Meet the Maker: Carole Fenwick from MaggieMagoo Designs
Carole Fenwick has worked as a designer for 17 years but only set up her own creative business MaggieMagoo Designs a couple of years ago. In that short space of time she has quickly established herself as one of the leading designers of colourful prints and patterns, taking on the mantle of bold and bright prints from Scandinavian designers like Marimekko, Josef Frank and Stig Lindberg. But print design is not the only skill in Carole’s repertoire – she is also extremely talented with a needle and thread, and creates beautiful contemporary embroideries and modern hoop art. Printmaker Ben Partridge from The Owlery spoke to Carole to learn more about her mid-century influences and who this MaggieMagoo actually is…
Get 10% off all wonderful colourful contemporary homewares, prints & notebooks by MaggieMagoo Designs. Just head over to her shop and use the discount code ‘September2017’ before the end of September 2017 – click here to shop MaggieMagoo Designs on Folksy >
Not many people may know this but you have what some artists would consider the perfect job to go alongside working as a creative independent. Can you tell us more about this?
I’ve worked as a greetings card designer at Hallmark Cards for the past 17 years. I feel lucky to have a job in a creative environment and we work on a wide range of products from cards and calendars to Christmas crackers. I work with some amazing designers whose support gave me the confidence to start up my own creative business.
Seeing my prints on the BBC was pretty surreal…
You have a beautifully distinctive style. How would you describe this style to someone who has not seen your work before?
Thank you! I would describe my design style as modern, bright and bold. My designs usually start with hand drawings, which are scanned and then I choose a palette and decide on the composition in Illustrator. I love pattern and colour, which I think is evident in my work. A customer at a craft fair once described it as a riot of colour! I see myself as a surface pattern designer – I see pattern in everything! I struggle a little with the idea that less is more, though I’m attempting a more pared back look with my latest work.
What inspires your style and how has it developed over the years?
I’ve always had a passion for mid-century design and Scandinavian style and have been collecting vintage textiles, ceramics and glassware for years. I like nothing better than trawling through a flea market or charity shop hunting for treasure. There are quite a few designers I admire and am inspired by: Marimekko, Josef Frank and Stig Lindberg being just three from a long list. I also take lots of inspiration from the natural world, with plants, insects and flowers being three of my favourite things to illustrate.
I’ve been creative since I was very young and both my grandmas and my mam used to sew, knit and crochet, plus my dad can make pretty much anything out of wood. So growing up I was always surrounded by crafts. I’ve always drawn and made things but it was only once I went to Leeds College of Art to study printed textiles I knew I’d found the thing that was perfect for me. Working in the greetings card industry has taught me to have a commercial eye and learning to use a Mac has been life changing in terms of how I work.
Where do you make your colourful and eye-catching products? Do you work from home or as part of a shared studio?
I create everything in my studio at home (aka the box room). It’s small but everything has a place. This is where I do my initial drawings, work on my Mac, sew my purses, package my orders etc. I tend to do my embroidery hoop art in the evening while watching the TV. I find it’s a good way to relax at the end of the day.
We recently clocked one of your cactus prints on BBC’s DIY SOS show, which is very impressive. What would you say was your biggest business achievement so far?
I think I’ve had lots of small achievements since starting MaggieMagoo Designs. Seeing my prints on the BBC was pretty surreal, and I was so pleased to be asked to contribute my work. Doing my first ever craft fair a couple of years ago was quite daunting, then this year I exhibited at the prestigious Contemporary Craft festival in Devon. Most recently I sold 10 beetle embroideries to a shop in New York for an installation in store – that was a special moment. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved since I started my business – I’ve learnt so much in two and a half short years. I think the best is yet to come!
MaggieMagoo is named after my little ginger terrier (or terror) Maggie. She’s my studio sidekick.
‘MaggieMagoo’ is a pretty distinctive business name. Where did this come from?
Ah yes, MaggieMagoo – named after my little ginger terrier (or terror) Maggie. She’s my studio sidekick, though her main role seems to be barking at my neighbour’s dog and rolling around on her back!
