Gem and Angela are two friends who came up with the idea for a business selling fun wall lights while on holiday. Now they make birdhouse lights, star lamps and moon lights as House of Clouds – all handmade from scratch in their home studios in York. Their playful designs are cut from plywood, upholstered and embroidered with lots of love and attention to detail. We caught up with them both to find out more…
Can you introduce yourselves?
Hello! We are Gem and Angela and we are the minds and hands behind our brand House of Clouds. We sell handmade wall lights and home décor.
Where did the name House of Clouds come from?
Angela: We wanted to sell homewares and were looking for a name that illustrated our style. We’ve always made and liked whimsical and playful items, so we thought that living in a House of Clouds represented this.
Gem: Plus we were on holiday with our families looking at a beautiful sky, so that’s where it all began.
Have you both always been creative?
G: I’ve always loved making things, and remember making Fimo figures from a very young age. I must have also driven my mum mad with stationery!
A: I didn’t grow up feeling a massive creative energy but did enjoy drawing, although I was useless in art class! I also spent hours making bracelets out of beads with my mum and friends. It’s only in the last decade that I’ve developed a sense of my own creativity, through previous jobs and now House of Clouds.
What was the first House of Clouds product, and where did the idea come from?
G: We knew we wanted to make lights with a difference – something decorative as well as functional – and our intention was to bring them to life using textiles and embroidery.
A: At that point we were keen on developing our star and birdhouses wall lamps, as both are easy shapes to love.
How do you get from that initial idea to a final piece?
A: In terms of the lights we make, the star lamps are the perfect example to illustrate how an idea has to undergo a few transformations before it becomes an actual wall light. The first thing we need with any of our lights is a seamless wooden shell, which usually involves building lots of prototypes before we are happy with the final version and it complies with the safety requirements. Depending on where we want the light to be emitted from, we might need to do extra sawing and drilling, which sometimes involves scrapping the shell and starting again! After all the messy work with the power tools, it’s on to some delicate embroidering to turn it into something we hope people like.
G: The same applies with our other products. Once we have a clear idea of what we want, it’s a matter of trial and error with different materials and techniques until we achieve our initial vision.
Where do you work – can we have a peek inside your studio?
A: We both currently work from home and I’ve set up a little workshop in my garage for the less glamorous task of woodcutting. I’ve got my jigsaw, sander and all the other tools at hand, so can happily spend a whole day covering myself with sawdust and generally making a mess!
G: My kitchen/dining room doubles up as a studio and that’s where the magic happens.
What do you listen to when you work?
G: To my daughter Naomi, haha!
A: If I’m alone, I quite like to listen to a bit of Brazilian bossa nova, BBC 6 music and history programs.
What’s your most treasured possession?
A: My dad spent a year in the USSR in the ’80s, when I was a child. I kept every postcard he sent, some of which included drawings and I find them very sweet.
G: Both my daughters’ drawings – they’re ace!
Where do you find your fabrics – have you got a huge stash?
G: We have our fabric radar permanently switched on. It could be online or in a vintage shop. Our collection is growing day by day. We wish we could buy more!
How would you spend your perfect (non-working) day?
G: Outside with the family, having picnics in the sun.
A: On a beach, ideally!
What’s the best thing about being a designer/maker?
G: Using your brain creatively and producing something original is really satisfying.
A: For me, it’s the freedom to express yourself at different levels, the constant learning curve, the pleasure of making from scratch something tangible. Managing my own time is also among those things I really appreciate.
What would you say to someone thinking about selling their work?
A: Go for it. It will take some time and a lot of effort, but it’s worth it!
To celebrate being our featured shop, Gem and Angela are offering a 15% discount off everything in their shop with the code is YAYSPRING (valid for a limited time only).