Featured Designer: Teahouse Handmade

FK talks to Tess from her label, Teahouse Handmade

Can you give us an introduction to Teahouse Handmade.
Teahouse Handmade is the name I give to my non-computer-based projects… basically any nice-looking, one-of-a-kind things that I make myself. Currently I make embroidered brooches and earrings and have been selling these at a few select Victorian-based retailers and markets (including Finders Keepers AW10 in Brisbane) since early 2010.

What is your creative background and how did you get started?
I am a graphic designer by day and have been self-employed for a few years now. I’ve always been a bit crafty, thanks to a crafty mum who was an avid quilter and sewer. Late last year, to busy myself at various craft markets around Melbourne with my former side-project metremade, I started partaking in freestyle embroidery (I have not, at this point, had anyone challenge me to a freestyle-embroidery-battle, but I would be open to the idea!). Then, on a whim, I applied the embroidery to a fabric-covered-button-badge, and really rather quite liked it – so I made some more (and branched out to earrings, too!).

Can you tell us more about the lovely materials you use and why you love working with them?
Embroidery as a craft pastime suits me as I tend to get frustrated with sewing machines, drop stitches in knitting, and don’t have the space to get messy with screen printing. A few years ago my mother-in-law gave me a big box of vintage silk threads passed down from her MIL. The colours were still so vibrant, but the thread itself was a little weak to sew with in a machine, which is why I started embroidering with them. I love mixing and matching the threads together to make nice colour combinations, and using linen as a base is great, as it is a natural material with a nice texture and open weave. The other thing I like about embroidery is that if you make a mistake or don’t like the direction you’re working in, there is an ‘undo’ command – the quick-unpick!

How do you balance being creative and being inspired with running a business?
My graphic design business takes up a lot of my time, so I try to operate Teahouse very casually… I make things when I feel inspired to make them, and take opportunities when they come my way, but don’t put too much pressure on myself to set lofty goals of world domination. I’ve always wanted Teahouse to be a respite/departure from my graphic design business, and to be in complete control of what and how much is put out there. I also don’t want to fall into the trap of designing for sales… I just want to make things that I would purchase myself. All of this helps me be creative without boundaries and means that by default I develop my own style of product through Teahouse. However, the notion of selling a product rather than a service is something I’m still learning the ins-and-outs, especially when it comes to wholesaling.

What do you love most about Melbourne?
I grew up and spent my early adult years in Brisbane, so I’d say the thing I like most about Melbourne is the sheer volume of creative people, and the relative anonymity you can find within the community. I’ve never been one to enjoy being a big fish… I like exploring and being inspired by lots of fish in this big pond, while making little contributions of my own here and there.

What new things have you been creating and enjoying lately?
Recently I’ve been interested in upholstery, scouring second hand stores and side-of-the-road junk pile for interesting furniture items to revive. My home office desk chair was my first real foray into upholstery, and then I took on the massive task of recovering my entire couch! A lucky experience with the Spacecraft team during the State of Design festival also fanned the flames of my furniture-revival interest. I’m also taking an art subject at Latrobe College of Art and Design in Melbourne, to nourish my enjoyment of painting.

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