By Kate Marsden
Something truly beautiful for you today, in the form of dreamy hand carved spoons made by Vic Phillips of SingleMaltTeapot. I’d seen Vic’s work online a few times, and finally met him at Crafty Fox Market a couple of months ago. Find out about Vic’s work, exciting sounding future plans, and then dream about joining one of his workshops!
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
Amongst a few other smaller pursuits, I am a woodcrafter, photographer, web builder and more recently a father. I hand carve items for the home, most often spoons in all shapes and sizes but also bowls, pots, other kitchen pieces like butter knives or spatulas and smaller display items like ring cones. I also run workshops in spoon carving that allow me to spread this craft I am so passionate about which is always insanely rewarding. My photography takes in live events and weddings as well as product and food styling. As a father I mostly dote, smile a whole lot and think up new and imaginative ways that might make a very curious sleep shy 7 week old drift off. With my partner Sam I am also looking expand SingleMaltTeapot to provide resources and events for makers, joining the dots between us and things like curating workshop spaces and markets that put makers at the heart of everything.
What does a typical day involve?
Mornings are generally a combination of copious amounts of tea, laptop based to dos and getting down designs for the afternoon. If am working on a website or have images to process this is my main time to get a lot done. At the moment I am reaching out to makers to curate some workshops for a festival later in the year and I find this easiest to do first thing. Willow is always full of smiles for us in the morning too so I’ll make the most of being inside with her before any later making. Later in the morning I’ll go through my materials, drawing the next handful of designs ready to cut and also do any tool care needed. Around midday I make a conscious effort to move away from the screen and get making. Being dad is always at the top of my agenda so in between cuddles and nappy changes in the afternoon I try to work in focused little stints. Even when there are a lot of things going on, having a gentle stream of things being made keeps something quite core to me in good shape.
Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
For the most part I work outside in the garden even when the weather gets a little grisly. I like watching the birds as they go about their foraging and seeing the bees go from flower to flower; it helps root me in a way, making me a part of that space. When the rain gets a little too heavy or if it’s just a touch too cold I head inside to a space I have sort of commandeered just by populating every available surface with tools, pieces of wood and a stack of instruments. In truth one half looks a little like a shed exploded. Closer to the window I’ll keep a variety of surfaces laid out for product styling and photography as well as neatly laying out finished pieces and works in progress as a kind of balance to the slight chaos of where I sit and carve.
I am lucky enough to spend a lot of time doing what I love and when I am not listening for the slightest murmur from Willow to use as an excuse to wander around the living room, baby in arms, I make a conscious effort to make time for carving which is ‘non work’ based. I’ll prototype new ideas (next up are ramen spoons) without worrying about how many go completely awry; my firewood pile can have some pretty interesting shapes after these sessions. I also shamelessly nerd out about a bunch of things. I love tabletop games from Monopoly and Scrabble to newer board games, Smallworld, Ticket to Ride, Takenoko…. it’s a bit of an endless list. I submerge myself into music production from time to time, mostly doing a very good job of never finishing anything and spending 3 hours tweaking a synthesizer to then head away and forget what the idea for it was in the first place. Time allowing, I have an allotment, well I have a chunk of mud I’d love to turn into an allotment and I like food DIY projects, curing bacon or eyeing up plans to build a hot smoker.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?
