October 2019 Maker of the Month: Nmarra

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We’re very pleased to have Glasgow based NMARRA as our October maker of the month!

A little info:
NMARRA was established in 2017 by designer and long-time earring aficionado Jen Stewart. Intrigued by the possibilities of working with brass and developing drawings into wearable designs the experimentation began, and NMARRA came to life. NMARRA strives to bring intrigue and interest to affordable accessories. Designs take inspiration from the rich visual language of the natural world, reflect structure in our built environments and play with forms inspired by folk art and 20th century design.

Scroll down for our little chat with Jen!

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1. Give us a brief creative history of yourself…

I have always wanted to draw or design things, and seeing my jewellery existing in people's everyday lives is a big thrill! I originally studied Product Design at GSA, then worked in independent retail, arts marketing, and doing graphic and web design for a long time, before deciding it was time to create some products of my own.

2. What has surprised you about running a creative business? Do you have any words of wisdom for those starting out?

It's surprising how quickly things snowball. There's a lot of work in setting up and prototyping can feel like a slow process but once I launched my first range, my business really just took on a momentum of its own. My words of wisdom would be... play to your strengths, create something distinctive and unique, and say yes to everything! 

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3. What does your creative process look like? Do you make drawings, or dive straight into prototypes?

I take photos of proportions or shapes that interest me, sketch on a million random bits of paper when ideas come to me and then pull it all together in a big pile to design a collection. I make paper cuts outs to test scale and proportions against the face and then work on illustrator to finalise designs.

4. We are seeing lots of fresh, well developed small brands like yourself popping up in the Scottish design sector. What you think makes Scotland and Glasgow, in particular, such a hotbed for brilliant independent makers?

To be honest, the cost of living in Glasgow makes being creative a more possible prospect for more people, with that I think you get room for different perspectives, non-traditional pathways and approaches that create innovative and interesting design. I think the close knit arts scene, great independent retailers, a tourism boom across Scotland and lots of well curated markets in Glasgow help to fuel this as there's a real appetite and audience being built for independent design. I really love that there is a real bite and edge that makes design from Glasgow so distinctive, and elevates the idea of what Scottish contemporary craft and design looks like.

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5. What does a typical day in the studio look like to you?

I'm not really a morning person, so try to do computer admin like invoices, emails etc whilst hanging with my cat and a cuppa tea first thing. Then I head to my studio down the road in the east end of Glasgow, it is very messy and full of half formed ideas, but a great wee workshop space. I get the tunes on and get to work cutting, filing, soldering, polishing orders for stockists and customers. If there's time then maybe testing some new ideas. Recently I have had the joy of having a studio assistant which really helps to get through everything and is very good for morale! 

5. We know you are always busy with something exciting. Tell us what is next for Nmarra.

I'm launching some t-shirts that were designed as part of a residency for Dundee Design Festival soon-ish, and working with a weaver on a collaboration for an exhibition in 2020... I need finalise and launch some necklaces, hair slides and rings, and I'm working on some homeware and planning a new jewellery range for next year... Watch out 2020!

6. We always ask our interviewees to chose something they covet from WH… 

I love those Gregor Wright dinosaurs, and Stefanie Cheong's jewellery pieces made from rocks are so cool. I also covet Ciara Neufeldt's beautiful ceramics and I'm always keen on a card with a cat on it. I'll take it all! 

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Thanks Jen! For more info on NMARRA, visit the website here.

Nick Lynch