In the first of a series of interviews with cool crafters who run arts and crafts based businesses or websites I would like to welcome Elissa from NotJustHandbags.
1. Firstly, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about where you are based, for example in which country and part of that country?
My name is Elissa I am 39 married with two children and live in the wonderful Cheshire countryside in the UK.
2. Please tell us a little about the nature of your craft.
The nature of my craft is to take different fabrics and combine them into wonderful colour combinations. I then create handbags that are not only practical but make you smile.
3. What first interested you in your craft?
I have always had a love of sewing, art and colour. At school my dream was to go into fashion design, however, life had other plans.
4. Did you have any formal training or have you learnt by yourself as you have gone along?
I eventually went to art school a couple of years ago and studied art and design for 2 years. During that time I re-ignited my love of textiles again and my love of sewing came back. We didn’t have any formal sewing training at art school so I am self taught in terms of learning how to create patterns and construct bags. There have been lots of disasters in the learning process!
5. How did the idea for your business come about?
After my two years I wanted to do a graphics course, however, two interviews later and they wouldn’t offer me a place due to lack of funding. During the second interview the lady said that she liked my handbag and we got chatting about how I make them as a hobby. She suggested that I have a go at selling them and it started from there really.
6. How long now have you been established?
I have been properly set up for business since January 2010, however, I began preparing, building my website etc last September.
7. How do you find inspiration and where do you locate your materials?
My materials come from all sources fabric shops, charity shops and sometimes my own bedroom! I love to take unloved articles of clothing in particular and turn them into handbags. I like to feel that they are entering the clothing protection programme and emerging as something completely different, fulfilling their true potential if you like.
8. Do you undertaks your business on a full-time basis or are you also working whilst you get it up and running?
Yes I am working on Not Just Handbags full time. The designing, creating and promotion takes a lot of hours!
9. Tell us a little about your typical day and what is involved in running the business
Having two children, first thing in the morning is breakfast and then school run. Once everyone is out at work and school I can set to and check emails and catch up on some web promotion. Mid morning I then turn off the computer and start sewing, I like to create something new everyday in order to list it and this keeps the shops fresh with something new for potential customers to buy. This usually takes me up to tea time when the tribe return and are wanting to be fed. After tea I then check emails again for the last time and then go on to cutting out or making up patterns. I always ensure that I have a bag cut out ready for sewing the next day. I usually finish work to have a sit down and a rest about 8 o’clock, however, I am usually doing some hand sewing of brooches whilst watching the tv so technically I suppose you could say I carry on until about 10.30 p.m. Phew having written it all down I cram a lot in!
10. What advice would you give to others who are considering running a craft based business
If creating is what you like to do go for it! I absolutely love my life now and the only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. I believe you only have one life and it goes too fast to be doing something that makes you unhappy. I don’t believe that anyone gets to the end of their life wishing they had spent more time in an office! So feel the fear and do it. The only thing I would say is do not underestimate the amount of promotion you have to do if you are going to solely sell online. Take advantage of everything that is free, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Forums, Flickr etc.
12. Finally, if people want to learn more about your business do you have a Facebook page or Twitter profile where they can learn more?
Facebook is http://www.facebook.com/notjusthandbags and my blog is http://www.notjusthandbags.blogspot.com
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As a thank you I will send you my two ebooks 'The Big Book of Craft Interviews: Vol 1 & 2' and you will get access to my weekly newsletter.