When I first stumbled across the collection of cheeky melamine plates and cups at Melbourne Based Douglas & Hope – I had a feeling there was someone fabulous behind the scenes. Sure enough, I was right! Upon visiting her studio (located in nondescript building previously running as an ice cream parlor) I was greeted by a bright, bubbly gal who turns out to be quite the sassy business woman to boot.
Cath Hope is one of many incredible Australians in a very unique and embracing creative community, who’s keeping the idea of affordable art and a sense of sunshine for the home alive. If you’re nice, She’ll even take you for a walk around the block and point out a few of her favorite neighborhood spots. She’s lovely that way.
Here’s a little talk we had about life working, designing and running in the world of retail. Shop Talk!
Name: Cath Hope
Stomping Grounds | Melbourne AU | Northcote is the neighbourhood I live in, it is a fabulously diverse suburb with old school Italians and Greeks mixed with the new wave of Northcote dwellers, East Brunswick is where I work, Fitzroy and the CBD is where I love to hang out. Melbourne really is an incredible city, after living in the country for 2 years and just coming back 2 months ago, I am loving rediscovering this great city, and the inner North is my favourite area.
Favorite thing about your job & brand: The single best thing about my job and brand, is product designing for the brand, and having the freedom to work designing and manufacturing products, and to collaborate with incredible people on products. The foundation for anything I design is utilitarianism, it must be useful. I feel incredibly lucky that for 15 years douglas & hope has been my sole source of income, and I have been able to do exactly what I love doing.
You originally started out running brick and mortar shops. What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned along the way? How has working in the online space changed things?When I opened my first shop in 1999, there was no internet, nothing was spontaneous and instant like today, everything took time. If you wanted people to know about you and to get your product out there, a store front was the most logical way, it was more affordable back then as well. Over the years a lot of people have copied my formula and products, and this makes you strive to stay one foot ahead of what’s happening, which can be exhausting as you feel like you are always being chased! Selling online has enabled me to have an easier work life away from having shops. I have been able to create the perfect work/life balance.
Being a single parent the work/life balance when I had shops was not a healthy balance. You need perseverance and you need to take a few risks, trust yourself and your vision and just do it.
Pop-Up Shops are taking over Melbourne right now. How do you see the retail community evolving and where do you see yourself falling into it? Retail is going through a tough time, the beauty of pop-ups is it enables people who may not want a permanent shop or maybe are starting out and cannot afford a shop to set up a space for a limited time without the commitment or risk of being locked in for the long term.
In my new workspace I have created a retail area, I used it for a pop-up before Christmas last year and I plan to make the space available for other business to rent out on a weekly/monthly basis to have pop-ups in. And I am playing with the idea of opening maybe 3 days a week, when it is not otherwise booked out. I think being open to versatility is the key, and in this era of quick, fast, now it makes sense to have a space that is ever evolving and constantly offering something interesting.
You’ve collaborated with many amazing artists, each being equally whimsical and full of color. How do you come about deciding, in both your collaborative and personal work, the tone and mood of each product? I started collecting art along time ago, and always just bought pieces that I loved, I never bought something because of its importance, or because the artist was going to be the ‘next big thing’. Art for me is a visual experience, and if something speaks to me, then that’s what makes me want it in my home. I apply the same principals to choosing artists to collaborate with.
I suppose I am drawn to an artists work first, and then deciding whether it translate to a plate. There also has to be an element of saleability applied to each item when deciding which designs to use. The idea for my range of ‘art plates’ was to be able to provide an affordable alternative to purchasing expensive art, which for many is their reality.
I like pieces to be happy and utilitarian, whether you hang your plate on the wall like art, or eat off it everyday, whether you buy it because you love the artist, or you have no idea who the artist is but love the design.
Art should be for everyone.
Where’s your favorite spot (cafe/etc) to take a creative break? What should we order? I love Pizza Meine Leibe in High Street Northcote, it is our local pizza spot, order the Tom Cooper smoked salmon pizza, and the chocolate and strawberry calzone for dessert. Then go next door to Joes Shoe store which is a great little bar with an awesome garden out the back, you can sit in the garden and order the pizzas from next door. I love to do this with my kids. Brunetti in Carlton for cakes, the best Italian cakes, it’s all about the custard bomboloni, the cartocci (which is a long custard donut) and the canoli for me. Cookie bar and restaurant in Curtin House in the CBD. The thai food there is consistently good, great drinks and music. Jimmy Grants is a new kiosk like souvlaki bar, where there is a limited menu of souvlaki, salads and greek dips, very informal and quick and delicious.
What’s next!? Is there anyone specific or any current inspiration / style that you see shaping upcoming tabletop products? My next collaboration is with the incredible Sarah Beetson, we are doing a plate together. Ghostpatrol is doing his second collaboration with me and Lucas Grogan who did my infamous ‘Fuck yeah’ plate is working on a follow up plate.
I am off overseas to a trade fair in a few weeks to source some new product ideas and manufacturers, this is also another favourite thing about my job, turning a work trip into a holiday!!