Many people consider art as a hobby or a collection for the rich to hang on their walls. That art does not cure the sick, build a great wall, or divide a sea. That art is an activity that some lawyers or chemists may also be doing at home in their leisure time. "Maker" Brydie Stewart also fell into this mindtrap - but things took an abrupt turn when she stopped undervaluing her skills...
Brydie now runs her business Mary Maker Studio full-time, but it started as a side hustle 7 years ago as a way for her to fill in her time during maternity leave. As an artist she was looking for quality fabrics to create pieces with and noticed there was a gap in the market - so she started designing her own materials. Brydie has now built a community of other online artists (137k followers on IG and 14k in a private Facebook group) - many who also run their own side hustles.
I talk to Brydie...
Hi Brydie, I find a lot of successful business start by identifying some sort of gap in the market. Can you tell us the story behind why you started your side hustle?
I started Mary Maker Studio as a way of slowing down and connecting back to my handmade artisan self that was quickly lost when my world as a full-time art teacher and busy mum reigned.
When I create with my hands I escape the day, I lose track of time and enjoy the present moment. Macrame for me was a moving meditation, one that I still practice today. Mary Maker Studio enabled me to pursue my passion whilst still being there for my daughters when they needed me.
Can we pause a second - what is a Maker ?
To most, the word maker conjures up images of people working with their hands—designing, building, and crafting. A maker might be someone who bakes bread or someone who quenches steel; it might be someone who builds chairs or someone who paints portraits. Ultimately, a maker is someone who makes things.
The outcomes and programs of the movement are commonly billed as being about entrepreneurialism, innovation, and participating in a newly-defined, democratic, producer-based manufacturing system.
When did you realise this business had potential to go big?
I saw a large gap in the market for a range of products for creatives. Once I knuckled down, designed, developed, and had these in my hands I saw the power in them, and I knew they would be extremely popular. There are thousands of Makers around the globe like me who were searching for bespoke, premium quality materials that inspired them to create.
Once my first prototypes arrived I knew my community would love them as much as I did. I have continued to grow my business and product line, now shipping not only domestically but internationally daily. My textiles are world class and are favoured by many of the world's most influential fibre artists which is absolutely thrilling.
We recently representing Auspost on their "Delivering for Australia" campaign. This was an honor to be able to share our fibre world with a larger audience through the support of one of Australia's most iconic customers.
How many years before your business became full time?
After the birth of my first daughter I went back to my teaching job part-time. I was working extremely hard to build my business and its presence at the same time. Then when I had my second daughter I never returned to the 9-5.
This was three years after first dreaming up the idea of Mary Maker Studio.
What mistakes did you make in the early days?
Those which are common amongst many Makers and other business owners... Not believing in my ideas, undervaluing my art, and working for free.
Artists are often told that they cannot charge for their skills, knowledge, experience or creativity, only time. Often, unless people can see something, they find it hard to put place value on it. This is a block that many of us have to overcome because more than the hours spent creating a piece, artists create magic. I too spent the youth of my career being told “Oh, I could make that”, to which I now respond with “But you didn’t.”
Now, I help and support Makers from around the world to find their artistic voice, confidence in their journey, and pride in the product.
What are the key components to your success?
My previous career as a school teacher with Bachelor Degrees in Creative and Fine Art have been the impetus to my success. I have a thorough understanding of colour theory and the role it not only plays in our mind but in our home. When developing colour combinations, I know what pairs and the psychology behind it. I work a lot with high-end architectural building firms on custom designs and/or commercial fit outs, keeping up to date with moving trends around the world is a fun part of my job. It enables me to bring ideas from around the world home to my clients, which often filter through to my customers and their making. Staying relevant and innovating is a must when the markets is saturated.
Tell us about your code of conduct?
I'm dedicated to growing our community, I have makers contact me from around the world telling me how my patterns, products and support have helped them with their mental health, and that it has provided some space after a difficult time.
Facilitating this connection is so important as I know many people turn to craft in a time when the world seems all too much to bear. I continually offer ways to innovate and inspire my community, they can reach out to me at any time and I love to feature talented creatives who are doing amazing things across my social media. To think that I can share a work, leading my audience to their page, and it can often generate a typical week’s wage of sales for that artisan is incredible.
Morally, I decided a long time ago that it was my role to build the community. From here I stopped competing with my customers on sales and focused on promoting theirs. It didn't sit well with me that I was not only providing customers with the supplies to create, but I was selling my woven creations within the same market as them. When many found it difficult to sell pieces, mine were often selling out in seconds, so I stopped promoting my own work. I still do large commissions for clients, but the majority of my world (and social media presence) is about building my communities knowledge, skill and creative confidence, and promoting them. I have a very loyal customer base who know that I support them 110%. This is very important to me.
Could you give some examples of your customers?
Typically my customers are creative folk who are looking to skate the business that their everyday life provides. Mothers who run after children all day, executives who attend board meetings, and many people who wish to simply connect back to themselves. Some customers run highly successful globally recognised art businesses, many run workshops and cheap teach others how to be creative, and then some just make for the sheer pleasure, sending their woven creations to friends as beautiful heartfelt gifts. My customers are not only passionate about craft and innovation but about showcasing the beautiful community that we are all a part of.
Who would you typically collaborate with in your line of work?
I typically collaborate with interior designers, stylists and high-end residential and commercial architectural firms. Fibre art brings a welcome warmth and sense of conversation to any space. People are receiving the benefits of inviting handmade art into their world and I am grateful to be able to share not only my love and passion but my bespoke art with a greater audience.