During this year’s London Design Festival, we are hosting an array of creative businesses and independents at The Makers’ Market, the first pop-up of its kind at The Royal Exchange, which will be hosted on our grand mezzanine area from Monday 20 – Friday 24 September. In a series of Q&As, we get to know the makers behind the brands.
Tell us about your brand – what do you make and how did you get started?
Rekha Maker is a design business which focuses on the casting process. I use a liquid ‘eco-concrete’ called Jesmonite and pour this into my handmade moulds to create striking architectural homewares in small batches. I am a full-time architect, and I started the Rekha Maker business during lockdown last year; many of the designs were already in my head, I just hadn’t devoted the time yet to test them.
Making everything myself, I fall between the categories of both craftsperson and designer. Through the casting process, I want to create high-quality, unique pieces which can stand on their own as objects, even when they are not fulfilling their function. I like to focus on proportions and clean lines. If I could sum up the overarching theme of my work, it would be ‘sculptural architecture for the home’.
How big is your team and where are you based?
I am originally from Liverpool, but I have now lived in Glasgow for 13 years. My team is myself, my assistant, Heather Ridley-Moran and her whippet, Grayson. Heather has a background in textiles, set design and styling; this means she has a great eye and ability to talk through ideas. We have a small studio on the south side of Glasgow where we make a big mess.
Describe the style of your creations in three words:
Sculptural, minimal, striking.
Can you explain a little bit about your craft and what makes it so special?
I work with the material Jesmonite, a British-made ‘eco-concrete’. It is enjoying a huge surge in popularity at the moment, which is great, as it is bringing new people to the craft all the time. Casting into my handmade moulds is an exciting process: pouring liquid Jesmonite into closed moulds means it’s often hard to tell what the finished piece will look like until the material has set. Using my marbling technique means that each item is unique, there will never be two identical pieces. However, to get to the point of pouring the final product involves so many unseen stages: design, initial testing and consideration of the most effective way to produce the first mould.
Who or what are your biggest inspirations when creating?
When I’m feeling most inspired, it’s likely I’ll be looking at buildings and their motifs. It is so fun to be able to translate and experiment with architectural principles on a small scale. I enjoy making references to many different architectural styles, but at the end of the day, it is about creating a functional object with great proportions rather than referencing a particular style. I hope people can see this architectural influence in the shapes of my objects.
What can visitors expect when they come to visit your stall at The Royal Exchange Makers’ Market?
A tiny city on a table. I would hope that they will come across pleasing shapes and colours. The intention has been from the start that the pieces I make complement one another so they can stand together in infinite combinations.
What advice would you give someone looking to explore Jesmonite sculptures further?
I have been dabbling in casting through model making in architecture school, but it is only since early 2020 that I started to properly experiment. I am by no means an expert and all my work has involved trial and error, with a lot of finessing along the way. There is no such thing as perfection and, in fact, I would argue that a lot of the character of handmade pieces comes from the tiny little flaws and idiosyncrasies in the process.
With design being quite subjective, my advice would be that it is important to stay true to yourself and design what you find beautiful, not what you think other people will find beautiful. I think sticking to what interests you is a good indication of what a wider audience would be interested in.
Why do you think it is so important to keep the art of your particular craft going?
In a world where mass-produced homeware is ubiquitous and we are trying to mitigate throwaway culture, I think it is important to put a human spin on design. I hope that customers can feel the love and care that has been put into making the pieces and therefore is something that would sit as a timeless object in the home, rather than be just a trend.
Sustainability is something of which I’m very mindful, so I have been developing a cyclical process to ensure that any leftover Jesmonite or pieces that didn’t turn out quite right, get to go back in the casting process so there is no wastage.
Have you had any memorable moments with your brand so far?
Last year I was fortunate enough to design and make the Scottish Album of the Year awards, which was curated by Local Heroes. It was such an honour to make something with a dual purpose (both candle holder and award) for all the talented artists that made it to the shortlist. The experience of collaboration with Stacey from Local Heroes was such a highlight for me and collaboration is something I want to focus on as I develop. I made connections with some wonderful people, and I was interviewed for the SAY awards 2020 show on the BBC. This is definitely a Rekha Maker highlight so far.
If you could learn any other craft what would it be and why?
I am currently developing some larger designs such as lighting, mirrors and other furniture. I am really looking forward to developing my skills to allow me to refine the casting process for larger pieces and I’m sure there will be a steep learning curve along the way. It would be fantastic if I could combine this craft with bespoke joinery or stonemasonry. I get a lot of enjoyment out of creating with my hands and I think I would enjoy the slow process of sculpting natural materials.
Rekha Maker will be in residence at The Makers’ Market at The Royal Exchange, taking place on the mezzanine level from Monday 20 – Friday 24 September 2021, 10.30am – 6pm
Read more about The Makers’ Market and the exhibitors taking part here