I discovered Outside the Shape at the end of 2019 as the owner, Francesca Berretti-Bullen, was re-opening her boutique shop in the vibrant community of Marda Loop, Calgary. When I stepped into her shop for the first time, I fell in love with the magical space she had created with a stunning collection of locally curated goods from makers and artists. Her shop was filled with jewellery, unique cards and art work, organic shampoo and conditioner bars, candles, decorative pillows, clutches, clothes, ceramics, and so much more to make your home and life a beautiful sanctuary.
I am very fortunate Francesca took a chance on me as an artist and welcomed my ceramics into her shop. Over the past year, it's been a pleasure watching customers connect with my ceramics at Outside the Shape.
This summer Francesca and I decided to launch a product collaboration - ceramic wall planters for your home. Each wall planter is handcrafted with porcelain through a handbuilding process - slabs of clay imprinted with textured patterns are used to build the planter. All planters are fully glazed making them waterproof. They are perfect to hang on any wall for fresh cut flowers, little succulents or even propagating cuts. I absolutely loved the creative process of working on this product together and watching it come to life. We are currently accepting pre-orders for the wall planters, shop here.
I decided to ask Francesca a few questions, so you as customers and followers have the opportunity to get to know her and Outside the Shape a bit better, and understand why I
chose to have my ceramics in her shop. Trust me you'll fall in love with her boutique, curated goods, and shop dog, George, once you've read this post.
Jenna: What inspired you to launch Outside the Shape (OTS)?
Francesca: I decided to open the shop four years ago when I saw a huge need for more small local shops with curated unique goods. I really wanted to give local artists and creators a place to build community, and an opportunity to get their goods out into the world. As the times have changed and there are numerous new “local” shops opening up it became clear that the market is becoming saturated and it was time for a fresh new approach to the shop and our offerings. I am so excited for the next chapter of OTS and to work on getting creative with the boutique again, both offline and online.
Jenna: The name 'Outside the Shape', what does this mean?
Francesca: I was so stuck on a name when it came to opening the shop. I really wanted a name that was not self-explanatory! I wanted the name to make people go “what is that? What does it mean?” I wanted the name to be able to start a conversation! What I was doing at the time was very unique so I kept circling back to being and thinking outside the box, but that wasn’t a great name, so when I started designing the logo and working with shapes, it just sort of fell into place. I also knew deep down that the business would change and evolve over time and I wanted a brand name that was flexible, and adaptable to change and growth.
Jenna: Where do you discover the curated goods for your shop and talented artists?
Francesca: Instagram! I wish it was a cooler way but honestly social media is just such a powerful platform for artists to showcase their work. I also love going to markets and scouting out new talent. However, one of my favourite things over the last year, while I have been expanding on brands from throughout North America, is finding brands and artists I love while traveling. One day, I would love to go on a huge buying trip through North America and Europe - that would be the dream.
Jenna: COVID brought several challenges to local artists and businesses. You made the decision quickly to transition your shop online. What was involved with making that shift? How has it transformed your business?
Francesca: Ah COVID. Covid was probably one of the biggest blessings in disguise for me. I knew instantly I needed to close the shop and because I was luckily not tied to a long lease I was able to jump ship and pivot pretty quickly. The brick and mortar to online was a 24hr whirlwind where I literally packed everything up and moved the shop online. I really had to push myself in a new direction, in ways that I had been avoiding for years. But I knew that I wanted to keep the brand and shop alive so it was sink or swim. I absolutely love running things from home, I have been really mindful to slow down and take the time to come back to my initial “why” and what parts of the business I love while re-evaluating some of the things that were no longer working for me. It’s been a steep learning curve and I am still in the thick of it but I adore the new direction of where my business is headed.
Jenna: As well as being a shop owner, you are also an artist. Can you share what artistic projects you're currently working on and how you've developed these skills?
Francesca: Its really funny as I have never considered myself an artist per say. I just love to be creative - I always have. It’s my therapy. I feel like I am a creative ADD because I never stick to one medium, a jack of all trades but master of none. I just love learning new things and I am self-taught with everything I do. I will often flip between working with textiles, to flowers, to jewelry, to self-care products and back again. This season I really want to bring more of my dried floral art to the online shop as well as a few self-care body products that have been in the pipeline for a while now. But honestly, who knows, that could all change tomorrow. The life of a creative brain I suppose!
Jenna: What's the favorite part of your day?
Francesca: I love my slow cup of coffee in bed first thing when I wake up, my dog walks with George, and my bedtime ritual of candles, turning on my diffuser and reading my book before I go to sleep. The rest of the day usually blurs into a big lump of my never ending to do lists!
Quick Rapid Fire:
1) Favorite flower: This summer daisies!
2) One place you want to travel: Bali
3) Who would play you in the movie of your life: Oh man, maybe Hayden Panettiere! She is short, feisty, blonde, and a bit crazy.
4) Current song on repeat: Anything off Taylor Swifts new folklore album
5) Patio beverage of choice: Bubbles all the time, always
Outside the Shape is now a fully online boutique - make sure to check out the shop, you're bound to find a few treasures.
Love + Magical Spaces