Tamara Maynes: new craft raconteuse

Quilt Light

Tamara Maynes has had a productive year, taking her Quilt Light to Milan Design Week and London Design Festival 2012 as part of the Supercyclers collective exhibition. I thought it an opportune time to catch-up with Tamara and find out how her craft-pertise was honed.

DV
Your lovely Quilt Light was exhibited at Milan Design Week 2012. How did this opportunity come about?

TM
Through my friend and fellow designer Sarah K, I was asked to design a piece for a sustainable design feature in Inside Out Magazine in 2011. I came up with the Quilt Light design. Made from dis-used cardboard and decorated with eco friendly paints, the light received great interest sparking its inclusion in Supercyclers – an Australian-based international design collective founded by designer Sarah K and Liane Rossler. In April this year Sarah K took the Supercyclers collection to Milan where it was exhibited at Ventura Lambrate. Prior to the exhibition I developed the Quilt Light into a DIY template available exclusively online in the form of a printable download. This became part of the products charm from a consumer’s perspective and added a further sustainable aspect by avoiding packaging waste. The Quilt Light was extremely well received with press in leading publications such as Elle Décor Italia. The Supercyclers collection was then invited to London Design Festival the following September.

Image courtesy of Inside Out Magazine

Image courtesy of Inside Out Magazine

DV
What were your impressions of that event as I understand you were there during the festival?

TM
Marc Perdis, the founder of the new Soho design gallery, 19 Greek St, invited Supercyclers to exhibit as part of the London Design Festival. He also invited some of the designers to attend in order to further promote their work and give demonstration workshops based on their products. Miraculously I was able to accompany my light thanks to a grant from NSW Arts and a crowd-funding campaign via Pozible. Whilst there the light was featured in London newspaper’s such as The Independent and Evening Standard and over the months to follow received a wonderful amount of acknowledgement in various forms. The other works I saw exhibited across London was incredible. I was intrigued by the way English designers embrace their nation’s history and it has inspired me to begin research into the craftsmanship, materials and techniques that make up Australia’s colonial history.

DV
Could you tell us a little more about Supercyclers philosophy?

TM
As designers we have a responsibility to incorporate sustainability: designing with materials considered useless, transforming them into being desirable and valuable again. Some of the work is based on DIY and self-assemblage but much of it is simply about clever use of materials and the redesign of discarded pieces. Sarah K’s and Liane Rossler’s Plastic Fantastic collection is a good example. They made and encouraged others to make incredibly beautiful decorative vessels by moulding plastic shopping bags using a hairdryer. In my opinion it is this DIY based execution of design that offers affordability while allowing consumers a say in design.

DIY Quilt Light

DIY Quilt Light

DV
Tamara, your practice is so varied – do you call yourself a designer, craftsperson, stylist, – or does labelling not matter?

TM
Ha! Yes, here’s where things can get confusing and why, in my case, labelling is important in terms of making my work identifiable. Ultimately I consider myself a designer-maker, a hybrid – that is my central focus. As my work in product design and specialised making has become better known due to my take on modern craft I have branched into teaching, styling and writing. Last year, in response to this very issue I came up with the self-concocted term New Craft Raconteuse, which to me translates as ‘storyteller of modern craft’… this is how I see myself.

Cross Stitch Well Crafted Threats

Cross Stitch Well Crafted Threats

DV
What is your background? Did you study design or some other discipline?

TM
Essentially I am self-taught. The only training I had was in high school where I studied sign-writing at TAFE. Those were the days when signage was crafted by hand with paint brush and skill. I thrived on the perfection, came out top of the class and actually went on to be the sign writer for a chain of record stores straight out of school, before moving into visual merchandising. This is probably why typography features regularly in my work.

DV
You have a lovely designer’s eye and a wide range of making-skills – how was this developed or honed?

TM
I grew up in the country and I think designing was a response to the disconnectedness between what was available to me on a rural property and the products I saw celebrated in magazines. I believe my natural inclination to design was inherited from my father. As a farmer he had to be inventive with limited resources often under restricted conditions. My making-skills seem to be genetically hardwired with a family tree that includes a plethora of handcraft professions going all the way back to head seamstress for a past king of England! Both my parents introduced me to making but it was my mother’s experimentation that really helped to develop mine. She owned a craft supplies store and ran many craft-based businesses so it was exceptionally easy for me to delve into making from an early age and I really just never stopped.

Image courtesy of Inside Out Magazine and Homelife

Image courtesy of Inside Out Magazine and Homelife

DV
What were the influences that led to your involvement in craft-making and design – and the online shop?

TM
I left the family property, moving to Sydney and the endless possibilities of city-life influenced me immensely. I then spent twenty years moving through many design and making-based activities including sign-writing, visual merchandising, producing a fashion label, designing accessories, prop-making, manufacturing boutique homewares and designing products for retailers. It wasn’t until I relocated to the Southern Highlands four years ago that I was inspired to re-visit my early country craft-based roots. This is when I launched my online store The Six Week Boutique. My career in craft-based design and making has really taken off since then and grown organically, which is lovely.

Tamara Maynes will be giving workshop in how to make her Quilt Light for Craft Punk: Waste Not at the Powerhouse Museum on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 March 2013. More details.