Retail therapy

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The Independent Online
TO SET up a business in your kitchen, without capital, may not be an obvious recipe for success, but Sophia Marriott and Una Morton have high hopes for their thriving glassware company, which they now run from a workshop in vibrating distance of the railway in Camden, north London. They supply about 10 shops around the country.

The pair buy and customise plain glasses and jugs from France and Mexico (the Mexican is a chunky, pale aquamarine recycled glass). Many of their designs have astrological themes - moons, stars, suns and rocket ships - along with squares and crowns. The glasses are sand-blasted to give them an opaque and individual frosted look. They are also lacquered to make them dishwasher-safe.

Morton and Mariott are experimenting with different mediums, and with new techniques such as mixing the Mexican recycled glass with gold for a more exotic look, and one-offs can be made to order. Recent commissions include personalised glasses for weddings, and a Sanskrit design on a gin bottle.

They quickly learnt some things do not pay off, though. Special ranges tailored to the needs of individual shops proved unprofitable.

Sophia Marriott did public art at Chelsea and Una Morton is an actress. They met through the latter's boyfriend three years ago. Una was fascinated by Sophia's work and they started making things to sell at Camden Market. They hit upon the idea of sand-blasting glasses, in an attempt at commercialisation.

Their business is now self-supporting, but only because they take no pay. Una, who survives thanks to a part-time job, says: 'We are optimistic, and our lives don't depend on it. If we paid ourselves, we'd be in debt. We are not massively wealthy, don't think that. But we would rather be broke for a while than in debt.'

Selling to retailers can be a tiresome business. 'Una used to traipse all over London with a huge box of samples. But so often, shops were just not appropriate or not interested, or their mark-up was outrageous. We found one shop in Covent Garden that adds on 200 per cent.'

It was a relief to discover trade fairs. 'It was our only access to buyers.' They shared a stand at the Top Drawer trade fair in May with two other people and waited for the orders. Feedback has been good, with reorders just starting to come in and people taking the trouble to replace broken items. Not bad for a business that started in April.

Wine glasses and tumblers cost about pounds 9.95, the Mexican tumblers from around pounds 13, Mexican flutes from about pounds 17.

Marriott Morton, 3a Prowse Place, London NW1 (071-485 6992).

Stockists include: Amadeus, 309a Kings Road, SW3. Tel 071 376 4435; Cadeau, 39 Amwell Street, EC1 (071-278 4990); Graham and Greene, 4-7 Elgin Crescent, W11 (071-727 4594); All Good Gifts, 65 Northcote Road, SW11 (071-223 8257); Estilo, 87 High Street, SW19 (081-944 6868); Smillie Ceramics, Princes Square, Buchanan Street, Glasgow (041 248 3874); Camp Classics, 24a Sydney Street, Brighton (0273 689389); Classix Interiors, Old Trinity Church, 247 Wellingborough Road, Northampton (0604 232322)

(Photograph omitted)

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