Canterbury Bid

Cosmo China: 30 years in Canterbury

A photo of a Cosmo China shop window

Business: Cosmo China
Location: 26 Palace Street Canterbury
Years of Service – 30 years

Founded by Josie Firmin and Christopher Strangeways, Cosmo China is a bespoke bone china painting business. They have two studios, one in London and one in Canterbury. There are 20 artists and illustrators all hand painting their own original designs on china. Everything is hand painted in the studios and fired on site in kilns. 

Cosmo China in Palace Street celebrates 30 years in the city this year. As well as regular stock, customers can commission bespoke painted designs from a number of artists, and each piece is a true one-off.

The Firmin Family are the creative geniuses behind the shop on the city’s King’s Mile – we stopped by to learn more.

Charlotte explains “We opened at 26 Palace Street in Canterbury in 1992. So long ago that we can’t really be absolutely sure of the date!   We’ve been hand-painting bone china here ever since.

We come from Canterbury and went to school here.  Our Dad was Peter Firmin, who created TV favourites Bagpuss and The Clangers. Four of us six daughters are involved with Cosmo China. Josie owns the business and runs the shop in Cosmo Place, London.  Charlotte works and paints in the Canterbury shop and does the commissions here.  Emily and Katy paint their designs here for both shops. 

For us, the best thing about having a business in Canterbury is the mix of customers. The faithful locals and the tourists discovering us for the first time.  We now have customers from all corners of the world, thanks to the internet, 30 years after we opened.

Palace Street, The Borough and Northgate are fascinating multi-cultural areas now compared with when we first opened.  There are Turkish and North African barbers, Eastern European food shops, an independent coffee shop, micro pub, jewellers, Japanese hairdressers and every sort of restaurant. There are plenty of places on the King’s Mile with pavement seating where you can watch the world go by.”

Who would you most love to see walk through the door?              

Rowan Williams.  We sold a lot of Rowan mugs when he was Archbishop of Canterbury and we know he was given one himself, but he never visited in person.  We’ve had plenty of famous customers though!

Which one piece from your shop would you put in a time capsule to showcase what you do ?

When Charles and Camilla’s wedding was postponed in 2005 the original date was crossed out and the new one added.  We got so much publicity in the press and on TV that there was a queue outside the shop!  The mug featured as “an antique of the future” in Miller’s Antique guide that year.  

What’s your current best seller ?

Josie has been hand painting her Cat design mugs since 1984 and they are still a great favourite.

What message would you send out to shoppers who’ve not visited your business yet?

If you are looking for beautiful bone china in designs for every taste or you want to commission a unique piece for a special occasion – explore Canterbury and head for Cosmo China.