I think those first steps of taking that thing you love and turning that into a business are incredibly daunting, and present something of a wall to over come. This can come in a whole number of forms. We are faced with tackling social media, marketing and our own insecurities; building a website, finding your market and the simple costs that come with turning a passion into a business. Too many events don’t really support their makers (there are good guys of course, Crafty Fox and SoLo Craft Fair to name a couple) and arriving at an event and finding no plan or support and only the slimmest chance of sales can be awful for both accounts and hearts alike. It’s also so easy to become isolated and away from a support network of other creatives be completely unsure of what step to take next. It’s all pretty overwhelming and so easy to become lost while trying to navigate it all. They are in some cases unavoidable, we all have to learn and tackle them in some way but that point where you look up and see all of them waiting for you is incredibly intimidating.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
Where I hope to build SingleMaltTeapot over the next few years sits a little outside of developing it as a business, in starting to provide solutions to some of those issues above. I have such a belief that the best way for people to succeed is when they are doing things together, when we all lift each other we all win, so I want to do more things to make that happen. Markets that get amazing makers in front of people as fairly as possibly, curating more workshop spaces and helping makers develop what they do to teach those workshops; joining the dots between makers so that more of us feel supported, and simply finding ways of highlighting the amazing talent that is out there. We’ve all had bad experiences in doing what we do I think so I really want to become part of changing that landscape for the better. In a more conventional sense, I am finding the confidence to develop some of the more expansive designs in my head and would like to grow as a product stylist and photographer, but while still bringing people something fair and heartfelt that really benefits them.
Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?
Reach out, say hi, drop people emails. As an incredibly shy individual I know how hard this can be, but I am really waking up to just how important doing this is. I am struggling to find a time where talking to another maker hasn’t made me smile, given me support, advised and encouraged me or just gotten me through a quiet few hours at an event. There is also so much power in simply telling someone how much you genuinely love what they do, the effect of someone popping up and going ‘Wow! This is amazing!’ really cannot be underestimated in getting someone through a period of doubt. The more dots we join the more it influences other things too. If we have a network of makers to ask ‘Hey, you did this event last year right? How was it?’ then there is a way to hold the bad guys accountable and help the good guys grow.
Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.
Home By Kirsty is a favourite haunt in Cardiff, full of glorious design led pieces that are all just super cool. Closer to my home in the Brecon Beacons is The Old Electric Shop in Hay On Wye that has a wonderful mix of traditional crafts and contemporary design, that falls really close to my own feeling that amazing things happen when you blend these two approaches. I also tend to fanboy out over specific makers, drawn to their glorious Instagram accounts 2HungryBakers are just insanely talented bakers/ceramicists/carvers and Jyn Symong creates some of the most beautiful bowls I have every laid my eyes on, to name just a couple.
Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?
I have been a lover of what Just A Card is doing for a while, and yes and I think the benefit of it for folk is a two-fold thing. There is the immediate benefit that comes with a sale and the boost to our soul that goes along with that; it also means someone is heading away with something you made that people will see and talk about. Interest in the smallest part of out creative arsenal is still a powerful pathway into everything else we may be doing.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
Hugely so, for me and everyone making, designing or indeed stocking in this industry. I think it’s easy for people to see someone selling at a market or walk into a beautiful indie store and think ‘Oh hey, well you’re here so it must all be going quite well’, but that can so easily not be the case. Things like Just A Card give those very direct boosts, but let people know that support helps us so much. As that idea grows so does our community, those of us making things, those of us giving them a space to shine and those of us who love to hold, use and own items that come with a story. Just A Card is a huge part of keeping those things growing, and that’s utterly important to all of us.
Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
I’m pretty sure it was your first announcement about joining their team of bloggers either on Twitter or the grams, so of course I headed over in proper fan boy fashion. I’m most comfortable with Instagram, as an image based platform it suits me as a photographer, so I feel quite at home though I am spending more time with Twitter and Facebook but completely still trying to figure out Snapchat. With all these mediums, for folk looking to support Just A Card the best way is to be a part of that message; If you buy a card or anything from a maker you love then talk about it, drop a tweet, gram it next to a rainbow bagel (I want a rainbow bagel), tag the maker or shop, pop in #JustACard, spread the word. Little things that added together become powerful. I’ll be buying cards (they are always more useful than you realise. When you need to send a thank you card and all that’s in the draw are the rejects from last years Christmas card selection - yup, that, it just got awesome) and doing more to be an active part of the campaign; I’ve just spotted your Twitter hour so I’ll definitely be come to hang out there and keeping my eyes peeled for future Just A Card wonders.