Claire Brown, founder, designer and maker at The Bellwether (formerly known as Miso Funky) has been around since 2005 designing cross stitch homewares and accessories for the modern age, as well as producing kits and patterns. She is also co-founder of the UK’s most popular kawaii blog, Super Cute Kawaii. I have not met Claire in person but have had such fun corresponding with her over email. I can get a sense of her whimsy and her passion for making the old craft of cross stitch new again and accessible to all.
It was great fun and a privilege to get to “chat” with Claire about her work. I hope you will enjoy reading our conversation:
Jenny: I am really excited to talk with you about your work. I am not really sure where to start . . .it appears you have been a strong force in the craft movement over in Glasgow with your start of the Miso Funky Market. That is pretty awesome on its own. Add to that your wonderfully curated website of fiber art wares and kits, your ingenious wood blanks and stitchable iphone cases and then as if all this was not enough this is on top of your day job working in tv. Wow! So, let’s just jump right in.
Jenny: What reaction with your work/ samplers are trying to evoke?
Claire: The main thing I want people to do when they see my work is smile or let out a little chortle. I love going to craft shows to exhibit my work and see people approach with a neutral face and then as they read the slogans and “get it”, see them giggle and smile. Only very rarely do people take offence – I can count the number of times I’ve had a bad reaction on one hand, over the past 8 years.
Jenny: As the craft/ needlework pendulum swings away from “twee” where does “kawaii” fit in?
I think kawaii has its place in craft – everyone is looking for something a bit different, and cute stuff with a Japanese vibe is certainly that. I have always had a love of kawaii – food with faces are my particular favourite! It’s an area I haven’t really designed anything in yet, but I have just produced a tutorial which will be going live in April that has a kawaii theme (I also write tutorials here: https://craft.tutsplus.com/
). Writing at Super Cute Kawaii gives me an outlet to share all the kawaii things I admire and is a nice change from cross stitch.
Jenny: When I think of the craft of today, I tend to think of this wonderful fusion of age old technique and the modern art movement. Today’s crafters often incorporate a political edge or some sort of statement alongside of its well executed craft medium of choice. Your’s are literally statements ie. “now wash your hands” and a few others that are a little too racey for me too mention in my blog (but for the record, I love!) What would you say your overall message is?
Claire: My overall message is that craft is for anyone at all. I really try to keep all my kits simple and written in plain terms to make them as accessible as possible. I don’t adhere to the traditional rules of cross stitch – instead, I make it as easy for people to get results as I can. I believe that will let people who are put off by the staid image of cross stitch get involved and get hooked!
Jenny: As you you continue to develop your body of work and products what are some of the mantras that you want to hold onto or explore further?
Claire: Simplicity is the key word for me – I want to keep my designs simple but quirky, going forwards. Sometimes I think that other designers probably think I’m a one-trick pony and all I can do is design slogans! I want to keep the bulk of my designs to the point and easy and quick to do, but I do have more elaborate designs in the works. My goals for the coming years are to write a book and stitch an album cover, poster for a band or book cover.
Jenny: And what is your motivation? Why are you so driven to bring together other like minded indie crafters to the market and to transform what we currently see in houseware design? I mean I get it, I’ve got the same bug, but I am just curious what drives you.
Claire: Jenny, I WISH I knew the answer to this! This is actually something I have struggled with last year – I totally lost my motivation and really seriously considered giving up. I think I was in a rut and I’d been wanting to change the name of the business for a while to something more fitting and I think it was a major stumbling block for me. But I think now I can move on, I am looking forwards to being innovative again – seeing what’s out there and looking for the thing that’s missing and then using that to inspire me to create.
Jenny: Do you often team up and do collaboration projects?
Claire: I really enjoyed the collaborations I did last year and I hope to do some more this year. I’m always interested in working with other people – it’s inspiring to see how they work and see things from other points of view. I am currently working on a tutorial with an American illustrator which will hopefully be released in April but I’m always open to suggestions!
Thanks for the chat Claire! It was so fun getting to know you better! To pick up your own nifty sampler kit head over to her shop here.