Design Life: Bernie O’Sullivan on building a sustainable craft shop

Name: Bernie O’Sullivan

Occupation: Co-founder of Forest & Flock

What’s your background?

For most of my adult life, I have worked in hospitality. This is where I learned my most valuable skills that make me who I am today.

I returned to live in my hometown Bantry, just over seven years ago. Little did I know then where I would be today! Forest & Flock first took form in December 2017, as a 30-day pop-up. Megan Clancy, Áine Crowley, Maeve Murphy and I were the four brains behind it. It was a magical experience and when it came to our last day, I knew that this was most definitely only the beginning. Maeve and I opened our permanent venture to celebrate Irish craft and design in May 2018.

What’s a typical workday like for you?

My day begins with a coldwater swim. I joined a lovely crew of sea swimmers last December. It’s the best place to keep your head clear, and valuable time in preparation for the day.

Our shop hours run from 9.30am to 6.30pm. You can’t beat the feeling of opening your own front door to the public each morning.

I am there almost every day, and this allows me to get first-hand feedback on the overall shop, the work and make strong customer relations. Throughout the day, I keep in touch with the artists, build on our social media presence, and remain open to what the day itself brings. In our first year it has been lessons of prioritising, patience, and adaptability, in line with building a sustainable craft shop.

Tell us about a recent/favourite project or design you have worked on?

The setting up of Forest & Flock is my greatest love so far. Our building is a sub-section of that which was once Supervalu in the town. Working with this structural space was challenging. I started at the basics: we had oceans of space and light and did not feel the need to clutter this.

Comfort, style, connection and aesthetically inspiring were at the forefront of my design. When surrounded by delicate and original art, there can be at times a sense of fear, or of not understanding — the set-up of Forest & Flock aims to alter this. I also ensured that the customer experience of the shop remains completely wheelchair and buggy-accessible, and our kids’ table lends itself to a relaxed, family-friendly visit.

Bean Dolan (Beantree Woodwork) is responsible for our spacious purpose-built tiered shelving, and our adorned counter. This is the biggest piece of art in the shop; a Macrocarpa solid countertop with an aerial view of Bantry Bay on its front. It is our meeting point of the shop.

What’s your design style?

Non-fussy, honest and authentic — I am instinctively drawn to a mix of classic and vintage.

What/who inspires your work?

I am a firm believer that there is the right place for everything. That is why I love the challenge and beauty of curating the shop. I am also inspired by the human self. We all have the power within us to be our best self, and to use our best skills. When you see more people doing this for themselves, as you do in West Cork, you are inspired to back yourself a bit too.

What’s your favourite trend at the moment (if you have any)?

You can’t beat unique and personal style — this is what I constantly seek.

What’s your most treasured possession?

My vintage writing desk at home, it’s where I am my most creative self, and where sometimes I just muse about life!

Who would be your favourite designer, or style inspiration?

I love the skills some people have with the natural world: I am forever admiring the works of Jill Wild, Ruth Fortune, and Hanako Floristry.

What would be a dream project for you to work on?

I’m driven by all that I’ve learned in my hospitality years and I’d love to add an additional element to Forest & Flock once it’s ready.

Have you any design tips for us?

Work in harmony with what you are naturally given. Sometimes less is more. Enjoy colour.

- www.forestandflock.ie

- Instagram: @forestandflock

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