Featured Designer: Morgan Wills

FK chats to Morgan about her beautifully crafted label Morgan Wills and inspiring journey to the recent opening of her store The Crafty Squirrel!

Tell us about your label Morgan Wills, and what your recent experience was like at the recent Melbourne Finders Keepers markets?
My small boutique design label originated in 2006, as a result of my passion and love of colour. My label is focused on crafting unique eco-friendly products of the highest quality.
I had wanted to do a Finders Keepers Market for a while, as many of my peers had said how fantastic it was and having been to the Sydney and Melbourne markets – I knew how fun it was to visit. Needless to say, I was very excited to be able to come along in April and WOW was I amazed with the number of visitors and the response to my stall!

What is your creative background and how did it lead to where you are today?
Initially I was looking to have a career change; I had studied Interior & Furniture Design and had worked briefly in that field before working in Event Management for 12 years. I had grown up watching my Father run his own business and I had always had a desire to work for myself. This combined with a year off work on maternity leave – gave me the real impetus to start.
The first product in my range that I ever made to sell was my Cast offs scarves. Way back in 2004 I was playing around with some felted woollen jumpers that I had and I made one for my husband. He was chuffed and wore it all through the winter. A bit later down the track when I was pregnant with our daughter Kitty – I made her a baby cot blanket using a similar idea. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was collecting woollen jumpers here, there and everywhere!

What do you love most about reusing everyday objects and materials? and what keeps you creatively motivated?
I think the thing that I love the most – is that I get to create something new out of something discarded. Often the jumpers I buy have a hole in them or have turtle necks or something else which makes them a bit daggy or the colour is not in fashion at the moment. It doesn’t matter to me – I just see the potential in it. I also love working with vintage fabrics and domestic textiles like tea towels and tablecloths. When I combine these materials together to create my Bushka dolls – they are a one of a kind creation. I like that I can make certain products over and over again – but no two will ever be exactly the same.

What I find in my travels dictates what I can make. For my Cast offs products – I only use 100 percent finely woven woollen jumpers and I prefer to use pure lambswool or cashmere but of course you don’t necessarily find those kind of jumpers in the op shops every day.

Lucky for me – I have always loved op shopping so getting to do that regularly is a large part of my creative process. Of course it is not until I am actually in the studio with the raw materials laid out in front of me that I really get to explore the amazing colour spectrum that is to be found in woollen jumpers!

What is your workspace like? and what is your creative process?
My workspace is very colourful and quite cluttered! In my studio – I have piles of processed jumper felt sorted by colour. This in itself is very inspiring to me. I love colour and I really love exploring the varying tones and shades of one colour in a scarf or blanket as I create it. In my office I have a huge cupboard with glass doors where I keep all my ‘special’ vintage fabrics and I have a tendency to be a quite the bowerbird when it comes to collecting vintage haberdashery and cute ceramics and things – which I have all around me.

My creative process can often be quite time consuming from beginning to end, I tend to be quite a stickler for attention to detail – that takes time. If I am going to make something it has to be the best I can do otherwise it won’t see the light of day.
Ideas often come to me as I go about my everyday tasks – the trick for me is really to take the time to note them down as they arrive. I seem to have so many ideas and so little time! Often my new products have been floating around for quite a while before I get the time to make up a sample and really think about how I will create it and if I want to create lots of them!

What challenges have you faced starting your own label, and what are some things you love about it?
I think having enough hours in the day to actually be able to act on all those tasks on my ‘creative to do list’ is pretty hard. Being creative takes focus and when you have young children as I do – that focus can often be interrupted! This means that invariably I work at night once the children are in bed and often all I want to do is flake on the couch!

Being in a small business with many facets – a bricks & mortar store, online shop (soon to be two!), markets, the wholesale side of things, trade shows and market stalls means that really my mind is on the go 24/7. Getting to earn a living and leading such a wonderfully creative life is just amazing. I have to admit too – I love being my own boss – that way I am accountable only to myself!

What new projects are you working on and where would you like to see Morgan Wills in the future?
In January 2011, we made a tree change from inner city Melbourne to the leafy historic township of Ballarat where one of my dreams finally became a reality and I opened a cute little corner shop and studio – The Crafty Squirrel. The shop is a wonderful mix of unique gifts, cool craft kits, homewares, vintage fabrics and gorgeous haberdashery – it is really a collection of all the things that I love.

Since I have opened the shop – I have developed a number of new products under ‘The Crafty Squirrel’ brand and of course inevitably they have a touch of the ‘Morgan Wills’ style in terms of mixing old and new together. Also under the Morgan Wills brand I have been working more and more with vintage tea towels and tablecloths of late and making bags and cushions and things and I am currently working on a new range of products inspired by my vintage sheet collection! Stay tuned!


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