Ragmaw: Designer Megan Jackman balances natural aesthetic with durability

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When Megan Jackman was first developing her handbag company, she was advised to consider a different name brand other than Ragmaw – but luckily she listened to her gut.

Ragmaw is a term used to describe someone, usually a child,  dressed in ragged clothing, not necessarily in a negative way. It’s a Newfoundland term that my grandmother remembers using as a child. I use it as my business name because I just like the word and I like that it  has something to do with ragged fabric pieces because I started off using bits and pieces of recycled fabrics,” said the designer, who originally hails from Central’s Robert’s Arm.

Ragmaw is a handcrafted handbag studio company located in St. John’s featuring durable and beautiful unique pieces designed by Jackman. The designer creates a drawing by hand for fabric, which is then incorporated into the handbag – making each one distinct and unique. While Jackman’s work is beautifully designed, it’s also durable, functional and applicable to everyday life.

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Inspired by nature and visions of her own surroundings, Ragmaw designs are influenced by moments Jackman has observed, experienced or envisioned.

“I love going for walks and taking quick snaps of shapes and colours, trees, flowers, red fringes on Autumn bushes. Most of my fabric prints are interpretations of things that I see, rather than exact drawings of objects,” said the artist. “Sometimes, the ideas for my fabric prints are pre-planned; for example, I always wanted to design a bag that featured humpback whales so I set out to work on that particular image. But, for the most part, my prints are images or patterns that come from hours of mindless sketching. I find it very hard to create a new print on-demand. Sometimes I will sketch something and then pack it away for months before re-visiting it and turning it into a fabric print.

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Once a practicing pharmacist, Jackman found the confidence to take her creative pastime to the next level and start a business in a slow but successful process.

“I only started to revisit my love of sewing and making bags as a creative outlet in my spare time, I didn’t intend to start an actual business. With the encouragement of my friends, I went to a few local markets. Eventually, I signed up for a small studio space where I was selling a few bags weekly but even then I didn’t imagine that I would make bags for a living, I thought I was just taking some time to figure things out,” said the entrepreneur. “It took several years for me to get to a place where I felt that the business was serious, to get to a place where I actually took my own design skills seriously.  Once I got to that point and I had a couple of employees, the confidence was there and I took the leap to rely solely on my business.”

Ragmaw has an impactful social media  presence, with a notable branding that evidently takes strategic effort and hardwork on Jackman’s part. She has a reliable team who help bring her vision to fruition, allowing Jackman to focus on marketing, designing and presentation.

“I hired my first employee, Kim, about two years ago.  Now, we are at a point where we work in sync naturally and I rely on Kim for a lot of support. She is such a huge asset to Ragmaw,” said Jackman. “I also have an exceptional studio assistant, Daniela, who is a perfect fit in the customer service area and, most recently, as a leatherworker.  At the end of the day, I see that there are some areas of the business where she is an even better fit than me! I need to focus more on developing design processes and moving the business forward; I’m not quite there yet but I remind myself that I’ve encountered lots of hurdles before that seemed unsurmountable, I’m trying to be patient with myself at this point.

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Outside from Ragmaw, Jackman explores many creative venues: rug hooking and machine tufting for wall art, wreath making, and is also a painter – something she has recently started to revisit for a great cause.

“I love to paint, but, just like years ago when someone would say ‘oh you’re a handbag designer,’ I don’t really think ‘I’m a painter.’  I’m just starting to put my paintings out there after some encouragement,” she said. “This year, through Ragmaw, I started up a giving-back program where we will be raising funds for Miles for Smiles, an organization that advocates for the prevention of child abuse. I plan to auction off some of my paintings throughout the year and we also do a special bag each month now with a portion of a sales going directly to Miles for Smiles.

Ragmaw has a beautiful, balanced social media presence, an art piece all on its own. The Instagram grid is consistent, professional and aesthetically pleasing. It’s one of the components Jackman considers important to the success because it allows people to access all the designs.  

“Let your personality shine through, be yourself, don’t try to be like anyone else because that isn’t sustainable in the long term,” advised Jackman to inspiring artists building their online presence. “Have a consistent look that you feel really good about. I think your overall look and style can change over time but your maker’s mark should be easy to spot.”

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A familiar and friendly face spotted within Ragmaw’s photos is Joni the pup – Jackman’s partner in crime.

“Joni is great! She’s a busy puppy at the studio so that tends to distract me from work sometimes.  To be honest, that’s tough when I’m trying to get something done against a tight deadline but taking care of her has also been really great for me and steers me away from being a workaholic.”

For more of Jackman and Joni check out Ragmaw online and on instagram @ragmaw


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