Meet the maker: bookhou

Artists Arounna Khounnoraj and John Booth founded multidisciplinary studio bookhou in 2002 to showcase their individual and collaborative projects. Producing work with an emphasis on natural handmade materials and small production, in 2008 the couple opened their bricks and mortar shop in Toronto, and run an online store, too. We talk to Arounna to discover more about bookhou’s work…

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How would you describe bookhou, in a nutshell?

bookhou is as a multidisciplinary studio making a variety of decorative items such as furniture, fabric bags and home items with an emphasis on handmade.

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What inspired the idea of setting up your business?

John and I were always makers and designers and although there were differences in our chosen materials and approaches, it also seemed that our work really complimented each other. So, from the onset, we knew that bookhou would be a place to develop our individual work but also contribute and combine our ideas in a number of collaborative projects. Because we both have such a diverse interest in art and design we purposely worked with a variety of materials and processes from fabric, paper, wood, to anything else that came our way. Eventually, as we gained more of an audience for our work some things developed further, but still we try to keep working in a variety of directions.

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What did you both do before setting up bookhou?

We both have degrees in fine art. John also has a degree in architecture. We met while working in education - I was teaching at universities when we began our studio work together and eventually decided to run our business full-time.

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How would you describe your style?

Although I work in both abstract and figurative ways I think my style is simple and minimal, with an emphasis on natural materials.

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What is the ethos behind bookhou?

We want to make utilitarian objects that reflect both the art and design aspects of our backgrounds. No matter how simple the idea, we always try to emphasise the beauty of the materials we use and the importance of form, pattern and structure. And because we believe in thinking with our hands we've always made virtually everything in-house at our Toronto studio. That allows us to keep our connection with our work in all ways and lets our projects cross-pollinate in ways that would otherwise be difficult to predict.

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Describe your work process…

I spend portions of the day doing a number of different things - production work, designing new items, painting botanical samples that might become pattern elements, etc. I also like to keep busy doing a number of projects at the same time with different materials and methods, sometimes painting, sometimes sewing, weaving or punching. But it never seems that I'm doing different things - they all contribute and inform each other. Ultimately, my work process is very intuitive.  While I do sketch ideas, I don't really plan things out ahead of time in a traditional way. I use my discoveries to help build a final product.

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What sort of space do you work in?

We live and work in a Victorian storefront which we have renovated several times to suit the needs of work - both business and personal- and family life. We wanted to have a collection of spaces where we could do anything we wanted - a showroom in the front, a busy production area for sewing, cutting, printing and shipping, as well as more private studio spaces for quiet work and for wood working. Because we see our work as interconnected and we wanted our kids to grow up in a working studio that they could use as well, our building grew into a place of zones all connected to each other.

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Tell us about your neighbourhood…

We are located in downtown Toronto on a relatively quiet stretch of Dundas Street West, filled with mom and pop shops, restaurants and loads of coffee. The best part of our location is that it’s situated in the middle of a number of great neighbourhoods - Trinity Bellwoods Park, Kensington market and Chinatown, as well as both College Street to the north and Queen to the south. We have a car, but rarely use it because we walk everywhere. It's a pretty diverse neighbourhood so it has a mix of everything and everybody. It's a great place to live and work.

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Do you have a design background, or are you self-taught?

I’d say yes to both. My background is in fine arts, majoring in sculpture and ceramics, but a lot of the textile work that I do is in many ways self-taught. I love collecting new techniques and trying new things, which I happily dive into, figuring it out with a hands-on approach.  I think it’s an advantage for me to work this way because it allows me to work both correctly and incorrectly - which is a positive when I can incorporate my own way of thinking into a technique or material.

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Has your work evolved since you began?

I feel that my work has similarities to what I've done in the past - similar materials and interest in botanical elements - but I think I've developed from presenting them as singular motifs and images into more complex patterns. Learning about patterns has been a long process, and establishing a balance between a repetition of form that is both structured and organic is key to my work. One consistent element for that balance is that I continue to draw everything by hand and arrange elements intuitively. And, of course, another difference over time is that I feel things have become more refined.

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 How do you balance producing handmade works, with the online world?

The online world can be demanding, and balancing that demand with the concept of handmade, small production is sometimes difficult, if not impossible. But since I can only produce so much of most items, it forces you to find ways to increase production, and keep the work fresh and accessible while still keeping a connection and quality to your work. But challenges aside, the relationship between handmade and online is completely interconnected, and I’ve found ways to use social media as a way to introduce new ideas and groups of work in numbers that are manageable. I can gauge how I should move forward on a piece by incorporating the response for a product into the process.  Social media also allows me to show my work process as part of a larger narrative that our customers enjoy.

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How important is the online community to your work?

I think it’s very valuable, and I feel that it has helped elevate our business in so many ways - the most obvious being connections to customers. But being connected to other makers, sharing ideas, and promoting each other’s work lets you build a network that goes well beyond just marketing - it reminds you that you are sharing with actual people, places and cultures. 

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Where do you find creative inspiration?

From my surroundings - it can be a plant that catches my attention while walking in the neighbourhood, the texture of an old wall, or a shadow cast on the ground.  We collect lots of little botanical samples and love the accidental marks that come along with any process. Inspiration is all around me and the key is to be able to interpret what I see.

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What are the highs and lows of working an independent maker?

I so enjoy working as an independent maker. The best thing is that I have full control of what I'm doing. I decide what I want to pursue based solely on what I find interesting, without concern for things like trends. In terms of production, the challenge I have is trying to make enough work to keep up with demand and keep the work interesting for myself but also manageable in scale. Typically, I rotate patterns that are available or play around with new combinations or bag designs. But in the end, I can present my work with a consistent theme and aesthetic that I feel comfortable with and that I can honestly say comes from my hands. 

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Which pieces do you most enjoy making?

I really enjoy drawing and embroidery, both of which I find closely related. Not only do they let me explore the motifs and compositions that I enjoy in a very intimate way, but I think they help me to slow down and the slower task makes it very meditative.

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How did you first discover your love for what you do?

I have always been a maker and knew at a young age that I would spend my life making. I was part of a family of immigrants that made many of the things we needed - clothing, decorative things, furniture, and of course food. Making those things as a child, I think made me appreciate processes such as the slow accumulation of stitches that show fibre work as an art, as well as craft. Going off to art school and then opening a craft studio was really the only I thing I could do.

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Do you have creative pastimes or hobbies?

I enjoy things I can do with my family like going for after dinner walks, and movie nights at home - as long as I can embroider while I watch!

Describe your working day…

I start the day checking emails and looking at orders, to see what needs to be fulfilled and made. Depending on the day, there is usually a production schedule to keep items in stock and contact suppliers for materials we use. Equally important work every day includes photographing projects and posts for Instagram. If I have a little time, I try to spend a while in a quiet space to work on some long term projects, such as punch needle work, or doing a few lines of weaving.

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How do you approach marketing and PR?

We have never paid for advertising, but rather let our social media do the work of presenting our goods, workshop and events. It’s a lot of work keeping up with social media, and I place a lot of importance on every detail of a photograph or post and methods of presentation. But the benefits of social media are so important.

