Monday, 27 September 2010

Interview 4: Milk Milk Lemonade

Designers Marketplace has fallen slightly behind on its interviews as we've been busy running around our capital at London Design Festival. Having spent three days at various shows, exhibitions and events, we feel the need to say northern design talent has just as much to offer as our southern comrades. Having returned and reflected upon our trip down, Designers Marketplace feels even stronger about its support towards northern based up and coming artists and designers. We are working on new plans and direction for the new year but until then please look forward to our Christmas market at Middlesbrough Town Hall on Sunday 28th November. See website for more details:

Anyway, back to last weeks interview with one of our newest recruits, surface designer Ella Kirk with her homeware brand Milk Milk Lemonade.

So Ella, tell us what is your background and training is in…

I’ve always been a scribbler. I loved art and mainly illustration throughout school and college. I graduated with a First in Surface Pattern Design last year from Leeds Collage of Art and Design where I learnt how to transfer my doodles onto various materials, including ceramics, fabrics and papers via various printing methods (screen, heat transfer, digital, mono…).

And why have you decided to become self employed?
After University I found the design job pool to be pretty shallow but have remained eager to produce and sell my designs for homeware, giftware and fashion textiles. I decided to try and get my stuff out there independently showing at various galleries and selling through etsy and Designer’s Marketplace.

Describe your brand 'Milk Milk Lemonade', what does it represent and mean to you?
‘Milk Milk Lemonade…’ is a naughty saying my Mum taught me when I was little. My illustration and colour palette have always been quite childlike, I use toys and memories as inspiration but try to add a more ‘grown up’ twist with typography and composition.

What exciting things are you working on at the moment?...
At the moment I’m working on a new line of cotton scarves. My fashion scarves have until now been digitally printed on silk and I wanted to make my designs more available to a younger audience with a lower price point. I’ve also started selling ipod and laptop skins from website Society6.

What processes do you go through to get to that final design?
Doodling is still my first port of call, I’ll doodle whatever I find curious and then scan it in to Photoshop and fiddle around with colours, mirroring, repetition etc. I then tend to send my designs off to various printers to get a proper shiny professional finish on mugs, fabrics and greetings cards etc.

What are your plans for 'Milk Milk Lemonade', how big are you hoping the brand will become?
HUGE… well, that would be lovely but so far ‘Milk Milk Lemonade’ is making a name for itself in Manchester and hopefully now I have moved to Middlesbrough, it will be as successful here. My online shop has also helped me with success across the country and hopefully that will continue to grow.

What methods do you use to market your business?
I’ve currently got a few exhibitions in the Manchester area, one at Manchester Gallery of Costume and one at The Royal Exchange Theatre. I also use Faebook, online store Etsy, online portfolio site Society6, my website. I also write to blogs like Print & Pattern to see if they may be interested in featuring ‘Milk Milk Lemonade’… if you don’t ask you don’t get!

Where do you go for your inspiration?
Museums and zoos, toy shops, charity shops… anywhere I can observe or photograph things you don’t see everyday. On the other hand I like to collect everyday objects to draw, I like to make the familiar alien to me again- like seeing it for the first time, I think that’s the childlike thing coming in again there. I like discovery.

What do you feel are the most important skills for a designer to have and/or develop?
Curiosity. I think if you want to make something out of an object or theme, you have to be curious about it and what you can squeeze out of it. I think drawing, painting etc are useful and I’d be lost without them but experimentation and a sense of your own design style, I think, produce the most appealing design.

What has been the biggest achievement in your design career since leaving university?
I think my exhibition at ‘Manchester Gallery of Costume’ (ongoing) and the sale of my greetings cards from ‘Manchester City Art Gallery’ are my main achievements. Having your work sold legitimately and knowing that it has such a wide audience gives me a lovely, warm, fuzzy, validated feeling.

What is your advice for new graduates or students hoping to set up their own business in design?
Don’t be afraid to be a wee bit pushy. Try and get your name anywhere and everywhere, get a website, promote on Facebook, Twitter wherever you can, don’t expect miracles but use every opportunity, don’t be afraid to invest in yourself and keep talking to other designers for tip offs about printers, exhibitions, blogs…everything!

