Two of Pedddle‘s featured stallholders this week share a love for textiles. In this Meet the Maker, we spoke to Marie of Pattern Punch, who creates bright and bold accessories and gifts using African wax print fabrics, and Rachel of Rachel Fearnley Textile Design, who hand-prints fabrics to make gifts and home accessories sustainably and from materials that would otherwise end up in landfill.
Read our Q&A below to find out more about these small textile businesses, their inspirations and plans for the future.
Pedddle: How did your business start?
Rachel Fearnley Textile Design: The dream of starting a business was conceived a few years ago, although at the time I really didn’t realise it. My partner took me away for a two-day block printing course to celebrate my birthday. We were both hooked, and I knew I had found a craft that I really loved. As I continued to grow in confidence with my hobby, we began to have tentative conversations about the seemingly impossible dream of turning it into a business. I have no formal training in art and design. However, my early career, back in the 1980s was as a nursery nurse. Here a significant part of my role was to help children engage in art and craft. Mark making was really = important and using different mediums to enable them to explore their creativity underpinned a lot of my work. Reflecting back this was actually a really good apprenticeship. So, after much research and many conversations, I took a leap of faith and we started on this new adventure.
Pattern Punch: Pattern Punch was born out of my love for designing, sewing and making. I really enjoy the freedom to create and make individual and unique pieces. After studying textiles – which furthered my love for colour, print and pattern, I looked for ways to expand on this passion and design my own range of handmade accessories.
Pedddle: What inspires your work and your process?
Pattern Punch: I wanted my jewellery to be easy to wear and versatile. My necklace sets comprise of three different length sections in contrasting or co-ordinating colours/designs, which when put together (using simple magnetic clasps) can be configured to be worn in multiple ways. You could, for instance, wear all three sections together in one long necklace, or wrap them around twice for a shorter style. You can wear just two small sections together in a choker style, or choose a mid-length style by combining a longer length with a shorter length and so on. The necklaces themselves are made using 100% cotton rope which are covered in 100% cotton African wax print fabrics – their vibrant colours and designs make the accessories pop and are a great way of adding a bit of colour to your wardrobe all year round. They are extremely lightweight to wear, weighing just 33g a set. I have continued to add other items to my accessories range, so items can be mix/matched if wished. Lightweight leather earrings in bold colours and zip up pouches are also available, as are pre-made gift sets. All items are handmade by myself.
Rachel Fearnley Textile Design: I hand print onto either vintage linen or organic hemp and cotton and then use the fabric to make gifts and cushions where there is an emphasis on sustainability. In addition, we use rescued and repurposed wood for the wooden decorative objects we make (this really is Mr F’s domain). When I started my hobby, I used commercially made blocks to print with but as my creativity developed, I started to use everyday objects. Now I always look at things differently and ask myself whether they would make an interesting design. This adds an element of difference to my work which I hope adds interest. Also, it means that I am using items that would otherwise go to landfill. My signature colours are blues and greens. Inspiration comes from the world around us, especially from the coast which we love, and nature. I am interested in developing designs that are interpretative, I like to invite our customers to look at the designs and ask the question ‘what do I see?’ It is always really interesting when people share their thoughts about what they ‘see’ in the designs.
Pedddle: How do online markets differ from in-person markets, and what challenges did the pandemic bring to selling as a small business?
Rachel Fearnley Textile Design: Our online business was launched the week before the first lockdown. We had planned to attend pop-up shops, art festivals and craft markets but these all had to be postponed. This was a big setback as we were hoping to use these events as opportunities to meet potential customers and to seek feedback. Being online has many advantages, but actually being able to talk to people face to face is, I think, so important. We haven’t attended any markets since the lifting of restrictions, but hope that next year there will be lots of opportunities to actually meet people.
Starting the business in a pandemic means we were forced to focus on the online element. I was relatively new to social media and so have been on a massive learning curve (which I am still very much on). The support from the online community, both from individuals and groups such as Pedddle, has been amazing and I know has really helped in our journey.
Pattern Punch: I actually started my business in lockdown, so physical markets were not an option at the time. However, I had always wanted to have a strong online presence, so my business was geared to making the online shopping experience as easy and informative as possible. I made the decision to set up my own site, which gave me that control over the user experience. I was also able to take advantage of a number of online markets, which were a great way to increase my visibility. I’ve yet to show up at a physical market, so maybe this is something I will begin to do going forward!
Having set up during the pandemic, I don’t have anything to compare it with. However, for me, the steepest learning curve has to be social media! Not only in getting to grips with it all (and I’m not there yet), but also in the amount of time given to this aspect of my business. I am well aware there is so much more I can do in this space, so it continues as an area for growth and development.
Pedddle: In your opinion, why is it so beneficial to shop small?
Pattern Punch: Small businesses can really offer customers a personal experience. This was particularly valuable during the pandemic. For example, I was (and still am) able to handwrite gift messages with any purchase, items are gift wrapped and shipped free of charge. Custom orders can be made up if a customer has a specific idea in mind, but can’t quite find what they are looking for. Shopping small often means you are able to own something unique and individual.
Rachel Fearnley Textile Design: For me, there are many reasons why we should shop small and local. Small businesses are run by people who are passionate and really care about what they do. The love and care that is poured into everything shines through in the work. I love being able to connect with the maker and have a relationship with them. This doesn’t happen when you buy from the big businesses that dominate the market. The work offers something different; this is really important to me within our business. Everything is hand printed by me, there are no print runs and no mass production and no two pieces are the same. I hope this again offers a difference.
Pedddle: Thanks for chatting to us! Finally, what’s next for your business?
Rachel Fearnley Textile Design: The main focus for the business is to carry on trying to raise our online presence and engage with potential customers who are looking for something a little different that is ethically based. A priority is to really promote our work with the run up to Christmas. There are some exciting new things planned but at the moment they are still being finalised. More will be shared very soon. A very exciting, recent, development has been the launch of our monthly newsletter. Going forward, we are going to invite makers to a Q&A style short interview, where they will talk about their work.
Pattern Punch: It’s been wonderful having my own website, but I have made the decision to sell via Etsy going forward, so my products are now available to purchase this way. Most of my items are one of a kind, and I continue to add new designs and colourways to my offering. I love creating, so I suspect there will be new products in the offing going forward!