We meet Tamalia Reeves, the co-founder of MADEbyTamalia Studio in Caversham, to discover how arts and crafts can make you feel a whole lot better
What originally inspired you to set up MADEbyTamalia Studio?
Since leaving university, where I did my art degree, I worked as an illustrator, graphic designer and school teacher – but never really found my creative groove. Then one day my world as I knew it fell apart. My marriage to my childhood sweetheart broke down and so did I. To help me navigate this incredibly difficult time in my life I turned to my art for comfort and to help me slowly rebuild.
Freshly armed with the realisation that I needed to live a more mindful life, and wanting to share my creative skills and knowledge with others, I decided to create MADEbyTamalia – a small colourful, warm and welcoming art studio, where others could escape the rat race and indulge in some well deserved creative ’me time.’
However after only being open six months I suddenly faced a new challenge. When the news of the COVID-19 pandemic hit, my new small business was forced to close, and I was then forced to revaluate again what I wanted to share with the world.
It was important to me to create a space where I could help others find calm and connect or reconnect with themselves or others through creative activities. Together with my mum we also wanted to create a space for artists to learn, support each other and collaborate. As artists we know first-hand the struggles of working in this industry and so felt it was important to us to help build and support our local creative community.
Why in Caversham?
I have lived in Caversham since I was six and my family live here too. Over the years Caversham has changed so much and has grown to become a really vibrant, trendy and supportive community. I am proud to be part of that community and felt that I wanted to create an inclusive calming space and destination for creativity for Caversham.
Who are the makers you work alongside there?
My business partner is my mum, Sue Reeves, who runs a free online art gallery and art community called Creative Locale – a community of artists that work together to support each other, collaborate and share their creativity with the wider local community. This has now grown and we now have a collective of 33 artists and two large-scale art events due to run later this year.
Do you think, generally, the community doesn’t have enough opportunities to get involved with arts and crafts?
Yes, sadly art is often seen as a hobby, and our traditional education system places less value on it. Plus in some communities there is little or no art available due to lack of money or resources. I am incredibly passionate about sharing art with everyone, whether you class yourself as naturally a creative type or not. We all start off in this world as children using our imaginations and exploring the world through trial and error. This is creativity! Unfortunately over the years some of us lose that ability or opportunity to just play and experiment. Creating venues, events and opportunities for the community to access art and cultural activities enables people to reconnect with their inner creativity.
You hold plenty of children’s events. Why is that important to you?
As a qualified primary school teacher and artist who taught group classes on the side, I have worked with children of all ages from toddlers to teenagers. To me it is incredibly important to help children develop into confident and free thinkers. It is also sometimes easy to forget that our little people come with big emotions that can also be incredibly overwhelming. Taking part in creative activities like singing and dancing, art is a great way for children to develop critical thinking skills, confidence and help them manage their emotions.
Why do you think arts and crafts aids wellbeing?
This quote from Pablo Picasso is one of my favourites and resonates hugely with me about the impact that art can have on healing and wellbeing: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
Sounds airy-fairy, but as someone who suffers from my own mental health challenges, I believe in a world where creativity and wellbeing go hand in hand. It has been scientifically proven that being creative in whatever shape or form increases our sense of wellbeing. By facilitating interaction through creativity I want to encourage purposeful activity, resilience, social inclusion, self-expression and personal and professional growth, so that creativity becomes not only part of daily life, but also in the workplace too.
Is wellness something you have always taken a lot of interest in?
Yes, it is. I have practised yoga for around ten years now and I think that helps ground me, but I have also been involved in running multiple wellbeing focused events and projects such as a large event bringing together 250+ business people to learn about workplace wellbeing. And during the first COVID-19 lockdown I was also lucky enough to be involved in a project funded by the National Lottery and Art Council UK, delivering a series of videos connecting the community through art to help with mental health and wellbeing.
My project, called ‘Mindful Mini Makes’, is specifically aimed to help children and isolated adults navigate the loneliness of the pandemic and help to bring a bit of joy to the children and the adults involved, by connecting them safely through the power of art. You can see the full project on my website.
Are there other local spots you like to head to whenever you need a breather?
I’m a keen walker and so my go to is always to put my walking boots on and get outside. Two lovely spots for short walks are the National Trust Streatley Hills and Mapledurham. Both places are absolutely beautiful and a mix of woodland and open fields. Plus you get to take in the views from the top of Streatley Hill and the stunning house at Mapledurham.
Your own studio space looks like a calming environment. What would we find there?
Hidden behind the doors of an unassuming small industrial unit in Caversham, Reading, reveals inside a unique artist conceived and designed art sanctuary full of whimsy and wonder.
Having being closed for the best part of a full year and receiving only a very small government grant, we had to be creative in how to furnish the art spaces. Most of the furniture has been donated, bought second hand and upcycled, or made from scratch. We painted the wall murals and even the wood for the trees and dried flowers were collected, dried and the created into art pieces. Each space has been curated with a collection of handmade, foraged, second-hand, upcycled and repurposed useful objects and eccentricities.
What ambitions do you have for the work that you do?
We want to showcase our local creative talent and rich and diverse cultural heritage, by engaging with the local community through art and creative activities, exhibitions and events. In turn we hope to promote art as a valuable outlet for wellbeing and mental health.