For this month’s interview series, we spoke to Maggie Calmels, who is the founder and creative director of Blackbird London. Blackbird London is a family run business specialising in handcrafted metal furniture and lighting. Everything is designed and made locally at the workshop in Vauxhall and displayed at their boutique showroom in Battersea. Blackbird London also offer the ability to customise pieces by size, finish and texture allowing customers to create something truly unique for their home.
Here is what Maggie had to say:
How has Blackbird London evolved over the years?
Well, Blackbird London used to design, make and sell custom-made jewellery but last year we decided to diversify. We changed the name of the jewellery business to Blackbird Jewellery which we now sell online (www.blackbird-jewellery.com) and at our showroom, and launched our bespoke furniture business.
Blackbird London re-opened last September showcasing our bespoke metal furniture – all of which is designed and handcrafted by our skilled artisans at our workshop near Vauxhall. My partner, Louis, is a third-generation blacksmith and has been supplying bespoke pieces of furniture to the interiors trade for many years, so he was well prepared to design our own range of metal furniture.
How popular is bespoke furniture currently?
Bespoke furniture has always been popular – many homeowners have grown tired of the ‘on size fits all’ approach and want a piece of furniture that is unique which will fit in with their style and space. Our range includes tables, mirrors, lighting and accessories – all of which can be customised by size, finish and texture to create something special and truly bespoke.
What do you most love about your job?
I have been very fortunate to have had a well-established career in journalism, publishing and licensing spanning more than 25 years, but I recently decided to focus and drive all my energies into my own projects.
The thing I most love about my job is the creativity and variety – no two days are ever the same. It’s really exciting developing new products and bringing them to fruition; watching them evolve from the initial brainstorm, handcrafting and finishing them through to our customers reaction when they see them. I also love working with my partner Louis, it’s great fun sharing projects together.
How do you find balance between your work and home life?
I am big believer of having a healthy work/life balance – it’s really important to be able to recharge the batteries when not at work, so we often head down to our second home at Fairlight on the south coast. It really allows me to unwind, relax and take stock – all while taking in the country air!
What inspired you to start your own business?
I was inspired by two amazing women to set up Blackbird London – one is Anouska Hempel, one of the world’s most celebrated designers who creates stunning and stylish interiors. The other is Annoushka Ducas MBE who founded Links of London and now creates the most exquisite jewellery.
What is the most challenging bit about running your own business?
One of the biggest challenges I have encountered when running my business is finding time to do everything – especially the admin (my pet hate!), but, with organisation and prioritising, I am winning the battle!
What is it like to be a woman entrepreneur today?
There are still barriers and the male-dominated business world still exists, however, more and more female entrepreneurs are emerging and creating fantastic businesses up and down the country and around the world.
You live in Clapham/Battersea and have a showroom in Clapham/Battersea – what attracts you to the area?
I have always loved the area of Battersea and Clapham – it’s almost like none other in London as it has such a community feel to it, while covering quite an expansive area. It has some fantastic bars, eateries and independent boutiques – all of which have got better over the years. I also love that we are sandwiched between two commons and Battersea Park, the greenery makes such a difference!
What are your favourite haunts in the neighbourhood?
There are so many! Food wise, without doubt it has to be Trinity Upstairs, the food is delicious (I would eat there every night if I could!)
If you had to give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?
Be true to yourself, trust your instinct and enjoy the ride. Mistakes will be made along the way but learn from them, dare to be different and be the best you can every day!
For more information, visit www.blackbird-london.com or visit their showroom at 2 Ashness Road, Battersea, SW11 6RY.