Published in issue 18, August 2012
Tell us about the lady behind My Small World
My name is Katie and I live in Chester with my husband Stephen. We’re both originally from Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, but moved to Cheshire around fourteen years ago when my husband had a job offer up here. I’ve always had a passion for making things and crafting as far back as I can remember. I currently have an Etsy shop called My Small World and I make and sell traditional hand sewn collectable bears, freemotion embroidered and appliqué brooches, felt card and needle cases and also badges, jewellery and anything else that takes my fancy.This year I decided to turn my crafting obsession into my full time day job. This wasn’t really planned but happened when I heard that the office I worked at in Chester, was closing. After quite a bit of thought, I decided that I didn’t want to relocate to their office in Wales and so I took a huge scary leap and left my job. It’s hard work but I love being my own boss and it’s given my crafting a whole new sense of freedom.
When did first begin creating your designs, and why?
I’ve always been messing about with some sort of creative hobby and I’ve tried a number of different crafts over the years, to see what I really like doing. These include card making, making earrings, knitting and painting, to name a few. I still have the embroidered felt handkerchief case I made when I was around 7 or 8 and when I started making things from felt again a few years ago, I discovered that I really love working with it. It’s really versatile, comes in lots of colours, it takes embroidery really well and it doesn’t fray when cut. I’ve noticed a definite style change in what I’ve been making recently, especially since I bought a new sewing machine and started to do free-motion embroidery. Free-motion embroidery is really enjoyable and I get a lot out of doing it, at the moment it’s my favourite craft of choice. As a result, I’m not doing as many hand-embroidered pieces as I used to and I’ve been trying out more complicated designs, like my tattoo inspired pieces. I’ve also recently started to make miniature picture canvases, which combine free-motion embroidery and appliqué and I’m thinking of adding more mixed media to some of my canvases, to give them a slightly different look.
What is it that you enjoy about your work?
Apart from the actual creative process, I enjoy having the freedom to create what I like, and being able to work how and when I like. There are no rules to follow, I can work in total peace and quiet, or have some music on in the background while I work, and there aren’t any of the usual distractions of a professional office environment. The only boss (and employee) is myself, which is really great; although this can have it’s down side, especially if you’re the only one motivating yourself. You also have to be pretty flexible because you’ll need to be able to do quite a few different jobs, such as be your own office staff, IT and publicity officer.
What is your biggest crafting achievement, and why?
Without a doubt I’d have to say making our wedding cake and invitations. When we got married in 2008, I designed and made all our booklet style invitations by hand and made and decorated a three tier, vegan ‘chocolate raspberry blackout’ cake. I’m still really proud of that cake but I don’t have plans to repeat making another one soon, as it was the hardest and most nerve wracking thing I’ve ever made. Taking the cake to the venue in the back of our car was really scary and we had to construct it ourselves when we got there. I was terrified we would drop one of the cake boxes and couldn’t relax until I saw it at the reception the next day. The cake got rave reviews, even from guests who weren’t big chocolate lovers and it’s still talked about today.
Other than your crafting, what else do you like to do?
My biggest obsession has to be Blythe dolls and since getting into the hobby (yes I know some people find the dolls weird or creepy!), I’ve made lots of new friends from around the world. Some I’ve actually met in person, which has been really amazing. I’m hoping to meet another friend I made on the Internet soon. She lives in Japan and is hopefully coming to England for the annual Blythecon UK charity event, which this year is held in Manchester. Last year it was held at Baden Powell house in London and we raised over £3,000 for charity. I also love visiting proper teashops when we are out and about and I’ve discovered a love of gardening, now that I’m no longer working in an office. Our garden is a bit on the wild side and weeds are sometimes left to grow but the wildlife gets the benefit of them. I’m hoping for lots of home grown courgettes, squash and beans this year (fingers crossed we start getting better weather!) My husband and myself are both Vegetarian and so I like cooking. Last year I added foraging to the list of things I like to do and made lots of edible and drinkable things for our store cupboard. At the moment I have a cupboard full of jams and marmalades and some sloe and some wild damson gin maturing, all made from our own homegrown and foraged fruit.
If you had to choose your favorite from your creations which one would it be?
Apart from my wedding cake, I’d have to say one of my collectable bears. He’s called Theakston (or Theakie for short) and my husband got attached to him before we were due to go to a bear fair in Wales. There was no way I could put Theakie up for adoption once my husband had named and got attached to him, so he was an additional surprise Christmas present for my husband. Theakie has been part of our family of bears and Blythe dolls ever since, and he’s had a few adventures. He’s been with us on our honeymoon to Brighton (apparently he stowed away in my husband’s bag!) and he’s also been away on a weekend motorbike trip with my husband.
Where does your inspiration come from?
It’s hard to say where my inspiration actually comes from. Sometimes colours give me inspiration and sometimes ideas just pop into my head or things ‘happen’ when I’m sewing. I like looking through books for ideas and I also like to have a good sit and think about what I would love to buy for myself. As for my free-motion embroidery designs, once I have a rough idea of what design I’d like to sew, I sit down with my sketchbook and do some rough sketches, or if it’s a small flower or leaf design I’ll just sit down at my machine and sew it without a pre-drawn design.
If you could change one thing about what you do, what would it be?
I think I would give myself a lot more drive and motivation, sometimes it’s really hard to get the motivation to do something when you’re working on your own and the Internet can be such a lovely distraction sometimes.
Do you have a favourite website?There are so many I visit, that it’s been hard to choose a favourite, but I’ll choose Flickr.com. I’ve chosen it for a few reasons, firstly, because I visit it the most, the second reason is because I have made a lot of really good friends on there, mostly through collecting Blythe dolls. The third is because it’s also a really good way to find out about other peoples lives and cultures and fourth, it’s lovely to see other peoples creations and I’ve seen some amazing handmade items on there.
Has any person helped or supported you more than any other?
I’d have to say my husband Stephen, he’s always told me to “go for it” and has always encouraged me to make new things and be creative. He’s been really supportive from the beginning and especially now I’m working at home. He also helps me at craft fairs, as my ‘assistant’. Luckily he has very reasonable demands, I just have to pay him in tea and cake!
Tell us a random fact about yourself!
You can find me at various vintage motorcycle events throughout the year (usually crouched down or on my knees) taking photos of old engines and gear boxes, which are for the bike club magazine my husband edits. Some of my bike photos are hopefully going to be published in a Wolverhampton based glossy magazine this year, in an article promoting the centenary celebrations of the Marston Sunbeam motorcycle.My husband also uses quite a few of my photos on his website (also Sunbeam related) and for the MSCR club magazine. I sometimes ‘help out’ at events such as the annual Cosford bike meeting – I manned the magazine stand one year while my husband had to go out in the rescue van, to find a club member who’d broken down (something quite common with bikes that old).
Shop link for My Small World: http://www.etsy.com/shop/mysmallworld
I can also be found at Creative Connections here: http://creative-connections.ning.com/profile/KatieC