I’d like to (virtually) introduce you to Christine & Ewen Maxwell – the faces behind local South Australian business BeSpoke2. Based in the Adelaide Hills, the duo have created a business that offers the perfect present for anyone who deserves a bit of (a lot of!) TLC.
When I first met Christine at the March Gathered SA Markets, I was quickly entranced by her embossing skills that my friend and I witnessed – she seemed to be a craft queen, who was able to transform journals, prints, and even clocks (!!) into something that would be one-of-a-kind, special, and truly unique. I was fortunate enough to be gifted a personalized bottle with my name on it and every time I take it to my work or to a social setting, it has always caught everyone’s attention for how simplistically beautiful the gift is!
In anticipation of their appearance at the upcoming Gathered SA market on July 13 + 14 at the Queens Theatre, I was fortunate enough to conduct an interview with Christine to learn a bit more about their business – have a read of our exchange below:
Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourselves, Christine & Ewen?
Christine: Can I say that we are a husband and wife duo who love to give, laugh and talk? 🙂 And I can’t forget our two boys, who are full of charisma and can’t seem to sit still! If you’re a mother with boys, then you may appreciate where I am coming from. I am the creator, driver, and designer behind Bespoke2, with Ewen as my business development support partner. I love to design, empower, and give gifts that have inspirational messages and scriptures with meaning – something that is cool enough to give to your bestie, your friends and family, or even treat yourself! Ewen and I have had our fair share of trails and tribulations in life from major physical, health and financial issues. There were many stormy and relentless years, yet, we have discovered that our strength is only through our faith, spirit, and passion to remain positive and show the goodness of God in our lives. We are lovers of truth and empowering others – and Bespoke2 is a token of connecting with many to celebrate or comfort and get creative in their story of life . I will admit – Bespoke2 is also my release to hang out alone in my studio, turn the music on loud, with the backdrop of the sublimely beautiful Adelaide Hills, to think, experiment and create.
Tema: How long have you been running BESPOKE2 for? How have you found the journey of your business so far?
Christine: It’s been a side hustle since late August 2014. With the backbone of my design degree, I have always created products and crafted gifts. I was involved in the Sunset Markets from the church that I attended in 2014 and thought it was a good opportunity to create inspirational gifts and prints that I would love. I received lots of positive and encouraging feedback and sales from that stall, so it sparked a few ideas. As a Brand Coach, branding businesses and personal brands is what I do in our Design Studio. So, I decided to take a serious route and create an offshoot brand (as I believe in developing various modes of income streams) and hence BESPOKE2.com our online store was born.
Tema: What would you say about BESPOKE2 to someone who may not have heard of you before?
Christine: The message is actually in the name. BESPOKE (custom, tailored, unique) and the number 2 (too – as in we tailor too, the two of us – or to ‘be spoken to’). Our Designer and Scripture Prints, journals and gifts are to encourage, edify, and uplift using the word of God but mainly to always inspire others, who actually inspire us through their gift-giving nature. It always amazes me of the thoughtfulness of our customers and the feedback we receive from those who have had our gifts and prints given to them. Sometimes, I’d honestly love to take the credit in their ideas, but in all seriousness, every now and again I’m blown away by the messages and care our customers go to, in showing a friend or family member how special they are in their lives.
Tema: How do you manage to keep your products fresh and exciting with so many standard and custom designs?
What inspires you to create your designs?
Christine: I really value creation and design in all things . Some of my favourites are abstract art, ink and watercolour, art deco, typography and hand lettering, monochromatic and bold colour schemes, texture, fashion, interior design and architecture and wisdom form the bible. I’m so eclectic. I could honestly could go on and give you a huge list, but I must say I look for opportunities in everything to be inspired…. when I’ve had sleep. Sleep is good. Sleep is my friend.
Tema: What does the creative process look like?
Christine: Research, feedback from customers and suppliers, coffee, lots of experimentation with tools, artworks and styles, coffee… and not be terrified of letting go. I also need good music and I mentioned sleep right?
Tema: What inspires you to run your business?
Christine: I truly love the work that I do and am motivated to connect and work with people I like. As a Brand Coach in See Design, I get to show people how they can profit from their own personal brand, passion and personality. So, with Bespoke2, it was an opportunity to practise what I preach and do the same – to illustrate and inspire others on how they can turn their interest and talent into an asset; with real world examples. A good brand has to be polarising – you can’t be all things to all people (so, I’m ok with not being everyone’s cup of tea), but I do love that challenge of learning, growing and not letting other people’s opinions and styles define who I am and have fun in the process.
Tema: What is the range of products that BESPOKE currently specializes in?
Christine: We specialize in scripture and personalized prints and journals. Although a lot of our prints are scripture / faith based, there are many inspirational and motivational prints. Reminder and trigger prints and gifts you need in your office or home to change your perspective on any situation you are facing or feeling. ‘Inspirational and unique’ are the key words. With hand lettering and my own unique style scripting and embossing on prints and journals, I love creating gifts with the personalization and a look that speaks to the customer.
Tema: What are some products that are popular among your customers?
