Hello and welcome to Wednesday!
Before Christmas we had the great pleasure of discovering Megan Knox and her beautiful work at two different markets in London. She has very kindly agreed to join us today at Handsome and Pretty and answer our seven questions. We are confident that her work will impress you just as much as us.
I’m the London-based designer-maker behind Wire Lotus Handcrafted Accessories. Using a bead weaving technique called peyote stitch and working from my own designs, I make sculptural, organic pieces of jewellery and other accessories out of thousands of tiny glass beads that are hand stitched one by one. Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA, I moved to London in 2008 and live in Streatham with my partner Adam.
How and where are you today?
Today I’m super excited because my parents are coming over from the States tomorrow, and I’m running around my South London neighbourhood with a long to-do list to prepare for their visit. You’re probably more interested, though, in where I am today with my life and my creative work, and that’s a harder question to answer. I’ve been designing and making for many years, but I started working in earnest on Wire Lotus in May 2012. It’s been a steep learning curve, and the last couple of months in particular have been physically and emotionally exhausting. In the months leading up to Christmas I was at it pretty non-stop: making every day; selling at markets every weekend and some events during the week; scrambling to make sure my website and Etsy shop were up to date, products photographed and catalogued, and invoices paid up. So today I’m happy to take a little break, reevaluate my brand and business strategy, and start planning for a prosperous 2013.
How would you describe the journey that has brought you to this place? And were these the roads you expected to take?
This journey has certainly been unexpected and fraught at times. I had always hoped to do something creative in my life – perhaps as an ongoing hobby or through some creative elements in a paid job – but I never thought I would run a creative business. Apart from a few drawing and photography classes in university, I’ve never had any formal training in design, and I taught myself peyote stitch through practice and reference to various web and print tutorials. My real aspiration was to help change the world as an international development professional.
After a year teaching English in Japan (where Adam and I met), I moved to London in 2008 to study for an MSc in Health, Community and Development at the London School of Economics. By the time I finished my degree in 2009, the double blow of recession and austerity measures had made jobs in the development and charity sectors very hard to come by and seemingly harder to hold on to. Over the next couple of years I went through a series of temporary contracts and a redundancy followed by many months of unemployment. Eventually my looming visa expiry date forced me to call off my job search. Broke and depressed, I had been moping for a few months when in May 2012 a friend and fellow designer-maker invited me to share a stall at a special arts and crafts day at Borough Market that was jointly organised by Southwark Arts Forum. The light bulb went off.
I immediately started making stock and preparing display props. I had already designed my logo and published my website the previous year, having hoped to start an online business that I put on hold in the midst of my job saga. My first market stall was a success, and straight away I started looking for more selling opportunities. I was a new woman: taking this on renewed my sense of purpose, gave me something to get up for and work towards, and boosted my confidence and self-esteem. I’ve spent the past 8 months working like mad, training myself on all aspects of running a business, developing skills in graphic design and web publishing, growing my network, and of course designing and making.
Now that my visa has finally been renewed, I’m planning to start working again in the charity sector and continue to work on Wire Lotus part time. I’ll probably focus less on direct selling in markets and try instead to sell to retailers and display in galleries and boutiques. I’m not sure what will happen in the future, and the last couple of years have taught me not to make too many plans. I’m just going to stay open to any opportunities that come my way (OK, Opportunities, that’s your cue!).
Do you have a process to ensure you are in the right frame of mind to create?
Definitely not. I’m very much a try and try again kind of person; if I start making something that doesn’t work out, I just take it out and start over. I’ve become really proficient in beading in the most unlikely places: standing up at a busy train station stitching with a little cup of beads balanced precariously under the crook of my arm; on buses, fearing that next big bump in the road that will send thousands of tiny glass beads flying; in bed, where Adam complains of finding scissors and needles that got lost in the sheets. Peyote stitch is quite methodical; once I work out the design (usually in my head, sometimes charted on the computer), the making process requires a lot less creative energy than time and patience. It’s great that the materials I use (a needle, thread, and tiny beads) are so easily transportable that I can bead just about anywhere, because getting things done in a reasonable amount of time requires that I bead just about everywhere!
How do you think your background and culture influences your creations?
I’ve always had a bit of a rebellious streak, and I think in lots of ways a reaction against my culture has influenced my work. Having travelled extensively in a number of developing countries and studied health and development from a social psychological perspective, I’m plainly aware of the damage our consumer culture can have on our individual and collective health and wellbeing and that of our planet. We have such a fleeting relationship with our things today, and we seldom think about who makes them, how, or what happens to them when we’ve disposed of them. Like the designers and thinkers of the Arts and Crafts Movement who inspire me, I believe that good design can enhance our own lives, promote inclusive social values, and benefit future generations. This philosophy is reflected in my work in that I try to produce beautiful, meaningful, and functional pieces that feature timeless nature motifs and heirloom quality craftsmanship so that they can be enjoyed through generations.
What does beauty mean to you?
I think beauty is something you feel as much as see. It’s the wonder and happiness you experience when you’re looking at something that is (at least to you) perfect. I get this feeling when I really examine – as I often do – the perfectly symmetrical and ingenious forms of flowers. Try as I might, the beaded flowers I make do such a poor job of replicating the beauty of nature.
If we had interviewed you when you were 11, what would you have told us you wanted to be when you grew up?
From my earliest memories until I was about 17 I had serious aspirations to be an astronaut. My dreams were dashed along with my academic record when I failed physics and calculus in high school. Still, I hold out hope that I’ll get to go to space as a tourist some day.
What advice have you received that you want everyone to benefit from?
Apply advice sparingly. There’s no substitute for experience and good judgment.
Website and shop – www.wirelotus.co.uk
Twitter – www.twitter.com/WireLotus
What a lady eh?
Thank you SO much Megan for taking the time to join us today – we a thrilled you are part of the Handsome and Pretty family.
handsome and pretty