Helen Round is a British Textile Designer and Print Maker based in Cornwall. Helen's designs are inspired by the flora and fauna of the countryside and coastline, giving her work a very organic and natural feel. The hand printed collection of work started back in 2012 at Helen's kitchen table, drawing inspiration from her beautiful surroundings.
We loved speaking to Helen and learning about the inspiration and the journey that led to her starting her own company.
Tell us about your background. What was the journey that led you to start creating fabrics and products?
My grandparents moved to St Michael’s Mount in West Cornwall in the 60s and my father was born there. It’s an incredibly beautiful, remote spot in the middle of Mount’s Bay, cut off by the tide twice a day. They were seeking a complete change of lifestyle. I recall early memories of being surrounded by the sea before our immediate family moved away, although my Uncle Derek still lives there today.
I have always loved fabrics and made things from a very young age and in my late teens I headed to Camborne College to study Fine Art and Textiles which is where I discovered my love of printmaking. After my two children started school, I returned to work as a teacher, working in adult and community education. After 10 years of teaching, with my children growing up, I decided to use my creative energies to start my own business.
It was your typical kitchen table start up, back in 2012 – seeking inspiration from my beautiful surroundings to create some initial designs, and making a few things which I put on a basic website to see if anything would sell.
A bag I made got spotted by Country Homes and Interiors magazine, which caused a little flurry of sales, and then The Guardian ran a piece about my designs when I was exhibiting at the Top Drawer trade show in London and that was the start of it!
How has your work and designs evolved over time?
Like many small business owners, I do a bit of everything. When starting the business, I used to make all the products myself. As the business has grown and developed, I have employed a small local team to help me. I still do all the designing myself. I enjoy researching new product ideas and fabric colours, spend some of my week on marketing projects, catching up with our stockists and working on new designs.
I started making things that were both beautiful and practical from linen and we have extended the collection to include products made of sustainable bamboo fabric, like reusable makeup wipes, shower mitts, face cloths and eco sponges. It’s important to me that our materials are sustainable sourced. Our fabrics are Oeko-Tex certified which means that the manufacturing process is free from harmful chemicals.
So I suppose we started off with a small, discreet product range and that has developed into now a much wider range of products and designs covering kitchen, bathroom, interiors, stationery and gifts.
What inspires you and motivates you?
Living in Cornwall provides endless inspiration for my designs. I love walking and in this slow pursuit, often find plenty to stop and stare at, take photographs and add scribbles to my sketch book. Inspiration comes from the flora and fauna of this wonderful part of south east Cornwall.
Helen Round products are made using ethically sourced natural materials, what does sustainability mean to you?
I have always recycled and made thoughtful purchases.
All our materials are sustainably sourced and Oeko-Tex certified, meaning the manufacturing process is free from harmful chemicals. We use linen fabric, not just because we love it but because it is so sustainable. It grows with no pesticides, just needs rainwater to grow. We use bamboo for our reusable make up wipes and face cloths, another fast growing, sustainable plant which needs 35% less water than cotton and releases 30% more oxygen and absorbs more carbon dioxide than other plants.
We recycle and reuse as much fabric as possible. Many of our smaller products are made from studio off-cuts of linen, minimising waste. Any much smaller fabric scraps that are not used in the studio are sent to local schools for crafting projects.
We cut, make and print our products in our Cornish Studios which has a very positive impact on our carbon footprint. Wherever possible, we source all materials as close to home as we can.
All our packaging is recycled wherever possible. We won't buy any single use plastic packaging, but we do reuse any plastic packaging that we receive. We feel it is better to do this rather than throw it away.
As we move towards becoming a waste-free business, we continue to add exciting new products to our Eco Collection, promoting a sustainable way of life. Our Eco Collection includes reusable items that remove the use for single use plastics in our everyday life, such as Reusable Sandwich Wraps, Reusable Snack Bags and Eco Soap Bags.
Our products are made to last, we make useful things that can be treasured.
What would be your 3 top tips to help encourage others to live more sustainably?
What are you most excited to work on over the next few months?
We are on a steep growth curve, through a mix of developing new products and building our customer base.
Our business is international now and I am looking forward to visiting some of our stockists in the US and further afield when I get the chance. We had an amazing trip to New York at the beginning of 2020 and I think the possibilities for growth are significant in the US, as well as continuing to build our profile and customer base in the UK.
We love working with small independent businesses who provide quality and variety, whether online or on the high street. We are always keen to find new and different ways of working and are hugely grateful to all the businesses that have supported us, worked with us and with whom we have shared expertise!
What piece of advice would you give to someone who is looking to set up their own company?
If you are thinking of starting a business I would say, go for it, be prepared to do every job that you ask other people to do! Small businesses are very hands-on and you never stop learning!
What do you look for when finding the perfect gift?
I tend to look for unique products as gifts, something special that fits the person that I’m buying for. I often buy from very small potters or local businesses that make food, for someone locally who roasts her coffee beans sourced from women’s co-ops in South America.
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