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Q&A – maker of the week: Megan Stewart

Extremely loud and incredibly motivated.

Megan Stewart describes herself as ‘extremely loud’, and she’s entitled to be, as one of a few young makers in Australia, indeed internationally, who specialises in the unique genre of custom eye ware. A metalsmith by training, Megan makes bespoke frames for your glasses, mainly hand made out of aluminium and titanium with unique ingenious hinges.

According to Megan’s research, 57% of young people wear spectacle frames compared to the 12% that wear contact lenses, and she certainly has a point, that most Australians would prefer to buy local. However, currently 90% of the frames we buy are mass produced off shore. Also, the majority of these are made of plastic with an average life-span of one year, whereas well crafted metal frames designed to your personal taste and style can last for up to 10 years.

If you wear spectacles, you want to know about Smec Eyeware, Megan Stewart’s brand. We encourage you to take up her cause and buy better – custom made frames by Australian young designer makers.

In this short, sweet Q&A, Megan shares a glimpse into her creative life – we know you’ll be able to discern the dedication to her chosen craft.

Read on…

What is your craft? How do you like to describe yourself?

My craft is designing and fabricating spectacle frames. I would describe myself as someone who’s extremely loud; appears small but, has a big personality and even bigger ideas.

Your studio – where and what is your studio/workspace like?

Since I moved back home, my studio space is in my parents’ garage. I have a jeweller’s bench with a shelf above, that my Dad made for me. Even though it’s not a typical studio space, I love that when the garage door is open I can see the sunset and hear the birds. When I’m there, I’m in my happy place.

Which of your tools do you love the most and why?

I love my tiny screwdriver. When I use it, I adore the feeling that I’m building something. All the aspects of my work come together with one simple tool.

Your inspiration – what really pumps your creative heart?

I’m really inspired by people’s reaction to my frames. Sometimes I am stopped in public for my frames – people smile when I say that they’re my own. It makes me realise that people like things that aren’t considered the ‘norm’. This drives me to keep going, to experiment, to push myself and my designs. To show that anything is possible with design as long as you keep going, it can take you anywhere and hopefully encourage others to pursue what they love.

What was the spark that made you choose this particular medium?

After completing a jewellery design diploma and a Gold & Silversmithing degree, metal became a part of my life. It’s incredible to see the contrast between the raw material and what it can transform into. To me, metal is an unusual medium to pursue, but with so many types out there with varying temperaments, it’s hard not to go down the rabbit hole and fall in love with it.

Your working style – how do you like to start on a project and then progress it? Do you stick to a working schedule 9-5 or flex around a bit? Do you play loud music? Are your pets welcome in your space?

My working schedule is quite flexible as I go from CAD modelling to the bench. For both, my concentration has to be in the right place, if a frame isn’t assembling as expected, I have to stop and take a step back. I have a small BlueTooth speaker above my shelf and play a variety of music. Now and again I listen to podcasts but I can get a bit distracted by them! My cat BamBam is always welcome in my space. If I have the door open, she’ll meow her arrival and wander around the garage and disappear for a time. It’s almost a respite when she comes over and I give her a stroke after I’ve been sanding for hours on end. That’s really therapeutic, plus she’s company if I’m on my own.

What are you working towards right now?

I’m in the development stages of the new, 9-piece range which is called the Botanica Collection, which is based on the flora and fauna I’ve grown up with – from living in England to moving to Australia. To accompany the frames, I’m also working on a new Smec Case which will be made from a combination of felt and leather. I’m hoping the collection will be released later this year! I’m also developing a new hinge mechanism that will be universal across the new range.

If you could land the dream commission/exhibition/project, what would it be?

My dream project would be to have my frames sold nationally and internationally, be a freelance accessories designer and a speaker to encourage those studying, or who are considering studying in the art and design field.

Anything you’d like to add?

During COVID-19 lock down I decided to make more use of my time and up my design skills with an online Graphic Design course. I’m just over half way through and it’s definitely getting more intense but I’m really enjoying learning new skills.

[Collected 14 March 2019. Updated 15 June 2020.]

See more of Megan Stewart’s work and her brand ‘Smec Eyeware’ in our Directory – with links to more.

This is a standard set of questions that we ask of all our guest presenters and ‘makers of the week’. They are deliberately low-key.