Artist Interview with Hannakin

Hannakin is a Melbourne based creative label brought about by Hanna Mancini. I had the opportunity to interview Hannikin in her felt covered studio in the western suburbs of Melbourne. During our chat we discussed creating textile sculptures, starting your own business and holding stalls at markets and big design events. Throughout the interview you can see photographs of Hanna's creatively colourful studio, textiles dolls and illustrations. 


J: Firstly introduce yourself and how you started your label Hannakin.

My name is Hanna Mancini and I run a creative label called Hannakin which started out as a hobby selling my prints that I had done at university when I didn’t really know what I was doing with myself and sort of slowly, organically grew into a brand that is now my full time job.


J: You completed a Diploma of visual Arts in 2009. What did you learn from this course and how has it helped prepare you to pursue a creative career?

The course was great because I knew I wanted to be creative, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do exactly and visual arts was just an amazing amalgamation of everything. It was painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, and printmaking, which was great because I love creativity in general and there’s not a specific thing that I wanted to do, but it was kind of terrible because I still didn’t have a direction after that. I was like it’s true, I do like being creative; all this stuff is great now what do I do with my life? But the most valuable part of the course aside from learning extra skills was meeting and being surrounded by creative people.


J: I absolutely love the creative and unique textile sculptures you make. Everyone is different, how do you think up ideas when you are making a new doll?

Usually I’m inspired by colour or texture to begin with. I like incorporating vintage fabrics and doily pieces into my work so it usually will start with pulling out my stash and getting inspired by the textures and colours of the fabrics that I want to use. I can imagine a character that would be these colours so it often starts at that point. Or I do a sketch. I start with a doily and then go, okay this one seems really flouncy and cutesy so I made a little rabbit creature.


J: I also love that you personalise them by giving them names and speaking about them as if they are living creatures. How do you choose names for your dolls and does this come before or after you make the dolls?

It comes after definitely. I sort of love it and hate it because if I have a big event coming up and I want to have quite a few dolls there, I’ll make a bunch of dolls and won’t name them until all at once. I’ll have them sitting there with a pad being like right… name.. and wait for inspiration to strike.

I also have a little description on the boxes with ingredients. It starts with listing what’s actually in it and then it blends into personality. For example, this is Penny Picola and her ingredients are pure wool felt, vintage floral embroidery, posable arms, a sweet, quiet disposition and a propensity for melancholia. So I usually just look at them and I’m like, you look kind of sad, I guess you like being sad, so I do try to draw something of them from what they look like afterwards.


J: And if someone wanted to purchase your dolls how would they go about it because I’ve noticed they are not advertised on your online store?

They are occasionally, they just take a long time to make and I never have a lot of them because there is a lot of other things in the brand that I have to do before I spend hours sewing a doll. So they do appear on my online store occasionally but it’s very rare. Usually at markets they are more likely to appear and if it sells obviously it’s not going to turn up online but people can contact me directly.


J: And do you sell them all or do you keep some?

I do keep some, this little guy I actually made quite a few years ago I just wanted to keep him. Every now and then I really want to keep them and then think about it but have it up for sale and then it will sell and I’m really sad.


J: Could you go through the process of creating a textile sculpture from start to finish?

If it’s a complex one I will do a sketch first but often I just start chopping. I find the colours I like, that I want to combine with the vintage fabrics and I just have it in my head and start chopping the pieces. I chop every piece out first and then just sew it.


J: Can you talk about your prints and where you source your paper and printers? I particularly love the texture in your cotton rag archival prints.

I spent a really long time finding the right printer. I don’t print them myself, I use a husband and wife team who do fine art printing in Pakenham called Citrus Graphics. They have really nice quality textured, like you said, French cotton rag paper that’s just beautiful and the printing quality is really beautiful. I had tried a few before I had settled on these guys and wasn’t happy with them and I just find the colours are really true to my original colours.


J: You are really well involved with the creative community in Melbourne through markets, and design events such as Finders Keepers, The Big Design Market and Oz Comic Con. Can you talk about the process with getting involved with markets and events, setting up stalls and any advice you'd give?

