pOt and vessel – making your life greener
Pot and Vessel is the beautiful plant shop based on Dover Road and run by Rachel James. The shop was rather accidental, Rachel needed a workshop to store her plants for corporate interiors and needed a window to let in light. People started knocking at the door wanting to buy the plants they could see and now she mixes shop trade with home and corporate interior work. Folkelife went along for some plant advice and to find out her story.
“I was born in Sweden, and made a roundabout journey to the UK but arrived in Folkestone at the age of 10. I could tell you stories of running the gauntlet journey from school to home dressed in one school uniform, trying not to be had by a rival school. It’s the usual story! But I went off to University and worked in London and around the world for a while before rediscovering Folkestone.
“I had popped back at Christmas to see my mum who was still living in Folkestone and fell in love with a flat that had it been in London would have been millions – or certainly a lot more than here. My job at the time involved lots of travelling so I bought it with the plan of storing my stuff here. There were interesting things happening in Folkestone and I thought I wanted to keep an eye on what was going on. This was in 2007, and The Old High Street was coming alive with the work that Sir Roger De Haan had been doing in the Creative Quarter.”
Folkestone is green and beautiful
“I had always thought of Folkestone as being green and beautiful and my flat is in the west end of the town. There are lots of squares around there and little pockets of green pop up all over the place.
“I was an art director for a stock library in London and the financial crash of 2008 happened. My company got bought out, I had just had my first son and so was on enforced maternity leave for a year. But, my discovery was that Folkestone is a really good place to bring up a child, especially a boy. There’s so much space to run – and when they start running, well, mine didn’t stop.
“I quickly fell pregnant with my second son and so going back to work in London just wasn’t going to happen. So, I got a job here with Bridget at Strange Cargo. At the time they were based at the top of The Old High Street so I had this most amazing commute where I could walk to work along The Leas, drop my children off at the childminders on the way, and be at work in 15 minutes. Strolling along The Leas with that wonderful sea view was quite something. Certainly beats the 45 minute underground commute in London anyday!”
newbies moving in
“That’s what I love about the newbies moving into Folkestone. They’ve researched the town to within an inch of its existence and I am learning about paths or forests that I didn’t know about. They’ve come down here to live and are certainly making the most of it. And if that knowledge comes with the desire for decent croissants and coffee then why not? I love the vibrant energy Folkestone has now.”
pot and vessel
“The plant business came about when I had to move out of my flat when I was having some work done and I just took the essentials with me – my children and my plants. Coming from a 12 foot high ceiling’d place to a boxy bungalow meant my plants just multiplied. I have always wanted nice and interesting pots for my plants and couldn’t find anything. So the idea behind Pot and Vessel has always been to work with local ceramicists to create pots that complement the plants.
“I was always going to work on a corporate level, putting plants into work places and homes and coming in to look after them. I needed a workshop to keep the plants that had to have natural light in order for them to grow. This place on Dover Road came up, it was next door to where I am now, and had a wonderful big window which just happened to be on the street. People would see me in there and knock on the door wanting to buy plants. I had to explain that I wasn’t a shop but it didn’t stop! So in the end I relented and opened up on a Saturday.”
pop ups and lock downs
“I had done a few pop up shops in The Old High Street but there really isn’t a place there that has enough space and light for what I need. The pop ups were very successful and when this space came up I moved in and set up shop. Getting enough plants in for Mothering Sunday 2020 was my mission and then what happened? We went into Lockdown. I still had to come and water the plants so I did that as part of my exercise and in isolation.
“There were people walking past the window and I found I was getting notes through the door. I should publish them really as they were wonderful. One read ‘I got a plant from you and it’s just had a new leaf. I live by myself and don’t have anyone to tell so I thought I’d tell you.’ That was really touching. I made a real effort to change the window displays so that people had something to look at. Then I started getting requests to buy plants and drop them off in all sorts of weird and wonderful places around town. ‘We’ll leave the van doors open if you could just pop it in there…’ and so on! That kicked me into making a website and I haven’t looked back since.”