Interview: Sasha of Sasha DeWitt Studios

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Pretty soon all our makers, crafters and artists will be able to down tools, stop the mad prep work that always precedes a Fair, and start to enjoy actually showing their creations and meeting as many of you as possible, tomorrow, at St Andrews Street Baptist Church in Cambridge! There’s just one more slot left in our series of artist profiles, for Cambridge Made team member Sasha De Witt.

We find Sasha quite inspiring, in that she used to firmly believe she couldn’t draw — and yet she’s come such a long way that she recently graduated from an MA in Illustration at Anglia Ruskin university. What really motivates her is communication.

“I create artwork that tells a story – sometimes in conjunction with a text and sometimes on its own. I keep going back to what really attracts me to drawing, and that is telling a story. Illustrating has opened my eyes and my heart to what is around me. I can slow down and look closely at a flower or an insect and revel in the beauty of nature.”

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Another of Sasha’s sources of inspiration is illustrators she admires. “I did an MA in Children’s Book Illustration and through this course came into contact with so many talented artist. If I had to name only three, I would start with Shaun Tan, for the fantastical worlds he creates, Beatrice Alemagna, for her unusual use of proportion, and Isabelle Arsenault, for her use of negative space and a rubber!”

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Sasha got her business started when she set up an Etsy shop shortly after graduating from University. She also showed at a few local craft fairs. The attraction of having her own business is independence.

“I like being my own boss. I don’t like being told what to do, as I’m highly self-motivated. I like having full responsibility for my failures and successes. Not to mention that I was widowed when my daughter was an infant, so working from home made good sense to me.

“It has been trial and error all the way for me. I knew nothing, and I mean NOTHING, about business when I set up. Figuring out pricing has been the hardest thing to understand. I used to make handprinted fabric bags, but could never really make them work cost and time wise so I stopped making them to sell.

“Pricing is easier when I make work that I really love. Then I price it high enough so it’ll make it easier to part with. And if no one buys it, I’ll feel just as happy because it’s a drawing I love.

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“I guess I’m still pretty bad at business! I don’t want to just make what people want to buy (i.e. top sellers). Experimenting and pushing myself is important to me. I’m looking for ‘my’ people. People who think similar enough to me to like my stuff. I’m not looking to create for the mainstream. I’m looking to create for a niche of buyers who are a bit like me – a bit weird, a bit different.

“I like that if I do not follow the crowd, but search for my own voice, what I make will be uniquely mine. I also like to buy things that others have made, as they’re interesting and have their own story. I think making makes us better people.”

Sasha’s advice to would-be makers echoes that given by a few of our other artists in this series: “I wouldn’t quit my day job in the beginning. Running your own full-time business is incredibly stressful. I’d speak to more people who run their own businesses. There are lots of local organisations you can join that give great advice. Having said that – when you get it right, it’s so rewarding, because you can be proud of yourself and all you’ve been through. You’ll know that you did it all yourself.

I keep going back to what really attracts me to drawing, and that is telling a story. Illustrating has opened my eyes and my heart to what is around me.

“In the next five years, I’d like to have an agent to represent my work. I’d like to have a few books published by then. I’d like to have a stronger direction with my work. I’d like to remain experimental and exploratory with my work and with what illustration means in the wider context.”

Sasha sketchbook

Interview: Sarah of Purplespoon Design

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Sarah of Purplespoon Design, who is also one of the Cambridge Made team, will be showing her work at the Summer Fair on Saturday. Sarah trained as a graphic designer and her business started as a freelance graphic design studio, but it has grown to include a selection of handmade home accessories and contemporary jewellery. Her background shows in striking use of typography for her personalised wall art, and in the strong colours and clean lines of many of her jewellery designs.

“I really thrive on creating and design, it’s in my head in some form or another all the time! However, in the early days of Purplespoon Design I missed the hands-on nature of making, so my tiny business grew fairly organically to include some handmade items too, a collection that has continued to grow over time.”

Sarah teapots

Sarah’s advice to other makers out there seeking an outlet is to just start! “I spent a long time worrying about how I couldn’t launch my business until I had every last detail worked out, but over time I have tried to learn not to be such a perfectionist! It’s better to start and evolve along the way than to wait and put pressure on yourself to get it a hundred percent perfect from the beginning.”

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 “I love bright colours, bold shapes and typography and all these things feature in my creations. I do go through phases and my current obsession is gold! My house looks like a golden zoo with all the safari placeholders I’m in the process of making for the wedding season.”

