Mawdesley artist Briony Machin has gone global
- Credit: Kirsty Thompson/Archant
If there is one person who meets the description of an overnight sensation, it’s Briony Machin.
It was May 2021 to be exact, when an experimental – and perhaps begrudging – TikTok video exploded.
‘I’ve always taken the time the take nice pictures to post on Instagram, and they’ve always done okay,’ says Briony, who creates beautiful mosaics in her open studio at Cedar Farm, Mawdesley.
‘My sister kept telling me to make a TikTok video, but I’d always laugh and say: ‘I’m not doing it; it’s for 13-year-olds who want to do a dance’.
‘I’d been making video reels for Instagram, and just one day thought I’d do an experiment; download TikTok and upload one video.
‘The first video I posted was a selfie by accident and I didn’t know how to delete it!’
Briony posted a video reel of her crafts and wasn’t expecting much, as she had no followers. ‘I thought, at least if I start to advertise that I have TikTok then there is something there.’
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The next day, she had 60 views, and a day later woke up to 200,000 views and 10,000 followers.
She linked it to her Instagram page, and the video went up to more than 400,000 views. ‘Those people then came over to Instagram, and that’s when [lifestyle video platform] Ultimate messaged to ask if they could share my video.’
News and entertainment company BuzzFeed shared it, and youth news and entertainment brand LADbible got in touch.
‘I’d say I was a bit of a one-hit wonder on TikTok, but since then Instagram has gone mental,’ Briony adds. ‘The last video I posted on Facebook has had 35 million views.
‘It is quite overwhelming really.’
Thousands of commission requests have flooded her inbox ever since, some simply saying hello and others asking if she ships to the US, Hong Kong, India, Australia, The Netherlands, Costa Rica... ‘It’s something I definitely need to look into, but I am a creative person first, not a business person,’ Briony laughs.
‘But it will happen. A family in Switzerland have asked if they can fly me out to do a workshop with their family for a garden wall mosaic, and a lady in Hong Kong has asked me to make three panels for her three shops out there.’
It’s been a whirlwind year for Briony, who celebrated the studio’s one year on August 21. She’s been running workshops for the last five years, four of which were hosted in a different room on site at Cedar Farm.
The business started out that way, as workshops and selling DIY mosaic kits, which enabled her to take on the rent of her own little shop. DIY starter kits come with tile cutters, the wooden shape of choice (options are available on brionymachin.com), glass tiles, specialist glue, grout and instructions.
‘It has been amazing,’ Briony says. ‘It was a weird time to take on the shop and I have been closed most of the time, but it has been lovely just to have the space to come and work from, rather than being at home and having a house full of tiles.
‘I have got my pottery wheel and I’ve just had a kiln put in, so it’s become more of a workshop and open studio space.’
Every mosaic is made by hand before being left to dry and grouted. Briony makes bespoke orders like door numbers, name plaques, and does digital illustration, having designed all of her own wrapping paper, greeting cards and branding.
Briony has always been creative – her mum was an art teacher, so sitting in front of still life was simply a natural part of growing up.
She went on to study design crafts at De Montford University Leicester, studying glass, metal, textiles and specialising in ceramics. The mosaics she taught herself whilst at university: ‘About a year later I ran my first workshop, thinking nobody would probably turn up...but I’ve been doing them ever since.’
Her style is simply the result of experimentation, she says. Colours, patterns and anything natural – the pottery is seascape/landscape, and the mosaics are floral.
‘It's just playing around with colour,’ Briony says. ‘That's what I always did quite well with at school and university; I wasn’t scared to try new things and I really enjoy the process sometimes more than the finished article.
‘You just have to develop your own style.’
As well as a luxury mosaic workshop for two, Briony offers adult full day and parent and child, and is hoping to soon start up pottery classes with her new wheel and kiln.
She also runs community workshops, most recently having spent a week with Lathom Park CE Primary School, Ormskirk, on a project to celebrate 140 years.
The 44 children, aged 2 to 11, each helped in the process, from working on the design to cutting tiles and sticking them down.
‘The children did all of the little designs of what they think of when they think of school, and I transferred it onto the wood,’ Briony says. ‘Every child in the school had a part in it.
‘It’s that sense of bringing people together and working on something collaboratively. I just love anything that brings people together.
‘The last school project I did pre-Covid turned out to be the school my grandad went to 85 years previously, so on the last day I got him to come in and do it with them.
‘He was 90 at the time. He brought his old school photographs; he is the most amazing man with the most amazing stories. He always says, ‘do what makes you happy’.
And this is absolutely a job that spreads happiness. ‘It is so therapeutic; I can just sit and spend a day making something,’ Briony adds.
‘I’ll just keep doing what I do. You just never know, especially running a small business – which is exciting but also quite scary – but I feel really lucky to be where I am at the end of such a crazy year.’