Robert Welch left the Royal College of Art in 1955. He set himself up with just his drawing board and truckle bed in a small rented room in an abandoned workshop in the 18th century Silk Mill at Chipping Camden nestled within the English Cotswold Hills.
Humble beginnings for a man whose sound design principles would eventually lead to him being awarded an MBE and a Royal Designer for Industry, the highest accolade for designers in the UK.
From the beginning, Robert was driven to design products of timeless elegant beauty which were also highly functional and affordable. This was exemplified when he pioneered the introduction of stainless steel cutlery to the UK - his first major triumph.
During this time he developed a reputation for excellence in the areas of design and manufacture, leading to a continual influx of commissions, both commercial and privately, from celebrities and royalty alike.
In the ensuing years, Robert was joined in the business by other designers, craftsmen and prototype creators. Working together, this small and dedicated team were responsible for the production of numerous iconic designs which are still enjoyed in the current day. Following this success, Robert Welch was able to expand the business over the entire top floor of the Silk Mill and open a studio shop just around the corner.
During the 1990s Robert welcomed two of his children into the team - his daughter Alice and his son Rupert, who were both instrumental in taking the business forward. Childhood years spent surrounded by design and creativity proved to be invaluable experience for Alice and Rupert who became their father’s natural successors and shaped the company’s future direction following Robert’s passing in 2000.
“Alice and I feel that the most important part of our inheritance are the design principles and philosophy we take to approach and create products. It's become the DNA of the company. We lived and breathed design as we were growing up and instinctively used that education when we joined Dad in the business nearly 30 years ago. When Dad passed away, it just wasn't questioned if we would continue to use that legacy; not by living in the past, but by building on it and evolving it even further. It is important to stay true to his original design ethos, to work with his legacy but still forge ahead”.
Today two decades later, Alice and Rupert Welch are still managing Robert Welch Designs. They continue working with their small staff of in-house designers to produce an ever-expanding collection of award-winning pieces. Throughout this time, Alice and Rupert have remained committed to their father’s design legacy, ensuring a sense of continuity pervades the modern company.
Alice:“Rupert and I discuss and consider many possible products. It would be so easy to follow fashion and respond to the trends that are out there. Dad disliked passing fashions, and talked about searching for ‘eternal values’. He was modest about giving his views on trends in design because he felt that, as he worked primarily in metal, a material which lasts and lasts, he should aim for a style that would not date.”
“Our strategy is to design for the home, specifically from the kitchen to the table, always being mindful of how people use our products. We try to remain true to his timeless aesthetics and hope that our products might stand the test of time to become heirlooms, just as his have.”
Working in the very same building where it all began over half a century ago, today’s Robert Welch team consider themselves very lucky. Robert’s dedication to the creation of beautiful, functional and timeless products is still ingrained in the company’s design DNA, ensuring his legacy endures and that every new piece created is always “Designed the Robert Welch way’.