Those big events, well every market event, but those especially, have pretty intense application forms so I would recommend having nice photos of your work because that’s what’s going to get you in. Spend time doing a really good application, those markets have so many people applying for them, so if you don’t stand out you probably won’t get in.

And then getting ready, I always leave everything to the last minute, and the last two weeks are just mayhem, but yeah just have as much stuff as you possibly can basically. It’s hard to know what’s going to be popular because I’ll find that one year something will sell out and I’ll be like okay next year I’ll be so prepared, I’ll have so much of that and I’ll have heaps of that and that’s not what’s selling.


J: I understand that purchasing a stand in these events can be quite costly, do you generally gain more profit then what you put into these events or is it more about exposure?

Luckily I have always made some money at those big events. At smaller markets I’ve sometimes not because even though the smaller markets might only be $50 to be involved in, there just going to be quieter and sometimes you have days where you just don’t cover your costs.

But luckily for me at Finders Keepers, Big Design and Comic Con I’ve always made a decent profit, or what I thought was decent anyway. Someone else was like ‘It was great I made 10 grand!’ and I’m like okay I didn’t make 10 grand but I did make a profit. I’m happy with making a bit extra on top because it is a really good marketing thing to but it would be pretty sad if all of your work just went in to not quite covering you, so luckily yes.


J: And so do you get to network with all the other people at the event?

Yeah, you do end up meeting a lot of people, it’s hard because you won’t necessarily have time to wander around but usually you become really good friends with your neighbours. Actually one of the markets that I really like is Bowerbird in Adelaide which is similar to Finders Keepers. It’s a Friday, Saturday, Sunday event, and on the Saturday night they have a stall holders drink event at the local pub. So you get to meet heaps of people that you wouldn’t have otherwise, but then you’re like we’ve been doing markets together for ages and didn’t even know you existed kind of thing! I think that’s awesome because a lot of other markets don’t have that and you just don’t get the chance to speak to anyone because you’re busy.


J: When showing your work at these events you have a spot on presentation of packaging your illustration, necklaces and brooches. Can you speak a bit about this telling us where you source materials such as plastic sleeves, boxes for the necklaces’ ect, and how you go about branding your packaging?

All of that has slowly built up over the years. When I started out I was just making random tags or started sourcing them on a really small scale. I buy in bulk now because it’s cheaper so if it’s cellophane bags or backing card I buy by the thousands basically.

So for cellophane bags I use a brand called The Right Invite. They have sizes for cards, A5, A4, A3 prints, sizes in-between and square sizes. I get paper bags, card envelopes and envelopes for posting through a recycled paper company in Sydney called EcoCern. I get backing card through Pack Queen. And I just recently sourced little boxes for my pendants from a brand called ImajPak and they can print your logo onto it. But it was just years of searching and finding the most cost effective packaging.


J: You also have an online Etsy store where you have made over 1000 sales! What do you find sells most successfully and why?

I have just recently! I would probably sell small prints the most and I think that’s because the majority of my listings are small prints. When I do have textile pieces up it sells really well, I just never have that much of it. Small prints are an easy turnover, not that expensive and are cheap to ship so there just an easy sell.


J: Can you give advice to upcoming artists setting up an online store and mailing work for the first time?

When I started out on Etsy it was really, really, slow for me and I know a lot of people get really disheartened about not making sales but if you’re on a website like Etsy that has thousands of shops and products on there, you’ve got to realise its pretty hard for you to get found. So try not to get disheartened if you don’t instantly start making sales.

I think the reason I started making consistent sales was doing markets, marketing through social media. For the first probably year not a lot happened on my online shop and now thankfully it’s fairly consistent and I at least make a couple of sales a week or more. So I would say keep at it and don’t assume people are going to stumble upon you.

And I’m pretty crazy with packaging. So if I sell a print, it has a backing card in it already but I’ll put an extra backing card around it and usually wrap it in paper and then put it in an envelope so been reinforced three times.


J: You also sell your work in shops around Australia. How do you source stockists that are right for you and that draw customers?

