Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up on the northeast coast of England, but have lived in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, Scotland, for the last 16 years. I moved here to study for my degree in printed textiles. I will never forget my first visit; until then, I had never felt so at home in a new place. I now share my life with two of my best friends, my partner Mark and our English cocker spaniel, Spanner. They are my world.
Before launching my crochet business and opening my wee shop here on Etsy, I had a 10 year career as a freelance textile designer. I designed women’s and children’s wear and worked with a really great agent who encouraged me to explore and develop my fabric, embroidery and appliqué skills. While it was lots of fun, it was also a really valuable learning experience. With someone else taking care of the selling aspect, I was free to focus on developing my own style as well as learning about the administrative side of being self-employed and running a small business, which I am incredibly thankful for.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I’m happiest in the company of my best friends — my man and my dog, but also my parents. Since Spanner came into our lives, walking has become a huge pastime for us. Edinburgh and the surrounding countryside are filled with beautiful places to walk. There are centuries of history right on our doorstep; you can’t go far without finding a beautiful ruined castle or historical monument to visit. Edinburgh is also a very green city with lots of parks and wide open spaces. A particular favorite is Holyrood Park in the city center, which features Arthur’s Seat – an 822 ft. hill that gives the most amazing panoramic views over Edinburgh’s rooftops. It’s an absolute must if anyone is planning a visit!
I’m also drawn to the beach – particularly the stony beaches of the northeast coast of England. Gazing out over a grey ocean under grey skies with the wind blowing in my face; the crashing waves echoing against the cliffs and the sound of trickling pebbles as the waves recede; the smell of the fresh sea air – it is the most soul soothing experience ever.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
Since I’m only in my early thirties, it’s a wee bit early to be asking me that, don’t you think!? There are still so many things I want to do in my life! Skills to learn, places to go and people to meet, not to mention all the chocolate I haven’t tried yet. Hmm … maybe something like So Much Chocolate and So Little Time?
Where does your inspiration come from?
Color is my biggest inspiration. I love to source beautiful palettes to work with. I am particularly drawn to muted vintage tones and pretty floral colors. Charity shops, flea markets and the gorgeous array of vintage shops here on Etsy are a great source of ideas. I love to collect colored glass vases, vintage sewing threads, pretty patterned tins, Depression glass bowls, embroidered linens, kitsch plastic knitting needles, buttons and kokeshi dolls. Anything that is “granny chic” provides me with endless inspiration.
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade means a lot of things, such as authenticity and community, but above all, it means soul. There is nothing more inspirational than experiencing a beautiful piece of art, craft, music or design where the creator has intrinsically woven their passion, inspiration, knowledge and ideals into their work. Everything they are is represented in everything they make; they put their soul into everything they do. For me, the value of that soul is immeasurable and is the most beautiful part of handmade culture.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by encouraging and supportive people. At an early age, my mam taught me the basics of knitting and crochet. At school, I was encouraged by some really great teachers to try lots of different mediums, everything from embroidery to model making. Throughout all my experimenting and learning, my parents were always there to provide support, and although we didn’t have all of life’s luxuries, they always made sure I had the tools and materials I needed. Goodness knows where I would be without them!
Over the last 15 years, I have had the constant support of my gorgeous man. While he might not have appreciated every piece of work I’ve created (one of his stock phrases is “I don’t like it, but I can see why someone else would!”), he has always been understanding with impromptu critiques, patient while I’m yarn shopping, encouraging when I’m feeling uninspired and considerate when my workload takes up all my time. But above all, when he tells me how proud he is of my achievements, I feel like I could tackle anything!
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I think I’ve always known. For as long as I can remember, I have made things, drawn or painted (I even went through a coloring book obsession when I was little!) and have always expressed my creativity in one form or another. My earliest memories of being creative are of painting at nursery school (kindergarten) and crocheting in the kitchen with my mam at around five years old. But it was through my art classes at school that I realised where my passion lay. Despite being good at a number of other subjects, I don’t think I ever seriously considered being anything other than an artist or maker of some sort.
How would you describe your creative process?
Ponderous. When a design idea comes to mind, I like to ponder it for a while; sometimes days, weeks or even months. It feels good to allow it to grow a wee bit before I start working with it. I use my mind as my sketchbook. Unless I have a rush of ideas at once, I don’t like to put too much on paper; doing so can sometimes stifle my enthusiasm for an idea.
Playful. Once I feel an idea is ready to work with, I’ll start to choose yarns and colors that I am particularly drawn to at that moment. For me, choosing colors is a very spontaneous and personal process and can be influenced by anything – how I am feeling, the light in my studio, the last vintage trinket I picked up, or sometimes even just the way my yarns have been randomly piled up in a bowl on my desk. Allowing this part of the process to be as free and playful as possible is a lot of fun.
Therapeutic. Next, I get on with the actual making. The repetitive motion of crochet is incredibly soothing. Often I’ll brew a pot of fresh mint tea, open a bar of chocolate (anything with an 85 percent cocoa content is my favorite) and pop a good film on the box.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Jessica Ogden. I have been completely mesmerised by her designs since I discovered them back in my college years. She is one of the first designers I remember working with salvaged fabrics, and I love her appreciation for traditional crafts. I have read a few of her home tour features in British magazines but l would so love to have a snoop around her studio too.
Also Lidewij Edelkoort. Goodness, who wouldn’t want to peek into the studio of one of the world’s top trend and color forecasters!? I think my copy of Bloom Book is one of the most inspirational books I’ll ever own, and Trend Tablet is one of my favorite blogs.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Many of the handmade items I have are recent acquisitions that have come from friends and peers. It’s tough to value one over another since they each have their own special story, and I have such a unique attachment to them. I do have a hand crocheted silver necklace made by my very dear virtual friend Ivy Long, of Edera Jewelry that I am particularly fond of. Her work is incredibly beautiful and I feel honoured to have come to know Ivy through our love of crochet.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
Over the years, I’ve learned that creative ruts are a key part of my creative process, and I try not to worry about them too much. Usually, they are a sign that I’m overly tired or maybe working on an idea that isn’t working. Either way, I know I need to step back and take a break, maybe get some rest or go out for a long walk to clear my head. It’s rare that I get into persistent ruts since there are so many ways for me to be creative. If I’m stuck with my crochet ideas, then I’ll take out my camera and go in search of inspiration or maybe do some work for my blog. I love to curate some of my Etsy favorites into pretty posts and explore color palette inspiration.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
Somewhere new doing something different, but with a much bigger studio for me to play in. I thrive on change and love to learn new skills, so I find it hard to imagine that I will be doing the same creative work as I am right now. Long-term planning has never been something I’ve done; I’m much happier living for what I love right now and following my gut. It’s exciting to wonder what I might do next. Maybe painting or quilting – I so want to learn how to quilt and if I can find the time, all I need is someone to teach me. So whatever it will be, I’m really looking forward to the journey.