Seven Questions with Tatty Devine Founders Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine
With an exhibition celebrating their 20th anniversary and unique, often anarchic designs in the offing, Tatty Devine’s founders Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine tell Hole & Corner how it all began.
Tell us a bit about yourselves and what you do…
We are Rosie and Harriet and we set up Tatty Devine back in 1999 when we were fresh out of art school with no intention of getting ‘proper jobs’. We had both wanted to become artists but having had an upbringing firmly rooted in making and craft, we started making things to wear and go out in – born out of having no money to buy things.
We started selling on market stalls and within a few months of graduating we had managed to sell what we’d made to Harvey Nichols and Whistles, as well as appear in the millennial edition of Vogue. We are now known for our laser cut acrylic jewelry that we have focused on since 2001. Our jewelry is a way to help people express themselves and to make statements, whether personal or political.
What is the inspiration behind Tatty Devine?
We have both always been slightly obsessed with charity shops, junk shops, carboot sales and anywhere we can get our hands on old things – even if it’s a skip. In the early days, we felt our collections of stuff really expressed who we were and couldn’t bare to leave them at home so would make accessories out of them, to wear them out and show the world who we were. This sentiment has never left us, and everything we make is a reflection of what we love and are inspired by.
How do you decide on the designs you use?
We have always started with a conversation that Harriet annotates in her sketchbook. The ideas for our jewelry generally jump out at us, as there is definitely a ‘Tatty Devine’ way of doing things. In fact, when things required more attention it is often an indicator that it’s possibly not quite right. The best designs are the simplest ones. We try to edit collections before they are sampled, to minimise wastage of materials and time, and have a honed process for understanding what people buy, collect and generally like, so we also use this to guide what we make.
You are renowned for your collaborations as well as your classic collection; how do you select your collaborative projects?
Early on we collaborated a lot with friends and acquaintances, where we felt there was synergy in what we were both doing. More recently it has been a case of choosing what feels right to us or gets us excited. For example with the Fawcett Society we knew that we wanted to work with a charity that focused on gender equality, and they are the leaders on this so that made for a great collaboration. Right now we’re working on a campaign for creativity with the Crafts Council called Make Your Future as craft and making have been affected so much by governmental policy makers in recent years. Can you believe the number of students studying creative subjects has dropped 35% in the last ten years? Yet last year the creative industries contributed over £100 billion to the British economy, more than ever before.
What is your space; the space you cherish and love…
RW: My Grandmother’s garden, looking at the sea, smelling the flora and daydreaming.
HV: My kitchen table
If Tatty Devine had a theme song what would it be?
Misshapes, mistakes, misfits
What is the best advice you could pass on?
Make sure that whatever you do that you love it. This will come through in your work plus doing your own thing is hard work which is much easier to do when you enjoy it!
Misshapes: The Making of Tatty Devine, a free Crafts Council exhibition, opens at the Lethaby Gallery in King’s Cross London N1 on Saturday 20 July. The exhibition will then tour the UK.