This week’s three featured makers, Daisy Makes, Floral Linings and Gemma Thorpe, each have a passion for all things handmade and sustainable, which are of increasing importance. We chatted about the inspiration behind their businesses, the materials they work with and the importance of shopping small post-lockdown.
Check out our Q&A below to read more about our wonderful Pedddle members and their businesses!
Pedddle: Where does your interest for the products you make originate from, and how did you learn to work with the materials you use?
Daisy Makes: I love being creative – I literally want to make all the things! As a child, I was always drawing and doodling and making things. I was inspired by my family really, who have a love of nature and creativity. My grandmother taught me how to sew when I was at school, but I didn’t own my own sewing machine until around 12 years ago. I’m completely self-taught and learnt to sew, crochet and embroider to help me through a difficult time in my life. The creative process really helped me overcome trauma and anxiety, I find it a way to reconnect and find some calm and I’m a real advocate that creativity and nature can help us heal in so many ways.
Gemma Thorpe: Since I was a small child, I’ve loved spending hours at the beach collecting interesting pebbles, worn glass and sea pottery and I have never really stopped. I started off when I was a young teenager, making jewellery and cards and selling them at school craft fairs. The money that I made helped me build the small business that I have today.
I went on from art college to complete my GNVQ in Textile Design, and this was where I discovered my love of weaving. I was lucky enough to become a studio hand for Sue Lawty Textile Artist, which included helping in the lead up to her exhibition at the V&A. I gained so many skills and experience from working with her! I also took a couple of years out before completing my degree in Textile Design and worked for The National Trust as a hand spinner and weaver at Quarry Bank Mill in Styal, Cheshire. I’ve always loved texture, and working with my hands (twiddling away), trying new things, and I love to learn new skills all the time.
Floral Linings: I have always had a love of fabric as I used to make my own clothes. Over the years I’ve collected a huge stash of fabric – most of them florals – and I can’t walk past a basket of remnants without buying some. I happened to see a video of someone making a leather notebook (hand-stitched) and immediately thought it would be lovely to combine my fabrics with leather. I found a supply of leather and just got to work, experimenting and seeing what worked and what didn’t. It’s now become my signature look to stitch around the edges of my notebooks, as it not only looks strong and distinctive, but also holds everything together!
Pedddle: What made you consider selling through markets?
Daisy Makes: For me, selling at markets was inspired by my Mum. She has always attended markets and sold what she made, and of course this was the only way in the days before social media or websites were widely available. I often went with her, and I loved the interest people would take in what she made, asking about her process, and the connection that was made not only with customers but with other stall holders as well. There was always a buzz about it! Things have been so different these last 12 months, but I think there’s certainly still a buzz happening with online markets which is lovely to see, and it allows different connections with people you might not meet at an ordinary local market.
Floral Linings: I always wanted a creative business and to make dresses. I’d spend hours upon hours looking though Folksy or wandering through craft fairs thinking about how much I’d love to do it myself. Lockdown gave me the time to finally achieve that goal and I couldn’t be happier.
Gemma Thorpe: For the past 10 years I’ve held an annual solo exhibition, ‘Time & Tide’, showing my work in North Wales. The feeling of pride and elation that I get when someone wants to buy something that I have handmade and created is just wonderful and makes me do my happy dance! When I was made redundant back in 2018, I thought what better opportunity than now to get out there and experience the market scene? It is so lovely to be able to talk to people about what it is that I am trying to achieve and create.
Pedddle: Many consumers love the idea that their purchases are handmade, and also increasingly look for sustainable brands to shop from. Why do these two things mean so much to people today?
Gemma Thorpe: I strongly believe that when buying handmade, you see a level of detail of care and attention that the maker puts into each of their products that’s often not found in mass produced items.
I think that sustainability is so important with the world we live in today; being able to reuse a product repeatedly is one of my aims for all of my work. I always work with the ethos “Be Kind To Our Oceans” in mind, using ethically sourced materials where possible and working with British suppliers and my local high street to keep my carbon footprint as low as I can. All of my artwork and woven art is inspired by our beautiful coastlines, and I now incorporate ocean plastic in to all my work in the aim to create something that can be admired from something that will otherwise harm our oceans. I’ve also recently started to expand my range of macramé pieces to include yoga mat holders, drinks bottle holders, air fresheners and small hangers which incorporate recycled ocean plastic.
