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?
We create elegant, uncomplicated, useful pieces featuring our own contemporary fabric designs, specifically created for each piece. Our founding principle is to deliver a collection of remarkable items made for modern living. Walter, a thoughtfully made, simply designed two seat bench, upholstered in R&M’s own signature designs, was the very first collection developed by R&M. In 2017, Walter was joined by Scrippy, Valerie, Arnie, Gertrude and Anne, and in 2018 by Billy, Digs, Hux & Ham, a range of timeless, functional furniture and textiles, designed and crafted in England for everyday homes and life.
Our fabrics are designed in Yorkshire, printed in Worcestershire and our furniture is handmade in East Sussex and textiles produced in Lancashire at Cookson & Clegg, a factory manufacturing great things since 1840.
We (Alex, a graphic designer, and Lucy an entertainment marketing manager) met while working at Freud Communications PR agency in 2001. Alex is a graphic designer by trade and graduated from Manchester Met University with a degree in Design and Art Direction in 1999 before moving to London. A course in printed textile sparked the drive to combine 20 years’ experience in the graphic design sector with a love for simple, striking interiors.
Lucy trained to design and make props at Central School of Speech & Drama, London, graduating in 1995 and was a prop maker for theatre and prop buyer for TV before she ‘fell’ into marketing films. Missing ‘making’, Lucy went back to the workshop and trained in traditional upholstery at the Thomas Calton Centre and The Goodlife Centre – one day she called up Alex and said “What do you reckon to designing and making something together?”
How big is your team and where are you based:
We are a designer-maker partnership of two, formerly both based in London, Alex is now in Ilkley, Yorkshire and Lucy in Lewes, East Sussex. Handy eh?
Describe the style of your creations in three words:
Contemporary, uncomplicated, useful.
Can you explain a little about your craft and what makes it so special:
We create our own bold graphic designs which are scaled specifically for each piece – balance and weight is key. We digitally print our fabrics and hand make and upholster our furniture. Alex leads the graphics; Lucy leads the product. We both have an input on each other’s craft. We only make things that we like and would have in our own home; if not, we would just print a hedgehog drinking a glass of prosecco on a tea towel and retire to the French Riviera on the proceeds. We love the process almost as much as we love the outcome. We are thrilled at the evolution of each of our designs and products and feel just a little bit afraid every time we share our ideas with the world.
Who or what are your biggest inspirations when creating?
We both love simple form and function. We are interested in shapes, lines and silhouettes, inspired by both the urban and natural landscape. We are inspired and in awe of all the mid-century greats, from Wegner to Jacobsen to Knoll, Gio Ponti and Perriand – the list goes on. We love the skill and artistry of current furniture makers such as the Galvin Brothers, Ten Tables, and Sebastian Cox but are also buoyed by the massive community of printmakers, textile designers, weavers, crafters and designer makers that we meet at events like these and online; their generosity of ideas and the championing of other is a total thrill.
What can visitors expect when they come to visit your stall at The Royal Exchange Makers’ Market?
We will have textiles, homewares and furniture selected from our collection, cushions, tea towels, trays and a limited number of wash bags to purchase and take away. We will also be showcasing our new Roddy birch plywood footstool, which will be available to order in custom R&M fabric for post-show delivery.
What advice would you give someone looking to explore your particular craft further?
Look, read, visit, train, question, turn things over (the bottom of a chair is very revealing), work out which bits of the process you love, which bits you need help with, ask for advice, take criticism, take photos of EVERY step of your process as you learn and refine it. Don’t expect that everything will work, nor that everyone will love it. Oh, and measure and measure again before cutting.
Why do you think it is so important to keep the art of your particular craft going?
From a personal perspective, because creating with purpose – quite simply – gives us both great joy. From an environmental perspective, the world is full of stuff, so buying less but buying better, and therefore creating pieces that do not have built-in obsolescence matters, and ensuring the skills to repair and restore are kept alive. From a societal perspective, let’s place value and worth in practical skills and careers, not simply academic outcomes. And on a fiscal level, the creative industries contribute in excess of £155 billion a year to the UK economy.
Do you have a favourite piece you have created?
All of our pieces are named after family members; little did we know it would make for ‘sibling sales rivalry’ as the kids try to work out whether ‘their’ cushion has sold more than their brother’s.
We have only ever made things that we would love enough to have and find purpose for in our own homes, but right now the shape and the dimensions and the sheer joy of tensioning the circular dome of our new Roddy footstool probably puts it at the top of the list.
If you could learn any other craft what would it be and why?
Oh the list is long: millinery, cordwaining, kumiko carving, paper marbling – but if it could only be one, then I’d like to properly learn rushwork/caning. People have fallen in and out of love with it since it arrived in the UK in the 1600s and subsequently there are so many different and wonderful pieces from Ladderback prayer chairs to mid-century magazine racks, and a host of Stendigs with holes and tears. What a joy it would be to make those pieces ‘sing’ again!
Rye & Moor 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