Christine: Currently, people are loving the Emboss Me and Custom Ranges – with hand scripted and metallic embossed lettering on our black and white leaves-flowers+feathers prints, with couples names, scriptures or short quotes to our abstract, hand painted, unique journals. In the last few months, our popular water bottles have been a hit – It always cracks me up with some of the nicknames (Aussies love a good nick name) and motivational messages some of our customers request. With the GatheredSA Markets, I have also recently dabbled in hand painted clocks and vases that match our journals and bottles.
Tema: How did you get involved with Gathered SA?
Christine: Jenna from GatheredSA messaged me on Instagram last November and asked if I would be interested in having a stall at her first White Christmas Market in Hahndorf. We recently moved our studio to the Adelaide Hills and thought it was a perfect fit and timing to introduce ourselves to the Adelaide Hills community. I must say – we were reluctant at first – not because we knew of the success of the GatheredSA Design Markets – but because I wasn’t sure if people would really go for our “scripture or faith” based prints and gifts. Boy were we wrong! I am so glad I listened to Jenna, who said she knew that our gifts and prints would speak to many in her market. The ‘on the spot’ personalization is a hit and as its not limited to just faith based messages! We believe that we have many offerings that suit all – like our hand painted vases, clocks, purses and journals. From that GatheredSA Christmas Market in December, we have since supported the March GatheredSA Markets and will continue to do so in the coming months. Both Ewen and I have developed a great relationship with Jenna and met many beautiful GatheredSA stall holders and now offer Branding Workshops with GatheredSA through See Design with our See Gathered Program. As a stall holder, small business owner, and now a Gathered SA sponsor, I believe that we can assist in many ways with all the awesome SA designers, makers, artisans and small businesses. We love being involved in GatheredSA creative community and what it stands for.
Tema: What do you hope for your customers to experience, when they purchase from BESPOKE2?
Christine: It’s pretty simple really – to smile, be encouraged and feel good. Nothing makes me happier when people receive a gift from Bespoke2 that speaks to them or makes them or others feel noticed, thought of, recognized and loved.
Tema: What do you think is rewarding / challenging about being a small scale business in SA?
Christine: I believe that you have to have a certain type of constitution to run a small scale creative business. You must start with your “WHY”. Why are you doing what you do? That will drive your passion, your values, and give you inspiration to be continually unique. SA is a very conservative market place. I know of many businesses that endeavor to enter the market scene and launch new products in SA first to see if it will work nationally or internationally. It can be challenging being local with the objective to encourage others to support local business. It’s a mindset and important to bring a different and original lens to people about why you offer, what you do in business. I’ve run my own business (See Design) since 2003 – and not without some major challenges and wearing a few hats. But, if you remain authentic, transparent and accountable with your customers always in mind, together with not being afraid of hard work and some long hours – then I truly believe you can survive. Mindfulness and prayer are also my daily goals. I think its important to know how you see success, how you set out a persistent path for yourself and just go for it!
Tema: What do you think helps your business stand out from the rest?
Christine: Personalization and Quality with a sweet and reasonable price tag. Knowing why my customers come to me and what they love to see. Understanding my ideal customers and talking to people. I have some exclusive design services, but I try to be reasonable and provide great value for money in the production of our products. Buying unique and designer can come with a hefty price tag. Don’t get me wrong – I truly appreciate the value, research, time, craftsmanship and energy – but I want my tribe to be able to afford the gifts I create as it’s focused on the messages and the quality of giving… no matter how small the gift is. I also always try to offer a bit of an edgy youthful style to my works with on-trend styles that can differ from one style to the next – from monochromatic ranges to abstract type paintings full of colour and texture to an Art Deco Collection – I just adore that era and style.
Tema: Why should people support your business BESPOKE2?
Christine: 10% of your purchase from Bespoke2 goes to various greater good causes around the globe. We support Missions in 3rd World Countries, to Domestic violence, The Australian Cancer Council (Ewen has fought, experienced and been healed of the Cancer battle), to fire fighters in SA during some of the most devastating Hills bush-fires we have endured in our own state. We believe we are very unique. It’s a family affair, so you are supporting a small family business and we value local production. All of our prints are made in SA and we try to support many Australian and SA local suppliers.
Tema: Is there anything else that you’d like our readers and your customers to know about BESPOKE2?
Christine: I am always up for any unique collaborations and needed product offerings. Through GatheredSA, we understand the value of being ‘better together’ and there has been some recent talks of various collaborations we are looking to pursue. Although we are predominantly an online print and gift store with personalization, our mother business See Design is proud to offer See Gathered Brand Workshops. We are just in its infancy of this – and you can checkout our highlight reel on Instagram that shows GatheredSA Stall Holders, their feedback and their experience of the workshop Jenna and I have put together. I hope it’s the start of showing SA Creatives in Business how they will See, Gather, Create and achieve Results. Our agenda is to show creatives how they can uniquely move forward through their brand, grow and create sales in their own business while embracing Gathered SA as a great platform and marketplace with like-minded people. How was that for a sales pitch? But don’t take my word for it… go check out what others have to say about it on Instagram.
Interview conducted by Fatema Sitabkhan
Photos supplied by Christine & Ewen Maxwell
With thanks to Jenna O’Dell from Gathered SA for the interview opportunity