Image: Gracie Keal, 'Clarence'. Image courtesy the maker.

Image: Gracie Keal, 'Clarence'. Image courtesy the maker.

As our first Craft Hatch for 2018 approaches, we interviewed the almighty Cian Cottee, otherwise known as Gracie Keal. 

As a loyal advocate of modern craft, Cian Cottee, (through her label Gracie Keal) creates thoughtfully designed pieces, from recycled remnants and vintage cloth.  Practicing traditional techniques from her studio nook in Thornbury, Cian is inspired predominantly by children’s drawings and in awe of their imagination, every character comes from an original artwork and carries their own fantastical story. 

Where were you at when you first came on board Craft Hatch?

I joined hatch at the very beginning. I’d developed an idea and a product I was happy with (although the original dollies now make me cringe a little!) and was ready to take it from a hobby to a business. I saw an advertisement for the Christmas 2016 Craft Hatch Market, as a subscriber to Craft Victoria’s e-newlsetters, and I just knew that this was my ‘in’.

What did it mean to you to be part of the program?

I’d been following Craft Victoria since my first trip over here in Easter 2012. I went back to university in the UK, where I was studying Printed Textile Design, and just knew in my heart that it was my destiny to be part of Craft Victoria. I didn’t know what the heck I was going to do, but one day I would join.

After years of doting over the idea, actually being accepted into the Craft Hatch Programme brought me so much pride. It felt like someone appreciated my work, believed in me as a designer and wanted to see me succeed. In the coming weeks I had so much support from everyone on the programme with advice and encouragement and now, 18 months later, because of that positive start with Hatch, I have growing company that I am incredibly proud of.

Now that you are more immersed in market culture – what are some of the things that you liked about Hatch that set it apart from other markets?

The first Hatch market was overwhelming. The market attracted so many people from different backgrounds that I really respected. My favourite doll maker bought from me, as did people who are known and contribute massively to the Melbourne Arts scene and there was such a strong sense of community and loyalty to our little group of baby businesses.

Who are some of your favourite makers you met through Craft Hatch?

I will always have a soft spot for the originals. Daisy Cooper Ceramics was at my first market. She’d moved over from a successful launch of her brand in the UK and we connected instantly because we both had the same energy. Lab KAJO is a brand I’ve pretty much grown alongside since we started around the same time. We would both openly share our thoughts on things and I think I’ve probably dodged a few bullets thanks to Stephanie. So many other makers I run into regularly at markets and it’s amazing how quickly you build up a friendship circle of likeminded souls, just trying to make it.  

What would you say to emerging makers considering taking their first steps into retailing their work?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to ask for time to think over an agreement. Be informed and do your research before you go in so that you’re prepared for anything they may ask of you. Exclusivity is something that always catches people off guard you can really shoot yourself in the foot if you’re not ready for it. Finally, everyone gets nervous. Be open and honest about it. Tell them you’re ‘bricking it’ and most people will warm to your honesty and humanness.

What projects are you currently excited about?

This is a busy time for me. This month I’m restocking stores, preparing for a market set up by an awesome bunch of Melbourne makers called West Wind Collector and working on a few pieces that I’ll be sending out to rural Victoria for an arts show. I’m also working towards my Craft Cubed Project – ‘Small Stories’- a month of Instagram posts that will tell the wild tales of some of my favourite dolls; guaranteeing daily chuckles for your commute into work.

.... I just found out also five minutes ago that I'm accepted into Finders Keepers Market in less than a months time. So things just got kind of serious!