I used to redecorate my bedroom once a year, which would irritate my mum. I’ve always had quite a maximalist, eclectic taste. I bought a flat and filled it with knick knacks I’d gathered from my travels and the butterfly taxidermy I’d started doing. Most of us grew up in a generation of being minimal – think Ikea, less is more. I’ve never been like that; I like stimulus and a lot of it.
I helped my partner Chris decorate his house, but a lot of the things I wanted I couldn’t find on the high street. You couldn’t find fine bone china covered in insects with a beautiful pattern. You could get butterfly taxidermy but it was always on a white background, with no flair to it. We decided to come up with our own brand. I’m creative and he’s more logistical, so we make a good team.
We borrow the tropes of high-end design but create products in a more affordable way, releasing products in cycles and collections. The name is inspired by an old-fashioned cabinet of curiosities. It’s about people being curious about our products as well. Our strapline is: "A small dose of high drama." We wanted to give people objects that seek attention; things that you couldn’t go into someone’s house and not ask about.
We spent £120, plus the cost of train tickets, to go to Stoke for a day and learn how to design fine bone china. We made our first samples there and launched a Kickstarter campaign that got 200% funding, which put us straight into production.
I moved in with Chris, so I had a flat that was essentially empty before renting it out. We filled the flat with products we made, and invited bloggers to stay there for free in return for content.
We ended up getting a lot of attention and followers. From there, we went to trade shows and started winning awards. The Evening Standard named us one of its "Top 10 Brands to Watch" in 2018.
If we’d had £20,000 to launch the brand, of course it would have done well, but we did it the hard way, which is quite satisfying.
The amazing thing about The Curious Department is it’s made me better at my job – I’ve learned about everything from business to how to design china and deal with influencers. When you’re a creative director, you’re so much less hands-on, but now I know what I can do.
Ross Taylor is creative director at Iris