Meet the Maker: Sandeep Pawar

Brighton-based maker, Sandeep Pawar, creates one-of-a-kind nursery decor, garlands and crowns inspired by her love of adventures and nature. We caught up with Sandeep to talk about personalising children’s spaces, working with craft queen Kirstie Allsop and why it’s never too late to do what you want to do…

Sandeep Pawar - owner of Planes Workshop

Hi Sandeep, first thing’s first, why did you decide to open Planes Workshop?

I opened Planes Workshop about three years ago. It started out as me just playing around with different projects to see what I could do, what I liked, experimenting with different textures and materials. It very quickly developed into an exploration of who I wanted to be as a craft based designer and I found an affinity with creating pieces for kids spaces and nurseries. I really believe in giving our little people an identity and a sense of pride from the space they inhabit. The need to share that vision with the world encouraged me to open up the doors and business began from there.

Planes Workshop

Where did the name come from?

As a child I used to dream of being able to fly. My imagination would take me over the seas and mountains exploring far off lands. I had forgotten all about this until I bought my daughter a toy plane when she just a baby. She would say ‘I’m flying mama’ and the name just stuck!

Planes Workshop

What had you done previously?

I worked in a government position for years. Before I knew what I really wanted from my life I had a couple of years when that job was fun and exciting, but the novelty of working in London in a fast-paced corporate job began to wear thin. Creative blogs were on the rise at the time and they encouraged me to start sewing again. I already had a deep love for craft, but I never thought it was something that I could pursue. Once I started, I couldn’t stop and I was obsessed. It was as though I’d been sleeping for years moving in the shadows of expectations of who I thought I was supposed to be.

Any chance I had outside of work I took to sew, crochet or sketch designs for new projects. One day I decided I wanted a creative career. I still work in a government job now, but it’s local and its part time (which is a huge step up from a three hour daily commute for five days a week) and I am actually very grateful for it. It funds my dreams and I try to remind myself of that every time I sit at my office desk wishing I was in my studio!

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We bet! How would you describe your style?

When I think about my style I think of a tea party in the woods with lots of garlands and maybe a bear and a fox show up too! I’ve always been drawn to woodland scenes and the serenity that comes from being in nature, whether you’re walking amongst a bluebell field or gazing up at the moon and stars. I like to mix earthy tones with the rich palette of florals and foliage. These elements heavily influence my designs as do vintage children’s books by the likes of John S. Goodall and Jill Barklam. I love where these influences take me and how they inevitably shape my designs.

Meet the Maker -Planes workshop

How do your designs start out?

Everything starts with my sketch book. I never leave home without it. When I get an idea I have to scribble it down. I’ll then let those ideas sit in my head for a day or two. When I go back to my sketch book if my frantic scribbles still hold their own, then I keep them in. I’ll spend time drafting patterns and making prototypes tinkering with measurements, style etc before I’m completely content with the finished article.

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Where do you create? Does your location inspire you?

I work from my home studio in Brighton. With the beach and the South Downs at my doorstep I am not short of inspiration!

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Which of your gorgeous creations have been your most popular? Why do you think that is?

My woodland name banners have been a big hit with customers. This is the first banner I have designed with 3D wool felt foliage making the piece interesting and fun. Because you can choose your florals and add someone’s name, I think people just feel connected to these banners and they become more than just a product. I love making my customers feel included and excited about buying from me and I think these banners just tick that box in a big way for a lot of people. 

Planes workshop
Planes Workshop

Do you have a favourite product?

This year I designed a range of celestial inspired felt banners. I love these so much because they were so fun to design and I feel so proud of how they turned out. For me they step away from the norm of gendered design and can be enjoyed be everyone. My love for the moon and foliage combined into one piece is what my design dreams are made of!

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What does a typical day look like for you?

My day in the studio usually starts the night before as I’m writing my to-do list and looking ahead at upcoming deadlines. Life starts pretty early round mine as I have a human alarm clock in the form of my four year old daughter. Once we are finally out, I take her to school and on the walk back I get a chance to clear my head before my day can really begin. I’ll usually work through orders in the morning and then spend the afternoon doing admin (like writing my monthly newsletter, invoicing etc) and working on new products. I work from my home studio which is handy because my husband usually takes pity on me and makes lunch and brings me lots of snacks!

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Sounds perfect! You use Etsy for your business - how does this work for you? Is this the sole way your audience find you?

Etsy is an incredible platform to sell from and I love how easy it is to use. Whilst a lot of traffic comes directly from Etsy, Instagram is also one of my main sources for traffic and sales.

Planes Workshop

If you were to share any words of wisdom with others looking to start a creative business, what would you say?

Do not believe that it’s too late in the day to start your dream career. Just start! We are constantly sold this idea that our lives should be sewn up by age 30. This concept is not only untrue it is incredibly dangerous. It tricks us into thinking that if we don’t have our dream career, a big house and oodles of money by this age we have failed. It completely writes off the second half of your life as though it doesn’t mean anything. I would also say that nothing is perfect and neither are you, so don’t wait for ‘the right time’. There is no-one who will do this for you. Get up and start working. If you’re scared - good! Take that fear and use it to your advantage - get addicted to the thrill of proving those doubts wrong. In the words of Elizabeth Taylor - “now is the time for guts and guile.”

Planes Workshop

What do you hope the rest of the year has in store for you?

I’m currently working on an e-book full of creative projects to make for baby and kid spaces which will be on sale this Autumn. I’m excited and terrified in equal measure because it is something I have wanted to do for so long. I hope you all like it!

Planes Workshop

How exciting! Before you go, what's been your highlight so far?

My highlight has been appearing alongside Kirstie Allsopp in her infamous Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas show. I was featured on the table decoration segment. It was the first time I stepped out as a craft based designer and a true highlight of my career. Kirstie was so lovely and made me feel at ease in front of the camera. Designing a Christmas table was so much fun and I just had a ball! 

QUICK-FIRE QUESTIONS

Describe your work in three words: 

Woodland. Empowering. Kids.

What are your making rituals? 

I never leave my studio in a mess at the end of the working day. Even if it’s a tip, or I’m having a bad day, cleaning the studio is incredibly therapeutic and it slows down my racing mind to help me start fresh in the morning.

Tea or Coffee? 

Neither - I’ll take a biscuit and a glass of milk, ta!

Mountains or sea? 

Mountains (sorry Brighton!)

Night owl or early bird? 

Early bird.

I wish someone had told me... 

To stop waiting for perfect and get the hell on with it.

See more from Sandeep on Etsy or on Instagram.