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March 1, 2021 —

Meet the maker: Kalandra McFarquhar of KLNDRA

After leaving university, designer-maker Kalandra McFarquhar focussed on forging her own opportunities and found a vibrant and supportive creative scene that helped her business to thrive.
Kalandra McFarquhar - maker at Klndra
Sine Fleet - contributingeditor of 91 Magazine
Sine Fleet
91 Magazine contributing editor,
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Hi Kalandra, how would you describe the pieces and collections you make?
I make handcrafted jesmonite homewares designed consciously with modern trends and sustainability at the foreground.

How did Klndra come to be?
I graduated as a 3D designer-maker in 2019 and instantly I went into job hunting mode, like most new graduates do. But after a couple months I realised the job role I was looking for didn’t exist and that I had to follow my passion for crafting with jesmonite, which I’d discovered during my course. It took a few months to get the ball rolling and find my niche, but as soon as lockdown 1.0 struck, my business somewhat took off!

What did you do before setting up your business?
While I was studying 3D design I worked part-time for IKEA, which I still do! So, I was wishing my day-to-day life would always be around design, lifestyle products and home accessories, whether I was designing, making them or selling them!

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Where do you find creative inspiration?
I spent all of my final year of studies testing and exploring jesmonite, and that’s where the passion was sparked for working with the material. Jesmonite has so much potential and advantageous properties, which always drives me to create fresh homewares, whether it’s the surface quality, form or function. I love to tackle trends but to add my own flair to the outcome, so that I provide unique items.

Describe your style
Timeless and minimal, but bold enough to give depth to your interior aesthetic without adding needless, unsustainable clutter. There’s an added element of serendipity due to the nature of the making process that provides a uniqueness to every item made.

Are there themes that run through your work?
A key theme for me is functionality. I love items that can be multifunctional and that are quite neutral in palette, therefore can be easily coordinated and styled to suit most home decor. Another key theme for me is making items that are ‘one of a kind’, and that’s what draws me into coming up with new designs and finding new ways to work with the material. Lastly, I am very drawn to the use of simple, clean forms to allow the surface pattern design to be the focus point.

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Describe a typical working day…
Juggling different aspects of my life makes every working day very different, especially when running a small business from home. A typical KLNDRA working day for me is making, making and more making, as I generally tend to fit the other elements of the business around my everyday life. A typical working day usually begins with checking my weekly planner to make sure I stay on track with plans/orders and tasks for the week, and responding to emails whilst having a quick breakfast. Then I’ll spend some time sanding all the ready-cast items and as those dry out, I’ll do some casting of orders and wholesale stock, or test new designs. In the midst of all this, I’ll be capturing content for my social platforms and engaging with my audience. My working day usually ends with sealing and doing the final touches to sanded stock, ready to pack the next day.

Is there an ethos behind your business?
One hundred per cent. I believe every business needs core values or an ethos to go by, and mine crossover each other: sustainability, slow-made to order, and uniqueness. Sustainability – in all aspects of my business this value is at the forefront, including the materials I use, packaging and production. Everything is slow-made, to order – which in turn emphasises the sustainability value to reduce waste, but also demonstrates the essence of handmade with care and love. Lastly, uniqueness is a focus – due to the production process, the patterns that are presented differ on each piece. KLNDRA is completely open to bespoke colour combinations within collections to give customers freedom of choice to suit their style and home.

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Tell us about your work process…
All my products are made from jesmonite, a two-part water based eco-resin that is solvent free with no VOC’s, making it kinder to our planet. Throughout the whole process, I love to keep my audience on social media updated with what I am doing behind the scenes, so they often see the journey of new products and collections before they are released. My creative process goes as follows:

  • 1. Inspiration – it’s a 50:50 split between tackling trends and exploring new avenues with jesmonite.
  • 2. Ideation – brainstorm, mood boards and sketching.
  • 3. Research and testing – trialling form, function, colour, pattern or technique with the material.
  • 4. Evaluate and develop – refine design and finalise concept.
  • 5. Launch
    Often stage three is skipped – as the maker in me tends to dive straight into the testing and immerse myself into the process.
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Describe your workspace…
It’s a segment of my living room, with a designated corner for making and packing and with lots of storage for my tools, stock and materials. It’s not a huge space but I love it nevertheless as it has developed since I first started, so I am grateful for the progression.

Tell us about your neighbourhood and community…
I live in Birmingham, which is upcoming for creatives like myself. I can proudly say there is a lot of support for small businesses with various events, markets and platforms that encourage this field. I live close to the Jewellery Quarter, which is always usually buzzing with all its small, independent shops – and also Digbeth, which is known for being the creative hub of Birmingham. Having places such as these really motivates an independent maker like myself and opens up some doors for opportunities, whether it’s facilities, materials, ideas or building a friendship with another maker.

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Has your work evolved since you began?
Totally! Funnily enough one of my first ever collections, Speckled, has stuck with me but even so, I have developed it since then. I’ve had overall growth as a brand and have learnt to carefully curate themes so that my work is cohesive and demonstrates a strong overall brand aesthetic.

How valuable is the online community to your work?
So, so valuable! I’ve actually made some really close friends online, who are on similar journey to me. Coming out of university, you always had the opportunity to kind of bounce ideas off people and within the community that I’ve found, the same tends to happen – there is so much support out there for creative businesses that can really motivate you to keep going.

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What are the joys – and challenges – of working as an independent maker?
I love it! I have always been a hands-on type of creative and being able to do what I am passionate almost every day is just so rewarding. I would say the joy of being an independent maker is having the freedom and scope to do whatever you want, there are no limits to design or ideas, within reason of course – but this can also be a challenge because decisions are harder when you get lost in your own thoughts and ideas.

What has been the greatest hurdle in starting your own business?
Standing out from the crowd to be recognised is a big challenge at the first hurdle, ultimately this grows your audience and kicks off your business in more ways than one.

How do you approach marketing and PR?
This may sound crazy, but I don’t. Honestly, I wouldn’t even know where to start. I am fortunate enough to be approached by these opportunities organically.

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What have been your business highlights so far?
My highlight of my business so far has been being recognised by several platforms for my BLM collection. A collection that has so much more meaning than any other because of its significant message and influence behind it.

Which pieces do you most enjoy making?
Rainbows! Whatever colour combination – I love them and I’m always intrigued to see how colours chosen by a customer will look together in the finished item.

Do you have any creative pastimes or hobbies?
Nope! Every spare moment I have between working and home life is spent on my small business because it’s what I love to do.

Any good advice for makers who are just starting out?
Do your research and be prepared to put in the work! Especially in the creative field, you have to be willing to invest time and money – invest your time into learning the craft, because so much can come from that first-hand research, whether something works or not. Oh, and also stay true to yourself because this can be channelled into a distinct flair that makes your business unique!

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What does the next year hold for you?
I just released a collection, Ink, which is inspired by timeless Nordic style, celebrating the beauty of single line art with each piece being hand-drawn. And more rainbows! I am currently designing a bigger size and another functional product in this form.

Quick-fire questions:

What are your making rituals?

Apron, gloves & music on!

Tea or coffee?

Tea

Mountains or sea?

Sea

Night owl or early bird?

Early bird

See more from Kalandra at www.klndradesigns.com and on Instagram.

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