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What have been your working highlights so far?

The simple answer is being able to make a living selling goods I make. More specifically, I think seeing everything come together after so much work and effort with my first book this last spring has been big. And seeing how it has been received has been amazing.

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Where do you sell your work?

Early on we did many shows and markets as we could with a few vendors selling our goods in different cities. But now, it's almost entirely retail, either from our brick and mortar shop or online store.

What do the next six months hold for you?

The most recent thing for me is the release of my book exploring punch needle. It’s being published in a number of languages, and I have a pretty busy travel schedule teaching punch needle workshops.

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Any guidance for makers just starting out?

Work hard and don't focus on what others are doing. Go at your own pace and believe in yourself.

Quick-Fire questions: 

Describe your work in three words? 

Handmade, minimal, natural

Tea or coffee?

Tea

Mountains or sea?

Mountains

Night owl or early bird?

Night owl

I wish someone had told me...

To not worry about making work that won't work out - make mistakes, lots of them.

Find bookhou at 798 Dundas Street West, Toronto, Ontario, and online via their website and Instagram.

Meet the Maker: mondocherry

Sisters Clare Scholes and Joy Stewart turned their shared creative hobbies into a successful business that’s perfectly tailored to their busy lives. 91 talks to Joy to find out more about their work, and the beautiful artworks they create together as mondocherry.

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How would you describe mondocherry?

We create original 3D paper artworks that are entirely hand-cut and hand-painted. Often based around nature, they appear graphic from a distance and incredibly detailed up close. Seven years ago, we opened a shop in Melbourne to showcase our work, as well as to feature beautiful home and gift products from artisans and designers from around the world.

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What’s the story behind the name?

One of the very first orders we worked on was with a fabric that was called ‘mondo’. It came in a few colourways, one of which was named ‘cherry’. So we used to call each other and say ‘can you come over today to work on the mondocherry?’  A few months later when we registered our business, we tried to think of a clever name, but it was much harder than we thought. And then we realised that we had actually already named ourselves!

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What inspired the idea of setting up your business?

In 2006 we both found ourselves living in Brisbane with our families, and naturally spent a lot of time together. While the children played, and over many a slice of chocolate brownie, we would make items for our homes; artworks, handbags, soft toys, cards – you name it.  Friends began asking if we could make pieces for them too, and it was this interest that initiated the idea that maybe we could turn our hobby into a business.

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What did you do before setting up mondocherry?

Clare studied law and mathematics at university, and I was an early childhood teacher.  But we both became stay-at-home mums once our children came along (Clare has six, I have three).

How would you describe your style?

We use loads of beautiful colour, balanced out by plenty of white and neutrals.  We like the old mixed in with the new, and lots of textures and layers.  We love pieces with a story behind them, and we can’t live without lots of greenery!

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What is the ethos behind your business?

There is a particular beauty in handmade products, original design and limited editions that we are drawn to. We want mondocherry artworks, and our shop, to be a reflection of our passion and to stay true to what we love, rather than running with trends, or trying to predict popularity.  There’s value in uniqueness, and we love that a mondocherry artwork can never be exactly replicated. The two of us enjoy making art that makes people happy. As we work together, we also made a rule early on that we would never let our business come between our relationship as sisters.

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Tell us about your work process…

Our main materials are paper, scissors, paint, and patience. Every component of our artwork is hand-painted and hand-cut and so many, many hours go into each piece. Clare and I work in stages and therefore often have multiple artworks on the go at any one time. It’s good to have the flexibility to take our cutting with us (to school pickups, ballet waiting rooms and footy games!) and the variety of working with different colours, styles and stages.

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Describe your workspace…

Clare has a studio room in her home, but stills tends to spill out into the adjoining family rooms. She often takes components at the cutting stage into the shop when she is there. I live in a condo in Singapore, so space it pretty tight. I manage with a ‘creative cupboard’ and can often be found working on my terrace, enjoying the tropical weather.  We spend many hours on the phone during the week, discussing works in progress and new ideas, however we are definitely at our most creative when we are together in the same place and start playing with paper and paint!

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What sort of neighbourhood and community is around you?

I currently live in Singapore and enjoy exploring the botanical gardens, with their lush tropical foliage, and the colour, fabric and treasures to be found in the Little India area. Clare lives in Melbourne and loves the suburbs around our shop, with their beautiful architecture and well-maintained gardens.  

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Do you have a design background, or are you self-taught?

Neither of us has a formal design background, retail experience, or marketing or business degrees. Our love for creating definitely stems from our childhood, as we are lucky enough to have a very creative mother, so our spare time was filled with sewing, painting, crochet, tie-dye etc. To end up in a creative business feels very natural to both of us.

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 Has your work changed since you began?

Our work has definitely evolved and continues to do so. That’s all part of the creative journey. In the beginning, we probably overthought our work and listened to too many opinions, but we really honed our own style when we began to trust our instincts. Initially, we worked a lot with fabric as well as paper, but found it hard to develop a cohesive story with both mediums. 

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How important is the online community to your work?

The customers and friends we have made through social media have allowed us to grow and expand our business, and we are so thankful for their encouragement, support and feedback. It gives us the biggest buzz when we get photos of our artworks displayed in homes, both locally, and on the other side of the world.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Everywhere. The colour of a beautiful bird, an interesting fabric, patterned tiles, layers of chipping paint on a wall, the details in a piece of embroidery, the delicacy of a rose petal … we find ideas, inspiration and colour combinations all over the place.

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Working together as independent makers – what are the joys, and what are the challenges?

It’s great to have the flexibility, the creative freedom and the variety of tasks involved in being our own bosses, and the process of making our artworks from start to finish (although we do leave the framing to the professionals). We thrive on words of encouragement, so finding motivation when things get a little tough can be hard, but luckily it usually happens that one of us is able to encourage the other. 

Which pieces do you most enjoy creating?

That would be like asking us to choose a favourite child! All of our collections are special to us for different reasons, and there is hardly a colour we can’t rave about. 

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What does a typical working day look like for you?

We both start with coffee - essential for staying sane while getting children off to school. Clare then usually heads into our Melbourne shop, where she chats with customers, merchandises the shelves and deals with admin.  In Singapore, I tend to do most of my creative work during the day while my younger children are at school. I also do a lot of work with our social media. 

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How do you approach marketing and PR?

This has been a large learning curve for us, as we are definitely more creative than business-orientated. We both love the visual impact of social media, however it is often hard to show the texture of our artworks via a small square. Investing in professional photos has been one of the best things we have done, as it gave us the confidence to approach designers and magazines - and having fresh eyes style your work is always a useful exercise. 

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What have been your business highlights so far?

Opening our shop was very special, as it gave us a chance to style our artworks up with beautiful products, so we could show our customers how we imagined they could be displayed in their homes.  We’ve also been lucky enough to be featured in a number of magazines and design blogs, which is a ‘pinch me’ moment every time!

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Where do you sell your work?

We sell our artworks in our Melbourne shop and on our online store. We also take custom orders for colours and sizes, so that our customers can have a unique artwork made especially for their home.

