Brand Spotlight - Q&A with ARTHOUSE Unlimited by a Sustainable Christmas Hamper Company

Louise Palmer with Artist Instructor Fiona Biddington

Credit: Arthouse Unlimited - Louise Palmer with Artist Instructor Fiona Biddington

ARTHOUSE Unlimited are a UK-based charity. They represent a collective of talented artists that live with complex neuro-diverse and physical support needs. Working with instructors, the artists work to create gorgeous designs that are then developed into designer products. They have a philosophy and foster the belief of feeling valued and respected helps health, happiness and well-being. We are excited to say they have chosen to partner with us. We are excited to have ARTHOUSE Unlimited in our gift boxes - find out how they started, their most significant milestone to date and more!We hope you enjoy this - make sure you add the soap, tea towel, and a lovely mug to your gift boxes and hampers!

Did you know: The artists’ work was selected for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in consecutive years!

How old is your company?

ARTHOUSE began in 2005 under the support of the Meath Epilepsy charity as a social enterprise working with adults with neuro-diverse and complex support needs who required varying levels of support.  It moved to its current location on Godalming High Street in 2011 and in June 2018, it became an independent charity, ARTHOUSE Unlimited. The charity presents the collective artistic skills and talents of men and women living with complex learning difficulties all of whom require varying levels of residential and personal support.

Where is Arthouse Unlimited currently based?

The charity is based in Godalming High Street in Surrey where we have a studio for the art sessions, a retail shop and offices for design and marketing of the products. There is a second location in Godalming which manages the distribution of products sold via our retail website and this premises also include our Trade and Accounts teams. For our stockist orders, we also have a distribution warehouse in Newbury which is run in collaboration with the charity Mencap. The products are currently sold in over 500 stockists across the country.

Tell us a bit of how you got started - when did you realise this is what you wanted to do?

Answered by Becky Sheraidah, CEO and Founder of ARTHOUSE Unlimited

When I started working with a similar client group within a residential home setting 20 years ago, I was really struck by individuals’ amazing personalities and the unique, raw and honest style of drawing and mark making which I knew so many mainstream artists aimed to achieve.It was clear that although each person received high-level personal support as part of a daily care package, which is essential to life, there were not a lot of options for each person to gain a true sense of purpose, feeling valued for individual skills and social integration with the local or wider community. We believe everyone should have the opportunity to access the feeling of purpose, inclusion, and value we all hold dear in our own lives which enhances better emotional health and wellbeing.

Arthouse Unlimited - Isobel Philips with design “Dogolicious”. Social Stories Club currently offers Isobel’s design as a tea towel!

Credit: Arthouse Unlimited - Isobel Philips with design “Dogolicious”. Social Stories Club currently offers Isobel’s design as a tea towel!

What’s the mission and meaning behind Arthouse Unlimited?

The core ethos of ARTHOUSE Unlimited has always been the importance of social inclusion and a sense of purpose for everyone’s emotional wellbeing.

It’s important that all people who require support have community-inclusive, accessible and purposeful opportunities available in daily life. Care is not just about the personal, medical and physical; it’s about emotional health and well-being too - for people to be recognised for their individual skills and being made to feel valued will help emotional health and wellbeing.

In order to prove to the artists 'your contribution is valued', it is vital the artists experience seeing their work being sold and developed into products, meeting the customers and receiving feedback regarding the work the artists have sold and created together as part of the ARTHOUSE Unlimited team.

As a staff team, we ensure that we can guide and support the artists to create saleable work so each design derives from artist ideas and collaboration led by art instructors and the creative director. Then the teamwork to design and produce the product ready for sale and distribution. It is very important that together we create saleable work so that the promise we make to the artists, 'your work sells', always holds true. The artists repeatedly see their work selling on consumable products which continually adds to the true sense of purpose. This is where the concept began and why collaborative work became essential in order to develop a way to ensure everyone is included and feels valued. Some artists can paint on the background and make abstract expressive marks, some artists bring ideas and humour, some artists like to work intricately with pen or pencil, some artists like to colour and create repetitive patterns, somehow, some way we can ensure everyone feels involved and included.

The sales of the work sustain the charity to offer the artists the best possible experience, service and beneficiary awards. We are not reliant on funding, therefore if we get our formulas right, we can ensure we create a solid foundation for the future and sustainability of the charity so we can offer more people more opportunities as we grow whilst the artists continually feel included, valued, purposeful and proud.

Hopefully, we are creating a platform for social change that is possible for a sustainable charity if we all work together. The artists represent just a fraction of people living with complex neurodiverse and physical support requirements.

In your industry, are there any major changes that have happened over the last couple of years?

With the global shared experience of living through a pandemic during the last two years, there is a deeper understanding of how important social inclusion and a sense of purpose is for everyone's emotional wellbeing. There used to be quite a big fear barrier but that does seem to be breaking down and people seem to be much more accepting and embracing in celebrating difference.

Hopefully, we see more people included and integrated within society and recognised for ability, individualism, and skill. Whilst all artists live with multiple conditions and require varying levels of physical, emotional, medical, learning, and personal support, we want to see accessible opportunities that help empower. We have seen people believe in their own skills, build their confidence and feel happier within themselves. And hopefully, we see this grow for the artists and the wider community. There is definitely a more positive understanding of people living with complex support needs.

What would you say is your biggest business milestone to date?

ARTHOUSE Unlimited has celebrated several achievements over the last two years (in spite of the pandemic) with the artists’ work being selected for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in consecutive years. We have also worked with international brands such as Lush and Urban Outfitters and the products are being stocked in hundreds of shops around the country. This year, we announced the appointment of small business champion and Not on the High Street founder Holly Tucker as patron of the charity.

We love your brand and are so excited about working with you! What reason did you decide to partner with Social Stories Club?

Thank you for choosing ARTHOUSE Unlimited for your brand spotlight feature. The fact that Social Stories Club partners with 30 social enterprises to create your gift hampers that are not only sustainable but have an impact with every purchase is an incredible mission and one that we wholeheartedly support as a charity ourselves.

We are at the end of our questioning, thank you so much for taking part and partnering with Social Stories Club! Our final question is - What is next for Arthouse Unlimited?

It is imperative ARTHOUSE Unlimited is based on a high street with good footfall so the artists can be in the shop front selling the work and meeting the customers as this ensures the artists feel all the benefit of being part of the community, valued, purposeful and proud. The studio is situated open plan behind the shop so all artists can see the customers coming in. A volunteer supports each artist in the shop with our buddy system and this is also an important part of inclusion: the volunteers as part of the community bring the artist to the community and the community to the artist. We are almost at the stage when we are ready to open a new shop and studio on a busy high street offering more support to a whole new group of artists and community, always with new ideas in the pipeline of how we can encourage social inclusion on a wider scale.

We currently offer three products from ARTHOUSE Unlimited! We offer their artisanal soap and just recently introduced their “Dogolicious” tea towel and “Bee Free” mug.

Visit their website and discover their story here - Arthouse Unlimited.

ARTHOUSE Unlimited can be found in many of our corporate hampers that are sustainable. If you are looking for bespoke Christmas hampers or branded corporate gifts head over to our corporate gifting hampers page. 

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