Just before Christmas I went to a fab little workshop where I made these origami diamond decorations.
The workshop was the first held at Rad Studio in Saltaire, West Yorkshire, and it was perfect – we learned a unique crafty project, beer and buns were served and it cost just £8.
Also perfect is this shop’s stock. I’m pretty tired of all the things I see on the high street and Rad Studio is jam packed full of stuff you just don’t see around these parts.
After my visit I was dying to pick the brains of its owner Alexandra (Ali) Radcliffe. I wanted to know about her inspiration, what shapes her tastes and how she had grown the courage to set up shop on her own before she hit 30.
“I come from a large, wonderful and supportive family. I’m the youngest of five and growing up I’ve been lucky enough (despite the arguments, sibling fights and the pecking order!) to be around older talented siblings (and parents) who have creatively influenced me and shaped my style and loves in life, which has directly had a positive effect (I hope) on the shop.”
Ali grew up in Kent and at 16 started work in a boutique shop. It was here she began to dream of owning a shop of her own one day.
She says: “I loved meeting and talking to customers, the jewellery the shop sold (from India) and the hippy vibe the shop had. I worked there on and off for about five years throughout school and uni holidays and built up a great relationship with the owners.
“I saw how hard they worked and I realised that to work for yourself was both a risk and rewarding business.”
She went to university in Leicester where she studied marketing and English then after graduating travelled for eight months with her sister to India, Asia, Australia and China.
“On our long train journeys, we would talk endlessly about opening a shop together, what it would be called, what we would sell, how it would look etc,” Ali says.
After coming home she moved to London and started working in experiential marketing. After five years, she moved to Melbourne, Australia, with the company she worked for. She stayed there for two years.
On the plane home, she wrote down her goals for the year ahead. One of them was to open a shop before hitting the ‘big 3-0′.
‘It was meant to be’
Ali, now 31, says: “I made the decision to move to Saltaire instead of back to London because my sister was pregnant with twins and I wanted to be near family after a couple of years being apart.
“I got a job in Leeds within a marketing agency and as I was walking to the train station one day, I noticed that my shop was up for rent. I immediately knew it was a sign (it was meant to be!) and I set out to find out as much as possible about the property and get the cogs in motion to getting the lease for the shop.
“I opened the shop on 2 July 2013 – without my sister sadly, but she opened her own shop in Portland, Oregon called Yo! Vintage – so all cool!”
With her career and travel background, Ali knew she wanted her shop to bring something different to Saltaire. This UNESCO world heritage site is well known for Salts Mill and its art, heritage and vintage shops.
“I wanted to shake things up a bit and provide more of a modern, design twist to the mix. Bring a bit of city life to the village! From commuting into Leeds for work, I knew there were a lot of younger people moving to Saltaire and I wanted to provide them with something a little different.
“Having a shop in Saltaire as opposed to the city means you can get closer to the community and the people within it. I love that.
“When I opened the shop I was greeted with friendly faces and well wishes. It was a very special time and it still is.
“My philosophy for the shop is to offer products that are fun, functional and on trend – products that can enhance and compliment any wardrobe or home with pops of colour or design without having buy anything more to achieve a great look or vibe.
“I strive to find products that no one else has got in the UK, or the north, which means travelling to meet designers and makers overseas or in London (the best part of the job!).
“It’s really important for me to be able to offer something different, otherwise you end up offering the same things as all the other ‘gift’ shops and losing an identity. That’s not to say that I don’t stock some ‘commercial’ products, but I only stock the things I like and believe in that compliment the other items in the shop, and I think that’s why the mix works.”
Among the cosmopolitan products Ali stocks are homewares from Denmark, tie-dye socks from Melbourne, bags from Portland, Oregon, necklaces from Greece, ceramics from New York, as well as products made in Yorkshire.
In 2015, Ali is expanding the shop and would like to do more workshops. She made a good start in December 2014 with classes on making origami diamonds and Christmas wreaths.
She says: “The workshops are non-profit making. They’re put on to bring the community together and also provide a low-cost fun activity that doesn’t mean having to head into Leeds or the pub all the time (although beer is generally provided!)
“I want to try to do more workshops this year and I’m on the look out for people or local businesses who are interested in hosting a class – it can be to make something or to talk about a topic of interest but whatever it is, it needs to match the philosophy and style of the shop.
“I’ve also just expanded the shop to provide more of a homeware area and range. After visiting Melbourne and Portland recently, I discovered some awesome brands which I cannot wait to stock in the shop.”
// image / instagram/radstudio //
I’ll certainly be back for a return visit very soon.
How about you? Have you already found Rad or is it on your must visit list?