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Do you have any creative pastimes or hobbies?

Making our artworks isn’t just our job, but also something we love doing. Apart from when we are experimenting with paper and paint, I love the process of decorating a doll’s house for my daughter, and Clare regularly has her sewing machine out, embellishing and adjusting dance costumes.

Any advice for makers just starting out?
Ensure you are making something you actually love, and don’t under-price yourself - especially if you will be wholesaling your work. Great photos are worth spending money on, too.


Quick-fire questions:

Describe your work in three words?

Unique, colourful, intricate.

What are your making rituals?

Good background music, or an interesting podcast is a must.

Tea or coffee?

Coffee in morning, tea in the afternoon.

Mountains or sea?

Mountains.

Night owl or early bird?

I’m an early bird, Clare is a night owl.

I wish someone had told me...

Knowing what you don’t like is as essential to finding your own style as knowing what you do.

See more from mondocherry on their website and on Instagram.

Images supplied by Martina Gemmola (and stylists Richard Hall & Son) and mondocherry.

Meet the Maker: Karen Hsu

Paper florist Karen Hsu creates beautiful pom pom style flowers using sustainable and biodegradable materials. We spoke to the London-based maker to hear about her delicate designs, creating statement displays for Selfridges and how nature inspires her work…

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Hi Karen. Why and when did you decide to open Pom Pom Factory?

It started in 2012 when I was working at Mercantile London - a fashion boutique in Old Spitalfields Market. I was asked to create a window display for the shop.

It was this experience that helped me realise that the most unassuming yet endlessly versatile material that I had been using on the counter day-in day-out would eventually become the first pom pom display I made. And it was tissue paper!

Pom Pom Factory was born when Selfridges approached me and asked me to make 6000 paper flowers for them for their Christmas window displays. I frantically assembled a team and quit my job at Mercantile. Mercantile were kind enough to let me use their basement as the “factory “.

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What had you done previously?

After graduating from Central Saint Martins with an audio visuals degree, I was working as a film runner, sometimes as an extra, and set designer and prop maker.

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How would you describe your style?

I make paper floral displays, either utilising creative tissue paper for pom pom flowers or specific crate paper to produce realistic flowers at site specific installations. Over the years, I’ve seen my style of work develop from making paper flowers as a decorative element to finding a harmonious connection between observing nature and craftsmanship.

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Can you tell us a little about the processes used to create your work?

I always start by observing the natural flower I am going to recreate in paper form, I explore its form and structure to ensure I obtain as realistic an impression as I can.  

I will then take a desired colour roll of paper out and start building the flower out from memory, which I believe allows me to impart my own signature perception of the flower. I want my imagination to maintain a significant level of influence on my creations.

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Your wares are all made with Pyrène (a natural tissue paper which is 100% bio-degradable and recyclable), why was it so important to you that your products are environmentally friendly?

Being inspired by nature, it is important to create something that is sustainable and biodegradable. I want my creations to last but not cause a negative impact on the environment.

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Which is your most popular flower? Why do you think that is?

Peonies are the most popular, I think due to their unique varieties and strong feminine quality, their full-bodied shape make them perfect for indulgent bouquets and arrangements. They’re delicate yet tough as nails.

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Hard question: do you have a favourite?

I love making thistles! It has such a different structure to any of the other flowers that I make. Their delicate bright colourful flower heads and body full of sharp thorns intrigues me to no end.

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What does a typical day look like for you?

I don’t really have typical days, it changes all the time, I get a lot of last minute orders usually in the fashion of “can I have these flowers made by tomorrow?” Which means I always have to be ready to go into overdrive to fulfil a myriad of bespoke orders.

In the past I’d always say yes, which usually lead to me being a perpetual night owl. These days, I am more realistic with timings and let my clients know that my flowers are all handmade to order so it takes time to create the best possible display.

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You also hold workshops, can you tell us a little about them?

I started to teach workshops three years ago. I love being able to share basic paper flower making and craftsmanship with others. My workshops are not just about being able to make a paper flower but of the processes involved that enables someone to create, style and establish their own unique imprint on the flower.

I like to encourage my students to explore their own ways of making flowers rather than just following a template. I post all my upcoming workshops on my newsletter that I would like to encourage all those interested to sign up.

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

Trust yourself and build a support network around you. I have an amazing group of small business entrepreneurial friends whom I exchange experiences with and offer mutual support to.

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What's been your highlight so far?

Our London Craft Week display this year was definitely my highlight. We had spent one year planning this event and are so grateful to work with the London Flower School, Italian paper supplier Cartotenica Rossi and Old Spitalfields Market to create a concept for an installation inspired by underwater coral reefs and floral gardens.

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Quick-fire questions

Describe your work in three words:

Imaginative, versatile and emotive.

What are your making rituals?

I like to start with an empty table before I lay out all my tools and papers before I commence making. I like to observe and conduct this ritual methodically to get myself into the making mindset. Sometimes I will go out for a walk for a few hours around my neighbourhood, I end up chatting with friends who have shops by close-by. We usually converse about new and upcoming exciting projects and this usually pumps me up for the work ahead.

Tea or coffee?

Coffee

Mountains or sea?

Sea

Night owl or early bird?

Night owl

I wish someone had told me...

Maya Angelou once said ‘Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it!’ I try to remind myself of these words everyday.

See more from Karen via her website and Instagram.

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.

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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!

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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. 

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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.

Meet the Maker: Lois Floyd

After taking up crochet as a hobby, Lois Floyd’s favourite pastime soon blossomed into a creative business, handmaking Scandi-inspired pieces for the home and nursery. Lois talks to us about her slow-living ethic, and juggling her business, Logii, with the demands of a young family, a day job, and home renovations.

Hi Lois! How would you describe your work?

I make simple, Scandinavian-inspired home and nursery décor, handmade using natural fibres.

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What inspired you to set up your business?

Crocheting used to be a hobby, and still is (when I find the time). I had been making and crocheting for a few years before my little boy was born in 2015. During my maternity leave, I started making lots of little bits and pieces for him and his nursery. He was my main inspiration and the ideas were pouring out of me. It gave me the perfect excuse to buy more yarn! The first thing I had ever made, and the thing that had inspired me to learn to crochet in the first place, was a granny square blanket (which is still proudly draped at the end of his bed).

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What are the values underpinning your business?

I love the whole 'buy less, buy better' ethos and hope this is somehow translated in my work. Everything is 'slow made', which I think makes it more special than any mass-produced item you can buy.

I'm on a bit of a journey towards a more simple, natural lifestyle. I have felt overwhelmed in the past with the amount of stuff I've got (I'm a hoarder at heart), and having children only adds to this!  With so much visual and mental 'noise', I wanted to strip back and be a bit more mindful of the things I was filling my home with. My business reflects this ethos, in that I try to keep the designs simple and always made with natural materials, as well as being conscious of our impact on the environment.

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I also want the pieces to be cherished and passed down through generations; I think there is something so special about handmade items that makes people enjoy and look after them in that way. I believe that the things you surround yourself with impact your life, and I want to help people create a calm and inspiring space for themselves and their little ones.

