I’ve been following Kate, a brilliant textile designer, on Twitter for a while and was thrilled to see what a great year 2014 was for her.
We talk market tips, book recommendations and future plans for Made by Mrs M!
You studied Fashion & Textiles, but detoured into a job in the city. Why, and what drew you back to fabric and making?
It just happened really! I think the job was out of necessity, as I needed to earn some money. I quite enjoyed it for the first few years (and studied law for five of them). Ultimately though my creativity had to be used somewhere, and I realised I needed a change after my son was born (although he was getting on for four by the time I left!).
I started by designing in the evenings for fun, and to begin with my son was still having naps so I used every second of those! After a few months I started to think that I could possibly do something with it. Things at work weren’t great after my return from maternity leave and I needed a change.
The development of my current fabric collection has been a slow process over the last two years or so, but in the future I hope to be able to launch new collections on a regular basis (rather than just a couple of new designs at a time as I do currently).
2014 was an exciting year, what with being selected for the Royal Academy’s RAted, and Renegade Craft Fair! How did the events affect you and your business?
They both gave me a really good, and much needed, boost. It’s slow going when you start your own business (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!). Exciting events such as these help me to feel that I’m on the right track, and that I should keep going when times are tough. I also got a fair bit of publicity from them!
The first event I did, when starting out, was a local school’s Christmas fair. I felt the need to get my products in front of some strangers and receive some honest feedback – also to see if they would sell as my Folksy shop (I’m now just on Etsy) had got off to a very slow start.
I learnt a lot from the experience, even if one thing I took away is that school fairs aren’t really the best place for my work! When I did a couple more small craft fairs, I saw the value in doing them for market research purposes. Sales were never fantastic (though usually good enough), but having the opportunity to talk to people face to face about your work is so important.
I wouldn’t go back now and do some of the events I’ve done, but they’ve all enabled me to make better choices in selecting events now. I can still make the odd mistake though!
Now I choose events for a combination of reasons, but mainly market research and profile raising. I no longer do small craft fairs, unless I know the organiser and am doing it to support them. I don’t like to leave it too long between events either as continuous feedback is important. You can read my other market tips here.
I know mainly of your pattern and fabric design – tell us about your other creative work!
Pattern and fabric design are my main focus at the moment, alongside my blog, which is increasingly popular. I’ve previously exhibited knitted and crocheted fibre art work at galleries and events. I’ve also dabbled with ceramics and would love to do more at some point.
I’m always on the lookout for new learning opportunities, and I’m currently mid-way through a drawing and painting course to improve my observational drawing and painting skills. My main fabric designs are based upon my paintings, so I’m hoping to learn new techniques which I can go on to use when designing.
What is next for Made By Mrs M?
At the moment I’m doing what I did this time last year – spending time re-evaluating. Last year this led to massive changes to my blog and website, along with a more cohesive product range. I’m working on a plan for the year, but I would like to feature in some more print magazines, and I’m always on the lookout for new stockists, events and collaborative opportunities.
I’ve just joined Designers/Makers and will be at their markets at Old Spitalfields in London in March and May – I’m also planning to sell a few products through their shop (watch this space).
What advice would you give designer-makers looking to grow their hobby into a business?
Don’t quit the day job unless you can afford to or have no other option as progress can be slow (especially if you don’t have lots of money to throw at it). I worked part time, but with a young child as well it reached the stage where I was unable to grow any further and properly start a business while I was working. It does depend on your job though as mine was very demanding!
Don’t expect quick results – you need to be in it for the long haul.
Be yourself, don’t compare your work to others’, and develop your own style (even if, like mine, it can be a bit like marmite!).
Build a Business from your Kitchen Table – Sophie Cornish and Holly Tucker
Make Your Creativity Pay – Pete Moseley
Grow Your Handmade Business – Kari Chapin
The Creative Habit – Twyla Tharp
Blogging for Creatives – Robin Houghton
Skillshare – I did a great course last year on designing tutorials for your blog.
Thank you so much Kate, what a brilliant list of books too!
You can meet Kate at the Designers/Makers market at Old Spitalfields on March 21st and/or May 16th. Or you can stalk her across the internets:
Twitter – @madebymrsm
Instagram – @madebymrsm
Pinterest – @madebymrsm
Etsy – Made by Mrs M
Facebook – Made by Mrs M
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