Read the latest issue of UK Handmade magazine here.
UK Handmade is a design led online magazine committed to showcasing and promoting the best creative talent the UK has to offer.
This week, we are delighted to meet Mary McDermott, the amazingly talented and driven woman behind We Make London. Mary talks about her journey from jewellery designer and silversmith to impresario and entrepreneur. She now works ceaselessly to promote and support the creative community in London and beyond.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Mary McDermott and I run an organization called We Make London. We support and showcase designer makers in the UK through events, projects and books. I started my creative career at the age of 19 working in the Jewellery trade for small independent jewellery companies. This then lead me through the path of making my own jewellery and studying Silversmithing.
As a designer I found it very hard to sell at events in London as they were full of imported items, even the events branded as handmade still had people selling jewellery for £2 so it was a constant struggle.
It’s this exact reason that We Make London was formed, to produce events that were purely handmade and to build awareness for the amazing creative talents in the UK.
Give a brief description of your career path up before you started your creative business.
I have been very lucky to have had a creative working life since I finished my A levels. It’s where my passion lies so I have always tried to find jobs that utilize that. Although my working life was more admin focused than hands on creative, it was still within the creative world.
I loved working on the Jewellery trade, there are amazingly talented jewelers in Hatton Garden and had I not started We Make London, I am sure I would be very happy still working within the trade.
However, as soon as I started working on We Make London I realized where my heart really was and that is in helping and supporting designer makers and working hard to raise the profile and awareness of handmade in London and the UK.
I have spent 5 years working on this now and I am still as excited about We Make as I was 5 years ago. We have been involved in some amazing events like The Mayor's Thames Festival, Lollibop Festival, The Cally Festival to name a few, and worked with some fantastic people.
We are currently working and building a partnership with the Camden Lock team and have a twice monthly handmade market and a pop up shop at Camden Lock.
What prompted you to pursue a creative career?
I followed my heart. I think I realized that my full time job had become just a means to pay the bills and although I still loved my job, my real passion was with the work I was doing with We Make London. I was also working ridiculously long hours (although that hasn’t changed since giving up the full time job). I then had the fantastic chance to work part time for EtsyUK. I took a short term contract as an event coordinator for Etsy. It was only supposed to have been 3 months, but carried on for 7 months. This gave me the gradual step I needed so I didn’t have to make the hard decision on leaving a full time job and going full time into We Make, I went part time and then eventually full time.
Also, We Make London had grown and was at a pivotal point that it really couldn’t grow anymore until I could commit full time to it as any more growth and I couldn’t have managed a full time job and the extra demands of We Make.
What was the most difficult thing about this decision? And what was the easiest?
I think there were two main difficult things about the decision, one was leaving behind a job and company I liked working for and a trade that I had spent so many years working in. The other was the fear of giving up a guaranteed income. Interestingly thinking about it now, none of the difficulties or worries were to do with what I was moving on to do, but more what I was giving up. I think the thing that made the decision easier was knowing I was following my heart and doing what I love. I think that is a very important thing in making a decision to do your own business full time. Follow your heart, trust in your instincts and believe in what you are doing.
How supportive of your decision were your family, friends and (former) colleagues?
My family are always very supportive, they know how hard I worked on We Make before I took the leap of doing it full time and knew I would continue working hard. They always support me through the ups and downs.
I am very lucky to have some amazing friends too. I don’t think I could have got through the last 5 years without them.
How has pursuing a creative career been compared with your previous career? What are the challenges, and what are the highlights?
I was lucky to work in a creative industry before working on We Make London. This helped hugely with a understanding for my new career. Although it was a creative industry it was a completely different side to the industry to what I am doing now. So although it helped there has certainly been a lot to learn over the last 5 years and more so in the last year since We Make has been my full time career choice.
The challenges in what I do are huge. Each project we do although follows the same basis in supporting and promoting designers
Have you had any regrets about choosing a creative career?
None at all, I am doing what I love and working with amazing people. I am not pretending it's easy - sometimes things are difficult and challenging - but working through those times and achieving what you hoped to achieve is something to be proud of.
What has been the best thing about your decision to pursue a creative career?
Working with so many amazingly talented designer makers has to be both the best thing about what I do and also the most inspiring and motivating thing. Seeing the designers showcased and the public appreciating their work most definitely makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Also the collaborations: we have worked with some amazing people and events over the last 5 years. At the moment we are working with in partnership with Camden Lock Market, one of the most iconic markets in London. To be involved in changing Camden back to the handmade market and area it was 40 years ago is very exciting and makes me extremely proud of where we have come. Some of the people we have worked with over the last few years have been very supportive of We Make and have taught us a lot about the industry and what we do.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering taking up a creative career, what would that be?
To follow your heart and not give up. There are always going to be times when you feel disheartened or as if it’s all hard work. But focus on what you are aiming to achieve and believe you can get there. This will help you through the hard times. Also, be prepared to change along the way. There is nothing wrong with stopping, reevaluating things and changing direction if needed. It’s all a learning curve and it should be an enjoyable, productive one.
What are your plans for the future?
To continue developing existing partnerships and collaborations and seek new ones. Also, to find new and exciting ways to promote, support and educate designers that are enjoyable for both We Make London and the designers involved.
Started by Rebecca Louise Wilson. Last reply by Rebecca Louise Wilson on Tuesday.
I have only been on this site for a couple of days, mostly adding my items, and when I came to look at what others had to say or chat, even on the groups, I found that they were a couple of months or weeks old.
It does feel like the Marie…Continue
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Follow link to my blog- I was featured in my local magazine :)
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