What did you do before setting up your business?

When I was younger I spent a few years studying art and photography, but ended up doing a degree in broadcast media. Since leaving university I've had a few different jobs, but after moving to Sheffield in 2010 I’ve worked in an office (which I still do part time).

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Tell us a little about your work process…

Crocheting is a very portable craft, so luckily, I can cram in a bit of crochet wherever I go. I rarely leave the house without my project bag! I have a sketchbook where I draw out designs or write garbled notes of patterns I'm making as I go. Often, I will find a new stitch or a pattern from Japanese crochet books that I will incorporate into my pieces.

I use natural fibres, mostly cotton and merino wool. In the past I've been completely inspired by some beautiful yarn and just bought it without an idea of what it will be turned into. These days I tend to think of what I want to make before finding the right yarn to work with (but the temptation to buy new yarn is always there!).

As I have two small children (one nearly four, the other ten months old), I do most of my work when they're asleep. My husband will help me out at weekends for a few hours if I need to take photos or get parcels ready; “the juggle” is real!

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Do you have a preferred workspace?

I live in a small terraced house with an attic conversion, so I have claimed a section of the attic as my workspace. Up there is a desk and some shelves with all my materials, stock etc, but in reality, I do the majority of my work in the comfort of my bedroom or living room.

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Where did you learn your craft?

I’m self-taught. I learned to crochet through tutorials I found online and I'm still learning new things every day about running a small business. I do everything from the initial designs to the branding, marketing and of course, the making.

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How has your business evolved since you began?

It has slowly developed over the years; I've tried out a few different products and designs and as I've learned more about pricing, branding, and also where my passion lies, I've adapted the business to grow with me.

I first started out making lots of different things for my son Benjamin, such as bonnets and booties, so thought I'd try putting those out into the world as I was always getting complimented on them. I would buy yarn in sales and experiment with what to make with it.

After moving into our new home in Sheffield (which is slowly being renovated), then going back to work and juggling motherhood, a small business and everything else, I soon became overwhelmed and stressed with the chaotic life I felt I was living. So, I gradually tried to simplify things wherever I could. Getting rid of the clutter that we no longer needed, changing my shopping habits and teaching myself more about simple, mindful living.  

As I learned more about the benefits of living a more natural lifestyle, I started making changes in my everyday life. I gradually changed my beauty products to all-natural ingredients, I replaced the cleaning products I use and I took notice of what my clothes were made of. It was a natural progression for me to stop using synthetic yarns and I became more passionate about creating a positive, inspiring environment for myself at home, and in my business. Logii kind of naturally evolved to reflect this and I focused more on creating home decor.

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How do you balance producing handmade works with the online world?

That's a very good question that I'm still working on!  I wouldn't say I have the perfect balance yet and my online presence is the part that suffers if I'm really busy, but generally, I find the most efficient way of working is to batch tasks.

I'm active most days on Instagram and Pinterest; I tend to reply to customers or DMs whilst I'm feeding or having cuddles with my baby (thank goodness for smartphones!) Most of the ‘making’ part will happen in the evenings when my children are asleep, or if I have a morning or afternoon to myself (which isn't too often).

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How important is the online community to your work?

Oh massively! I've met some wonderful people through Instagram that I chat to regularly; from other mothers to other small business owners, and of course customers.

The majority of traffic to my online shop is from both Instagram and Pinterest, and it's helped me get noticed by some big accounts. It's also a huge source of inspiration!

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Where do you find your creative inspiration?

I'm often inspired by other types of craft or art. I love ceramics and painting, and can be very inspired by the different patterns, colours and textures I find in shops, cafes or magazines. I love the brightness and simplicity of Scandinavian interiors, but am also drawn to bohemian decor; so I was thrilled to discover the whole Scandi-boho movement!

What do you find are the joys of working as a maker, and what are the challenges?

I love working as an independent maker; it's my main creative outlet and I get so much joy and peace from crocheting. I also love the community I have found through social media and the real connections I have made through it. It's such a positive experience and has made me grow in confidence and encouraged me to push myself in ways I wouldn't have done otherwise. It makes my day when I get a happy email from a customer, or get tagged in a photo featuring something from my shop. It's true what they say about small business owners doing a happy dance!

That being said, I do get frustrated by the little amount of time I feel I have to do 'all of the things', but actually, it has pushed me to adapt and focus on what's important. I find it hard to switch off sometimes. Trying to get the balance right is something I'm still working on, but I'm happy with growing slowly as I enjoy my young family.

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Which pieces do you most enjoy creating?

It has always been blankets for me. The reason I first taught myself to crochet was because I saw a photo online of a beautiful crocheted blanket, and just had to know how to make one myself. I find it is very meditative when I get stuck in to making a blanket, and the end results are always worth the time and energy for me. There are endless possibilities too, and I can spend hours deciding on stitches, patterns and materials for my next blanket. I'm slightly obsessed.

Is there a typical working day for you?

Each day is different, and I have my two little ones to occupy me most days, so I fit my work around them, really. Sometimes I'll take a trip out with them via the post office. Other days I'll catch up with work when my eldest is at nursery and my youngest naps. A lot happens in those in-between times and stolen moments. I can do many things on my phone: order supplies, respond to messages, edit photos, update listings. It's not that structured, but I can get a lot done if I have a clear list of jobs and priorities at the start of each week.

In the evening, I try to spend time away from the computer or my phone (not always that easy or possible, but it's something I hope to get better at!), and relax into the process of making. I try to make it an enjoyable and peaceful part of my day; I put on some music or a podcast, light a candle or turn on my essential oil diffuser, and make myself comfortable whilst I work on orders or new designs.

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How do you approach marketing and PR?

The majority of my marketing is done via Instagram and Pinterest, and I've recently started a blog as well. I've taken part in a few product swaps with other makers, which is always fun and helps get your products in front of a new audience.

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What have been your business highlights so far?

Some stand-out moments for me have been when I've been approached by people and brands that I admire who want to collaborate with me or buy my products; I still can't believe it sometimes. But then, I'll never forget the feeling of selling my first blanket - that was an amazing moment.

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Where do you sell your work?

Currently it's only for sale in my Etsy shop online, but I am working on a web shop that will be available via my blog (hopefully in the near future).

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What does the next year hold for you and Logii?

It's a bit of an unpredictable ride as I'm still on maternity leave and we're slowly renovating our house, but business-wise - I've just launched my blog, so I’ll be blogging regularly, and I have a range of new blankets and wall decor in my shop. Hopefully I’ll be attending some more craft fairs, and I wouldn't mind running workshops, so perhaps I'll give that a go - who knows?

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What are your creative pastimes and hobbies?

When I get time, I love to try out other fibre arts such as weaving, knitting, macrame or more recently punch-needling. I've usually got a personal crochet project on the go too - I make clothes for my children or presents for friends. We have an allotment, which also requires a lot of attention, so my husband has taken charge down there; but when the weather is nice, we all go down and help out.

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Any advice to share with makers just starting out?

I'd say do the best with what you have and don't let perfectionism stand in your way; you get better in everything with practice. Spend time finding and connecting with the people that are going to support you, and don't worry if it doesn't all happen overnight (and yay! for you if it does!).

