With a joint love of all things vintage, best friends Charlotte and Kirsty of Co-Vintage set off on an adventure learning macramé together during lockdown, as a way to keep in touch. Nearly one year on they have truly mastered the art and we're in awe of the stunning macrame lampshades they've designed and created. The end result of their talent with knots and eye for design, is a successful Etsy business that alongside unique macrame lampshades also stocks macramé homewares and jewellery.
We chat to them to find out how they started out, where they draw their inspiration from and how they run their business, even though they live 40 miles apart!
How are you today and what’s on your workbench?
We are both well thanks, Kirsty is busy drawing up some new designs and I’m currently finishing up a commission piece of a lion wall hanging for a babies nursery using one of Dannells metal rings to create the mane, it’s very cute.
How did you become friends?
We meet at University in Surrey 17 years ago, where we both studied photography. We've been best friends ever since and I’m Kirsty’s little boys godmother.
How do you start the design process and where do you get your design inspiration?
We are both massive fans of all things vintage, so our crafting tends to steer that way. We love to look through vintage designs to inspire newer modern versions. Our designs always start with a quick sketch and a bits of maths to figure out how to create a symmetrical pattern.
How would you describe your collective style?
We actually make a good partnership, we love bouncing ideas off each other as we both have very similar creative ideas. However, the partnership is dynamic in terms of our colour palette preferences. I tend to work with more neutral colours, whereas Kirsty loves brighter colours. Originally it was Kirtsy’s idea to dip dye the shades, which worked really well. Primarily our style choices are heavily influenced by vintage designs as we are both pretty obsessed.
It’s clear you both have a passion for all things macramé. Do you follow trends or do you just go with your instinct on what will work for a lampshade?
We both love looking through vintage designs on Pinterest etc, but we always try to create something individual and unique, something that stands out. This prompted me to experiment with a rectangular shade. It proved to be a challenge, a bit trial and error but it worked really well. It was bought by a customer that absolutely loved its uniqueness.
What other macramé gems are you currently making and stocking?
I’m currently drawing up some ideas to create more animal faces. I was commissioned to make a lion face, which was so much fun to create. I’m about to trial a bear and a zebra, looking forward to seeing the results. Kirsty’s working on some pieces involving lettering and some more vintage geometric patterns. Aside from our lampshade, our current stock is mainly vintage style pot hangers, wall hangings, some other home items and even earrings.
When did you start making lampshades?
We started macrame last year during the first lockdown. We both loved it and thought it would be great to learn the process together. As we live quite far apart (Charlotte is based in Brentwood, Essex and Kirsty is based in Redhill Surrey), we would spend most of our evenings crafting, at the same time as chatting on FaceTime. I braved a lampshade first back in May, I love to jump in the deep end and challenge myself.
What’s your favourite part of the lampshade making process?
It takes a long time to create the lampshades, but it’s really satisfying when you start to see the design coming together. I think the best part is when we have almost finished our original design and we get a chance to freestyle in order to improve and refine it.
In your online shop what’s your most popular selling shade?
We have never made the same shade twice, other than matching bedside shades. We mainly work to commission pieces, creating individual items to the customers request. That’s what we both love about this art form.
Have you been asked to do any macramé lampshade commission yet?
Yes we get a lot of requests for all different types of macramé items including lampshades.
How tricky are your lampshades to make and what advice would give to a beginner lampshade maker?
Depends on the style, some have fairly simple designs and some are very intricate. They are time consuming, particularly cutting all the cord and attaching it to the lampshade ring. I would start with a smaller shade maybe 15 or 20cm and keep the pattern simple. I would say you need a lot of patience but it will be worth it once you see the finished results.
How do you fit in your shade making with the other things you both do?
We both have full time jobs so it can be difficult at times to fit the macramé in. Kirsty has a little boy as well, so she has to juggle aspects of her life all at once. I think macramé has really helped the pair of us during this challenging time. It’s given us something to focus on in the evenings. As I live on my own it’s been a massive comfort to have our evening crafting and FaceTime sessions.
When are you at your most productive?
It varies really. With me if I get really into a project I can find it hard to stop, I’ve been known to keep going until the early hours of the morning, I’m like a robot. Kirsty has to be more flexible and adapt this challenge to her busy schedule. She does love a little lunch time making session when possible.
And your favourite sustenance when you’re both working
Our preferred treat is pick and mix sweets. Especially as you can now order them on line!
Where would you like to be in 10 years time?
Well, it would be a dream for both of us to be able to give up our day jobs and spend our days making our creations, running a bespoke vintage craft ware shop and teaching others the art of macramé. Also, a studio would be great so we both have plenty of space to work
What have you learned that’s been invaluable to your creative process?
Kirsty's motto is to always think it’s best to jump in at the deep end - go big or go home. It’s best to be brave and try new things and learn from your mistakes. That’s the great thing about macramé, you can unpick it when it goes wrong.