Sarah wedding print sarah place holder 

I spent a long time worrying about how I couldn’t launch my business until I had every last detail worked out, but over time I have tried to learn not to be such a perfectionist! It’s better to start and evolve along the way.

Purplespoon Design and other makers will be around to meet and chat at the Cambridge Made Summer Fair on the 11th of June at St Andrew’s Street Baptist Church (next to the Arts Picturehouse), Cambridge.

Abbi of Jubilique and Louise

Abbi Cudden of Jubilique and Louise creates unique handmade greetings cards, ceramics and home wares. “I opened my Etsy shop in September 2013 after a good few years of experimenting with ideas, selling at various craft fairs and developing my brand. 

Everything in my shop is handmade by me in my studio based in Norwich. A lot of care and attention goes into each item – high quality and individuality is very important to me.”

Abbi also has lucky dip bags for sale in her shop. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m a big fan of lucky dip bags! “Each bag is a random selection, but will contain a face dish, a greetings card, a cute little badge, two tiny face dishes and a mini card! Maybe some extra surprises in some as well!”

Abbi will be at the Cambridge Made Summer Fair on the 11th of June at St. Andrew’s Street Baptist Church. If you plan to pop in for a browse, let us know you’re coming on our  event page, by clicking on ‘Interested’ or ‘Going’.

 

 

Interview:Harriet of Harriet Emily Design

Creating patterns for homewares is a dream come true for Harriet of Harriet Emily Design. “I started my own business at the beginning of the year. Although I have been working in various design jobs for the past few years, I thought it was finally time to start sharing my own designs and doing more of what I love – pattern design. I have always loved drawing and creating designs for all sorts of items. I currently design prints for a range of stationary, accessories and fabrics.”

“My work is inspired by vintage finds and collections. It showcases a variety of styles from geometric to floral and vintage colour pallets to bright contemporary prints. I love exploring new ideas and developing them in keeping with my own style. I have always found great inspiration in 1950’s homewares and Scandinavian design.  For me, the combination of colours and simplistic shapes stands out, adding a now retro feel to modern interiors.”

Harriet’s advice to those thinking about setting up their own business is, “If you are passionate about something you should keep going. What have you got to lose?  I spent a lot of time thinking about what I could do, but never quite getting round to doing it. Finally I took the leap this year and I am so happy that I did. You never know what you can achieve.”

Harriet hasn’t quit her day job just yet though and works on her business during evenings and weekends. “Within the next five years I hope to have a bigger studio set up where I can start screen printing my own fabric and wallpapers as a full time career.”

Harriet will be around to meet at the Cambridge Made Summer Fair on the 11th of June at St. Andrew’s Street Baptist Church. If you plan to pop in for a browse, let us know you’re coming on our  event page, by clicking on ‘Interested’ or ‘Going’.

Interview: Dittany of Dittany Rose

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Dittany of Dittany Rose sells fun, bold paper jewellery that has been screen printed and made by hand. “I cut the jewellery from card that has my design screen printed on it, which I then laminate and varnish with multiple coats. This makes the jewellery water resistant and light, yet strong.”

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“I did my Jewellery Degree at Middlesex University, where the emphasis was on mixing medias, pushing the boundaries of what a particular material could do. I work with silver and paper because I love the contrast between the durability of the silver and the supposed fragility of the paper. Because I’m working with paper I can make jewellery with colours and patterns that you won’t find anywhere else. All my jewellery is handmade and as such no two items are alike.”

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Dittany’s shed is where her researching and testing takes place. “I spend hours testing varnishes to try to make the paper as waterproof as possible. I’m like a scientist or a cook, noting times and combinations and trying to find the perfect recipe. I also try to find new ways to combine the silver and paper – when I started I was gluing everything together, now for most pieces I embed the silver in the paper so the bond is stronger.”

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Dittany advises anyone starting out, “You will make mistakes. You won’t get rich quick. Be clear about what your goals are.” Within five years Dittany would like “to have expanded the number of stockists I have, including by selling through some museum shops. At the moment my newest and best stockist is VK Gallery in St Ives, Cambridgeshire . It’s a lovely gallery and my work is selling well there.”

Dittany and other makers will be around to meet and chat with at the Cambridge Made Summer Fair on the 11th of June at St. Andrew’s Street Baptist Church. If you plan to pop in for a browse, let us know you’re coming on our  event page, by clicking on ‘Interested’ or ‘Going’.

