On family life and making pure linen magic
Looking relaxed and showing no signs of sleep deprivation, which you'd expect having a 9 month old, we chat with Jes Saddington of the extraordinarily popular Newcastle based linen bedding business, Dazed but Amazed.
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With her son Dash hanging out on her lap and four-year-old Banjo, who is cool as a cucumber, chilling next to Lulu (Jes's mum Louise) on the lounge, the scene looks anything but the little urban empire that Dazed but Amazed has become.
Jes openly chats to us about the highs and lows of business and we quickly get the picture that a whole lot of hard work happens around this dining room table.
So is this where the magic happens for Dazed but Amazed?
My husband Mick joked recently that he didn’t know the dining room table had a wooden top, usually it’s covered in stock and stuff, I just push it all aside when we need to eat. I work a lot from here, folding, wrapping and packing. But we have our own print space in Hamilton, which Mick built all the printing equipment for. He's a builder and a bit crafty like that.
The printing is outsourced to a friend who has been invaluable in navigating screen printing directly onto pure linen, which is a fibrous fabric, and playing around with such large scale sizes, it has definitely been a learning curve for all of us… but one that's paid off with such a beautiful finish.
It’s been a really lovely way to start the business because I print on such a large scale it’s allowed us to print in small runs and spot print. We don’t print to order, I dye to order and then as I see stock levels dropping we’ll just do another run.
Where did the idea for a children’s bed linen business come from?
We’ve always had linen as our bedding, Mick’s an asthmatic and prone to allergies and because linen is completely hypo allergenic it’s great for sleeping in. When Banjo was a baby he was diagnosed with mild asthma so I started looking for pure linen bedding for children and literally could not find it anywhere, so I ended up just buying some linen and tucking it in over his bed.
By the time he was two I started really thinking about if this is the sort of product that other people would want to buy and it kind of all happened from there.
Dazed but Amazed is such a great name, how did it come about?
My Instagram account started as my personal account, Jes O’Brien, which is my maiden name and also my makeup business name. I realised though that when you Googled my work name all these images of Banjo would come up so I changed my Instagram account to Dazed but Amazed on a whim, well before the business began.
The original name was Bed Zeppelin, I had all the branding for it and then when we were on holidays in Bali with a friend from the States, who runs this incredible business called Cleobella, her and her husband said to me, “You need to name your business Dazed but Amazed, trust us you never know what direction your business is going to go in”.
At the time I didn’t want the business to grow and be something that I couldn't contain and I didn’t have a huge following on Instagram, just a couple of thousand, but they were like “You’ve got a market sort of there, rather than try to drive people elsewhere use what you’ve got”.
It took me a couple of days but then I realised they were totally right, and also thought they’re smart business people so they probably know better than me!
Tell us about the artists and designers you work with?
Because I work with a range of artists I like to think that you’re investing in a piece rather than a season, and that’s the beauty of linen you have it in seasons of the year.
The concept behind all of the prints was that I felt I am somewhat house proud, but being a mum of boys I felt pigeon holed into having blues and anchors and ships. When Banjo was going into a big bed all I wanted was a white quilt cover and I couldn’t even find one of those.
So I thought if I am going to print something I want prints that are going to resonate with me and my husband, cause we’re the ones making the beds, something that we can have a chuckle over and enjoy, and it’s not necessarily aimed at a baby or toddler.
I’ve got friends who are artists and I wanted it to be this person's artwork, and it’s a limited edition, it’s hand printed so if you want a piece of their art then this is how you can buy it. It’s very much a collaborative effort between me and the artists.
Whilst the print idea was mine. Mick and I came up with all of the puns together - then Inga, of Inkling Design, who is a good friend was the perfect choice to illustrate it. I had the concept but she was the creative illustrator behind it. The six puns were Bed Zeppelin, John Linen, Quilton John, Snoozy Quattro and Nod Stewart. It was so popular we have followed up this collection with Inga again - Madoona, ZZZ Top, Beddy Mercury, Guns’n Dozers and Sheetwood Mac.
Newcastle artist Mitch Revs did a Lazy Bones print for me which was really cool. Internationally I’ve worked with Swedish architect Maja Safstrom, who does these beautiful monochromatic drawings which I knew would translate really well.
Kelli Murray did the Moons in our first collection, and she has since launched Rylee + Cru who we collaborated with as a brand this season - so lovely to have worked with some artists twice as they evolve too.
