When Robert Welch left the Royal College of Art in 1955, he set up with just his drawing board and a camp bed in a little rented room in a disused workshop in the 18th century Silk Mill at Chipping Campden in the English Cotswold Hills.
It was an inauspicious start for a man whose strong design principles would make him an MBE and a Royal Designer for Industry.
1955: Robert Welch’s first studio
“I remember the very first day - pinning a sheet of paper to my drawing board, sharpening my pencil and thinking ‘What now?’”
Robert Welch, interviewed in 1973
From the start, Robert was passionately driven to design highly functional, affordable products which possessed a timeless elegant beauty. He demonstrated this with his first major success - pioneering the introduction of stainless steel cutlery to the UK.
He steadily gained a reputation for excellence in both design and manufacture which lead to a constant stream of commissions - both commercial and privately from celebrities and royalty.
The Robert Welch studio shop - 50 yards from The Old Silk Mill
“I opened the shop because I thought the best way to find out what people want is to meet them.”
Robert Welch, at the opening in 1969
In the decades that followed, he was joined by designers, prototype makers and craftsmen. Together this small loyal team were responsible for many iconic designs still enjoyed today. This success allowed Robert Welch to expand the business across the whole top floor of the Mill and also establish a studio shop just around the corner.
Robert Welch designs and silver commissions began being selected by museums from as early as 1954 and many are held by institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and British Museum in London, MoMA in New York and KODE Art Museums of Bergen, Norway.
2009: Rupert Welch and Alice Welch outside the Old Silk Mill with the Robert Welch team
“To be able to run the company with Dad’s design legacy always in mind is a real privilege for us.”
Rupert Welch 2009
In the early 1990s, Robert Welch invited his daughter Alice and son Rupert to join his small team and help drive the company onwards.
Growing up in a world of design and creativity proved an invaluable experience and after Robert’s death in 2000, Alice and Rupert became their father’s natural successors, steering the company’s future direction.
1967: Robert Welch at home with his family
“Design was a part of every day when Rupert and I were little. Dad used to bring prototypes home for us to test and review; you never knew what was going to appear next…”
Alice Welch 2014
Over 20 years later, Alice Welch and Rupert Welch still manage Robert Welch Designs, working with a small team of in-house designers to produce a growing collection of award-winning products. Remaining true to their father’s design legacy brings a sense of continuity to the modern company.
Today’s Robert Welch team are fortunate enough to still be working in the same building where it all began 60 years ago. Robert Welch’s passion to create beautiful, functional, timeless products remains rooted in the company’s design DNA, ensuring his memory lives on and that every new product continues to be ‘Designed the Robert Welch way’.
Robert Welch - Design: Craft and Industry traces both the progress of Welch's career, design philosophy and the evolution of the company and products that he created. This is the definitive book on one of the 20th century's greatest product designers.