So, six months have flown by insanely fast since I last updated Meet the Makers. It’s a been a flurry of working for The London Artisan on Sundays and my teaching job Monday-Friday, as well as my ongoing work for The Holborn magazine. All great stuff, but certainly enough to put the blog on the backburner. However, I am now intently working with a creative coach and graphic designer, as well as starting a freelance journalism course AND I’m taking part in Blogging Your Way’s latest course ‘Blog Power’ to brainstorm ways to rebrand, relaunch and renew everything around here. Don’t give up on me just yet, and check out my Pinterest which I’ve spend loads of time on recently and gives a bit of a clue about where I’m heading next….
I recently interviewed Daniel Heath for the next issue of The Holborn (out November). Daniel is a textile designer who handprints stunning wallpapers featuring gorgeous colour combinations. His prints feature beautifully illustrated circus animals and big-tops, whilst his newer work is all about striking geometric patterns.
I visited him at his workshop in Walthamstow and loved seeing a new roll of paper being experimented with. Daniel’s work also expands to delightful cushions, plus incredible etched mirrors and furniture. The time and patience that is put into his work is staggering and I was super jealous of his talent (as I am with all people I interview). Wallpaper printing workshop
Daniel also runs workshops to teach you how to screenprint your own wallpaper. £100 for 6 hours worth of tuition + at least 3m of your very own original wallpaper – as designed by you – sounds very, veeeeery tempting to me. Check out this link for more info on the workshop (starting Sept. 26th) and this link for more info on Daniel himself.
I love everything about Oh Joy. Her content is colourful, personable and her kids are adorable. She’s a bit of a DIY superstar and featured this great paper fan himmeli (a decoration made of straw) a while ago. It has absolutely no practical use and that’s why I like it.
If you’ve seen Issue 50 of ‘Mollie Makes‘, this little chappy might look familiar. Designed by Michelle Galletta of Kiriki Press, he’s as smart as he is cute as what he actually wants to do is teach you all about embroidery. Sadly, he doesn’t have his own YouTube channel but he does come all neatly packaged up with clear instructions on how to create the different stitches that make him so special. I met Michelle at the New York Renegade Craft Fair to talk about why she favours creating DIY kits over ready made dolls, how word of mouth helped Kiriki Press flourish and the next embroidery step.
My name’s Michelle, I’m a print-maker and Kiriki Press is my business. I make embroidery kits, I screen print everything out of my home studio in Toronto. I started making little dolls for my nieces when they were a bit younger and everyone told me they had a little something to them, so I decided to use my training in print-making to try to make a business out of it. I started out with seven different patterns and it’s grown to twelve now. I’ve been doing it about two years.
Why did you decided to create DIY kits instead of simply selling ready-made dolls?
I guess the main intention was to give other people the opportunity to make something really special with their own hands. I love the whole ‘do it yourself’ thing, so much of what we have is digital and automated so it’s really nice to be able to take a step back, relax with something and have your own time to put a project together. I just wanted to come up with bright, little, not too intimidating designs so that people could approach it slowly and get into embroidery. I’m hoping to get people in my generation into embroidery.
You have very cute woodland animals! Where do you look for inspiration? Are there any blogs or magazines?
I’m pretty active on Pinterest, especially for surface pattern inspiration. A lot of it comes from just having the hoop in front of me. I’ll start with a real picture of whatever animal I wanna make, kind of stylise it and the stitches themselves just kind of come to me as I’m planning out the embroidery.
So do you run Kiriki Press full-time?
I do. It amazingly started right off the bat. I moved back in with my mother for a year while I put everything together. The whole thing came to me in one of those eureka moments. I always knew that I wanted to do something that was really affordable, small and that I could travel with. I just thought it was going to be a part-time gig while I was looking for a job in the print making industry. I worked at a couple of print-making studios in the years before doing this and I was just waiting for the next gig to arrive. So I took about a year off to come up with all of the kits and my first show in Toronto that I did I had a few retailers approach me and then I took a bit more time to put everything together, figure out the mass production of the kit. By that point, I guess through word of mouth and stuff, I had a few more stockists and it just snowballed from there.
