Harris and Jones was started by my husband Steve (Harris) and I (Vanessa nee Jones) 2008. We decided that we wanted to run our own small, rural business and be involved with products that were useful, beautifully made and also had provenance. Also we wished it could be flexible enough to enable us to spend time with our children as they grow up and not on a big daily commute. Steve used to spend hours in his car, and before children I was a chef working unsociable hours.
Initially we tried to work with other companies in developing and making a range of luxury, handmade home and desk accessories. However it became apparent very quickly that this would not give us the flexibility or quality we wanted to offer our customers. So with a bit of re-jigging in our house we started making the products ourselves, with a few traditional tools and a very noisy gluing machine. We made the spare room into an office, dining room into the work place (therefore being able to use the dining table) and the utility room became my packing area! Harris and Jones had been launched.
As orders came in we decided Steve needed help with the making, so our good friend Maria joined us. Soon after this we built a workshop, at the back of our house, as more space was needed - no more noisy gluing in the middle of the house (bliss), dining table back in use (very handy), just a little more civilised....... Not for long though, as the business continued to grow, so did the packing area and the area where boxes were piled up ready for despatch, in our kitchen. We survived like this for a few years, until the business was at a stage to take the plunge a find premises in which we could carry on making our home accessory and stationery products. Having been spoilt by working from home, we were quite fussy about how far we wanted to travel to work - luckily we found perfect premises 4 miles from our home (yes sometimes we do cycle!) and we haven't looked back.
The house is now back to a family home and somehow we are all still talking. Harris and Jones is now located in an old chicken hut (chickens long gone), Steve and Maria are involved solely in the making of the products, I am the packer/sender and Sasha, our labrador, snores loudly in her bed.
The business has evolved massively since we started and as time goes on we are thrilled to be working with some fabulous designers, Nina Campbell, Neisha Crosland, Jemma Lewis, Colefax and Fowler, Designers Guild - just to name a few. Harrods have a lovely collection of stationery products from our deluxe and decorative range in their stationery department and Woburn Abbey are just about to take delivery of their bespoke collection of home accessory and stationery products all personalised with their logo. Our customers' favourite handmade stationery product is the keepsake box and now it can be personalised. Although coming up closely behind, from our handmade home accessory range, is our fabulous waste paper bin with the clear liner. As we have so many beautiful decorative designs it is difficult to make a choice.
Like any business, it is never plain sailing, however we have to kick ourselves sometimes, we have got a business, we see more than enough of each other and the girls, but most of all we love what we do.
Update - Maria has now left us and we have survived, I have to say we were dreading her leaving but we are still here. Luckily we had already taken on Zoe who had the chance of working with Maria before she left, so Maria could give Zoe an insight of what it was really like working at Harris and Jones and our 'quirky' ways. In any case the changeover was seemless and Zoe has fitted in perfectly. As the workshop has been getting busier and busier it soon became apparent we needed more help, so Clair, who's also a gem, joined Harris and Jones. As we said in our advert must like dogs and radio 2 - both Zoe and Clair were radio 1 fans, however I am pleased to say we have converted them and they now don't turn the radio over when we aren't in the workshop! Watch this space for more information however just so you know what we all look like here's a picture.