As part of a new interview series, I’m speaking to my favourite independent shops, makers, artists and interior brands.
Kicking things off, I’m chatting to Claire Knill of In The Making. This week Claire is helping me celebrate reaching 7K followers on Instagram by running an exciting competition to win one of her gorgeous mobiles worth £175! All things considered, I thought it only right we find out more about this lovely lady.
Claire makes stunning hanging art mobiles from brass and acrylic. Her work explores balance, movement and relationships between colour and shape. The mobiles are designed to bring a sense of calm to the space within which they are hung, providing a focal point to encourage reconnection, mindfulness and peace.
Hi Claire, tell us a bit about you.
“I grew up living in a remote cottage along a canal in Bath. As a child and throughout my life my Mum has been an inspiration and influence when it comes to making and creating. Whether it was homemade wine, our clothes, her own organic range of creams and oils, she has made for the love of doing. I have always admired her self-sufficiency and her curiosity of process.
“All my studies have been in the creative arts. I trained as a florist while doing my A levels and went on to do a degree in multimedia textile design at Loughborough. I’ve worked in fashion PR, travel, marketing and events. There have been times where I felt that jumping from one thing to the next meant I hadn’t mastered anything particularly well. Now I realise it was all leading up to where I am now.”
That all sounds eerily familiar as I work in PR but am always looking for new creative outlets. I’d also love to launch my own brand one day. When did you launch In The Making?
“In The Making evolved out of the need to fulfil a creative itch and work round my family. About seven years ago I co-founded an events and styling company with a friend, but when my son arrived I needed more flexibility. I continued making installations, props and decorations freelance for clients. This led to developing my own product range and exploring a freer way of working, creating my own art that wasn’t dictated by a brief.”
How did you come up with your brand name (which I love by the way!)?
“Quite by accident, I went to a networking event and was asked to fill in a web address for my business, I didn’t have one at the time so I wrote ‘in the making’. Afterwards I realised that was the perfect way to describe my business and my work, and it stuck. My aim is to keep evolving, pushing myself and exploring what I’m capable of creatively to enjoy that process rather than having a ridged idea of the outcome in mind…always in the making.”
That’s brilliant and very apt! Where did the idea to make ‘grown-up’ mobiles come from?
“The mobiles developed out of other wall-hangings was I making, experimenting with different materials and movement. I never sketch or plan too rigidly in the first instance, I prefer to pick up materials and manipulate them.
“What I really enjoyed about making mobiles was learning to make them balance, having to sit back and watch the way they move to make sure the flow is right. This became a way for me to find a calm space to stop and focus, I have a very busy brain and find that I have lots of ideas crashing around up there, it helped distil and simplify. Finding time to carry out this work, means I find it much easier to live in the moment and deal positively with the challenges that come from a busy family life, akin to meditation I guess.
“We already recognise that having a kinetic focal point calms babies and helps them make sense of their surroundings and emotions, we all need that as humans. We fill our downtime with screens and digital distraction, I think it’s important to balance this by coming back to the physical world to reconnect with ourselves and our environment. But hey, lets not get too serious! They can also simply be delightful things to look at that make you smile or colour co-ordinate with your décor.”
I love this and totally get it since I was lucky enough to have been given a beautiful brass mobile of yours for Christmas. It’s beautifully mesmerising and reminds me of planets orbiting the sun. And as strange as it sounds, I love the completeness of circular shapes. Please tell me more about this particular design!
“Aah, I loved creating this design. It’s called Sisters. The starting point was the idea of really simplifying things down to celebrate the circle, I think it’s such a powerful shape. I also wanted to experiment with a more non-traditional structure for a mobile.
“During the making process, it came to represent my sisters (I am one of three girls). The three elements are connected but independent and there is a simple sweeping curve that holds them together. It symbolises how important our relationship is to me. We all live in different cities, so I don’t see them as much as I would like but I feel very close to them and really value their love and friendship. It one of my favourite pieces of work.
That’s so lovely, I’m glad I asked. I love the family connection, plus it’s obviously great to know I’m not the only one with a thing for circles! What other items do you design and make?
“All sorts of things, I love learning new crafts and skills. When I am working on a large-scale installation or event design they tend to be different each time depending on the clients brief, I then make suggestions on what could be created for the space. I’ve learnt Japanese shibori dying, origami, woodcraft, welding, quilling, to name a few, all in the name of creating unique spaces.”
What inspires your designs?
“Shape, form and colour found from all sorts of random places. I love geometric shapes, lines and curves and playing with scale. I have collected lots of tribal textiles and objects from my travels which often inspire shapes and patterns I use. The women of the Bauhaus movement were incredible.
“I also have a lot of love for Cesar Manrique who was a ground-breaking artist, activist and conservationist from Lanzarote. He created magical living and social spaces and the island is covered in kinetic sculptures, which is also an influence on my work.”
I’ve noticed you use a lot of brass in your designs. I’m a big fan of brass as a material. I love the colour and how it stands the test of time but demands a bit of love and attention now and then.
What do you love about brass and how do you find working with it?
“I love the quality of the surface that brass has and the fact that it tarnishes and ages over time. All my brass pieces are hand finished. I love the different textures that can be created and the way this changes the light that reflects across the metal.
