Interview : Marcelle Chownes Dove of Martha & Me

Martha & Me artisan collection - ceramics

Today I would like to share a really lovely online shop with you. Martha & Me is run by a good friend of mine, Marcelle, who lives locally in Devon. We’ve known each other for a good few years now and our daughters are roughly the same age. Marcelle used to own the deli next to where I used to work and we grew to be friends throughout our pregnancies and the turmoil of motherhood.

We also share a love of interiors. So when she told me she was thinking of starting a new online business I was so excited for her. Over the past few months, I’ve watched her as she’s sourced all the products for her shop and we even went to Maison & Objet together back in September, which was great fun!

So I thought I’d share this great new shop with you and what better way to do that than through an interview with Marcelle so we can get an insight into her ethos, her style and what Martha & Me has to offer.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I’ve always been more artistic than academic and decided when I finished school that I’d rather go to Art college than do more conventional studying. After looking at the various courses available I opted for a two year General Art & Design course which meant I could try all the different elements on offer and I loved it!

After completing this and deciding I was more of a maker than an artist, I went on to do an upholstery and soft furnishings course. My interest in interiors had started in my early teens.

During a day trip with the college to London, I spotted a job vacancy advert in the window of Designers Guild on the Kings Road (this was pre-internet days!) and applied. I got the job and at 19 moved to London and spent the next three years working in the showroom, creating schemes for customers.

The experience was fantastic for me but I had a craving to be out and about more, so then applied for a job as a Rep for Abbott and Boyd in Chelsea Harbour. Their first rep and my first repping job which was slightly terrifying but hugely exciting. Whilst I was there, I was headhunted by a French fabric company called Lelievre and went on to work for them for three years. To be able to work with such beautiful collections of fabrics and to travel to France to see the production was an added bonus.

After seven years of driving around the UK for work and living in London, I decided to leave to be with my boyfriend, who’s now my husband, and I retrained to be a florist.

Martha & Me artisan collection - wooden chopping boards

Are you originally from Devon? And if not, how did you come to be living here?

I’m not originally from Devon, but we came down to visit friends in 1999 while we were looking for premises to set up our new Deli/Florist business. We completely fell in love with Dartmouth and moved down to continue our search.

As luck would have it we happened to be in the right place at the right time and found our dream shop. We then went on to set up the business together and ran it for 11 years, amazingly without falling out!

Martha & Me artisan collection - cosy blankets

When did you first discover your love of interiors?

My love of interiors probably started in my early teens as my Mum has always been really keen on interior design, and it’s something we still share a passion for today. I love the creative side of pulling all the elements together to create a comfortable but stylish interior.

Martha & Me artisan collection - hanging planters

Can you tell us about Martha & Me and how it started?

Martha & Me started with my desire to find really well-made products, preferably made locally, that I could pull together in one place. I’d had four years of being a full-time mum and decided that once my daughter went to school I’d love to have a job that was exciting and that I was passionate about.

How would you describe your personal style when it comes to interiors? 

My own personal style tends to lean towards simple, uncluttered interiors, highlighted with beautiful art and accessories. For me accessories don’t have to be like the hugely expensive ones often seen in magazines, you can make a home look beautiful without spending a fortune.

Martha & Me artisan collection - cosy blankets on a bed

Is this reflected in the products that you stock?

My love of well made, good quality pieces I think is reflected on my website with a range from makers and designers who have their own story to tell.

Martha & Me artisan collection - placemats

What is your favourite product that you stock and why?

One of my favourite makers is Jeannett from Pippi and Me Ceramics. Her work is so tactile and simple in a beautiful range of soft colours and perfect for everyday use. I have two of her hanging lampshades as bedside lights.

Where do you find your inspiration and where do you look to source new products for your shop?

I’m always on the lookout for new pieces and products that I haven’t come across before, generally at pop-ups or exhibitions. One of my all-time favourite fairs is the Bovey Contemporary Craft Fair held every year in Bovey Tracey. The standard of work is so high and there’s such an amazing cross-section of makers. Perfect for scouting out new talent.

Martha & me artisan collection - cosy blanket on a sofa

What do you love most about living in Devon and how has it influenced your approach to Martha & Me?

I love living in Devon as we have the best of both the countryside along with stunning beaches, what more could you want? The people are also really interesting as a lot have left a faster-paced life to come and enjoy a slightly less frenetic existence.

I think living here has really influenced my approach to the website due to the fact there are so many artisan makers in the West Country and my aim is to feature a small selection on my site.

Martha & Me artisan collection - wooden chopping boards

What are your long-term goals for Martha & Me and do you have any exciting plans?

My aim in the long term is to grow the business and create a real online presence of curated, affordable stylish interior and lifestyle products that I believe in and love.

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