Chhipa HQ is the bright and airy Hove studio, Albert Mews. Here Liz shares the space with two designer makers, Joanna Corney and Martha Mitchell. This week we talk to Martha about her illustrations, homewares and plans for the future.
Oh HI Martha, let's start by you telling us what you do.
I think I would call myself an illustrator, but not in the traditional sense. I don't illustrate books or stories but instead do illustrations that I put on to homeware and gifts. These include things like mugs, tea-towels and prints. I also do cufflinks and brooches, alongside commissions. They're all based around my own illustrations of cities but also I find myself doing an assortment of other things, like people's hobbies - very varied!
You get a lot of commissions, don't you?
Yes, I've just started to get more actually. A new product I've got is my “Birthday Tile Frame” where people can choose their own things for me to draw; people's childhood homes, people's pets, people's favourite foods.. It all started when I did a 30th Birthday frame for my brother last year. I put in his old football team, the places he had traveled alongside all the other things that we grew up loving. That got a lot of interest and from that I've had a lot of other commissions.
And it's generally snowballed from there, hasn't it? What's the weirdest thing you've had to draw?
Very good question. I do have to draw people's pets quite often and I do find that extremely difficult. The weirdest object I had to put my illustrations on was when someone had found a pebble on the beach and I had to somehow get my illustrations on to it. I mean, it was a very nice pebble, but that was tricky, that was a challenge..
Excellent. And how did you get in to it?
I started at Nottingham Trent University, I did my degree there, and part of the course was to do still life drawings. I actually didn't enjoy doing them at all until I decided to draw the contents of my bag. This mainly consisted of sweet wrappers and crisp packets.. From there I started to draw well known brands of food packaging and I'd draw my friends kitchen cupboards. Ha yes, I remember that well.. I'd started doing little black and white line drawings, people seemed to like them and it all seemed to grow from there. I did some small craft shows and just got bigger and bigger really, especially when I moved back to Brighton. There are so many creative opportunities here, it opened up a lot of other avenues that I could explore.
You've worked here in Albert Mews for a long time now, could you tell us how it started?
The studio opened 5 years ago and it began when three of us needed a studio space to work from. Myself, Rebecca Cluett (who you can find out about on a previous Meet-The-Maker here) and Lizzie Lock. We looked around a bit, I was already working from a studio in Brighton but it was very expensive and you only got a tiny space. Luckily one of Lizzie's parents knew the owners of the studio that we're in now, we came to look at it and it was absolutely perfect. It used to be an old computer shop, we still get customers of theirs confusedly turning up at our door from time to time, and we had to gut all the wires out and put down a new floor. Roy our landlord has been fantastic.
In the beginning there were three different businesses; my illustration, Rebecca's clothing and tights and Lizzie's millinery. There are still three businesses here but Rebecca moved out last year to have little Olive, and Joanna Corney moved in. It's a brilliant place to work.
What is your daily routine? Do you have one?
Not really, it changes every day. I come in in the morning and I'll probably do some emails first thing and then go from there. I'm an early riser, I probably come in at, well it depends really. When I was really busy I was coming in at 6 but now I probably come in about 8ish. Every day does differ; if I have a big order on, I'll come in, do the order then do all my other jobs. It really does vary from day to day.
What's next for Martha Mitchell?
Well, in January I've signed up to do a big trade show, which is quite scary as I've never done one of that size before. I have done trade shows but this time I've got a bigger space, it's costing a lot more which means it's a much higher level of investment and risk to be part of. This will hopefully open up different avenues though for me to sell through, as the next step for the business is to get more wholesale orders. But it is scary, as it is a lot more money and it will be just after my busiest time of year... But I'm getting into gear now and am starting to draw new cities and develop new ranges in preparation.
Do you have any sneak peaks you could share?
My next city is going to be Oxford. My boyfriend is from there, so I've been recently and it's very lovely. There are a lot of tourists that travel there, lots of beautiful buildings for me to draw and I've already got some “British” drawings that I can use in the range as well. From there I'm going to work on Bristol. Oh really? Only because I work on what people ask for and what enquiries I get. So yes, look out for Bristol next year! I'm hoping in January to have five new cities to add to my collections.
Probably should start doing those actually, as the year is running away from me...
One last question Martha, what do you wear in the studio?
I'm quite a messy person. Well, I'm a very messy actually, which means although I wear my normal everyday clothes, they do tend to get a bit ruined. We can quite easily get into a mess working here.
It's always a bit of a shock when someone turns up at the door isn't it?
Always a shock, yeh. Definitely. I used to want to wear fleecy pyjama bottoms in the winter but when you have customers coming to the door, it's just not on.
Not quite appropriate.
Martha's beautiful homewares and illustrations are available to buy from www.marthamdesign.com. To receive updates and offers find her on facebook here and follow her on instagram and twitter - @marthamdesign. Martha will also be showing her wares in May this year, as Albert Mews Studio opens it's doors once more as part of the Open House Festival.