The community issue – collaborating with friends

Jade Fisher illustration crafting collaborations

Words: Olivia Gordon. Illustration: Jade Fisher

Issue 109 is our community issue and it features loads of designer-maker collaborations that will make your heart burst. Sometimes crafting can be a lonely business but Olivia Gordon has gone on the hunt to find maker dream teams who prove working together is better than working alone. Keep reading to meet some creative businesses that have friendship at their core.

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Back in 2005, two creative women on opposite sides of America stumbled across each other’s blogs. Maria Alexandra Vettese from Maine, who runs art and design shop More & Co., and photographer and stylist Stephanie Congdon Barnes from Oregon quickly built an online friendship based on a shared love of photography, art, craft and everyday beauty.

The friends decided to start a new blog together, www.3191milesapart.com. Posting everything from photos of their day side by side to recipes and craft ideas, Stephanie remembers: “A simple photo of my breakfast table took on new meaning and significance when next to [Maria’s]. Somehow it felt more complete.” Documenting years of their geographically distant but emotionally close lives, Maria and Stephanie use the spark of their friendship as a catalyst to create original works of art. The blog has transformed their lives and careers, with the pair’s photos, crafts and writings from 2015 even being created into a book.

It’s friendlier with two

Makers often work alone, and we tend to consider creative vision as something we hold deep within ourselves. But, all too frequently, creative people feel isolated. Sharing your vision with friends can be a creative union which brings you both self-confidence, thanks to the encouragement and support they can give. Look at playful alliances like ‘best Brighton craft buddies’ hello DODO and Designosaur, or Harriet Vine and Rosie Wolfenden, who founded jewellery company Tatty Devine after hitting it off at art school.

“It’s like [we take] everything, distill it through Rosie and I, and out comes this fun take on the rest of the world,” explains Harriet. “We’re always firing off each other, imagining bonkers stuff that doesn’t exist yet. Anyone else would think ‘What on earth are you talking about?’. I can just go ‘Oh yeah’ and [Rosie] can hear the cogs in my brain working out how I can change that idea into jewellery.”

As Maria and Stephanie have shown, friends don’t have to meet in person. Today, projects can easily be sustained remotely, such as designer Leslie Shewring’s recent partnership with photographer and stylist friend Holly Becker. They teamed up to create a book, Decorate for a Party, and they shared ideas continuously through emails, Skype and text.

Creative chemistry

Bouncing ideas off a friend is the ideal way to create, Leslie explains. “Holly would send an interesting concept or some gorgeous visuals and I’d then get inspiration I wouldn’t have otherwise had. We get to explore new creative territories.”

Partnering up can benefit all aspects of your life, not just work. Stephanie describes the process as a kind of ‘magic’, explaining that personalities come together in a form of alchemy. “When I might give up on a project, Maria pushes me to keep going. Despite hardships, we’ve stayed true to each other and the collaboration. Building that trust and friendship has been one of the greatest gifts in my life.”

If you don’t have a creative friend to team up with, seek one out at a local craft club. Martha Kilner started her own London-based craft group, Pins & Needles, last summer. She tells us: “Lots of connections have been made between people, and true friendships have blossomed.” It’s easy to hit it off with a fellow maker over pom poms and prosecco – just imagine what the two of you could make happen.