream of return customers. Knitwear is proving really popular too, even though this is the hottest month of the year! We’ve really paid attention to that category and now have four or five different makers with brilliant stories around sustainability and traceability. It’s our hope that they’ll do really well this autumn/winter.
Of the ceramicists on the site, Ella Bua-In, Kate Brigden and Judy Caplin are all top sellers. The first two were some of the first makers we signed up, so it’s been wonderful to see them continue to flourish. I’d say the new names to watch on the site this year include Lottie Tarpey, Victoria Gilles Fernandez, Szonja Gibarti, Noura Mokhtar and Victoria von Stein.
The future looks so bright. As part of our plan to transform Vigour and Skills into a full lifestyle brand, we’re doing more collaborations, talks and workshops to better promote our makers and our joint mission. We also show every year at London Craft Week, alongside different exhibitions, demonstrations and pop-ups. We want as many people as possible to become interested in this new way of shopping.
Shop Five Of Our Favourite Makers On Vigour And Skills Below…
Born in Barcelona, Alvaro Picardo is known for working with simple materials and transforming them into something beautiful. Nowadays, the London resident’s eclectic taste is largely influenced by brutalism, modern architecture, modern British art and the broader world of interior design. His bespoke, hand-painted lampshades are the latest chapter in his extensive body of work – we love the bold colours and punchy graphics on each piece.
Ellie Edwards is a London-based printmaker with a background in food writing – which explains why her lino prints focus on pastries she’s picked up from her local bakery, cocktails she’s sipped, dishes she’s eaten at her favourite restaurants and seasonal produce from local markets. The designs range from croissants to bowls of cacio e pepe to negroni cocktails. Everything is hand-carved and hand-printed in her kitchen, so every print is unique.
Having worked with both Adam Aaronsson Designs and Columbia glassworks, Emsie Sharp has now settled in Dorset and set up her own studio, The Cowshed, from where she makes traditional and modern wine glasses, tableware, lighting, and sculpture. Based on traditional shapes, but with plenty of modern colours and details, it’s the glassware we have our eye on – it’s perfect for brightening up a late summer tablescape. It’s also worth noting that Emsie takes bespoke commissions.
Joanna Ling is a London-based ceramicist. Working from her garden studio, she designs and makes pieces on the minimalist side. After working in the art world for more than 30 years, Joanna felt especially drawn to ceramics, and as a child who grew up in the country, the English fields and woods deeply imbue her work – be it in the forms her pieces take or the decorative elements she uses. Having run the Cecil Beaton archive at Sotheby’s for many years, it should come as no surprise to hear the photographer’s sense of style has also served as a significant source of inspiration over the years.
An up-and-coming name in the arts and crafts world, Madeline Adams works primarily with wood to make her beautifully simple and impactful candlestick holders and vases. All the wooden pieces are made from sustainably sourced timber in the UK, and turned by hand. She’s expanded into making mugs which are specifically designed to retain heat for longer.
Tone Von Krogh
Born in Switzerland and brought up in Norway, Tone came to England to complete her degree at Manchester School of Art in 1995. She’s been a practising potter ever since and now works from a purpose-built studio in her garden in Greater Manchester, where she also runs classes. Her current collection is strongly influenced by Norway’s winter landscapes – look for wavy vases and softly distorted beakers, bowls and bottles. All of Tone’s work is produced using a potter’s wheel, then cut and reassembled to non-circular shapes or given soft dimples or bumps. She mixes all of her own glazes using basic materials and oxides.
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