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How Mary Maker created a crafting movement

Former high school teacher Brydie Stewart has become a global crafting phenomenon through her Kiama-based business Mary Maker, with her beautiful yarns inspiring a new generation of knotters, knitters and weavers. She shares how Australia Post has helped her grow her community with confidence.

Key points

  • COVID-19 restrictions have led to increased demand for crafting at home.
  • Online videos and tutorials help customers stay engaged.
  • Reliable delivery is one of the most important elements of Mary Maker’s success.

When Brydie Stewart decided to step back from her visual arts teaching career and spend time creating her own fibre art, she had no idea she’d inspire a growing community of crafters. Based on the NSW South Coast, Brydie’s business Mary Maker Studio provides stunning raw materials for makers around the world.

Mary Maker Studio is known globally for its Luxe Fibre yarn, as well as recycled silk and merino yarns. But when Brydie started creating her own wall hangings five years ago, all she had to work with was what she describes as “nautical ropes and mop heads” in a limited colour palette.

“There was such a gap in the market for premium product. It simply didn’t exist,” Brydie says. “So I created a range of fibre with manufacturers and now get it all dyed in my own dye house. This allows me to create beautiful shades you just won’t find anywhere else, colours that let your personality come through.”

Initially the yarns were mainly for her own artwork, and for the people doing her workshops. At the time, Brydie’s own artworks were selling out online “in seconds” to a worldwide market, as a global maker movement took hold and eCommerce platforms like Etsy made it easy to reach a broader audience.

Mary Maker Studio steadily grew a community of weavers, knitters and macrame mavens. But things really took off when COVID-19 triggered a surge in the number of people crafting at home.

The rise of stay-at-home crafting

Despite the uncertainty triggered by a global pandemic, Brydie has seen one silver lining in the way it paused the busyness of life.

“I think COVID gave people space to do something for themselves,” she says. “People have come to me saying, ‘I did macramé or weaving 20 years ago, and I’m picking it back up now I have time’. It’s been really beautiful to watch the community grow.”

In the process, many of her customers have realised the hands-on nature and rhythm of crafting can be quite meditative and calming.
There is evidence that knitting, crochet and sewing can help people feel less anxious during a crisis.

Mary Maker Studio usually received a 40-foot container of yarns every three months. In the first 12 days of COVID-19 restrictions in March, her stock sold out.

Although she temporarily closed her physical workshops during the crisis, Brydie has reached a wider community through her online patterns and videos. “I’d say we’ve seen a five or six-fold increase in pattern downloads,” she says.

She draws on 14 years of art teaching experience to help people develop skills and confidence. “I do a lot of YouTube videos or Instagram videos showing people techniques, and it helps them realise they can do it themselves.”

And unlike some other crafting creatives, Brydie allows her community to sell the works they create through her patterns.

“Some people might say ‘well this is my IP, you can’t sell it’. But that goes against my beliefs as a teacher. I know my community, and I’ll openly promote their work and link to their Etsy store on my page. I love seeing my customers succeed,” she says.

Dedicated delivery support

Supply chain complications were a less-welcome impact of COVID-19. “I deal with a lot of manufacturers in Europe, and getting stock has been stressful. But people have been very understanding, and I’ve been able to use this time to develop new products,” she says.

After seeing a growing interest in more conscious yarn choices, Brydie’s first container of fully-recycled luxe cotton is about to arrive.

She says there is no doubt in her mind Australia Post has allowed her “to grow with confidence, with daily or twice-daily pick-ups.” In the past, she had been let down by other carriers who may have underestimated the number of parcels her regional business was ready to deliver.

“There is just no comparison in terms of reliability and service – I’m in touch with my Australia Post account manager all the time and the support has been incredible,” she says.

Brydie believes delivery is an integral part of her business. “I can do all the social media and marketing, I can have the best products, but if I can’t deliver them to people I don’t have a business.”

She has recently invested in a new 250sqm warehouse and has a small team of packers working extra hours to meet growing demand. “We’ve been able to double the number of orders we can despatch in a day after syncing our system with eParcel. Automating it all has been incredible.”

But for Brydie, growth is not about the revenue. “My focus is on building a community, building their skills and confidence and success. I’m so happy when I see someone selling their own artwork using my patterns and yarns. Because I know what that feels like, I’ve been that person.”

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