Website address:
or find 'Milk Milk Lemonade' on Facebook

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Week 3 Interview: What Katy Did Next

Designers Marketplace has had a busy busy past week running between the exciting cities of Amsterdam and London hunting out some design related brain food. This is the first chance we've had to upload our interview from last week with designer maker Katy Howieson, owner of the fresh new brand What Katy Did Next...

So Katy, what is your background and training in?
Studying Design Technology and Textiles for GCSE and A Levels was a real turning point for me. I had always been artistic and creative but the lessons made me realise that this was where my strengths were and it was an added bonus that it was something I enjoyed doing. For my Degree I decided Textiles and Surface Design was the perfect choice for me. I had already gained my making ability from d.t. and wanted to develop my skills in surface decoration. Throughout the course I managed to attain my own style of working as well as my awareness of the design industry.

And having just recently graduated what made you decide to set up your own business and move into designer maker products?
Even though my degree course was about surface design and decoration I have always loved making gifts for people or customising my own outfits. My second year at university really opened up my eyes and I found a media I was comfortable with and developed my own style of working – Embroidery! I started making a few accessories for myself such as hair bands and necklaces which caught a lot of attention. A friend suggested making some up to sell and after hearing about the Designers Marketplace through Helen Stevens (my tutor at the time) I decided this was something I wanted to be part of. Since having my first stall last Christmas my confidence has grown immensely and I have been working hard on getting my own business up and running since then.

Describe your brand 'What Katy Did Next', what does it represent and mean to you?
The name for the brand ‘What Katy did Next’ comes from a series of books I read as a child. In my early teens I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer and that this would be the name of my label. Even though the fashion designer dream has altered the name has stuck. The brand represents accessories for people who want something that not everybody has, something that is different enough for them to make a statement and although some of my work does follow fashion trends it also carries enough of my own taste and style for it to stand out from the crowd. I feel especially proud when I’m complimented on my bespoke one off designs and custom made pieces.

I think its the compliments which make it all worth while in the end, there is nothing more fulfilling. Do you feel the interaction with potential customers at Designers Marketplace helps to direct your products? Who would you say your target market is?
Absolutely! At last years market my embroidered products were limited to hairbands and a couple of necklaces, a couple of members of the public mentioned how they loved the idea of the product but felt hairbands were a bit to young for them. One woman suggested making brooches and then comissioned a few from me there. Initially my target market was for young females, but after doing the designers market and meeting an array of new customers I have widened my scope to an older audience. My accessories cater for all ages of women with a taste for something quirky and classy with a vintage feel.

What are you working on at the moment?
My work is currently being stocked in Changing Rooms in Middlesbrough and Sunkissed in Sedgefield, so as well as providing stock for them and taking on orders for custom pieces I am getting prepared for my stall at the November Designers Marketplace and working on new products for Christmas time. I am also currently working on a collection of bridal headwear and accessories ready for next Spring which I am really excited about.

What techniques do you favour and use?
The techniques I use mainly focus around embroidery and embellishment. I love working with Vintage items such as fabrics, lace, beads and even old brooches and jewellery. A technique I picked up recently for my last project of my degree is cutwork using leather. I intend on exploring this further for creating something really amazing and unusual for my bridal collection.

What are your plans for 'What Katy Did Next', how big is the brand going to become?
I’m taking each day as it comes with the brand. The accessories line has been well received and is extremely popular around Christmas time for gifts. The wedding industry is something I would love to conquer with my headwear, I feel many British brides are restricted in the choice they have for wedding accessories and I would love to offer them something different from the norm. Once my pieces are made up and ready I plan on hiring a professional photographer to capture some glorious images of my work and help me turn that into a look book which I will send off to companies, magazines and blogs. Ideally I would love for my bridal collection to take off and then continue with my original designs as a side business but we will have to see what comes from it.

Who and what inspires your work? Where do you go for inspiration?
My inspiration comes mainly from my love of everything Vintage, beautiful gentle colour palettes with aged lace and pearls and gorgeous florals. Although my work is fashion based I get a lot of inspiration from the likes of interior stylists Emily Chalmers and Sibella Court but I do contrast my love for them with high fashion designers such as Elie Saab and Valentino.

Blogs are my addiction and I am easily distracted by sites such as Dear Golden Vintage, Lobster and Swan and Claire A Baker’s blog. I also make a lot of amazing discoveries through having my online shop through and have found amazing designers such as Myra from Twigs and Honey and Emily from Which Goose.

