A desire for homeware that are authentic and bespoke has given people who make their own pieces an important place within the interior design industry.
Home decorators have a new thirst for the handmade, artisan and small-scale, and everyday people – with a passion for making things with their own two hands – are driving the trend.
Designer and interiors expert Simone Haag says those who come to her for style advice want to know more about the pieces she chooses for them than ever before.
“Perhaps there was a time where design was purely aesthetic, but people love a story,” Haag says.
“Knowing who made something in your home and the level of craft behind it is a huge element in my work and an important one in me ‘selling in’ the pieces I specify to my clients.”
Haag says the craft revival came first, foreshadowing the trend towards original and non-mass-produced items to fill our homes.
She says makers are now taking their craft to the next level, from hobby to full time career.
“With so many ways to share your story, it was only a matter of time before people wanted in. Take weaver Maryanne Moodie for instance. She single-handedly changed my view on macrame and weaving, and now I am a passionate collector. What is funny is that my mum was huge into that in the ’70s and it has now come full circle after attending Maryanne’s classes.”
Another Melbourne maker, ceramicist Leah Jackson, has recently gone full time with her business Leah Jackson Ceramics.
Jackson creates decorative tableware from porcelain that she colours herself, experimenting with different dyes.
She currently operates by herself in a shared studio in Albert Park’s Gasworks Arts Park. But with 40,500 Instagram followers and an influx of orders coming through to her website, she is looking to soon hire an assistant ceramist to help her keep up.
“There’s a lot of focus on handmade items and that’s just so wonderful and such a lovely response to what’s been mass made for a really long period of time,” Jackson says.
“It’s becoming more and more that people are actually curious about who is making the work and how it’s being made, technique and materials and ideas. It is much more prominent than it’s ever been before.”
Jackson says there is a desire from her customers to not only understand the piece but to be able to learn how to make it themselves.
“It (ceramics) wasn’t seen as this desirable skillset to have, where as now there’s a lot of interest in ceramics particularly I think.
“Hopefully the handmade sustains, and continues to be seen as something that is very important for our culture and our interiors and that people seek it out and people want to learn more about as well.”
For Melbourne’s Michael Gittings, making is something that he has always done – in some form or another – since he was a child.
Right now he makes chairs out of old copper plumbing pipes, which he welds, moulds and weaves himself for his growing furniture business FatFish Designs.
Gittings has recently set up a workshop in shared studio space Space Tank in North Coburg, which he shares with other furniture makers and artists.
A full-time roofer by trade, Gittings comes to his workshop after work and on weekends to work on his chairs.
“I’d love to be a maker full-time, that’s the goal for the future,” he says.
The trend towards handmade interiors means the future looks bright for Gittings, whose biggest challenge right now is finding enough hours in the day to work on his designs.
“The interior design industry has definitely been changed by the maker movement. You can see even in the fitouts of big restaurants and things like that. There’s a lot of reclaimed timber, a lot more handmade-looking furniture. I think that’s definitely driven by the maker movement,” he says.
“People want things to look they’ve had a life, like they’ve got a story. People aren’t wanting such mass-produced items anymore.”
The follow culture
Haag says Instagram and Pinterest have helped shape the careers of many makers – giving them an opportunity to build a network of followers with whom they can share their story.
“Via Instagram everyone (myself included) has had the ability to shape their online presence and inspire and share the work and the motivation behind the work.”
This platform is important to consumers of handmade goods, who want to be able to quickly and easily learn about the pieces they are considering to style with.
The educated consumer, Haag says, only wants things that a have a story or that bespoke element to them, but there are still a number of people “who just want an array of bits to fill a shelf”.
As more and more people try their hand at making, the more handmade options become available and the more discoverable they become. Not through trend forecasting magazines, celebrity designers, brands or advertisers, but through self-marketed makers appearing in our Instagram feeds.
So where does this leave interior designers who can’t make?
“Good designers in my mind are not those who can do it all – but those who seek out collaborations and celebrate the skill sets of the leaders of their field,” Haag says.
“That being said, I feel the lines are blurring that little bit more and designers and makers are joining forces in a more commercial sense to leverage off their joint following.”
Besides, anyone can be a maker, but not everyone can make it as a maker.
“From the hobby side of things I feel the maker movement has become a wonderful antidote to today’s high intensity lifestyle governed by technology. But can it be a career? Only for the special ones.”