A very limited run of Universal Works for Little Palais t-shirts are now available at Little Palais and on the Universal Works webstore.


St Ives sits facing the Atlantic on England’s most south-western tip. With crystal clear turquoise sea, four soft, sandy beaches and the warmest summer temperatures in Blighty, there’s no wonder it’s a popular spot. This laid-back Cornish seaside town is a favourite for Universal Works founders David and Stephanie, who make the pilgrimage down there whenever they’re in need of a serious seaside mood boost. 

In ye olden days it was a place for fishermen and smugglers glugging tankards of ale. Since the 1950s though, the place became more notable for its art scene, thanks to a bunch of cool cats who descended on the town to enjoy the light, build studio spaces and create their very own creative community. Inspired by the rugged landscapes, then young artists Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Alfred Wallis started kicking about modern ideas of abstraction, which lead to the formation of the St Ives School (including icons Sir Terry Frost, Patrick Heron and Bernard Leach).  


Photo credit - Nick Pumphrey.


The art vibe momentum turned into more of a legacy as the years passed, and now the town has its very own purpose-built Tate Gallery at Porthmeor Beach as well as numerous other smaller galleries, potteries, independent cinemas, theatres and since spring 2020, the small but perfectly formed drinkery and eatery, Little Palais. 

Owners Jess and Rich had been mulling over the idea of opening something in St Ives for a while, and finally set Spring 2020 as the date for the launch of their new venture. This, as we all know, UW readers, coincided with the Covid-19 lockdown. But - determined, adaptable and quick-thinking, this pair didn’t let the pandemic get in the way of creating that start-up buzz. 


Photos taken by Nick Pumphrey.


Speaking about how they flipped what could have been a business disaster into a rip-roaring success, we asked Jess and Rich to fill us in. Laughing, Jess explained, “We bought all our wine 3 days before the first lockdown. We’d spent months (years actually) researching all the organic wines for customers to buy. Because the premises are quite compact, with no bathroom, it was going to be more of a pop in, taste some wines, maybe buy a bottle. Because we were prevented from opening, we started a delivery service instead, selling bottled cocktails and organic/biodynamic wines. With so many people stuck at home, it was a big hit with the locals!”


Photo credit - Nick Pumphrey.


Photo credit - Nick Pumphrey.


Like many businesses, they opened and closed. Opened again, then closed again, following the merry-go-round of lockdown rules. With the delivery side of the business thriving, they got to work on the premises and turned the small first floor into a cocktail workshop and private dining space. In the meantime, Jess and Rich had installed a two-person bench outside, which customers could book. David and Stephanie were quick to bagsy it during an in-between lockdowns trip in 2020. After some plates of French cheeses and a few glugs of vino, they got chatting to hosts Jess and Rich about all things Little Palais and Universal Works.

This meeting of (like)minds developed over the next two years, as David and Stephanie continued to take their staycations in Cornwall and talk turned to t-shirts. Rich remembers, “We’d been planning to do something since the winter of 2020, and were trying to figure out the best way to get some really good quality tees printed. We mentioned it to David and he just said, “We could do it?”. 


Photo credit - Nick Pumphrey.


Jess and Rich had asked a friend and local artist Danny Fox to come up with the Little Palais logo before they’d opened. There's a running joke between locals about what ‘animal’ it represents. Suggestions have ranged from a sheep, goat, dog and dragon. Chuckling, Rich said, “it’s the ambiguous nature of the sketch that we love!”.

Little Palais had been a gallery beforehand - owned by Jess’ mum. David and Stephanie had visited it around 5 years previously and met the owner. David said, “Stephanie and I stepped outside the Barbara Hepworth studio to see a tiny gallery and bought some glassware they had for sale. The owner was a very stylish woman and we got chatting. Turns out she was a big Universal Works fan. When we went back in 2020 the Hepworth studio was closed, but we noticed something else had opened in place of the tiny gallery opposite. It had a really nice-looking interior, a record deck and massive speakers. We had to go find out what it was like - and it turned out to be amazing!”


Photo credit - Nick Pumphrey.


 The collaboration has been as organic as the wine and it’s something Jess and Rich are super happy with. Smiling, Rich said, “It’s been amazing to get support and encouragement from two people outside the hospitality industry who we really respect. Working on this together has been really special and we couldn’t be happier with the results”. 


 Photo credit - Nick Pumphrey.


Cocktail lovers might want to give Rich’s Little Palais X Universal Works blend a try this weekend. Made with fermented mango, chilli, honey, salt and a large helping of gin. With a chuckle, Rich concludes, “It’s a play on a Dirty Martini and David and Stephanie love it.”. 

You can pick up a Universal Works for Little Palais Tee at the Little Palais, St Ive Wine bar or if you're not local to the store, we have a small run available on our webstore


P.S, If you get the opportunity you should definitely pay them a visit.  You can find them at 2 Barnoon Hill, St.Ives, TR26 1AD.