Maddie Chambers is the designer, illustrator, photographer, visual merchandiser, marketing manager, cup-of-tea-maker and all round brilliant human behind sustainable product design brand Also The Bison. In this edition of Folks' Tales, we go behind the scenes to find out what life is like for Maddie, how she makes her ideas and her plans for the future. It's a real pleasure to work with Maddie as she is such an excellent illustrator, but at the same time juggles all of the different hats she has to wear, whilst keeping a positive attitude and great sense of humour at all times! We love her, so do our customers - read on to find out; What's the saga with Also The Bison...
Byland Abbey ghost stories: a guide to medieval ghosts (We have to admit this is the first image that came up when we Googled 'Medieval ghost stories')Could you start by giving us a quick biography of who you are and what you do?
I'm Maddie and I'm the artist, designer, accountant, tea-maker, order-packer and admin whizz behind Also the Bison. I have a weird background with an almost entirely useless degree in History (specialising in Medieval European religious beliefs, heresy and ghost stories) and a brief stint working in the Fashion industry (think Devil Wears Prada).
Work in progress illustrations of tamarins.
Tell us a little bit about your design and making process. We’d love to hear about how you formulate your ideas and bring them to reality.
I'm always concerned my process is rather boring. I tend to start by deciding on a taxonomic group I fancy painting, like fungi or butterflies, and then I look at as many of them as possible. For the fungi design I went on a walk round Runnymede, and for parrots I went to Birdworld, but a lot of my designs feature things I can't see so I'm mostly dependent on google (I've never seen a Fly Agaric mushroom in real life, every year I hope I will!). These days I come up with a colour palette before I start and I try to stick to that to keep me focussed. Then, I paint and paint until I can't stand to look at another creature! If I'm lucky I’ll have enough to create a design, though a lot of prints never leave the cutting room floor. I scan each illustration into my computer and collage them together. Sometimes I go back and paint a few more to balance the colour in the design. Most of my designs feature over a hundred creatures collaged together by the time I'm finished!
A very impressive mushroom photographed on one of Maddie's walks!
What inspired you to start your own business?
Honestly I fell into it. Right after the fashion industry had chewed me up and spat me out, I put my name down for an emerging talent program at a craft fair because it was being sponsored by Tatty Devine, and I've always been a fan, and I won a spot! I think this is part of what has made Also the Bison so eco-conscious; I worked for a company that was meant to be at the sustainable-end of fashion but having seen the ethical standards and wastage within the industry, Also the Bison was definitely a reaction to that. I can't say it's been a smooth ride from there but I'm so glad I've kept at it because I love what Also the Bison has become.
Maddie Chambers: being her own boss has upsides and downsides! Here is Maddie with a huge stack of orders... definitely an upside.
What is the best thing about your job? (And the worst?!)
Working for myself is both the best and the worst thing - my boss lets me have really long lunch breaks but keeps making me work weekends? Outrageous. I'd try negotiating but in my experience when you start talking to yourself people do tend to think you've gone mad.
Maddie's favourite product that is stocked at Heavy Gretel - our very popular Fungi Tray!
What is your favourite piece that is stocked at Heavy Gretel?
The Fungi Print Trays! They have such autumnal energy, I swear they make coffee taste better.
Aside from making incredible illustrations and products, what else do you like to get up to?
I am a classic nerd, you'll normally find me reading or playing video games or working my way through the Star Wars cartoons!
Maddie is a new fan of Italian glam rockers & 2021 Eurovision winners, Måneskin. Oooh tight pants!
Well the good news is there are more fungi on the way! I can't tell you much more because I haven't finished the design yet haha. Also the Bison has grown so much in the last few months, I'm excited to see where it takes me next year.
We're big music nerds - what music can’t you get enough of at the moment?
I am well known for having questionable taste in music though (I get a lot of side eye for my favourite band being Bastille, in my defence they've been my favourite band from when I saw them perform in a tiny tent by Loch Ness with only about 20 other people). It's feeling very autumnal as I type this so it's been a lot of Hozier and Florence and the Machine, but Maneskin is my latest discovery.
Yes! We discovered them after the last Eurovision Song Contest! OK, what are your plans for the business – you’ve been so busy bringing out new designs recently! As you know I love your fungi designs in particular....
We love a mushroom... Finally: tell us a secret about your job that might surprise my readers!
I nearly failed GCSE Art, and I wasn't allowed to take A-level because my grades were so bad!
Maddie in her natural environment showing off her wares and not giving a second thought to that nearly failed art GSCE...
Well we loved hearing all about you, Maddie aka Also The Bison. Always a pleasure to hear from a creative person, and reassuring that despite some of the errr, setbacks you've had, you've built such an ethical and sustainable product design brand. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights with us. Keep on going, we can't wait to see what you produce next.
We have a whole collection of Also The Bison products right now, including those gorgeous trays! Head to Also The Bison to view the full range.
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