Meet Mel, the face behind GatherKids

4th Apr 2014

melissa webster founder of gather kids pictured out side her newcastle studio with belinda sinclair

picture by: simone de peak for the newcastle herald

Incy chatted with our friend Mel from GatherKids about starting her business and where she takes her design inspiration from.

1. How did you come up with the name GatherKids?

Originally I had no intention of ‘Gather’ as part of the name. Whilst I was pulling the collection together I had ‘Willis’ in the name – a nickname from my husband since we were 15 – it seemed nice to incorporate because it had meaning to me. But just as we were about to launch the label, we found out we were pregnant with our third baby.

It had me thinking about the basics again and so I simplified how we had come to this point; about to launch a brand and a new baby all at once! I realized the scribbles and sketches I had accumulated were gathered over the last few years of interior projects. There were loads of cultural influences that had been collected, and the process of sourcing my individual artists and manufacturers had been quite global too. It came down to a gathering of other families from all over the place who where coming together in this collection. And then of course, our family and friends were gathering around Trent and I to bring home another little person to the family. It just seemed a simple way to explain my messy mind.

2. How has the transition from interior designer to manufacturer/retailer been?

I’d love to say easy, but in truth its been a heck of learning curve. I have probably been at an advantage to some degree, having worked in retail in some capacity since school I knew this side of business quite well. I was also very much involved in sourcing product at the wholesale level so I knew the type of questions my stockists would ask me having been in their shoes. Beyond that, projects often call for customized product so sourcing manufacturers and dealing with the detail of production I was already familiar with. But, and there’s always a but, I had never had to deal with foreign suppliers and their expectations, so my easy going ‘it will all work out’ attitude had to be adjusted. Enter Trent and his contractual knowledge. and I had to go back to my textile knowledge and relearn stitch types, printing techniques etc. Our first production run here in Australia had issues with the knitted fabric. We didn’t find out until we had the first lot of patterns cut and the fold sat offset to the pattern. That meant hundreds of metres of hand printed fabric we couldn’t use because it wasn’t perfect. There's been a few hurdles like that, but that’s no different to overseeing interior installations, there’s always something you just have to go with. That fabric couldn’t be salvage to sell, so we made them into blankets to donate to the children’s hospital. Nobody minds if they are perfectly good but the pattern doesn’t align precisely.

3. What’s your favourite childhood memory?

I had fun trying to think of just one really cool thing! Mum and Dad were quite young when they had me, so we were always on an adventure camping, or caving, or abseiling; I literally learnt to walk on the beach. One year I remember Dad telling me I wasn’t to go into the garage for whatever reason, but I couldn’t find him one afternoon and lifted the roller door to see if he was in there. There stood this huge, double storey dolls house big enough to sleep in, all painted up in white with pink roof trims and a love heart cut out window. I closed that door so quietly and waited patiently until christmas morning to give my best surprise face ever! It was awesome. My best friend took the bottom floor and I took the top floor until we grew out of squeezing into it. Now that I think of it, I spent the next few years rearranging Barbies furniture which could explain my path!

4. Where do you take your inspiration from?

I have some favourite resources for architectural and interiors works, like habitus, indesign, belle, DesignHunter.net, and I really like est magazine at the moment. But for textiles I keep looking to cultural resources. I have always loved Mayan textiles, I love parisian architecture, Moroccan engravings.

But these are all really detailed and beautiful on their own, so I have this thing about pulling everything back to its basic beauty. Really simple colour combinations, very neutral so we can just layer it up and add a bang of colour and away we go. I’m also a bit of a hippy at heart, so I naturally gravitate to raw materials and textures for inspiration, anything tactile.

5. Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

The studio team will be bustling along without me directly, GatherKids will have moved international, the home label in hot pursuit, and Trent and I will split our time between here and Europe. The kids will probably home school a term or two here and there, because they’ll be enjoying travelling with us. andI I foresee lots of wine whilst we get there.

GatherKids showroom is located at 1/113 King Street, Newcastle NSW 2300 (by appointment)

visit their online store: www.gatherkids.com.au

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