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June 11, 2021 —

Meet the Maker: Viv Yapp

Designer/maker Viv Yapp creates considered homeware using jesmonite (an eco-friendly material) from her studio in Bristol. We spoke to Viv to hear how she started her business during lockdown, sustainability and the joy of imperfections…
Shelley Welti
91 Magazine online content editor,
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91 Magazine Meet The Maker Viv Yapp

Hi Viv, why and when did you decide to start your business?

2020, March – first lockdown. As a photographer who specialises in interior photography, my world had been turned upside down due to the pandemic. Suddenly, I went from travelling around the world shooting beautiful homes for publications and working with architects/interior designers/hotels, to being stuck at home. So whilst I became a homeschool teacher (to my two wonderful boys) and a chef who cooked a gazillion meals for them a day, I also bought some jesmonite to experiment with in the evenings after the boys went to bed.

Once I started casting I was hooked! In my years of shooting beautiful interiors I’ve always had lots of homeware ideas, so it was nice to have the time and space to experiment with a different aspect of interiors. I shared a few of my pieces on social media and that’s how it all started.

What had you done previously? 

Way before I got into interiors photography, I studied graphic design at Central Saint Martins and went on to have my first job as an art director at BBH London. I spent a good few years creating a wide range of ads, from TV commercials, billboards/posters, radio ads to digital experiences with high profile clients such as Google, Mentos and Diageo. When I was pregnant with my first child, I collapsed on my way to work one day and almost lost my baby at 10 weeks.

That life threatening experience really made me rethink what I wanted to do in life, and we decided to move from the big smoke to the countryside in Bristol to raise our little family after my maternity leave. We bought a granny bungalow and took on a massive renovation, which was when I developed my love of interiors. This also got me into the freelance world of interiors photography, and I worked with a range of national and international publications and hotels shooting beautiful interiors for them.

91 Magazine Meet The Maker Viv Yapp
91 Magazine Meet The Maker Viv Yapp

How would you describe the brand’s ethos?

I love the Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi, which is the art of finding beauty in nature’s imperfections. When you make something by hand there’s always some kind of variations, whether in colour and pattern, which makes every piece absolutely one of a kind. Tiny air bubbles often are formed as part of the process too which gives everything more personality, and to me these unexpected results are exactly what make each one perfectly imperfect.

Speaking of processes, can you tell us a little about how you create your work?

Each of my pieces is a labour of love. From creating moulds, to then blending my own colours with colour pigments, to casting. I then sand everything by hand and seal with a waterproof sealant to keep the items stain and water resistant.

91 Magazine Meet The Maker Viv Yapp
91 Magazine Meet the Maker Viv Yapp

You’re passionate about creating environmentally conscious products, why is this so important to you?

Sustainability is really important to me. Since becoming a mum, I think a lot about what my two boys’ futures would be like and I want them to grow up in a world which is clean and sustainable. The material I use to cast my objects is jesmonite, which is eco-friendly and was created as an alternative to cast concrete. And when it comes to packaging, I also try to be as environmentally conscious as I can. I wrap each piece in acid-free tissue paper, which I encourage my customers to reuse, and then pack them in 100% recyclable, biodegradable and plastic-free packaging.

Which is your most popular product?

My latest houseplant collection is getting a lot of love, which I’m so pleased with, especially as a portion of the profit of this collection will be donated to plant more trees! But I’m also getting a lot of requests to bring back more of my geometric shaped items such as hexagon dishes and square vessels, which I’m currently working on for my next shop drop!

91 Magazine Meet The Maker Viv Yapp
91 Magazine Meet The Maker Viv Yapp

Hard question… do you have a favourite?

Oh, I find it so difficult to choose a favourite, it’s like having to choose my favourite child! I honestly love everything on my shop and if I’m not happy with something I would break them up into terrazzo chips which I then reuse to create new pieces. So everything I list is something I’m proud to sell.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day starts with getting the kids out of bed! Breakfast in the morning is always a bit of a mad rush but we live in a small village in the countryside on the outskirts of Bristol so we do have a lovely commute to school, which is a five minute walk through the fields. When I get home from my morning walk I then go to my little studio and start working. My day can be so varied, from casting and creating new products, to photographing and styling them, to packing orders and handwriting thank you notes. As a one-woman band I also handle all my website design, writing newsletters, replying to emails, creating content on social media and sometimes I’m even the IT person fixing the printer!

91 Magazine Meet The Maker Viv Yapp
91 Magazine Meet The Maker Viv Yapp

How does your location inspire you?

Having lived in London for over a decade, I was a bit nervous when we moved to Bristol, but I really love it here now, it’s a really creative city with a laid back vibe. There are so many independent creative businesses here too, we even have the longest road of independent shops in the UK on Gloucester Road! And we also have our own currency, the Bristol Pound, that goes back to support the local economy. Bristolians are so supportive of their local independent businesses and being here certainly inspired me to create my own. I just can’t wait to meet more local creatives when the pandemic is over!

How do you approach PR and marketing?

As a designer maker, sometimes it’s hard to find time to work on PR and marketing. I’m eternally grateful for the internet and for social media like Instagram which makes it easy for small independent businesses like myself to showcase what I do to a bigger community. It’s really lovely to get real reactions and feedback quickly before committing to doing something so big that nobody is interested in.

91 Magazine Meet The Maker Viv Yapp
91magazine_vivyapp-17.jpg

What’s been your highlight so far?

It’s lovely to see people saying lovely things about my pieces and my kids are always really proud when they find my products in shops! It’s also very nice to see my products being featured in magazines and publications that I admire, so thank you 91 Magazine!

Our pleasure! If you were to share any words of wisdom with readers looking to start a creative business – what would you say?

My advice would be to just do it! Don’t wait til it’s perfect (I’m the biggest perfectionist which is why this is my biggest piece of advice). I don’t always get it right but the great thing about social media is that it’s really easy to gauge people’s opinions and feedback, so if you have an idea just put it out there, and see what happens. Be agile, be quick to change, that’s the beauty of having a small creative business, so embrace it!

Quickfire questions

Describe your work in three words: Handmade, perfectly imperfect.

What are your creating rituals?  A south facing window, a good podcast and a cup of tea!

Tea or coffee? English breakfast tea in the morning and Chinese tea throughout the day.

Mountains or sea?  Sea! I’m dreaming of being in Borneo right now eating satay and drinking young coconut on the beach.

Night owl or early bird?  I used to be a night owl but being a mum has definitely turned me into an early bird.

I wish someone had told me… that you don’t have to choose between work or being a mum. You can build one around your family.

See more from Viv Yapp at www.vivyapp.com and on Instagram.

Photography: Viv Yapp

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