Get to Know... byMaraca

Get to Know... byMaraca

An interview with maker byMaraca as part of our 'Get to Know...' series.

 

Tell us a little about yourself and your business…

I'm Mareike, a thirty-something from Germany who came to the UK in 2016. I founded byMaraca in 2020 after discovering my love for silversmithing just before Covid hit. My business focuses on traditional silversmithing for not-so-traditional people, where every piece is handmade from the first snip of the pliers to the last finishing polish.


Where are you based?

After living in Bristol for 5 years, the north called me and I now live with my partner Will and my dog Crumpet on the beautiful Wirral.


Tell us a secret about you?

I'm a serious hobby-collector. I'll give everything a go, from crocheting to plumbing, from watercolours to gardening. I clearly struggle to stand still, so I always try new things!


How do you make your work?

For my jewellery, I use traditional silversmithing techniques such as soldering and saw-piercing, and I use tools as simple as a gnarly hammer and as complex as a kiln with its surprisingly long manual. I love adding new techniques to my repertoire, for example hinges or stone setting. I work mainly with brass because I prefer golden coloured jewellery myself, but also because I want to be able to offer affordable pieces. Brass is also a pretty sustainable material, as it gets recycled since that's cheaper than making new brass. When silver is used, for example for the earring posts or necklaces, that's always recycled 925 sterling silver.


Describe your studio…

My jewellery bench, packing station and office desk is in my spare room, and it's just as DIY as everything I touch! I made my bench and packing station out of reclaimed plywood and cut out the famous half circle that's used for saw-piercing. The cloth underneath catches the dust! I've definitely collected many tools over the years, but one of my favourites is still the hammer my dad gave me when I moved into my first flat and that's been a DIY staple since. Now it also makes beautiful jewellery!

Behind me is my kiln, and I feel very lucky to have just about enough space to have a sorting and packing area. Everything seems a very long way from my first set up, where my tools and materials lived in a box, my bench was my kitchen table and everything had to be packed away in time for dinner... Those days were tidier at least!


Tell us about your materials - where do you source them from and are they important to you?

My main material and tool suppliers are established UK companies, such as Cookson Gold and Kernowcraft. I can trust that when they say something is sourced responsibly, it is. Brass is a material that pretty much automatically gets recycled, because creating new brass is an expensive process. I also love an eBay haul for vintage pieces to melt!


Why is it important to you that your work is made as responsibly and sustainably as possible?

The last thing I want to do is add fuel to the fire that our planet is already on. That's a responsibility of everyone who puts more 'things' into the world I believe. I use minimal packaging and my jewellery is made to last! I would hate to think it ever ends up at a landfill, so I put extra care in what I make to avoid any such thing. Sustainability for the environment, but also for my business is so important. I make decisions thinking about the future as much as I can which so far means keeping everything in house and not outsourcing any of my making. I select materials carefully and choose UK suppliers where possible. And I make my items as affordable as I can as well while paying myself and my stockists enough.


How and why did you start your small business?

As so many makers, I fell a little bit into it, but it also felt like the culmination of so many things I'd done previously and it just made sense. I was on a 4 day working pattern in my day job anyway, so needed something to fill the time. I had a previous business selling pun-based prints so knew my way around markets and online shops such as Etsy. I used to be a wedding photographer, so cameras and photo editing software weren't new to me for product photography. And I had just discovered silversmithing after an evening course with Kim Thompson in Bristol that added the last puzzle piece. Making is great, but sharing it is even better, and knowing that people open a piece I made at Christmas, or treating themselves to one after getting that promotion they'd been working on, or gifting it to someone special which makes it carry meaning from that moment onwards is just so special! Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?  


Any fun facts about your business, or achievements you want to shout about?

I guess the name is a good one! My name isn't actually Maraca. It's Mareike! A Dutch name in German spelling, a nightmare for English-speakers it seems. I had a neighbour in my first house in Bristol, who was a wonderfully lovely 90-year-old lady. She asked me for my name but said she couldn't pronounce it. Weeks later, I saw her again over the garden fence, and she asked me again, exclaiming: 'oh! Maraca! I can say that!' in the thickest Bristolian accent you can imagine. It caught on as a nickname immediately and was the inspiration for my business name. Who would have thought it would go as far as even being on display in the Tate Liverpool?? In the shop, of course. A very proud moment for sure.


What do you love most about your small business and do you have a favourite piece of work?

I love that I can connect with people. I'm an introvert, so I don't mind spending a lot of time making and packing by myself, well, with  a good podcast of course. But I'm also a regular trader at markets, and seeing people pick up a piece and showing it to their friend saying how clever it is, how beautiful or how they know exactly the person this would be perfect for fills me with so much joy. I make for myself first and foremost, as I would never make anything I wouldn't wear myself, but secretly, I also make it for these moments.


What do you think are the benefits of people supporting independent business?

Well, I think if it's between helping someone buy their groceries, or helping someone buy their third yacht or literally a trip to the moon, I know what I'd rather do. We all try our best, we all want to make a difference for the better (or at least that's what I'd like to think), so this is an easy step to support your neighbour, your friends, your local community, where there are people who make a difference right in front of your eyes. And you can be part of it. How beautiful is that?


Tell us about your favourite purchase from a fellow maker. What is it and who made it?

My house is full to the brim with amazing handmade items from so many different people! I have a few very special mugs that I use daily, one of them my beloved Rebecca Edelmann Octopus mug. I also have a gallery wall full of beautiful original art and prints, and Amy from Black and Bone with her morbidly beautiful artwork is a firm favourite. She's featured I think 4 or 5 times on that wall!


What are your favourite things about PRIOR - both as a customer and a supplier?

I love the presentation, I love how the pieces and the makers behind them are given the space to shine, how important the handmade and high quality aspects are. When I go in as a customer, I feel the value of each and every item. As a supplier, I'm stupidly proud to see little old me in between those fantastic makers, a valid part of the line up.


Do you have a goal for where you’d love your business to be in the future?

I still have a 4-day day job in higher education but one day maybe, I'll dare go full time with the jewellery. I have so many dream stockists, I'd love to go more international...there are definitely big things to come, but currently I'm content where I am. I strongly try to live in the moment and not put too much pressure on myself that will ruin the joy I get out of making, and at the moment, I'm so proud of where byMaraca is. I trust that when the next step is supposed to happen, it will, and I'll greet it with open arms!

 

View byMaraca's handmade collection at Prior Shop here

 


(Interview date: 15th January 2024)
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