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From the factory floor to your sofa: meet the designer behind these huggable cushions made from waste

Photography By @clumsy.clumsy, Michael Comninus for RIISE
Published 02.08.22

Sleep prop, anxiety aid or lounge room feature: Clumsy’s upcycled cushions are whatever you want them to be.

From the moment we laid eyes on Melbourne designer Monique Chiari’s eccentrically shaped, spoon-worthy cushions, we were charmed. We immediately wanted to be closer to these sofa and bed accessories. 

Imagine our delight when we then found out all of Clumsy’s cushions are upcycled: made from offcuts, recycled products and deadstock materials to minimise waste. Cute and smart. 

We want you to love Clumsy’s cushions as much as we do, so we asked Mon to source some special scraps and come up with an exclusive collection for RIISE Shop. To celebrate the launch of the Clumsy x RIISE collab (featuring lush Italian deadstock fabrics), we chatted to Mon about where the idea for the brand came from and how these quirky designs make their way from her brain to our couch. 
 

Michael Comninus for RIISE

Q. Tell us a bit about you: what’s your background and why did you create Clumsy?

Hey! I’m Mon – cushion maker, designer, business owner. My weeks consist of local pie reviews, talking about Sovereign Hill, pretending to speak fluent Italian, giggling too loudly with my boyfriend, working part-time at an art gallery and several hundred other jobs – please hire me. 

Clumsy became a way for me to stay in contact with my friends in the harsh first Melbourne lockdowns. I was able to ride around and drop cushions off to my friends all around the place and I guess it just developed really organically from there, mostly over Instagram.

Q. Clumsy’s pillows are – in the best possible way – very quirky. What inspired these designs? 

When I was at art school I was doing digital drawing and making quilts and some of the designs of the quilts have inspired the shapes of the original Clumsy. Most of the shapes have been iterations of that core Clumsy shape. 

Q. What has been your favourite shape so far? 

Hmm … I think it must be the crescent moon croissant-shaped pillows I made last year. I decided it would be funny if I wrote down all of my secrets and chopped them up and hid them into pillows, so I did that – I mixed them in with lavender and green tea and made scented moon pillows filled with my secrets.  

Q. What is your creative process like – how do you get yourself into a creative headspace? 

Most of my ideas come from in-jokes with my friends TBH. For instance I traded my friend Brekstacy from the Brekstacy Skylab breakfast show an egg-shaped pillow. There’s the obvious humour, but also because he looks like an egg. 

Most of the time my ideas start from some sort of silly joke. The creative process usually starts off with me coming up with something ridiculous and seeing how it floats. I also love collaborating! So usually I start by bouncing an idea off one of my creative friends and go from there. 

Michael Comninus for RIISE

Q. How do you style your personal Clumsy cushions? 

The cushions are on a high rotation in the house. It’s sort of what I’m making at the moment. I like testing the cushions out for a couple of months before I release them to make sure I know they’re durable and comfy.

Q. Decor item aside, how else do you hope people interact with Clumsy’s pillows? 

Lots of people use their Clumsy as a kind of tactile anxiety aid, actually! The pillows’ firmness and texture I think create a comforting and nostalgic feeling of old teddies and childhood toys. Mostly I hope people interact with the pillows however they feel like it! I do love seeing people being creative and using them in ways I haven’t thought of, too.

Q. What’s the wildest design that currently lives in your head? 

A lot of my weird ideas are revolving around making cushions with a hole cut out of the middle so we can shoot my housemate’s li’l bum in the middle of it.  

Q. Who are some of the local designers and makers you work with to source offcuts and deadstock? 

All the best ones! Ramp Tramp Tramp Stamp, Emily Watson, SSCHAFER, Romantics, Olivia Ronan, Stella Vendetta and Lambert are the main ones for now! I’m working on starting off my own little mini business on the side of Clumsy called Scrappy where I connect offcuts from makers to bigger brands needing filling for their own businesses to give them another life. 

Q. Who did you source from for the RIISE exclusives? 

I found a local textile wholesaler specialising in Italian deadstock fabrics. 
 

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