We have serious ‘heart eyes emoji’ for your black and white monochrome designs. What’s next for your design work?
I’m so happy with where the new black and white range is going and I definitely want to develop this look more, maybe add a pop of neon, perhaps even some animals.
You’re now an accomplished online seller but starting out online can be tough! What advice would you give to someone just starting to sell online?
Don’t expect overnight success – that’s not to say this is impossible, it’s just unlikely for the majority of us. Selling online is a slow grower. There are so many sellers out there it can be very hard to get found. My advice would be to build and promote your brand on social media and always link back to your online shop. I love Instagram and think it’s a wonderful tool for creative people as it’s so visual. Craft fairs and markets are a brilliant way to promote your shop too, some customers need time to think about a purchase and if they’ve taken a business card, they might buy online at some point. A while ago someone bought a print from me who had seen it at a fair eight months earlier!
It's a lovely sunny day in Saltaire & visitors are loving my new monochrome range, plus the toadstools & cacti designs as always. We're here until 5pm today at Victoria Hall #maggiemagoodesigns * * * * * * * * * * #contemporaryembroidery #modernembroidery #fiberart #bordado #stitchersofinstagram #embroideryinstaguild #stitchandhoney #stitchfix #slowcraft #contemporarycraft #printedtextiles #textiledesign #colourlove #livecolourfully #colorgram #huntgramcolor #beboldbecreativebeyou #huntinghandmade #ricamo #broderie #welovecacti #succulentcity #succulove #handembroidery #handstitched #embroideryart #embroideredbyhand #succulentsaturday #cacticacti
We know each other from the numerous markets and fairs we’ve been at together. What would you say makes a successful event and what advice would you give to others wanting to sell at crafts fairs?
I’ve done some brilliant craft fairs and a few not so great ones too. Again I think social media has a big part to play in the success of a market. Some craft markets are amazing at promoting their events. Some fairs are well established and have a reputation for having high-quality sellers, with these fairs most of the visitors go there wanting to buy and support makers. Meeting other makers is an invaluable way of getting to know which fairs are good and in my experience people are very generous with their knowledge. Sometimes a fair can have a great reputation, but factors beyond their control can affect footfall, the weather for instance – too sunny and no one wants to be indoors, too rainy and they don’t want to leave their home!
If you’re applying for a fair you need to have decent photographs of your products (they don’t have to be professional). Links to your Instagram / Facebook page / website/ online shop are also a bonus. Anything that shows more of you and your work, so the selection panel can get a better idea of what you do. If you do get accepted, research stall layouts – Pinterest is great for this. I’ve even done mock-ups on my kitchen table and photographed it so I can remember what goes where when I’m setting up!
My dream is to have my own fabric collection in production, so I would like to collaborate with a printed textile company.
If you’re taking part in a fair, it’s great if you can do your part to promote the event too. There’s lots of info out there on doing craft markets and it can be a bit nerve wracking to do them, but it’s also great fun and I’ve met some absolutely lovely people over the past couple of years. Plus nothing beats the buzz of someone buying something you’ve created.
Working as an independent artist you don’t have to go to many interview but there is always one question you get asked when you’re applying for jobs, so here it goes: Where do you see yourself in two years’ time?
I’m awful at answering this sort of question! I suppose I would like to be in a position where I’m earning a living doing what I love. My dream is to have my own fabric collection in production, so I would like to pursue this by collaborating with a printed textile company. Other than that, who knows where this might lead? All I know is I’m feeling very positive about the future of my business.
To celebrate being our featured maker, Carole is offering 10% off all wonderful colourful contemporary homewares, prints & notebooks by MaggieMagoo Designs. Just head over to her shop and use the voucher code ‘September2017’ before the end of September 2017- click here to shop MaggieMagoo Designs on Folksy >
Meet the interviewer
The maker asking the questions for MaggieMagoo Designs this week is Benjamin Partridge from The Owlery. Ben is a printmaker based in Sheffield who uses lino and wood cut techniques alongside screen printing to create textiles, ceramics, products and art prints featuring British woodland animals and other creatures from across the world.