How did you get started as a designer-maker and is it a full time job?
Well, I would always be making something as a child, whether it was outfits for my Sindys or the latest Blue Peter make, so I guess it was in my blood. I went to art college and trained as a designer. I worked for years in an advertising and marketing agency as an Account Director until I gave it all up to have my children.
I started making things for them and their room – bunting, aprons etc – partly because they needed them but more importantly to allow me a creative outlet at this time. Being a full-time mum to very young children is fantastic, but as we all know it’s really demanding – making stuff was “me time”; it really felt as if it was an outlet for that creative side of my brain which really needed to get out.
I then made things for friends and their children as birthday presents and one of them suggested that they were so good that I could sell them. I laughed. But later, when I actually considered it, I thought I’d give it a go. I approached a local, highly regarded gift store to see if they’d take my work. They jumped at it; I could hardly believe it. I went off to a corner to panic about how I could possibly manage to fulfill the order!
Designing and making is my full-time job now – in so much as I work it around my children. I love the flexibility it gives me to always be there for drop off and pick up, and I always get school holidays! Plus, it’s great to go out for a school pick up and get back to see I’ve some Folksy orders.
Talk us through your collection.
My collection is a mixture of everything I love. I have my very colourful and fun side – bright, frivolous designs. And then I have my more serious side that mixes beautiful fabrics and simplicity.
I tend to design things that I love or need and thankfully so far, they have always been popular with other people too. I do love approaching the Christmas season; it brings out my more colourful and playful side.
Tell us about your practice and making process.
Like many designers I feel like there are so many ideas but so little time. I try to balance my ‘need to do’ with my ‘want to do’. Very often, when I’m preparing a batch of things or fulfilling an order, my brain will be churning over a new project – working out what fabrics and buttons I have and what I need.
Now that my children are at school I have wonderful quiet, daylight hours to work in. But often work creeps into the wee small hours; it’s the only way to fit everything in. I feel a constant need to create new designs and have to reign this in, to focus collections rather than a hotch potch of mixed ideas.
How do you plan your work – do you use sketchbooks or do your makes grow organically?
I rarely use sketchbooks but I wish I could get into the habit of doing that, to make sure I don’t forget an idea. Most of the time I’ll have an idea and instead of getting on with what I really should be doing, I’ll try it out; cutting and making just out of my head. This can be great, but I hate it when an idea doesn’t come together first time.
Do you have any tools unique to you?
I use my own templates and cutting forms. These are pretty basic; my own drawings on to cardboard and trimmed out with a sharp scalpel. Not at all sophisticated but it helps with production.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
Everywhere and anywhere. I love children’s books – the illustrations, the colours, the fun. I love baking and enjoy beautiful pictures of amazing cakes. We also spend a lot of time outdoors, on our bikes or working on the vegetable garden – all of these things seep into my designs without me even knowing it.
I also love things that children make; I run Edie Sloane – Kids Create, which are craft classes for local kids and I am always blown away by the uniqueness and fun with which they interpret my designs.
What’s your favourite book at the moment (craft or not)?
My favourite book is whatever I am reading at the moment. I read every night no matter how late I go to bed – my very supportive husband can’t get his head round it – but it’s my little treat. I often select second hand books from charity shops and I love the fact that this can bring the most amazing authors to light – as well as a few stinkers! But that’s OK, you just chuck them back in.
What, from Folksy, is on your Christmas Wish List?
Oh my goodness, that’s a tricky one. I fall in love with new things everyday, but the guys that I always love are The Yellow House. I have one of the Wanted screenprints on the wall in our dining room and absolutely love it. I’d buy all my cards from Hanmade – love Hannah’s screenprinted cards. And for going out it would definitely be Dig for Victory.
Do you have a craft hero?
No one famous, but my craft hero has got to be Edie Sloane – my grandmother. She was a pioneering entrepreneur at a time when women weren’t really expected to be. She gathered shells, made all her own jams and breads, was always pickling something or making something for the hom. She ran guest houses, and bought and sold property. All sterling stuff and I’m told I’m a lot like her.
Do you have one great tip for other makers?
Stick to what you want to do and do it well; ultimately if it doesn’t make you happy, there is no point.
Always try to exceed expectations, in service, design and delivery – imagine how you would feel when opening that package.
I’m a big fan of Liz Earle – they always include a little extra in your order, they package it beautifully and it’s always on time. I always try to apply a little “Liz Earle thinking”. What I sell is a luxury – not a necessity, so it has to feel special.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
That’s really tricky. Ultimately, still enjoying whatever I am doing and maybe with more space to free up my dining room – perhaps premises which I can use as my own workshop, a selling space and a teaching space. Who knows…
You can see Karen’s full collection in her Folksy shop Edie Sloane.