We are delighted to have back in Paper Scissors Stone for 2014, the fantastic Elaine and Stephen aka Ava & Bea. We caught up with them last year to talk about their collections, life and designs...
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your work?
Hello! I’m Elaine Tuke, and my partner Stephen Ryan and I, are Ava & Bea. We started our business at the beginning of 2012, and make all sorts of things, including jewellery, prints, Formica, and wallpaper covered wooden birds and words. We like to combine vintage inspiration with contemporary design.
Apart from creating things what else do you do?
We have 2 daughters aged 5, and 2 years old, so that keeps us very busy! Stephen is also a Compositor, so works in visual effects for TV and film when he isn’t getting dusty at our workshop. I worked at Arnolfini before having my youngest daughter Kitty, and used to concentrate more on Photography, but having 2 children mixed things up a bit, and enabled this whole new way of working.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I knew from a very early age. I was always drawing pictures, writing and illustrating my own stories, and making clothes for my Cindy dolls. My mum (who is admittedly a bit of a hoarder) still proudly displays my first attempts at pottery cats, and Fimo jewellery! And Christmas for me was all about which craft kit I was going to get.
What do you love most about working in your chosen discipline?
I love pattern and colour, so get really excited about creating new designs. I love choosing details, and sourcing interesting materials. I’m a bit of a perfectionist; so get very focused on making everything look just right. I love that we make everything ourselves, as it’s really satisfying to work through the entire process from initial idea and sketches to a finished product we can be proud of.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Our inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere. Flicking through magazines, reading a book, pottering around shops and galleries, going for a walk. I’ve even had ideas pop into my head in the middle of the night, while trying to get one of my daughters back to sleep! It’s really difficult in the early days of a business, as there is so much pressure to come up with a perfect range as soon as possible. Any creativity struggles in the face of stress and deadlines, and I’ve sat with a blank notebook many a time. Once we started to relax a bit, it all came more naturally so ideas and inspiration started popping up when we least expected them.
Describe your studio or workspace?
We have a workshop in Bedminster that we share with 4 other people. They all make or restore furniture so there is always something interesting happening there, and lots of tips to pick up. Our section is home to our cnc (computer numerical control) machine, a large workbench, and lots of pieces of wood, Formica, and a lucky dip bin, which contains all sorts of collected bits and pieces that might have a use one day!
The other workspace we have is our kitchen table! I mostly use this one, as I often fit making things into any opportune moments of time, such as my daughter’s naptime, or in the evenings. I have many (many!) boxes of materials and tools that I unpack and then have to pack away before my magpie children find them and start to play. I admit to having serious ‘desk space envy’ while reading these blogs, but it does the job!
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
I love peeking inside artist’s studios! I’m really nosy and love an open studio weekend, or an art’s trail so I can see what other people do in their workspaces. The Documentary series on BBC4 recently ‘What do artists do all day?’ was brilliant, really interesting.
Our process is often quite random. We do things in a fractured order, depending on time slots available, deadlines, and state of mind! We both like to tinker a lot, so often take a few twists and turns along the way to see what might happen If we try this or that, but I quite like that. I like not having to be too regimented, and having the freedom to play with materials and ideas as we work.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
We have lots of handmade possessions that we love. Some of them bought, such as our stainless steel rope balls by Dail Behennah, and others made by friends and family. I love my hot chocolate mug, made by my friend Laura; My moon on a stick, made by my friend Lex; My personalized illustrations by my sister Marion, and finally a doll made by my mum years ago for a PTA sale at my school. I took a real shine to it, and so my mum let me keep her. She had such a kind face I fell in love with her, and the fact that she’d been made by mum made her even better.What do you when you are stuck in a creative rut?
When I eventually stop staring at my blank piece of paper, trying to force an idea out of my head, I’ll do something completely different and try to stop thinking about it. Even popping out to wander around the local charity shops, or buy a magazine can clear my head enough to stop the block, but ideally I’ll take a few hours out completely to maybe watch a film and go for lunch.
Which is your favourite local independent shop or eatery in Bristol & why?
We love The Old Bookshop café bar on North Street, Bedminster. It has a lovely atmosphere, great food, and a very individual interior. It’s perfect for a coffee and cake during the day, and worth the squeeze through the door on busy evenings.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
We would like to still be coming up with new ideas, from our luxury workshop in the countryside, to sell in our successful chain of shops! Failing that, we’d like to still be happy coming up with new ideas in our warm shed in the garden..
Such a great interview! The Ava & Bea collection is now available to buy in our Paper Scissors Stone shop.