Quick-fire questions

Describe your work in three words…

Simple, soft, Scandi.

What are your making rituals?

Cup of tea at the ready, radio/music/podcast on, some essential oils on the go and get comfortable.

Tea or coffee?

Tea (but I need one strong coffee in the morning to wake me up!).

Mountains or sea?

Sea.

Night owl or early bird?

Night owl trying to be an early bird.

I wish someone had told me...

That procrastination takes many forms, and really, you just need to get on and do the work!

See more from Lois at: www.logii.co.uk or on Instagram

Meet The Maker: Jessica Ford

For many of us creatives, the idea of stepping away from our computer screens and connecting to what we’re doing is something high on our wish lists, but is not always practical with looming deadlines and other commitments.

Fine artist Jessica Ford (who also works as a illustrator and has designed everything from children’s books and packaging to advertising campaigns and fiction covers, as well as this year’s Valentine’s box for Godiva Chocolatiers!) has done just that and carved out time in her schedule to focus on her paintings.

This ‘happy hobby’ has become not only a creative outlet, but also become another business - with her work now hanging in homes across the world (including in the home of social media influencer Zoella).

We chatted to Jessica to find out how she creates her abstract work, divides her time and tips for starting a new venture.

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Hi Jessica! Why and when did you decide to become a professional artist?

I’d been working for ten years as a commercial illustrator (and still do, for half of the time!) but was dying to get away from a screen and get back to physically making art. I love having a varied working life, and still really enjoy the buzz of illustration commissions, but there’s something really exciting about making art for yourself, and not to a brief.

Photography: Joe at Nash Watson

Photography: Joe at Nash Watson

Can you tell me a little about your work? How would you describe your style?

My paintings and colourful, abstract pieces. When I started painting, I was really conscious that I wanted to have a happy experience in the studio, and I wanted the paintings to feel joyous and light - and not depressing. I’m not interested in digging around my soul for melancholy! I want the owner to feel positive when living with my paintings in their home. They’re very easy to live with. 

The whole process for me started out as a happy hobby, that wonderfully evolved into something much bigger. 

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That’s so lovely to hear! How do you go about creating your work?

I like to work on quite big canvases. Strangely I find working on smaller canvases much more challenging! I use acrylic paint, gouache, and graphite pencil. I achieve the different textures by using different mixing mediums. I’m a big fan of a palette knife! I’d probably make a great plasterer!

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Which paintings have been your most popular? Why do you think that is?

I have three prints that sell extremely well: ‘Brood’, ‘Lark’ and ‘Dusk’. I’d say the number one favourite has been ‘Dusk’. I’ve had so many enquiries about that painting, I could have sold it ten times over. Ironically it was on sale for over 6 months, appeared in different galleries, and then as soon as I sold it, the enquiries came piling in. Always seems to be the way!

Harbour by Jessica Ford

Harbour by Jessica Ford

Doesn’t it just? Hard question, but do you have a favourite?

My favourite is ‘Brood’. It was such a favourite that I decided to keep it and it now hangs in my bedroom at home. Again, I’ve had so many offers from people wanting to buy it, that it’s been quite tough to stay firm and not sell, but I’m glad I haven’t. Some things are worth more than money. I’ve lent it out on photoshoots on various occasions, so it’s travelled around a fair bit, and even appeared on one of the room sets at The Ideal Home Show this year.

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That’s exciting! Where do you create? Does your location inspire you?

I have a little, cosy studio in Hove, East Sussex. It’s pretty teeny, but it has a big window, which as all artists know, is the main consideration with taking on a space! I’m very close to the sea, which is always really inspiring! And I love Hove. There’s such beautiful architecture everywhere, and lots of creative people live here. 

Unfortunately I will be leaving this studio soon, as the developers are moving in and turning the workspaces into flats. I do fear for the creative people of Brighton and Hove, as this is increasingly happening, and it means there’s no longer affordable studio space left. A lot of my artist friends have already left the area due to the rising costs, so the future is looking a bit uncertain.

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What does a typical day look like for you?

I divide it up doing my illustration work half the time, and then depending on what my deadlines are looking like, I’ll disappear downstairs to do some painting. I’ve been really lucky that my painting studio has been in the same building as my illustration studio all these years. I can pop between the two, often when I’m waiting for a layer of paint to dry!

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So handy! You use Instagram for your business - how does this work for you?

Instagram has been amazing for me. It’s the only social media platform I use for my painting, as I only really use Facebook for personal use, and Twitter... I’ve never really loved at all!! I’ve sold lots of paintings directly to customers through Instagram, and then it’s been such a buzz to see the paintings in situ, popping up on my client’s feeds. It’s brilliant to be able to communicate directly with your audience. One of my paintings has ended up in a home in Australia, so I’m thrilled the reach of social media travels so far.

Dusk by Jessica Ford

Dusk by Jessica Ford

With already having a successful career in illustration, what tips would you give to those of us looking to start a new venture?

Just start! I talked about painting for years, tentatively planning, dreaming, wishing. Two years ago, I made the decision to properly carve out time in my schedule to commit to it, starting with Friday being my ‘official painting day’. I really believe that it was that New Years resolution that propelled me forward. Sometimes these things just need proper time to grow and to be able to get off the ground.

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What's been your highlight so far?

It was pretty exciting when Zoella bought one of my paintings. It frequently pops up on her Instagram, or in her videos. 

Last year I had a lovely feature in Breathe magazine, and I’ve had loads of lovely support from fab interiors bloggers, such as Sophie Robinson, Little Big Bell, and Emily Dawe. They’ve been so great at featuring my work and helping to raise my profile, which has been such a gift. 

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That’s so fantastic! So, what's next for you?

In my dreams I’d actually love to move into interior design. Perhaps own a shop. Be a stylist. Why are there not more hours in the day! I’m such a career glutton! Haha. I’d love to create a lifestyle brand that brings together my love of painting, colour and interiors.


QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS

Describe your work in three words:  

Colourful, abstract, bold.

What are your making rituals? 

Change into my painting clothes, pop on my favourite podcast and make sure I have a cup of tea by my side!

Tea or Coffee? 

Tea!

Mountains or sea? 

Sea!

Night owl or early bird? 

Early bird!

I wish someone had told me... 

It will all work out! I remember the deep seated fear of leaving university and heading for London to kick start my creative career, armed only with an art degree and not able to do anything else (I couldn’t even work a computer!), and thinking "NOW WHAT?!!" I'm so happy that my creative career actually panned out and I'm able to create art for a living. I feel really lucky.

See more from Jessica at www.jessicaford.co.uk.

Meet the Maker: O-M Ceramic

O-M or Object-Matter Ceramic is the product of artist Carrie Lau, working from her studio in Los Angeles.With playful forms and striking surface pattern, Carrie’s designs have earned her cult status among fans of modern pottery, and, for Carrie, encourage mindful making.

