Walking into Casper is a pleasant experience. The interior is compact enough to be cosy, yet afforded an airy atmosphere by the soothing, freshly-painted pastel blue walls. Owner Helen Owen was quick to say that she wanted it to be an environment that customers would feel comfortable to amble around in.
“The thing I really wanted in my shop was for it to be accessible to lots of different people. We’ve got a selection of more high-end pieces for those who like splashing out, and then we’ve got more affordable, fun things if someone’s browsing and doesn’t want to spend more a fiver,” she explained.
Helen moved to Bristol eight years ago, and thought North Street was a perfect place for her dream shop. “It’s ideal. It’s near the tobacco factory and there are lots of nice restaurants and bars. There are so many independent businesses opening along here, I think it’s becoming a really interesting space and I wanted to be part of that,” she said.
Casper is a primarily a home furnishings shop, but the range of products for sale is impressive: from prints and furniture, to children’s products, jewellery, cards, cushions and cacti. Many of the items on sale are designed by artists hoping to move up the ranks, offering fresh new products to Bristolians with a finger on the pulse, while also giving artists space to showcase their work.
As well as selling the work of up-and-coming artists in the shop, Helen also hopes to offer them support. “I used to work helping young people getting their dream jobs, so part of what I wanted to do was to help the next generation,” Helen says. “A lot of them haven’t actually sold commercially yet.”
She tried to pick out a couple of favourite products in the myriad colourful items on the shelves, but it proved difficult. “I love them all!” she exclaimed. In the end, Helen selected minimalist screen prints by a local artist Ed Jones of Iduna Design Co, which have a clean, Scandinavian feel, high-quality bags and cushions with bright and fun designs by Jenny Sibthorp, and house plants that were grown by Little Green Bristol.
Casper is also hosting a pop-up exhibition curated by Paper Folds until November 5 in their separate gallery space. Paper Folds, run by Nick Sutton, will showcase the work of four local artists: Jamie Rawlings, Nate Sanger-Davies, Sophie Willoughby and Dale Mail. Helen hopes the space will be used as a gallery space available to hire on a monthly basis.
“Opening a shop was something I’ve been wanting to do for a really long time, and I just thought I’d go for it now,” Helen said. And where does the name of the shop come from? “Casper was the name of one of the three wise men in the bible, and the word means ‘treasurer’ – a collector of treasure,” Helen explained. “This felt right for the shop because of the range of different exciting products we’ve got. Plus, I wanted something simple that didn’t give anything away!” It’s certainly a great fit.