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Susan Fowler….

In the beginning…..

It was December 2012 when I first heard about Mick & Sarah Blakey. A chance visit to the local coffee shop in Charlestown “Charlie’s” led to a conversation with the coffee shop owner who told me”Have you heard..there is something going on down at the Old Workshop? There are new owners and may have space for crafters”.

At the time I was a despondent lawyer who desperately wanted to pursue my dream of having a studio space. Creatively, I had been pressing and preserving flowers for many years as a therapy (after contracting meningitis) whilst holding down a part time day job.

So  in December 2012 with the support of my family, I took the step of leaving my law career to pursue my creative dream….but I didn’t have a plan or a studio to go to. So when I met Mick and Sarah later in January 2013, I was at a cross roads. Until that point, I had tried various ways of selling and promoting my pressed flower work, through social media & having part time studio space in Truro and St Austell Town Centre. I had up to that point met many amazing creative people who had encouraged me to continue working at developing my craft.

In hindsight (isn’t that a wonderful thing!) I can see now that I really needed to focus full time on my craft but there was something missing…a more retail focused approach but in the right environment. With that I would have a fighting chance to make my new career work.

Mick and Sarah were a breath of fresh air. Immediately I knew they had a very clear vision of what The Old Workshop would be. I loved their proactive approach and the passion they had for the building and what they were doing. They felt they would not only be for providing St Austell and Charelstown with a new shopping experience but vital support for Cornish businesses, many of whom were crafters, designers, potters, carpenters etc

I remember clearly the day Mick showed me the Sail Loft. It was empty at that stage, no carpet, signs of workmen all around!


photo 1

The atmosphere of the building hit me, it had character and a friendly feel to it.  I didn’t hesitate. I chose my corner space and a window with a view of the tall ships. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep that night!


My view……..


photo 2

The following months on the lead up to opening on 23rd March 2013 saw a continued flurry of activity and hard work.


During work, this very old drain was uncovered at the rear of the building. Look at the colour of those bricks! Gorgeous…




If there was a qualification for cabinet assembly, Mick would have a masters degree!



Workmen busy at work getting The Old Workshop ready…



Benches in places..just awaiting plants..




My corner was evolving too. I even managed to start assembling my desk with a little help from Mick to finish off!


6 7 8 9


With a blank canvas, I started to experiment with how colour would look in my new space…and started by throwing some ribbon over the beams just to see ..



Which led to this layout and burst of colour which I have now…




The eve before opening!….


12 13 14 15 16 17 33launch pic


My sign by Cornwall Signs erected and in place….





It’s amazing how much stock you can pack into the floor space. From the time we opened at the end of March, with Mick and Sarah’s encouragement and feedback from their extensive retail experience, I have been filling my open plan studio shop with more stock. Now when I look back to the photos from when we opened to now, it is looking so much better and it really is taking on a life of its own.


From this…….




To this…………….





I call it my flowery fairy crafty corner. Yes it did have a real tree onsite too, more recently replaced with a pretty vintage shelving unit to make the best use of the retail space.


To this……….



Visitors smile when they walk through the door. Infact they smile when they see the whole of the Sail Loft. They don’t quite know what to expect when they walk up the bunting lined steps but what greets them is a bright, cheerful beautifully laid out area.


They notice the details and effort of the refurbishment work which Sarah, Mick and their team of builders have carried out. I particularly like the iron work sign hanger, the door hooks, umbrella stand..all made to fit in with the character or the building.



Its been fantastic to be able to see the building come to life, the traders move their stock in and I love the hear the sound of footsteps on the gravel. When there is a lot of footfall, sometimes it sounds like you have lots of visitors coming to know at your door, but what they find is an open door where they all receive a very warm welcome, smiles and a great choice of products, from antiques to crafts, from collectables to retro. There really is something for everyone.

The next chapter…………

So what next for the Old Workshop and me? Well I already feel like it is my home. I’ve made so many friends, everyone is so helpful. Working alongside other crafters/designers/makers/artists at The Old Workshop is very inspiring. There is always an air of excitement when someone brings in new stock and many of us now also buy our gifts and personal treats from there. I have to say its my most favourite place to shop. It is becoming a destination now for many people across Cornwall looking for unique crafted items and antiques. I look forward to seeing its success and popularity grow.


I have recently hosted some pressed flower craft workshops in the evenings and it was wonderful to see local residents and holidays makers enjoying one another’s company side by side, making pictures with pressed flowers and looking out on the beautiful view of the harbour. I would like to do more of these.




So keep watching and visiting to see the exciting changes taking place at The Old Workshop.