Making Uncovered: AfroRetro

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Lilly and Anna, the sister duo behind AfroRetro, will be demonstrating their unique blend of Ugandan textile art and upcycling at Making Uncovered, transforming various materials and fabrics into garments and other items.

Tell us something about your work.
We combine all the things that we love and are important to us in our accessories, jewellery and fashion range.

Our creations are a showcase of all the great ideas, opinions and amazing experiences we have been lucky to have as British Ugandans.

We forage in the streets of south London, not only for ideas but to source many of the materials we use to make our ranges from the local community.

We combine the goodies that you throw out with traditional African materials like banana leaves, Dutch wax and Ugandan bark cloth to make a quirky, hand made, ethical, upcycled range of T-shirts, earrings and snoods.

Why are you taking part in Making Uncovered?
UpcycledScarfWebSometimes words are just not enough. At Making Uncovered we have been given the amazing chance to show people who we are and what we do in our own words and actions. Such an opportunity was too good to miss out! We really wanted to be a part of this creative gathering and meet the people who inspire and drive our work.


What will you be doing at Making Uncovered?

WeaveTeeWebWe will be sharing the making love and unleashing your creative selves in a series of drop-in and timed workshops.

You can try your hand at weaving a greeting card, Ugandan style, using traditional African materials, or turning an unloved T-shirt into a fabulous circular scarf.

AfroRetro’s Making Uncovered workshops are at midday and 4pm and cost £20 each – book your place here! The price includes materials, but bring along an old T-shirt if you have one – the bigger the better!

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Meet the Makers: Robyn Parker

Brixton-based textile designer Robyn tells us how her great-grandmother’s notebook inspired her brand, and of the links between creativity and mental health.

  • Tell us a bit about Archie Mac London, what do you make or do?

Textile design. It’s all about stories! I use these story-telling textiles to make cushions and purses, and I’m currently working on a range of washbags, make-up bags and iPad covers. In future I plan to create fashion-wear too.Robyn Parker

  • What do you mean by ‘story-telling textile design’?

It started from a project about childhood. I had the intention of bringing the fun elements of childhood into a more adult form of design.

I interviewed a friend who gave me a fantastic collection of childhood pictures from the ’80s. They were wearing garish T-shirts with Simpsons cartoons on, and I was fascinated by the hair shapes of the characters. I began to manipulate them and use them to create patterns. In this way the designs originated in elements of a childhood story, and carried them into the future. Icons of my own childhood, such as a headless doll, now feature in my designs.

  • What kind of processes are involved in creating your cushions?

I begin with childhood images and objects and create collage – using both old-style paper and scissors and computer programs – to explore these shapes and take them backwards and forwards. Sometimes surprising patterns result: some have come up with an Islamic look and then on the next iteration been reminiscent of African prints, others have the look of fractals.

The final designs are printed onto fabric, which I sew into cushions, bags and other items. Commercial printing is extremely expensive, so I’m currently learning screen-printing so that I can also do that part of the process myself in future.

  •  What inspired you to get started with Archie Mac?

The precious discovery, about a year ago, of an album my great-grandmother, Annie, had kept of her own notes and the charming sketches and cartoons of my great-grandfather, Archie McMillan. He signed each one with his monogram – AMcM, combined to make a little spider – and this inspired the name (Archie Mac) and logo of my brand.

It was so exciting to find this creative ancestry in my family. There has been something of a gap in creative expression in the intervening generations!

I didn’t come from an art background. Until recently I worked in social care, as a mental health support worker with the Community Options Team, and I repeatedly observed the importance of creative activity in restoring confidence and self esteem. This sparked the idea of setting up a social enterprise aimed at developing creative opportunities for other women (which I’ve recently started with workshops at the Eaves Centre in Brixton). Newham College recognised my enthusiasm and took a chance on me, offering me a place on their Fashion Foundation course, which gave me the opportunity to start experimenting with textiles.

  •  What makes your products special?  

The storytelling aspect. I’d love to create bespoke designs for clients which reflect what’s important to them – perhaps featuring images or icons from their own childhood, or those of their children – and incorporate these into textiles or products which are unique to them. A wedding dress, perhaps! I work primarily with fabric but there is no reason why the designs shouldn’t be used to decorate other products. Your own story-telling kettle, or toaster?

I currently hand-stitch my logo, derived from Archie’s monogram, onto every piece. I love that personal connection with each item of my work.

  • Tell us about the exciting new workshops you are involved with?

These are workshops in embroidery and beading at the Eaves Centre, a Brixton-based centre for supporting women who experience violence. Currently they are monthly, but I am keen to make them more frequent. The workshops teach new skills and an outlet for creative expression that bypasses any fear about drawing.

The women who attend are each making small panels. We’ve also been making up embroidery packs to send out to women who cannot or do not choose to come to the centre, to encourage them to participate. We are using the theme of ‘hope’ and will combine the small pieces we make into one large panel. We intend to display the final panel to raise awareness and possibly funds for the Eaves centre.

We’ve received a lot of support from local sources, including Simply Fabrics, Freecycle, and Fiona of Oh Sew Brixton!, for which we’re extremely grateful, as we had no funding for the project.

  •  What attracted you to get involved with Makerhood?

The network is such a wonderful precious thing: there is this lovely cycle of kindness there. It can be lonely being creative and it’s great to know that there’s somewhere so welcoming and supportive in the borough.

  • What do you like about living &/or working in Lambeth?

I don’t know what it is about the borough, but it attracts so many creative people. There is a really good network of creatives here, and I have received so much support from people such as Sinead of Crafty Fox, and Colin Crooks and Lydia Gardner on the ‘start your own enterprise course’  run by Tree Shepherd, and also getting  involved with Brand Amplifier has been amazing and brilliant!

Also, I greatly value that working in mental health gives me the opportunity to meet people with such different lifestyles and life experiences from my own. Being exposed to such a multicultural, multi-layered community is exciting and inspiring . For example, in the Eaves Centre workshops people bring so many different experiences and ideas to the table.

  • What’s your hot tip for a hidden pleasure or treasure in Lambeth?

One best memory I will take with me if and when I leave will be the conker trees by the Lido – I think I will always feel that childhood excitement from picking up shiny conkers!

To see more of Robyn’s unique, original textiles & products visit www.archiemaclondon.co.uk

Meet the makers: Anna Jackson

Anna Jackson of  Black Cactus London describes the delights of living in south London and producing one-off printed bags and purses

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1.  Tell us how you got started in printing.
I did a fine arts degree in printmaking and sculpture at university in Australia – and always preferred printmaking to sculpture. Then I went travelling to Japan, came to the UK in 2000 and got very frustrated doing office work as a project analyst. So I did another printmaking course at Central St Martins, which reminded me how much I loved printmaking and helped me to realise that I wanted printmaking back in my life!

2. So you prefer printing on fabric to paper?
Printing on fabric is more versatile. You can frame a paper print, but with fabric it’s more flexible – you can make other things from it. They have to be small things like bags, because I work on small-scale pieces – I don’t have the facilities to produce large pieces of fabric with repeat patterns. I use real leaves in my prints, so every piece is different and unique. I love printing the fabrics – I’m less keen on making up the bags. It would be great to pair up with a seamstress!

3.  As well as selling through Makerhood you’re stocked by independent retailers.
Yes – I have an Etsy shop and I also sell my bags through Diverse Gifts in Brixton and Lovely and British in Bermondsey Street. I’m not interested in John Lewis – I prefer independent retailers. I want to get to the point where people like my stuff enough to commission one-off pieces, so I keep experimenting rather than just becoming a production line. For me it’s about wanting to do it – otherwise there’s a danger it just becomes a chore.

4. Have you always lived in south London since coming to the UK?
No – I used to live in Hackney, but then I moved to the Camberwell/Brixton borders about four years ago. I wasn’t sure about being south of the river at first, but I like it now! It’s spikier than Hackney – people watching here is so much better. I wouldn’t move back!

5. So can you share some of your favourite places in the area where you live?
There are events like the Chelsea Fringe Festival, where a garden designer has created a secret garden in the yard behind our studio block in Vanguard Court. I also like the Hermit’s Cave pub,  a real hole in the wall place with stuffed weasels – no gastropub nonsense here! And there’s a new farmer’s market with a great berry stall, and the Camberwell Arts Festival (15-23 June 2013).

6. And why did you join Makerhood?
I heard about Makerhood through picking up a flyer in Burgess Park and thought why not? It’s provided useful relevant local information that’s hard to come by elsewhere. I’ve made some online sales, met other makers and got stocked in Diverse through Makerhood.

You can see Anna’s stylish, versatile bags at http://brixton.makerhood.com/black-cactus-london

 

New makers

Say a big hello to makers who have set up new Makerhood stalls in the past couple of weeks.

Bright Side Dark Side sells exuberant floral fascinators and jewellery inspired by nature and tribal arts, using feathers, recycled leather, shells & semi-precious stones.
http://brixton.makerhood.com/bright-side-dark-side

Community Technology offers refurbished computers and IT equipment, and is committed to promoting environmental and technological sustainability.
http://brixton.makerhood.com/community-technology

Alexandra of Aurora Aromatica, a mobile complementary therapist, is selling lavender and hops love-heart pillows to help you relax.
http://brixton.makerhood.com/aurora-aromatica-complementary-therapist

Rijole Bitata of Nera Phut Accessories specialises in jewellery and accessories made from a range of different materials, from fabric to semi-precious stones.
http://brixton.makerhood.com/nerua-phut-accessories

Tinker Tailor offers a mixture of handmade garments and customised vintage made by a Savile Row trained tailor from the highest quality materials sourced from English mills.
http://brixton.makerhood.com/tinker-tailor