Meet the Crafters – Episode Four

/ 24 October 2019

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.