So, we love Makers & Brothers round here. We love their ethos; their authentic manifesto of supporting craft creatives (the Makers) and getting them all together in one oh-so cool commercial endeavour. There’s just something about them that feels real and true and worthy without being serious or boring or mundane. This is craft at it’s coolest and these brothers are on the (pop up) pulse. We hear there’s imminent news of another exciting collaboration coming in the next few days too, so watch out – the brothers are expanding into something bigger, Makers & Brothers & Others anyone? Eh, yes please!
We hung out with Jonathan at The Shed one glorious Autumn morning having chats (and playing with their dog) to discover what makes M&B tick…
What inspired you to set up Makers & Brothers?
It did not come from any one moment of inspiration, but rather from thinking my brother and I had regarding the retailing of design and craft in Ireland. We didn’t like what we saw and felt we could change things for the better; Offer the local market an exciting alternative and bring the best of Irish craft and design to an International market.
Makers & Brothers set out to be, and we feel is, an International destination for inspirational and thought provoking products. It was important to us that we were an Irish company and involved locally but with an International reach and relevance. We wanted to sell a carefully selected collection of the very best of Irish and International craft and design. We wanted to create a site that featured objects of use; the simple, beautiful and sometimes nicely odd.
We wanted to bring forth this offer through an engaging retail experience, both virtually and physically. Makers & Brothers is a multichannel retail space. The website www.makersandbrothers.com is laced with editorial through which we showcase the tradition, process and inspiration of our makers; this is backed up by seasonal pop-ups at home and abroad.
We feel that it is essential to mix the physical and virtual. They are both so relevant to ones life that neither should be ignored one just needs to find the balance. The nature of craft and design also made us want to be more than an online store.
In summary we would like to think we are taking a quiet, human approach to this project. We felt we could make a difference and hope we are. It is an e-commerce venture but one founded on simple things; the handmade, objects of integrity, local craft; Raw, genuine qualities that bring meaning and depth. Maybe it is those qualities that inspires us.
What were your influences for it?
Family was a big influence, family and childhood. We grew up surrounded by a lot of the products we now sell and design, architecture, craft all these subjects and more were, still are, regularly discussed at family gatherings. We would also have been influenced by the Kilkenny Design Workshops and their approach to retail. The KDW was quiet revolutionary at the time, an amazing operation, creatively speaking a world leader and state owned. The fact that this movement died and has left little legacy behind is very sad. When we started working with our graphic designers they were given a book on Pat Scott and another on KDW that was their brief. More current influences would include Net-a-Porter, Jasper Morison’s shop and some great little blogs we regularly track. We are continually adjusting and refining the business and influences come from everywhere really, we pull them in and then filter them through our world to see what sticks.
Where is it going? Five year plan?
We are evolving and growing-up quickly. It is not yet two years since we started and the crazy learning curve continues. E-commerce is still the core of our business, we are receiving orders from across the globe every day (South Korea is an unlikely destination but we have shipped many packages out that way). There is a new website due in the coming weeks (it is running late) as we refine the site and try and making it more enjoyable and easier for customers. The new site will allow us offer a far superior service and share our editorial in a more engaging manner.
We also have a very exciting project to announce in the coming days. A Makers & Brothers Mini Department Store in Dublin for the month of November and December. Makers & Brothers & Others will be our usual unusual operation plus an amazing collection of friends both local and international working in food, flowers, fashion, beauty and design. We are very excited about it and as soon as we have details locked down we will share all.
What’s been the best bit so far?
There have been many many good bits, there are regular highfives. Not sure if we can single out one moment in particular. It is great when people we admire order on the site, that is always a little exciting and that is happening more and more. New York was a highlight of last year, Brown Thomas was great fun early this year. An insightful compliment from and unexpected customer is a real highlight. When someone comes along, gets what we are doing and appreciates it.
Working with your brother – what’s the magic formula?
Not so sure, but magic is an oddly suitable word as I don’t believe it can be too contrived. It probably starts from a great respect for each other but I don’t think we have ever really thought about it too much, and maybe that is the magic, the intuitive nature of family. We have many of the same reference points, an immediate understanding; know when not to push each other. They would be the good bits, I wouldn’t say its easy though, we are two very different personalities and the balance takes effort. Magic aside it is all about hard work, respect and a bit of luck.
What is your favourite product you sell?
At present it might be the beautiful brass bottle openers from New York by the young design duo, Fort Standard. It is probably the haptic nature of the product; It feels good in the hand, it works wonderfully well, and it helps that it looks good. It is produced in a very simple yet sophisticated manner. It has a materiality that makes sense for its use and will only get better with time. We love tools and this is a great little tool. We like them a lot.
This will all change soon though as we have some really beautiful pieces coming in over the coming weeks. Jenifer Chan’s copper candleholders are going to be amazing and we are working with the Camphill Community on a collection of Irish Beeswax candles. These pieces are going to be really beautiful additions.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Both of us are actually doing this and other work. Work we would be doing if we weren’t doing Makers & Brothers. We both still have projects outside of the M&B projects that overlap with this and may one day become part of the operation, who knows. I am working as a design consultant and about to set up a small studio with an old friend. We are both way too busy but loving it. We are slowly learning how to say no and only taking on projects that really interest us.
Favourite clothing label?
I love my new Nike runners if that counts, but in saying that I do spend most of my time in bare feet. Clothing… favourite label is probably, if it was a label, my dads wardrobe. Literally, his wardrobe is a wonderland, our dad has the best wardrobe packed full of clothes that look as good today as they did back in the 70’s and 80’s. I raid it regularly and he is forever checking up on what I have stolen. His old leather Bally shoes are a favourite.
Anything eaten on the beach in Connemara after a days sailing.
Music you’re listening to at the moment?
Not a massive music fiend but do love everything from Janelle Monae to Kenny Rogers. However more often than not you will catch me listening to BBC Radio 4.
Last Book You Read?
Have been reading Together by Richard Sennett. He is a captivating heartfelt academic who brings wonderful insight into over arching social issues. This latest book is on the art of working together, collaboration, a trendy term that is so very important to the creative industries.
Photographs by Ailbhe O’Donnell