Floral Linings: I love that I can create a useful item from remnants of leather and fabric, my notebooks can last a long time and can always be refilled with new paper when full. I don’t throw any leather or fabric away and will find a use for them someday! It’s hugely important to me that people can buy something often unique and handmade that is not mass produced but made with love and care. It’s always such a joy to find a small independent shop selling handmade, unique items. I am hoping that our high streets can survive with a mixture of the two in the future.
Daisy Makes: I really embrace products that are sustainable and kind to our earth! As a nature lover, I’m a real advocate for using natural and recyclable materials wherever I can. As a society, we seem to have a huge throwaway culture. Everything and anything is at our fingertips and sometimes it’s good to stop and think about the impact you are having. If I can make beautiful things that inspire people to be conscious about being sustainable then I’ve done my bit.
Handmade products are just the best – I love anything that someone else has physically made. The connection you have and the energy you send out into the world is something we miss when we are surrounded by mass produced items. Something unique and personal is far more special, and quite often, people who make by hand are open to creating custom items and personalising something, adding to the uniqueness and really making something “one of a kind”.
Pedddle: Lockdown has impacted us all massively in the past year, especially small business owners who’ve been unable to get out to markets to sell. Is there anything positive you feel you’ve found from such a big change?
Daisy Makes: The pandemic has made me realise how much I value my social media space and that connection with customers and other sellers. It also really nudged me to step up what I was doing with Daisy Makes. My items are now available for sale in a local shop and I am working alongside a local business who makes their own organic skincare and body care products. I have been working on my website, which I hope to launch soon, and I’ve used the time to think about ways I can develop my business and the products that I sell. It’s been such a tough time for so many of us, but there has to be some positives to come out of all of this. I hope that small independent businesses continue to thrive and that people have come to really value what we have to offer!
Gemma Thorpe: I had a baby at the beginning of the first lockdown, so I wasn’t really working on my business that much at the start! However, I did use that time to really focus on what I want to achieve next, and treat this period as a fresh start. As part of this, I revamped my website and put new emphasis on my social media presence. It’s been a learning curve for me as it is not my strongest suit – it’s a work in progress. I have had my first experience with online markets over the Christmas period and have learnt just how different they are to face to face markets. I have really enjoyed the challenge of creating a face to face market online as it’s pushed me to learn how to make Instagram videos that I’d normally have completely avoided doing, to talk about my work and products.
Floral Linings: Oh gosh, where to start! This time last year I could like a post on Instagram and that was about it! I’m now on Instagram every day, posting, liking, saving, sharing, doing reels and stories. I still don’t quite understand Facebook, but I try! I’ve done Instragram lives at three different online fairs now and although it’s scary, I do love to talk about my business, which definitely helps. I learnt to set up my Folksy and Etsy shops and spent time improving my skills in packaging, posting and photography (which is actually so difficult to master!). I joined communities like Pedddle, Indie Roller and anything else I could find to help me learn more about selling online. It has been a challenge, but one that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, as the community is so supportive and so welcoming.
Pedddle: Why is it so important to encourage people to shop from small businesses in 2021?
Gemma Thorpe: I feel it’s so important to support small, local and independent businesses. Not only do you get unique and individual items by shopping small, you can often get a better quality product for a very reasonable cost with the added bonus of knowing who has produced it and where it has come from. Supporting your local high street stops villages, towns and cities from losing their identity amidst giant corporations and becoming dull and uniform, which is something I am passionate about preventing. Shopping independently also creates a sense of community and of pride in where you live which I believe is essential to keep intact.
Floral Linings: Having visited (pre-pandemic) many towns around the UK where the high streets all looked identical with the same big retailers dominating them, it was always such a joy to find a small independent shop selling handmade, unique items. I’m really hoping that our high streets can survive with a mixture of the two in the future.
Daisy Makes: Shopping local helps to keep the local economy going and reduces carbon footprints, and shopping small or independent is directly feeding someone’s family, how amazing is that! It’s a special connection and when you buy from an independent business they literally do a happy dance and are super grateful for every single sale! We really do celebrate every comment, share, follow and like on social media…and I think small, local and independent shops are really really good at looking after customers because they can give you the attention you deserve. It goes back to that feeling of appreciation!
This blog was written by Caitlin. Click here to meet the Pedddle team.