Meet the Crafters - Episode Two

/ 1 October 2019

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.