Colour lover, artist, designer and mother, Tiff Manuell creates wearable art that brings a bright, happy pop into the life it lands in.
Tiff’s designs are hand-crafted and incorporate all of her passions – painting, making, sewing and, more than anything, working freely with colour with no boundaries.
The process used to create Tiff clutches ensures every piece produced is completely individual. Each paint splatter or stroke falls a different way on the canvas, creating a new effect every time. Tiff’s Adelaide studio has produced tens of thousands of these gorgeous handmade creations.
Spending a lot of their early days in the studio, both of Tiff’s daughters and husband also help out with the forever evolving brand.
Born and bred (and still remaining) in South Australia, Tiff Manuell is now an international brand, that includes the likes of London’s Tate Modern in its stockists.
We chatted to Tiff to find out more about where her journey began and how Tiff Manuell unfolded with the help of her family:
What was your first memory of being creative?
That’s is a loooong time ago! Very young, It’s actually harder to remember an age when I wasn’t doing something creative. I think I just really found it to be a natural outlet so cutting, pasting, making, drawing, anything and everything. I quite honestly remember how good painting at kindy used to make me feel.
You were the artist behind Happy House, tell us about that, was that your first business?
Happy House was my first official business. I had made and sold lots of things before that to make money on the side. I had a little range called Lime clothing that was all hand painted, then I hand made jewellery which pretty much paid for my one year of traveling around Europe.
Happy House was born when I knew I really wanted to start my own business and I didn’t want to work a regular job. I started hand painting giant sized gift tags when I was 25, when I moved to Adelaide. They started selling so quickly and after about a year of hand painting and cutting to all hours of every morning David and I decided to sell our little unit and invest the money into our first print run. Happy House grew over many years to cover many products for young girls and women and we sold in over 40 countries around the world. We licensed our artwork to wonderful companies who created product under the Happy House label, it gave us an opportunity to sell hundreds of products to such an amazing array of countries. I am super proud of that. We established a wonderful team of product designers and illustrators, we created such a beautiful brand that I think was uniquely Australian.
Have you had any business mistakes?
YES! Many! Happy House taught me many lessons……. too many to list but mainly I guess that it all got too big too quickly and we took too many risks financially, global economic climate hit and probably poor management meant we just came crashing down. They were very tough times and harsh lessons to learn but I am not regretful in anyway. What I have walked away with are lessons that I base my life happiness and balance on now.
How did Tiff Manuell unfold?
Dave my partner/ husband suggested I take a break once a week from working on Happy House and do something else creatively. I moved off the computer and started painting. I guess the reality is that I have always equally loved product design.
I made a couple of clutches from some painted canvas and added the PVC outer to protect the painting. The rest is history I guess. I gave one to my friend Anna and then also a girl walked past my studio and saw it sitting on my desk in the window, She asked if she could buy it and from there girls just started walking in and I kept painting…
How do you help juggle work and family life? Do your daughters get involved?
I have always involved my daughters, hopefully in a fun way, they have had an opportunity to earn their own money from a young age being helpful and resourceful. My eldest daughter Indigo started sewing the first bags with me from age 13. She understands every element of our business now. She is an integral part of our business and I think an entrepreneur in the making.
I would say it has developed both my daughters to be very resilient, passionate hardworking and respectful of opportunity. I must admit though now I am very conscious of my time. I don’t overwork and more so self preserve my energy so I don’t burn out. We open our studio a little later and close earlier to avoid traffic and see more daylight!
I limit my work at home to just creative stuff in front of Netflix with my girls! I only do the jobs at work I love the most and that I am relevant and productive enough. Hence, just painting all day! I also work full-time with David my husband, we have always been a team, he is my knight in shining armour, always balancing me out, super practical about everything and a great operator.
What do you love most about your job?
Painting every day, working with colour and creating endless colour combinations. Creating product that inspires happiness and meeting the wonderful people that are drawn to it. I LOVE my work… it’s not work.
3 other SA female artists or designers you’re loving right now?
That is very hard because there are so many amazing SA designers, artists and makers.
Marnie Wark – artist
Naomi Murrel – designer / illustrator
Alice Potter – jewellery designer
Anna Dimond – Palas Jewellery (my bestie)
Arghhhhhhh!!!!! So many more!!!
153 Unley Rd, Unley SA 5061