Let's meet: Frilly Industries

This month we are having a chat with another master duo, Frilly Industries.  We met these girls at Craftacular and even after their busy morning prepping and unpacking, were on form to have Sammy buy one of their scissor necklaces.

Let's hear what this dynamic duo have to say to our questions.

What was the first thing you remember making?
A: As an only child with strict and pushy parents I was always making and being creative - from playing music (double bass), to performing in shows at my local theatre, to eventually realising I hated all of that as I was (and still am) a massive introvert - so instead focused on drawing, writing, making and learning even more than before.  Friends teased me over what I’d ask for xmas presents - one year I asked for an origami kit and my friends couldn’t understand why I’d want that and not makeup.  Following years I regularly got a Staedtler pen set, to support my blossoming love of design and hand lettering. At an outdoor retreat holiday camp, I selected all art and craft activities and no rambling/exploring/outdoorsy activities at all. (Again, this confused friends massively as they all wanted to go rock climbing and caving!)  In essence, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making SOMETHING.

K: Well, there was general play making of woodland habitats for insects that lasted less than a day, much to my dismay; but my first proper make was a felt pincushion with an anthropomorphic pair of cherries. It was all hand stitched and embroidered with sequin eyes and gold thread. It was an odd school project at about the age of 4. In my typical style I was naïve and went too big for my skills and patience. But I did complete it, hurrah!

How did you find your creative side?
K: Intently watching ‘The Clothes Show’ as a young child, feeling in awe of Vivienne Westwood. Seeing my older brother draw Rainbow Brite as a mural across my bedroom walls and then a massive multi-character piece at my nursery school. Seeing people being creative and then being dragged to National Trusts, galleries and anywhere historic whilst on holiday meant that I just knew those were skills I wanted to nurture and develop. My lightening bolt moment was on a day trip to Florence, Italy whilst on a resort holiday with my family when I was about 5. I was the only child on a trip filled with older people but I stayed glued to the tour guides side asking questions about all the Renaissance painters. I knew being creative was something I would always want to maintain.

A: See above! I was very lucky to have supportive and creative parents - my mum describes herself as a scientist but endlessly makes beautiful patchwork quilts.  My dad was a teacher and a musician.  My stepdad was a huge tech and DIY geek.  I grew up surrounded by people who did creative experimental things every day as though it was normal, so I never knew anything else.  Professionally, I took a determined and focused route through education focusing on creative stuff - art and photography a-level, BTEC, BA Visual Studies and most of an art MA (long story involving sudden relocation resulted in never finishing..) interspersed with City & Guilds night classes just for fun in all manner of arts and crafts subjects.  My career to date has focused on sharing my obsession with creative practices with others through participatory arts working in a vast range of settings including schools, care homes, hospitals, libraries, outdoors and more or less anywhere you can imagine.  It’s only in the past year that Kirsty and I have finally decided that we also want to make time to satisfy our own creative needs through making things we love and sharing those with others too.

What has been your favourite ever make? Whether that be for your business or pleasure – tell us about it.
A: Agh, what a question!  I’ll probably give a different answer every time someone asks this.. I was extremely proud that when struck down with glandular fever as a teenager back in 1995 I taught myself basic html and created a series of (VERY UGLY) webpages with all my teen angst and rambling for the world to see.  Courtesy of my geek stepdad, I had early and constant access to technology and was always moulding it to support whatever creative things I was doing - whether it was bad teen poetry, or photography experiments, or even just documenting my hair colours.  As a result, I developed a set of friends across the world who I’m still close to now and am proud/grateful to have been an early adopter of all things online.  MORE RECENTLY, and probably more relevantly - I’ve had an ongoing obsession with making animals out of a mildly obscure papier mache technique using just gummed paper and water.  I started off making a series of birds (hence my desire to make crows - mentioned later on!) but then a couple of years ago we created a series of installations in a French restaurant called Le Truc in Birmingham, and I created a very dapper French Bulldog to signal where the men’s loos were.. and I’m very fond of him!

K: I’ve really struggled with this one. As well as our jewellery we also run participatory arts projects with children, older people, anyone really. So I have a few different favourite makes as we don’t limit ourselves by a medium and our participatory work and materials often feed our own personal endeavours. We recently initiated an exchange project between two schools and a few arts organisations around fears. As part of this the children were asked to transform a postcard. One response, in its simplicity has stayed with me. Enabling that creativity and response brings such rewards. I’m just going to let the postcard do the talking.  On the flip side to that we have undertaken our own pubic art pieces where we’ve combined wheat pastes with origami to reflect the locals in a pub where Adrienne used to work. Being able to work on a large scale, experiment with processes we wanted to try and mix up is always really satisfying when they have a big visual impact but garner a positive local response.

What are your favourite ways to stay inspired?
A: THE INTERNET!  Blogs and Pinterest and Facebook and Twitter!  I also obsessively purchase art and craft books - ranging from instructional guides to voyeuristic glimpses at other artists studios and sketchbooks.  I ALSO feel fairly convinced that anyone can do anything, and so I love signing up to online classes and tutorials in new techniques.. though I’m also terrible with my time management and rarely set aside enough time to watch them all! (Though I’m working on it!)  I try to visit galleries and independent craft and designer maker shops when out and about too.

K: Trawling through Instagram. Talking rubbish with designer and artist friends and seeing their work and endeavours progress. Reading comics. Aspiring to be Iris Apfel – I want to be her when I grow up and so she may be my next brooch design.

Who are your favourite Designer/Makers right now?
A: I LOVE TESSA METCALFE!  Similarly I love Bloodmilk who are a tad more affordable… I also love Samantha Stas’ fun illustrative style and encountered her at Bust Craftacular and managed to nab one of her sailors I’d long lusted after from afar on Etsy! (always love a nautical style..) There are many many many more, but I’ve rambled on way too long already!

K: This is a tough one. As well as there being loads of great British makers my oldest best friend runs a gallery in upstate New York for designer toy artists and so I have a changing list of wants and favourites. As a cat person its really easy to sucker me in and Toby ‘I like cats’ has clearly achieved that, especially with the latest collaboration with Little Birdy. Tuesday Bassen is a great illustrator based in LA whose style and philosophy is very much aligned with who me and Adrienne are as people with her ‘Ugly Girl Gang’ Patches and feminist edge. Same with the Stay At Home Club, it would be a dream if we could make something as part of that, we love their patches and curation of makers and illustrators to design pieces for them.

We both have a bit of an obsession with Camila Prada and her quirky ceramics which we’re supporting through her Kickstarter.. but there are SO MANY other people we love!  Briefly in bullet form:

- Stephanie Metz for her incredible needle felted art keeping us learning - and aspiring to make moremoremore!
- Zoe Williams for the exact same reasons as Stephanie - but with added macabre / fairytale nuances!
- Lana Crooks for her textile/lasercut hybrid skulls (errr… bit of a skull/macabre theme here?)
- Horrible Adorables - blending recognisable animal qualities with fantastical felt colours

What crafty item is top of your wishlist?
If this means a crafty tool or other to develop our practice, we’re torn between the desire to invest in a large format digital printer (to print onto fabric and acrylic and other large sheet materials) and our massive desire for a flat bed printing press (think nipping press or other).  Adrienne has taken various printmaking courses and nearly specialised in it at university, and has lusted ever since - but her Adana doesn’t quite satisfy our ambitious plans!

A: If it’s a crafty item made by someone else you’d love to own, then I would LOVE to bag myself a Tessa Metcalfe necklace - realistically I could probably save up enough for her Victoria Charm Necklace - but in a dream world I’d want her Bespoke Bejewelled Necklace with Collar Chain!

K: I love the ceramic work of Double Parlour. I’ve never managed to be flush with enough cash at the time her latest limited runs of Slyvie, Brice and Catrinette drop. I love the combination of Kawaii in a Wes Anderson aesthetic and her ability to push her work with an American Gross edge without compromising the continuity of her work.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
A: MAKE THINGS!  Learning new skills - e.g.. I’m hoping to get a place on a day course making crows in paper clay from taxidermy examples!  Also spending time with my ailing puppy and having as many adventures with him as I can.  Also: Netflix.  Also: RPGs.

K: I go to a lot of gigs, I write the occasional gig review. Music is a massive part of our office and out of office lives. When we have a big deadline and late night working we listen to French Hip Hop, but its also the biggest point of contention as we have a ‘NO PLAY’ list with our music hates. I read comics, hang out with my cats and try and tame all the neighbourhood strays, but I also veg out and watch way too much TV as crafting with cats is a fail zone.

Tell us a bit about what you have coming up?  any little projects you want to tell us about.
We’ve been super excited to have been involved in the Lucky Dip Club x Folksy box where we designed a limited edition brooch specifically for the project - and all boxes are now sold out!  As participatory artists we hoard materials from scrap stores and one of our new ranges has been on the hob boiling away for a few years. We bought a scrap store out of their stash of old projector slides of artworks. We have a lot of them, and in their current form we have turned them into framed necklaces that will be launching online soon - but we also want to try creating some with their own LED backlight as a brooch so that they can be visible more easily. Finally realising a design that we’ve wanted to bring to life for a few years has justified our hoarding habits!  We’ve also got a few other new designs launching imminently - we’re keen to experiment with our laser cutter and with different materials and techniques - so at the moment we’re playing with layers and layering to create depth within our work.  Two new pieces designed in this way are both Alice in Wonderland-inspired - one focusing on the white rabbit and his timekeeping, and one on Alice falling down the rabbit hole.  We’ve also been taking inspiration from past project.  We worked on a shop window as part of a competition back in 2012/13 (which we won!  Yay!) called Unique in Birmingham.  In our installation, we created giant painted hands doing a ‘cats cradle’ (an old children’s game with string) and we’ve now started thinking some kind of cats cradle jewellery would make a great addition to our ‘Show of Hands’ range! - you can see a bit more about that here.

Online, we’ve been accepted as a Not On The High Street partner, so we’re busy prepping items and sorting that out to hopefully launch towards the end of June.

In 'real life’, we have other markets scheduled across the year, predominantly in the Midlands where we’re based (Birmingham) though we’re planning on being down in London towards xmas, and possibly also spreading our wings further north closer to the dreaded festive period too.  We’re ALSO currently battling with figuring out wholesale so that we can begin to look at what our offer might look like to retailers, and then looking at showing at selected trade fairs.  We’ve created a Birmingham Etsy Team (as we were shocked to discover there wasn’t one already) so we’re hoping to organise occasional parties and get-togethers for members to build local networks and support.  Next month (18th July) we’re also involved in an Open Studios event that’s happening across the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham - so anyone in the area can come and have a nosey and possibly even meet our dog, Louis!

In essence: busy bees!

Why did you choose the name Frilly Industries?
Our participatory arts non-profit is called We are Frilly.. and the reason we opted for that is really both arbitrary - combine our surnames Frances and Hillyer and you tenuously get ‘Frilly’ - but also we felt like a lot of people working in the arts, particularly in participatory or community arts, are SO SERIOUS and EVERYTHING has to be so WORTHY, and they sometimes forget that one of the reasons people are creative is because it’s FUN!  So we adopted that name as our company name, and when we wanted to start creating our own ranges to sell we decided to stick with Frilly but add a bit more of an industrial edge so we added Industries to differentiate our two types of work!

Phew, sounds like these girls have lots to do!  It's all about keeping busy and boy do we all fit so much into a day.  Makes us realise that it isn't too bad to fit creatively in, whenever and wherever you can.  It really does just make you more creative and want to keep finding new ways of doing things.

H & Sammy

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