February 18 2010
Among a glut of gift shops that tend towards the twee and predictable, Hooper & Shaw is a beacon of creative cool in the cliff-hugging Cornish fishing village of Port Isaac. A sign in the window declaring, “I took the handmade pledge” hints at the philosophy behind this self-styled “emporium of wonderful things”. Owners Nicole Heidaripour and Dan Scott showcase handiwork by artists and craftmakers working in and around the duchy. “Everything,” as Scott says, “is handmade. You’ll find none of that mass-produced malarkey here.”
The pair are both artists: Heidaripour is an illustrator of several books, with commissions from local chef Rick Stein, among others; while Scott is a sculptor in the film (Harry Potter, Batman), TV and waxwork industries who assists sculptor Ron Mueck. They set up shop in 2008 after spotting the premises on a wintry holiday: “A ‘eureka!’ moment came halfway up the M4,” says Scott of their decision to move from London.
A peek into the tiny cottage-cum-beach-hut – slate floor, Cornish cream walls, bunting, gingham tablecloth – reveals some treasure, all of which “has its roots in traditional, skilled techniques, yet explores unusual and contemporary styles and ideas”. Hence the fun screen-printed textiles – woolly Robot scarves and tweedy tie with truck design (both by Stabo, from £20 and £16.50, respectively) and organic cotton “No Thanks”/“Yes Please” totes by Mr PS (£17.50), plus leftfield toys by Rosie and Fumie (from £25) and books such as Alison Hardcastle’s Knock Backs (from £8), whose rejection notes tear out for delivery in awkward situations, and Stephen Moss’s Bumper Book of Nature (with drawings by Heidaripour; £17.99).
Then there are exquisite monochrome prints of animals, also by Heidaripour (a startled sheep and a lugubrious John Dory are my favourites; £60). Hooper & Shaw’s silk-slogan screen prints (“One day we will look back and laugh”; “Kettle on, feet up”; from £55) are sure-fire hits with a retro, almost wartime spirit, as is the jewellery, including Me Me Me’s porcelain pieces (from £20) and Scott’s acrylic “character brooches” (from £8.50).
Being in an environment where everything has “the maker’s touch” is inspiring for browsers and shopkeepers – “It’s wonderful to have the platform to present our work but also to promote artists and makers” – and Hooper & Shaw’s stock always changes. The jazzy Rescued Paper Notebooks I spotted are no longer sold as “they started to pop up in too many shops”; they’re replaced with sketchbooks by Kali (£12), which should soon be supplemented by Scott and Heidaripour’s own (they’ve recently bought some old printing equipment).
The “Doc Martin factor” has affected business positively; the TV series starring Martin Clunes is filmed in Port Isaac, bringing in tourists – and famous faces – to the shop. But for the owners, “It has been most satisfying to have customers returning to see new works during our second season.”