Eloquent words spoken by Maaike Pullar’s dad, architect, furniture designer and sculptor Rob Pullar, as she thinking about going into business for herself. I know all to well the power words can instill, especially when you find yourself at a crossroad like I did. Maaike now pursues her craft of bespoke upholstery and furniture restoration her own unique way ... and she dances everyday!
With an obvious shared passion for fabrics, Maaike & I met (rather aptly) at Makerspace & Co in Sydney’s Marrickville where hands on making and the nurturing of makers takes place. Some months later we finally caught up for a "makerly" chat over coffee. In that time Maaike had moved in to her new studio and shop in Croydon where she also conducts regular workshops. I was delighted to find it‘s also a gallery space for the ceramics, Shibori textiles & paintings of her talented mum Aleida Pullar.
Maaike’s perspective on the sharing of ideas & working with clients & other creatives indicates a self-confidence and warmth of character that is compelling and so inspiring. I suspect you’ll find her interview an absolute delight to read …
1. What gets you up in the morning?
Ideally, exciting projects that challenge me to push some boundaries and techniques to achieve the perfect piece for a client. Literally, the need to get to Bunnings or the timber yard before I open the showroom at 9am
2. How did you come to resurrecting furniture & upholstery?
Making things is definitely in my blood! I come from a very hands on family, at one point we had 6 design businesses registered in our little family of 5. Growing up the 3 of us kids had free range in mum’s studio (ceramics, painting and printing) and dad’s timber workshop, but I really gravitated towards fabric. Mum taught me to sew when I was about 7, and I made my first sofa with Dad when I was 17.
I completed a bachelor degree in interior design at UTS. The course at the time was largely about the concept and the communication of spatial ideas, which was fantastic, but there was no opportunity to flex my making muscles. Making had been such a huge part of my design process until that point, often the only way to know what the solution looked like was to make it, then detail what I had made. I started taking out my creative frustration on the household furniture, making the chair dreams I could never afford on my student income!
3. What is it about what you do that you love so much?
I adore the transformation. I love taking something unsatisfactory and making it better than we’d dreamed. Sometimes that’s as simple as changing the fabric to something unique, but more and more it’s about sculpting wild textures in lush cushioned upholstery, creating offbeat and joyful forms which make people smile.
The upholstery process is inherently satisfying too. The stretching, stapling and massaging of stuffing has a meditative quality to it some days.
4. What inspires your aesthetic & why?
Sometimes I think I see with my hands! My aesthetic is very tactile. Key to every design is the combination of fabric textures as well as colours, and then the depth of the upholstery texture we apply it to. I think Furniture, particularly seating, is so very personal, I’m inspired by clients and their stories or by the chair frame itself and the story I think it’s asking for. I think we should choose our objects carefully. We should invest in them and they should reflect our own ideas and values, and I think we should be brave enough to choose things that make us happy, rather than things that will give the right look for the neighbours.
5. What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever had to do?
I think there are a lot of points in the life of a creative freelancer that you can point to from the outside and say ‘that’s brave’ or ‘that must have been scary’, but to me, bravery implies you made a choice. 6 years ago I said out loud “I want to make chairs for a living” and once you’ve put that on the universal record, the music is playing and you have to dance. One foot in front of the other.
Perhaps the bravery is in choosing to take holidays, and daring to believe that your business can either handle the break or tick along without you! Right now I’m only brave enough to take 2 weeks a year!
6. What’s your dream project?
I’ve been dreaming of what I will do with my 4 seat baroque style sofa, ‘Maria’. It’s a project that’s been marinating for years now. The baroque style was so dramatic and over the top with embellishment, I’m looking forward to tackling that drama and enthusiasm with a contemporary approach.
On one hand it’s frustrating that it’s a project that’s been on the back burner for so long, but on the other hand, I can look through 2 or 3 years of sketch designs for her, and see how they’ve developed alongside my design approach as I refine my ideas and interests, which is cool.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is my dream for that sofa to be a toasty rich golden concoction of caramel velvet and leather. I think committing to a ‘yellow’ sofa could be considered brave by too many people!
7. What are you reading / listening to right now?
I just finished reading ‘Rosetta’ which is Australian historical fiction based on the true story of a woman who left her husband and young daughter to run away with a magician and court the high society of Europe. It was wild and enchanting and unbelievable and sad, written by her great grand daughter in an attempt to understand the woman who abandoned her daughter and never met her grand & great grand daughters
I love podcasts in the studio, usually talkies (Richard Fidler, 99% Invisible), but one in particular, ‘The Miller Tells Her Tale’ is almost pure music. It’s produced by a Welsh girl obsessed with Americana/alt country, and it’s just her play list on various themes. It’s a great way to discover new artists in the genre. I think Americana is a great pace to set your life to. Much its very melodic, slower and lyrically insightful.
8. Who should I interview next? Why?
Jordan Clarke from The Art of Jordan. I’ve never met Jordan and I’m yet to own a piece of her art, but she was the first artist I discovered working in embroidery in a new, contemporary way. I know it’s becoming ‘a thing’, and I’m sure there’s a DIY Frankie tutorial on how to embroider a trendy/ironic piece of text for your wall now, but Jordan’s embroidery is so much deeper than that. It’s very illustrative. The pieces I fell in love with begin with a digital print and then layer embroidery into that printed cloth. The result is a 3d explosion of sensation and story. You can feel the thought and the experience and the feeling that she must have felt when she laid in those stitches.
Her art is colour, assemblage and texture, which are all languages I have a visceral response to. Also, I wish this was mine!
A huge thank you to Maaike for her generosity with her time in doing this interview. You can contact Maaike through her website & find out more about her workshops at maaike.com.au
All photos by Nicole Pullar courtesey of Maaike Pullar (except *)