June 2019 Maker of the Month: FMG

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This month we are speaking with Eleanor of Fun Makes Good - a very long standing and ever popular brand at Welcome Home. Based in Perthshire, Fun Makes Good is driven by Eleanors adept understanding of shape and colour, within their range of textile and melamine products. Everything is cheerfully bright, bold and recognisable as the Fun Makes Good brand. Eleanor tells us about her creative origins, moving out of the city and the ins and outs of her process.

1. Give us a brief creative history of yourself…

I suppose from an early age arty activities were actively encouraged in our house, so it’s always been a way for me to pass the time - I could easily spend whole days drawing, building lego, dressing up and making things from rubbish.

However it wasn’t until high school that the idea of studying art in further education even occurred to me. It was a bit of a revelation that I could go on to do art as a subject and potentially make a career from it.

I studied textile design at Glasgow School of Art, specialising in embroidery for interior textiles and I loved it. I loved the feeling of going into the GSA (Newberry Tower) and climbing the stairs, passing jewellery studios and textile workshops and being in a hive of activity from morning til night. Looking back it was a special time.

I feel incredibly lucky that in many ways I’ve continued my childhood pastime and can say that art is my job… less lego but maybe I should change that!

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

My journey into running a business was a very gradual one (from making bits & pieces as a student to developing a ‘brand’ whilst working a part time job to eventually going full time) it’s grown very organically and I’ve been lucky to enjoy a certain freedom that that brings. I’ve not placed strict goals on myself which has allowed me to take on opportunities and allow my business to move and grown in unexpected ways.

I think the creative industry is unique in the fact that people can be very generous and I’ve certainly found that throughout my career people are willing to help. Whether it’s peers who are happy to share advice or want to collaborate on ideas, to shops who will give you feedback and advice on your products, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that people will give you their time.

So my advice would be to grow a network and keep in touch with other designers that you admire and inspire you. Be generous with your time and hopefully people will do the same in return. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, more often that not someone will be able to point you in the right direction.

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

It depends what I’m working on so my process can vary from project to project.  Commission based work might start with a brief (sometimes quite open and others more specific) so I’ll interpret that and usually create a mood board with colours / materials and an overall direction for the design. From there I’ll do some pencil sketches, setting out pattern ideas. I might also do a bit of paper collage at this stage to play with layout and shapes composition. From there I’ll move to my computer to transfer the design to a scaled version so I can calculate the volume of materials required. I then often do a bit of sampling with fabrics to see how colours & textures will sit alongside each other, as well as practicing some stitch work.

In contrast I also enjoy working instinctively, so my patchwork bolsters for example have no strict plan, I often just let the fabric pieces lead the composition, from colour combinations to pattern. It’s an enjoyable way to work and as I sew pieces together i’ll rotate them and join them in a way I hadn’t planned but ultimately prefer.

I don’t keep a sketchbook as such but I keep scraps of paper with doodles of product ideas or the beginnings of collages that may inspire something unexpected down the

4. How do you find the context of living in Perthshire effects your creativity?

I don’t know if it’s Perthshire itself but certainly moving from Glasgow coincided with making the decision to take my work full time. So I associate it with having the space and time to think about my work and it’s direction. Looking at what I’ve achieved since the move, I feel it’s been very productive for me!

I love having the outdoors so close and if I’m ever in a creative funk, a good walk or a cycle will usually help clear my head and I come back to my studio either feeling inspired or more motivated to complete a task.

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

I have a 10 month old now who is very interested in exploring so the answer is there is now no typical day! As i’m getting back into work i’m having to come to terms with the fact that things just take that bit longer than they used to and i’m slowly starting to find a rhythm again but i’m having to develop a whole new work/life balance! 

I’m currently working on a large scale curtain commission so my studio is laid out with all the panel sections and the appliqué pieces to go on them.

And I’m systematically working across the panels, pinning, adjusting and finally sewing them in place.

Once this is completed I’ve got some patchwork sections I’ve been slowly working on that will become new bolsters and I’m also hoping to make some new small wall hangings… that’s the plan!

5. Tell us more about your recent commission with Artfelt…

I feel very honoured to have been commissioned by Artfelt - The Children’s hospital charity within Sheffield Children’s Hospital - for a series of site specific commissions.

Artfelt transforms the hospital’s walls and spaces with bright art, helping children recover in an environment tailored to them and last year I was invited to design some large scale cushions to be fitted into internal windows within the newly completed ward.

The scale of the internal windows provided an opportunity to create a space within the corridors for seating. These individual pods could provide semi private, quiet spaces for waiting and contemplation and we were asked to design some complimentary soft seating pads.

Each of the four cushions takes colour and pattern inspiration from the 'Play Tower' an eye catching feature within the central atrium. They follow a tonal theme inspired by the space they occupy and the designs themselves have been inspired by wooden blocks and children's construction toys.

I love making colourful things and to be asked to make something for such and important and special place has really made my job feel worthwhile.

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

Oh nice, well my birthday is at the end of the month so for anyone wondering what to get me, I’d love one of Cecilia’s pieces.

Product photography: Susan Castillo 

Sheffield Children’s Hospital  Images courtesy Artfelt and Jules Lister

Collage curtain for Wahaca Bristol  - Photography : Mark Ashbee

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Mhari McMullan