 

 

Interview: Siobhán of HAHonline

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Handmade at Home or HAH began when Siobhán stumbled across some cute little vintage hangers in a junk shop. “I used the hangers to make peg bags and within a few months I had found more hangers and made more peg bags. I lost count of how many I made in the end. Much to my surprise people wanted to buy them. Soon more products followed, more fairs, festivals and markets. It wasn’t long before I realised that one impulse buy had resulted in me creating my own small business.”

Three years since finding those hangers HAH has developed into a small business selling a selection of beautiful products aimed at children. “There is no greater feedback than seeing a little face beaming back at you wearing something you’ve designed. Kids should be kids, I try to design clothing that is as practical and as fun as possible. So much young fashion these days is so grown up, I firmly believe that we should let them be little.”

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“Our first collection took its inspiration from the sayings, colours and shapes of the circus. Our brand new second collection “Pop” takes its inspiration from the wild world of Warhol and the swinging sixties. Think Monochrome with splashes of bright colour, spots, stripes, splats and plenty of pattern.”

Siobhán’s advice to those just starting out is, “Don’t overthink. If you think about it too much you can talk yourself out of it. Yes, it’s not always easy running your own business but there is also nothing more rewarding.”

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You can meet Siobhán and other makers at the Cambridge Made Summer Fair on the 11th of June at St. Andrew’s Street Baptist Church. If you plan to pop in for a browse, let us know you’re coming on our  event page, by clicking on ‘Interested’ or ‘Going’.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/HAHonline

Interview: Claire of Claireabellemakes

Claire bike bracelet

Claire of Claireabellemakes has a busy Etsy shop full of bicycle-themed jewellery, cute accessories, Scrabble-inspired goodies, wall art and stationery. She crams a lot into her life, as she explains:

“Claireabellemakes started back in 2012, after I had finished my Masters in Arts Management. I learnt a lot about UK policy for the arts and working for organisations, but there wasn’t much to guide us into self employment. So I started with a creative blog, as I’ve always enjoyed writing. From this, the Etsy store began and then later came Cambridge Craft Parties, which delivers workshops for adults to learn a project-based craft. I have a desire to do something creative every day, so the business is a perfect way to do that!

“The items I make for my shop are mostly inspired by Cambridge! There are lots of bicycle-themed items, as I LOVE cycling and couldn’t live without my bike. I make stationery items because it is a huge passion of mine, as are accessories and homewares. Although there are a wide range of products on offer in my shop, I love every single one.

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“Making is a chance for me to express my creativity. It’s also an opportunity to escape and relax. I really enjoy the process, as well as the end product. It’s satisfying to see a vision come to life in a product or DIY project.”

The passion for making started for Claire, as it did for many of us, in childhood. “I’ve always been creative since my Grandmother taught me basic crafts like knitting and cross stitch as a child. From then on I have been entirely self taught, but I love learning new skills so it’s always fun for me. I started with a blog and making a few accessories for friends, who then encouraged me to open an Etsy store. Four years later and it’s much bigger than I ever imagined!

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“My biggest inspiration is my late Grandmother. She passed just as things were taking off for Claireabellemakes, so every time I make something I’m proud of, I wish I could show her. She always had a creative project on the go and I feel as though I have inherited that gene from her. I am also inspired very much by our creative community, especially female makers.”

As well as Claire’s creative endeavours have gone so far, it’s not all plain sailing: “Poor health is the biggest struggle for me. For 20 years I have suffered with migraines, and for the last five years they have been chronic. This means I have around three days a week where I feel unwell, which can make it really tough when running a business and freelancing as well. I am still finding ways to look after myself and find the work-life balance. Making is often a good distraction for me when I am in pain.

“‘Impostor Syndrome’ is another hurdle I still have to overcome – I think it’s more common than we realise in our community.”

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Claire is a real believer in networking, and she emphasises the importance of making connections when considering self-employment. “Do as much research as you can and begin connecting with your customers before you even open shop! Network with the people who will buy your makes and build up hype about your business so they are excited for your launch. Learn lots about marketing and grab all the social media handles and a domain once you have decided on a name. Even if you don’t use it immediately, it means it won’t be snapped up by someone else.”

We’ll sign off by asking about Claire’s plans for the future. Where will she be in five years? “Continuing to work hard on Claireabellemakes, keeping up with my freelance gigs and still riding my bike every day!”

Claire bicycle pin

Meet Claire and our other friendly makers at the Summer Fair on Saturday June 11th at St Andrews Street Baptist Church (near Arts Picturehouse), Cambridge, 10am-5pm. If you plan to pop in for a browse, let us know you’re coming on our  event page, by clicking on ‘Interested’ or ‘Going’.