Meet the Maker - O-M Ceramics - 91 Magazine

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Carrie Lau first fell in love with Los Angeles, and making ceramics in 2014. Previously working for a Hong Kong-based fashion magazine, graphic products were clearly in Carrie’s creative blood, but her journey to ceramics was almost accidental. ‘I decided to come to LA for a graphic design program, since then I have been working in graphic design and art direction,’ explains Carrie. ‘but about four years ago my friend introduced me to ceramics and I fell in love with it as a hobby; I got tons of support from friends and family who encouraged me to join a craft market.’

Meet the Maker - O-M Ceramics - 91 Magazine
Meet the Maker - O-M Ceramics - 91 Magazine

O-M Ceramic’s range includes playful cups, contemporary planters, striking glaze-dipped vessels and colour-splattered mugs. ‘The journey has been great - fun and challenging,’ continues Carrie, and her genuine consideration for creative practice through mindfulness results in playful but considered design. ‘Objects {everything} around you are made up of matter, it has its own beauty,’ she muses.

Meet the Maker - O-M Ceramics - 91 Magazine

‘I get inspiration from surroundings, experience, communication, interaction, travel, landscapes, other artists, and so on.’ This widely-drawn inspiration results in playful shapes with splashes of delightful and surprising colour. ‘I love studying colour and shape, they give me a lot of room to play around and see the possibilities,’ confirms Carrie. ‘I sketch and draw here and there, and when I come to make ceramics, it may or may not turn out as what I was planning - there is always a surprise which I love!’

Meet the Maker - O-M Ceramics - 91 Magazine

This flexible ethos has led to O-M’s distinct aesthetic, with a contemporary vibe yet reverence to the nature of clay. ‘My work is playful, minimal and modern with a bunch of colours and graphics,’ she adds, but making the transition from two to three-dimensional design wasn’t simple. ‘It took some time for me to craft by hand, since I am so used to creating digitally,’ she describes. ‘There’s also a blockage of perfection - how to make [the pieces] look perfect,’ continues Carrie. ‘The more that I do, the more I realise the beauty of handmade work is the uniqueness of itself.’

Meet the Maker - O-M Ceramics - 91 Magazine

With this modern expression of graphic design influencing Carrie’s work, O-M is singled out among the popularity of handmade ceramics through its bold minimalism - she was making terrazzo-style glazes and Miami-style graphics long before high street brands picked it up. ‘My collections are full of colour & graphics with a minimal approach,’ adds Carrie. However, Carrie’s audience is steadfast in its love for handmade in whatever form that takes. ‘I have met a lot of people during craft markets, art shows, events and workshops that are also into design and even creatives themselves,’ she considers. ‘They really appreciate the time and effort of the things that are made by hand - it means a lot to me and motivates me to do more.’

Meet the Maker - O-M Ceramics - 91 Magazine

Refreshingly, this doesn’t seem to impact Carrie’s making processes, nor does it pressure her to create something outside of her aesthetic or ethos. ‘I’m not led by seasons or trends, it’s more about realising my sketches,’ says Carrie, ‘but I also enjoy collaborating with different brands on exclusive collections.’

Meet the Maker - O-M Ceramics - 91 Magazine

Carrie enjoys the flexibility of life as a freelance artist, valuing the unique balance of work and personal life. However, like many other makers, she finds it tricky to switch off her creativity. ‘I work pretty much every day, since I work from home,’ Carrie describes. ‘It’s easy to work here and there when you have a little bit of free time - it’s just so easy to keep working.’ And like other creatives, each working day is completely different to the next. ‘A typical day starts with morning coffee, then I walk my dog, Bowl, for a bit,’ begins Carrie. ‘Starting work depends on what projects I have on hand - sometimes I will be making ceramics or drawing, some days I will be taking pictures for my website and social media, or packing and shipping ceramics.’ This flexible approach is as unique as each of Carrie’s pieces, and easily as fabulously interesting.

Quick-Fire Questions:

Describe your work in three words?

Fun, minimal and colourful

What are your making rituals?

Meditation and drawing

Tea or coffee?

Coffee

Mountains or sea?

Both!

Night owl or early bird?

Night owl

I wish someone had told me...

The importance of presence.

Find out more about O-M Ceramic via omceramic.com

Meet The Maker: Forage Botanicals

Creating natural products for women, Forage Botanicals aims to help ease the pain of periods and the stress they can cause our bodies and minds each month. We chat with professional herbalist Natasha Richardson, the maker behind Forage Botanicals, to find out more about painful period remedies and the magic of British herbs. 

Hi Natasha, why and when did you create Forage Botanicals? 

I created Forage Botanicals last year to serve people with terrible periods as I've had. I'm a herbalist and have always made medicines for my patients partly by foraging - a process which connects me with nature.  

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What had you done previously?

Since graduating from uni in 2010 as a herbalist, I've helped patients dealing with period pain, endometriosis, PCOS and infertility. I've also taught people how to use the plants around them through medicine making workshops. 

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Why was it important to you to create products that helped with periods? 

It literally took me years to find herbs, supplements and lifestyle changes that helped my periods. Period pain isn't something we learn much about school but 1 in 4 of us will experience it and have to take medication or time off work for it. I wish I'd been able to walk into a shop and get a natural remedy all those years ago and I aim to make such things available in the future. 

Photo:  Rachel Hudson

Where and how do you source the herbs that you make your products with?

The ingredients in my products all come from British suppliers. I focus on herbs which are native to the UK as much as possible to reduce air miles. At the moment everything I've made is vegan as it's all plant based. 

These are herbs which have been used for thousands of years to help with period problems. But I give them a tweak to suit the demands our modern lives have on us. 

Photo:  Rachel Hudson

How do you create and test your products?

I have used my own journey and over 10 years of treating patients to inform the creation of my products. I have tested them on myself and given them to friends who suffer with severe period pain. I was lucky that my period pain wasn't caused by a serious illness like endometriosis but I give my products to people who do suffer with that to check they're effective at the extremes of symptoms too. 

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Which are your bestsellers?

My Goddess drops and Strengthen + Soothe powder. The Goddess drops are a botanical extract made with Raspberry leaf, Lady's mantle, Rose and Mugwort. This blend helps people embrace their bodies. You take drops of it on the tongue. Sadly with most period problems they go unnoticed for a long time, ignored as they only happen once a month. We tend to put it to the back of our mind, when they are usually a symptom of a bigger problem such as stress. Which leads into the second bestseller; Strengthen + Soothe powder. This is a blend of Ashwagandha, Oat and spices which can be added to smoothies, porridge and the like. It's delicious when added into a nut milk as a chai. It's adaptogenic which means it helps to strengthen your resilience to stress whilst also soothing your nerves. Good for the tired and wired. 

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We can imagine it's a hard question to answer, but do you have a favourite product?

I'm pregnant at the moment so I can't use my absolute favourite: Waning Moon Bath Salts, because they have clary sage in. As I can't have that, I've been really enjoying the Strengthen + Soothe powder instead!

Photography:  Rachel Hudson

Photography: Rachel Hudson

Where do you make your wares? Does your location inspire you?

I make my products in my kitchen where I have access to hundreds of dried herbs, tinctures, essential oils and powders. The herbs inspire me as I can't help but imagine their taste and smell when I see them. It is intoxicating. 

