Handmade from the heart
If you’re looking for run-of-the-mill gifts, then look away now. WAIT, don’t, you’ll want to see this (trust us!). British-based seller Maria Allen carefully handcrafts beautiful gifts and jewellery from reclaimed timber and sustainably sourced wood. Starting from humble beginnings in her parents’ house, Maria Allen now has a studio in Sussex and a team of five. Fusing the traditional and modern, Maria Allen has a range of handcrafted jewellery, cufflinks, gifts and homewares. We caught up with Maria to chat all things gifts and weddings.
HTF: How did Maria Allen come about?
Maria: I started making and selling cards when I was at school, which developed into handmade jewellery in my first year of university. It mainly stemmed from not being able to find jewellery that I really liked, so I taught myself to make it. Starting and growing the business was all done part-time in between studying, so I didn’t have a lot of spare time during those years! But I didn’t mind. I loved it and wanted to see how I could grow the business when I graduated and could run it full-time. It started in my parents’ house and then soon enough, it took up most of the rooms in their house, including the landing and loft! So we moved into a studio space and that’s when I started hiring staff. Since then, we’ve moved into a bigger studio again. There are now five of us working at the studio, which can increase to 10 during busy times, like Christmas.
HTF: Where do you find inspiration for new products?
Maria: A lot of my products are inspired by my love of typography, travel and nature. I love creating well-designed products that make great gifts, but are also practical and can be used or worn daily. Other products have been developed from something that I’ve wanted to own and then they’ve ended up being a success in our shop, too. We also listen to a lot to feedback from our customers and they have suggested quite a few products that have gone on to be our bestsellers!
HTF: A lot of your range is personalised… what’s your thinking behind this?
Maria: I think people really like being able to have their own messages, nicknames, special dates, words or initials on a piece of jewellery. The love letter range is one of my favourite designs. I have always loved the idea of personalised jewellery, but in particular the concept of a hidden message so only the person wearing it can see the personal message. I think it makes the piece that much more special. Love letters, airmail themes and miniature objects have also always been something that I love and so these designs bring all of those elements together.
HTF:What’s been your favourite piece of feedback so far?
Maria: We really love hearing stories and feedback from our customers. My favourites are the marriage proposals using our personalised love letter necklaces (we’ve had over 100 to date!)
HTF: How did the wedding range come about?
Maria: Sarah from our team got married in May and my wedding was in July. It was an amazing day! I had fun designing everything for the day, from our save the dates and invitations to our table plan, table name signs, guestbook, calligraphy place names, drinks tokens and the welcome sign we painted. Our married surname would be Fox, so I ordered personalised M&Ms with foxes on them and they were in mini glass jars as favours, with little wooden thank you tags on them. A lot of these ideas were then developed into products for our shop, which has been really exciting! Our most popular wedding products at the moment are our calligraphy place names, which are also great for parties.
HTF: What do you love the most about your work?
Maria: Designing and creating new products. Seeing something go from an idea in my head to a finished product that is available for people to buy is very exciting. I also love hearing the great stories from customers about our products.
Hardtofind is Australia’s leading online curated marketplace for gifts, fashion and homewares.