I Am Acrylic -Meet the maker MARCH March 07 2015
I Am Acrylic
Tell us a bit about yourselves. Can you recall how and why you became a maker?
Hello! We are Brendan Fan and Ruth Williams and we make jewellery and other bits and bobs using our trusty fretsaw, under the name I Am Acrylic!
We met at art school in 1999 but only made the step to start working full-time together on I Am Acrylic about 4 years ago when I quit my day job. Brendan had been running the business as a very part-time venture for about 6 years before that, and since we joined forces I like to think that it's gone from strength to strength ; )
Brendan says that he started making 'things' just to show me that he could do it too ; )
He always loved to draw but didn't really make crafty stuff but he says he was sick of hearing me always going on about what I'd made in my Dad's shed when I was 12! (My Dad used to be a CDT teacher so always had load of tools at home).
I'd be saying "look at the enamelled ring I made", "look at this mechanical toy I made" and "do you like my replica miniature Athenian temple!?" blah, blah, blah!....
So about 10 years ago, Brendan made me a bird shaped key-ring for my birthday from some acrylic we'd found on the street, using a fretsaw we'd borrowed from my Dad. The buyer in the shop where I worked said we should try to sell them....and I Am Acrylic kind of started then! Our bird design has changed quite a lot since then!
What are your main inspirations and influences for the work?
We fondly remember the smell of cutting out and sanding acrylic key-rings in CDT at school - and making a clock - so quite often when we're working we're transported back to the '90's - not least of all when we're listening to Absolute 90's on the radio too! Although, we've had trouble getting that channel recently, which is a bit worrying!
We design quite a few things initially as presents for friends so they are a big part of our influences! Our bucket & spade range was a gift for a friend who loves Whitstable and our Saturn necklace was initially made for a friend who said it would go really well with our rocket range!
Other inspiration comes from:
Childhood memories of living in the countryside.
Vintage travel posters.
Our own travels by car and train.
Rural and industrial English landscapes play a large part.
Quite often the material itself and the colours can influence the design and the process limits the shapes that we use as well.
What is the process?
We draw out the shapes we've designed onto big sheets of acrylic and then we, well, Brendan most of the time, cuts out all of the components individually, on our mechanical fretsaw. (Even including the little trees and bird beaks!)
Once all the pieces are cut out, we spend time cleaning up all of the edges using needle files and wet & dry paper before finally peeling off the protective layer from the surface and gluing them together. We then add brooch pins, earrings, etc or drill holes to add a necklace.
Cutting each component out individually does sometimes limit how complicated we can be with the design. I'm a terrible one for coming up with really complex drawings of what I'd like to make and Brendan just gives me a look as if to say - Are you serious?!
We spend quite a lot of time paring down our designs to make them into something that we can realistically 'manufacture' at a reasonable price and in volume!
What do you enjoy most about being a maker?
Experimenting is probably something that we both spend too much time doing when we should really be knuckling down and making stock and orders of our existing range!
But that is the fun of having all the equipment out and ready - you can just jump on the saw and cut out a flower and see if it works - or we can make silly Christmas presents for our nieces and nephews : ) (how to tie your shoelace aids for example!).
Also making commissions is something that we both enjoy, making someone else's ideas come to life is really nice, one of our faves is this sausage dog!
Brendan also really enjoys doing our self assessment tax return - he would like it to be more frequent than once a year I think, he loves making spreadsheets!