Coffee-fuelled late nights, an off-beat sense of humour and a talent for spreading joy are the driving forces behind Andy Heyward’s diverse Fat Spatula range of quirky art and novelty products.
“I consider my work to be deeply shallow and I enjoy bringing a smile to people’s faces… Painting is a creative release from my other serious and stressful positions of being President of the Haumoana Lemon Marketing Board and founding member of the Haumoana Men’s Knitting Club.”
What do you make?
I make smiles and hopefully by making people smile I make their day better. The Fat Spatula range of products has come about from too many late nights and too much coffee. They are based on the desire to make people happy – if they do this and also serve some function then it’s a double bonus.
My creations, while being an eclectic mix are all tied together by my own sense of quirkiness and humour. I love things that are slightly off-beat and a little left-field of what is normal. It is these things which make me smile and laugh at life and so I try to put that into my own work.
I also try to make products that are as original as possible, although sometimes you can have a brilliant idea that no one else has thought of and Google search ruins your day. For this reason I have stopped googling my ideas before I have done them otherwise I am likely to be put off.
How did you get into your craft?
I have always made things and been creative. But I guess I started selling my craft with the creation of The Man Shawl. The Man Shawl came into existence after a local party I had been too, it was evening and a bunch of blokes were sitting about drinking outside and as it got cooler, one of the guys said “I wish I had a nana-rug for my knees.” We all laughed but it got me thinking on how I could make a shawl or throw that was blokey. I decided Army blankets with carabineers and duct tape sounded rugged enough.
My first prototypes were given away as Christmas presents to all the males in the family and after a bit of feedback and adjustments, I made half a dozen to be sold at a local market. When someone actually bought one I was stoked and this set me on the path of the Craft-side.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I have a diploma in visual art and design and I worked for many years in the Art Department at a regional newspaper dealing with account managers and clients and other artists. It was a walk in the park compared to getting behind a stall at a market, smiling pleasantly and baring your soul for customers to pick at, like ravens at a corpse… they go for the eyes and lips first apparently.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love to paint and I love the process of painting, I like how painting makes you slow down. When you are using a computer for a majority of your work, it is great to have to switch tempo to paint. You are forced into slowly building texture and background, you have to wait for paint to dry and if you make a mistake you can’t just ctrl – z, you have to figure how to fix it or go with it. I also like to sketch and most of the
time have an ink-pen and journal within reach. My sketch books are containers for ideas and creations, some of them are realised straight away and some of them simmer and brew until the right time.
What inspires you?
I grew up listening to the Goon Show with Spike Milligan on National Radio and as a teenager I loved shows like The Young Ones, The Goodies, Monty Python and Father Ted and so a lot of my humour is influenced by these shows. I have just been to see the Penguins of Madagascar movie and I laughed throughout the movie, I think I scared a little girl two rows back.
Describe your workspace:
My workspace is a mess, I am lucky enough to have a large room in the house which serves as my studio and office, It is also a warehouse and distribution centre as well as an eclectic junk display space. I can hide from the world in my room and if I ration out the jellybeans (for the Jars of Joy) I could probably survive for a while in it. If I had an attic it would probably look like the one in Goonies, where they find the map
to the treasure.
I am also involved with the running of two shops in Hawke’s Bay, Coco & Co in Hastings and The Department of Curiosities and Fine Things in Napier. It is great to band together with other makers and run a business together, I get a great deal from the different perspectives and viewpoints of my fellow workmates and it is great to brainstorm and bounce ideas around with. It also stops me from becoming a hermit in my workspace and living off jellybeans.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
My favourite feedback from a customer was years ago and it was before I was making things as Fat Spatula. I used to create a kids-page that appeared weekly in the paper and I had an alter-ego, King Andy. On this page I would tell silly jokes and create puzzles and madness and generally see how far I could push the limits of decent taste. I would often get a lot of letters from the CWI (Country Women’s Institute) who would complain about the mention of snot on the page or how I was corrupting the grandchildren.
One Christmas I got a card from a bloke in prison who wanted to thank me for creating a page that he and his young son could read together over the phone. That card meant a lot to me, it also made me realise that while I was having fun I was also creating something that others could have fun with.
What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
My favourite book as a child was In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak. I loved the illustrations and the mischief in it.
What are you reading now?
I am really into historical novels at present – I am part way through a series by Bernard Cornwell about the Saxons and the Vikings. It is good inspiration for more pillow fighting cushions. I am thinking a range of armour and shields would go well with the clubs.
A favourite quote:
A well used quote is “A saveloy boiled is a saveloy spoiled”. It is a versatile quote and can be applied to any situation and any part of your life journey. But my favourite quote at present is by Thomas Edison, he said “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
What is your top tip for those starting out in running a crafty business?
My advice for others starting out is to follow your passion, do what you love, it may not make you any money but you will be the richer for it. If you want to make loads of money put your energy into becoming a lawyer or an accountant. If you want to live a creative lifestyle go for what you love.
Try not to copy others, take inspiration from them, but don’t rip them off. Be original, create new things and back your own ideas even if no one else will. Hold your dreams as valuable.
Be nice to other crafters and stall holders, they are on a similar journey and everyone is battling unknown issues and challenges which may not be obvious to us. Collaborate instead of competing with others, take risks and find out what works and what doesn’t.
To see more of Andy’s smile-inducing silliness, make sure you stop by his Felt shop Fat Spatula.
Andy has generously offered us this fabulous A3 altered art print, “My Little Pony Goes Apeshit” (below), as a prize for one lucky Felt blog reader. To win this marvellous prize just leave a comment telling us what you like about Andy’s story and his creations. The draw will be made on Friday 13 February and is open to New Zealand residents only.