During the end of a long and beautiful Austrian summer in 2013 we decided to pack up our flat and drive back to the south west of England in a small Kangoo combi van in late August. We made it and returned to Jacks old bedroom at his parents. After living independently for the last 8 years, this was a difficult move. I had no job, no exact plans and a small pot of savings.
My dear friend managed to lend me a empty office space at the dental surgery she worked at free of charge and so this was to be my new "studio" for the next 4 months. Amongst book cover designs, ambulance signage, branding projects, furniture design, tea-towel printing and more I was longing for a place of my own to work from, somewhere to lay roots and start a fresh.
The only place I ever wanted to return to after Austria was the coast of Falmouth, Cornwall. After studying here for 3 years I longed to return one day, I just didn't think it would be this soon.
So the house hunt began! Jack and I started looking for small 2 bed cottages on the outskirts of Falmouth and came across the beautiful, historic town of Penryn. We chatted to the locals, found out about the new Arts festival, farmers markets, art studios, deli's, pubs and general community spirit and knew we could live here.
However, here is the thing, there were no affordable 2 bed cottages with a garden, it was a dream house we had invented hoping one would pop up on the market in our price-range. Instead I found a 200 year old, 3 story town house on the high street, that once used to be an old sweet shop. It was in need of desperate TLC and was calling out for someone to love it. It was to be our first house viewing ever and neither of us were expecting what was behind that front door!
A tired, worn-out house with HUGE amounts of potential! A humongous project, needing a lot of labour, attention and time. After our first viewing we fell in love, all I wanted to do was care for this building and bring it back to life. We put in an offer that same day and in December 2013 it was ours.
It was the 17th of December and 2 weeks after our exchange when I saw CAT Footwear running "Break New Ground" a competition giving someone the possibility to live their dream. It was a tweet explaining what you would do with financial help to help live your dream.
This was mine -
"To turn an 18th century sweetshop into a student workshop and exhibition space, showroom and shop for emerging creative talent"
It was the first thing I envisioned when entering the house for the first time back in October 13, the potential of that front room. The location. The students. The talent. But it was a vision I had for much further down the line when the house was in a liveable state and we had raised the money to invest in such a project. But that all changed on the 24th of January 2014 when CAT footwear announced I had won the competition, I was so overwhelmed, excited and in shock I just stayed awake all night taking notes and making plans for it was on that day Sweet 76 was born!
It has now been 3 months and we have been working every day on the house, new floors, walls, ceilings. The whole house needed stripping and plastering. We ripped up all the rotten old carpet and laid recycled newspaper pallet slats for floorboards. Built our kitchen from donated wood. Spent hours on gumtree and at the recycling centres thrifting everything we could. We had such incredible help from friends and family to help speed up the process. A whole new heating system, boiler, shower (moving in December in an empty home with no heating or shower for a month was definitely testing!)
It is now the start of May and the sun is shining and I can for the first time sit in my living room without wearing shoes with fear of stepping on a nail or wood splinter. Its been a long process but we now have the house in a liveable state and we are about to start the major works on the workshop. The concrete needs a new coating and polishing. We need to plaster the walls and ceiling, install the new lights and shelving and start ordering printing materials in time for our launch at the 2nd Penryn Arts Festival. I am about to start designing the Festival flyer! I will record the details throughout the next 2 months with photos and updates with the aim to have Sweet 76 ready in the second week of July. Hosting workshops, exhibiting art, zines, books, serving cakes, coffee and friendly banter. Stay posted!