It is always a pleasure to meet someone with a passion for what they do and Natalia Willmott is no exception.
Natalia is the eye behind the very stylish L’Atelier; a curatorial force that combines and exhibits an array of unique design pieces all under her own exquisite brand. “There’s an art to displaying object, it puts them in a context and creates an aspiration you didn’t know you had.”
Because her background is antique textiles, she lends this fascination largely to fabrics but not to huge window displays: “I like cushions and little details: a nice chair can really change your décor.” She upholsters her own things and for other people using traditional methods and the love behind every piece she selects is apparent. “I try and find clothes with a different feel, not on trend but maybe trendsetting!”
The items Natalia exhibit (and sells) are eclectic, well made, well designed and all have a story to tell, whether it’s ecological or a story of helping or educating people. For example, the lamps she sells are from Lebanon: they’re messages of social cohesion because they employ people of different skills and religions working in the same environment, people with disabilities. She is inspired to therefore source her items from everywhere: "some from a long tome ago, some from auction, some on her travels, a lot in France, a few trade fairs, things like that." Everywhere Natalia goes she keeps her eyes open. It is one of these journeys that led her to York.
The lamps Natalia sells are from Lebanon: they're messages of social cohesion, employing people of different skills and religions working in the same environment.
Natalia is of British origin but lived in France and went to school and University there, coming to the UK for an MA where she met her husband, thus coming full circle and deciding to stay. She went on to work for seven years in antique textiles and Islamic art in "a very high-end gallery in the West End. My first boss at the Francesca Gallery took me everywhere, I met collectors, went to auctions, did accounts, wrote, did some selling, went to a lot of big fairs in New York and Olympia… I enjoyed all that a lot!”
It is these connections and the expertise and knowledge Natalia gained that caused her to go it alone, a journey which brought her to York, the place which is now inspiring the work she creates and the inspiration behind her first fully collaborative range of jewellery: a necklace, bracelets and cufflinks featuring York’s skyline.
“When I moved here I’d only been to the city once and it took a couple of years to make really good friends, people are friendly here and I like the idea of having the beautiful skyline: every time I see the Minster it reminds me that it’s a beautiful city and we should support it: the shops, a vibrant international city and that’s why I wanted to create a York range… I put a few key landmarks in, like the station, the Minster, something Viking like this necklace. I love walking around and that’s why I wanted to create this range. I want to put it in some shops for local trade as well as tourists who want a little souvenir."
The accumulation of Natalia’s journey can be seen in the products available in shops and on the website. She also has a small exhibition on at the moment to not only showcase her work but also inspire people’s Christmas shopping. "There are also a few shops I’m looking into and who I’ll work on who could stock my wares."
So what is next for Natalia? “I’d like to collaborate more and more as the website builds up and I meet more people. I’m putting more things online and doing more social media. I want to create a couple of products unique to me and to continue doing the shows and try to develop a wider clientele, whether in London or elsewhere, develop the site and have more time to be creative and to do other things.”
Natalia offers a service not only to people who want to find great design at a range of prices, but also to those who like to socialise when looking for those hard to buy for gifts. She hosts a local market that everyone is welcome to come along to. To see what all the fuss is about and gauge a greater understanding of what Natalia offers, go down to Cotswold House this weekend.Visit Natalia's website here