September 1, 2021 4.51 pm This story is over 32 months old

Lincoln family art gallery gets a fresh revamp after three decades on Steep Hill

A family business still going strong

By Local Democracy Reporter

A family-run business that has been situated on the iconic Steep Hill in Lincoln for almost 30 years is keeping up with the times.

Marine and Wildlife Gallery has been run by Jennifer Bell, 71, for 28 years on Steep Hill, selling homemade arts and crafts top the people of Lincoln for generations.

The business, which is also run by Jennifer’s twin daughters Charlotte Bell and Louise Donnelly, both 42, will be rebranding with a new name, Ditto Design, but the family values will remain a constant, with an official relaunch on Saturday morning.

It has been a proud family business for almost three decades. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The name Ditto Design comes from the fact that Charlotte and Louise are not just identical twins, but also think alike and share the creative passion that their parents have passed down to them.

The twins have been supplying art for galleries and selling on Etsy for a while now, having both worked in the textiles and fashion industry, but figured it would make sense to sell everything in an actual shop.

The family specialise in wildlife arts and crafts. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

All items in the shop are created by the family and always have been, using Lincolnshire items and produce throughout to give the unique feeling to their art, and they even create the art from inside the shop itself.

Louise said: “People often like our art because it has that feeling of being a one of a kind, rather than a gift that you can buy from anywhere. Not to mention the fact that compared to bigger galleries our work is very affordable.

“I think customers enjoy seeing us at work as well, so they can see the effort that goes into our art and watch it come to life before their eyes.”

Every single item in the shop was designed by either Jennifer, Charlotte or Louise, with exception to one ship painting which was made by the twins’ father! | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The shop is somewhat of a throwback in a business sense, having never sold their items through a website and opting for public interaction above all else.

“There’s just no substitute for being up close and personal to art,” Jennifer told The Lincolnite. “All a website is really is a shop front, and we already have one of those here!”

The twins are both trained in textiles and use their craft to make these wonderful pieces of art. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Jennifer recalls the moment a customer came into the gallery on their first day of business to voice doubts about how long the shop would last.

“A man walked into the shop on opening day and told us we’d not last a week because people in Lincolnshire shop with a shilling on a piece of string. 28 years later we are still here.”

A wide variety of art on offer at Ditto Design. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Jennifer continued: “Creativity never disappears, and if you do something you enjoy it will never feel like work. I will always paint, it will just become more impressionist as my eyesight goes!”

Through lockdown, Jennifer wrote and illustrated her first book, called A Book of Hope, about a little hare that is born different to her family and her journey to embrace her true self.

Jennifer described the book as one for all ages, with the blurb reading: “This is a story for three to one hundred and three year olds.”

A real gem of an independent business on Lincoln’s iconic Steep Hill. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

It is invention and creativity like this which helped the business stay afloat through the pandemic, as well as the ever-reliable support of regular customers.

Charlotte said: “I think us creatives survived the lockdowns better than most, particularly as it helped us all appreciate out surroundings and nature that bit more.”

Most of the animals that are painted or designed tend to be seen regularly in Lincolnshire, but there’s an exception for the flamingos! | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Ditto Design will be open seven days a week but will vary week to week based on Charlotte and Louise’s work commitments as teachers at a secondary school.

Ditto Design can be found next door to Harding House Gallery on Steep Hill. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite