Frankly, The Folksy Magazine

Meet the Maker… Kayleigh O’Mara

by Emily. Average Reading Time: about 6 minutes.


How did you get started as a designer maker and is it your full-time job?

Whilst I was studying illustration at university, my tutor organised a Zine Fair which a few of us joined in with. I made a few little ‘zines about my recent travels and I had also just been introduced to shrink plastic, a material I use all the time now. At the time I had to draw each design individually and colour them in by hand. I made a few random magnets – one of a squirrel drinking tea, a giraffe and a washing machine – and as it turned out they were the first products I sold out of! They proved far more popular than my ‘zines and they seemed to get a great reaction from people.

Once I saw how much people liked what I’d made, I just wanted to make and sell more, which is what I did. To get ready for the next day of the Zine Fair, I stayed up all night making funny little magnets, and it pretty much began there – I discovered printable shrink plastic and I haven’t stopped since. I now spend most evenings designing, printing and cutting out my products and I sell them on Folksy, as well as at markets and fairs. Unfortunately, this isn’t my full-time job – I have to work it around my office job, which is necessary in London to pay the bills. At the moment my making is a hobby, but sooner or later I’d love to make enough money from sales to give up my day job altogether. The dream is to eventually open my own little shop!

Talk us through your collection…

Most of my products are made from shrink plastic, which is relatively cheap and versatile to work with. I’ve made brooches, earrings, magnets and recently some necklaces too, which I think have really worked well. I’ve also started coming up with some ring designs to add to the collection.

The designs I’ve used are of a mixture of random cute things, from animals and everyday objects to a selection of tasty looking biscuits! Other items in my collection, aside from what I sell on Folksy, include screen prints done by hand, digital prints, greetings cards and button badges. I’m always working on new designs and I usually sell them at craft fairs initially, to gauge from people’s reactions what works and what doesn’t.

Tell us about your practice and making process…

When I sell my work at fairs, the questions I’m asked most are whether I draw the designs myself, and how I actually make the items. The drawings and everything I sell are all by me – I work on designs constantly, and once I’m happy with something I scan it in to the computer and work on it digitally.

The next step is to decide what it’s going to be made into, so I can work out the size I need the finished design to be and I print these out on shrink plastic. Then I sit for a long time cutting out enough to make a big batch and ‘cook’ them in the oven. That’s the best part, when you see them curling up in the oven – but there’s always a bit of me that worries when they are curled up in a little ball that they’re ruined and no good. Once they flatten out, I put a book on top to keep them straight until they cool and turn rigid. Once they’re ready I stick on the brooch pin or earring back and it’s finished.

How do you plan your work – do you use sketchbooks or do your makes grow organically?

Some of my designs start in a secret sketchbook, but I have always found this hard as I’m not usually a doodler and find it really hard to just sit and draw unless I know exactly what the end result is going to be. I have a terrible habit of always thinking everything must be perfect and worry about people flicking through a sketchbook full of my ‘bad’ drawings. Once I do have a drawing I am happy with I scan it in and colour it in Photoshop, or sometimes I just draw my ideas straight on to the computer using my drawing tablet. I like this because I feel less in control with the results, which is good, as I tend to rip pages out or rub things out if I don’t think they’re exactly right. I really contradict myself because I don’t want them to be perfect, but I think I worry that someone may look at them and think it’s an awful drawing – even if it’s how I meant it to be.

Do you have any tools unique to you?

I don’t really use anything unique in my processes, apart from my ‘flattening’ book. Once my designs have been in the oven and need to be flattened out with something heavy, I always reach for the same dog-eared hardback, the Oxford Treasury of Children’s Poems. It’s the perfect size to fit on the baking tray and exactly the right weight I need. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a poem while they’re waiting for their shrink plastic to cool down?

Where do you draw your inspiration?

I think living in London has been a great source of inspiration for me. There’s always something around the corner, something new to see or overhear on the bus. It can be anything that’s happening around me, for example, on a wet and rainy Sunday recently, I made my first raincloud necklace. I also ask what people might like to see from me, which is where my sloth necklace came from – it was a request from one of my Facebook followers.

Also, I live just a five-minute walk from the Childhood Museum in Bethnal Green, which is always a great place to go when I’m stuck for something interesting to draw.

How do you manage your time between making and the other commitments in your life?

This is always a challenge, I have a full-time job and after a day in the office and then travelling through London my first thought is to nap when I get home – which occasionally does happen, but I just have to push myself to get going. Once I’m working on my crafts I can quite happily sit there all night until I realise it’s way past my bedtime and have to start thinking about the day job again.

What’s your favourite book at the moment?

I’m not a big reader, the books I normally buy are about artists or crafts, or even children’s fiction. I most recently read Alice in Wonderland, and I’m ready to start on Build a Business from Your Kitchen Table. I don’t have a kitchen table, but I’m hoping to get some good tips.

Do you have a craft hero?

I’m a big Gemma Correll fan, I love her humour and quirky style.

Do you have one great tip for other makers?

Stay positive and keep going. Don’t be ashamed to work a nine-to-five job to fund your creativity – just believe that one day you’ll get to where you want to be, and remember the day job is not forever. That’s what I have learned.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I’d love to have my own little craft shop where I would sit all day and make things, selling my creations along with all my friends’ work and spend the day chatting to people about things I love. But I think I’d be just as happy for now having a job in a more creative environment where I can grow my hobby into something bigger. So that one day I can earn enough from my crafts to keep a roof firmly over my head – no boring day job necessary.

All of Kayleigh’s work is available in her Folksy shop.