Chat with artist & creator Tiff Manuell

What was the first thing you designed? Would you wear it now?

I think I have been honestly making, designing and selling since I was about 14.  It would have been a necklace made out of tiny plastic toys that I wired together! I would love it now, this was all in the 80’s and everything is 80’s inspired now so I think I could get away with it.

If we are talking about Tiff products, the first thing I designed was a clutch and I still have my first clutch now.

How did your business start?

The Tiff range unfolded as a bit of a happy accident, I made a clutch for my girlfriend and a few extras. A gorgeous girl walked past my studio window and spotted them sitting on my desk, she popped her head in and asked if they were for sale… I sold one and then customers just started knocking on the door. It was all very organic.  Over time I started to distribute more time and love to the new Tiff business. It was a nice to be focusing on painting and making every day, that’s all I really was craving to just create freely and without any commercial limitations.

Where were you when you realised it was actually a business?

I guess in reality it only becomes a business when you know it is profitable and that you can produce effectively enough to sustain the demand and still love what you are doing. Well that is how it is for me anyway. I do remember the day when I realised that I could pretty much just paint all day for a living!  I very much focus on the joy of what I am doing, that the business reflects the balance I want in my life and the level of happiness my products bring to my customers.

How do you describe what you do?

I think I simply say I make unique women’s accessories from hand painted canvas, all one of a kind products. I then might go on to say that I also paint wall canvases and make limited edition clothing.

What’s your favourite part of running the show?

I love doing what I do every day but then being able to call it work… painting and designing. I also love chatting to customers, we have people pop in from everywhere, they love to see our studio practices and see where everything is made.

How has what you do changed over the years?

Our core product has not really changed at all, we have added in some new styles and I guess experimented with clothing which is my second love. The concept to keep the business small has also stayed the same. My focus was to stand by what I love about the business which is keeping it small, sustaining our quality and limiting our production despite the demand.

Describe your style?

Ekkkk! I think I am a bit experimental, generally colourful but not outrageous, I love fashion but not being fashion led, I love to mix and match and create my own style where possible. That is very hard……… I love street style… I love it when I feel like I have made a look my own. Does that make sense.

How many people do you work with?

Six at our studio and one or two ladies who work full time making.

What’s the least favourite part of your job?

I don’t like numbers, I pretty much avoid the finance – I leave that to the experts. Everything else I kind of love really.

Advice you’ve learnt that you’d give to you yourself five years ago?

Don’t ever be afraid to say no.

What does happiness look like to you?

I have now, happiness in my work, happiness within my family, home and financial stability which after many years running my own business is a relief. Happiness teeters on circumstances, some we can control others that we can’t. The important part is recognising and appreciating it when you have it. I remind myself how lucky I am almost every day! Is that too cheesy?

How many paint splattered shoes have been lost in the design of wallets?

Customers ask if I would sell my clogs and overalls! They are my standard workwear, and certainly my shoes blend in with the floor, and my overalls look like an abstract art piece.

If someone told your 20 year old self you’d be doing your job, what would you have said?

How fricken awesome!

Image credit: @rosinapossingham  rosinapossingham.com

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