“My favourite finish, the one that I used most often, is a satin finish which gives a lovely warm sheen rather than a high shine. My commission clients sometimes prefer their mobiles to keep the original finish rather than the patina that comes with age, in this instance I treat the brass so that it resists tarnishing and finger marks.”
You also create mobiles made with bright colourful acrylic shapes. They’re so fun but give off a different vibe to the brass designs. How do you differentiate the two? Do you see them differently or were they made during a different time or mood?
“This is a really interesting question. They are quite different, my brass pieces have a calm more ethereal quality whereas the acrylic is playful and vibrant, they tend to be the statement pieces. Thinking about it, this can often be representative of the mood or energy when making a particular piece, either how I am at the time or how the piece makes me feel while creating it. That said I love combining the two materials and they have such different qualities that work well together.
“Light and movement are key features of my work, using matt finish acrylic which has slightly opaque quality or transparent shapes with the brass means that all sorts of different facets of the materials are revealed as it moves.”
How long does each piece on average take to make?
“It really depends. I can go into the studio with a nugget of an idea and have it finished a piece by the end of the day. Others take longer and I might work on it for a while, hang it to one side and come back to it another time. With my larger commissions I might make a couple of versions until I (and the client) are happy with it.”
Do you ever name any of your pieces?
“Yes I do, usually because the making process has made me reflect on a feeling or situation, like my Sisters mobile. Some of them have nicknames based on the shapes I’ve used which are less conceptual, Fishbones is my favourite.”
Which pieces of your own work do you have in your own home?
“All of them hang in my home for a while as I make them and then often I find it really hard to part with them. I have a version of Sisters above my bed, I find it so relaxing to watch the light move around it. I also have a wall hanging in our kitchen and others come in and out of the house to decorate if we have visitors and I want to change the house up a little.”
Is your personal style reflected in your work? How would you describe the two? How do they differ?
“I aim to surround myself in colour as much as I can, I love wearing bold bright looks and distinctive prints (when I’m not in standard issue black for studio and school run times). Our home is light, white walls and colour pops bought in through artwork, textiles and objects I’ve collected.”
Tell us about your studio. How to you get in the zone?
“My studio is my sanctuary. It’s an old stable with super thick walls so it’s cool and calm. I live on a mews street in Hove (my studio is on the ground floor, we live above it) so I can either close the doors and escape or open them up on sunny days and be sociable. We’re lucky to be among a lovely community of indie businesses and neighbours.
“Usually I get up super early on a Saturday morning and head in there before the kids and world is awake, tunes on and an awesome coffee from Pharmacie Coffee roasters next door to fuel the productivity. I find it must easier to focus on what I’m doing at that time in the morning with a fresh head.
“Unless I have the studio open (occasional Saturdays and Artists Open Houses) or clients visiting, my studio is generally a bit of a creative mess. I’ve come to realise that’s just how I work. I like to pick things up and put them down when I’m working without having to stop the flow to tidy up!”
Yes! Think I need to adopt that one when Liam tells me off for being messy!
So whether your styling work or pieces for In The Making , what item do you get most enjoyment from making?
“Something I haven’t made before, either a new mobile or an installation. I love working through all the little details of how something will come to life. In a perverse way I love the fact that until it is done and installed I’m not 100 percent sure it will all go to plan, which always adds a bit of excitement!”
What’s been your most notable work accolade?
“In my London days I was asked by Sothebys to create a collection for a new designers exhibition they hold each year. My collection pretty much sold out on the first night. Looking back on that I think I was far too chilled about the whole thing.”
That’s pretty amazing. You know you’re doing a lot right when Sotheby’s call!
I saw from your Instagram that you created a number of window installation / displays for Whistles stores which all looked so good! How did that project come about?
“Yes, a dream project! I was thrilled to be approached by them. The team at Whistles had seen my work on Instagram and asked me to create some mobile art for their summer window display across all their stores (100 mobiles in total).
“They were super to work with, giving a succinct brief but trusting me to suggest and make what I thought would work. The mobile was designed to complement the campaign imagery, incorporating bold shapes and primary colours. It’s the largest mobile I have made to date which was a great technical challenge and scaling up production to make enough was a fantastic learning curve.”
I know from experience, working on your own can be lonely at times. Do you mix with other creatives and makers? Which networks do you tap into or are you a part of?
“Brighton has an amazing and accessible creative community and I’ve made some super friends here, often through events I’m working at or markets. The Brighton Etsy team hold regular meet up which I try and go along to, and the Happy Start Up School plan really valuable networking events.
“One of my plans for 2019 is to try and establish more accountability for myself in my work and I’ve joined a mentoring group which I’m really looking forward to getting involved in.”
I’ve been part of a mentoring group before and I found it really valuable. Good luck with it!
One last thing before you go, can you let us know what you’re up to at the moment and what’s next In The Making?
“My eldest went to school in September so I have more time to focus on the direction of In The Making. I’m working on some event and installation proposals but would like to grow this side of my work. Plans include finding some more bricks and mortar stockists, and putting on a solo interactive exhibition. I’m really excited to see what this year brings.”
All sounds very exciting, looking forward to seeing it unfold!