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The Sheffield culture guide written by in-the-know locals

Labrador

Labrador caught our attention before they even set up shop, thanks to their beautiful logo. No, not a dog, but a simple, three-tiered, twig-like form. The logo, it turns out, is based on the black spruce tree, common to Canada's Labrador region and thought to represent past hardships, hope for the future, and unity between people. Visually, it perfectly summarises the range of goods in this online shop – a meeting of craft, simplicity, playfulness and geometry.

Established by Pippa Cook, Labrador stocks everything from wonderfully minimalist wooden 3D jigsaws to its own line of handmade necklaces, strung with ceramic shapes.

Pippa has a background in curation, and with Labrador she swaps the gallery world for the domestic. As well as picking out products that align with character she's creating for the shop – blankets by Utrecht-based Forestrywool, earthy bowls by Yorkshire Artspace-based Pottery West – she also works with artists on limited edition commissions for the home. The first Labrador Edition is a quilt by Sheffield-based Natalie Finnemore, elegantly made up of watercolour-printed panels, and we can't wait to see what comes next.

How would you describe your work?
Labrador is an online home and lifestyle store. As well as stocking small-run and handmade pieces directly from makers, we also commission contemporary artists to create limited edition objects for the home. This aspect is particularly important to us as we can support artists to work in new ways and offer thoughtful and unique pieces that act as modern heirlooms. All of our products play with material and process and combine a strong sense of craftsmanship with a simple approach to living.

What inspires you?
My background in sculpture and curating are probably the biggest influences on Labrador. After working with contemporary artists for the last six or seven years, we’ve got a great network of artist-friends around us. Working with artists was always the best part of the job and it’s something I really wanted to continue at Labrador, so the limited editions project became a big part of the plan. That history has also helped shape our visual approach, which gives us a unique perspective when finding collaborators and products.

What are you currently working on?
We’ve just launched a new line of jewellery, handmade by us at this great ceramics studio on John Street – Blue Elephant Pottery. We’re currently producing four designs but are looking at launching a limited edition necklace in the summer. Fellow Sheffielders Nathalie Bond Organics are now up on the site and we’re working on another new limited edition with Pottery West, which is something really special so watch this space. But before all that, we’re launching a range of ceramics by Tilly Hemingway– she’s the daughter of legendary Wayne Hemingway, so you know it’s going to be great.

What’s your desk or workspace like?
We like to mix it up a bit, so even though our attic is fully dedicated to Labrador it’s nice to get out and about – working in cafes or friends’ studio spaces and, of course, spending time at the ceramics studio. We do all of the product shoots from our house in Meersbrook – it’s nice to root the products in a real home setting, but moving all the furniture out to get full-length shots definitely confuses the dog.

What do you love about Sheffield?
The people. Labrador has been 100% a team effort, and we couldn’t have gotten here without a lot of support from a lot of people. Logo by Jon Cannon, website by Richard Cook, photos by Jules Lister (technically he’s from Leeds but he should be an honorary Sheffielder for all the work he does here) and of course, our first limited edition was by Natalie Finnemore, based at S1 Artspace. There are so many more that we couldn’t have got this going without, so for us, they are our favourite thing about Sheffield.

What would you do to improve the city?
The people here in Sheffield do a great job of supporting each other but for me, this isn’t backed up by a supportive city council or philanthropic business sector, as exists in other regional cities. The arts makes this city one of the best in the UK but it won’t survive another generation of massive under-funding.

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