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Meet the Maker; By Maggie Naturally & Studio Milena Textiles

Meet the Maker

Meet two of this week’s featured stallholders and their colourful textile businesses.

This week we had the chance to speak to two of our featured stallholders; Studio Milena, who hand-weaves traditionally inspired textiles in the form of decorative panels and stylish accessories, and By Maggie Naturally, who uses natural dyes for her botanical-print wearable pieces and homeware, inspired by plants in her own garden!

These two creatives both bring a world of colour and interesting pattern through their work. You can read more about their process, inspiration and how they’ve managed small businesses through a pandemic in their Q&A below, as well as seeing the magic of their work for yourself!

Pedddle: Where did you first become interested in producing your products, and where did you learn the skills it takes to produce them?

Studio Milena: I’ve always had a passion for woven textiles. As a fashion designer, woven fabrics were often the trigger for my design concepts. Whilst working in fashion, I realised I wanted to channel my creativity to something slower. More sustainable. My love for woven textiles inspired me to take a four day weaving course. I learned techniques, how to create weaving drafts, how to thread a loom, which was mind boggling to begin with. After the course, I bought an eight shaft loom, a pile of weaving books and practiced and practiced and I continue to learn every day.

By Maggie Naturally: I “retired” (ha!) from full time work five years ago and got back into textiles and quilting, working with commercially dyed and printed cloth. About three years ago, I collected a load of elderberries to make jam with, but on my way home realised that I wouldn’t need them as we still had a load of jam stored away (and we’d given all our elderberry jam for Christmas the previous year!). So I googled “How to make elderberry dye”, and a whole world of natural dyes and botanical printing opened up to me. I was gobsmacked and have been totally hooked ever since. 

Pedddle: What inspires your work and what is your process?

By Maggie Naturally: I’m inspired by nature. I use plants to make natural dyes and to print with, by simmering plant material such as onion skins, pomegranate skins, avocado pits and skins, tea bags (green or black), acorns and blackberry leaves. I make my prints by laying out leaves and flowers on fabrics or paper and rolling them up for clamping them between two ceramic tiles, and then steaming or simmering them. The possibilities are wonderful and seemingly endless, and the surprises which nature creates for us are just gobsmacking at times. There are “lesser surprises” too! 

Studio Milena: Handweaving is a slow craft. It can take up to two days to thread my loom depending on the size of the woven piece. What I absolutely love about weaving is the endless creative possibilities it offers. Sometimes I’ll plan my concept then weave a sample of pattern and colour variations before choosing the final woven design. Or I’ll design as I’m weaving by adding a combination of yarns and colours as I go. I find this way of working very exciting! I weave with natural yarns, organic fibres, Yorkshire wool and silk fabric discarded from the fashion industry. My work is inspired by a fascination with architecture, unexpected combinations and a love of the changing season.

Pedddle: What do you love about markets and shopping small?

Studio Milena: Oh, it’s the people! The customers and the other stall-holders. It’s great to chat with people to hear their feedback. It’s also inspiring to be around other creatives and makers. I’m hoping to visit UP Market in Harrogate at the end of July. It’s supporting the small creative businesses that make shopping an interesting and enjoyable experience. Shopping small offers unique, hand-crafted, quality items produced by local independent makers. 

By Maggie Naturally: I love meeting and chatting with customers at markets. That’s what I have missed most, but I’ve met some great customers on Instagram, whom I’ve developed quite a dialogue with. It’s just lovely chatting to people who are interested in my work and what nature can offer. I haven’t been back to markets since they opened up because I’ve been really busy catching up with running workshops which I had to cancel last year. They take quite a bit of organising, but I’ve caught up now. Also, I pretty much sold out of one product line at Christmas. and I have been selling out online almost as soon as I post my smaller scarves, so I’ve been running to keep up! I’m aiming to get back to markets now I’ve got more stock. There just aren’t enough hours in the day!

My kind of work has to be done by hand, so it can’t be mass produced, by definition. Shopping small generally means that you can develop a relationship with your customer, which I love, and/or get to know the maker. It’s really great to meet them, particularly when they come back!

Pedddle: What changes did your business face during the pandemic?

By Maggie Naturally: Oh my, have I learnt some stuff! Instagram, Canva, Zoom (but our broadband has been too unreliable to be able to do workshops really). I’ve learnt so much about Instagram that my very savvy twenty something daughter rings me up to ask me how to do things on it! Developing an email list on Mailchimp…it’s endless. I knew none of this stuff in March 2020! Nicki‘s recent set of posts were great in reminding me what I need to do. I’ve even worked out how to generate a bar code for joining up to my email list!

Studio Milena: Creating videos and getting used to talking to camera are the first new skills that spring to mind. I’ve also had to brush up on my product photography for online events and websites. I still have a lot to learn.

Pedddle: What’s next for your business this year?

Studio Milena: I have some beautiful new products launching soon. I’m very excited about it!

By Maggie Naturally: I want to develop clothing, upcyling clothes and creating from cloth that I print. I’m also wanting to develop my online/Zoom workshop offer if our broadband can be sorted out!