I have had many blogs in my lifetime which are all now lost around the internet somewhere, and I have never known how to start a single one of them, so I thought this might be an opportunity to do a quick Meet the Maker post before I launch into the full Victoria experience..!
I recently answered some questions for the South West Londoner - you can read the full article here (and I really hope you do!), but here are my reponses. I thought they might be a good place to start! Thanks to Ella Sagar for taking the time to speak with me - I am always nervous doing things like this!
How did you get into craft originally?
I don't come from a creative family, but my nan was a draftsman at The Admiralty and has always knitted and painted, so I think a lot of it was because of her. I went on holiday on the canals in early 2000s and fell in love with the folk art on display on all the boats, so when I got back I started to paint and went on a day course at the London Canal Museum to learn how to do it properly! It was really just a little hobby, and after a while I found I didn't have the time so stopped. Then when my daughter was born in 2012 I had the big ambition of making all her clothes, so taught myself how to knit and crochet. No one told me that by the time she was actually born I wouldn't have the TIME to do it so it was something I picked up every now and then when I needed to do something practical with my hands! I had so many unfinished projects just sitting in a basket!
What did craft mean to you before the lockdown?
It was really just a hobby before lockdown. I would pick up a paintbrush or crochet hook and just have 5 or 10 minutes of mindless crafting to keep my hands busy and to wind down. I never thought that it would actually be an essential part of my life in the not too distant future.
How did that change over lockdown?
As with many others, I decided to try to use lockdown as a time to teach myself something new and actually try to make good use of all the time at home, so I bought a cheap embroidery starter kit and watched countless YouTube videos to try and educate myself! What I didn't realise was just how much my mental health would be affected by the lockdown. I think at the beginning, the thought of being a fairly creative person who was now able to actually spend time doing that was quite nice - maybe even exciting - but the longer it went on, the harder it became. I was shielding too, due to kidney problems, so it really was a case of being stuck inside and not being able to work or go out. I honestly believe that being able to focus on my crafting throughout lockdown saved my mental health. I set up an Instagram page to post my little creations, and through that met so many other creative people. We have all helped each other out through the highs and very low lows of lockdown, and despite the fact that we have never met, I've made some very close friends who I am so grateful for! For me, my embroidery and sewing really helped me to feel like I was a part of a community even when we were all so far away from each other, and now I can't imagine not being a part of that. You can meet some of them on my "Links" page.
What made you set up a craft business?
Peer pressure! No, not really, but it was a lot of encouragement from people who were seeing my work and telling me that I should start selling it. I ran a business back in 2007 until my daughter was born, selling Fair Trade clothing and festival gear, (as in, glow sticks and body jewellery!), so I knew that I could run a business, but selling things you create yourself is totally different and I really had to focus on building my confidence up. Anyone who does anything creative will understand that there is the 'creative curse' - you never think your work is good enough no matter how many people tell you otherwise! So for anyone setting up a craft business, this is a massive hurdle to overcome.
What does your business focus on?
I am a huge horror fan and for this reason a lot of my pieces are halloween and horror themed. The horror community, and especially the creative horror community are some of the nicest and most supportive people I have come across on my social media pages, so there is a surprisingly large market for gothic and horror themed items all year round! I also focus massively on inclusivity - as part of the LGBTQ+ community I like to use my shop as a platform to support fellow creators. I have a Pride range which is available all year, and I make a donation from every sale to the LGBT Foundation. I am a bit of an eco-warrior too, so all of my supplies are sourced within the UK from other small businesses, and I try to repurpose old fabric for my work. Now the charity shops are open again a lot of my raw materials will be sourced there! There is a wealth of craft treasures at your local charity shop, from old jewellery as embellishments, to picture frames that can be repainted and reused, to frame embroideries and cross stitches.
As my business has grown, I've started to create patterns so people can have a go at stitching designs themselves. I'm hoping to put together some kits next, and in the future would like to start workshops that involve mindful stitching and crafting for mental health. I would love to be able to actually get out in the community and pass on the benefits that crafting, and sewing particularly, has provided for me.
What have the benefits and challenges been of that business?
I think the biggest challenge has been my own confidence. I think people assume that when you set up a "little craft business" that you suddenly have all the time in the world, and that you must be doing ok financially to be working from home. They don't see all the hard work that goes with it; the hours spent on creating something then having to undo it all and start again, the juggling of small spaces, being a parent or carer, website design, accounting, tax, customer service, tears of frustration, tears of joy... and the bane of my life: social media. It takes a lot of work to push a business forward and be noticed today, and social media takes a lot more time and energy than people think; that 30 second reel someone created probably took 3 hours to edit and put together! And all of this takes up precious crafting time.
I don't have any plans to stop any time soon though - working for myself has helped me gain the confidence to put my work out there. I recently won the #QueenOf award for Fabric Art on Twitter, and I'm part of a fantastic community of small businesses in the My Helpful Hints Small Business Directory who have endless encouragement and wisdom. In just under a year I have surprised myself with how much I can actually achieve, and how productive I can actually be! If I'd never started this journey, I wouldn't have met the amazing and talented people I now surround myself with, and, more importantly, I'm happier than I have ever been in my work, even if my days are longer than they've ever been!
So in a long nutshell, that is how The embRUDEry Store came to be. And it's quite fitting, too, because on Monday it's embRUDEry's birthday! I cannot believe that it's been a year already! It's certainly has some very low points, but I'm still here and don't plan on going anywhere for a long, long time. So you're going to have to put up with me for a while yet!
Thanks for joining me on my journey - your support has been phenomenal and you may hear this from small businesses all the time, but we really wouldn't be here without you!