I recently received a wallet made from an old Melways map (it covers the area of the CBD) and I was so thrilled with it that I contacted the maker, Alyssa Milton. Alyssa runs a craft label called Lyssy May from a studio in Kensington and today’s HOT chat is with her. Thanks Alyssa!

Alyssa, tell me a bit more about your background and how you came to start your label Lyssy May?

I have always been interested in crafts and started selling things I had made from the age of 17 at local markets which I continued to do as a hobby for a number of years. After studying business and working in marketing I travelled and lived in London for a couple of years and whilst living overseas I was inspired to start creating handbags.

Upon my return to Australia I started to make bags using vintage fabrics I collected. They proved popular with friends and colleagues which eventually built to the point where I owned and operated my own store in Brisbane selling my designs and other handmade goods. I moved to Melbourne 2 years ago to soak up the local fashion scene and to expand my business.

Your bags and accessories are all produced using distinctive fabrics and papers. Where do you source your materials?

Everywhere! I am always on the look out both when out and about and also online. I have hundreds of fabrics I have collected over the years and often use basics like denim or corduroy which I team with special prints. I have also been collaborating with a textile designer for my latest range which features natural fibres.

Where do you turn for art and craft inspiration?

Vintage stores are a favourite haunt for inspiration. I also have a huge library of craft books dating back to the 1950’s which was passed on to me by my Grandmother. This is a real treasure trove of ideas for me.

What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced in starting up your own business? What advice would you give to a small business owner?

I think the most challenging thing is to continue to look at the bigger picture as day to day there can be many disappointments and lots of exciting moments which can be very draining. So over time I have learnt that things generally even out as long as you keep working hard and being focussed. Holidays are also a hard thing to manage but you need to try and make time to rest and recharge (although that is often easier said than done).

What are your next plans for Lyssy May?

The first thing is to make it through to Christmas as this is always my busiest time of year when the sewing machines are going nearly around the clock. The longer term plans are to continue to develop a reputation as delivering quality handmade Australian products and to one day open a concept store.

Finally, where are your HOT places to visit or things to do in Melbourne?

My studio is based in Kensington and I just love the community vibe of the suburb. The Luncheonette (173 Rankins Road, Kensington)  is a lovely little spot for coffee and Tonik (524 Macaulay Rd, Kensington +61 3 9376 9928) is perfect for a meal with friends.

In Richmond I love go to Bridge Road Florist (597-599 Bridge Rd, Richmond +61 3 9428 9715) who I rely on to always have fresh flowers in my house and the Bridge Hotel (642 Bridge Road, Richmond +61 3 9428 3852) is a great place to take advantage of the local specials on a weeknight when catching up with friends.

Fridays at the Mountain Goat brewery (North St & Clark St, Richmond +61 3 9428 1180) is also a great time to grab a sample tray of their beers.