There can be many routes to market to showcase your art. One couple explain how they made their tourism business and creativity work for them:
No 5 Bimport, Shaftesbury
Kate and Trevor Toms, both artists, opened their B&B, No 5 Bimport, in Shaftesbury in 2011. Their artistic background has influenced the way in which their accommodation business has developed its unique look, and it now provides an additional route to market for Kate’s paintings and textile work.
Kate trained at the Winchester School of Art before moving to London to work for Zandra Rhodes as seamstress (‘I sewed beads onto her creations’); as a fabric importer, and an established textile designer; counting Next, Miss Selfridge, Richard Shops and Whistles among her clients. She met and married Trevor, a fashion photographer, and both made the decision to move to Shaftesbury to raise a family. Finding a suitable space just outside the town led Trevor to reconnect with his talents as a furniture-maker, and for the next thirty years they ran Trevor Toms Cabinet Makers. In addition, since 2000, Kate has mounted an annual exhibition in the town every May; and one in London every three years.
No 5 Bimport
Once the family had left home, Kate and Trevor moved to No 5 Bimport, a beautiful Georgian house in the town centre (Bimport literally means ‘toll road’, and was the main route to the town’s famous Abbey). As the house transformed under their care, the two rooms on the lower ground floor became spacious bedrooms, each with an ensuite bathroom, ideal for paying guests. Realising breakfast could be served to guests in the ground floor dining room – with no cross over between guest and private areas, which the couple felt was important – No 5 as a tourism business was born.
The couple’s artistic background has helped to develop the business brand of Georgian elegance, spaces with perfect proportions, modern comforts, sympathetically decorated. Trevor designed the rooms, with an invaluable understanding of how furniture complements space, and Kate decorated within the ‘Georgian’ palette of colours. Named as one of The Guardian’s top ten Dorset B&Bs in only their second year of trading, Kate says her initial aspiration for absolute perfection was hard work. She says ‘I now pace the energy expanded on interaction with guests – I have learnt to ‘read’ a guest and how much they want to talk!’
Art in the room
As artists, filling the wall space with Kate’s original art was a natural move; and the idea of it being available for purchase adds interest for guests. The pictures are part of the overall décor, rather than the house being an obvious gallery area or showcase. ‘I love the idea that guests wake up and see the paintings, they have breakfast and look at the paintings… they have plenty of time to consider them in situ, as if they were at home, and it adds to the experience.’ She also displays a range of beautiful silk scarves, which are very popular as easily transportable for those in transit.
A discreet notice in bedrooms and on breakfast menus explains that all pictures are for sale and if interested to enquire re prices. This subtle system works – she sells regularly to guests, who can take the paintings with them or have them shipped out. ‘We shipped to Australia once’ she remembers, ‘Trevor built the crate!’
Partnering with others
No 5 is a member of the local Shaftesbury Tourist Association, and enjoys an excellent relationship with the nearby sixteen-room hotel, the Grosvenor, which attracts weddings and other events into the town. The hotel refers guests to the local B&Bs if they are full, and this partnership building is an important part of the town’s tourism infrastructure.
Another element of Dorset culture Kate uses to her advantage is locally-sourced food, an important selling point for the breakfasts. ‘I try to buy from local shops – the fresh produce such as meat – wherever possible. Supporting each other is very important, and it is a good selling point for us too.’
Best practice tips from No 5 Bimport
As a creative, don’t be afraid to showcase your work within a business. It is a positive route to market – but don’t make it look like a gallery. Any accommodation – a hotel, a B&B – should first be a home from home.
As a business owner – it’s not rocket science, people just want a good bed, and a good breakfast.