Categories
Inspirational Interviews

Interview with Jo Coombs & Robert Papworth from the New Selling Platform Made By Mums

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jo Coombs & Robert Papworth the owners and founders of ‘Made By Mums’ which is a new marketplace for mums, dads and carers. It is a platform that was made by parents for parents. It is set up to help parents sell their creations and support their families while doing so. 

I am a big supporter of small business so was excited to do this interview and find out more about Jo & Robert and how Made By Mums can help small business owners sell their products. 

Made By Mums is filled full of amazing, unique gifts and the mantra for the site is ‘handmade for every occasion’ which it certainly provides.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourselves?

Jo: We’re Jo and Robert, co-founders of Made By Mums, living on the currently-not-so sunny island of Jersey with our two daughters aged 6 and 3. We also have Penny, our little tortoise shell cat, who likes to photobomb when we’re trying to photograph my finished crochet projects! You may have seen her pop up on various posts.

Made By Mums is a handmade platform for mums and carers to sell their creations online, and for everyone else to find perfect and unique gifts for every occasion. I might have said that a few times, can you tell?

Robert: I spent about 2 minutes explaining what we’re doing to someone the other day, and after all that they just said “oh, Etsy for mums?”. So yeah, Etsy for mums…

Jo: But with lower costs!

Robert: Yeah there’s a bit more to it than I think. We’re a selling platform, but we want to do a lot more than that.

What inspired you to start up your selling platform Made By Mums?

Robert: It was a bit of an evolution, really. If you told us this is where we’d be today back when we originally started talking about it, I’m not sure we’d believe you to be honest!

Jo: It was me learning to crochet that started it all (laughs). I was having a few issues with my pregnancy and needed something to help me with my mental health. I wanted to make something for the baby, and learning a new skill was both challenging and rewarding. Just what I needed at the time. Then I discovered that there were so many different techniques, and I kept hooking things and discovering that there are so many gorgeous yarns and patterns…. And well..

Robert: Yes and that seems to justify the ‘yarn room’ we now have upstairs…

Jo: Oh totally! The idea started when I was looking to see if I could sell the items I was creating. I looked at various places but the costs were all too high, and things seemed needlessly complicated, so I just left it at that for a while. But Robert’s a web developer in his day job and mentioned that he could build me a website shop of my own.

So it started as an idea for a shop for me, and ended up being this massive project that’s taken on a life of its own. I love how just simple ideas can bloom like that!

What is your favourite part of your business?

Robert: Tough question! Well when our makers make a sale, on the email they get, it tells them part of the process is to do a happy order dance.

Jo: We *might* have done the odd dance ourselves when a sale comes through (embarrassing!). I love being able to help our makers – they put so much love and work into what they do – it’s just such an honour to help support it all. Especially because we know that the sales they make through us can help raise a little extra money for the day to day, always helpful.

Robert: It never gets old to be fair, it probably never will! We love all the positive comments we get on social media too. People can be so kind and it makes all the work ‘worth it’ when we know how much it’s appreciated. So thanks everybody!

What sort of things can we expect to find on ‘Made By Mums’?

Jo: Oooh, everything really. As long as it’s handmade, or the maker has put their own embellishment or spin on it, we’re happy for them to list it.

Even though we’ve probably got like 200 categories or something by now, every week someone seems to have something that doesn’t fit anywhere. So we’re always tinkering and adding more categories. It keeps us on our toes!

Robert: As well as the categories, we’ve got collections for everything we can think of. Easter gifts, birthdays, weddings… baby showers. There’s an amazing range of items on there, well over 1,500 I think. Whatever it’s for, I’m pretty sure you’ll find it on the website somewhere!

How do you help other small business owners?

Robert: We really wanted to offer fellow parents and carers a fun, friendly and inclusive way to sell their creations, and help support their families.

Jo: Emotionally as much as financially. I found adapting to life with our first little pickle a struggle, like many people do. So us being able to add to the emotional support and network available to new mums is definitely a big part of it.

