Meet the maker

In­side Joanne Condon’s colour­ful Kyle Lane paint­ing workspace

Mollie Makes - - CONTENTS - Words: LARA WAT­SON Pho­tographs: PEARL PHE­LAN

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

Hav­ing an in­spir­ing space to work in is an im­por­tant fac­tor for Joanne: “It ref lects my style and keeps me mo­ti­vated.”

01 Ever the in­no­va­tor, Joanne uses the top of a rub­ber to cre­ate a polka dot ef­fect. One of Joanne’s fur­ni­ture paint­ing work­shops in full swing – ev­ery­one’s em­brac­ing colour. “Every area of your workspace

should be a happy, fun space that you’re ex­cited to stay in for the day.” One pink dye job later, and a char­ity shop sheep­skin trans­forms a chair. “I get lost in paint­ing, time just flies and I’m all about the de­tails.” 02

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Paint­ing a f loor full of colour and pat­tern is a sure­fire way to “in­stantly el­e­vate your mood,” says Joanne. “I love see­ing peo­ple who come to my work­shops let go of their fear of colour and have some fun.” 02

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