We first discovered Maze & Vale on Facebook. We were instantly drawn to the organic, pared-down graphics, the creamy white fabrics used, and the beautiful contrasting colours of the printed inks. Later, I was lucky enough to take part in one of Leslie Keating’s workshops at Maze & Vale HQ in West Footscray. It was such a lovely, grounding experience, sitting in the studio, working on prints, drinking tea and soaking in the industrious calm. Leslie has a fine-tuned understanding of colour (all her colours are hand-mixed by her). This attention to detail means that she has quickly built a following for her fabrics, which are instantly recognisable as her work. She is also committed to sustainability, and everything in her studio is re-used; even her drop cloths are re-purposed as one-off artworks and cute pot covers.
Leslie has a very active social media following. Her paintings, which she posts each day as part of her ‘100 days of painting challenge’ frequently sell out within minutes of being posted. Part of the success of her social media marketing is that it doesn’t feel like marketing. In her posts, her voice is ever present, revealing her process, her thinking and her passion for her craft.
Tell us about your business.
I design and screen print by hand sustainable textiles for quilting, apparel and homewares. Designs are originally created as sketches or hand-carved block prints, and become screen prints that I pull by hand in my small West Footscray studio. All colours are custom-mixed by my own hands using environmentally friendly, water-based textile inks and are printed on natural, sustainable fibres of hemp, organic cotton and linen. All designs, base cloths and ink colours are produced in small runs and are not guaranteed to be printed again.
What inspired you to start your business?
I was creating a lot of custom quilts for clients (and loving it), but wanted more control over the colours and designs in the fabric I was using. I was inspired by Ink & Spindle to start screen printing my own textiles and once I did, I didn’t want to stop. I decided to sell my fabrics to fund my hobby and as a way to earn a bit of money while indulging my creativity – something that was very necessary with two small daughters.
What are you most proud of?
I’m really proud of the way my business has grown, despite not having much time to devote to social media and PR. And I’m a bit proud that I still handle everything myself, although some days I wish I didn’t have to!
What has been the most challenging aspect of running your business?
Definitely balancing ever-increasing work demands with caring for my children. I try to make sure that I’m available to them as much as possible, which means working when they are at school and kinder, and/or in the evenings when they are in bed. It’s a constant juggle to get everything done.
What advice do you have for other mums running a business?
I don’t think there is any one piece of advice that works for all mums running a business. We’re all just trying to do the best that we can, for ourselves and our families. I guess I would say, don’t beat yourself up about what you may not be accomplishing (there is always something); try to celebrate what you are achieving.
Finding Maze and Vale:
1B Ormond Road,
West Footscray, Vic 3012
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