Monday 20 August 2018

'We're all about colour and playfulness' - Couple who share their love of colour with playful, sustainable homewares

Sharing a love of colour and design, Amanda Vencatasamy and Joe Hayden make playful, sustainable homewares

Amanda Vencatasamy and Joe Hayden started Hey Bulldog! Design in 2015. Photo: David Conachy
Amanda Vencatasamy and Joe Hayden started Hey Bulldog! Design in 2015. Photo: David Conachy
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

As a Londoner over in Dublin for a girlie weekend, Amanda Vencatasamy's introduction to Ireland was a dramatic one. She met her husband-to-be, Joe Hayden, the first evening and had her bag stolen on the second night. Passport, money, cards - the lot. However, she was impressed at Joe's calm, reassuring manner and helpfulness in dealing with the situation, which put her at ease and scored him a few early brownie points.

Amanda had bumped into Joe in Whelan's on Camden Street the night before, where she and her friend were attracting a fair bit of male attention. She reckons this was principally due to her non-Irish appearance as her mum, Timi, and dad, Abi, are Mauritian. "Back in 2003, there weren't as many brown-skinned people around Ireland," she muses. "Joe had a little twinkle in his eye and was very chilled-out and relaxed, and we both loved music and making things. I caught his eye at one point and felt there was something really nice about him."

Joe was attracted to Amanda's eyes and smile, and as he puts it, her "slightly more exotic looks". They all ended back at a house party in Rathmines, with people neither had met before or since, and met up again the following night, which is when her bag was taken. At the time, Amanda was doing a foundation course in fine art at Camberwell College of Arts in London. She didn't expect her little weekend dalliance with Joe to turn into a full-blown romance, but they kept in touch when she went back, and their relationship blossomed. As a result, Amanda moved over here the following year to do a degree in fine art at NCAD, specialising in sculpture.

Amanda confesses to being more creative than academic growing up in London, and began working in retail at 16 before segueing into admin. At 24, she decided it was time to follow her heart and went to art college. When she met Joe, she found that they shared a love of creating and transforming things.

Joe is from Ballyboy, Offaly, and is the youngest of Vera and the late Tommy's six children. He completed an engineering degree at Trinity College, and worked in various engineering positions, here and abroad. He now works as a senior executive engineer for Codema: Dublin's Energy Agency.

Amanda and Joe were married in 2011 at Ballymaloe Grainstore and filled the day with personal touches. They went travelling for five months around Southeast Asia on honeymoon. They now have an adored six-year-old daughter, Mia, whom they describe as a "bundle of joy".

After their wedding, they began upcycling furniture, painting unloved furniture and using retro prints to change the styling of existing furniture. They started off selling it at markets, which went very well, and as their vision settled, they began to create their own designs made from reclaimed and future-friendly materials. Joe has an MA in sustainable development.

They launched their company, Hey Bulldog! Design, in 2015. The name was chosen as Amanda is a fan of The Beatles' song. They offer a gorgeously colourful range of homewares, such as clocks, egg cups and planters, made with materials like concrete, Jesmonite, metal and wood. Each handmade product is unique with distinct patterns and natural imperfections, and each design is produced in limited numbers so they can keep their colour palette and textures fresh and exciting.

"Life is too short to surround yourself with dull, drab homewares," says Amanda, who believes in creating innovative products that simply make people happy having them in their homes. "We're all about colour and playfulness, because I think it's so important for adults to appreciate these things, as well as children."

Amanda comes up with the ideas, while Joe puts his engineering skills to good use, designing and creating the moulds for each product and bringing her visions to life. They are based in The Chocolate Factory and also have a home studio in East Wall.

Amanda and Joe are looking forward to their outing at 'house 2018' in the RDS next weekend, where they'll be part of The Chocolate Factory Collective. "I can't wait to meet people and show them our products and see if they connect with them," says Amanda, while Joe says it is a "huge opportunity".

The pair are looking forward to getting their products out into the world as they feel they offer something different. In addition, Amanda firmly believes that adding a pop of colour makes everything better.

They are principally retailing online through their website and on Etsy and physically at the Rediscover Centre in Ballymun.

The challenges are that the business can be all-consuming, but they recognise that and are taking steps to keep that under control.

"Amanda is the creative driving force in our relationship," says Joe, who works part-time in the business as he has a full-time job. "She keeps us all together and is an amazing cook, and makes us take time out to enjoy ourselves. We have just bought a campervan, so we are hoping to go off and have a few adventures now."

www.heybulldogdesign.com

'house 2018' is Ireland's only trend-led and style-focused interiors event. It takes place in Dublin's RDS next Friday to Sunday, showcasing world-class design and the cream of Irish interiors talent. See www.house-event.ie/tickets

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