fact file: Launched in early 2010 by Sara and her husband Patrick, you will find Unlimited in the heart of Brighton at 10 Church Street, where it operates as a shop, gallery and design studio.
Tell us about you and your shop
Unlimited is an independent design shop, gallery and studio. With over 15 years experience working in the design industry, I co-founded the Unlimited design studio in 2008 with my husband Patrick, working primarily with arts and cultural organisations. In 2010, after taking part in several exhibitions and 'open studio' events, we began to regularly showcase the work of a collective of like-minded contemporary illustrators, designers and printmakers alongside our own creations at our weekly ‘pop-up studio shop'.
We always thought a design practice and commercial gallery under one roof could work well. So whilst we continue to work closely alongside each other, Patrick runs the Unlimited design studio, while I focus my energies on the shop and gallery – where we continue to curate, showcase and sell prints and design-led products by an exciting and ever expanding collective.
The feedback over the last few years has been amazingly positive, and the gallery and shop has grown organically as a reaction to that. I hope it feels more ‘honest’ than engineered – filling a need rather than foisting another venture onto the market! The aim is to keep forging new connections with other skilled creatives, keep evolving as a business and be inspired by what’s going on around us.
What made you decide to go for bricks and mortar?
It's just been a very natural progression to work towards the gallery space - which we hope has proved itself to be a positive addition to the creative scene here. Having started 3 years ago with the weekly pop up shop and curating exhibitions from our design studio space, we quickly outgrew the studio! And although we have a good online shop, we felt that a gallery space would still be the best way of show the physicality of what we sell. There is nothing more enjoyable than being able to appreciate print and product first hand. It's a very visual and tactile experience that is hard to replicate online.
Last year saw big leaps in our brand's development. In the Spring, we took part in Pick Me Up at Somerset House - transforming a room there into our Unlimited gallery for two weeks, as part of the UK's most prestigious print fair devoted to Graphic arts. I'm happy to say it was a huge success and pushed our name out to a much wider audience than ever before!… As soon as that was over, we signed the lease on our new space and got stuck in to the building works on our brand spanking new shop, gallery and studio which then opened for business in August!
What is the balance between design studio and shop?
We're a tight partnership in that my husband Patrick still heads up the studio work, continuing to work with a fantastic range of cultural clients on a wide range of commissions incl. branding, book and exhibition design, whilst I'm now running our gallery and shop here and online - which is now in effect our 'front of house'. Our Unlimited brand is emblazoned on the exterior of the building and whatever I showcase and sell I want to retain the quality and standards we hold in our own design work.
My goal has always been to create a really exciting & inspiring space where people feel instantly welcome and visually inspired. An aim is to always keep our range of prints and products both unique and affordable. We want it to be a place you can browse and take everything in in your own time - enjoying the ideas that inform the work. Concept is definitely key…
We very rarely switch off from thinking about current work or future directions!… We're always bouncing ideas off each other and looking to how we can continue to make our Unlimited brand bigger and better! For both of us reputation and recommendation are hugely important.
How do decide what to stock and where do you find it?
We started showcasing the work from a small collective of friends who were also practicing designers and illustrators, now it has widened to include others we've met through our creative circles and from taking part in events such as Pick Me Up.
The simple criteria for choosing stock is 'would I have it at home?' or 'would I wear it'?… Everything we sell we truly love and would buy ourselves – sometimes it's like being kids in a candy store! It's also very important for us to stock things that still have a strong sense of individuality and craft… We try to avoid things that are mass manufactured where possible and focus instead on independent designers and makers.
What has surprised you the most about having a shop?
Being asked if we sell Perspex!…The shop space was a plastic merchants in it's former life and had been there since the 70s… It's amazing how many people know of it and still turn up expecting to buy some, despite now obviously being a gallery!
What is the hardest thing about having your own shop?
The hours!… being designers we've always been used to unsociable hours but there was always an element of flexibility. Now the shop obviously needs to be open consistently, 6 days a week, come rain or shine!
What is the best thing?
The positive feedback always feels me with pride… When people turn around and say how amazing all the work is, it makes the hard work and long hours worthwhile!
What is the dream?
I would love to expand the idea of Unlimited and the space to create more of a concept store vibe, including a more dedicated exhibition/events space and an Unlimited range of products… I want Unlimited to be one of the UK's top design destinations!