There’s no getting around it — Sarah Fordham, a.k.a. MaMagasin, has fantastic breasts. I would love to say that they first piqued my interest, but it was her Envelope and Chintz designs that first drew me in. They are so up my alley, I can’t even begin to describe it.
Upon discovering her artful mammaries however, there was no doubt in my mind that I had to interview this lady for the UK Edition. Who transforms an innocuous household object into a boob and, my goodness, why? Sarah’s aptitude for taboo subject matter appears in contrast with many of the quirky and cute-as-pie motifs in her shop, but a common thread connects it all. J’adore. Welcome to the mélange of MaMagasin.
Tell us a wee bit about yourself.
Hello! I am Sarah and I’m 27 years old. I’m originally from “The Garden of England” (a.k.a. the Kent countryside). I studied Fine Art in Leeds and now live in Manchester with my other half. I have a love for dogs, the Pixies, rummaging through old junk and anything remotely granny-ish. I work part time in a chocolate boutique, and when I’m not there I am sewing at home.
How did you first begin your foray into the world of artistic embroidery?
During my time at university my tutors told me that I couldn’t paint so I spent a lot of time wondering where I fit into the art world. I generally felt more at home object-making and liked the freedom of working in different mediums.
For three years I looked at taboo subject matter and tried to find ways of representing it without using shock tactics. I ran with the simple idea of using traditional craft methods to depict taboo imagery and ended up teaching myself tapestry. I would love to say the first thing I cross-stitched was a picture of a kitten in a basket but I think it was actually an image of a sexually transmitted disease! I looked at pictures of them as they appear in cell form under the microscope (they appear as pretty patterns really) and made these into little cross-stitch pictures. I also recreated prostitute calling cards into large hand-sewn tapestries.
Three years of filthy subject matter has made me rather shock-proof. Going to the local market while I was at university to buy old porn magazines (to sew from, obviously) was probably my darkest hour… who am I kidding? It was a hoot!
Educate us on your design process and making methods, what it’s like and why do you love it?
Brainstorming ideas is the easy part. I hate having to translate these ideas into designs to work from as it can be so tedious! To do this I either use graph paper and coloured pencils to doodle or if I’m making something bigger like the calling cards, I’ll use a CD ROM programme. I much prefer executing the ideas than designing them.
Tell us about the hand-sewn sieve breasts you created for your fine arts degree.
I wanted to use everyday, mundane objects — something the viewer wouldn’t find shocking in any way at all, and then mix it up with the taboo idea again. Somehow it occurred to me that I could sew onto a boring kitchen sieve, as it has a mesh-like quality similar to tapestry canvas. And so the sieve boob was born.
What’s the story behind Fearne Cotton wearing one of your oversized badges?
A few years ago, I thought if I could get a few pictures of some famous people wearing my work, it might be good for my business. So, as ridiculous as it may sound, I made a list of celebrities that I felt suited my style. The difficult part was finding ways to contact them, but I was lucky enough to get a response from Fearne. I asked her to choose a piece, sent it to her and was shocked to actually get a hand written thank-you note from her which was sweet. As time passed I honestly didn’t think anything would come from it but a year later, a friend with beady eyes noticed her wearing it in a magazine — I wasn’t credited but I’m thrilled to have gotten my work in the picture nonetheless!
Fearne sporting Sarah’s large cross-stitch Wolf Badge in Heat Magazine, April 2009.
In your opinion what is the value and appeal of the handmade movement?
I think as you get older you appreciate things that are limited edition and hand crafted, even if it means paying a little more for the privilege. It’s nice to think you’re in possession of a little item that has been lovingly handmade which very few other people will own too.
What does an average day in the life of MaMagasin entail?
When I’m not selling chocolates (and tasting them, just to make sure they’re safe you understand), I work from home. I won’t lie, I don’t have a studio or even a dedicated workspace at the moment. A studio would be completely unnecessary for me as I don’t need a big space to work in. I tend to park myself in front of the TV and plough through DVD box-sets and films while I sew. My recent marathons have included Breaking Bad and The Shield (so good!). Yes, I think my eyes are going square.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My mum has made me a couple of quilts which I love. For some time she has volunteered for a charity called Project Linus UK, who collect and distribute handmade quilts to the bereaved, refugees, children who are seriously ill and so forth.
Do you have any advice for designers/makers starting out in their career?
I’d love some advice myself, I still consider myself to be starting out too!
Aside from all the obvious things, it may sound harsh but always criticise your work. At art college the tutors were horrid and if something wasn’t good enough they weren’t shy about telling us to bin it and start again. It was horrible at the time — it’s not exactly constructive criticism but at least I know how to accept that and give it to myself now! Just keep pushing yourself to improve. I don’t think I’m ever fully satisfied with what I’ve made and can see so many things I need to improve on.
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
My friend Hannah of SweetTrash and I had a pop-up shop in July and it was lots of fun! We’re having another one called World O’ Stuff (remember Eerie Indiana?) from the 1 – 7 December in Whitstable. Come see us!
Name your top five Etsy sellers…
Thanks to Sarah for taking part! Check out some of her awesome work in the Seller’s Items below.
You can also keep up with the latest on the Magasin Facebook Page.