Tiff Manuell is an artist and designer whose range of colourful accessories is stocked in London’s Tate Modern as well as internationally. Tiff’s handcrafted pieces of wearable art are designed to bring colour and happiness to your life. Her bright and fresh art is hand painted onto canvas, then translated into high quality accessories – hand made clutches, handbags, totes and jewellery - all in limited numbers. Her team in Adelaide, South Australia works intuitively, often without any plans other than to go where their instincts take them. This allows them to keep designs fresh and ever evolving.
5 MINUTES WITH TIFF MANUELL
Mum to… Macy (15) and Indigo (18). Country of origin… Australia. Currently living… Adelaide. Dreaming of… painting or being on a beach in Byron Bay. Guilty pleasure… having my own space. For me pure alone time is such an indulgence that when I do take it I can feel a bit guilty. Friends would describe me as… creative, genuine and happy. Finding inspiration in… currently it’s 80s poster art. Fate or hard work… hard work.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
I’m a night owl. I’m at my most creative between 11pm-2am because everyone’s in bed and I enjoy the quiet.
Is it chaos in your house in the morning or smooth sailing?
My girls are older now and so more self-sufficient but I certainly remember the chaos of the early days - I would put soft music on in the house, turn it up loud and use that to bring the energy down.
What’s the one plate you drop when juggling the infamous work/life balance?
I’m not a planner, I don’t run a diary, never look ahead and keep everything in my head. I think it’s because I grew up in Alice Springs and so there wasn’t much going on! This can catch me out though and when I get busy I become forgetful.
What would be your favourite inspirational quote?
When was your creative awakening?
I was 26, working in the fashion industry and finding it uninspiring and uncreative. I was sitting waiting to go in for a job interview and I suddenly thought ‘what am I doing?’ I walked out and began to plan what would turn into my first business - Happy House. My second creative awakening came when I said to my husband, Dave, that I was feeling stuck in a creative rut and he suggested taking two days off a week to just create. I started painting and sewing and made a bag for a friend. There were no plans to start another business but one day a couple of these bags were sitting on the windowsill in my studio and a girl walked past and asked to buy one. The Tiff Manuell range started from that point.
The Tiff Manuell range has grown organically, and quickly. What do you think it is that people connect with?
I think it’s simply colour. It’s the colour that’s the magic and the product is simply a functional way of injecting colour into people’s lives.
Your range of accessories was picked up by the Tate gallery in London, how did that feel and how did it happen?
Oh, it’s been the pinnacle of my career. It was the last working day before Christmas in 2015 and we got an email, out of the blue, asking if they could stock us. I didn’t believe it at first and thought Dave was pulling my leg but it turned out that a buyer had bought one of my bags in a tiny shop in London and loved it. We’re now stocked in three Tate stores and, most excitingly, have been asked to design a unique range to be sold in the stores when the gallery holds a Picasso exhibition in 2018.
What obstacles have you had to overcome over the years to get to where you are now?
Happy House growing too big, too fast. It was all self-funded and I was so passionate in my early 30s that we invested everything in that business. When I reflect back on the whole experience, we were under great pressure and decided to downsize the business to a home office environment to help us get back on our feet. I am so proud that Dave and I came together and, eventually, got ourselves out of the hole. I’m lucky that throughout it all my creativity was left in tact, and I went on to start the Tiff Manuell range.
Who’s got your back when it comes to your business?
Dave. As well as being my husband he's my business partner and is responsible for turning my creativity into an effective business.
What do you do in your downtime?
I love to head out into the garden and get stuck in. Hanging out with my daughters is also wonderful and I keep my weekends as a time when I am 100% present with my friends and family. No work.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I would still like to be doing what I’m doing now and being stocked in another couple of exciting spaces – Paris and New York galleries would be nice. I’d also love to be painting more and travelling with Dave for pleasure rather than business.
How has motherhood changed the way you work?
It made me realise the importance of my time at home, as when I started out I lost the difference between work and home. I also think it taught me to listen to my instinct beacause in business everyone has an opinion, but it’s important to listen to your gut.
How do you remain so creative and productive while balancing motherhood?
I think it’s because I feel well balanced. I find that I get creative energy from being at home with my family but I also get it at work, I’m lucky that painting is my downtime and can be my daily dose of therapy.
What’s your favourite thing to do as a family?
Have dinner together every night. We have a no phones at the table policy and we sit and chat, it’s an amazing feeling to look at your kids and realise that they have grown into incredible adults. It’s the highlight of our day.
How would you describe your family? What makes you most proud of your tribe?
I love that we are all individually strong and unique. I’ve instilled into the girls the importance of not following the crowd and to be proud of their uniqueness, and I’m proud of them for doing that. I would describe us as being an inspiring, happy and balanced family.
You’re known for your bold shapes and colours, how does this love of the bold and the beautiful influence your personal style?
Some days it does and I feel experimental but other days I just want to wear black. I think this is because I get dressed depending on how I feel when I wake up.
How is your style reflected in your home?
It’s not crazily colourful but we live in a modernist home, which is very spacious and open plan, so I have pops of colour and textures scattered all the way through the house.
How will you spend Mother’s Day?
Dave really spoils me on Mother’s Day. I’m sure to get brekkie in bed, a lovely gift and a home cooked lunch. It’s going to be a beautiful day with the family.
MY PALAS COLLECTION
You have created a beautiful piece of Palas jewellery to give to your Mum this Mother’s Day. Can you share the story behind the charms you have chosen?
I selected a beautiful brass bangle and added charms that really mean something to me about my mum. They kind of sing in a special way.
Open Heart Charm – we have always both loved the simplicity of the heart icon. It has been a connection for us both for ever both in art and in cards to each other.
Moroccan Square Charm – Mum and I have always been visual people. She has influenced my eye for detail and appreciation of the decorative arts. This charm is symbolic of our mutual love of culture and ornate art.
Buddha Charm – my mum adores the symbol of the Buddha and Buddhist ways. I gave her a beautiful small pink Buddha carving many years ago and it sits on her dressing table and she always tells me how special it is to her.
Strong, Beautiful and Brave Charm – my mum has lived through some huge personal events in her life that I'm sure most would struggle to endure. She rises each time, stoic and strong, and everyone would describe her as beautiful. Soft and fragile but so strong at heart.
Feather Charm – to symbolise her love of nature and how much energy, strength and peace her garden gives her. Her passion for gardening has been so inspiring and she has created something beautiful out of nothing.
'K' Petite Initial Charm – her initial and the actual sound of her name.
Love You Mum Charm – says it all really and is a sweet reminder for her every day.
ONE LAST THING...
Who would you be charmed to meet, and why?
Picasso. When I was 22 I spent time in Barcelona and I would spend hours in the Picasso museum. He was so passionate and innovative and a fast worker, which is also how I like to work.