The Island Shop and Barbara Finsness
So reflects local designer, Barbara Finsness. While she insists that her own home is not a “showpiece”, still many consider her the Martha Stewart of Bermuda. Equally creative and business savvy, she has been inspiring homemakers across the island and abroad with her beautifully curated shops. From a humble start-up selling designs from her dining room table, she now owns three boutique storefronts from Queen Street in Hamilton, on Somers Wharf in St. George’s and within the Southampton Fairmont Hotel wherein there exists an eclectic mix of her own designs and other imported treasures.
“Customers tell me I have a beautiful shop and I think they are responding to the colour and coordination of the products within the space” she says, grateful to have found success in Bermuda’s small, competitive market. Her background in architecture and subsequent eye for interior design have helped her find a niche between Bermuda’s art and retail industries. This year she celebrates fifteen years in business and her popular, Bermuda based designs have become nearly as iconic as the subjects they reference. From the island’s unique architecture to its flora and fauna, her signature designs are easy to recognize, manifested across an array of modish home décor.
In today’s digital age she honors the dignity of hand drawn and hand made items. Meticulously hand painting each design she employs artisans from around the world to execute the products. In her travels she collaborates with those most suited to translate her ideas for our market here. You’ll find a large selection of ceramics within her stores that are produced in Italy using ancient Roman techniques. Her linens are silk screened and hand blocked in an equally classic way in India. The Island Shop stores also showcase metal pieces from Haiti and wooden utensils and frames from Africa, reflected in her thinking – “We need outside influences and help to survive, art and business must think globally now if we are to succeed.”
Shipping is a big part of the business and anything that is purchased in the store can be couriered directly and all of her wares are available online through her website www.islandexports.com. She also has a “look book“ in the works along with future plans to appeal to a local market that is asking for a more sophisticated, neutral palette, a bit less “beachy” and “resort”. “This new direction might have more subtle colorations but it will still co-ordinate with something you may have bought in my store five years ago, and I will continue to have my whimsical, bright , resort classic collections.”
Many of her products are limited edition collectibles, particularly the ceramics, including her America’s Cup trophy hand painted platters. “After next summer I will no longer be able to sell any of these specially licensed items, there will be a limited amount painted, some by custom order. There will be other nautical themed ceramics I will produce for next year but nothing again like the America’s Cup trophy ceramic pieces, they are all hand painted, not mass produced.”
Other items depicting her particular interpretation of the gloriously reflective America’s Cup trophy include tea towels, coasters and trays, cocktail napkins and stationery.