Who’s behind the Handmaker’s Factory?

One of the best things about being a DIY-er is meeting other people who love it too, and have even managed to grow a business from it. I recently assisted Nichola Prested of Handmaker’s Factory in Kensington at some “make and mend” workshops she ran for Monash Council, but we were so busy helping everyone use sewing machines, offering advice on how to take up the legs on pants and just generally spreading our crafty know-how that we didn’t get much chance for a chat. So I decided to interview Nichola to find out how she kicked off this creative venture – and share her answers with you! This is Nichola in a cape that she made:

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Style Wilderness (SW): Can you tell us about your background in craft?

Nichola Prested (NP): Growing up I was always into make things and art was my favourite subject in school. I dabbled in many crafts including sewing clothes and knitting (rather poorly). I studied sculpture and photography through college and worked as a patisserie chef (gaining my qualifications on the job) from the age of 15 as a way to earn some cash. What started out as a part time job soon became my full time job taking me to work in fine dining restaurants around the UK.

Then, I became a mum in 2004 and had a sudden urge to be more creative and make things. My little family moved to Melbourne later that year and I set out to learn all I could about sewing. I started my blog nikkishell and discovered a wonderful craft community both in Melbourne and online. I mostly sew and knit these days and now and again dabble in something new like machine knitting (I’m still hopeful I will master this craft one day!)

SW: When did you set up Handmaker’s Factory and where did you get the inspiration for it? Had you attended something similar yourself?

NP: Handmaker’s Factory was originally named Wardrobe Refashion. Wardrobe Refashion came about in 2005 when I decided to no longer buy new clothing but to instead use what I have, refashion second-hand or make my own from scratch. I gained quite a bit of interest through my blog so I set up a separate group blog to allow others to join in and post their own creations. The blog became incredibly popular and over the next five years hosted posts from thousands of participants from all over the world. After some time the running of the blog began to take its toll on me and I felt the need to make some changes.

In 2012 I studied with the School for Social Entrepreneurs and learned a lot about the behind-the-scenes of running a small business. Then in 2013 I relaunched as Handmaker’s Factory website and creative workshops in Melbourne.

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SW: What kinds of classes do you offer at the Factory?

NP: We offer a variety of workshops, most of which are textile related such as sewing, knitting, screen printing, natural dyeing, mending clothes and weaving. We also offer other workshops like macramé, and lampshade making. [and shibori dyeing, like in this photo!]

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SW: Who attends your classes – do you have a typical learner or do you get all types and ages?

NP: We really do get all kinds of people attending our workshops. Some want to learn new skills such as screen printing so they can then go on to use them in starting their own small business. Some want to improve their skills for the things they make for themselves and their families such as knitting and sewing. The age of participants vary from kids through to the retired. [We had all sorts of people at the Monash Council workshop – one of the guys stayed until the very, very end – after having fixed some of his own clothes he was hooked on using the sewing machine and made a bag from fabric scraps for his daughter!]

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SW: A lot of people claim that they’re not creative – have you ever had someone attend your classes who proved this, or do you think everyone has creativity hidden somewhere?

NP: I think people attending workshops at Handmaker’s Factory are creative in some way or another, otherwise why would they be here? People often suppress their creativity thinking they don’t have time for it or maybe they’ve had a bad experience where someone has laughed at their work or dismissed it as unimportant. There’s no right or wrong way to be creative, it’s something that is individual to us all and is about doing what makes YOU happy and not about making someone else happy. The internet has put a lot of pressure on people to make perfect things that conform to a generic beauty. We should be creating what we love, not what everyone else loves.

SW: So true!! Where do you personally get your inspiration for projects? How do you meet and connect with other crafty people?

NP: I admit I spend a fair bit of time looking at Pinterest , Ravelry and creative websites. I like to check out the variations of creations made from patterns to gain an idea of what fabrics or yarns could be used or how it fits on a body shape similar to mine. I try to step away from the computer though and find inspiration in daily life, art and books.

I have a wonderful circle of creative friends here in Melbourne that I have met through my years of blogging who have become “real life” friends and I share a wonderful studio with some of those people. I also have a wider circle of creative friends online that I have “met” through blogging. The workshops we teach at Handmaker’s Factory have also been a great way to connect with other creative people.

SW: Do you have a craft room at home or do you tend to do all your projects at the Factory?

NP: Haha! I did have my own sewing room but my daughters grew too big to share any more so I had to give it up. I have a little corner where I keep my stash but my sewing machines are often moved into our living area. I do a lot of sewing in the studio for myself and others as it’s very well set up with large tables, various sewing machines (including my industrial Janome) and there’s always someone to keep me company.

SW: And what’s the latest news from Handmaker’s Factory?

NP: We are currently in the running for a $1000 grant from Leader Local Grants. The money will be used to buy and service equipment and supplies for our Mend It workshops. Voting opens on October 6th and we’d love to have your votes!

We have a number of fantastic workshops coming up at Handmaker’s Factory including screen printing, shibori cushions, natural dyeing and so much more. All workshops can be viewed here. We’re also planning to offer many of the workshops outside of our Kensington studio in the New Year.

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