being the inquisitive little feltmaker that i am, i thought it might be interesting to hear about other maker's stories. so a little while ago i asked if anyone would be interested in being interviewed for my blog. i was hoping to make it a monthly feature but have been so overwhelmed by responses that it is now a weekly feature!
so, grab a cuppa, put your feet up and lets meet claire of black cat's whiskers ...
Please introduce yourself …
Hi I’m Claire, I live in Horley near Gatwick with my hubby and 4 cats. My proper grown up boring job is being a civil servant in London during the week but at the weekend I like to play at designing jewellery, it’s a world apart from my desk job and far more exciting. I can let my imagination run wild and immerse myself in the vast amount of pretty coloured beads I have taking over our lounge. Heaven.
How would you describe your work / style?
I describe myself as a designer of unique, fun and affordable jewellery. I think my work is a reflection of me - a bit crazy sometimes but able to be grown up too (occasionally). I like to think I have a little something for everyone in my shop - little button hairslides for children, cufflinks for men and then bracelets and necklaces for all ages featuring the fun clay liquorice allsorts or dolly mixtures or more grown up glass beads and gemstones.
How did you learn your craft? How long have you been creating?
I am completely self taught. It all started back in October 2008 (or thereabouts) I saw a lovely beaded watch in a little jewellery shop near where I live. I remember turning to my husband and saying ‘I could make that’ I went home and bought some bits and pieces from ebay and when they came I just started trying to piece it all together. It was trial and error for a time but I kept practicing and I picked up different skills as I went along. I’m still learning new things but I'm much more confident at just 'having a go' now than I was in the beginning.
Do you sell your work? If so, what helped you decide to start selling your
I sell my work at craft fairs and in my folksy shop. When I first started out I bought a few pieces into work for their opinions and to my amazement actual people wanted to buy things ... you know, human living and breathing people! It was a really weird feeling at first. Then my mum told me about a local craft fair so I took the plunge, did it and loved it and haven’t looked back since.
Where can I buy your work?
I have my folksy shop: blackcatswhiskers
Do you have a blog we can visit?
claire's blackcatswhiskers blog
Is there any other craft skill you would like to learn?
I would absolutely love to be able to paint or to work with silver but I’m just not that gifted. I can only work with what I’ve been given and unfortunately I wasn’t that blessed. I did some sewing with my mum the other month, the lines were quite wonky but I was really chuffed having never used a sewing machine before. I think my mum was scared throughout in case I accidentally sewed my fingers to the fabric :-)
Anything exciting planned for 2010 you’d like to share?
My hubby and I will be starting IVF sometime very soon so this is going to hopefully be a life changing year for us (fingers & toes crossed!).
If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be …
Planning another house redecoration or redesigning the garden.. I just love planning and doing things, I just can't sit still. Designing jewellery keeps me out of mischief (and in the good books with the hubby who hates digging holes or doing DIY) it helps keep my brain busy and me sitting in one place for more than an hour sometimes :-)
I couldn’t do this if it wasn’t for …
My hubby who makes dinner often so I can carry on making jewellery, who makes me oodles of tea at the weekend to keep me going and on the cold winter nights has lit the open fire to keep us toasty while I sit surrounded by my beads working.
Describe your perfect day.
One of my most perfect days would have to be when hubby and I went to the Maldives for our honeymoon, we spent the day on a boat where we were lucky enough to be surrounded by dolphins. We did some snorkelling and sunbathing then we came back and went to the spa for a massage, had a really lovely romantic meal and then sat in the tea house at the end of the jetty until really late.
Describe your proudest moment.
I always feel proud when someone buys something from my shop or I get a compliment but I think my proudest moment was when I was asked if I would supply jewellery for a little gift shop. I am still pleased as punch about it and am working hard making the stock for when the shop opens on 1 March.
What do you do to relax?
Relax, what’s that? On the rare occasion when I've done everything I want or need to do and I get some time to myself I love my garden. It’s a real cottage garden inspired by my mum and dad’s garden when I was growing up, it is rammed full of scented flowers, especially lavender and roses. I just love laying in the sun by the big lavender bush with a huge glass of wine not very far from my fingertips.
Marmite … love it or hate it?
Mmmmm.. Marmite. I love it on toast.
What animal would you be, and why?
It would have to be a cat, looking at my 4 its not hard work, just eating and sleeping can’t be a bad life and they never worry ‘if their bum looks big’..
How do you keep motivated?
I will stay motivated as long as people like what I’m doing. Every time I get a sale or a compliment its a HUGE boost and is what motivates me to devote almost every spare minute making and making and making some more.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
I can hardly claim to be a veteran but if I had to give advice it would be to learn and evolve as you go along. The jewellery I’m selling now is so different from what I was making when I first started. I’ve learnt what sells and that has influenced what I’m now concentrating my time on. The other big thing is to promote, promote and promote some more. It is such an important part of making your business a success but can be really hard work.
thanks for taking the time to chat claire, i really love your lego cufflinks! fingers and toes crossed for you here too :)