Newcastle based Clare Albans from Hello! Hooray! invites us into her creative and colourful world. Originally a school music teacher, she began blogging about recipes she’d made and then after having a “make-your-own” wedding, discovered the joys of sewing and embroidery. Bibelot joined Clare to talk about how she balances work with being a mum, and offers advice on how to live a more creative lifestyle.
1. When did you become a maker of beautiful things?
I have always been a creative person, and I’ve always admired people who can make beautiful things with their hands! When I was younger, music was my absolute focus so I spent most of my time making music. I initially started sewing about 6 years ago as a creative outlet from my day job, and first projects involved some simple appliqué, and then I made myself a skirt (which had a VERY badly inserted invisible zip, but I was so pleased with it!). I was so busy teaching and doing extra curricular activities every day so I didn’t get much time to create outside work. But shortly after leaving my teaching post, we started wedding planning and it really grew from there.
2. How did you discover the joys of embroidery?
It was actually through making waistcoats for our wedding! We wanted to include as many handmade elements as possible (which my husband, Tom, helped out with too). I really wanted to make something special for my Dad, Tom’s Dad and his best men, and despite my lack of sewing experience at the time I decided that a waistcoat was a great option! I had a copy of Aimee Ray’s Doodle Stitching for inspiration, but I ended up mainly working free hand to stitch a simple heart and leaf design. I made 6 waistcoats in the end, which I guess could have put me off but in fact that was the beginning of realising how much I love sewing.
3. How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in future?
I have always been keen to try all sorts of crafts, mainly because I like experimenting in different mediums but also because I wanted to include a variety of crafty projects on my blog. When I share my projects I’ve tried to show the successes and the failures because that’s just how it goes when you’re being creative! Last year I decided to focus on my embroidery, and I feel that has been a really good decision. Rather than trying to do lots of little bits and bobs (which I do still dabble with in my spare time), I’m able to really concentrate on honing my skills and developing my own designs. This is really exciting for me! I’ve come a long way since my wedding waistcoat embroidery and I’m finding my own style. I love designing patterns, and this is an important part of my work. I’d like to learn some more stitches, so I’m gathering all the vintage books that I can to try to develop my embroidery skills.
4. You used to teach music and you have recently begun teaching craft workshops. What do you love most about teaching?
The best thing about teaching is seeing a person develop new skills, whatever the skill or their age. It’s lovely to see creative projects develop, whether they result in a performance or an embroidered banner – the sense of achievement that you see in people is just brilliant, and knowing that I’ve helped to guide them through that creative process is what keeps me doing it! Whether I’m teaching a one-off session or seeing the same class for a longer period, it’s nice to meet new people, find out more about them and share ideas. That sense of community is really important and I think it’s often when I’m most creative.
I am hoping to set up some workshops in Newcastle and have done a great deal of research into what might work here, but I’m not quite there yet. I had two workshops booked in at the end of last year, but they were sadly unable to go ahead due to low uptake. I was quite disheartened by this at first, but after a period of reflection I realised that whilst I was happy with the embroidery projects I had planned, I really needed to work on my marketing of the workshops and perhaps change the location too. I initially intended to schedule something for 2017, but things have been pretty hectic so I decided to postpone for now. Getting my workshops up and running is a challenge, but I would really love to host them and I’m determined to get there!
5. You became a mummy in 2016. How do you balance family life with your business?
I absolutely love being a mum, but it is quite a challenge to juggle everything at times! Tom and I both work 3 days a week at the day job so that we can share childcare, and that has worked out so well for us as a family. On my days at home I try to make the most of nap times – especially now that the nights are drawing in as I need to use every bit of natural light that I can! Once Little One is in bed in the evening, I’m usually stitching or sorting out admin. I also have some time on Sunday mornings to craft, but the rest of the weekend is family time as it’s really important to have that time together. I couldn’t do any of this without Tom – he supports me 100% and is so encouraging of my creative projects. To be honest, I’m never fully on top of things and it is really hard work, but I would love to make a living from my creative work so it’s completely worth it! I’m learning to be more organised and efficient and that can only be a good thing.
6. Describe your perfect day.
Every day starts with a nice cup of tea, so my perfect day would be no exception! I love getting out and about, exploring new places and taking lots of photographs so after a hearty breakfast I’d probably go to the seaside or an exhibition, or maybe walking in the hills with my family. So we’d need a good picnic too! After a busy day I’d probably settle on the sofa with some sewing, more tea and a good film.
7. You recently started using vegan products in your creations. Tell us how that came about.
I have a blog feature called ‘Crafty Colour Palettes’ where I take inspiration from everyday things to create something colourful. My last project was an embroidery hoop with wool felt to display enamel pins, and I decided to sell a few in my shop. One of my customers contacted me to see if I could make a vegan-friendly version and so (after a long conversation about veganism where I learnt a LOT), I said yes and it grew from there. I had not previously considered using vegan-friendly felt, but veganism is an important part of life for so many people and I feel that there could potentially be a whole new market for vegan-friendly crafts. It’s certainly something that I will incorporate into my work in future.
8. What advice would you give to someone who wants to start exploring his or her creativity but doesn’t know where to start?
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. I think we’re conditioned to see perfect things now – photographs, knitting, make-up, whatever it is – but the creative process is not always perfect. We actually learn more from things that don’t quite go to plan. I find that when I give myself the freedom and permission to make mistakes, I’m far more creative. Think of it as a creative journey and exploration.
9. What areas of your work or personal development are you hoping to explore further?
I would love to take a photography course – I have a DSLR but it rarely comes off ‘auto’ and I know that there is so much more that I can achieve. I’d like to learn how to take portraits, and also how to take better photos of food because it’s so tricky!
10. What’s the last thing that made you say ‘wow’?
It was actually a video I saw on Twitter – artist Christoph Niemann sketched a racing cyclist on his taxi window, and you can watch him zoom through the traffic on Christoph’s journey. Such a simple idea but so effective!