Lifestyle store Shrimp’s House founder reflects on her student experience
Former student Elle Judge is the curator and founder of Shrimp’s House, a homewares and lifestyle store that works with independent makers to create exclusive, limited edition collaborations, see a selection of products in the gallery below, all whilst championing environmental and sustainable practices.
We caught up with Elle, pictured below, to find out more about the exciting new creative business she launched at the start of lockdown in March and her time as a student at The Northern School of Art.
What course did you study and when did you leave us?
I studied a Foundation Arts course for 1 year at the Hartlepool campus after completing my A-Levels. My Mum wasn’t exactly thrilled at me moving into studying arts, as she had big dreams of me becoming a lawyer, but realised it was probably the only thing I was really good at. I’m not exactly the most academic of people and have always been on the more creative side. I was already photographing local bands in Middlesbrough at this point, so it seemed like a good next move if I was going to apply for a photography course at Uni. I graduated in 2005, which makes me feel super old to admit!
Can you tell us a few things you’ve been up to since graduating?
Since graduating I’ve spent about 13 years of my life living in London, working in the Music industry. I started out interning at record labels while I was studying Fashion Photography at London College of Fashion, and it all kind of snowballed from there. I’m pretty sure if you’d asked 18 year old me if I’d be side of stage at every music festival going, hanging out with the bands from the Rolling Stones to Arctic Monkeys, I probably would have laughed at you. It’s not really something kids from our area even dreamed about being able to do. They’re big name drops, I know, but I think growing up in the North we’re not really encouraged into the arts much. At least, we weren’t. So jobs like that, experiences like that, only ever seemed like nice things other lucky people got to do.
How do you feel The Northern School of Art has prepared you for work in industry?
The course was a huge learning curve, while we had a lot of fun we were treat like adults. No one sugar coated anything or promised us the Turner Prize, the tutors supported our interests but left it to us to do the work without holding our hands too much. I can’t speak for everyone’s experience with their parents, but I do feel like the tutors were the people we needed, with the encouragement we needed, to teach us that there was actually lots of different ways we could lead a creative life and pay the bills. That support is crucial while you’re still trying to figure out who you are, what you want your art to say or if you even want to say anything at all!
Did you enjoy your course?
I’m not just saying this because I’m speaking to you, but honestly, it was the best year of my life. I’m sure give the chance, some of our then tutors would disagree given how wild we could be! But I’d never been given creative freedom before or been surrounded by people who encouraged it and shared that enthusiasm. They wanted us to succeed within the arts where before, in school or college it was always seen as just an ‘add on’ course for fun., At times the tutors really pushed us when it all got a bit tough, especially when it came to Uni applications and getting our portfolios together. But it’s very rare, even now, to find somewhere that allows you to explore different mediums within the arts, or even exposes you to the different opportunities and paths you can take within the industry. My course did that, it was a great experience. Plus, I found one of my best friends on that course too, despite her staying up North and me moving to London, we’re still super close.
What was your favourite thing about your studies with us?
The photography lab was my favourite place at the Hartlepool campus, I’m not sure if it’s still there or not. Phil, our old tutor would probably not wish to relive the memories of being locked in there on occasion or us hiding in there to scare him (sorry, Phil!) But we had a lot of fun in that room, it has very good memories! I did learn a lot too, I discovered so much more about art than I thought I would. Anything we wanted to do, creatively, there was always a way to explore it, no one ever really said no or tried to steer an idea down a different path either. We were really allowed to get stuck in and explore whatever it was we were feeling, which is something you don’t really get to do in school.
What’s been a career highlight?
Probably touring around Europe with bands, it was certainly an eye opening experience! But more recently, starting my own business in the shape of Shrimp’s House, which is an online interiors and lifestyle store. I spent so much of my career working for other people, it took a leap of faith to work for myself. It’s nowhere near as easy as I thought it would be, but working from home and staying in my PJ’s all day if I’m feeling lazy is quite a nice perk! I also get to stay in the arts, as I work along side and collaborate with some brilliant independent makers to curate a great mix of hand made ceramics for the shop.
Have you got anything in the pipeline you can tell us about?
It’s in the development stages at the moment, but I’m busily working behind the scenes on the shops own brand of interior products. Hopefully, it will do well and I can start to sell wholesale under the shops own label. It means I’m having to get back into the design side of things, but it’s been really fun to get stuck into a more art driven side of the business!
What advice would you give our current students or anyone thinking of studying a creative course?
The course you choose will not be your job for the rest of your life, you will find new paths and new opportunities. There’s so much pressure to pick one thing and stick at it forever, or at least that’s how we all felt when we left college. I started in photography, moved into music management and ended up an independent business owner! But I think, given the change you should absolutely explore a creative course. There’s a lot to be learned from being around people who ‘get’ you and share your interests, I think you grow a lot from keeping an open mind and seeing where that creativity takes you too. Plus, I don’t think most adults really give the younger generation (there I go showing my age again) the opportunity to explore their interests or passions, especially in the arts but I’d say, got for it, prove them wrong.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Probably, just an apology to our old photography tutor, Phil. Sorry for calling you Joe 90 and writing My Chemical Romance lyrics all over your whiteboard every day! I hope you can forgive us!
Shrimp’s House offers a range of limited edition collaborations as well as slow design items handcrafted by emerging, independent designers. The business also actively supports women-owned brands and makers. Its aim is to “bring a little bit of fun and colour into homes, inspire interior creativity or simply brighten someone’s day”. Take a closer look at https://shrimpshouse.com/
Elle studied on our Foundation course which now runs at our Middlesbrough campus. This unique course is designed for post A-level (or equivalent) 18-year-old students, to provide a transitionary year between 6th form/college and creative degrees at university Find out more at: https://northernart.ac.uk/study-with-us/middlesbrough-campus/a-level-ual-diploma-access-hnd-courses/ual-foundation-diploma-art-design/