For today’s interview please welcome Vicki from India Grace Designs.
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 Vicki Mansfield and I run ‘India Grace Designs’ I’m a single mother to a daughter after whom my company is named.
I’m based in Warwickshire, UK but my business sells worldwide via the internet. Some of my designs are also distributed in the US via Nordic Needle.
2. Please tell us a little about the nature of your craft/design based business. I create embroidery designs. I specialise in Modern Hardanger/speciality stitch designs. I take traditional methods and try and find new ways to use them. I love playing with pattern, shape and colour. I sell charts which come complete with full instructions so that even a complete beginner has all the information that they need. I also have a range of cross stitch designs that I sell as charts and kits.
3. How did the idea for your business come about? Before I had my daughter I worked in West End theatre. I knew that as a single parent there was no way that I could afford to continue in that world and still be there for my daughter. In a quest to find something that I could do at home with her I looked at my hobbies. I started off designing baby related cross stitch designs creating designs like a mobile and a book that were a little ‘different’ but after a few years I was seduced by Hardanger and now that is what I have become known for.
I have always been interested in creating my own ideas. When I was in my 1st year at school (age 4-5) we made one of those samplers where you sewed different stitches round in squares. After the outer square I decided that I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to sew a picture of a hanging basket. I put in the basket lattice in black but the teacher stopped me before I got to the flowers 🙁 My Mum still has the piece. It was made into a needlecase. On the front it has the regimented squares of Cross Stitch, Back Stitch, Chain Stitch etc but on the back is a crazy criss cross of black long stitch that both she and I know is a hanging basket. I would love to see what it would have turned out like if I had been allowed to add flowers.
I started designing pieces when I was 7 and my Mum taught me to Cross Stitch. Her theory was that if I sewed a piece that I had designed then I would be more likely to finish it. It was a pixie on a toadstool – I don’t think that I finished it.
4. How long now have you been established? I launched the company in January 2004
5. How do you decide what to make, and how do you come up with your great ideas? Some ideas come straight away, others can take ages. I have had the basics of some designs rattling around in my head for a couple of years before they are ready to put down on paper. Other times I just sit down and start playing and see what happens. Sometimes I will see a shape somewhere and that will inspire me. Sometimes I will start with the idea of stitches that I want to use. Some designs just seem to put themselves together easily, others can take months to get right. I often make changes to the design in the sewing process which is why I rarely work with model stitchers. It is very rare that the design that I start is the same design when I finish.
I am lucky now to have a model stitcher who is prepared to work closely with me, send me regular photos and be prepared to unpick and try something different on a regular basis. Thankfully she is a good friend 🙂
6. Do you undertake your business on a full-time basis or do you have other work/family commitments? I work on the business full time (when not being Mum) but could do with a part time job as well. It is very hard to make a living in this business, especially with the amount of copyright fraud that is about. Many designers have given up.
7. Tell us a little about your typical day and what is involved in running the business? A typical day involves working on the admin side of things whilst my daughter is at school. This can be writing the instructions and creating diagrams (a very time consuming part of the work) searching for outlets/magazines to approach, filling and posting out orders, printing, keeping the website up to date and maintaining social media sites. There is also the non creative admin such as doing the accounts which drives me batty. I also design during the day but can do that in the evenings as well.
Once my daughter is in bed I sew. I try to sew for at least 3 hours a night (this doesn’t always happen) No part of the design process could be described as quick. Most pieces will take months to go from design to sale. Some have taken several years.
8. What advice would you give to others who are considering running a craft based business? You have to have a great love for what you are doing. It is very very hard. You will put in far more work than you ever get money for. Customers are not willing to pay what a piece is worth for the work put into it and in my business there are many unscrupulous people who steal the work and distribute it meaning that sometimes you can work for months on something, sell 2 or 3 copies and then find that it is all over the net. You need to be very tough to persist, work all hours that are available and be prepared to live on very little. Most designers have other jobs.
9. As this is Art of Crafts I have to ask, do you enjoy any crafts yourself in your spare time? If so, please tell us more. I love crafts, I have had a go at most things in my time and regret that I don’t have the time available to do different things now.
10. Finally, if people want to learn more about your business/website do you have a web address, Facebook page or Twitter profile where they can find out more?
My web address is www.indiagrace.co.uk
With thanks to Vicki for the photographs, all work is copyright Vicki Mansfield @ India Grace Designs and may not be reproduced without permission.
Sign Up For My Free Newsletter
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.