Most of my wholesalers have approached me. Generally Finders Keepers and The Big Design Market is where they will see my work and I’ll get an email from someone saying ‘we’d love to stock your stuff,’ which is awesome!

A lot of my peers involved with those big events have done Life in Style which is a big trade show where shops go to buy products to sell in their shops. I haven’t done one before because I didn’t like the idea of saying no to people, but I also didn’t like the idea of just selling wherever, I wanted to be selective about the kind of shops that my work was in. And the idea was that I would be more proactive about approaching people myself.

Thankfully the ones that have contacted me have mostly been ones that I am happy with, like my aesthetic suits them, which is why they have contacted me. So, so far it has just been I’ve been approached and I say, yes I can sell you my things, here, thank you.


J: I’ve noticed that there is little creative shops around here in Yarraville, have you thought about approaching these stores?

There’s been one that I have been meaning to go into for years but I haven’t and there’s a more recent one here to so I should contact the one I’ve been wanting to for years first and then if they don’t want to, try the other one. I have been approached before by a shop where I’ll already have another shop in that suburb and you want to avoid having your stuff in more than one place. So I would start by approaching one and if they say no, approach the other one.


J: I have found a fun little tutorial by you on Deviant art on how you make brooches: . Do you have any others or some that you could recommend that you have found useful?

So I did that tutorial because I was doing a little workshop with the Brunswick Brown Owls which is a group crafty people that get together pretty regularly and they invited me to do a tutorial because they had seen my brooches and liked them.

I haven’t done any others and I haven’t really used many. I will look up specific thing for example with sewing I’ll want to do some embroidery and wondering how to do a certain stitch. So I will just search for that specific thing and then find a step by step guide.

The only other ones I really watch is from my brother, who is a concept artist. He does livestreams sometimes of him drawing and I watch them because he’s my brother. I often watch digital painting because it’s mesmerizing to me because haven’t delved into that world very much.


J: So you and your brother have done some collaborations. I’ve noticed in your prints, the ones that you sell online that are digital prints. I’m guessing that he’s digitally painted it and you’ve drawn it. Is that how it works?

Yeah that’s how it works. I do the original drawing and the line work and scan it and he colours it digitally. It started when we were kids, we used to make birthday cards and stuff for our parents together. Like we would draw a picture together and then when he moved overseas we decided it would still be cute to do something together.

So whenever we have done them it’s just been a birthday present for my Mum or Dad to just be able to give them something from both of us, even though he lives on the other side of the world. So that’s just what we do. I draw him a picture and he colours it and then we are like “here Mum!”


J: Do you have any advice about setting up a creative business in Australia and how to be relevant and successful so you can gain an income on that and focus on your art without having other side jobs?

I guess what I’m doing now is successful, but it started slowly. I’ve been doing it for about 6 years. When I started I did have another job, so I started out with a part time job and was doing this on the side and it got to a point where this was keeping me more busy and I needed to start cutting down my part time job hours.

But it was a good starting point to have a little bit of savings because to start a business you need to spend a lot of money, there’s supplies and market fees and all that stuff so you wouldn’t be able to just be straight out of Uni and not have a job and be like alright I’m going to do this. So just having another source of income to begin with to support you is a good idea to take the pressure off and not be weeping yourself to sleep because it’s too stressful.

But in terms of being relevant just try to connect with your audience and build up your audience. So I found social media really good. I use Instagram and have a good relationship with people who are commenting on my work. So once you’ve got a bit of a following and people asking you questions basically just responding a lot and being friendly and open. I found that people want to support you when they think you’re a nice person and they have to like your work as well. But once they already like your work, having a good relationship with your fan base is a really good idea.


J: And lastly what is next for you in your practice? Do you have any goals or projects you'd like to try in the future?

Plenty. Right this very now when you came in I was drawing and in the near future the project I’m working on is a colouring book. I started working on the illustrations and I want to have about 24 illustrations I think and I have about 18 at the moment so I’m getting close to having enough and then I’ll just have to work on getting the pages all nice and scanned in and making it.


For more information and to contact Hannakin find her at: