Reflecting on the Harmonious Relationship between Nature and Botanical Atelier

Posted by Sarah Jane Humphrey on

Around 4 years ago I stumbled upon an incredible opportunity, when a space became available to rent in the heart of Falmouth. At the time it was being used as a pop up shop for vintage clothing, but there was something about this narrow and quirky little spot over looking the harbour that I very quickly visualised a project that could be something wildly different. I dreamt up a name that seemed to fit around a few ideas I was musing upon and never looked back. Botanical Atelier was founded.


Botanical Atelier interior


Years have rolled by navigating through the un-forseen difficulties brought about firstly from Brexit and then a Global pandemic. Now, whilst I may have had the odd grumble about all of this, actually on reflection it's forced my business into many different directions that perhaps wouldn't have come about so quickly otherwise. Our workshops are now also online, which was something I always wanted to do but without having that as a matter of survival over lockdowns it may not have happened. I also looked at how we could become more sustainable when Brexit forced some of our wonderful European suppliers to elevate their prices to a point of no longer being viable to sell in a small shop in Cornwall. This ultimately made me find a way to source amazing products that didn't need importing and support lots of makers closer to home. Therefore reducing the carbon footprint and offering unique products that you, our customers have loved. I have also found a necessity for constant reviewing of the business, exploring closely customers needs through hundreds of conversations in the shop and through our wider online friends of Botanical Atelier. There has been no resting on our laurels or time for complacency it's been a finely tuned machine behind the scenes.

Sarah working behind the counter


Many aspects of Botanical Atelier have surprised and delighted me with un-expected results. I have met some incredible people, launched countless events and products and have enjoyed greatly the opportunities that have come about from the fortuitous luck I have had from people wandering into my shop on a given day - that of which I never would have realised could have ever been a possibility of owning a retail space in Cornwall. I have shared endless stories across some inspiring networks and a portfolio now bursting at its seams from commissions that have come about from days, weeks, months and years spent behind a counter that looks out over the sea. I have learnt a lot.

However, whilst this start-up business has grown from strength to strength other things have become apparent which over the years occasionally has made me reflect, often turning back to nature for answers. Sometimes that has been the clarity from swimming in the sea, even in the middle of winter, other times it has been immersing myself in the detailed depths of illustrating a plant or flower. But more often than not it is the reminder and words of Charles Darwin, in fact, a specific section from 'The Origin of Species' that comes to mind and always has done since Botanical Atelier first began.

Darwin, discusses his findings in 'The Struggle for Existence', noting how creatures of the animal kingdom and plant world, always face a struggle to survive. Whether that be through, prey, climate, geographical circumstance or many other factors. Exploring through science how some plants seemingly have a head start compared to others when it comes to the competition to grow and mature.

"A plant which annually produces a thousand seeds, of which on average only one comes to maturity, may be more truly said to struggle with the plants of the same and other kinds which are already close to the ground".

I sometimes think about this and how it relates to life, and as with nature it is often without flaws and not necessarily the plant or animal with the strongest start or the perfect conditions that makes it to maturity. In fact many of the species which have survived the longest throughout evolution have been some of the simplest forms or those which have grown, adapted and shown flexibility through their own resilient nature to keep striving forwards. 

Sarah in the wildflower meadow


I can't help but wondering if Darwin's discoveries through science bears an analogy to business too. I have pushed Botanical Atelier like millions of others through an extraordinarily difficult time, yet all around me as I look at other businesses, through their sheer grit and determination many of them have never looked better. I have stayed flexible to new ideas and changes throughout challenging times and pushed through boundaries when business seemed impossible and maintained some kind of resilience. However if there is one thing that I have learnt through the past 4 years of Botanical Atelier, is that with out making hard decisions and sticking with my gut feelings it wouldn't have a chance of survival. Just like the little seedling shooting up so fast that the wind blows it down making space for it's slower growing more robust neighbour.

- With that in mind it has been a slow process of thought and fine tuning countless options that I feel it is time to make the difficult decision to close our Falmouth shop doors. Whilst running the shop many of you will know I have also been working on many botanical illustration commissions from my studio. I have also had  the extreme fortune for the Botanical Illustration Workshops to become successful enough to warrant opening a new space at the Sail Loft. It just seems in order for Botanical Atelier to continue, it is time for a shift and move into the direction that you, our wonderful customers seem to desire. So moving forwards Botanical Atelier will very much still have a shop which will be online, and our workshop programme will have the time and space to expand offering more classes. As for me, I will still very much be present between workshops at the Sail Loft and the studio, in fact I am about to embark on a very big commission for a new book.

Finally, it is important for me to add that this is definitely not a 'good bye', but more of a 'hello' to new projects. Which I truly hope you will love just as much if not even more than before. Thank you all for your support and amazing custom - I couldn't have come this far without you, and very much hope you enjoy the next part of the Botanical Atelier journey.

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