Exploring Creative Business with Megan Jackman of Ragmaw

Exploring Creative Business with Megan Jackman of Ragmaw, Interview by Alison Butler for Oh My! HandmadeI met Megan, the owner of Ragmaw one day at a local market, and instantly fell in love with her one of a kind, handmade pieces.  Her studio is part of the amazing Quidi Vidi Plantation – a craft facility for emerging artists and their businesses, located in in the amazingly scenic and historic Quidi Vidi region of St. John’s, Newfoundland. For our Camp OMHG theme I interviewed Megan to learn a little more about her and her creative business.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your Ragmaw products.

My name is Megan Natasha Jackman; I am the owner and textile artist behind Ragmaw. I was born and raised in central Newfoundland. I love traveling, drawing, meeting new people and, of course, textile design! Ragmaw is textile studio that emphasizes natural materials and local production in St. John’s, Newfoundland. I create functional pieces of art, mainly handbags, using techniques such as screen printing, block printing, and traditional leatherwork. I aim to create rich designs and compelling patterns that reflect coastal landscapes and a free-spirited lifestyle.

Where does the name Ragmaw come from?

Ragmaw is a Newfoundland word (sometimes said ‘rag-moll’) that referred to children whose clothing were torn, tattered, and often left un-mended. My grandmother remembers the word from her childhood. I liked the word because it is unique and felt a little bit tongue-in-cheek when I decided to use it. Sure, its meaning isn’t dainty but when I was making bags in university, I was using scraps of anything I could find (essentially rags). And, when my grandmother was raising her children, she would make their clothing herself based on photos from catalogues, to keep them looking sharp! The word is connected to my early bag-making days and it is also a nod to creative resourcefulness. Exploring Creative Business with Megan Jackman of Ragmaw, Interview by Alison Butler for Oh My! Handmade

You once told me that you started on a completely different career path, tell us more about how & why you took the adventure to a new life as a creative.

Oh gosh, a totally different path indeed! As a teenager, I preferred to spend my Friday nights at home drawing and sewing. When I was in high school, I co-owned a small business making pillows, I really enjoyed it and got a feature on the ‘Street Cents’ program, for anyone who remembers that show! But, after high school, I pursued a pharmacy degree. I have been working as a pharmacist for 5 years now and have enjoyed many aspects of that work. I started making my own handbags when I was about 15 years old. I have always loved the bag construction process, working from the inside out. I got to a point where I felt really happy with my designs. Ultimately, I made the change because I wanted to feel like my true self in my daily work, and that meant a career with a creative component. Still, I am realistic and I have days where I think ‘have I lost my mind’ so I strongly advise anyone making this sort of change to have a clear plan first. It took me 5 years to make my own plan! Exploring Creative Business with Megan Jackman of Ragmaw, Interview by Alison Butler for Oh My! Handmade

Your studio is located in an interesting local creative space. It’s kind of like a working “camp” for local artists. Tell us about the Plantation and what it’s like being part of that creative community.

The Quidi Vidi Village Plantation (QVVP) is a beautiful, big yellow building in the heart of Quidi Vidi Village in St. John’s. It houses ten artisans, each with their own studio/storefront; it’s a great place for visitors to chat with artisans, watch them at work, and purchase fine craft products. The premise of this location is to incubate fine craft businesses for three years, allowing access to the public and time to get established. All of the products for sale inside the QVVP are made on-site and we really have the most beautiful views. Each artist is creating something different and unique. As a creative person, you do need solitude to plan and execute your work but sometimes this can make you feel isolated. For me, there is immense value in critical feedback from other artists; being in contact with a close-knit artisan community on a daily basis gets you out of your own head. We work cohesively as a team to bring out the best in each other and to offer an exciting fine-craft shopping experience to the public.

What/who inspires you?

My business will get bogged down if I create all of my products with only ‘me’ in mind. So, I draw my inspiration from local landscapes, people and cultural cues… with a little bit of myself mixed in there now and again. This keeps my product line relevant and allows a meaningful exchange between myself, as an artist, and the buyer. The ‘who’ of my inspiration is my grandmother, always on the other end of the phone line with the words to keep me going. I also have this poem called ‘Don’t Quit’ posted above my sewing machine. It’s on a lovely card that my grandfather gave me once, I read bits of it when I am in a rut and it really helps. And, lastly, I’m really inspired by the women I’ve met locally who have plugged through the struggles of starting up a business to become successful. Exploring Creative Business with Megan Jackman of Ragmaw, Interview by Alison Butler for Oh My! Handmade

If you went on an adventure today, where would it take you?

Oh gosh, where wouldn’t it take me! That’s a tough question but if money were no issue, I would definitely take off to the Canadian Northwest Territories for a few weeks, I’ve never been there.

What’s your favourite business advice/lesson so far that you think would help other creative business owners?

I have so many lessons that I’d like to share when it comes to starting your own businessBut, for creative businesses in particular it would be to remember to work ‘on’ your business a little more than you work ‘in’ your business. By this I mean, spend time on number-crunching, business planning, and designing products in a way that is true to your style but also considers customer needs. When I feel a little overwhelmed by the ‘business’ side, I think about all the people I’ve met through my creative work. I am so lucky to have customers who have become supporters and friends; they keep me going when we chat in my studio or they post a sweet comment on my Facebook page. This drives me to be a little more disciplined and I tell myself that I have to work on the business side in order to build something lasting, something that allows me to carry on meeting these people. Exploring Creative Business with Megan Jackman of Ragmaw, Interview by Alison Butler for Oh My! Handmade

Connect with Megan

Blog – Ragmaw

Twitter – @ragmaw

Facebook – Ragmaw by Megan Natasha

Instagram – ragmaw

Interview by fellow Newfoundland and Labrador creative Alison Butler of The Petit Cadeau.  Select images by Maria Hillier.