Geraldine Grandidier started out as a violin maker. She then saw a gap in the market for kids’ bookshelves that were accessible to small people, displayed the front cover of the book and looked stylish. So she designed one and launched Tidy Books…
Geraldine, 48, lives in Walthamstow, east London, with her partner Matthew and their children Adele, 17, and Emile, 12.
“Woodwork was my favourite subject at School. We did a lot and I was really good at it. Even though I played the violin it didn’t occur to me that violin makers existed, but one day, when I was 20, I bumped into my violin teacher and we talked about the future. She said why don’t you become a violin maker?
It was just completely obvious and I didn’t look back. I applied to the international Newark School of Violin Making, won two prestigious scholarships and then worked at the Royal Academy of Music, where I made instruments which are now part of their collection.
Violin making is quite intense; you concentrate a lot and become immersed. I found it quite hard. But on the other hand, I was freelance and I could fit work around my children.
When my daughter was about three, she had a growing collection of books and needed somewhere to keep them. I looked out for the bookcase I had in mind but to my surprise it didn’t exist. So I made one for her and then all my friends wanted one too.
I put a small ad in the NCT magazine and got an amazing response; I couldn’t make them fast enough. The editor of Mother and Baby bought one for her daughter and then featured it in the magazine. The Tidy Books business was born.
Violin making requires a lot of skills, and it takes about 10 years to learn, but I guess my skills made it possible to make the bookcases in the first place. I think it’s more my way of thinking which is similar; as a violin maker you make many tools or jigs, you think of ways to perform certain jobs and make your tools accordingly. So I guess my mind is always thinking up how we could do something, or what would be a good solution.
It was tough launching a business when the kids were young. My son had just been born as I set up Tidy Books, and my daughter was at school. I was working at night and whenever I could. It was exhausting. I was looking after them in the day, and fitting work in when they were sleeping. Somehow, I just kept going.
I didn’t have any business experience as I came from a craft background, so I guess it was a steep learning curve and I took it one day at a time.
Watch the Tidy Books story…
The bookcase had to work for children and their books. The bookcases that were available were designed the same way as adult’s bookcases, just adding a child pattern. Normal bookcases don’t work for kids: Kids don’t choose books from the spine – they need to see the front covers.
Kids’ books come in different sizes so don’t really fit on normal shelves. When a child picks a book out of a traditional shelf, the rest collapse. The bookcase I designed completely changed the way kids’ books are presented in the home. It makes it easy for children to see and pick their books independently and put them back. I also wanted the bookcase to present the books in a beautiful way.
The kids both go to secondary school now. My partner is a violin maker and restorer and he works from home, so between us work fits around them or they fit around work. At least there is always one of us around. Holidays are specially challenging, though. My daughter is very independent now but my son is 12 and still needs me a lot. I’m very grateful when a friend helps out!
From day one, I’ve wanted to grow a global unique brand. And bit by bit we’re getting there. We have a new storage design to get small toys organised coming out very soon. And we’re working on a new brand revamp. Wish us luck!”