being the inquisitive little feltmaker that i am, i thought it might be interesting to hear about other maker's stories. if you would like to be featured, please leave me a comment and i'll get in touch with some questions for you.
so, grab a cuppa, put your feet up and lets meet aileen of aileen clarke crafts ...
Please introduce yourself …
Hi, my name is Aileen. I live in Scotland with my husband and two children and I run my Aileen Clarke Crafts business from our wee cottage in rural Fife.
How would you describe your work / style?
I make a wide range of textile art and crafts using a mixture of fused fabric techniques and traditional felting methods. My work is vibrant and textural and seems to make people happy.
Who, or what, inspires you?
Nature is always a wonderful source of inspiration. There are so many colours and textures to be found in even the tiniest of green spaces. I love colour and texture and often get inspired by the materials I use. I combine natural fibres, fabrics and yarns with unusual elements to get interesting effects and often I get inspiration as I work. I love the creative process.
Do you sell your work? If so, what helped you decide to start selling your work?
Since I left college in the 90's I have always made and sold a variety of crafts either through shops or at Craft Fairs. It was always a bit sporadic though and I would often find that I had spent as much as I'd made at fairs. Then I started making my cards and I knew they were different from all the paper crafted cards that were out there and I felt confident enough to approach a lovely little shop specialising in handmade goods. I knew the owner and was delighted that he liked them so much. They all sold really quickly and so I made more and started approaching more shops. I soon had about 6 shops selling my cards and I was asked did I make bigger pieces. I said I had thought about it and when we moved house and I found I had more room to work I branched out into making framed textile pieces then I began to dabble with jewellery ideas, then I got into felting as well as the fused fabric and I bought an embellisher machine and that's when the jewellery started in earnest and I felt I had a good variety of items to go back to selling at fairs.
Where can I buy your work?
You can buy online at www.aileenclarkecrafts.etsy.com or www.aileenclarkecrafts.folksy.com
You can also visit my website to see a list of stockists here in Scotland.
Do you have a website or blog address?
www.AileenClarkeCrafts.com, I decided to use my blog as my main website as it is more interactive than static pages and is easy to keep up to date.
How did you learn your craft? How long have you been creating?
I'm self taught as a fibre/textile artist. I went to art college in the early 90's in the hope of studying ceramics but the course changed to 3D design that year so I ended up learning a bit about a jewellery making as well as about design in general. I didn't learn much about ceramics though and was disappointed with the course. I'm not a fan of designing everything on paper, I prefer to get stuck in with the materials and let the ideas flow that way. I have always been a very creative person but I feel I have finally found what I love doing in working with fibre and textile. I was a florist for many years and used to save any snippets or off cuts of organza ribbon that would have ended up in the bin. After a visit to the Creative Stitches and Hobby Crafts fair at the SECC five years ago, I was inspired as to what I could do with these bits of ribbon and started making cards and everything else has stemmed from there. When I got the internet at home four years ago that opened my mind to so many creative possibilities. I was able to have a go at many things with materials I already had or could get hold of easily and cheaply. My best friend taught me how to make felt then I taught myself how to needle felt. My husbands Granny gave me her old sewing machine and I invested in an Embellisher machine and that has really taken my work in new directions.
Is there any other craft skill you would like to learn?
Hand dying with natural dyes. That really appeals to me.
Anything exciting planned for 2011 you’d like to share?
I am taking part in the Open Studios North Fife event on the 6th, 7th & 8th of May.
If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be …
A freelance Wedding Florist.
I couldn’t do this if it wasn’t for …
The Internet! The net has been a great source of inspiration and feedback for me. Sites like Flickr and my Facebook fanpage are just wonderful for keeping in touch with the creative community. People are very generous with their enthusiasm and that helps a lot when you are working in quite an isolated environment. As much as I enjoy a full creative day on my own, I am a people person. I don’t really go in for chat rooms and only occasionally post in a forum. It’s more that I enjoy sharing new ideas with people and I enjoy seeing what everyone else is making too.
Describe your perfect day.
A sunny day on the west coast of Scotland or Ireland with my family, a picnic, a body board and some big waves.
What do you do to relax?
I like to read and I love being by the sea although a nice river or loch will do.
Marmite … love it or hate it?
Love it. But it has to be with butter on crispy toast. I don't like it melted in.
What’s your weakness?
Guiness! Lol. I only really drink it when I’m in Ireland which is only once a year but if I’m out at a folk club or something I can’t resist a Guiness. It has to be a pint too.
How do you keep motivated?
I find new materials a great motivation or an order from a stockist or customer.
What do you wish you’d known when you first started out?
I used to under price my work at craft fairs but once I started selling through shops, I now sell my work at fairs for the same prices as it sells for in the shops and I find that I do better.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Make the most of information available online. Most of the questions you want an answer to will have been asked before so use Google to your advantage. Be realistic in your pricing too. Try and find a nice little outlet for your work that will give you good terms and a good idea of what your work will sell for. Stay positive and always try to keep your work fresh. When I look back on what I was making four years ago I can hardly believe how my work has moved on. Look for new ways to improve all the time : )
thanks for taking the time to chat aileen and for some really great advice too! looking forward to popping out to see you for the open studios event in may :)