Jane Showell, Culture+ programme manager talks to her mentee, Charlotte Loving about her recently opened Dorchester-based independent shop, Loving by Nature.

I remember meeting you for the first time in October last year (2017), and you said to me “Can you tell me if this is a crazy idea?”  I think you said this because you were thinking of opening not-your-ordinary-shop?

Yes, I wanted a reusable nappy shop that is also a community artistic space, perhaps even hold events for parents who love arts and media. I found it really difficult when I had Freda (19 months) to find any advice on or a local shop that sells reusable nappies. I couldn’t understand why, because:

  • They are so much better for the environment
  • Saves you money
  • Better designed with beautiful prints on them
  • The fabric is better for the baby’s bum

In terms of the community also I think it is important to showcase, support and sell work from local contemporary makers and artists. I thought just because I have become a mum, it doesn’t mean that I can’t be involved and appreciate contemporary arts and design. I couldn’t see any spaces around the area that offers this.

Now here you are, 7 months later, in your very own shop. Which seems so fast to me. How has it been going?

Yeah, I think I am doing well. It is really early days, too early to tell I guess. It has only been 8 weeks since I opened the door to customers. People are coming through the door, buying things, and I am paying bills which is great. I feel that I am doing better than I expected, people are coming from all over Dorset, from Poole to Lyme Regis to visit the shop.

Where did they find out about Loving by Nature?

Mostly from Facebook and Instagram. Loads of them specifically want to find out more about the reusable nappies, and actually those who haven’t used them switched after speaking to me. I am really pleased about this because that is one of my main priorities; convincing people that reusable nappies are better.

I am also listed as a Dorset retailer on Real Nappy Incentive Scheme by the Dorset Waste Partnership. Parents can apply to the council for a £30 voucher to help them buy a pack of their first reusable nappies.

I didn’t realise that there is such a scheme, it sounds great. Aside from the nappies, how are you finding working with local artists and makers?

Brilliant. It’s the best bit about it all really. Even at the earliest stage of the business setup our logo was designed by local illustrator Delphine Jones.

And selling work from local artists and makers is what brings people to the door, it is my USP (Unique Selling Point). I can get different and new products that no where else sells, especially from your regular high street shops.

We have a wide range of products from 20 local makers starting from handmade cot sheets, to leggings, from teething jewellery by HexNex (made in special Loving by Nature colours) to Scandi learning toys.

We currently have an exhibition of art prints on the wall by Jodie House – Cut the Rut, who is based in Weymouth. Jodie’s work had brought someone all the way over from Brighton just to see the exhibition.

How is it having Freda around?

Of course challenging, but we have a lot of fun together. It is for example difficult to do admin things, like updating the website or do some stock take. Occasionally depending on her mood, when I am speaking with a customer she wants some attention. But I am very lucky because of the community here in the De Danann Centre, who all love her, who Freda really likes too, so I could ask for help from them whenever I need someone to watch her for a moment. I am also supported by my parents and in-laws.

So what’s next?

We are keeping the shop open. We will keep on talking to people, to find more local makers of family products. Continue promoting the shop. And in June we are looking to have an exhibition change over; we have a pretty full exhibition schedule now until next year. I am thinking of doing an open call for the exhibition showcasing space, or perhaps try to hold some sort of event.

We look forward to seeing how Loving by Nature develops in the future.

If you want to find out more about Charlotte and Loving by Nature, they can be found at:
De Danann Centre
27 London Road
Dorchester
DT1 1NF Dorset

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