Friday Feature: Body Parts Winter Accessories October 29, 2010 12:25

If Gaye and Melanie from, Body Parts Winter Accessories, ever made it to a Craftland Meet the Artists party, they would surely get the award for most miles traveled. This crafty team sends their awesome handmade product to Providence, from Melbourne, Australia. Since their arm warmers warm the arms of most of the Craftland staff, I had to learn more about this creative team. Enjoy this interview with Gaye and Melanie and have a great weekend, everyone!

 

When did you first start your handmade business?
Gaye: We met at Rose St Artists Market (www.rosestmarket.com.au) a local indie craft market here in Melbourne in 2005. Melanie was selling her Textile Allsorts handprinted tights and beaded artworks, and I had recently started my Gaye Abandon label selling wallets, purses and clothing. After a while we began toying with the idea of making a product together and launched our arm warmers in 2006 under the Body Parts Winter Accessories label. 

Describe your studio for us.
Melanie: Gaye rents a studio which is very organised with a large table for cutting and another for her sewing machine. I on the other hand take over the whole house including the garage where we have bags of jumpers waiting for use. Lots of my stitching is done in bed and I listen to talking books while I work.
Gaye: Melanie and I live on opposite sides of town so we work separately most of the time, taking on different stages of the making process. Melanie comes to my studio for a day once every week or so, and we do cutting together. My studio is in the heart of a neighbourhood with a large Vietnamese population so we always go out for noodles at lunchtime. While i'm pretty much all on my own where I rent my studio at the moment, in the next few months i'm moving to a newly established studio complex in an amazing old warehouse near the Port of Melbourne which is extremely exciting. I'm really looking forward to being part of a larger creative community.

For those of us who haven't made it to the other side of the globe, tell us a little bit about Melbourne and the crafting community there.
The crafting community is really vibrant and diverse in Melbourne. There are some very talented crafters here and the scene has really been nurtured by supportive retailers and markets. We're lucky to have lots of fantastic independent stores all over town that stock locally produced handmade goodies and fashion, and we have almost reached saturation point with weekly, monthly and special event craft and design markets. A recent amazing, huge event was the Finders Keepers market (read about it and see pictures here: www.thefinderskeepers.com/blog/2010/10/melbourne-markets-wrap-up/ ) that was held in a goods shed down at the Docklands. The local craft blog network is very active and inspiring (Faves include http://linoforest.blogspot.com/ and http://thedesignfiles.net/ -check out the Guest blog) and classes and craft groups are booming. We also have a fantastic state government funded organisation called Craft Victoria www.craftvic.org.au that "fosters creativity, experimentation and professionalism in contemporary craft and design".  If you're ever in Melbourne, Craft Victoria's gallery and shop are not to be missed. They also run some excellent public programs, a monthly market for emerging designers and the 'Craft Cubed' festival.

What inspired you to use recycled materials in your work?
We share the same green ethos, so when we started thinking about making a product together there was no question we would use recycled materials. They're not only inspiring because they don't add to the stuff already in the world but also because they challange you to think creatively within limitations. No two of the sweaters we use are alike, and when they're shrunk they present different challenges and suggest different possibilities. We both get a kick from buying as much as we can second-hand, from washing and sewing machines to pins and needles! Along with the sweaters that are our primary material, we buy second hand or remnant fabric, thread and notions (buttons, buckles). Most times its also cheaper than buying new and we prefer the colours and patterns of old stuff.  We even make our own bags from recycled encycopedias! We spend a lot of time in thrift shops and love passing on things we find that we don't end up using to other crafters.

How does your collaboration affect your work, both on the creative side and the business side?
People often say we're the odd couple and we really are chalk and cheese, but this has helped sustain our business and creative relationship. We come from quite different backgrounds and our social groups don't overlap at all so our interactions are very focused around making and selling our products. When we get together we talk endlessly about markets, shops and who's doing what on the local craft scene. We both have a real, sustained appreciation of each others creativity and a very trusting, easy approach to money issues and I think those two things really keep us going. That isn't to say we don't drive each other crazy sometimes! Melanie is excitable, chatty, messy and a real creative free spirit, I need order and calm to be creative and am much more of an 'attention to detail' person. The tasks we've each taken on in the making and running of the business reflect these differences. Collaborating over Body Parts has also influenced the directions we have gone with our own labels.


What advice would you offer someone who is interested in taking their crafting from hobby to business?
Stay passionate, be original, take baby steps and don't get discouraged if your products don't take off immediately -- that doesn't necessarily mean they're not good!
Experiment with different products, price points and ways to sell your work. Markets are a great place to meet like-minded people, test your products on the public, and market your online presence even if you don't make good sales every time. We all know how much work, time (and love) goes into handmade products, so it important not to undervalue the worth of your labour when making the transition from hobby to business. This can be very tricky of course as you'll need to consider what a realistic price is to charge for a kind of product you're making, but if you can get a balance in your range between things that can be made quickly and things that take longer, hopefully the overall income you generate from your craft business will make it worth your efforts.

How did you first become involved with Craftland?
In 2007 we stumbled across a reference to Craftland Show on The Switchboards http://www.theswitchboards.com/ . We applied and were super thrilled when we got in! We love the idea of our arm warmers and scarves going out into the world beyond the shores of Australia. Lucky for us we've been back every year since, so thank you Craftland team for being so fabulous to work with and so supportive!

Guilty Pleasure?
Melaine: Gaye has none, she is so good. Mine are chocolate, reality TV and blogs (reading not writing).
Gaye: Thats not true, I have my vices. I'm very partial to potato crisps and love to grab a sneaky nanna nap in the afternoon (not so easy now I don't work from home).