I don't know about you, but now a days I think I am checking out ASOS marketplace more than the ASOS store itself. There is an array of amazing independent designers featured there from around the globe, and the one I came across the other week that caught my eye was Weald Handmade. Anyone who knows me will know that I have a little bit of a soft spot for wallet clutch bags. And Weald Handmade have some beautiful ones featured in their boutique, along with some of the most loveliest leather bags imaginable.
I decided to get in touch with Weald Handmade and asked if I could feature them on my blog and they kindly said yes! So here is Sarah Brown from Weald Handmade in conversation with NottStylish...
I'm 27 years old and live in Leigh-on-sea, Essex a seaside town where Weald Handmade is based. I also own a Coffee shop called Barlow & Fields in the same area with my husband and a friend of ours. I did a law degree with intentions to become a lawyer but this instead led to me working for the same charity since I graduated. I wouldn't say I am a cat or dog lover (that's bad to admit isn't it?) although I love my parents dog Annie which surprises me as I always wanted them to get a pig. I even drew up a design for the garden so it could accommodate said pig - unfortunately my parents still didn't budge. I love the seaside where I live, a 5 minute walk and suddenly this beautiful view of the fishing boats. Me and my husband walk along there half admiring the view and half discussing which of the expensive large houses that line the parade we would buy if we won the lottery.
How did Weald Handmade come about?I got into designing and making because I could never find what I wanted. I would have an image in my mind but obviously that didn't exist anywhere so what better way to make it exist than create it yourself? I was designing and making ladies and children's fashion and ended up with so much on my plate when we started planning the coffee shop that I decided I needed to concentrate on one thing and really make that work before expanding so much. I took everything I learnt from this and channelled it into the bags. I had worked mainly with silk previously and really liked the idea of working with a material so different. A new challenge to kick stat my motivation.
Is the collection featured on your Marketplace boutique your first?
Yes this is my first collection.
What was the process that you went through to complete the collection?
I'm very impatient and know like any other designer that making up samples using a cheaper, replicate material is the sensible and correct process. However, my patience doesn't allow for this most of the time. I like to have a basic drawing of a design and then work with the material during the construction process. I find that I'm not then subconsciously restricting myself to a drawing, I can adapt and design as I make. This has led to some disasters, sure, but has also led to some of my best designs. I've sometimes ended up with something that looks nothing like my original drawing but in actual fact, something I like better.
What were your inspirations for the bags you have made?
For this particular collection I took inspiration from geometric shapes whilst referencing the nostalgia of school days. I spent hours on the Internet looking at shapes and patterns - Pinterest became my life.
Was there in point in the process of putting together the collection that you doubted the idea would work?
I would say I've doubted before the process, during the process and after. I'm constantly doubting and questioning whether I could have done that better or this better. I suppose that's the risk of putting your designs out there for people to see. During craft fayres I sit there ear wigging to comments from browsers and customers, this is invaluable feedback I can use constructively through my designs. I would say my collection is live, it can adapt, change and evolve. That's the beauty of being the designer and maker, you're not restricted by seasons that dictate the fashion world but can introduce a new design when the mood takes you or reinvent a current one.
Has designing and making accessories always been what you wanted to do?
I remember being told at school that art or design weren't really avenues to a career so always saw it as a hobby. I decided I wanted to be rich, wear a suit and be a lawyer. I studied law and then decided the job of a lawyer wasn't for me and instead channelled the skills and knowledge I had learnt into working for a charity securing the voice and rights of people with learning disabilities and I've been there since.
What is your background - did you study design beforehand?I'm actually self taught. My mum studied design and is a dressmaker herself so I had the perfect teacher on my doorstep.
I read on your blog that you are now stocking WO/MEN in London which is great news! How is it going? Any plans for any future stockists?
It's going well thank you. I'm hoping to be able to stock more places in the future but at present I am concentrating on selling direct. I also have an Etsy shop and have even made a few sales through twitter and Facebook. I must admit marketing is not my forte and selling online requires so much more input than I had originally imagined. I will most certainly be looking out for some courses and guidance on this. I've just started following The Design Trust on twitter which is a constant steam of advice and guidance for design and craft businesses.
What are the plans for 2013 and beyond for Weald Handmade?
Well my husband and I have just found out that we are expecting our first child, so 2013 will be an eventful year for us. In regards to Weald Handmade I hope to have more stockists and to have built up a larger online presence. I'm already getting some rough designs on paper for the New Year and have just found a really good leather supplier. I think my priority though is to better my understanding of selling online and marketing. I'm not one for planning too much as I would just prefer to see where it all takes me.
Do you have any advice for young designer/makers/craft entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
I would say just go for it. If it's what you want to do, then what's the harm in trying? I always said I would regret not doing it more than doing it and it not working out. This mindset was also the driving force for opening our coffee shop. Selling online isn't as easy as just sticking your product photos and descriptions up - it turns out there is much more to it than that. Which is something I soon discovered for myself. Talk to other designer/makers, share your experiences, good and bad. Attending fayres has given me such a good insight into customer's reactions to my products. Before you do your first fayre attend some as a customer, look at which stalls catch your eye and why - do the same with online shops as well - this can give you some ideas on how to display your products in the best way. Again this is still a learning curve for me. I read the "Quit your day job" stories on Etsy - great for motivation and each seller featured always has a list of advice to fellow makers.
Check out Weald Handmade here.
Follow Weald Handmade on twitter here.