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What does a typical day look like for you?

I usually start my day with a swim. It clears my mind and keeps me fit. Then I'll come home to a smoothie with some of my Strengthen + Soothe powder. I'll start my working day with setting up a to-do list in my calendar if I don't already have one. Then I run through it hour by hour. I flexibly change my priorities as things arise during the day. I like to work on my book in the morning, break for lunch then make products in the afternoon.

After my work day is done, I cook for myself and my husband's return from work. Then we both go and check on the allotment in the evening before settling into bed with a book and a cup of herbal tea. At the moment I'm having Elderberry syrup with hot water to keep my immunity up as the seasons change. 

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Sounds perfect! What's been your Forage Botanicals highlight so far?

I have most enjoyed writing my book on stress and menstruation. It's due for publication in a couple of years' time. I hope it can help raise awareness of common period problems and help people get the support they need rather than just accepting their lot as someone with ovaries.

That's exciting! Apart from the book, what's next for Forage Botanicals?

I will be crowdfunding in the next few months in order to launch my next product; a balm for cramps.   

QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS

Describe your work in three words: 

Wild, empowering, soulful

What are your making rituals? 

I NEED a completely clear and clean surface. So important.

Tea or Coffee? 

Herbal tea, duh!

Mountains or Sea? 

Mountains!

Night Owl or Early Bird? 

Early bird. That's why I do my writing in the morning! 

I wish someone had told me... 

To take imperfect action. 

See more about Forage Botanicals at www.foragebotanicals.co.uk

Meet the Maker: Paper Covers Rock

We chat to Rachel Caunt, the artist behind Paper Covers Rock about her stunning collages, finding inspiration in ordinary places and her love for all-things paper… 

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Hi Rachel! How did you know you wanted to become an artist? 

I enjoyed creative activities from a young age but, like many people, I have been employed in all sorts of roles over the years - from care assistant to retail buyer. Life takes twists and turns and I never really had a very clear career plan. It has only been in the past three years that I have been able to properly develop my small business and generate an income doing something I have always loved. 

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When and why did you start Paper Covers Rock?

I started working with collage about nine years ago during a short period of time living in Driftwood, Texas, about an hour’s drive from Austin. Located in the woods and unable to drive, I filled my days with walking, cooking and creative projects. l became fascinated with a collection of old kaleidoscopes, the patterns and colours that they produced and attempted to recreate them using tissue paper, tweezers and a great deal of patience. 

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My ‘Kaleidoscope Collages’ received unexpected interest from friends and later stockists and led to the creation of Paper Covers Rock, my brand of prints and greeting cards based on original paper collages. 

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Where do you find inspiration?

With each collection and project, inspiration is drawn from colour, shape and texture, and how these elements work together to tell a story, create a mood and form a composition. On a daily basis, I am inspired by my surroundings, paying attention to the smallest details and finding beauty in ordinary places. I like the way that paint peels on derelict walls revealing colours beneath and the unintentional collages that are created by torn advertising posters.

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The most striking colour combinations can often be found in nature, with different places having their own colour palette. Bodnant Garden in North Wales has become a very special place to me in recent years. Its beauty is magical and fills me with ideas. During my trip to Japan last year, I spent a day walking across Amanohashidate, a pine covered sandbar that spans the mouth of Miyazu Bay. It was stunningly beautiful and evoked all kinds of emotions. Some places just stay with you once you’ve left.

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Sounds magical! What has been your favourite 'career high' so far?

During the Edinburgh Festival in 2016, I exhibited a collection of collage prints at my friend Helen's beautiful café, Fieldwork. This year I created work for an exhibition entitled 'Into the Haze' at Botany on East London's Chatsworth Road. I would definitely consider these exhibitions to be my 'career highs'. It was truly lovely to see my designs displayed in such inspiring, thoughtfully curated surroundings. It is also wonderful to receive positive feedback, every complimentary word at a market or kind comment on social media, is a boost of confidence and validation of what I am trying to achieve.

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How would you describe your style?

It evolves with every collection and sometimes I worry that I do not have a clear and recognisable style, however I hope my use of colour, shape and texture somehow unites the work.  

I tend to use gentle, muted colours to create simple and thoughtfully constructed, abstract compositions. 

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Can you talk us through the process? 

Every design starts as an original collage, these are largely made solely from paper but I have recently started to experiment with other materials, such as fabric. Most projects begin with a trip to Shepherds on Gillingham Street – paper heaven! I also bought some beautiful handmade papers during our visit to Japan last year so I have incorporated those into many of my most recent pieces, including those created for my exhibition at Botany. 

I sit at my desk or on the floor, surrounded by any new papers I have sourced as well as the large collection I have accumulated over the years. I experiment with colour and texture combinations and then spend time creating a composition using the chosen fragments. 

Sometimes the original collages are the finished pieces but I often develop my designs a little digitally at this stage so they can also become greeting cards and Giclée prints. 

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Speaking of Japan, some of your most recent work was inspired by your trip - how did it inspire you?

Last year I travelled around Japan for three weeks with my partner, Adam. Before the trip, a number of people told me that, once you've visited Japan, you will want to plan a return visit almost immediately after stepping off the plane. They weren't wrong! 

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Japan was everything that I had hoped it would be and so much more. New designs began to take shape very naturally on my return. My mind was full of all the beauty we had seen and the joy I felt discovering new and inspiring places each day. The attention to detail and thoughtful consideration in every aspect of Japanese design is astounding and yet it is presented with an effortless simplicity. I wanted to create pieces of work that captured the colour palette that emerged from my memories and photographs, as well as the feeling of calm that I experienced whist gaining an insight into their wonderful way of life.

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Can you tell us a little about each of your collections? 

I have always enjoyed working in 'Collections', I decide on a theme or aesthetic and then allow a set of designs to develop from this. My earlier collections, 'Pie' and 'Arrow', were more geometric. They were still inspired by colour and texture but with a focus on balance, repetition and pattern making. The next collection I produced was the 'Sightseer Collection', these are fun, little postcard style designs. Each one is a memory of a place visited or an emotion felt, like holiday snaps. Then came the 'Fragment Collection', a set of abstract collages inspired by fragments of songs, dreams and memories. My most recent work was created for my exhibition at Botany. These designs have a more fluid, organic feel to suit the environment in which they were to be displayed. I enjoy challenging myself to create something new and develop my style with each collection. 

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Is there one piece that you love a little more than the others?

Some designs seem to come together with a lot more ease than others and they often tend to be my favourites. At present, I am most satisfied with 'Flow I' because of the colour palette and fluidity of the shapes. The design I have most consistently favoured over time is 'Rotation I', I love the cornflower blue background and the overall balance of the composition. The cards that I choose to send out the most are 'Whirl' and 'Into the Haze'. 

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You've just finished exhibiting at Botany (a concept plant and homeware shop in East London) - do you have any advice for other artists wishing to exhibit (but perhaps aren't sure where to start)?

Have confidence in your own work. It's not easy to put yourself out there but I think if you try to produce work that you personally like and are proud of, then other people will like and appreciate it too. 

