How did you come to be a designer-maker?
I have always been a maker. Always creating things from an early age and trying to sell them too! I went to art college and experimented with lots of different materials. I didn’t really know what I wanted to specialize in even at the end of my foundation but I was clear that I needed to MAKE. I went to do an HND in Crafts in Carmarthen but I didn’t complete it as I became pregnant halfway through. Being a young Mum was great though, I had a girl and a boy close together but it did not diminish my creative drive. I always describe it as my third child pulling at my skirts saying ‘Mum!?’ So as the children grew, I built my practice slowly, first with handmade cards and then my lighting. My kids and my business grew up together. Now my grown up daughter has taken over the running of my shop and I get to be a designer/maker full time.
Where does your love for design and craft come from?
My Mum and Dad always had an eye for quirky handmade things and looking back our house was stylish and interesting. Going to art college in Leeds introduced me to loads of new makers and galleries. During my lunch break I would visit the Craft Centre & Design Gallery in Leeds and wished I could have my work in there one day. I wanted to be one of the amazing makers with their work displayed so beautifully in the cabinets. I started to read Crafts magazine and wonder how I could build a craft business of my own.
Did you have female or male maker role models whilst growing up? If so, who were they?
I guess my Mum was a maker – not professionally but she made our clothes when we were little and she was really creative with the house. Creativity was something that was given space in our house and I was just very encouraged by my family, friends and teachers. Their feedback made me glow with pride and made me want to make more. I remember making a handmade Christmas card for my next door neighbor. She said to me ‘The handmade ones are always the best’. I made her one every year after that! It’s amazing how a little encouragement can go a long way.
How did you train within your discipline? And what drew you to make lights in particular?
When I got my first studio space when my kids first started school I started making handmade cards. I thought it might be a good place to start and bring a few ideas together into a saleable product. They were intricate paper cuttings, which I was always holding up to the light. A friend in my studio who saw me doing this suggested I tried making lamps. As soon as she said it I knew what I wanted them to look like but had no idea how I would make them. I received some funding from Arts Council England to research and develop the idea, which afforded me the time and resources to experiment heavily. After a few months my first lamps were born. I took them to The British Craft Trade Fair and they went down really well and I got my first handful of stockists – Leeds Craft Centre and Design Gallery being one of them!
What inspired you to write your book?
I’d always thought how amazing it would be to write a book but I admit that this one wasn’t my idea. I met the editor at The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair where I was exhibiting one year. I enthused to this lady about my love of craft lighting, not knowing who she was, telling her all about my shop and all the makers whose work I loved. Later in the day she came back to my stand and said ‘Can you write?’ I tentatively said yes and that is where the project began. They had recently published a book about ceramic lighting but she was on a mission to find someone to write another one about lighting across many mediums.
Did writing the book lead your practice in a new direction? Were there any other lessons learnt during the process?
It made me more disciplined in the end. I had a short deadline for the project and with running the shop and the studio, time was precious. I had to be very focused and I devoted two full days a week solely to writing and researching but this ate heavily into my own creating time and my own work suffered. After it was complete, I decided to devote the same amount of focus and energy into my own practice – and that’s when my wallpaper collection was born.
What methods of research did you use for writing the book and looking at various craft disciplines?
I delved into the network of makers that I had gathered during my years as maker and lighting shop owner. I knew a lot of makers on the circuit from exhibiting at trade shows. I was always searching the internet for handmade lighting to sell at Radiance and although I discovered work I loved I couldn’t necessarily sell it – perhaps it was too huge for our space, or too expensive for our market or just too far away to ship, so it was very lovely to be able to work with these makers in a different way and feature them in my book. I learned so much by interviewing everyone extensively. I asked lots of questions about their discipline and what led them to create lighting. Wherever possible I went to interview them in their studio, which was very inspiring so I got to see their processes and equipment and bookshelves and inspirational objects.
What advice would you give to craftspeople following in your footsteps?
To absolutely follow what inspires you the most and makes you excited because that passion is what is going to fuel you forward. It takes time and dedication to make it as a designer/maker, but it is SO worth it. It’s a really lovely world to be in.
To see examples of Hannah’s work, to read her blog, or to order a copy of her book Illuminate, visit her website: https://www.hannahnunn.co.uk
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