Evie’s motto is ‘too good to waste’ and as a maker she likes to follow the good old fashioned principle of ‘make do and mend’. Through the process now termed ‘upcycling’ her brand, Milomade, was born. She designs and manufactures contemporary jewellery, stationery, accessories and decorations from rare and recycled materials.
Taking time out of her studio, Evie talks to us here at House of Coco about her creativity, what style means to her and so much more…
When did you launch the brand and what was the reason behind it?
Milomade started in 2008 with a box of vintage buttons and some elastic thread but in truth the inspiration happened long before. I had a very practical ‘make do and mend’ kind of upbringing and was taught to sew, knit, cook and bake from an early age. So I’ve always been creative and have always been a designer/maker at heart, it’s just taken me a long time to get round to doing what I love for a living.
I’ve always been obsessed with recycling and making new from old. I like the term ‘turning trash in treasure’ as that’s basically what I do. With my jewellery I mostly work with recycled silver in the form of antique teaspoons. I started working with recycled silverware so as not to use up the world’s precious resources. Nothing is wasted in the process either and even the silver dust is made molten to be turned into something beautiful and new. Sourcing, restoring and re-purposing antique silverware into unique delicate jewellery is a passion of mine. There is a sense of history with each piece I make. As I am forming and polishing, I am capturing a memory or an essence of the past. You can’t help but wonder who used to stir their cup of tea with each teaspoon or how many times each piece of silverware was polished and proudly put on display.
That’s how my motto of ‘Too good to waste…’ came about. My entire product range is made from rare and recycled materials: antique silverware, copper pipes, vintage music, and buttons to name but a few. So many of my products evoke the nostalgia of our childhoods, from the comics we used to read, to the maps used to plot our family journeys and holidays. All these items had adventures, over many years before finding their way to my cliffside studio to be lovingly re-fashioned into something shiny and new and ready for a new story…
Whats your background?
I have quite an ecclectic mix here and I guess that’s what has shaped the person I am today. I was brought up in Yorkshire, went to college in Lancashire and ended up moving up to live in Scotland on a whim after my studies. I didn’t know anyone in Scotland but had a hankering to live by the sea and that dream came true in 2008 when my partner and I bought a house on a cliff on the east coast of Scotland. No suprise that Milomade started in the same year. I’ve done a huge variety of jobs in my life but they’ve all pretty much focussed around being creative in some form or manner. I’ve worked in the design industry for over 20yrs, but it was after the birth of my son that I made the shift from sitting in front of a computer all day to working with my hands in a more practical way. I’m mostly self taught in everything that I do, but I have had a lot of specialist one to one training along the way when I’ve needed and wanted to learn new skills.
How many people are involved in the company and what are their roles?
Just me – I’m the boss and I design and make everything, deal with orders, packaging, marketing, photography, business accounts, etc – you have to be a jack of so many trades when you run your own business and I try my best to cover all bases as best as I can – but it can be hard work at times. Running oyur own business is a 24-7 job 365 days a year – it has it’s ups and downs but I would never go back to doing the 9-5 as I much prefer being my own boss.
If you could start over with the business, would you do anything differently?
Yes and no – it’s all to do with confidence – If I’d had the confidence and the knowledge I have now when I started out I would’ve done things differently. I would’ve gone straight into wholesale and not messed around doing craft fairs that weren’t at all profitable and struggling with retailers on a sale or return basis. BUT if I’m honest I don’t think I was ready back then as it’s taken me a long time to develop a voice for Milomade and truly hone in and refine what my brand is all about. Plus I was happy working as a web designer and being one of the most sought after web freelancers around at the time. It was only after the birth of my son that my priorities changed and I had time to reflect on what I wanted to do with my career and that’s when I ditched the day job and was able to give more time over to Milomade
What is the hardest challenge you have faced since you started the company?
Oh there are so many. Like I said earlier, you have to do a lot when you’re self employed. I guess my biggest challenge as a business has been making that switch from being a hobbyist to wanting to do it for a living. So rather than Milomade being a supplementary income I’m moving towards it being my main source of income – it’s accepting the fact that I’m not going to have overnight success and I’ve put a 5yr plan in place and I’m work towards that goal. So last year I did my first trade show, I’ve just completed my second and I’m learning all the time how to move my business forward. I’m making slow progress but I’m getting there and loving every minute.
Tell us one fact about you that people wouldn’t know?
I used to ring the bells at Ripon Cathedral. I went to college in Ripon and this is where I studied Art. I could see the cathedral from my bedroom window and have always loved church bells. On a whim I popped in one day and asked if I could give it a go and they said yes. I used to go to the practice sessions every Wednesday night and if I recall correctly I was assigned bell number three. It was really hard work physically, but also mentally as you have to keep time with the other ringers and quite frankly I don’t think I was very good at it. But it was great fun.
2016 is here, where do you plan on taking the brand?
I’ve just done my second stint at The British Craft Trade Fair and launched a few new collections which got a great reception. I’ve had quite a few orders since the show and also now have my work represented by a few galleries in the UK with exhibitions planned throughout the year. So I’m constantly busy making new pieces for these as well as forging my way forward making new connections with other galleries and new stockists to get my work out there. I’m also going to be attending the Scottish Tade Fair as a visitor later this year as I plan to take a stand at the event next year either in Spring or Autumn (or both).
Another aspect of my business is opening my studio to the public. I’m open by appointment throughout the year, but I also take part in a few organised open studio events too. One of these is Central Fife Open Studios which started up last year and runs over a weekend in September. I’ll be opening my studio to the public for a couple of days along with other artists and makers in this part of Fife. It’s a great opportunity for the public to get an insight into the creative lives of people who live and work from their studios and homes. I’ll be showcasing my whole range of products and showing people the processes behind the pieces on display. It’s always great to invite people into the studio and give them a bit of a behind the scenes tour.
I’m also working a lot on my website this year. I want it to evolve and have big plans to make it responsive and work on all devices, but these things take time and so there’s a lot of work going on in the background, bit by bit, that might not make the light of day until next year. It’s hard to fit work like this in sometimes as my priority is always with making and selling.
I’m also moving into selling my products via other websites rather than just my own to open my work up to new audiences. So I’ve just opened a Folksy shop, I also sell on Zibbet too and on the Made From Scotland site. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it to reach new customers and get my brand out there.
To date, what has been the highlight since launching?
Getting accepted onto the Next Steps programme a few years ago. In partnership with Creative Scotland and Fife Council, Fife Cultural Trust and Fife Contemporary Art & Craft launched a new funding and support scheme for craft and visual artists called ‘Next Steps‘. It’s a tailored support programme that spans 12 months and focuses on personal, professional and creative development and includes 1-1 mentoring as well as funding to help with training, learning new skills, travel and research, buying new equipment and tools etc. It’s available to artists based in Fife and in 2013 I applied and in August that year was one of the artists selected for the scheme. This is what helped to re-launch Milomade after I became a parent and helped me get my business up and running again and heading in the direction I wanted it to go. I wouldn’t be where I am now without the help and support I got financially and through mentoring. Having a mentor give an objective view on your creative practice and business was invaluable at the time and I would highly recommend the mentoring process to all creative people.
Which city do you feel most at home in, London, Paris or New York?
None of the above. I love them all for different reasons, but I’m just not a city girl. I have to be by the coast and be able to watch the sun rise from the water every morning.
Three beauty products you can’t leave the house without?
I’m not really a beauty products kind of gal – I’ve just looked in my bag – no beauty products in there at all apart from a bottle of water – does that count? I’m not a typical girl. I don’t wear makeup and don’t have a beauty regime either. But so long as I have plenty of water to drink, I’m happy.
Being who you are, doing what you love and feeling comfortable in your own skin. I’ve never been a follower of fashion, only ever buy second hand clothes, and just wear what I like and don’t give a hoot what other people think. I cut my own hair too, but that’s mostly because I have a phobia of going to the hairdressers.
Best thing about London to you?
The National History Museum – I could spend a week there and not get bored.
Statement shoe or statement bag?
Statement bag – I make my own you know and just finished a bespoke Spiderman commission for my 4 yr old – it’s pretty funky – but yes, the Milomade Messenger was born last year and every bag I make is totally unique, made from a mix of recycled, vintage and new fabrics – they’re funky, recycled, practical and unique! I sell them online, but also direct from my studio and I’m happy to take commissions too.
If you had to, what piece of clothing from your wardrobe would you wear everyday?
Aside from pants, socks and bras which I’m hoping come as standard, I would say my denim jeans. I’m rarely seen in anything else. Comfy, practical and forever stylish.
Favourite love song?
The first one is for fun – it’s Morecambe and Wise singing Bring Me Sunshine – not really sure it can be classed as a love song, but I’ve sung it to my boy every since he was born and now that he’s 4 he knows most of the words and it’s become a family favourite – we all love it and the message it conveys is just so perfect in every way.
The second one is one that my partner put on a mixtape once by Lloyd Cole. It’s called undressed and just make me laugh everytime I hear it.
But on a more serious note this is the song thats for my partner and I and if we ever get married will be the song we dance to at our wedding. It’s the Waterboys and Strange Boat and it pretty much sums us up.
Best place for a coffee?
Probably somewhere with a fantastic view – like my kitchen, or failing that, you can’t beat a coffee served at the kitchen table of a friends house when you just want to have a good old natter.
Most memorable piece of advice given to you?
I had a brilliant lecturer/mentor at college who must have come out with several gems of advice but I can’t remember anything specific but they were all along the lines of just be yourself, don’t be afraid to fail, learn from your mistakes, accept criticism and turn it into something postive, do what you love and do it with a passion.
Chocolate (lots of it) and going to the movies on my own – I just love it – it’s indulgent, especially if I combine a solo cinema trip with chocolate!
If you could spend 24 hours anywhere in the world, where would it be?
In future, how do you plan on expanding the company?
I’m focusing on refining my current collections in readiness for future shows and events and building upon these gradually with new products. I’m also hoping to start teaching classes and workshops at some point soon too.There’s a lot of research, planning and preparation involved and so it’s going to take a while to get that established, but it’s definitely in the pipeline.
Where can people find out more?