Welcome to Part Two of our #MarchMeetTheMaker interviews. For this one I get to turn the camera round onto the camera woman - my partner in life and work, Agnes Davis. Adding a whole new dimension of professionalism to the business, keeping me on my toes and making me smile when the going gets tough.
I’ve worked freelance as a copywriter and copy editor for a decade while bringing up my wonderful daughter.
When I met you I’d just finished a Masters in Creative Writing at Oxford University, which had been a dream come true. But there had been a lot of juggling to complete the Masters, and after two years of deadlines, essays and freelancing, I was desperate for a break from words. All I could think about when I handed in my poetry dissertation was painting!
It was an accident really. Like everyone, I fell in love with your work as soon as I saw it. It was completely different from anything I’d come across, and my mind was flooded with the design potential.
Then there was the fact that you were so busy all the time, juggling the orders, and communicating with customers; I couldn’t resist helping. First it was the website, which I thought I could probably help tidy up a bit, rewrite, and take a few photos for. And then we just kept having so many design conversations. ‘Wouldn’t that be beautiful with this, wrapped round here and with a gold lining...’ and so on...
I first started interfering in the design process properly with the Ferns & Moths range for men in 2015. Sometimes I’d see something in my head and say, ‘Can you just try it this way?’ I couldn’t use Photoshop then, and you’d kindly oblige me and we’d work on something until we were both happy with it.
The biggest problem I had with the website was that all your designs were completely different, because that worked perfectly for Etsy. Each one was amazingly beautiful in its own right, but I couldn’t get them to work side by side on one website page – it was visually too much.
So we embarked on designing our first full collection together, and created Möbius – an exploration of completely new fresh prints created by us, that aimed to create a conversation about how 2D print becomes a 3D object.
We were so inspired by the process, and had such a strong belief in what we were creating – looking at them now, the pieces were exceptionally beautiful.
After that there was no turning back really.
Running a business challenges you on every level of your being – not just in terms of honing your professional skills and making good business decisions, but personally too. The business is like a very precious child that is much more important than you, so any issues around feeling unqualified or disorganised or shy have to be put to the side because it needs you to get over all of that. I’ve been challenged and grown so much over the last four years. Every day is an adventure, and I really do love it.
Contactless came to us quite by chance, and I don’t think I could ever have anticipated the exciting new directions it’s taking us in. We now work with banking partners around the world, and I really enjoy the level of professionalism required for that. I have a great respect for the discipline and focus required to run a very tight ship, and am grateful for the people we’re meeting on that journey who work so hard to do a great job for a shared vision.
It’s very hard to stop working! There’s always something that needs doing – accounts to catch up with or the blog you’ve been meaning to write.
Learning to celebrate and love commercialism has been a challenge for me, though I do now. I was a poet, for goodness sake – where you have total control over a tiny magical world. When we designed Möbius it was a very pure quest for beauty. I thought that would speak for and sell itself!
Möbius was really well received by a whole new demographic, but your wonderful core customers, who had supported you for nearly a decade, mostly still wanted the beautiful floral prints they knew you for. So I think one of the hardest parts has been accepting that the needs of the business always come first, though you can infuse that with your passion as much as possible.
I'm really happy with the balance we've struck in our recent collections, bringing a contemporary edge to classical inspiration. It feels like a strong base and our customers seem happy, as they keep coming back!
I’m always racking up a playlist of favourites on Spotify and currently can’t stop playing on repeat:
... It's a long list. I think you're a bit done with Stevie Wonder.
Being in the garden, wild walks with the kids, my own hybrid dancey yoga that gets into all the knotty places, drawing with colour, catching up with best friends... Dancing!
Ahem...! We’d both admit to being very bad at not discussing work when we should be off duty.
And we take it in turns to have frazzled days – so managing each others’ stress levels can be tough.
But there are so many bonuses. There’s literally always something to talk about and share, and we get inspired by very similar things – from music to plants to art and design.
I don’t think we could do this without having a very strong, clear, shared vision of what we want for the brand. And it’s a joy to be on this extraordinary ride, creating a world together.
Every day is full of compromises. The lists never quite get finished, so I’m trying really hard to manage my expectations of how much can actually be achieved in any given day, week, month... Tidiness is definitely compromised, and there’s a lot more I’d love to do in terms of creative marketing, designing, collaborations, that we rarely have time for.
I never compromise on customer service. We literally couldn’t do what we do without our incredibly supportive and enthusiastic customers, so top of the list for me is making sure everyone is looked after and has what they need.
And aesthetically I try not to compromise when it comes to website and social media photography. We’re selling something very beautiful, and it’s important to convey that wherever possible.
So much! Short-term, we’re working on some lovely new bags, expanding our successful PóP collection for retailers, much contactless fantabulousness coming, and some fun collaborations in totally different areas coming up.
I’m longing to make cushions. Just imagine... huge metallic leather botanical print animal cushions...
And in the long term I really would love to create clothing collections. I was brought up on the mantra ‘Dream and dream extravagantly...!’ And am a firm believer in miracles. So I just need to learn to sew, learn how to print on silk, and then come to a deal with Time!
Did you catch Tovi's interview here?
Don't forget to ask any burning questions or leave us comments below, we love hearing from you.
And you can view our latest work here...
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