What exciting things are coming up in Kiriki Press’ future?
I’m coming out with a line of embroidered pendant kits which I think will be really good. There are people who are still a little intimidated by the kits so a jewellery thing would be perfect as it’s an even smaller sampler and you can wear it and show it off! The kits now are for ages 12 years and up and I’m also trying to come out with kits for ages 6 – 12 years.
That’s so awesome! I work with kids a lot and they just love anything craftsy or artsy. Thank you so much for your time Michelle.
To have a go at improving your stitching, treat yourself to Mollie Makes issue 50, or follow Kiriki Press:
I definitely have a thing for illustration. Add in an animal in a costume and I’m officially in love. Which is why interviewing Alice Tams of Birds in Hats has been on my ‘hitlist’ for a while (in a non-assassination way). Alice’s love for animals in accessories has grown from a joke to a full-time designer-maker business and certainly makes for an inspiring read. I went to visit the ‘Birds in Hats’ creator at the ‘We Make London‘ pop-up in Kentish Town a few weeks ago, where I was really excited to catch Alice working on a new bird to live in the Little House Kitchen cafe there. Read on for some gems of wisdom regarding how to approach that tricky creativity vs. making money debate, her latest project as part of Studio Klubo, and what we can expect her newest animal obsession to be wearing next season…
***STOP PRESS! For the first time in Meet the Makers short life, I’m excited to offer a fantastic discount to you lovely lot. Just take a read of this interview with Alice and find an exclusive 15% discount code at the bottom of the post. Happy Valentine’s month! ***
Hi Alice! Can you tell me what you’re up to at the moment?
Quite a few things actually! I’m preparing my whole new Christmas range and my calendar. Your Christmas range already?! I know. When I did my very first Christmas range I designed it literally in November which was great ’cause everyone was in a Christmassy mood while I was drawing it, but not practical in terms of getting in to shops. Last year I was fairly organised and had it all done by June. I’ve just decided that I do so little in those February-March months when it’s a little bit quieter, I’m going to get it done now.
How would you sum up Birds in Hats? How did it start?
I tell people this all the time but it really is a joke that got out of hand. I was drawing this owl like 5 years ago when I was still doing a creative writing degree at Goldsmiths. And it just wasn’t very good, it was all out of proportion, so I put a baseball cap on it backwards as a joke. And something about it just really clicked. It made my housemate laugh a lot so he asked if I’d draw him a vulture in a safari hat for his birthday. I’ve always loved drawing animals more than anything so I was quite happy to keep doing this. The more I did it, the funnier it got, so I kept doing it and that’s why I’m still doing it now.
I think it’s wicked. I see you’ve expanded into dinosaurs as well…
Yes, it’s the big project this year. I’m going to try and do a dinosaur collection for Christmas, equal to my Birds in Hats collection. Dinosaurs also wearing hats? Umm, jumpers. There will be some Christmas jumpers.
Well, full-time: 2-3 years. It’s really hard for me to pinpoint where it really began because it was such a slow burner. It was a joke for like a year, a blog that I literally just kept to make my friends laugh. Then other people started to get interested. I was still at uni when I was setting up the business but I still didn’t think it would be a full time thing. I was just incredibly flattered that people wanted to buy my cards. I was happy to make them and just break even. I worked in a pub for two years after I graduated, just to support myself, and I gradually moved the shifts. So I was working full time to begin with and then as I got more successful I could drop a shift at the pub and devote that day to illustration and every month I’d shift the ratio until I eventually was only on one day a week at the pub, and then I had to quit that. Then I spent two years doing every Sunday on Brick Lane right up until this Christmas, which I’ve just stopped doing now. That provided me with, not a consistent income at all, but an income, which is hard to come by as an illustrator starting out. So yeah, there wasn’t exactly a five year plan!
What’s it’s like working for yourself?
It’s been a strange journey. It gets easier and harder in peaks and troughs I find. You have to either be incredibly self-disciplined, or in my case, learn self-discipline. You feel very guilty for not working at your absolute hardest 100% of the time, ’cause all of your income relies on you. You feel like you can’t take a day off, but you can work 7 days a week and not work that well, or work 5 days a week and work really well so you have to really make time for yourself.
Alice working on a new bird in a hat in the ‘We make London’ pop-up (photos: Verity Inett)
You’ve had some great collaborations with ‘Etsy’ and now ‘We make London‘. How did this come about?
Well, I guess it’s just putting yourself out there. I do a lot of markets, especially the Crafty Fox market which is where I met Georgia Bosson and Cecily Vessey who I’m now running Studio Klubo with. Mary who runs ‘We Make London‘ just got given this space by the council, who are trying to rejuvenate these streets (in Kentish Town) and she came to us and asked if we wanted the opening week. Possibly because we all already have established product ranges.
So is Studio Klubo completely new?
It is brand new actually. We’ve been wanting to collaborate for a while and haven’t found a solid physical project. It’s been really fun! It’s very fluid, being brand new it could change a lot.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to be a full-time illustrator?
Advice is really important and I didn’t really have any as I didn’t do an illustration degree. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. I’d say support yourself for as long as you can because massive financial pressure will drag you down and is not the key to creativity. If you throw the towel in and say, ‘right, I’ve got 3 months to make this work’, your work might suffer because of that. You’ll get less done having another job but it is doable and you might make better decisions. You’ll be able to act on your instinct. So yeah, don’t put loads of financial pressure on yourself. You’ve got to be practical. If you burn yourself out, you’re not going to make anything that anyone else wants to look at.
That’s really true. I just read a blog post that Sarah Fordham (embroidery legend who I’ve previously interviewed) wrote about being skint after following her creative dreams for so many years and the difficulties of balancing that out.
Yeah, I’m really, really lucky. I’ve had a lot of lucky breaks. Like when I as first starting out and all I had was the blog, this magazine that was just starting out, ‘Oh Comely‘, it was only their 5th issue and they asked if I wanted to be their featured illustrator so I said, ‘Yes!’. It was a double page spread and that was the only reason anyone really found out about me. I started to get just 2 or 3 emails asking if I did cards or prints and I realised maybe there was something in this. I was also lucky in that I was a student at the time which does give you a level of security in that you have your degree, student loan. I would say do follow your heart absolutely, but also be practical at the same time. You don’t want to end up resenting the one thing that makes you happy. I’ve got to the point where I’ve taken on too many commisions at the same time and it’s made me hate drawing and not look forward to going into the studio. So I had to decide to work better not harder. I have to charge more for my commissions or just say no. It’s really tricky and you’ll learning constantly. I’m sure I’ll be learning when I’m 40, 50…
My long-term plans are a little bit more concrete than they were when I was a student, but they’re still very fluid. I would like to move more into wholesale rather than doing Brick Lane every Sunday. I want something a bit more reliable so I’m going to do my first trade show this year and that’s why I’m getting all my Chrsitmas collection done so early. I’m actually doing a course in paleo-biology at the moment, learning a lot about dinosaurs!
I was going to say there must be some biology interest going on for you to do this…
Oh God, yeah. So that’s going to hopefully make my dinosaur collection as informed as possible. And just to get more work done. ‘Cause you do get to this point where you’re not making a huge amount of money but you’re packaging all the time. So it’s learning to delegate and let go a little bit. Obviously, you’ve got to pay someone else to do it, but your time is better spent designing new things. From October to December I barely draw a thing except for commissions ’cause any spare time is putting envelopes in cellephene bags. It’s not a great use of my time at the end of the day.
Thank you so much Alice!
She’s pretty wonderful, right? Which birdy creation would you most like to see?
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