Love affair with a county inspires a business

She may be a southerner but Emma Daniel has adopted Yorkshire as her home and inspiration. Catherine Scott reports.

Emma Daniel of Grit and Gales

Emma Daniel’s lover affair with Yorkshire started three years ago when she moved to Sheffield to study graphic design.

Born and raised in Hampshire Emma says she ‘ran away’ to the North and has never looked back.

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“I come from a very academic family. I had been expected to take a place at Oxford to study politics and economics, but I realised that just wasn’t for me. I wanted to study graphic design and so I left home to study at Sheffield Hallam and haven’t really been back,” explains Emma.

Grit and Gales

“I loved it as soon as I got here. Sheffield is my home and I consider myself an adopted northerner. I just love everything about Yorkshire; the people, the landscape and the food.”

After leaving university Emma started work part-time in industry doing graphic design jobs, but again she felt it wasn’t for her.

“I’m quite opinionated and I didn’t want to do work that was going to make me unhappy or compromise my ideals,” she says.

And so Emma decided to go it alone and start her own business.

Emma Daniel competiting on her horse Rockstar

“As part of my final year at university we had to design a road sign which captured the spirit of Sheffield,” says Emma.

“I came up with my ‘Warning Northerner’ sign with a flat cap on it. It went down really well and so I thought why not turn them into textiles that people want such as canvas bags and cushions.

“They make people laugh. I thought they would just be popular with northerners but everyone seems to love them.”

And so Grit and Gales was created. Emma received help from Sheffield Hallam University’s Enterprise Team to set up her business. The Enterprise Team support any student or graduate of up to five years with advice from experts, office space, workshops and funding.

Grit and Gales

Grit and Gales produces soft furnishings and kitchen accessories with a quirky, northern edge.

Emma says her wares are produced in the North, for the North and are a celebration of North England’s unique and quirky culture.

The name of her company sums what up what Emma thinks about her adopted county.

“When I’m not designing, I’m out on the moors fell running, walking, cycling and riding her Arabian horse, Rockstar,” she says.

Emma Daniel competiting on her horse Rockstar

“A common phrase among climbers is ‘But can you do it on grit?’, meaning you might be an amazing climber inside but can you still perform out on a rock face in the Peaks with the rain battering your face and the wind chilling you until your fingers loose grip and your teeth start chattering.

“Hampshire has a very sheltered climate and I learnt pretty quickly that if I was going to wait for a still day to go out on the moors, I’d be waiting all year. It’s windy every day in Sheffield and, despite being the most ‘nesh’ person I know, I’ve grown to love it. Grit and Gales just seemed to sum it all up.

“My illustrations are inspired by my surroundings and experiences, in particular the bits of Yorkshire I love the most. To me, Yorkshire is about the gravy, the ale and the hills!”

The textiles are designed by Emma from her house on the edge of the city and sewn together in a Lincolnshire cotton mill.

“It was really important for me that the products were produced traditionally,” she says.

“I open my doors onto the moors and experience the changing moods of the Peaks every day. The designs definitely embrace this and it would be devastating for that to be lost in a foreign mass-produced supply chain.

“The quality of my products is gorgeous; the mill workers really are superstars! And I can relax knowing that each and every one will go through their strict quality control checks.”

Timing was good for Emma as well.

“With the ban on plastic carrier bags people are looking for canvas bags and they have proved really popular which has been great for me.”

When not working on her designs Emma can often be seen out and about on Rockstar as when not working she is training to compete with him on the international scene.

“I have always loved horses but it wasn’t something that was encouraged when I was little,” she explains.

“So when I left home as well as going to university I worked three jobs to save enough money to buy myself a horse.”

Emma and Rockstar, or Rocky as she refers to him affectionately, compete in endurance events which can see them riding competitively over long distances.

It is one of the fastest growing equestrian sports. Distances vary from the entry level of 16km right through to a 160km in a day

“We recently did a 80k race and at Easter I accompanied the GB team to France to crew and learn off them,” explains Emma. “I love it. It gives you plenty of time to think and for most of the time it is just you and your horse racing in beautiful surroundings for anything up to six hours..”

And it is these beautiful surroundings and the people who lives within them that Emma has fallen in love with and that have inspired her fledging business.

“I believe that the North needs to be celebrated. Northern England has a unique and quirky culture that isn’t being given the platform it deserves.”

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