I can’t recall when I first started to make bags . I just remember not being able to find the bags that I wanted. Without coming to a real decision, I found myself manipulating patterns to make my own and occasionally making bags as gifts for relatives. People would often ask me where I got my bags but at that stage, I didn’t consider adding them to my product range. I moved into Cockpit Arts in 2011 and, with my first open studio fast approaching I was still developing my coats. It was suggested that I could make some bags to test the market for my first open studios. I do believe I did an excellent job at hiding my surprise when I sold my first bag!
Cockpit Arts open studios 2011
So I began to design and make cloth bags as well as coats. By about 2013/2014 I began to experiment with leather to incorporate harder wearing straps and bases to some of the bags. I was not completed happy with the results and decided I needed to learn more about leather.
The first course left me feeling I had not learnt enough skills to apply to my products. I still tried making a machine stitched cloth/leather piece but I was dissatisfied with the result. It was a “Meh!” Bag in my opinion… During this time I was also collaborating with other designer makers with a pop up shop for a month, while working part time as a course co-ordinator for Fashion and Textiles at City Lit. The role included introducing new courses to the curriculum (this is relevant stay with me..!)
We all took turns to working in the pop-up shop in pairs. On one occasion I was paired withKatherine Pogsonwho specialised at the time in …wait for it… Leather craft and was teaching leathercraft skills to small classes of students! I told Katherine about my “Meh!” bag and my disappointment in my progress with leather up to that point. Katherine mentioned that she had been trying unsuccessfully to contact someone at City Lit about delivering classes!! Sooooooo guess who started TEACHING handstitched leather courses at City Lit?! And guess who ATTENDED three of the classes?!!!!
Not having enough coats for my first open studio weekend, led to me developing a brand-new product line.
Wanting to refine my bags lead me to trying an intro to leather course that did not meet my needs.
Making the “Meh!” bag, then sharing my story, led to forging a link with a skilled leather craft designer maker who was also a good teacher.
My first hand stitched leather bag
The result. Handstitched leather courses being offered at City Lit, and me getting to do a course with a teacher that was better suited to me. I have found that taking one step even if it’s a pigeon step into “Meh!” always seems to lead to other steps that ultimately, help me to achieve my goals.
You can see how far I have progressed at Cockpit Arts Deptford open studios this week. Dates 30th November – 2nd December Times Fri 1-8pm, Sat & Sun 11am-6pm Location 18-22 Creekside London SE8 3DZ
Ticket Price On the door| Deptford - £4 (Free entry for children under 15yr )
The new website is finally ready! As with all things creative it is a work in progress and I am sure it will continue to evolve. So come on in have a look around. Revisit some of the old Blogs ( had to re- input them for this new template *YAWN!!!*) Browse the online shop , check out the new Events and News page. Ohhh and Deco22 now has a quarterly Newsletter, so sign up for it. Go on you know you want to :-) !
When I began Deco22, I was continuously told by start-up business advisers, how vital networking was for my success.
I would force myself to go to networking events. These were usually evening affairs with people standing around glasses of wine in hands, making (loud) small talk *shudder*. I would say very little and escape as soon as possible. I really did not understand how doing this would be good for my business! After a handful of attempts I stopped attending.
Networking events are perfect for extroverts, which I am most definitely not. Thankfully, networking is no longer a ‘one size fits all’ deal.
Over the years I have meet lovely people while freelancing as a pattern cutter and teaching at numerous colleges. I regularly meet other designer makers at shows and markets and at my studio space (initially with LYST and now with Cockpit Arts).
Without realizing it, I have naturally built up a network of contacts through just being my introvert self. In sharp contrast to networking events where I felt people assessed one another, trying to gauge the other person’s usefulness, I keep in contact with these people because I have genuinely enjoyed working with, and getting to know them.
How do my network of contacts help me?
Sometimes it is simple encouragement for what I am doing, other times my contacts can offer advice on where to source equipment or share information they think I may find useful. I know that without my network of contacts I would probably have changed career by now.
I keep in touch with most of my network via social media:
No I do not tell everyone what I ate for breakfast or go in to details about everything that happens to me each day, I not that kind of Facebooker!
I mainly share fashion industry news, and ‘look at this’ links to things I like or things I would discuss with them if we were still working together. Generally if I do have a discussion with a Facebook contact I use private messages, as I am more comfortable with one to interactions, (introvert remember!)
Sharing pins of things I like and sending my contacts pins of things I think they might like.
Instagram ( 2018 update) Sharing what I am doing in my studio and also sending my contacts posts of things I think they might like.
Is a more professional format. I share business, education and fashion industry related news. (2018 update- now have a Deco22 business page)
I often receive requests to connect with people I have never meet which I still find strange. For a while I used to accept their invitations, but I have recently decided to stop. To me, it feels as if a complete stranger has knocked on my studio door and asked to come in and sit down… I say yes, and they just sit there… * shudder*
Oh yes, while we’re here, a pet peeve of mine…
If you decide to create a LinkedIn profile, do it! There is no point in adding your name, with no picture, no details of your specialism(s) or experience.
When I have been nagging – ehem - givinghelpful advice, to some of my contacts (lady with over 30 years’ experience as sample machinist yes, I hope your ears are burning!) who have half-heartedly created their LinkedIn profile I have described what they are doing as this:
“..you have set up a market stall with table rails and display props, you have put your name on the stall and then hidden behind a curtain with your stock still packed under the table. When people walk past all they see is your name and an empty display..”
As I said before, networking is not a one size fits all. I only recently realised that I had found a way that suited me, and I am so grateful for my genuine network of contacts and the no-stress method in which I have gained them! Links.