Orlap Studio is a small family company based in Sheffield which specialises in bespoke cufflinks, dress studs and tie slides. Begun in 1975 by Jack Thwaites, Orlap is now run by Christopher and Karen Perry. The continuity of name reflects a corresponding continuity in our product and standards of workmanship.
Who we are
Christopher: I started in this work as a schoolkid. My dad brought me down to the workshop when I was 13 and, after that I never really had any school holidays. Then as I got older, I did some college courses, one thing led to another and I started a degree in metalwork and jewellery. Through doing that, opportunities opened up and a different way of approaching silversmithing and jewellery design from the kind of stuff my dad had been doing. I also remember him taking me on a trip when I was a kid to the Goldsmiths’ Fair which is a big exhibition of silversmiths and to get in it is really competitive. I thought ‘this is really cool, it’d be great to come here,’ and then to actually do that when I was in my 30s….as a silversmith and a jeweller, it’s the finest place to be. I can’t imagine doing another job.
Orlap offers something quite different. It’s a really established brand and I think there’s a big opportunity for us to reinvent it, redesign some of the products and make it grow again. I like going out to meet customers, trying to understand their needs and trying to design something around that that’s unique to them. That’s one of the sides of the business that is going to grow. I’m working with a suitmaker in London, for example, and we have to try and come up with something new for them. We’ll have to design and prototype the ideas and that’s really great.
Sometimes you’re right on the edge of whether something will work or not and you have to sit down and work through the intricacies of detail and just finding your way through all those little prototypes is a really interesting journey. It’s working out new problems.
Another thing is that it gives Karen and I the opportunity to work together, which is great. She brings so much that I can’t do.
Karen: It was a happy coincidence when the opportunity came up. A lot of Chris’s work is church work which is decreasing. I work in graphic design and the magazine and book market is dwindling too, so we were both looking for new directions in our work when Jack advertised the business for sale. We went over to see it and it ignited some spark in Chris and it was a chance to combine our skills in a different venture – I’m happy speaking to customers, I’ve been self-employed for a long time so I can deal with all the administrative aspects of the business. It’s something we’re very much doing together and that’s nice, too.
Even with our standard range, when you see the finished item, boxed up and polished and ready to go, they’re beautiful and it gives you a real feeling of pride and it’s especially lovely when someone gives you a call the next day and says, ‘my customer was delighted’ and that does happen. It’s really nice that it’s a small enough business that we get that interaction.