Robert: Our reach is growing all the time and it’s amazing how much interaction we have now on a daily basis. On our Facebook page and elsewhere. Jo’s great at being able to hold multiple conversations at the same time. Rather her than me, I’d just get confused!

Over 200 makers have signed up since we started back in 2018, it definitely seems to be picking up fast this year as well. We’re pleased so many people are choosing to get involved, we used to like doing a little post on social media when a new person joined, now we have a separate ‘welcome Wednesday’ post to make sure everybody still gets a ‘hi’.

What plans do you have for the future?

Robert: Well there’s a list somewhere with about 10 billion things on it that we’d love to do. But with it being just the two of us, we always have to prioritise. I’ve recently been able to change my work to dedicate one full day a week to it, but it still feels like I have two full time jobs at the moment!

Jo: I’m a stay at home mum and our youngest started nursery this year. So I get a couple of hours to myself to catch up on website admin and chat to our makers on the issues of the day over on Facebook! Maybe do a little bit of hoovering before the monsters come back and mess it all up again.

Robert: We’re really trying to highlight our makers as much as possible, I think we’ll definitely try and do more of this if we can. We’re very proud of our ‘Maker Stories’ series, where each week we feature a different maker, who gives us a little bit of background on the inspirations behind their own small business.

Jo: They’re always such fab reads, it’s amazing how many new mummies seem to turn to crafting or pick it up again from their own childhood. It is very therapeutic! I also plan to catch up on sewing in all the ends on various blankets, and typing up some patterns that are currently scribbled down in my notebooks. We have lots of ideas for Made By Mums, but we’ll do one thing at a time, and do it well. We’re proud of what we’ve done so far and want to continue helping support other parents and carers through such a big life change. Oh, and have another cup of tea. There’s always time for another cuppa!

You can find Made By Mums on the following –

Made By Mums website – https://madebymums.co/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/madebymumsgifts/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/madebymumsgifts/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/madebymumsgifts

Why not take a look at my other posts with more inspirational people –

Interview with Best Selling Author and owner of Memory Zoo Katie Silverthorn

Interview with Cat at Cat Creation

Interview with children’s publisher Justin Davis

Lisa Norman shares her story of the premature birth of her son Neil

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.


Categories
Inspirational Interviews

Interview with Award Winning Glass Engraver Steve Lee

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing the talented Steve Lee, an award winning glass engraver, cancer survivor and my wonderful big brother.

Steve Lee is owner of Emotive Glass where he offers glass engraved pieces, custom engraved designs and he has now set up courses to teach others this amazing art. I know I am biased but his work speaks for itself and truly is stunning, the detail that goes into every piece is just jaw dropping.

Image.jpeg

Tells us a bit about you?

Always a tough question! I suppose I’d be best described as a cat loving glass artist. Always learning, always with more art in my head than I can ever hope to achieve in just one lifetime.

I love nature. My wife, Donna, and I moved from Kent to Cornwall to be able to do the ‘hippy thing’ and commune with nature at every possible opportunity. This is reflected in my engraving where I tend to concentrate more on animal portraiture than any other subject.

Can you explain what glass engraving is?

In essence it’s a very simple art form; just scratches and dots on glass. The scratches and dots are built up very faintly and in increasingly bold strokes they form images. The finer the scratches the more detailed the image can become. Light conducting through the glass and interacting with the scratches makes the engraving stand out.

The form of glass engraving I specialise in is called stipple engraving. In this, images are built up using just tiny dots. The dots are made by repeatedly tapping a single solitaire Diamond point against the glass. This method allows for an almost photo realistic end result. With a little practice.

That’s the technical explanation. The more elegant explanation was coined by one of the late, greats of glass engraving Sir Lawrence Whistler. He described glass engraving as “Painting with Light”.

FB_IMG_1559319619726.jpg

How did you get into it?

I used to paint on silk. I loved working very fine detail with single hair brushes. The subject matter didn’t matter to me as much as the painting process, the technical challenge.