What do you feel are the most important skills for a designer to have and/or develop?
As well as having the skills to make products or design work you need to be able to communicate and be confident in promoting yourself. I shamelessly plug my work online and in public and it is necessary for small businesses to build a name for themselves and get recognised unfortunately you cannot rely on luck.

What has been the biggest achievement in your design career since leaving university?
Having not one but two shops offer to stock my products in the first two months after graduating is probably the biggest achievement in my design career since leaving CCAD. I am also thrilled to get the chance to design and make bridesmaids headwear for a bride to be in Belfast.

What is your advice for new graduates or students hoping to set up their own business in design?
Again it would be not to be afraid to shamelessly promote yourself and do not be discouraged by a slow start. Also a major lesson I have learned is that you can’t please everyone, being able to alter your products or designs to cater to a client’s taste comes in extremely handy in my line of work.


Thursday, 2 September 2010

Week 2 Interview: The Olde Young Teahouse

This week we have been talking to one of our newest yet completely dedicated followers of Designers Marketplace, Carli Mc.Naught with her exciting and brave new buisness venture into the world of tea.

DM: So how long have you been running your business?
C: I have been running The Olde Young Tea House for coming up 3 months now. Although the idea was born 9 months ago.

DM: What was it that gave you the idea of opening your own tearoom?
C: I worked in London for a while and had odd days off which were not on a weekend so I spent a lot of time on my own sitting in tea rooms and little cafes. I thought why not bring something like this back to Middlesbrough.

DM:So after graduating in fashion design from CCAD, you moved to London, who were you working for?
C: I was working for Chester Barrie Savile Row. A tailors that has been on Savile Row since the 60's.

DM: Was it always your dream to be working in this role?
C: My dream is to work in a visual merchandising or buying role, I moved to London gain experience. I am now working in a role where I can buy, merchandise, visual merchandise, manage and have total control which is even better.

DM: You must have been very passionate and confident about starting your own business in an unknown line of business. What advice would you give someone wanting to set up business? 
C: I am very proud to be from the North East, growing up with the beach and countryside. You do not realize how lucky you are until you are not there anymore. I have always had a strong awareness of the social scene and what people want around here. I know that Middlesbrough is quite behind on new things that catch on around the rest of the country. But with the network of people working together in all different industries such as creative and business, we can all build up a good reputation.
The advise I would give to somebody is to just go for it. Don't mull things over if you have an idea and you are very passionate about it. There is help out there. Contact the Council and Business link and find your niche. You are more likely to get funding and support if you have an individual idea.
Networking and promotion is KEY...newspapers, magazines, flyers, posters, it all helps to promote your business.

DM: What do you feel the important factor in your business is?
C: The most important factor is determination! If you believe in yourself you can do it.

DM: And how do you put this into practise?
C: I put this into practice by planning head and planning my goals i then am able to cross them off my list when they have been done.

DM: What has been the biggest achievement in your career so far?
C: My biggest achievement in my career is opening up my own shop. To own and trade from a premises is great, I get to meet new people every day.

DM: Having just moved back to the North from living in London, how do you feel about opportunities in the region for new businesses and creative ideas?
C: I feel that the opportunities are endless here. To be quoted the worst place to live in England I feel there is nowhere lower for us to go, so all we can do is all work together to push ourselves back up. With all the creative new businesses starting to establish themselves working together is a must, we can all help each other and work as a unit to build even more opportunities.

DM: So what is the next big move for you and your business?
C: The next move is to publish our website which is all taking place as we speak. Again working with other businesses there is only more funding to given.

DM: Just to finish off!...what is your most popular sell out tea?
C: Our most popular tea is the famous Earl Grey with Blue Flower. It’s perfect for people who dare to try something a little different from 'Normal' tea. It’s the bridge to a whole new world of tea's!

...and not forgetting the important bit, cake?
I could not have the most popular cake as all out cakes sell out in a matter of hours. Some of my favourites are the Oreo Cake, Cherry Cake and Lemon and Poppyseed.

We are situated at 84 Grange Road Middlesbrough, opposite the entrance to the Mall. And we will also be exhibiting at Designers Marketplace in November at the town hall.

You can search for: TheOlde YoungTeahouse on facebook to receive daily updates on cake and tea flavour of the day.