Meet the maker
Inside Joanne Condon’s colourful Kyle Lane painting workspace
When Joanne Condon decided to display her upcycled furniture in a window of her dad’s lawnmower shop in Clonmel, Ireland, eight years ago, she had no idea of the journey she was about to embark on. The pieces sold out and, by popular demand, former art teacher Joanne started running furniture painting workshops and opened her own shop. Very quickly she became the go-to authority for colourful, handmade interiors in Ireland, with a regular column in Confetti magazine and a CV full of TV appearances. Recognise her? It’s likely you’ve seen her give expert DIY advice on RTE one’s Today Show.
Joanne’s since crowd-funded and published her own craft book, Furniture Crush, and also launched online courses. Last year saw her win the Mollie Makes Handmade Award for Best Workshops and a brand new audience discovered her bright, smile-inducing creations and powerful message: “Let colour lift your room and your mood!” We spoke to Joanne about her business journey so far, and the ways she feeds her creativity to always keep things fresh and fun.
You originally have a fine art background – how did you get into furniture upcycling? I grew up in a very crafty, self-su cient family. My mum was always baking, always making. My dad was too – he put in the first kitchen at home. From a young age I was addicted to crafts and interiors. At secondary school, I used to try to get out of classes to spend all my time in the art room. I went to Crawford College of Art and Design and studied fine art but I was always popping in to see what they were doing in all the other departments. After teacher training, my partner and I started a massive project to build our own house.
I had all these visions of pink lockers and green dressers that didn’t exist. So I made them, and showed them to people. It snowballed really fast!
Did you have a business plan to start with? No, not at all. My dream was always to be an art teacher and I spent four years doing that. Then I just wanted to get out. There was far too much paperwork. Despite everyone advising otherwise, I started my furniture business. I was 27 at the time, and thought: I can always just give it a go and see. If it doesn’t work out I have plenty of time to do something else. It was the height of the recession, but then, upcycling is quite recession-friendly. I had no fear. I just opened and took it month by month.
Has your style evolved with your business? Definitely! When I started I was into very muted tones – a very pale duck egg blue, soft green, cream. They were on trend at the time. I’ve branched out with bolder colour as I’ve gotten more confident. My style is always evolving because I appreciate and am influenced by good design whether it’s to my taste or not. I love to take elements from here and there and twist it to make it my own.
What do you love most about what you do? Oh, so many things. No two days the same and the possibilities are wide open. I love that it’s so varied. When I put my book together, I did the photography, layout and illustration myself. I often find that: if I’m mocking something up for someone else, I may as well just do it myself! In college they always wanted me to focus on one thing and I couldn’t. I’m interested in everything.
So how do you manage your time day to day? I’m at a stage now where opportunities come along and I just can’t do them all even though I want to – it’s a big problem for me! But for the last three years, I’ve just focussed on the things that I really love. I closed my shop to concentrate on workshops. In terms of burn-out, I know myself well enough
to realise when I just need a break rather than to stop doing something altogether. You need a break from everything once in a while, even painting! I move on to something else for a bit, go on a walk or read a book.
“A big part of my workshops is teaching people to have a bit more fun with colour.”
How would you describe your brand aesthetic in three words? It has to be colourful, happy and fun! Creating absolutely has to be fun.
And what is it you love so much about colour? It’s ability to change your mood. I painted all the doors yellow in my hallway for instance, just because it looked sad. A big part of my workshops is teaching people to have a bit more fun with colour. People are often afraid to paint furniture in anything other than
cream or grey, so I encourage people to paint in their favourite colours instead.
How do you want your workshops to make people feel? Inspired! I’m always focused on technique at the beginning. Then we get into the fun part: colour and pattern. People’s faces just light up. I love seeing how everyone is interested in what everyone else is doing. And I love the messages afterwards – people tell me they’ve been inspired to repaint their kitchens! Everyone seems to take so much from it and go o! on their own tangents.
“If your work room reflects what you want to be, it makes your work so much better.”
Tell us about your creative space.
We built an art studio onto the side of the house, a nice big, light room. I have another room upstairs that’s just for painting as it gets so messy. This year I redecorated the rooms – I read The Empowered Entrepreneur by Elizabeth Cairns and she recommends that your space should always reflect what you love. I never used to do anything with my painting room – my thought was: “What’s the point? It’s going to be messy anyway.” But I took her advice and painted the floor in all my favourite colours, then I did the same in my studio o"ce. I really love spending time there now. If your work room reflects what you want to be, it makes your work so much better. What motivates you? Other artists. Seeing anyone doing something di!erent. It’s fascinating looking at businesses in other sectors who try something else, yet still remain consistent. I really admire that, having such an eclectic approach to things myself. I also love having creative rituals. I started lighting a candle whenever I went to work. I make lists, and clear my desk. I like to work late so I do my organising first thing and work until it’s time for bed! Sometimes things go wrong. Say something happens that throws you o! at 11am – I just go and shower and pretend it’s a brand new day!
What advice would you give your younger self? Don’t listen to anyone else – go with your gut! When you don’t listen to yourself, you stall your progress. You stop to analyse and that loses you time. You’re always going to come back to your gut anyway, so just go with it!
Visit www.kylelane.ie for info on Joanne’s workshops, and see what she’s been painting lately on Insta @joannecondon