Walking down Fore Street towards Topsham Quay, you might be stopped in your tracks by the sight of a gorgeous little Border Terrier standing beside his portrait in a shop window.
The dog is called Eigg, and the shop is Fleming and Sell, and this week I stopped by to chat with the owner of both, Charlotte Fleming, for the first of my new series, Topsham Treasures, which focuses on the wonderful town of Topsham, Devon, where I live.
Fleming and Sell: ‘Gallery, shop, studio, and emporium of lovely things’
Fleming and Sell sells work by Charlotte, who is a designer and illustrator, as well as beautiful items by small designers that she has carefully chosen. It also functions as a studio for Charlotte, and a workspace for her picture framing service, so it is a hive of creativity, while all the time maintaining a calm and welcoming atmosphere.
Fleming and Sell opened on 1 June 2013, one week after I myself moved to Topsham. I asked Charlotte why she opened the shop?
Charlotte: I’ve been working designing my own textiles [Made with Love] since 2009, and I would do loads and loads of huge trade fairs, then go back to my solitary studio and not speak to anyone for months and months, so I thought it might be nice to combine the two – stop doing the trade fairs, open a shop where I can work in my studio, and still speak to people, so not be so totally isolated.
According to Charlotte, it’s all worked out perfectly, and she doesn’t miss either the trade fairs or the lonely times in the studio, despite being ‘on show’ all the time when she is working. ‘I don’t mind being interrupted; it just reminds me of being in college, or sketching in museum.’
Molly: Can you tell me a little bit more about your background in design?
Charlotte: I studied illustration at art college, then ran the picture framing service at Green and Stone in Fulham, and have painted and done a lot of interior design projects, doing up restaurants etc., in London, where I am from. I started Made with Love when I couldn’t find textiles I liked for my own kitchen, so I hand-drew some. Then my friends started asking me for them, and it really blossomed from there, and I rapidly had to go into print.
Charlotte sells her Made with Love textiles in the shop, but also a range of items from other designers. It is an eclectic mix, but to me seems very well curated – I know before I go in that I will always like every single item in the shop!
Molly: What are your criteria for chosing items to sell in the shop?
Charlotte: Totally emotional. Basically if I see something and think, oh that’s just lovely, or that’s completely hilarious, or whatever. But it’s got to be things that you haven’t seen before, that are not in every shop. All the people who supply me are really small makers – I do a lot of sourcing in London, meeting amazing designers who are doing wonderful things, but really small. But I don’t really want it to be labelled as a gallery, as I like to be able to include anything that takes my fancy.
Molly: What are your favourite items in the shop at the moment?
Charlotte: The neon tealight holders – I’m really into neon at the moment. Also the prints of Topsham that I commissioned – from the guy who does the London Underground posters.
Molly: I have to say I love those posters too, especially the one of Topsham Pool – it makes it look so glamorous!
I had many more questions for Charlotte, and we chatted about what we both liked about living in Topsham (the people, the atmosphere, the water, its quirkiness, and the fact that it’s not too ‘villagey’), and of course I had to ask about Eigg the dog:
Charlotte: He’s certainly a key figure in the shop, and the most photographed dog in Topsham. He’s 10 years old, and a metrosexual – he loves retail, and has forgotten all about his days of chasing pheasants and rabbits in the countryside. He sits by his portrait in the window [advertising the fact that Charlotte paints pet portraits by commission], and people stop and take photographs of him and then send me the photographs – I stick them up in my studio. People pop by everyday just to say hello to the dog, some have never bought anything, but always come in to say hello to him.
I am afraid I am slightly guilty of this, but I do also make purchases- after giving Eigg a little belly rub of course!
And what did I buy from Fleming and Sell this week? These two gorgeous scented candles by Bridie Hall:
I have the Pavilion scent burning in Topsham Towers at the moment, which smells of Orange Blossom, but I can’t wait to try Obelisk because of its tantalising description: ‘This scent has a gentleman’s study in mind, with the faintest hint that the gentleman in question has left the room moments before.’
Intriguing! Adolf Loos would approve I’m sure! But just one of the many delights on offer from Fleming and Sell.
Thanks so much to Charlotte for taking the time to talk to me, and I hope you enjoyed this snapshot of the shop.
I hope you can come to Topsham to check it out for yourself! If not, you can also see more of Charlotte’s work on her website: Fleming and Sell.
More Topsham Treasures coming soon …