I also worked with a really close girlfriend of mine, Jamie Kachel. Jamie studied the craft of Shibori in Japan and after a lot of heavy arm twisting, I convinced her to hand dye and hand stitch a range of linen for me which was just stunning. Most recently I worked with Melbourne-based artists Caroline Walls and that collection literally sold out in 24 hours.
Tell us about how you've used Instagram to grow your business?
Going from a fully personal account to a business account was a really big transition and something I was nervous about. I didn’t even know if people would want what I was making, so I feel very grateful that people have embraced it. Instagram is my main platform which is both good and bad, being so reliant on one platform is risky but it has also kept it manageable for me.
At the time there wasn’t anything like it, now I could name at least five brands out there doing a similar thing, but no one’s printing it themselves and hand dying it so we have our own little niche and thankfully people are still buying and it’s still growing in awareness and sales.
The business is probably at the stage where it could grow further but I am not ready for it to., I started Dazed but Amazed because I realised with my makeup business, which I had transformed from editorial work into mainly weddings, that it’s all weekends and when the kids go to school I won’t want to be working weekends.
I’d been thinking about the linen business for a while so I thought I’ll just see how it goes. The best part is that it’s allowed me to still work from home which has been great as I never wanted it to take me away from the kids, it’s just all about keeping it relatively grassroots.
With two little ones, how do you manage to get anything done?
Half the time I don’t even know myself, my mum laughs at me cause she is much more structured than me and she’ll ask if she wants me to come up and help but I am like “I don’t know when, can I call you, maybe when I get Dash to go to sleep, cause I don’t even know when that will be.”
I have wonderful family and friends support, mum lives two minutes down the road, my mother-in-law lives above us, my sister lives just five minutes away and even though it’s just me and my husband, when people say it takes a village to raise a family it really does. Even though I run this business on my own, I am not on my own at all, I have a lot of help that I can call upon.
Banjo goes to pre-school on Thursdays and Fridays so I try my hardest to get everything done on those days. Dash isn’t a great sleeper so when I put him to bed I try to pack orders, reply to emails. It’s not a great business model [Jess laughs], but I seem to make it work.
I feel really grateful that in hindsight I never built the business, particularly in a social media sense, to be all bells and whistles so if it’s been a bad week I send out some emails saying we’re still here just give us a week. Where not pretending to be something that we’re not and thankfully I have really wonderful loyal customers who understand and keep coming back.
And now you're making bed linen for the grown ups?
It started just as children’s linen, I honestly never thought I would do adults but it kind of came from demand. People kept asking me and after some time and trying to work out what people might want, as I wouldn’t put a big print on my cover, I came up with what I call a Bed Cover which is a giant flat sheet that’s 3m wide x 2.7m and I hand dye them in really natural hues.
I wasn’t sure how people would respond, but now I can’t keep up with the orders, it’s growing much faster than the children’s side. For me, it’s really surprising but it’s great. I am not money driven I just really love the creative side of it and that people love it. I get so many lovely emails from people receiving the linen which is really special.
There’s been lots of tragedy around us this year, it’s been difficult to navigate but also a really good constant reminder of perspective and the “this is why I started this business”. I wanted it to be successful but not so much so that it would take me away from the children.
Don’t get me wrong there are definitely moments when I am with the kids and I am thinking about work, and I definitely don’t have the juggle down pat, it can get a little crazy at times and it’s hard work but I love it.
Tell us about Linen For Lovers?
I wanted to pitch the adult range differently, I have a really strong following with mums but I didn’t want the range to just be aimed at that market so rather than shoot it myself I asked real life couples to shoot each collection. When I gave them the brief I said I am happy for it to be a little more seductive, but keep in mind that it’s going to sit alongside the children’s bedding so it can’t get too raunchy.
It did get a little too raunchy for the folks at Instagram with some of the Linen for Lovers pics deleted, there is almost outright pornography on Instagram but as soon as you show a nipple they take it down.
The stunning range of rose quartz, golden, moss and meadows, slate and terracotta is the result of Jes’s love of playing around with the dyes and bringing something sophisticated to the bedding scene.
Dazed but Amazed is a truly beautiful brand crafted by a beautiful lady and her family, we can’t wait to see what Jes comes up for her next collection.
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