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Q+A with Mati Roberts of Matico Studio.

This week I had a chat with my friend and super cool creative Mati Roberts. I met Mati two years ago on New Years Eve through our mutual friend Tam in Cardiff. It was an excellent NYE. One of the best I've had for many years in fact. Mati is just such a lovely person, we hit it off straight away with our mutual love for travelling, surfing and music.

I've kept in touch with Mati ever since and have watched her small business go from strength to strength over the past two years. It's such a joy to see such a nice, creative person doing so well with what started out as such a small project, growing into what it is now is just amazing.

Mati makes household items and jewellery, by hand with the majority of her materials sourced from African countries, particularly Ghana where she supports jobs and education (and even has a school named after her!). The items she makes are just beautiful, vibrant and so colourful.

When I eventually get a house I want to fill it full of Matico Studio items!. It also has to be said thatMatico Studiohas one of the strongest Instagram pages I've seen, it's an absoulute visual feast of colours, patterns and textures which is a real testament to the quality of Mati's products. So, to tell us all about Matico Studio, here's my chat with Mati Roberts:

Mati Roberts

Hey Mati, lush to speak to you as always. So what is Matico and how did it get started?

Hey Dan, you too! Matico Studio is a Welsh business which uses beautiful fabrics, collected from countries whose textile industries are in dramatic decline, to create striking, unique fabric interiors and sustainable, statement jewellery from the fabric offcuts. Matico’s aim is to support jobs and traditions in these countries, whilst also helping to fund the development of a school in Ghana, which was set up last year.

You source a lot of the materials you make your products with from Africa, particularly Ghana. You have been supporting jobs and improving education out there, firstly that’s amazing, secondly how did that all come about?

It’s all happened quite randomly really. I volunteered as a nurse in Ghana and fell in love with the vibrant colours and patterns of the beautiful, locally produced fabrics that surrounded me. While in Ghana, I became aware that these amazing fabrics were actually under threat from imported, discarded Western clothing. Millions of these are thrown away each year and end up either in landfill sites or in various African and Asian countries. This is putting Ghanaian jobs and traditions at risk and the once booming textile industry has declined by 90% since the 1980s. This inspired me to buy lots of the fabulous fabrics with NO IDEA what I would make!!

In 2016, I left my job in London to travel to various African and Asian countries, whose fabric industries were also under threat, to collect more fabrics. When I was back in the UK, I was asked to make a “non-beige shade” lampshade for a friend who was struggling to find one, and realised that a lampshade was the perfect way to show off the wonderful fabrics and easily brighten up a room. After making the lampshades, I had many offcuts of the beautiful fabrics, but couldn’t bring myself to throw these away, so started using them to make unique jewellery. This is how my random business of lampshades and jewellery was born!

I feel really passionately about helping others and would like my business to help fund various projects both abroad and in the UK. The first of these is a school in Ghana. A friend who I met in Ghana through buying fabrics, called Kofi, was building flats to rent in a fast growing area of Accra and noticed there were very few local facilities, so he decided to change the flats into a school instead. He is a keen believer in the Montessori way of learning and asked if he could name the school after me. Kofi and his siblings are the first in their family to be educated, but he has seen the poverty and difficulties faced by many of the people he grew up with, who were not lucky enough to be well educated, and feels very passionately about improving the quality of education in Ghana.

The school opened in May 2018 with 36 pupils. There are now 126 pupils and there is a great need for additional resources. A percentage of Matico profits is going towards these resources and sending many other items kindly donated to the school. In April 2019, I was lucky enough to spend time at the school with the inspiring staff and amazing children. With the money raised through Matico I was able to buy computers, and materials to build and equip toilets and washrooms for the pupils. In July 2019, the second large shipment of books, computers and toys was sent to Ghana, and many more items have already been collected for future shipments.

The school continues to grow with many children on the waiting list. Kofi is very busy trying to meet the demand and build more classrooms as quickly as he can, together with a computer room and a library. This August I organised a fundraiser with a local brewery, live music and DJs (thank you so much for your help with this Dan!!) to raise money to help Kofi to buy more building materials and employ people to help him to build the new facilities that are so needed.

You started out the business making things at home whilst working as a nurse but you’ve recently moved into an exciting, creative space at the Boneyard Studios in Canton, Cardiff. Did you plan to expand the business outside of working from home or did it just happen over time?

It just happened! I was enjoying working at home and hadn’t really thought about renting anywhere else, but when I saw a post on Instagram about a container studio coming up for rent, for some reason I was drawn to it! I went to look around before Christmas last year and loved this colourful, arty, creative village, but at the time, I was planning a trip to Ghana and wanted any money I had to go on the trip and to buy resources. I said no and was a bit gutted, but almost like fate a turquoise (my favourite colour!) container became available at the beginning of the summer, so I was able to do both and threw a fundraiser here last month to raise more money for the school.

I have a studio space at the back of my container (behind curtains to hide the mess!) and then a shop at the front. I’m open on my days off from my nursing job.

The best thing about renting a space like this is the other creatives and business owners you work alongside. I’ve learnt so much from my ‘container neighbours’, I think I’d struggle to go back to the isolation of working at home.

The site here in the heart of Canton is being demolished next month and made in to fancy flats (of course!), but fear not the Bone Yard Container Village is moving to a new site! It’s going to be a bigger site with a cafe/restaurant/bar there, and I’m hoping to throw many more fun fundraisers in the future! Cardiff is so lacking alternative, arty, venues / events with good music at the moment!

So, what are your plans for Matico in the future?

I have lots of big dreams which is a good thing, but also makes it hard to figure out what to concentrate my energy on next!! I really need to work on my website, but I keep getting distracted by the fun making. I would love to expand Matico further and have someone working with me, as having a business where it’s only you can be pretty exhausting and I would love to be able to just concentrate most of my time on the designing / making side of things.

Kofi and I have plans for another school in his home town and a much needed childrens’ hospital. I have lots of ideas for projects in the UK to help people who are homeless and I would love to set up an interesting gallery / bar / events space, with cool exhibitions and music nights, with my family who are artists. We will see!!! For now, excited for the new Bone Yard Site and what that will bring and will soon be starting to prep for the madness of Christmas orders and markets soon (sorry to say the C word so early!).

You also surf Mati and have excellent taste in music. I asked our mutual friend Lloyd the Graffiti the same question. Art and music are synonymous with surfing. Do you find that surfing inspires you in an artisitic sense?

Haha. Thanks!! I always feel really energised after surfing and being by the sea really inspires me creatively. In fact, being by the sea makes me instantly happy! I always have so many ideas popping round in my head, the sea seems to give me clarity and takes away my stress. I sadly don’t get to surf as much as I’d like, especially now with my nursing and renting my little shop, I’m often working most days of the week, but I do have a weekend off in a few days at a fun festival where the music will be awesome! Will have to organise a surf trip next!! Give me a shout when you're next in Wales Dan :-)

Mati, thanks so much for telling us all about Matico Studio. We must go for a surf soon! If you like Mati's wonderful products and would like to get in contact follow the links below:



The Freesoul Project 2019 - Made in Wales