Tell us a bit about yourself: have you always been a maker? What else have you done?
The first thing that anyone should know about me is that I love puddings – hence the name of my business, Sticky Toffee Chic. I’m also a dog lover and have always had one in my life – this is Tallulah! (pictured above).
In some sense I feel tht I’ve always been a maker. I was that introverted child who was happiest on her own during the summer holidays making things out of toilet roll tubes, pipe cleaners and felt pens. But even from a very early age I was always especially drawn to soft materials – fabric, wool, embroidery floss. My weaving loom and pom pom sets were constantly in use. At school my favourite subject was needlework but, alas, I was not allowed to continue with it after the age of thirteen.
So, I did as I was told and ended up doing a variety of jobs over the years – braille transcriber, debt and welfare rights adviser and, latterly, colour and style consultant. Plus the demands of having children, along with a lack of space, meant that I gradually gave up doing any sewing at all.
How did you become a maker?
Initially my jobs were arranged around bringing up my children. As many mothers experience, though, once your children need you less you start to rediscover yourself and reassess what you would really like to be doing. It was at that point that I embarked on various courses in soft furnishings (at the Macbeth Centre in Hammersmith) and sewing in general.
I found I loved it all so much that when my daughter left home I pounced on her bedroom and turned it into a dedicated sewing space. My happy place! For some reason I was particularly keen on making bags of all descriptions. I could have happily been sewing all these makeup bags and accessories and no one would have known, but for the fact that my daughter set up an Instagram account for me.
I posted pictures of my makes to my 8(!) followers, who then turned into many more followers. People seemed to like what I was making and asked to be able to buy my work. Encouraged by this, I started to sell at craft markets and set up an online shop on the selling platform Etsy. That was in 2018, which was when I was also invited to sell my pieces in the Ealing gift shop, All Original. There was no going back.
How would you describe your work and where do you draw your inspiration from?
A friend kindly once told me that I do have a definite and recognisable style. She described it as fun and funky! I love colour, pattern and texture and really don’t do minimalism.
You will find cacti, flowers, bees, pin-up girls and French Bulldogs on my bags – it’s all about the fun. And it is also very important to me that my items are well made and of good quality. I am sure that my style takes its inspiration originally from the artist, Matisse. I adore his bold colours and shapes that can be found in his earlier paintings and, later, in his cut-outs and collages. He came from a textiles family background and I definitely share a love of surface pattern design with him.
Where do you work? What is your workspace like?
My workspace is the middle bedroom of my typical Victorian terraced house. It has an original fireplace and a sash window that looks out over a beautiful camellia tree. I painted the room all one colour – a light grey/blue – including wainscotting, fireplace and picture rail. The floorboards are painted white and there are a huge number of dropped pins nestled down underneath the cracks, never to be retrieved.
The window blind and chair seat are a citronella colour (both made by me) to break up the pale blue. The room houses my industrial Juki sewing machine, a tiny ironing area on a chest of drawers, my cutting-out table (under which you will find an overlocker machine and another domestic sewing machine), a sofa that is never sat on because it is always covered in fabrics and patterns, and a cupboard full of yet more fabrics. There is nowhere else I would rather be.
What is on your work table at the moment?
Sleep masks and matching drawstring bags in a lovely mustard yellow Japanese print, cut out and waiting to be assembled and stitched.
I put a lot of care and attention into the small details of all my products. So, in this instance, I line the sleep masks with a soft suedette fabric to be comfortable against the face, interline them with a lofty fleece for a bit of luxury and use a black-out lining to ensure that no light gets through the mask. For a final, glamorous touch I chose a flat shimmery elastic to keep the mask snugly in place.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
For me, the best part of the sewing process is choosing the perfect combination of colour, fabric and trimmings. What colour zip would bring this piece alive? What colour lining would make it a delight to open this bag?
Picasso once said “Why do two colours, put one next to the other, sing? Can one really explain this? No!” Colour combining is such an intuitive thing and it is my favourite part of the whole process of bag and accessories making. It’s the part that comes from my soul and brings me joy.
But I can’t let this question pass without also saying that one of the best things about doing what I do is being part of a community of makers. Both through this group, Chiswick Creatives, and the shop All Original, I have come to be part of a warm, supportive, companionable and inspiring set of artists and makers. They really are the best!