Jo Slevin, of Mr Kite Designs, talks to Aileen Lee about her Cork crafts company.
What’s your background?
I have a degree in English Literature but spent most of my teens working in bars and restaurants and most of my 20s working in retail. More recently, I have concentrated on raising my two children. I have always loved arts and crafts, particularly sketching and interior decorating.
Jade is my partner in Mr Kite Designs. As friends with children around the same age, we found ourselves spending many mornings chatting over the playground swings.
Talks about our shared love of craft, design and interior decor soon turned to serious thoughts about starting our own business. We picked our name from a song by The Beatles (Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite) and booked our first Christmas craft fair. It took some time to figure out what products would work but we now have a range of lampshades, cushions, cards and bags that we design and make in our studio.
What’s a typical workday like for you?
Work generally fits in around school drops and collections. We recently joined the Over the Line Studio in Ballyvolane which is a large space that we share with ceramicists, artists and other crafters.
After the morning drop-off, I head straight to the studio. We start with a coffee, work out the priorities, make product and discuss projects until it’s time again for the school run. It’s great to have the flexibility to work around the children’s schoolday, even if that often means working from home in the evening.
Tell us about a recent project or design/favourite project or design you have worked on?
It’s always enjoyable working on a new product or product design, whether it be a new card or cushion or sourcing and choosing new fabrics. We love fabric shopping.
It is good to get ideas and feedback from each other and figure out what will work best. At the moment, we are planning lampshade-making workshops which is a whole new and exciting project for us.
What’s your design style?
Modern, colourful and eclectic.
What/who inspires your work?
Mainly textiles, it is the starting point for a lot of our work. When we get a new delivery, we always spend time admiring the texture, weight and colour of the fabric. Sometimes we are reluctant to cut it up. I also love the creativity and skill involved in screenprinting.
What’s your favourite trend at the moment (if you have any)?
Sustainability is definitely a favourite and important topic right now. To think about what we are buying, how it is made, and the materials and waste involved. This is a focus for me in the business and at home. We are currently looking to improve our own packaging and minimise waste. I’m also enjoying the deep jewel colours that seem to be well on trend — colour is very important.
What’s your most treasured possession?
Probably my piano keyboard that I rarely get the time to play.
Who would be your favourite designer, or style inspiration?
I love quirky illustrators like Lieke van der Vorst, Kristen Solecki and Tara O’Brien. Also surface pattern designers like Etsuko Furuya, Leah Duncan and Jen Hewett.
What would be a dream project for you to work on?
I’d love to start printing our own fabrics and work on a collaboration with a printmaker or textile designer to develop a unique range. It’s on the to-do list for 2019.
Have you any design tips for us?
Embrace your own style. Customers often ask us for advice on which fabrics will suit their decor best. I always think that above all you should choose pieces and colours that you really enjoy. I don’t believe in following strict rules or taking it too seriously.I also like natural elements in my own homes. I have lots of plants and wooden floors, mixed with plenty of colour, of course.