It is so very seldom that I walk into any sort of retail space and think to myself wow this is just so right. But I did when I went to see Makers & Brothers pop-up shop the weekend before last. Makers & Brothers is such a good name because it so perfectly describes the enterprise. Mark and Jonathan Legge are the brothers: the makers are a selection of craftspeople and designers whose products the brothers sell.
As I was driving to the shop I became like Alice curious and curiouser because all I knew about the shop was that it was in a ‘shed’ in the garden of a house in suburban Dublin. Once through the looking-glass, aka the gates of Fairholm, I discovered that the wonderland of a shed is a large, well-designed, high-ceilinged structure in the rather lovely grounds of a very beautiful old stone house which belongs to Jonathan and Mark’s parents.
Jonathan and Mark choose different career paths which happily have given them complimentary skill-sets. Jonathan has a design background (he worked as a designer in Ilse Crawford’s Studioilse after he completed his masters at the RCA): Mark has a marketing and business background.
Their website describes what Makers & Brothers do as ‘a curation of everyday design and craft’. They retail a number of pieces designed by friends who live in other countries but there is a bias towards Irish craft with about about sixty per cent of their stock coming from Irish makers.
The brothers tested the concept in 2009 when they briefly opened a pop-up shop on Dublin’s South William Street. The shop was a resounding sell out success. As it was not their intention to be tethered to a retail space they took time out to research e-commerce and properly launched Makers & Brothers eight months ago. The main selling vehicle is the beautifully designed (by Archive Design) website. They opened The Shed as a pop-up shop at weekends for the month of December in 2011, it was open when I visited and there are plans to open it again for a few days in October and at weekends this coming December.
They travelled to New York in May where they showcased Makers & Brothers as part of New York Design Week. One of the makers, James Carroll, travelled with them. James was beavering away at his craft in the courtyard in front of The Shed when I was there – that’s him in the top image. He was splitting wood into pieces to use as legs for the stools he makes using hand tools. He explained that he uses fresh wood as it is easier to work with than dried wood but that he dries the cut pieces in a domestic oven before final assembly.
Everything Makers & Brothers sell is well made and beautifully designed and as a bonus the prices are very accessible. I think anyone would find it difficult to visit the Makers & Brothers website or the pop-up shop and not want to buy something. I know I wanted to buy shedloads of stuff from The Shed!
Jonathan and Mark Legge have managed to meld the very best of our heritage craft traditions with a selection of beautifully designed pieces by some of their friends into a contemporary design-led business and in so doing have created employment and economic activity. I wish them every conceivable success.