Seadrift Cafe - Picture this...a café with spectacular interior views

PUBLISHED: 14:41 04 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:00 20 February 2013

Harvest Mouse in various stages of its evolution

Harvest Mouse in various stages of its evolution

Kathrine Anker discovers an unusual photography business at a café on the coast of Cornwall

Seadrift Cafe - Picture this...a caf with spectacular interior views

Kathrine Anker discovers an unusual photography business at a caf on the coast of Cornwall

I first met caf owner Carla Regler in the coastal village of Soustons in South West France, where we learned about long exposures on a photography workshop held by ocean photographer Jonathan Chritchley.
Carla hadnt been photographing for long, but she had an impressive bag full of kit, and her welcoming, attentive eyes would turn serious and focused when she fixed them on the seascapes we were capturing on the course. I never saw her pictures on that trip, but I could tell by her total concentration and the stack of photography magazines she brought with her that she was all about photography.
Fast forward a couple of months, and I passed by Carlas bread and butter, the Seadrift Caf in the coastal village of Porthleven in Cornwall. I thought Id take Carla up on her invite for a cuppa. Little did I know that I was about to be presented with a remarkably well thought out marketing concept.
On the walls in the bright, driftwood-furnished caf hung neatly framed images of local landscapes; the tourist-haunted St Michaels Mount in a sea of morning mist, the pier of Porthleven, the Cornish coast at its wildest and most calm, and then some striking close-ups of harvest mice hanging on to straws of wheat.
Most of the landscape images were easily recognisable to a tourist, such as myself, and the price tags underneath were so reasonable that they alone held my gaze for another while before the coin dropped. These were Carlas images!

Its really strange, the mice have sold really well which is something I didnt think they would do, especially being down in Cornwall by the coast.

At the other end of the caf, a rack full of colourful postcards with the same motifs, wrapped with envelopes, hung on the wall next to a selection of larger, unframed prints. All signed by Carla Regler, but if I didnt know her and I had just popped in to the caf, I wouldnt have known that the photographer was also the caf owner.
I would probably have assumed that the pictures were supplied by a local artist, and since I always like to buy locally, I would have been very attracted to this assortment of potential souvenirs and keepsakes. This didnt change because I knew the images were Carlas.
But my point is that the entire set-up, from the bright, sea-themed caf with turquoise-blue chairs and a counter stocked with cakes to the enticing art on the walls, works to give the visitor an experience so memorable that theyll want to take something back with them. The sales potential is obvious.
Id arrived at a quiet time between lunch and dinner, one of those rare moments in Carlas life when she has time for a chat. Her partner, Chris, who is the chef at Seadrift and co-owns the business, emerges from the kitchen with a giant pavlova made with homemade meringues and Cornish clotted cream.
Carla and Chris are in their second year of running Seadrift now, having moved to Porthleven from Wiltshire where they used to run a pub together. But they wanted a business they could truly call their own, a place where they would pay mortgage, not rent. Then one day they discovered what was later to become the Seadrift Caf as they were visiting Carlas parents in Cornwall.
Six months later they had embarked on a thorough refurbishment project to turn the rundown, rotten building they had bought into the bright, airy cafe that it is today.
Every day, when lunch service is over and there is a lull before dinner starts, Carla and Chris take their two dogs, and Carlas camera, out for a walk. My camera bag comes out with me every day, were probably talking a couple of hours. Then we have Sunday night and Monday off, and I spend as much of that time as I can taking pictures. Every Monday we plan something we can do where I can take photographs and Chris can take the dogs for a good walk.
If you count the hours it takes to sleep and eat, there isnt much time left in the day for Carla and Chris; they practically breathe Seadrift, which is also the trading name for the imaging branch of the business, newly launched with a portfolio website of Carlas work, matching the website of the cafe.
Seadrift is manically busy, something Ive already started to notice as the afternoon is replaced by evening and the tables are starting to fill. There are both tourists and locals among the customers who buy the art on the walls. But what sells best, I ask Carla, is it the milky-watered Cornish seascapes or the neatly framed, minimalistic depictions of local wildlife that get people to open their wallets?
Its really strange, the mice have sold really well which is something I didnt think they would do, especially being down in Cornwall by the coast, Carla says. There are also some images of the harbour area that youve seen on the wall, and one of a tin mine by the edge of the water, that has sold really well.
So whats next? Although Chris jokingly says hed like to retire on Carlas income, her plans are a bit more modest. She has just booked a place on another photography course with Jonathan Chritchley for her autumn break and had some pictures exhibited in the local garden centre.
I dont have any future plans. Chris would like to retire on me but thats not going to happen. I really enjoy taking pictures and its a passion in my time outside of the caf, but if I were to do it as a professional, I dont know if I would enjoy it to the same level if I knew I always had to get results and make money of it.
Although Id quite like a small gallery space. The caf is great, but it only has so much space so maybe the future might include looking for the right gallery space somewhere.

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