I’m very lucky in that my mother is a very talented crafts person. She had seen some glass engraving and thought I might enjoy it as it is as much a technical skill as an art form. She suggested I try it and brought me a small hobby drill and some engraving burrs (Diamond dust coated engraving tools). I can’t say that I was overly enthusiastic but as she had gone to the trouble of buying me some kit I thought it best I at least give it a go. So I engraved a rose on the glass front of my painting light box. That was nearly 30 years ago and aside from a few years where I didn’t engrave at all It’s been a constant companion to me ever since.

What do you love the most about running your business Emotive Glass?

The challenge each new piece represents. I always try to take on pieces that I’m not 100% sure I have the skill to pull off. When not engraving for clients I’m engraving practice pieces. Portraits, eyeballs, anything that represents a technical challenge. This way I’m always learning and always striving to become a better engraver.

My ultimate goal is to achieve photorealism. One of the nicest compliments anyone ever paid me was delivered as a dismissal. I was showing some work at a craft exhibition and an elderly gentleman was looking at some pieces. Shortly his wife bustled up to him, quickly glanced at my work and said “Come away dear, they’re only photographs”. I didn’t stop smiling for days.

FB_IMG_1559474859104.jpg

Do you have a favourite piece you have engraved, if so what was it and why is it your favourite?

Every piece I engrave is my favourite whilst I’m engraving it. Each piece is a journey from planning to finished article and I love those journeys!

But to single out one piece? I suppose it would have to be an engraving of a Kingfisher. For many long winded and trivial reasons, I had not seriously engraved for a good few years. Perhaps I’d managed 3 pieces in as many years. I eventually decided I was being an idiot and should dive back into the art with gusto. I remember setting up my work space and picking the most complicated piece I could think of to start off with, a kingfisher coming out of the water. Given the water, light, feathers I genuinely thought I couldn’t engrave it, but it came off first time. From that moment on I didn’t stop and actively sought to ‘make a go of it’ rather than just engrave as a hobby.

FB_IMG_1559474913582.jpg

You recently went through a tough time health wise after finding out you had cancer, how is your health now and how does this affect your business?

It’s been a very strange few years. Prior to Christmas 2016 I was very fit and active enjoying fencing, walking silly distances and archery. Then I suffered a serious back injury which meant I could no longer fence, or walk very far, or use a bow.

Not quite a year on, I was just coming out from under that cloud and I got whacked with kidney cancer. Which, ironically, I coped with far better than I coped with the back injury. I was very lucky in that it was caught quickly, and the NHS were amazing. It was all over before I had an opportunity to start to worry!

Mercifully, glass engraving only requires you to use your hands and brain so none of my health issues had any impact on my engraving. If anything, having engraving there as a constant helped as it acted as a kind of refuge. A place to go to and just be with no thought other than the glass.

You have just started up courses to teach this amazing art. What can people attend a course except to see?

I adapt each lesson to the person so regardless of experience each student will finish their first day with a completed piece to take home: After running through the tools, equipment and safety aspects we’ll dive straight in with some basic techniques. As soon as the student is comfortable, we’ll move those techniques on and produce a piece either from the student’s own artwork or using one of a library of templates I’ll have available.

You don’t need any pre-existing skills to learn how to engrave glass. You don’t need to be able to draw or paint so don’t worry if you don’t have these skills. By the end of the day I’ll have you engraving like a pro!

What products do you offer through Emotive Glass?

I offer bespoke engraving services specialising in portraiture both animal and human. If you can supply me with a sufficiently detailed photograph, I can produce an engraving. Engravings can be on flat, free standing glass or vases, wine glasses, basically any glass of a decent quality with an engravable area.

FB_IMG_1559319606637.jpg
glass-wedding-placqe.jpg

Other than bespoke work, at some point in the future I hope to be selling an engraving tool of my own design. I’ve prototype it and now use it as my primary engraving tool. As soon as development funds become available I’ll move this project on.

