How did you get started as a designer-maker?
I have always enjoyed sewing, and my mother used to be a dab hand at making things for the family when we were children, so it has always seemed natural for me to dabble with a needle and a sewing machine.
I had been sewing on and off for around twenty years, but it was only when I gave up my job in the City in order to look after my (at that time) new baby, that I started to explore ideas about turning my hobby into a business. In common with many new mums, I wanted to do something that would be flexible and which I could scale up or down as necessary to fit in with family life.
What made you take the plunge?
I was looking for artwork for my baby daughter’s bedroom, and I didn’t want to buy the usual mass produced prints that seemed to be the norm.
I wanted to have a picture which could be used to fire the imagination by creating stories around its characters; something that looked rich in texture and which my daughter would genuinely want to treasure when she was older and keep for years to come.
I then began to think wouldn’t it be lovely to give her things which she could then pass onto her own family, a modern day heirloom which would be genuinely treasured.
So I decided to make my own embroidered picture, and the result was the first designs for what would become my Treasures of the Ocean collections. Embroidery and fabric gives a picture unique texture and colour.
I then approached a couple of local art galleries and toy shops, and they began to stock my pictures.
Talk us through your collection.
I started my Treasures of the Ocean collection this year, and from this you can choose Jellyfish, seahorses and sea anemones.
Each picture is designed to reflect light and sparkle, through the use of metallic and shimmering sheer fabrics (often layered to create ethereal effects) and embellishments of sequins and soft sheen threads. I have also designed a number of other artworks based on customer feedback and which would equally appeal to boys, including boats and pirate ships, Beach Huts and dinosaurs.
The collections have also evolved into the ‘grown up’ market, primarily because once I started selling direct to people at craft fairs, I realised that my so-called children’s artwork, actually appealed to many people as artwork they would want in their living rooms. To date, some 70% of my pieces have sold to adults for living rooms! This has inspired me to develop more abstract art and subjects that are equally at home in a child’s room or an adult’s room eg Beach Huts.
How do you plan your work – do you use sketchbooks or do your makes grow organically?
I don’t tend to have an ultimate plan of what I intend to create as I find each design will evolve according to the fabrics and embellishments I have available.
Sometimes I will envisage an idea in my head and then I will see a piece of braid that reminds me of a type of plant, or buttons that I think could be used in a particular way. I like working in this way as the final result is often a surprise and all the better for that I hope!
Where do you draw your inspiration?
I take my inspiration from the natural world, what I see all around me, what I read and what I see on television.
I also get inspired by a given piece of fabric, which might suggest an idea to me. For example, I found a beautiful grey green fabric which has a golden sheen on it, and that immediately suggested a dinosaur’s skin to me. It transpired to be extremely hard to sew, as it is so soft and light, but I do think gives a wonderful skin texture, especially when oversewn with stitching to create the ridges and bumps of my imaginary creatures!
How do you manage your time between making and the other commitments in your life?
I try to be very strict about how much time I set aside. I’ll grab any time available, sometimes sewing in the early hours if the days have been busy! It gets hectic in the run up to a show but then between shows I have time to breathe and plan longer term.
What’s your favourite book at the moment (craft or not)?
Little People in the City (The Street Art of Slinkachu). This is a brilliant example of clever humorous and original art, and how you can take the everyday objects around you and turn them into fantastic props for art.
Do you have one great tip for other makers?
Use the Folksy forums! My career was in business and marketing, so I considered that I had all the ‘theory’ necessary to run my own business, but it is amazing what you can learn and what contacts you can make here. It turns what can be an isolated job into a rich social experience!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Once my daughter has started school I would like to be selling my work full time, concentrating on the larger pictures and becoming known for creating beautiful artworks that anyone, adults and children alike, will treasure!
You can see Heidi’s full collection in her Folksy shop Textile Treasures