Melanie Neilson is behind Suffolk Style, an online store of Fairtrade, handmade and recycled goods for the home and garden. Ahead of setting up stall at Hadleigh Market, she describes how the pandemic led her and husband Steve to combine their creative strengths
Our life has been varied. We were both born and worked in Central London for all our life, relocating to rural Suffolk not too long ago. I have always had a creative streak, love colour and just adore animals and nature. Steve is on the same page with this too. After the pandemic, with the sadness and restrictions it placed, it’s so good things are opening up and, for us and our new venture, this is an exciting journey to take.
Being a builder and finance bod, workwise, things were at a standstill due to the pandemic. It was a time to reflect on the skills we do have and how we can put them to use to carve out a different future for ourselves.
I have always painted and made things and Steve has always adapted, restyled and re-invented things along with making furniture from scratch. We thought we should combine our artistic strengths and see where is takes us. We initially had the idea mid-2020 and wanted to sell our metal art, along with beautiful, unusual things for the home, art prints and vintage finds – interesting pieces we pick up on our travels. Some left as is; some re-configured by Steve. We went through a few names starting with ‘Suffolk’. Some sounded too industrial, too designed, too abstract and then we settled on ‘Style’ – a simple word there all the time. Suffolk Style was born.
Suffolk Style is a store brimming with beautifully curated items, be it to enhance a home, build your wardrobe, or gift to someone special. Our metal art, including bespoke metal occasion signs, prints of fine watercolour art, throws, candles, cushions, an array of greeting cards, delicate handcrafted dyed vintage linen, all sit alongside carefully selected pieces which we buy in. We often feature local artisans who share our passion for sustainability and quality. Rather than follow trends, we prefer to feature timeless pieces to treasure and bring joy.
We are passionate about the environment, animals and nature – and it’s very important to us that where possible we use Fairtrade products. The right conditions and materials used to produce things we sell and packaging we use is a focus for us. We like to use local artisans too and help promote their work.
My sister saw an advertisement for the Innovate Local scheme run by Babergh and Mid-Suffolk councils. I applied and was thrilled to be accepted. The guidance has been invaluable to us to help us on the road to selling. They offer workshops, too, which I have enrolled for.
I don’t have any fears, but I have tons of hope for the year ahead. Going forward we wish to expand our product base, work with local people to feature their products. We are in talks with a few communities who produce really unusual things so please do follow along with us.
Suffolk Style can be found at Hadleigh Market tomorrow (August 6), August 13, August 20 and September 3 and Stowmarket Market on September 18, September 25, October 2 and October 9; and also at Bury St Edmunds Makers Market. The website launches in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, follow Suffolk Style on Facebook @suffolkstyle and Instagram @suffolk_style. Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Council’s Innovate Local scheme offer businesses either use of a market stall in Hadleigh or Stowmarket or working space at an innovation hub in Sudbury or Eye. Businesses interested in being part of the scheme should visit www.babergh.gov.uk or www.midsuffolk.gov.uk