If you would like to buy any of Steve Lee’s products or attend one of his courses then take a look at his website http://emotiveglass.com/

You can also follow him on Facebook www.facebook.com/emotiveglass

Why not take a look at my other posts with more inspirational people –

Interview with Best Selling Author and owner of Memory Zoo Katie Silverthorn

Interview with Cat at Cat Creation

Interview with children’s publisher Justin Davis

Lisa Norman shares her story of the premature birth of her son Neil

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

Categories
Inspirational Interviews

Interview with the Catherine Greer from the wonderful Cats Creation

I am privileged to be interviewing the lovely Catherine Greer from Somerset who runs her own business called Cats Creation, where she makes the most amazing arm and hand knitted items as well as stone art decorations. She also runs classes to teach others how to arm knit and does all of this around her young son.

snood

Tell us a bit about you?

I always loved making things at school and was often the only girl in the woodwork classes. This didn’t put me off though and I was often much better than the boys.

I wasn’t sure what to do after sixth form so I went to college to study my other love, horses. I spent three years studying equine studies and completed a animal science degree at Plymouth university.

After uni I still wasn’t sure which direction to go in so I ended up driving HGV lorries for a international horse transport company based in Wiltshire. I spent a year on the road, attending races, stud farms and equine events all over the UK and Europe. This took its toll on me so I left. Skipping ahead a few years I decided to apply and join Hampshire Constabulary as a PCSO. I worked here for four years and loved it but I really missed being in the country and wanted my life to slow down a bit. Working shifts meant that if I wasn’t working I was sleeping. I decided with my now husband that I wanted to move back to Somerset and live the ‘good’ life! We bought a house, renovated it and now live in it. We try and produce all our own vegetables in our garden and recently got some chickens. I love taking part in the local flower and vegetable shows with our produce and have sometimes brought home some metal.

I’m very keen to show my son how to grow his own vegetables and would love to see more people growing their own too. You can follow all my adventures on my Facebook page.

What inspired you to get into making hand knitted items and what made you decide to start a business selling them?

I got into arm knitting after trying to use knitting needles once. I got very frustrated with how long it took to make anything so I googled how to knit quickly (or something similar) and up popped a video demonstrating arm knitting. Let’s just say the rest is history! That was 6 years ago!

I’d always been involved in my friends Christmas fair and every year I used to find a product to make for it. One year I took snoods and sold out on the first day. This gave me the fuel to think I could make more and sell them properly.

stall

If you had to pick one what would you say your favourite item you make is?

Snoods are definitely my favourite items to make. Even though I now make hundreds every year I still get great pleasure in knitting them and seeing people enjoy wearing them. I get very excited when I find a new wool too.  

Don’t get me wrong I love knitting the luxury giant blankets and cushions too but snoods hold a special place  in my heart.

Where do you get the inspiration from for new creations?

Most of the things I’ve ever made, I’ve made them because I either couldn’t find them on the market to buy or I couldn’t afford to buy them, So I’ve often just given them a go. Sometimes my mind gets a bit carried away with ideas but I love experimenting with different materials and products to see what happens.

heart

Where do you want to see your business in the future?

I’ve only recently gone self employed and taken my business on full time. I would love to be able to continue to work from home to fit in around my son. In the future I would like to see my items and products in more shops across the country. I want to keep the handmade feel to my items so I want to keep sales at a manageable level without sourcing more staff. Hopefully I can achieve this and maintain it.

diy-kit

How do you manage your business around your son?

Up until recently I’ve only managed to work when my husband is around to look after our son or when my son is asleep in the evenings. He’s never allowed me to work during the day when it’s just the two of us so I gave up trying. I would spend the few hours in the evening knitting as much as I can whilst also promoting my items on social media. He has now started nursery a couple times a week so I’m using these periods to spend quality time in the HQ producing stock and completing orders.

Catherine is offering all readers a 10% discount on her products if you buy via her Facebook page using code simple1.

You can find Catherine’s beautiful handmade products by using the below links –

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Catscreation/

Etsy – CatsCreationSomerset

blanket-2
blanket

Why not take a look other inspirational interviews –

Interview with award winning glass engraver Steven Lee

Interview with Cat at Cat Creation

Interview with children’s publisher Justin Davis

Lisa Norman shares her story of the premature birth of her son Neil

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought