Established 25 Atelier, founded by Michelle Drew is a creative business firmly rooted in Newham, East London with an ethos of making beautiful, well-crafted homewares and accessories, using local craftsmanship and zero waste. After discovering lampshade making, initially for her own home, Michelle developed her own bespoke lampshade ranges, using her own fabrics, designed to echo the vibrant colours of her Caribbean heritage, which we think you’ll agree are stunning!
In today’s Meet the Maker, we chat with Michelle about her creative influences, the joys of teaching lampshade making workshops and how she sees her business growing.
How are you today and what’s on your workbench?
It’s a lovely bright winter morning and the sun is shining so I’m happy. On my workstation this morning I have several projects looming including a couple of upholstery pieces, and a lovely slender lampshade using my own fabric design “Silhouette In Green”
How do you start the design process and where do you get your design inspiration?
My inspirations come from many places and feelings. But I have always been drawn to colour, light and reflections. There is something quite magical looking at the reflection of objects, I think I’m also drawn to the warmth and energy it radiates. Being of Caribbean heritage and visiting the islands I have an instant connection to the vibrant colours seen in the landscape and people. My design process can come from many different sources because I’m usually looking not only at lampshades but upholstery, homeware and small accessories, my design process is varied, but the main part of the process is definitely colour and texture.
How would you describe your style?
I would like to think my style is timeless and classic with pockets of colour here and there to bring a sense of joy.
Can you tell us more about your creative background?
I’ve always been creative and have always worked in the creative industry. I first studied Graphic Design and went onto university to study 3-D design in Wood, Metal, Ceramics and Plastics, specialising in wood and metal. I later worked for many years in Architecture as a graphic designer. I always enjoyed making gifts for family and friends from little accessories, cards or wrapping paper. So, naturally moving forward to creating a small business making and selling products always felt like a matter of course.
We can see that you’ve developed a range of beautiful and useful products. What’s the ethos behind Established 25 Atelier?
The ethos of Established 25 Atelier has always been to produce products that are beautifully and well crafted. As a small business, I try to use materials in small batches to save on waste and to predominantly source materials from the UK. I also work with local skilled artisans who I have built a great relationship with, this allows me to easily collaborate as and when it’s needed.
When and why did you start making lampshades? Making lampshades to me naturally went with the homeware and accessories I was producing. It was also a way of using up off cuts of materials. But to be honest, I wanted to produce a few for myself at first and they proved to be quite popular so continued to offer this within my range
What’s your favourite part of the lampshade making process?
I run several workshops a year and this is by far the most rewarding process. I really enjoy engaging with my customers and to show them how to make their own shades and the process involved. For them to walk away happy knowing that they have produced something themselves using either my own fabric design is a great feeling.
When you’re selling at maker's markets or in your online shop, what’s your most popular selling shade?
By far the most popular lampshade is the Struttura range and the Green Silhouette
Any tips for new lampshade makers in business?
If you’re thinking about it, just make a start with a few friends or family. Dannells have some wonderful kits to make the process really easy.
You regularly teach lampshade making workshops. What do you love about teaching others?
I tend to work alone in my studio the majority of the time, so to be able to run workshops is such a joy. I look forward to these as it gives me the opportunity to have direct contact with my customers who have chosen to attend. Not only to pass on skills and tips but to engage in conversation and have fun along the way. Many of my attendees are meeting for the first time and I’m always amazed to see how they help each other to get the best results. It’s always a pleasure to see how they are so pleased with the lampshades they have made.
We’re really taken with the bold, colourful fabrics you use for your lampshades and scarfs. What was the process behind creating your own bespoke fabrics?
I studied Graphic Design many moons ago and have always been attracted to bold abstract prints. This along with my love of colour was quite natural for me to want to add some of my own designs to the mix, and being able to offer something unique is great. The idea of the scarves came first I think, and this particular design was something my partner and I had done a while back. We had the blue colourway on our living room wall and it was something I had wanted to recreate for quite some time. For me, the silk scarves give the image another layer of interest, particularly when wrapped or folded. The use of the fabric on my lampshades also offers something quite unique and bespoke, because each shade might use a different section of the fabric creating a more abstract or bespoke look.
How do you manage all the elements of running your own creative business?
Anyone running their own business knows that juggling is a fundamental part of your day-to-day job, it can be quite difficult from time to time as you always have to think about and create content for so many different strands of the business, this can be particularly challenging when all you want to do is be creative in the studio.
When are you at your most productive?
This is a tricky question, but I’ll give it a go. I would say because I’m drawn to light and shadows, I find I’m more productive when I’m in a sunny corner of the studio soaking up the warmth of the sun and light. Dark winter days are definitely for catching up on paperwork and admin.
And your favourite sustenance when you’re working? I’m a real tea drinker and can get through many, many cups of tea a day, especially during winter or when I’m struggling with ideas.
Could you let us take a peek at your workspace?
Where would you like to be in 10 years? Relaxing on a tropical island drinking cocktails and penning ideas, while the creative hub that I’ve created for small independent designers is up and running. I’d love to have a space that allows smaller designers from different disciplines to come together under one roof to offer their services and creative workshops.
What have you learned that has been invaluable to your creative process?
I’ve learnt to not always think I need to create something new or to think too far ahead because you can miss what is right in front of you. To make what I’ve done previously better can add lots of value. To remember to look back and celebrate achievements as it makes going forward a little easier.
Browse Michelle's range of stunning homewares, bags and accessories, made from unique, eye-catching, materials with quality craftsmanship on her website and give her a friendly follow on Instagram, linked below.
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