Glass designer Dee Monti is the founder of Monti, a collection of geometric glass shapes which shine best when housing a growing plant collection. Something a little different for the home and all made by hand, this contemporary homeware brand is one which caught our eye at the Bust Craftacular fair last year and we couldn’t wait to discover more about the eye-catching work Dee makes. Here, she shares the ups and downs of being a solo business-owner and why she choose a completely new skill in which to launch her new business!
Please can you introduce yourself and your work to The Holborn readers?
My name is Dee Monti, I am the founder/designer/mother of MONTI! A handmade geometric glass design and homeware brand which launched in May 2015. I design and make all products by hand in my home studio in London using glass, copper and solder. The current collection, The Primary Collection, is a selection of geometric multi-functional shapes which bring simple geometric design and nature together with the encouragement to be creative with your choice of shapes and how you adapt them to your personal surroundings.
First of all, can you tell us how you taught yourself glass design? What did it involve?
Apart from a lot of blood, sweat and tears, it involved months of research – firstly into how to actually set up a business, and secondly teaching myself a completely new design skill. In summer 2014 I left my job, sold everything I owned on Ebay to cover rent, material and start-up costs, and concentrated on teaching myself the ins and outs of how to start a creative business. On top of trying to get my head around becoming a business owner, most importantly I had to work on my product, branding, my brand ethos and what it was that I wanted to sell. I chose to start afresh and teach myself a completely new skill in an area of design I knew nothing about. I needed to start over and regain my creativity which I lost whilst working for other people in an environment that lacked the creativity I was yearning for. I came across an image of a glass terrarium in a vintage plant book from a charity shop and was curious about its structure so decided to look into how it was made. From there on, it may sound ridiculous, but I taught myself through watching hours of YouTube videos on everything to do with glass: how to cut glass, foil glass, solder glass and all the processes involved in this particular glass design. My first week started in an empty spare room with just a little table and computer ordering my first set of materials, waiting for them to arrive, only to find I had bought all the wrong things so had to start over again. I spent the next couple of months practising for 12 hours a day until I got it perfect and only until I felt I had perfected my skill was I ready to design my first collection! It involved a lot of mistakes, burns, broken glass and sleepless nights, which is still the case, but it’s worth the hard work to be your own boss.
You hand make all your pieces. What’s your favourite part of the process and why?
I enjoy the whole process as it’s very hands on from start to finish from the initial pencil drawings, cutting glass, copper foiling and soldering. But honestly, my favourite part really is when the pieces are polished, wrapped and sent to new homes and I receive photos from customers of how they’ve displayed their new MONTIs. It’s such a good feeling to know that someone has spent their hard-earned cash on your product and to see something you’ve made completely by hand displayed in someone’s home.
Where do you tend to look for inspiration?
Anywhere and everywhere. In terms of geometric design I find architecture inspiring. Even in London there are some really interesting and odd buildings but I see them as lines rather than just brick. I like to translate that into some of my bespoke work to create really unique pieces. There is such a vast array of design, plant, interiors books old and new which I have a flick through now and again if I’m stuck for inspiration. I can also spend hours on Pinterest which has an endless amount of visual inspiration! My favourite at the moment seems to be 70s interiors! It’s also important to know what is happening around you in terms of other designers and brands so you constantly refresh your brand and stay on trend. Trade shows are a good way to do that, Design Junction was a personal favourite last year!
What has been your biggest lesson so far in running your own business? And what advice would you give someone who is looking to start something of their own?
There is so much I could give to this question, my advice is endless as I’m constantly discovering, changing, adapting and learning as my business is always evolving! There are a lot of ups and downs with running a business, and in my case and for a lot of others, running a business alone, but the most important thing I have learnt is to make sure you enjoy it! There are days when I feel ready to throw in the towel with the sheer amount of work and pressure I put on myself so it can be hard to motivate yourself when you are the only person there to dust yourself off and get back into gear. I have to remind myself the reasons why I set out to do this in the first place and be proud that I’ve taken that leap to build and create a business because many wouldn’t which is motivation enough. If you don’t enjoy it you won’t produce your best work, but if you enjoy what you’re doing then naturally your raw energy and passion will be reflected in your brand. You have to treat your business like it’s your child, it needs constant attention and care in order to get it off the ground and to grow successfully. If you aren’t giving it 100% then it won’t be 100% successful.
It’s important to do as much research as you can and know your market and audience; bond with your brand and product before launching so you can sell, create and build your business with confidence. I could have launched MONTI a few months earlier than I did but I didn’t feel I knew my product 100% and am glad I waited.
Take the plunge! It’s so easy to remain in your comfort zone. You get so comfortable with a routine you know exactly what will happen when, there are no surprises, you know how much you get paid and on exactly what day, you know when you start work and when you finish and you will always get that ‘Friday feeling’ so you can escape work responsibilities until Monday. But there is so much more satisfaction in running your own business.
The biggest step in starting your own business is taking that first step, taking the risk, and just doing it. I knew the financial side of setting up a business would be tricky and it was completely out of my comfort zone to take such a huge risk in an area I had no expertise, but it was almost a failure for me not to follow through with it. If you don’t do it now you never will. Your best lessons are learnt through your biggest failures. So, even if you try and fail just keep sticking at it until it works.
Finally, what does ‘A Well Made Life’ mean to you?
A well made life is about surrounding yourself with things, people, conversation and attitudes that inspire you, motivate you and generally give you a good energy! It’s about keeping a healthy balance of positive and negative. Keep a healthy balance of the things that you need to do with the things that you want to do. Focus on things that matter to you the most.
Interview by Verity Inett