Friday, July 10, 2009

Interview - Tamara Maynes

Tamara Maynes in her studio

Patchwork dress by Tamara Maynes for Inside Out magazine

Tamara Maynes is a designer and maker specialising in product design and development, soft props, and custom craftwork. From her Bespoke Workshop studio in the Southern Highlands of NSW, Tamara creates all kinds of unique handcrafted gorgeous things - from custom props comissioned by publications such as Inside Out Magazine, to soft-funishings and ceramics for iconic Sydney retailer Orson and Blake.

Recently Tamara launched a fun new project - the Six Week Boutique is an online store which will stock limited editions of craft and interior-based products, with a new collection launched every six weeks! The current range is a family of gorgeous hand-dyed macrame owls (pictured below), entitled 'to john denver, with love'. They were featured on Design*Sponge earlier this week though, and are soon to grace the pages of Inside Out and Frankie Magazine... so better snap one up now because it won't be long before they disappear!

Rebecca Wolkenstein has also written a lovely little post about Tamara on her blog, in which she describes Tamara as a 'crafter extraordinaire', and 'Sydney's best kept secret'... Not for much longer!

Tamara also has a great little studio blog showcasing both personal and commissioned crafty projects here.

Read on to learn a little more about Tamara's background and prolific creative output!

Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to what you’re doing now?

Born into a family of craftspeople, I was frequently exposed to raw materials and various mediums. This coupled with my idealist tendencies made me a likely design candidate!

As a child in the 70’s I experimented heavily with the popular crafts of the time while my teenage years were all about fashion - designing, making, illustrating and styling.

Moving to Sydney at 18, I began signwriting for a record store while I pursued fashion. From there I worked in fashion merchandising eventually starting my own clothing label. This led to a collaboration designing accessories that was picked up by Kookai.

I stumbled into homewares when I was asked to design and produce a range for a Versace exhibition. This shift in focus, resulted in the launch of my self titled range of wholesale homewares and personals. Orson & Blake approached me during this time and I happily began designing and developing their self branded products.

Left - custom pin-cushions for Inside Out magazine, right - woven cushions for Orson and Blake.

My specialised make and craftwork service bespoke workshop evolved organically over the last five years as I began getting requests from stylists, showrooms and interior designers to make one off pieces and props for editorial, installations and private homes.

It seems I never actually chose an ultimate career path, I have simply done what I know and love!

Oh I love this one - the red dots especially! Fabric slippers for Mokum.

You’ve collaborated with some incredible brands and inspiring creatives - such as Orson and Blake and Mokum… Who have been some of your favourite clients and/or collaborators?

I have been developing products for Orson & Blake for almost six years now and have learned so much about areas I may otherwise have not been exposed to such as ceramics, lighting and furniture.

Working with Jen Murnaghan on particular commissions for Mokum such as the Liberty couture slip cover and the Osbourne & Little wallpapered house are favourites. As are various props commissioned by stylists for Inside Out Magazine.

Wallpaper house for Mokum

Tell us about The Six Week Boutique! How did this concept come about? What kinds of products can we expect to see in the boutique in the coming months?

The Six Week Boutique is my recently launched online store. Every six weeks sees a new collection of my limited edition craft based pieces for sale.

The idea came about after I relocated from Sydney to the Southern Highlands. I wanted my work to be available online in a slightly quirky way with collections of limited edition pieces, similar to an exhibition.

The first and current collection of macrame owl wallhangings is titled ‘to john denver, with love’. The second collection instore on July 31st is a range of pretty cool cross-stitch kits titled ‘the saturday night girls’.

‘to john denver, with love’ macrame owls

Further collections are still in the ideas stage so checking out the store and becoming a boutique subscriber is the best way to find out about what exciting things are coming up!

Where do you turn for inspiration – books, magazines or the web? Do you pay attention to trends in the broader design world like architecture, film, etc?

Magazines, books and the web! I am an imagery addict... although magazines are my big love. I don’t often pay attention to trends in the broader design world although they definitely play a part in what I do.

Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?

Creative people who take chances and honour their vision inspire me most. Those such as design team Wary Meyers, photographer Tim Walker, the advertising prowess of textile and wallpaper designers Osbourne & Little, and my wise friend and stylist extraordinnaire, Glen Proebstel.

Left - spring stitching craftwork, right - wallpaper craftwork for Inside Out

Left - cushions for Inside Out, right - leather rabbits for Inside Out

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Three days of my week are focused exclusively on Orson & Blake and involve sourcing new fabrics and suppliers, meeting with makers, managing production and lots of emails! I spend another 2-3 days on special projects for other clients which generally includes meetings, sourcing, design, making and again lots of emails! And of course now I also spend time designing/making for and managing The Six Week Boutique!

What are you most proud of professionally?

Launching my first wholesale homewares range in 2002. I gave it my all, crafting each piece by hand until absolutely perfect and summoned the courage to put myself out there and approach people I admired. The experience taught me a great deal about business, the workings of my industry and what my strengths and weaknesses are.

What would be your dream project?

Firstly, I have a big dream project that is very close to my heart, and since it is so dear and also requires finding a major investor to fund it, it shall remain a secret until I have discovered the means to make it a reality!

Secondly, I really enjoy the role of creative direction so being invited to work in this capacity for a visionary company or individual would also put a big smile on my face!

What are you looking forward to?

Seeing the beautiful design book I am currently planning published and on the shelves in my favourite bookstore. Stay tuned!

NSW Questions –

Where do you shop in Sydney (or the Southern Highlands) for the tools of your trade (ie fabrics, threads, sewing equipment)?

Greenfields in Surry Hills is my main supplier for most sewing needs and I keep in regular contact with fabric suppliers around Sydney such as Mokum, for the latest upholstery fabrics. Considering my projects are so varied I can also be found at Oxford Art Supplies in Sydney and my local Bunnings Hardware!

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney / the Southern Highlands?

Relocating to a country town and adopting a Vegan diet doesn’t leave much scope for eating out! The last great meal I ate in Sydney was contemporary Chinese at The Mahjong Room in Surry Hills... delicious! And in the Highlands my husband’s home cooking beats any restuarant!

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

I do ‘project saturday’, where I spend a couple of hours on the Highlands op shop trail getting overexcited by yet another armchair to redesign and then I work on my latest personal project which, you guessed it... is often redesigning yet another armchair!

Sydney’s best kept secret?

I don’t think it’s such a secret these days but Mitchell Road Auctions was Sydney’s best kept... so many of my possessions hail from there!

Left - velvet slipper for Inside Out, right - couture chair for Mokum.


  1. She is one talented little craftster. Love it.

  2. she's just incredible - her work is beautiful & i love the idea of the six week boutique. Tami is totally inspiring!

  3. So many of Tamara's creations were familiar to me - being an avid magazine reader - and now I know who's behind them. Thanks Lucy for this insight into Tamara's world. I want her "job". I want to BE her! (not in a weird stalker kind of way... just, wow, she's living my creative dream). I'm off to read Rebecca's post now. And to visit Tamara's links.
    What an inspiration!

  4. absolutely cannot wait to see the 'saturday night girls' stitching kits....and given that tamara was a child of the 70's, she has won me already! off to follow the links, thanks lovely lucy. x