Welcome to Mandy O’Sullivan’s Workroom
Looks like left looks right for this particular crochet designer! Meet AMANDA O’SULLIVAN, of REDAGAPE, in her bright and brilliant shed studio. A few country yarns to be had here, along with high style and creativity. By Susan Hurley
“My style is clean, bright, colourful and ‘yarny’.”
“I feel like the luckiest crafter on the planet.”
Remember the rotten ol’ days when left-handers were ostracised for being the Devil’s children and teachers would rap them over the knuckles if they tried to do what came naturally – writing from the left? Well, Mandy O’Sullivan is one of millions setting the record straight, proving she’s not Satan’s spawn but positively godly in terms of success and creativity.
“I always thought I wouldn’t be able to learn crocheting because I am left handed,” she says, “but after admiring to work of others in my local craft group, I was determined to give it a try. We learn to be a little ambidextrous living in a right-handed world, so I managed to get the hang of it after a few sessions of dedicated practice. Of course, I could have learned left handed, but I thought it would be easier in the long run to do it the right-handed way, especially for trying to read patterns.”
Everything appears to have turned out more than fine for Mandy, since today she’s at the top of her field, being a crochet designer in projects for the home – blankets, cushions, bunting, rugs, mandalas and more, and selling downloadable pattern pdfs and yarn kits.
“Over the years, I’ve dabbled in many different crafts; sewing, drawing, scrapbooking, cardmaking, quilting … but I didn’t find my true love until I learned to crochet. I fell in love with it because it’s so versatile and portable. It still amazes me that yarn can be transformed into so many different pieces with the help of a humble hook.”
But for the purposes of this feature, we’re not thinking portability so much as a fixed studio space. And just as old-fashioned concepts about left-handers had a happy ending for Mandy, so too did an enforced career change, which ultimately put her on the path to her now idyllic lifestyle. A chronic illness during her years of teaching ultimately meant she had to step back from her work – and the enforced downtime allowed her to refocus.
“When I was ready to work again, I wanted to try something new, so I opened a guesthouse in Millthorpe [NSW] and spent three months painting and decorating. Getting in touch with my creative side again was the best thing I could have done. I went on to get my Cert IV in Colour and Design, and dived head on into craft again, learning how to crochet.”
The plan is to eventually concentrate full time on her crocheting. Meanwhile, her creative pursuits are fostered in her “dream home” in a rural setting just a bit out of town – far enough to enjoy the vast country view but close enough to duck into the shops for a pint of milk. “I really feel we have the best of both worlds,” she says. “We plan to live here until we’re too old to cope with the steps! We converted a shed into my craft studio just a last year, so I feel like the luckiest crafter on the planet.”
Her “Hen’s Den”, as she calls it, is just a few paces from the house, but separated enough to give the feeling of heading off to work – if you can call crocheting and gazing at glorious countryside ‘work’. Not to mention the parade of passersby – dogs, cats, alpacas, chicken, and the odd kangaroo and fox. “It’s like a dream come true,” Mandy says. “And the rest of the family is happy, having me out in my studio, because the house isn’t covered in yarn anymore.”
Visually, the yarns do most of the heavy lifting – an intentional decorating decision made by Mandy so that the rainbow of wools inject colour into the plain white space. And the theme is practically and aesthetically supported by a focal-point pegboard. “I’ve had a pegboard in all my crafting areas, so I knew it would help here too to keep things organised and to look good.”
Storage is vital to the success of her business and her crafting pleasure. Hence the imperative of the pegboard. “I seriously couldn’t cope without it,” she says. “It serves to store all my tools, scissors, yarn, books, notebooks, motif designs, shade cards and inspirational bits and pieces. Plus it has colour-changing lights that hang around the edge. It’s the best storage ever!”
Sensibly, Mandy balanced look, comfort and practicality when designing her idea workroom, working around a favourite item – her workbench. “I love collecting and updating second-hand pieces, so I was very excited when I found this bench at a local store. It was in fantastic condition and was less the $100 – perfect size and height, too. Just needed a coat of white paint. I do most of my work at this bench. And I wouldn’t part with my vintage paper dispenser. I found it in a junk shop and it was an absolute bargain. I use it to wrap all my online orders. It’s practical, sturdy and unique.”
Helping to blend old and new are yarn shelves and buffets sitting alongside a upcycled stool, now also painted white and topped with a lipstick pink cushion. She’s hit entirely the right note for her taste, she thinks. “This is my happy place, my work place, my creative place. The novelty of the Hen’s Den hasn’t worn off yet and, honestly, I don’t think it ever will.
If she had to nominate a change, here’s what she’d have as the ultimate entrance: “I don’t want to get greedy, but it would be really nice to have some paving and a shaded area outside the Hen’s Den. It looks like an ugly shed from the outside, so it would be good to jazz it up a bit. But there’s also something nice about watching newcomers’ faces when they walk in and see the contrast between inside and out.”
A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS
WORKBENCH – Found at a local second-hand store. I love it because it fits perfectly in the Hen’s Den, and I can spread out my work because it’s so wide.
VINTAGE PAPER DISPENSER – It’s an old-fashioned brown-paper dispenser, found at a junk shop. It was a bargain, and I use it to wrap all my online orders.
PEGBOARD – Three pieces of large pegboard from Bunnings that not only look great but help to keep me organised and, therefore, sane.
PENDANT LIGHTS – From Fat Shack Vintage. They were my one big-ticket item when I was furnishing the Den, and I love how they look hanging over my workbench. They are purely for looks, because there’s so much light coming in during the day that I don’t need them.
COW PAINTING – By an amazing local artist called Kyah Wilson. I’ve named the cow Celeste, and I love her because my mum used to collect cow ornaments when she was alive. I love the sweet and calm expression on her face.
FAKE BLOOMS – Faux silk flowers that I bought from my friend’s homewares store. They fill so much space and complement the high ceilings. Plus they never die!!!
Find out more Mandy O’Sullivan, of REDAGAPE, at: