Meet the Crafters – Episode Four

Bridget Tibbs and James Hamilton

Age: 56 and 58

Location: Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Craft: Alpaca Yarn Crafters

About Bridget and James: Couple Bridget and James are desperate to crack the world of big craft fairs, but lack a final product range to establish their home-spun brand.

Backstory:

  • Bridget and James have been running an alpaca farm for 6 years. Bridget learned to spin yarn to make jumpers when working at a city farm in South London and fell in love with it.
  • James shears the alpacas through spring and summer, and Bridget sorts through the good bits of yarn to be spun and dyed into balls. They dye all their own yarn using natural products, and then sell onto other Crafters and businesses. As well as the yarn balls, the couple also produce very limited runs of toys, clothes and crochet kits.
  • Bridget keeps some of the yarn to crochet, knit, weave and felt some items, but most of the balls sell for between £8.50 – £11.50. The soft toys, jumpers and crochet kits range between £6, right the way through to £120.
  • James has recently done a sock making course and purchased a vintage sock making machine to add something else to their product line, and for him to be more involved in the crafting element of what they do.
  • With each item they sell, people can trace the origins of the product right back to the source. Bridget and James are aware of the change in people wanting to know where their clothing comes from. They are passionate about alpaca yarn and want to spread the word about the quality of the fibre as mostpeople don’t think it’s as good as sheep wool.
  • Bridget and James would love to be able to hit the vintage market. They want to be able to create items that would suit those types who might go to fairs and festivals like Goodwood.
  • Outside of the world of alpacas and yarn, Bridget and James are keen lindy-hop and swing dancers.They’ve been dancing for 25 years and competed in championships across the UK, as well as teaching others the fun of lindy-hop.

Bryan McLaughlin

Age: 60

Location: Bangor, Gwynedd

Craft: Wood Upcycler

About Bryan: Part-time Crafter Bryan dreams of taking his craft full time but is a bit clueless when it comes to running a business. He prefers to keep the customer happy than turn a profit.

Backstory:

  • Bryan has a passion for recycling the old into new. A self-taught woodworker, he’ll take any old bit of wood and give it a new purpose, scavenging through skips and builder’s merchants to find materialsto make his products.
  • Bryan says his love of woodwork stems from when he was young and he would do it with his dad. He always preferred making things to playing with toys.
  • Bryan’s upcycling business has been running for about five years now. He says the biggest challenge is getting organised and feels like he’s never really run the business seriously.
  • Bryan’s products are extremely varied. He basically looks at an old product and works out what he canturn it into. He particularly makes a lot of mirrors, shelves, candlesticks, garden tubs, boxes and tables, and says most items will take him between two to three hours to create.
  • At the moment, Bryan mainly sells his products at car boots and local shops that are run by friends.He’s tried setting up an online shop but says he found the whole process quite daunting. He doesn’t think he’s a natural salesman and is constantly dropping his prices to fit with what the buyer wantsto pay, rather than sticking to what he wants to sell for. He will sell shelving for as low as £6 per shelf and stools for £15.
  • Bryan’s never been to a proper craft fair and worries about the reception he’ll get if he does. He sayshe associates craft fairs more with knitters and papercraft and wonders how his wooden furniture would go down with both other makers and the public.
  • Bryan would love to turn his little business into something more structured and to be selling full time. He currently has a part time job to give him a steady income stream and feels that until he gets aproper hold on what he’s doing that won’t change.

Tracy Seekings

Age: 47

Location: Chatteris, Cambridgeshire

Craft: Paper Crafter

About Tracy: Multi-crafter Tracy will turn her hand at anything, but needs to believe in herself and focus on her craft to be able to turn this hobby into something more.

Backstory:

  • Tracy loves all things crafty, whether it’s creating gift cards and keepsakes for friends and family,making jewellery, upcycling, or trying a bit of needle felting.
  • Tracy loves getting her hands dirty and creating something out of nothing. She will try anything, but most of all she loves card making, book folding and crafting personalised items.
  • Tracy is mum of two. She currently works at a call centre for a courier service, but her dream would be to give up the day job and craft all day, every day.
  • Tracy is her own worst enemy! She sees the flaws in her work, even though other people can’t, and she doesn’t think her pieces are good enough to be sold at a craft fair.
  • She spends whatever spare time she has creating new ideas that pop into her head. All her family and friends love her items, but she always gifts them rather than charging for them.
  • Tracy is keen for advice on what to do to make people want to buy her paper crafts – whether it’spresenting her products in a different way, or setting a new price range.
  • Tracy is currently creating her paper crafts in her spare bedroom.
  • Tracy would love for her craft to really take off so she can branch out into her own craft studio.

 

Meet the Crafters – Episode Three

Neil Marshall

Age: 52

Location: Stafford, Staffordshire

Craft: Metalwork Upcycler

About Neil: Petrol-head Neil loves turning scrap metal into something new and exciting. However, his unique business is struggling, and he may have to soon go back to a day job.

Website: www.uniquemetalworks.co.uk

Backstory:

• Neil has always had a passion for motorbikes and cars, and being a builder by trade he’s always been very handy. However, when he turned 50, he decided that he wanted a change in life and decided to take his passion for upgrading machines and turn it into his business.

• Neil gets all his metal from scrapyards and donations from people in the local area. He says he can usually tell straight away what he will turn a piece of scrap into and loves transforming something that would otherwise go to waste into a completely new product.

• His product line is extremely varied and ranges from mini aeroplanes and animals made from old springs and screws, to lamps made from gear cogs, to figurines and log burners made from old petrol tanks. He likes to do something that no one else is, and has an extremely unique product line.

• Neil says the majority of the work goes into cleaning up the old metal before constructing it into a new item. Most of his products can be made from start to finish in a couple of days. His products range vastly in retail price, with the smallest items starting at £25 each, the lamps ranging anywhere from £100-£250 and the largest or most complicated items selling for over £500 each.

• Neil sells his products at weekly street markets, but would love to do larger craft fairs. He says the thing stopping him from upscaling the business to bigger events is the fear that he will fork out for a stand and then nothing will sell leaving him out of pocket. He doesn’t think he is a natural salesman and finds this part of running the business most difficult.

• Neil needs to sell roughly £500 of product per week to stay afloat. However, this year has been slow sales wise and Neil is unfortunately having to consider going back to working as a labourer for a few months to get some extra income. He says he can keep going for a couple more months before he has to make the decision.

Wendi Trasmundi

Age: 50

Location: Mold, Flintshire

Craft: Glass painting, fusing and torch Artist

About Wendi: Wendi wants to take her craft to the next level by exploring larger craft fairs to enable her to sell higher ticket items.

Website: http://www.trasmundiglass.co.uk/

Backstory:

• Wendi originally started her career working in stained glass, but after having children life took her in another direction. It was only five years ago after her husband bought her a kiln and told her to ‘get on with it’ that she started getting creative again. She finally gave up her class room assistant day job a year ago to pursue crafts full-time.

• Wendi says her main focus since starting back up has been carrying out workshops where she can teach glass art, and then selling things she makes on the side to promote the workshops.

• Wendi describes the products she makes as “all sorts of weird stuff”. She started with smaller items such as coasters and tree decorations, and has since moved onto mirrors, wall plaques, lanterns and most recently robots. She says she loves making weirder and wackier pieces and finds part of the thrill is trying to sell them and see if people like them.

• Wendi says she feels like when you go to craft fairs, there are a lot of glass sellers, but she likes to think that her range of products makes her a bit different to all the others because she combines painting, fusing and torch work in her pieces. Her product prices range from £5 to £100+.

• The first craft fair Wendi went to sell her glasswork, she only made £50. However, she feels this has gotten better over time.

• Wendi thinks people at the fairs local to her aren’t prepared to pay for more expensive items such as her wall panels as she believes that these are more suited to an exhibition style venue, so this restricts her to sell mostly her smaller items at the fair.

• Wendi admits that she would find going further afield more difficult because of the long traveling hours and although she works hard to talk to people, explaining different techniques and methods in her work can be exhausting.

Olivia Goodwin

Age: 23

Location: Treforest, Pontypridd

Craft: Weaver

About Olivia: Full-time crafter Olivia wants to expand her business, but she’s never been to a craft fair before through fear of rejection

Website: https://oliviagoodwinart.godaddysites.com/

Backstory:

• Olivia is a passionate Weaver and Embroider, she loves creating tactile and sensory items. A lot of her pieces have elements of touch – like her handbags and wall hangings. Olivia creates pieces with fun fibres like banana and nettle, she calls herself ‘The Hippy Weaver’.

• Originally from Cheshire, Olivia has recently finished a degree in creative therapeutic art in Cardiff. Her mum runs her own craft business and taught Olivia how to knit and crochet. They would go to knit and stitch shows together. Olivia’s Grandma taught her how to embroider, and they’d spend lots of time making clothes together.

• Although Olivia buys her wool from her mum, they both have very different styles and tastes. Her mum follows rules and patterns, whereas Olivia crafts her own creations. She can create various items in a day, like scarves and wall hangings – depending on the detail.

• Because of Olivia’s dyslexia, her mum introduced her to weaving particularly as it didn’t require the crafter to follow patterns. Olivia fell in love with it. She has also learnt how to dye her own yarn, using bright colours to spark joy in people’s lives.

• Olivia has a part time job working for various charities, helping those with learning difficulties by teaching them how to craft.

• Olivia’s dream would be to have a permanent stand on a market or a shop whilst continuing to teach people with disabilities. She currently sells some of her items in a local café, and gets the odd commission through friends, but she’s not really got much of an online presence.

• Olivia would love guidance on pricing and how to reach more people. Currently she’s making coasters starting at around £5 for 4, along with placemats, table runners, sketch books, and scarves selling at £45. Olivia wants to expand her range. She’s recently started designing basket weaving plant pots, but isn’t sure what’s right for her buyers.

• Olivia is a qualified creative and therapeutic Facilitator. She also has a part time job working for various charities, helping those with learning difficulties by teaching them how to craft.

Meet the Crafters – Episode Two

Michael Smith

Age: 28

Location: Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

Craft: Furniture Maker About Mike: Mike has been striving to make ends meet as a full-time furniture maker. He is looking to increase his public exposure in order to generate more furniture sales.

Website: https://www.idlefurniture.co.uk/

Backstory:

• Michael has always loved creating since he was a child, making things with his brothers in his dad’s outdoor shed. After school he decided to study Architecture at Newcastle University hoping that it would be the perfect blend of design and technical skills.

• Mike worked in architecture for around 5 years, but didn’t feel like it was the right profession for him. He wanted to be more hands-on and make his own designs.

• After teaching himself from industry professionals using online resources including YouTube, he and his girlfriend moved back home to the North of England where Mike had the freedom to set up his own workshop. Initially supporting himself with part-time work at local furniture companies before starting his own business ‘Idle Furniture’ in 2017.

• Mike’s work takes inspiration from mid-century and shaker design principles, blending time honoured craft techniques with contemporary design to create beautiful furniture that is made slow and built to last. A lot of furniture makers in Yorkshire have a traditional style, so he thinks this gives him the edge to stand out above others.

• Mike is still working out of a small outbuilding at the bottom of his parents’ garden, and although he’s been working full-time for the last 6 months, maintaining a steady flow of work is difficult. Without a back-up he will soon have to go back to working part-time.

• Mike’s prices vary based on the size, material and the labour that goes into each product. Currently, a side table ranges between £275 – £350, bespoke mirrors are £200 – £300 and one-off dining tables can vary from £1000 – £3000. Mike is looking expand his range further to sell more at the craft fair.

• It takes him around one week to make a small batch of 10 frames or 5 side tables.

• This will be the fourth time Mike has exhibited at a craft fair. He hopes that when people are able to speak to him and see his work first hand they will appreciate the care and attention to detail that goes into each piece, and hopefully be more inclined to buy or commission a piece of fine furniture from him.

• Mike’s dream is to get the opportunity to make furniture every day in his own workshop. He has put time into his website, but doesn’t really have the footfall or a strong reputation yet, and needs to work hard to turn his dream into reality.

Lynda Worthington (57) Katie Atkinson (54)

Location: Chop Gate & Emley, Yorkshire

Craft: Needle Felters

About Lynda & Katie: Best friends, Lynda and Katie, are eager to take their business to the next level so Katie can go part-time at her work, but admit they’re a bit nervous when it comes to craft fairs.

Website: https://www.needlebugsfelting.co.uk/

Backstory:

• Lynda and Katie have been friends for over 40 years. Lynda has a smallholding and Katie works as a social worker.

• They started making and selling needle-felting just over a year ago. They tried to sign up to a course but were told it was too advanced for them. So, determined not to be put off, they taught themselves from videos on YouTube. They say it is ‘great to learn something together and see the progress we’ve made. It’s brought us even closer.’

• They have a variety of products at different prices. The cheapest are a range of animal brooches at £10 – £18 each, to a rams’ head that retails for £290. They’ve also now started taking bespoke commissions as well.

• Living in Yorkshire, the pair have tapped into their interest in British wildlife through their needle-felting, making mostly animals found in their beautiful part of north Yorkshire. They use a combination of wool and wire to construct the animals, with the wire allowing the animals to be ‘jointed’ and repositioned.

• Lynda and Katie have done a couple of craft fairs to date. They say the takings were around £1,200 over two days and whole experience was a massive learning curve. ‘We didn’t have a clue what we were doing at the first one. Stuff like getting pricing right and being organised is important. We panicked!’

• They both feel that they still have a lot to learn about their craft, and Katie would love to be able to take her job part-time to enable them to expand the business. The fairs they currently sell at are small and local, but they’d love to sell at larger fairs as well as start doing workshops and sell needle-felting kits.

• Lynda and Katie also feel that their basic business acumen isn’t great and they need to learn about stock taking, keeping books, having a good range of stock and all the basics of running a business.

Christina Stephens West

Location: Worksop, Nottinghamshire

Craft: Plastic Sculptor About Christina:

About Christina: Christina has been sculpting with recycled plastic and factory off cut waste plastic for a number of years, recently taking her craft to brave new heights. She is determined to challenge herself by creating more ambitious pieces with the view to her work becoming a household name.

Website: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/RococcoLcwVintage

Backstory:

• Christina has been crafting for years since her days as a fabric sculptor. Now she is passionate about making light sculptures and other pieces out of recycled thermo-plastic resin. She even recycles previous pieces, turning them into amazing new creations, so nothing goes to waste.

• Her house is full of her completed creations in situ, with pieces in her studio, dining room, sitting room, and any other space there is going.

• Christina’s interest in plastic began around 20 years ago when she wanted to change a glass bathroom window into a Perspex one. She’d gone to a powder coater to see if she could melt the plastic to shape into a design she wanted, and although the owner said it would never work, Christina convinced him to try – she proved him wrong.

• Christina is inspired by the malleability of plastic which she is able to sculpt into glass-like objects, like her lamp shades, vessels necklaces, photo frames and wall displays. Her designs respond well to artificial and natural light which Christina calls Light Sculptures.

• Christina has been crafting full-time for the past 5 months. Prior to this, she was a Design Technology teacher and part-time crafter. Her Design Technology skills help her in her product design.

• Christina’s product pricing ranges depending on size and material of her pieces from £20 to £1,000. Until now most of her sales have been through word-of-mouth, but she has started to take orders through her website.

• This is Christina’s first craft fair as an exhibitor. She hopes that people will catch the vision of beautifully recycled plastic, where the longevity of its life above ground, is now its unique selling point.

• Christina’s dream is to create bespoke sculptures every day, including an amazing outdoor plastic water feature, and is keen to find out how her products will be received and the income that they may generate. Eventually she plans build her own crafting studio at the bottom of her garden.

Meet the Crafters – Episode One

Heather Robertson

Age: 39 Location: Basingstoke, Hampshire

Craft: Polymer clay Sculptor

About Heather: Heather ploughed her redundancy money into her craft, and after two years, she needs to finally break even

Website: https://www.heatherrobertsonart.com/

Backstory:

• Heather returned to Basingstoke in her early 20’s, after she spent her childhood in South Africa. She was working full-time in customer services and then as a junior technical writer, but continued to paint, draw and sculpt as a hobby, always being drawn back to art and design which she studied at college.

• Heather took redundancy from her job 2 years ago and quit the rat-race to become a full-time polymer-clay sculptor. She has tried many crafts, but this is the only one she has a real passion for, and enjoys the varied creations she makes, especially the chance to incorporate other materials into her creations.

• Heather’s pieces are heavily influenced by fantasy fiction like ‘The Dark Crystal’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘Labyrinth’ and ‘The Never-Ending Story’. She predominantly works with polymer clay, testing its limits and getting completely immersed in the craft world.

• Heather makes art dolls and figures, collectable wands, fairy doors, dragons, pen pots, gift jars, book covers, wall plaques and jewellery. The time it takes Heather to create a finished piece varies from a few hours to several days, depending on the complexity of the piece, and her prices range from £10 – £200.

• Heather is planning to run workshops from home as she is struggling to find an affordable workspace to hire. Her craft takes place in what used to be the dining room and her art work spills out all over the house.

• Her business has a many ups and downs, and there is always something new to learn. Heather has had to learn how to build her own website and online shop (which is still an ongoing process), and is still learning how to use social media effectively to promote her work and online shop. She is hoping to make her first sale through her website soon.

• Heather’s a good procrastinator and isn’t sure how to get seen, so she has to rely on word of mouth and orders from social media. Her problem is that she can never stop making things, experimenting and trying new ideas. Heather isn’t sure if she needs to focus on selling certain items or to keep expanding her range.

John Cole-Morgan

Age: 42

Location: Tring, Hertfordshire

Craft: Long-Arm Quilter

About John: John has been quilting for 5 years. Will his self-doubt about his ability get in the way of him succeeding at the Clare Priory Craft Fair?

Website: https://www.beginnerquilt.com/

Backstory:

• 5 years ago, John started quilting and very quickly fell in love with it. Now it’s taken over his life as the main focus of all his time and energy.

• John has heaps of enthusiasm and passion for his craft, dedicating close to 7 days a week to it. • John has integrated himself into a group of female quilters although, as the only male, he sometimes feels like he doesn’t quite fit in.

• John loves the craft community and learns a lot from all the women he quilts with, whom he describes as much more talented than himself.

• • As the creator of the Facebook group ‘Beginner’s Quilt Support Group’, with almost 6,000 members from all around the world, John has been able to create large-scale projects involving a multitude of quilters.

• 26 people created a quilt for the Queen’s 90th birthday, a number of sunset quilts were created to support cancer research at the Festival of Quilts, a poppy quilt was made to celebrate the centenary of the First World War. All of these projects were headed-up and designed by John.

• A big fan of double-sided quilts, John has designed a few of his own patterns and enjoys putting kits together to encourage others to take up quilting.

• John loves pretty, colourful fabrics and has a bit of an obsession with buying fabrics from all around the world. He currently owns over 16,000 metres of fabric.

• John used to store all his materials at home, but has moved to a large studio where he can organise all his different fabrics and store his many quilts.

• John’s real lack of confidence in his ability is the main thing holding him back, along with the fear that people won’t respond well to his quilts.

Toni Godolphin

Age: 41

Location: Oswestry, Shropshire

Craft: Crocheter

About Toni: Left-handed Crocheter Toni loves browsing at craft fairs. She’ll need to take a leap of faith to sell her own wares at the Clare Priory Fair

Website: https://www.instagram.com/thecraftingcow1/

Backstory:

• Toni crochets intricate brooches and hairclips, like flowers, owls and hearts, playful patchwork rabbits and colourful hippos.

• Despite being left-handed, Toni was determined to learn how to crochet and taught herself 5 years ago. By watching YouTube videos, she would mirror image the right-handed tutorials and now reads patterns backwards.

• Working part-time 3 days a week as a Compliance Officer, the rest of Toni’s time is dedicated to creating a range of different crochet items and teaching crochet in coffee shops and village halls.

• One of the things Toni loves about crocheting is the variety of different materials that can be used, so she also creates clutch bags and purses by combining old coke can tabs into her design.

• Keen to encourage more people to crochet, Toni has started a few ‘one ball’ projects. As the cost of a ball of wool can be expensive and few people want to buy more than one ball if too pricey, she has designed a set of mermaid fingerless gloves and a mermaid hat that only requires one ball of wool for the set.

• She mainly sells through her Facebook page ‘The Crafting Cow’, although has tried to sell at some local craft fairs and school fairs. She finds that the people can be a little critical on prices when it comes to handmade, the shops can sell a lot cheaper, mass produced items.

• Toni is interested in developing crochet kits and dreams of one day owning her own shop and crochet book with all her patterns in it. Interestingly, she writes all her patterns for right-handed Crocheters, despite being left-handed.