February 2013 – Three young women in their last year of BA Hons in Product & Interior Design decided they were bored and broke, so they decided to do something about it. I meet Kirsty and Sarah over a cup of coffee to get to know the women behind the personalized decorated ceramic success, MAKK.
Meet the MAKKers – Kirsty, Sarah and Jessica started popping ideas and made a list of options – pillowcases, lanterns, carpets, mugs. Then they set out one February afternoon to get some stuff – a few mugs, thread and stayed after school to start experimenting.
As they were exploring the aisles in a shop, an older woman passed by them and said, “Oh look where the ‘makk’s are!” The girls couldn’t stop smiling at the local habit of pronouncing mugs with a soft k. That’s when Jessica came up with the name. “Girls,” she said, “if we ever do something, it’s gonna be called MAKK.” And so it came to be.
The first to be drawn were the anchor mug and then the landmark mugs. They then went outside and started taking pictures of the very first MAKKs.
“We had so much fun doing the shoot, we couldn’t stop laughing. By the end of it, it was late and time to go home, so we didn’t have time to explore the other ideas,” Kirsty recalls. “It was a Friday eve and I had to go see a gig at 9. I went home with the SD card and couldn’t help but check how the pictures had come out. So I called the girls and asked them if they were up for it to create a page on Facebook, just for fun.”
“Yeah,” Sarah adds. “It was literally just for fun. So we tell her to go ahead and before we know it, Kirsty’s calling back telling us we had orders in.”
“We started getting likes within minutes and three orders came in.” Kirsty says. “We were totally blown away. It was so fast, we hadn’t even have a price set! I called the girls up to tell them people were actually saying they wanted this and that and how much it’d cost. I was so excited there all alone, I was hooked up and ended going to the gig 3 hours late.”
“In the beginning, we didn’t even have the right tools,” Sarah explains. “We used Sharpies at first, thinking they were permanent on ceramic.” Once they discovered they weren’t, they worked hard at researching what to use. This wasn’t just an experiment anymore, they had customers now to satisfy and give a good quality product to. They started looking around and researching, asked the ceramic teacher what they could do. She said there was nothing that was permanent, but they weren’t taking no for an answer, so they kept looking and eventually found the right pens and spent a good part of the day dedicated to MAKK and the orders. “We’d go to the shop in Jessica’s car, fill the boot with plain mugs, go home, sit around a table, listen to music and spend the night painting. We’d spend hours around a table full of mugs, sleep for two hours and go back to school the next day.”
In less than 2 months, they had earned themselves 700 likes on Facebook and had had 300 mugs ordered. The ball was rolling so fast, even the local newspaper and TV caught up with them. “We got a call saying they were interested in making a feature about us,” Kirsty says. “We said yes, got all dressed up, then I told mum a TV crew was coming home.”
“What?”, she exclaimed. “In a couple of hours?”
“We were so anxious,” Sarah tells me. “But very excited too. The night it aired though, we had totally forgotten about it, so we went out. Then we got a call from Kirsty’s aunt, saying she’d seen us on TV.” They giggle as they recall the memories and the waiter brings us wedges and chips. The girls had so many stories to tell, it was fun just being around them, so we nibbled as I heard more of their fond memories.
“And the headmaster!” Sarah laughs. “Strictly speaking when you are still studying design you are not allowed to have a business of your own. Then one Friday, we were informed the headmaster wanted us to go to his office. We panicked, the teachers were panicking with us. We spent the whole weekend worrying. Then on Monday, we thought we’d face it and headed to his office. ‘Girls,’ he said. ‘I’ve seen your mugs – well done! Can you make one for my wife? It’s her birthday soon and she has an uncommon name so I never find mugs with her name on.’ We went back to the classroom and we all just couldn’t stop laughing, teachers included.”
So it went, students from other courses kept knocking on their studio door asking for one of them 3, ordering MAKKs. There was a time they went through a craze of ‘kidnapping’ every plain white mug they found in their mothers’ or grandparents’ kitchens and do them up for them. “This mug needs some MAKKing up, was our favourite phrase.” says Kirsty. Jessica eventually dropped out of the team during the thesis period, she had started a new job too so time was running short.
“The orders have been coming in since that February Friday night,” Kirsty says. “We still love just sitting around a table at Sarah’s place, putting on the music and have a chat while we paint. We’re good in different things. Many times, not just one of us works on a MAKK. I could start it and then pass it on to Sarah.”
“Yes,” Sarah agrees, “I love my thin pen, so I make the details and then Kirsty’s great with her thick pen. So most of the time we’re there passing the pieces to each other.” And so they combine their ideas and from simple mugs, orders have been coming in for any kind of ceramic – egg holders, bowls, teapots, cactus pots, you name it. By now the girls have found themselves a supplier which helps with the treasure hunt for the plain mugs which could fall short sometimes and it also helps out with having a stable price.
“It’s just so great to do what you love.” Kirsty tells me. “We started off with home decor as MAKK and now we’ve also expanded into interior design with MILK. You have no idea how many times we get random people message us on Facebook just to tell us that they love our work, to keep on doing what we’re doing. It’s overwhelming. Orders usually start with a compliment and sometimes people come in simply to do just that, even without ordering!”
“A lot of people have taken up the habit of taking pictures of their MAKKs and sending them to us, so we created an album of them. It’s still incredible to us, how people have just caught up on the name. They don’t write in to order a mug, they actually say they want a MAKK!”
Being only available on Facebook and with the girls doing it freelance, it’s a pretty abnormal process. “We’re not some kind of office that’s open 9 to 5. Sometimes we get messages throughout the day and we only get to reply to them at 11pm. Then we get a reply back from them at 2am. Everyone just goes with the flow.” they tell me. “A MAKK can take from a few minutes to 5 hours. When we need a break, we just go to the sea to chill and then get back all energized to get back to work.”
“We’re going into the third year of this now and it still doesn’t feel like a job,” Sarah tells me. “We still love making them.”
“Yes,” Kirsty agrees, “we still sit there for hours, talking and creating. She’s the person I speak most to. I feel like I know her inside out and upside down.”
And so I smile, wrap up the interview and ask them what I want on my MAKK. I just want to know if it’s true that Everything tastes better in a MAKK.
Facebook – MAKK
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