Frankly, The Folksy Magazine

Meet the Makers – Jilly Bird

by Emily. Average Reading Time: about 5 minutes.

Jilly Bird coffee pot green pepper mug 2

Jilly Bird was set up in 2012 by Martin Bird and Jill Adams to showcase their designs and products. Jill trained as a textile designer, selling her work across the UK, Europe and America. She has had her work sold in Selfridges, London, Covent Garden and been featured in Timeout and Grazia. She loves poodles and big socks!

Martin spent several years living and working in Sweden where he developed a love of Swedish design, architecture and log burners. Along with running the JILLY BIRD printing workshop he composes music for film and TV. His music has been used by ITV1, Sky Sports, Top Gear Live, Radio 4 and the BBC.

‘Our aim is to produce great designs for practical and useful products. We like to ‘Keep it simple stupid’ and love how successful designs are often created with minimum effort.‘

How long have you been selling on Folksy?

Martin and I opened our Folksy shop last month and are already enjoying our first sales.

Tell us about your work?

Our designs always start out as drawings and scribbles in a sketch book which then wait patiently, sometimes for weeks, to be transformed in to a finished product. We currently sell tea towels and prints as well as a collection of hand-printed ceramic and bone china mugs. We love the process of creating a finished product that is not only beautiful but practical too!

When did it all begin for you?

Last year we were invited to exhibit at The Hospital Club in Covent Garden which was a huge success for us, resulting in an opportunity to sell our work in Selfridges. This initial success really gave us the push we needed to take the next step. Martin spent several months researching various printing processes, machinery and suppliers whilst I got on with the task of creating some designs.

Jilly Bird is the result of our joint efforts and we’re pretty proud of what we’ve done so far.

What’s your favourite piece of work?

We’re usually most excited about the thing we’ve just printed. Currently I’m loving our Retroinspired mug range and Martin can’t stop raving about our Fish Mugs! Folksy has been a great way to instantly find out what are our customers’ favourites are too.

How do you keep your work unique?

I think that developing designs from your own observational drawings always keeps things fresh.

Tell us about your workspace?

We are currently moving our studio from the bottom of our house to the very top! Martin has built a gorgeous white space for us to work in with a walk in storage area using a door from a salvaged wendy house! Yep – we love to recycle! The light is pretty groovy and the first thing we’re setting up is an area for taking photos of our work. We have learnt pretty quickly that to sell your work online you need great pics.

Having your own space to work is really important, especially if you work from home.

Describe your day as a maker?

Possibly the best thing about working for yourself is that everyday is different. Martin and I make our plans for each day over breakfast. I can now make tea, check my mobile for online sales and stir porridge all at the same time. Martin is brilliant at the practical stuff like checking stock, ordering printing materials and thinking ahead!

I have a Mac which sits on an old scrub-topped table overlooking the garden which is where I write blogs, update our social networking sites and upload new stock to folksy. I do the bulk of my designing in the studio as it’s hooked up to all our printers and the light is amazing. The garden on sunny days is always the location for lunch whilst in the winter months we have a Swedish log burner that we sit in front of with our afternoon tea.

Photography is done in the afternoon to catch some great light in the studio but we are thinking of investing in a light tent for some full on, all day, perfect photography moments. Stopping work is perhaps the hardest part of the day and it’s usually either hunger or tiredness that forces us to stop. I think the best way of dealing with this issue is to plan a proper day off where you leave the house! We sometimes go to the beach, which is 5 minutes away, to walk and stare at some cool scenery instead of a computer screen. We always come back feeling energised and ready for action.

What are the 3 tools you couldn’t live without?

The Mac, mechanical pencils and my Canon EOS camera. Still learning to use all of them!

What gets your creative juices flowing when creativity gets stifled?

I keep all my old drawings and sketch books so re-visiting them sometimes sparks off an idea.

Are you inspired by any artists from the past or present?

Loads! We love Swedish designer Stig Lindberg and St Ives painters Patrick Heron and Terry Frost. Also Lucienne and Robin day for their combined vision and for reminding us there is such a thing as true love.

We could also listen to Peter Blake and David Hockney talk all day.

Stig Lindberg – Leaf Dish

Patrick Heron

What do you love most about being a maker?

Being a maker, a creative person, is not really a choice you make, it is simply what you do. I remember when my twin daughters were small they were often given cardboard boxes to play with (I know, pretty cool) and one afternoon I watched them making up a box-themed game. This particular box was to be a space ship and with both of them sitting inside (it was a big box) they began the take off procedure.

But there was a problem, they didn’t have a ‘take off’ button. Instantly they proceeded to draw one on the inside of the box: problem solved.

Being a maker means if you don’t have something you need you can simply make it! It also makes up for our terrible maths and map reading skills.

Where would you like to be in 5 years time?

We’d like to travel and see our designs on the high street.

What would you say to any makers starting out?

Have a clear vision of what it is you want to do and don’t be afraid to ask for help

Browse and buy the full collection at Jilly Bird on Folksy.