Meet: Claire Watson, designer and manager at Fired Earth Northallerton

FE: Tell us about a typical day at Fired Earth.

Every day’s busy. That’s one of the only things that’s always the same! Sometimes we’ll have 10 people inside the shop at once, but then nobody might come in for an hour. But those quiet spells are when I get to work on any customer designs or to come up with new ideas. I’m always thinking of extra things we could do to improve the experience for our customers. We’re not a typical shop in that sense that’s all sell, sell, sell. I like everyone to really enjoy coming, so I started doing events. We held a wreath-making workshop at Christmas with a local florist and had great feedback. People keep asking me when the next one’s going to be, which is so nice. I can actually tell you a little bit about it now, but I don’t want to give it all away yet. It’s going to be towards the end of April or the start of May with a famous furniture painter. If you’re signed up to our emails then we’ll send you an invite – the more, the merrier!”

 FE: Which qualities do you think that you personally bring to the brand every day?

Belief and enthusiasm. I always want to do the best for the customer and to really get to know them and their home so that I can help them figure out what they’re going to enjoy and what will suit them most. Our products aren’t throwaway things; they can stay a part of your home forever, so I think of it as my duty to make sure it’s the perfect match.”


 FE: What attracted you to Fired Earth?

I studied production design for stage and screen at university, which is like theatre and costume design. I got a job at Shepperton Studios, but London wasn’t for me and so I came back home and searched for ages for the right job. I wanted something that meant I could use my creativity and love for design. I saw the role at Fired Earth and wanted it so much. I had a really good feeling and was really nervous about not getting it. I never knew I could love a job as much as this.”

FE: Describe your store’s atmosphere in three words.

”Inspiring, bright (the people and the actual space, because we’ve just had it redecorated) and innovative. Our store in Northallerton is a bit different to some of the others because of our big refurb. It still looks very Fired Earth, but there are lots of differences, like the paint display I designed with a local joiner. It’s hand-made and painted in our deep Carragheen colour. Our customers love it. Above, I had our 120 colours put on the wall, so when you stand in front of it with a paint card, it’s laid out in the same order so you can look up and see everything really clearly. It’s completely immersive. We have two traditional bathrooms and one contemporary one with our egg-shaped Kyoto bathtub – it’s so lovely to touch because it has this chalky, matte texture. I also had a mixture of our Mosaic tiles laid in strips on the walls. And under the stairs, we’ve turned it into a Victorian-style cloakroom with Chequer’s Court tiles – our gorgeous white and black marble ones. I try to make sure our showroom is somewhere that presents different ways to use our products, because that’s what makes people feel more inspired and confident.”

FE: What’s the highlight of your day at Fired Earth?

“Working with my team. We all have our strengths and know what one another is good at and I find that a really collaborative and supportive environment. They’re just great.”

FE: If you had to choose one thing that you’d say is the best part of your job, what would it be and why?

“That one’s easy – our customers. They’re why I’m here after all. I believe in working very closely with them, because they generally spend 30-40 minutes in the store per visit. It means you really get to know one another, and can build a strong relationship. I remember one customer in particular who’d had such a tough time and came to us to say he wanted to start afresh and needed our advice. He gave me the biggest hug when we’d finished his kitchen. He was so grateful and those moments make my job the loveliest one in the world.”

FE: And the most challenging part?

Leaving the office on time! There’s always so much to do, and so much I want to do. I’ll always push for more. Even if I’m in the gym, I’m the person that wants to do an extra minute on the treadmill so that it’s more than I did last time, and I’m the same at work. It might be 6pm and I’ll start thinking over the day and all of my ideas, and suddenly it’s getting on for 8pm and my husband’s calling me saying, are you going to come home? He knows what I’m like. Even on my days off he says that all I talk about is Fired Earth!"

FE: Pick a favourite Fired Earth product and tell us what makes it special for you?

“We have these taps called Empire and they’re absolutely beautiful. They’re hand-made in England from solid brass and polished by hand at the most incredible factory who’ve been specialising in it for decades. I’ve been to visit and it took my breath away. It feels like you’ve gone back in time. Most things just aren’t made like that any more, and I loved seeing the young apprentices learning from the masters. Some of them are well into their seventies like you hear of on Saville Row, teaching the next generation. The taps themselves and their story is brilliant. They’ll never rust and you’ll love them forever – I know I will.”

FE: If you were designing your dream bathroom for your own home, what Fired Earth products would be at the top of your wish list?

“I’m actually doing my dream bathroom at the moment. We filled our last place with Fired Earth and it sold within a day. Now we’re in a Victorian property and I’m chomping at the bit. So far, we’ve got the Easthampton marble tiles in the bathroom – they’re so classic and the quality’s second to none, because we specially select our marble from the quarry. My style is traditional with a twist, so for the shower area, I’m thinking of our Iridescent Glass Mosaic tiles in Kaleidoscope Frost. They’re made from recycled glass bottles and finished with our secret lustre that’s totally unique to Fired Earth. I always describe the frosted finish as looking like falling snowflakes. I’m hoping to get them past the husband! I’d have our Boston slipper bath too, which is an unusual shape because it’s got a straight, flat bottom rather than the usual curve so you can get it close to the wall. And then my Empire taps – obviously!”

 FE: And finally, what would you say is your favourite memory from your time at Fired Earth?

I’d have to say our first real event that took place in September just gone. It was to celebrate our refurb. It took quite a few months of really hard work and so seeing it look as lovely as it did and welcoming over 70 people through the door was a moment that I felt really proud. It’s even nicer when you hear your customers, from the loyal regulars to new faces, saying how much they love it. It felt like everything had paid off and I know it’s only going to get better and better.”

Published at: 09-06-2019