Recently it has been proven that crafting for a hobby is a beneficial activity on our lives and health. For those of us who already partake in a creative lifestyle, I'm sure most would confirm that sitting down and making something brings a sense of relaxation, you become fully immersed in the activity, and your troubles and problems are forgotten for a while. There is also the wonderful sense of achievement when you complete a project and either wear it, display it or give it to a friend.
Some studies are suggesting that it is highly beneficial for people suffering from anxiety, depression and stress due to it's calming and often repetitive nature, and there are even studies showing that it can delay the onset of dementia and old age. I guess this makes sense as our brain is a muscle and needs to be exercised, so the more we challenge it, the stronger it will stay.
The Handmade Fair, hosted by Kirstie Allsopp has carried out a survey to find out more about crafting and wellbeing, and found that: "one in three use crafting as a way to focus better on day to day life and one in five like to craft to boost their confidence. A quarter of those surveyed admitted that crafting helps to give them ‘peace of mind’."
But what about if you want to pursue crafting as a career? Is it still so fun and relaxing? Or does doing it as a job transform it into a stressful activity? I spoke to three successful participants of The Handmade Fair taking place on 18th-20th Sept to find out - Zeena Shah, a print maker, Poppy Chancellor, a papercutter and Lisa Comfort, owner of sewing cafe, Sew Over It.
PH: Having a career in crafting/making, do you find that creating still relaxes you and makes you feel good, or is it now just another part of your job?
Zeena: Yes definitely, I will always love the process of printmaking, screen printing and designing. I find I am my happiest and most inspired doing these things and always drawn to them. I think for me this changes when I have a particularly large order to fill. As all our products are individually hand screen printed and sewn at our studio it can become pretty repetitive if you have a 100 pillows to print and sew, this is when I find myself falling out of love with it a little bit as can be expected.
Poppy: I absolutely still feel relaxed when I'm papercutting. That's the joy of it. I have different pressures and time constraints now that I do it professionally, but if I didn't still love it, I wouldn't do it.
Lisa: It depends on what the criteria of the making is. If it is something I have to do and have time restrictions and I am not particularly interested in making at that time then it does lose its relaxation and appeal but I still love sewing for pleasure. I don’t get a chance to do it that often (I sew every week for work but for myself with no pressure that is rare!) but when I do I love it. In fact tomorrow I have got the day free to sew and I am so looking forward to it!
PH: Do you do any other type of crafting outside of your job to chill out?
Zeena: I love making things and can always be found doing some sort of craft in my spare time although rare it's a definite de-stresser! I've started dressmaking and really love the process of constructing a garment, I just wish I had more time for it!
Poppy: I'm a total perfectionist when it comes to making things. When I try new crafts I get worried about not getting it right. That's why I run from tent to tent at The Handmade Fair trying every workshop. It's a safe place to get things wrong and have a laugh.
Lisa: I tried knitting but I found that too slow. I do a lot of upcycling of furniture and decorating at home. I love that. I have always loved spending time make my home look nice. Even from a young age, I would spend hours in my room, rearranging and painting different bits!
PH: Are you still as passionate about your craft as when you first began? How do you continue to inspire your creativity so you don't become tired of it?
Zeena: Yes if not more so! I love printing and am constantly inspired. I've just finished writing my first book about 'How to Print Fabric' this consists of 20 table top techniques to create print designs onto fabric using everyday things from the home. This was such an inspiring project to work on, I wanted to make printing really easy and accessible to those who might not have access to course or printing facilities. All you need for one project are some elastic bands, ink pad and a piece of fabric - easy!
Poppy: Luckily with papercutting there's so much you can do. More than playing with technique you can also be inspired with the design. I always work from my drawings and love researching different imagery. If you become tired of what you're doing it's time to reinvent your approach.
Lisa: Yes absolutely. In fact I recently talked about this in my new vlog - I did a Q&A video and this came up. I am definitely still passionate about sewing. That is what gets me through the hard times! As many will say, running your own business is so much work and there are times when you ask yourself - what am I doing?! But then I always know that I am doing the right thing as the sewing world is where I belong, it is my home and my people. My vlog has actually been really helpful in keeping my creativity going as it gives me an excuse to buy new fabrics, explore new patterns and make clothes that I want. I am very lucky that I can call that my job!
PH: What advice would you give to any budding makers who would like to turn their hobby into a career, so that they don't lose their love of it?
Zeena: What made a huge difference for me was outsourcing part of my process to people I trusted when I was overwhelmed with orders. It seems obvious but can be really difficult when you live and breathe your business, letting go of the little things is sometimes a real saving grace. For example having my cushions sewn up or tags printed as opposed to being hand stamped saves a lot of time and your sanity! So i'd definitely say don't hesitate and it's money well spent as it frees you up for the more important things - like running your business!
Poppy: My first piece of advice would be to get good. Practice until your proud of what you're making. I don't know if that process ever ends but you have to keep pushing to make great work. Secondly, make your subject matter relevant. Do something no one else is doing. With craft everyone has seen it before so it's important to make people notice you. A sense of humour always adds a lightness to people's work that I love.
Lisa: You will inevitably move more and more away from the actual craft as you get bogged down in the admin and more boring sides of running a business but remember why you did it and be strict with yourself so that you keep a hand in. I still teach a class every week and sew clothes for myself every month. I decided to hire more staff to help with running the business so that I had time to keep sewing as I fear that if I stopped then that would show through the business.
I don't know about you, but I found the answers these three ladies gave really inspiring as well as useful and practical. It's so nice to hear that all three absolutely still have the love for their craft, even if it is not always relaxing! I'd love to hear from anyone else who is running a craft business, and whether you feel the same or do you feel so bogged down with business that the making side is now stressful. Or if you are thinking of starting a craft business and found the interviews above useful.
Hope to see some of you at The Handmade Fair - I hope to pop over on Sat 19th Sept - it's the perfect chance to try your hand at some new crafts, and get inspired by all those creative talents!