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Perhaps you have more advice for those starting out?

Just keep plodding on... having a small creative business is a complete rollercoaster. I have really positive times when I think it's all going brilliantly and then other times when I question what on earth I am doing with my life. I think the key is to accept that there are highs and lows and just try to enjoy the ride. Being able to generate an income doing something you enjoy is a very fortunate position to be in so be grateful for that and work hard. 

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What does the next six months hold for you?

I’ve just had a baby boy (Isaac, born on 28th May), so, over the next six months I will mainly be embracing all the joys and challenges that come with being a new mum. As I work from home, I fully intend to continue with all things Paper Covers Rock as soon as I feel comfortable to do so. I hope to find a nice balance and one of the first projects I would like to work on is a children's range of prints and cards. 

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Congratulations! As well as the children’s range, do you have any other goals you'd like to share with us?

My dream is to move to the coast and have a studio/retail space. I would like to expand my product range and also work on more commissions and collaborations. Earlier this year I worked with Henri, a contemporary women's shirting brand to produce a series of collages for their new London store. The artwork used offcuts of fabric from the shirts and the compositions were a response to the imagery that had inspired the SS18 collection. The collaboration took me nicely out of my comfort zone and led to the production of work I was extremely happy with. I am always open to interesting new projects and like to keep an open mind in regards to the future of Paper Covers Rock. 

Quick-fire questions

Describe your work in three words...

Gentle, thoughtful and abstract

What are your making rituals?

A pot of coffee, my Spotify Daily Mix, a desk covered in paper and a little fresh air in the afternoon. I'm sure this will all be far less leisurely now I'm a mum. 

Tea or Coffee?

Coffee

Mountains or Sea?

Depends on my mood, it's just lovely to escape the busy city.  

Night Owl or Early Bird?

Early Bird

I wish someone had told me...

Never to wish the time away and to appreciate every stage of life a little more because it is constantly changing and it flies by! 

Visit Rachel's website at: papercoversrock.co.uk

Images by Jon Aaron Green

Meet The Maker: KANA London

London-based ceramicist Ana Kerin explores her love for sculpture and all its textural possibilities through KANA, distinctive stoneware that embodies both function and form.

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While ceramics seem to be having ‘a moment’ for design lovers, they have been a somewhat paradoxical artform for Ana Kerin, whose conceptual fine art has come full circle and now encompasses earthy, simplistic form in her ceramics. ‘I studied fine art at degree and post-graduate level in my native Slovenia, and there was a lot of theory, art history and traditional drawing involved,’ recalls Ana. ‘It was an amazing experience, and I had such thorough training, but it was quite intense,’ she admits. Her background in sculpture was founded here, where the art students were encouraged to use all kinds of materials in their sculpture work, ‘I always came back to clay!’ she exclaims. While Ana was led to a ‘high-end’ art career after studying, producing works such as large-scale installations and conceptual pieces, it was the smaller elements that had the mark of human touch that interested her: ‘while I was working on large fine art projects, I enjoyed the non-pretentious side of making functional ceramics in the studio,' explains Ana, ‘so when I moved away from Slovenia it gave me license to pursue more functional forms- which was of course more financially sustainable.’ 

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Ana’s studio KANA now sells hand-crafted dinnerware, gifts and vessels, each with a modern aesthetic and unique use of beautiful, mottled glazes and finishes. Ana has collaborated with Petersham Nurseries, illustrator Alexa Coe and London restaurants to produce smoothly-hewn pieces that have a hand-finished edge. Small, glossy pinch pots have gilded curse words gently brushed on, while traditional handmade tea cups have blue pigment applied with a brush to mimic the effect of Ana's etchings or watercolours. With the rough edges and personal traces of the artist left on each piece, Ana’s work wasn’t immediately received when she launched in 2012. ‘A lot of my pieces toe the line between “fine” art and function,’ Ana says. ‘What happens when you take a conceptual piece away from a gallery or exhibition space and put it in your kitchen? Does it de-art it?!’ However, she doesn’t detract from the work of fellow ceramicists. ‘I admire greatly the skills of potters who throw pots,’ Ana continues. ‘A great potter is trying to achieve perfection and produce thousands of identical cups that bear no trace of the human touch- which makes the commercial potter much more anonymous.’ 

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In the past six years Ana’s work evolved to the point where she found need of her own studio, and in May 2017 moved into the space she now occupies in Hackney, East London. ‘I’ve moved spaces five times in London- studios are so expensive and rare- and I often outgrew previous premises,’ she says. ‘Having my own space is so important to me, and I’ve found it interesting how my spaces affect my work.’ Often producing a range or collection for a shop or restaurant, Ana found it necessary to have a large enough space to accommodate large volumes of ceramics and has found the freedom of  ‘a room of one’s own’ to be a huge influence on her. ‘There’s no point being frustrated by someone else’s timetable or habits, or being confused by the lack of light or windows- here I have so much natural light and I find my colour palette is often dictated by my mood,’ she adds. KANA’s collections are not led by trends or fashions, instead Ana can work on a collection for as long as two years before producing a cohesive range, which seeps into smaller releases such as vessels or a certain colourway before a big collection is unveiled. 

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In the meantime, Ana finds time to share her expertise through teaching at her Kana Clay Parlour. Small groups can attend one-off workshops or even a series of more intimate classes to learn about how Ana uses her medium as expression and for function. ‘I’ve been teaching art since as early as high school, and I still really enjoy it as every group is different,’ says Ana. ‘Sometimes it can be the combination of the people in the group that’s interesting, and sometimes it’s more like a therapy session!’ While the idea is to learn Ana’s technique of clay building and create a finished piece, learning new muscle memory and skills, it can be quite therapeutic for some students. ‘I really get a lot out of these sessions,’ continues Ana. ‘I often need to introduce the idea that we need to turn off our expectations, let go of ego and allow yourself to be new at something- ultimately most people are surprised by the quality of what they’ve made and it’s just great having that time to yourself to be creative.’ 

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Being conscious and respectful of one’s time is something Ana is very enthusiastic about, especially as an independent business owner. ‘Although I have some sort of routine, planning my days can be tricky- I feel like I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to find a routine!’ laughs Ana. ‘It’s important that I find some quiet, alone time each day- either with a coffee at home or here in the studio,’ she continues. ‘After that it might be five meetings in a row with no time to eat or pee, or it might be a three-hour work lunch with a friend and colleague- either way I have to tell myself that it’s OK to spend time in this way rather than at the studio until 2am every night.’ Routine, it seems, is as flexible as Ana’s work, and her incredibly philosophical approach to art and life. Whether she’s teaching, making or creating new connections, Ana’s business continues to grow with love and passion. 

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Quick-Fire Questions

Describe your work in three words... 

Tactile, personal, memories (stimulates or creates)

What are your making rituals? 

Silence and late nights 

Tea or Coffee? 

Coffee

Mountains or sea? 

Sea!

Night owl or early bird? 

Night owl

I wish someone had told me... 

How much easier life gets once you are past 30! 

Visit Ana's website at www.kanalondon.com

All photography by Georgia Gold