The story behind The Maiden, The Mother & Crone Interiors
- Credit: Archant
Kate Egan has built herself a business with international reach, based on a no-compromise ethos of local, hand-made and just a little bit of magick.
The first time I met Kate Egan, in 2015, she refused to shake my hand: 'I need to wash up first,' she told me. 'I was just given a dead fox and it's covered in fleas.'
It was a somewhat startling comment to come from the pretty and petite young woman, but this sort of thing is what makes my job so interesting. Kate was training as a taxidermist then, you see. She still is, but her work has taken her in multiple directions since that time and today we're meeting at her new shop, in Macclesfield, where her taxidermy and entomological art sits beautifully among antique furniture, tarot card posters and similar esoteric ephemera from past times.
If you've ever visited Macclesfield's Treacle Market you may well have seen Kate already. Tweed clad, platinum blonde dreadlocks plaited under a feathered fascinator, she's rather eye-catchingly attractive. Her stall is rather exciting too, packed with stuff you want to take a closer look at.
'I've had a stall here on the Treacle Market since 2015,' says Kate. 'I have to thank Jane Munroe, who founded this market, for that. She really encouraged me, and she was right. People love what I do, and through their requests and feedback I have been able to expand and eventually open my shop, The Maiden, The Mother & Crone Interiors.
'I am doing very little taxidermy now, just occasional commissions. For a while it was everything, but now I am spending a lot more time on my butterfly artworks. I just completed a commission for a four feet tall dome, filled with dozens and dozens of blue Morpho butterflies.'
There are some examples of her butterfly work in her store, both wall hung and in glass domes, and they're quite beautiful.
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'I am very careful about where I source my butterflies,' Kate tells me. 'I only work with two breeders in the UK. I would never import from the tropics - wild butterflies should be left where they are. It's more expensive, but ethically preferable. My whole ethos is of concern for the environment. I am constantly shocked by the throwaway culture we seem to be living in, even down to home furniture. Here, I hope to show people that they can have beautiful things for their homes that are unique, locally made or restored and don't cost the earth.'
Back in 2015, Kate was trading under Dead Things by Kate, which neatly summed up her product range, if not coming close to touching on the beauty of her work. She quickly built up a huge Instagram following, which is now running at over 42,000 followers. Oh, the power of a good hashtag.
'I have just changed the name,' she says, 'as it didn't really sum up everything I do anymore. My followers are based all over the world. I have parcels to despatch today to Nottingham and to New York, Scaramento, Utah, L.A…' They are drawn to Kate's Instagram feed due to their shared interest in magick and the occult, the mystical and the arcane. Kate says that half of her followers are are vegan, with all that entails, and the other half like to hunt, shoot and fish, yet they all find room to respect each other.
Kate herself walks a fine line between the two camps. Growing up, she was firmly in the second, and to a great extent still is. She shoots, but eats what she kills - it's far more than sport for her. She has a deep and vociferous love of the countryside and our native wildlife, being somewhat scathing of great estates that promise '1,000 bird shoots' where the guns aren't interested in taking home their bounty.
'I go out with a small, local group and everything we shoot we take home. The land is carefully managed to ensure that all the wildlife has a chance to thrive.'
Kate's store on Buxton Road isn't her first step into bricks and mortar retail, she's been testing the waters with pop up shops for a couple of years now.
'When these premises became available in January, I just decided to go for it. The location is great, as this is very much a destination store - people come specifically to see me. I have been surprised though by the number of people who are just passing and stop for a closer look too!
'My aim is to start stocking pieces from other, local independent makers, something I have already started doing with Fusions of Nature, a range of tinctures, treatments and skincare all made in tiny batches by Steph, who I met on the Treacle Market. We're collaborating on a range of hydrosols, mini sprays of fragrance that don't just smell good, but have been made with an intention, or spell, if you like, to help people achieve greater clarity, or calm, or confidence.
'I have also launched a range of scented candles, made with pure essential oils and soy wax and have made many, for specific individuals, imbued with intentions too. It's something people often request from me.'
The candles are very lovely (the current Summer Solstice scent is quite heavenly, in fact) and Kate, as you would expect, hasn't gone down the obvious route of container. Instead, she searches out vintage cups, antique silver egg cups or wine glasses. They sell out almost instantly from her Treacle Market stall and store, and online sales allow for people to request bespoke scents and intentions too.
Kate is a fascinating mix of the eccentric and the totally practical. The former manifests itself in a rather dark aesthetic - skulls and jawbones feature heavily - and I am not surprised when she tells me her first job was carriage driver of a horse-drawn hearse. The teenage Goth doesn't seem to lie far beneath the surface.
'It doesn't!' she laughs. 'I wear all tweed now, but my Goth phase lasted a long time! I have always been drawn towards the dark and the macabre; I am inspired by the Victorian Gothic style, Bram Stoker and his peers. I like to recreate pieces from that era, but with a contemporary twist. I have just bought a collection of human skulls and will create artworks with these, too - I'm quite excited!
'I've always been a bit weird, but now I have a platform for it.'