It’s an amazing and fun new way to buy British design.
Last November I was invited to the Two Ducks launch party. Claire Leigh is on a mission to share her love for British designed goods, and it was so much fun to experience her shop launch. I’m so excited to share the story of that night with you and a quick interview with Claire about how this crazy little idea came to life!
Wine and a browse
Photography below courtesy of the lovely Jo de Magneval.
Wading through the crowd in Woking’s Jubilee Square is tricky with heels in late November. There’s a brisk wind but the excitement for the lighting of the Christmas tree is tangible. Yet the festivities aren’t the attraction I’m heading for tonight. Down a little alley and just a few steps from Woking’s train station lies the Cellar Magneval Wine Bar.
Claire Leigh loves crafts and British design. She dreamed about a fun, low-pressure way to share her passion. Tonight, that dream is about to come to life.
Claire’s good friends Jo and Thierry own and run the wine bar. Cellar Magneval is cosy and unique, with a reclaimed wood bar and thrifted furniture. Jo has used her crafty skills to upcycle some chairs and side tables, too. The Cellar oozes with friendly creative appeal and smells like quality wine the moment you step through the door.
So it makes sense that the Magneval pair and Claire have teamed up to make a new gift shop experience. Where else can you shop British design with a glass of wine?
Like a pop up shop, Two Ducks has a corner in the Cellar. The shelves are bursting with familiar names and new ones, too. I spot Clara and Macy, The Green Gables, and Zeena Shah right away.
To me, the Two Ducks’ launch shows just how much creative people thrive from working together. Jo and Thierry have helped Claire jump into this new venture, but the Cellar is full of family and friends celebrating. The excitement in the Cellar is even thicker than the crowd in Jubilee Square. This is a celebration of months of anticipation and prep to make Two Ducks a reality. And everyone’s smiling.
There’s a quick hush when Claire clears her throat to make a toast. She thanks everyone for their support, and when she thanks her husband her eyes glitter as her voice catches in her throat. It’s been a lot of hard work, but Two Ducks is finally out in the world. Thank you Claire for sharing your dream with us. ✪
Q&A with Claire
What pushed you to turn Two Ducks from dream into reality?
Claire: I had been thinking about starting my own gift shop for about 10 years but it was only when good friends Jo and Thierry started realising their dream to launch their own wine bar that I really got inspired to kick the dream into reality!
If you had to pick, what’s your favourite thing about the work you do?
Claire: I love meeting the makers and choosing new products, I get so passionate about the products that I sell and how they are made. I also love meeting customers and telling them all about the products!
How does the business fit into your family life?
Claire: We have had to make quite a lot of adjustments to family life! My husband now works condensed hours so he can take Friday afternoon to look after the children whilst I am in the shop. I work Saturdays in the shop which means our family time is reduced to Sundays and we work most evenings on the business.
The plus side is that it is far more flexible if the kids are ill or we have half terms etc, I can just carry on evening work and not have to take any official ‘days off’. We really do make more of the family time we have together and I get more time with the children now in the week.
What has been your proudest moment so far?
Claire: Designing the website myself and my husband building the website himself and being able to stock such lovely products!
Have you gotten any great business advice to pass on?
Claire: Use social media to establish networks, contacts and support, it has been brilliant for me. Make contacts in your community and push yourself to get out there and meet other businesses, new people. When it gets difficult try not to get down, throw yourself into it even more!
What gets you through the crazy moments?
Support from my husband, family, my children (they always bring a sense of perspective!) and my friends (both old friends and twitter friends who share common interests).
Top tip for anyone looking to work with British designers?
Claire: Don’t compromise on quality – being British doesn’t automatically make it a good product! Make sure the people you stock have a good, strong brand that will compliment your own. Don’t stock a product because a friend makes it, stock it if it’s a great product!
The home of beautiful British gifts
Claire’s curation of British design can be found online, too. I love her range of Mother’s Day gift boxes. Check out the Two Ducks shop and browse the other £20 gift boxes available!
The next time you’re in Woking, grab a coffee and enjoy Two Ducks and Cellar Magneval. There’s no pressure, just the guilt-free pleasure of good food, good company, and good design.