Friday, 5 December 2014

Materials and Techniques - The Climbing Tree

Handmade comes in so many different shapes and sizes. Each fortnight I chat with another crafter about how they make their creations. Today, for the last materials and techniques interview of the year, I am talking to Margo from The Climbing Tree. Margo is based in Brisbane, Queensland and is a fellow member of Handmade Cooperative.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

For the first 20+ years of my working career I worked in the charitable and government sector mostly in the aged and disabled care arena. Two events happened though that changed this course of events.

The first event happened in Easter 2006, when I and my partner (now hubby) were out walking at 6 am on an Easter Sunday and a drunk driver decided that the footpath was the road – pedestrian V car is never a good scenario. The second even came 2 1/2 years later Paul and I had our first and only child. Sometime life events happen and you decide that there is more to life than an executive level income and the associated stress of that lifestyle.

So why get into the handmade / sewing business? Well, when I went to high school (many years ago) I’d done what was then know in NSW as Textiles and Design for my HSC so I decided it was time to pick up the sewing machine and fabrics again and it all grew from there. There was no grand business plan or strategy – just a slow and gradual (with the odd hiccup) process of iterative development.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

I have two main products and my first material choice is stretchy fabrics to make children’s underwear – yes undies, knickers, smalls – call them what you will – those things you put your bottom! For some reason a lot of people are afraid to sew stretch fabric but like anything it a skill that can be learnt and mastered. There are some fabulous Craftsy classes on sewing with knits so have a go – and if you want quality fabrics you can head over to my sister store Zebra Fabrics to buy the fabrics I use in my handmade business.

The second product I made is wrap conversion bags. Woven wraps are they extraordinarily long pieces of often handwoven fabric that mama’s around the world use to secure baby to their body – often to their back. It's an awesome way to hold your baby close while remaining hands free. Often once mums have stopped wearing they want to keep their wrap so I convert them into a nice big bag for them. The wraps are somewhat challenging to work with as they are often a looser weave fabric and are a narrow width – so have a tendency to fray and distort out of shape. I have drafted all the patterns for my bags over time and like any new fabric or technique it takes time and practice to learn how to manage the wrap.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

I think the biggest challenge for any business is finding your niche. For the first 2+ years of my business I felt as though I was lost within the crowd. It was hard to get seen and get consistency in sales of products I was then making. The hand crafted market place has almost never been busier with online collaborative marketplaces (such as Madeit and Etsy), physical markets (such as BrisStyle), and more recently retails spaces with items from multiple makers such as The Collaborative Store at Wynnum. So within this space you often see lots of the same or similar items and you need to find a way to differentiate yourself from the crowd – whether it through your product, style, branding – or a combination of all of these.

What drives you to create?

"Necessity is the mother of invention" My business name represents the philosophy behind my business – things that are suitable for climbing trees! Or other adventurous activities. So when I look at making a garment or designing a bag it needs to be practical, functional, easy to move with, wear and use as well as easy to care for. So in many ways my core products found me rather than me having some grand business plan and strategy with hours of research. I started making knickers for my daughter who would constantly complain about her undies going up her bottom – especially when in the car seat. So I made her some, posted on my FB page and it grew from there. Wrap conversion bags was similar, when a colleague asked if I was able to sew with a challenging wrap fabric and sew it grew. So listen to your customers – find out what their needs are and find a way to meet them!

What is coming up next?

Neat year I hope to expand my range - can’t tell you quite yet but stay tuned!

The Climbing Tree Facebook

Been loving the series. Read more in the archive.
Do you have a story that you'd like to share? Please do get in contact. 

No comments:

Post a Comment