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.
“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!
“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.”
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!”
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’.