Scenes from Sydney

By Jaclyn Carlson It wasn't until recently, when I was finally able to put the finishing touches on my first quilt did I truly appreciate the passion and hard work that goes into working with your hands to create something. There is an enormous amount of work that goes into creating something from scratch but the hours and hours of work all disappear when you see the final product, complete. It's an amazing feeling and one I wanted to learn more about. This month I'm speaking to my friend, Monique Plunkett, founder of homewares and accessories brand - Elkhorn, to learn more about how she created a business from making beautiful handmade products.  The timing couldn't be more perfect as Monique is leaving Sydney this week to begin a new creative adventure in Melbourne - hopefully the CWC community will give her a big welcome!

Have you always been a creative person?

I have always been up to something creative since I was young. I remember getting a real buzz when I started working on a new project and seeing the end result. They were never amazing pieces of art but I loved the process and working with my hands.

What is your background?

Like most creative people I have a back ground in Graphic Design. I initially studied Visual Arts majoring in photography when I first left school then went on to study Graphic Design. Working in advertising never quite felt right for me. I found the work very regimented and not much room to be creative. I soon moved on and perhaps got a little side tracked working in many retail positions while freelancing in graphic design. I then studied and worked in Horticulture for a few years... Yes a very mixed back ground. Somehow all these skills came together to create Elkhorn. I have always been interested in the arts and creative people, so I guess on a subconscious level I’ve picked up skills and inspiration from people I spent time with and admired along the way.

How did Elkhorn get its start?

I was living in Sydney and working part-time. I hadn't been well for a while so decided to take some time out. With extra time on my hands I picked up screen printing again and started making clothing and cushions for myself and friends. I had such a great response from my forever encouraging friends that it felt like the perfect time to start something for myself. So that's when Elkhorn began.

What is the best part about running a creative business?

Working for yourself and the freedom to plan your own day. Starting the day a little later, heading out for a run or walk along the beach, sets me off to the perfect start. It can mean I finish later in the day but that's the compromise I make with myself and I'm more productive for it. It's also really satisfying taking a design from concept to a finished product, then taking it to the markets and seeing the response the design has on people. Knowing you did it all yourself is a wonderful feeling!

What are the challenges?

Working by yourself (yes it goes both ways). Although I love the creative freedom, it can be hard doing it alone and being accountable for every aspect of the business. Facing things you don't like doing can be daunting, especially when you don't know how to do them it can be a challenge.

What advice would you give to others looking to start a handmade business?

Follow your heart and do what you love! I know it’s cliché, but it’s true. I’m not saying quit your day job straight away, but as long as you allow yourself the time to slow down and take time out to be creative, I think that’s a great place to start. You’ll get a feel for what you’re making and whether your happy to continue it as a hobby or think about selling your work for a living.

Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Jaclyn Carlson is the author behind the Sydney-based blog, Little Paper Trees. When not documenting her expat adventures, she can be found working for one of Australia’s top design & homewares trade shows. Passionate and prone to wasting hours on Pinterest, she has years of experience in marketing, advertising and PR and aims to put Sydney’s creative women in the spotlight with her monthly column
Images via Elkhorn