Interview: Maria Nightingale

Maria runs a lovely project called Made By Maria alongside her nurse job. She creates unique designs such as bags, purses and plant pots. I was lucky enough to have an interview with Maria about her work.

Hello Maria! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?

Hi Rhiannon. It’s my pleasure! I am really good, thank you.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I am originally from Hertfordshire and I moved to Sheffield when I was 13. I love Sheffield and it’s community of makers. I think i’m a proper Northerner at heart.

I’m actually a nurse full-time, which I really love. Dave (my boyfriend) and I work on Made by Maria in our spare time and really enjoy developing it. He is behind the scenes working on the branding etc and I am the designer / sewer.

I adore your business. What made you decide to set up Made By Maria?

Thank you. I originally made little tote bags and gifts when I first started sewing. I found that I always made for other people and never for me but that was what I enjoyed most. I then started an Instagram account to share the things I make and people started to take an interest in what I was making which gave me the confidence to keep working at it and to try new things. It was only recently that I became serious about setting up my little side business, Made by Maria.

Why did you call your shop Made By Maria?

Dave came up with it. I wanted something personal but didn’t want my full name in it so we cleverly designed and incorporated the bird to subtly represent my surname, Nightingale. However, we emphasise the word ‘Made’, when Dave and I are discussing designs etc we always refer to it as Made.

How has your creative process changed since the start?

I tend to focus on one thing at a time. I try to explore the possibilities whilst maintaining my commitment to a simplicity of design and the use of high quality materials. It has taken years of exploration to realise that this is the kind of work that really fulfils my passion for sewing / making.

How did you manage to learn and hone your craft?

I am self-taught and everything I have learnt is through trial and error. I watch a lot of tutorials (on YouTube) and follow blog posts. They’re great for learning the basics. Once I felt comfortable with the basics, I started realising that I could pretty much make whatever bags and accessories that I wanted, all by myself. That was a liberating moment.

Have you always been into sewing?

I have always been quite artistic and creative but didn’t actually start sewing until I was 22. My Dad and step Mum bought me a sewing machine for my birthday and I have never looked back since.

If there were no resource restraints, what be your dream project?

To make a collection of travel bags with heavy waxed canvas. Partly because I can’t seem to find this kind of fabric in the UK. (If anyone knows where I can find some, please point me in the right direction)

I would also like a dressmaking mannequin in my size and an endless supply of linens from the fabric shop, Merchant and Mills, so I can learn to make my own clothes.

What tools or materials could you not live without?

I couldn’t live without my sewing machine, an inch-squared patchwork ruler and a pair of Fiskars scissors (I have tried many dressmaking scissors and Fiskars are just the best for me). I also love my fabric hole puncher and rivets for leather handles.

Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?

Instagram has been instrumental in the growth of Made by Maria. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from accounts I follow, I love the communities that are blossoming there and how accessible people are. It’s where I truly discovered my niche. Instagram is the perfect platform because it’s very visual. I really enjoy taking and editing photos of my products (almost as much as I enjoy making them). Dave is a photographer so he’s always pushing me to develop my photography skills and improve my aesthetic.

Who inspires your work?

Chapmanatsea made a huge impression on me when I was starting out, I love what she does. Nowadays I am really inspired by businesses like; redhousevt, uashmama, and thefuturekept. What they make and sell is the epitome of what I want to produce.

Do you have any favourite pieces of work that you adore at the moment from your shop?

I don’t have anything for sale at the moment but I have recently enjoyed making a batch of cloth pots for wholesale to a really lovely local florist, Moss and Clover, in Sheffield.

What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your Instagram page and your work?

We’re currently working on a website so that we can have our own platform to sell through. I want to focus and encourage sales from within the UK. We have been discussing Made’s future and have some great ideas in mind for a collection. But, i’d like to really hone my style and skills before we release anything major so you can expect to see the journey as we build up to that.

What’s your typical working day?

It’s so varied because of my nursing, I sew if and when I can. I wish I had more of a structure when it comes to a routine but I can’t afford that luxury at the moment.

What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business off the ground?

Finding the right balance. Sewing can sometimes consume me and I end up seeing my friends less or not at all and spend too much time indoors. I once put Made on hold for about a year and didn’t get the sewing machine out because I was struggling to fit it all in. At the end of last year I was hit by a wave of inspiration and just felt that I had to start sewing again. This year we have a better strategy and clearer goals to work towards. A clear plan is so important. Sticking with a solid plan is even more important. It’s so easy for your mind to wander and want to start something new.

What are your career plans with your online shop?

Dave is building the website for us and when the collection is ready we will launch it through Instagram as well as reach out to blogs and influencers to help spread the word. We are really looking forward to the challenge and seeing where it takes us.

What advice would you give to people looking to define their own style?

My advice would be to make sure that you enjoy what you’re making. It’s ok to take influence from the makers that you admire, as long as you learn from it, experiment with it and put your stamp on it.

Do you have any advice for anyone starting their own online shop?

Have faith and be confident. If you love your products, then other people will too.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to start sewing?

Yes, go for it. You never know where it will take you. Whether you are sewing something for your home, a gift for a loved one or a treat to yourself — It can be one of the most gratifying things you do.

What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?

To only create things that make you happy.

If you would like to follow this lovely lady, please take a look at her Instagram ‘allmadebymaria’. She is always posting wonderful designs and photography.