Claire’s Crafts – One Mum’s Story of Setting Up Her Own Craft Business

Article by Claire Gibbs – Claire’s Crafts

www.facebook.com/handmadewithhugs

Personalised Felt Hearts

I’m Claire 38 (sadly nearly 39) married for 17 years with two lovely sons, Jack, nearly 13 and Alfie, just turned 9. My boys are my everything and whilst as a mother that’s just how I want it to be, it also means quite literally I had let motherhood become my complete self. I’d always planned it that way, I would stop working when I had my first child and go back when they  had started full time school. I had also planned to have two children by the age of about 25, but of course life isn’t that straight forward. I’ve had 9 pregnancies and only two went full term. I think this is part of the reason why I have thrown myself sooo deeply into motherhood as it was something I began to fear was out of my reach.

I’m originally from Suffolk, down in East Anglia, but have lived up in Derbyshire for 18 years. When Jack was born I suddenly had all I wanted, but also a nice hefty dose of post natal depression to go with it and no family support system around me. It’s only when I left work as a nursery nurse that I realised I knew no one. Everyone was busy going to and from work daily just as I had been and suddenly here I was with a difficult baby (sorry Jack) and felt so low and alone. After another 5 failed pregnancies I finally gave birth to my second son Alfie. I felt ‘slightly’ more in control this time round as through meeting people through Jack and running a local toddler group I didn’t feel so alone.  Time flew by and soon Alfie too had started full time school…and here was my time to go back to work. *Gulp*.

I realised that I had done nothing (well apart from bring up two boys and run my own toddler group for a while); nothing that future employees tend to see as ‘work’ anyway.

I would look at application forms and dread how to fill the void from 1999 to present day. I didn’t think, post natal depression, nappies, vomit, slowly losing my marbles and knowing all the theme tunes from cbeebies to be much to work with in their eyes….and who could blame them!

3 years ago I finally took a part time position in the local school where my boys attend, a school that I once held a position as a nursery nurse, but was now taking a midday supervisor role. However, when the children went back to school after the summer holidays in Sept 2011, I handed in my notice on the first day. I worked till the start of October then left.

I was suffering from depression which comes and goes, but I was really struggling at that time, so felt it better to leave. Although I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders by leaving – though I still put myself down for the relief list-  I also knew I couldn’t go back into the void of watching the same four walls and going slightly mad.

I love taking photos, usually slightly quirky things, but never really knew what to do with them and this just frustrated me and fed the ‘you can’t do anything, you’re useless’ feeling.  Christmas was nearing and I thought Id busy my mind with some crafts and made a few felt Christmas tree decorations; I still don’t really know what made me do that, as I’ve never been one to stitch! Whilst at primary school I once made a snowman and spent so much time holding it close to me whilst sewing that when I stood up I’d actually stitched it to my jumper! – This is my level of working with needle and thread!

Heart Decoration

I did however make some decorations and I made far too many and someone suggested I make a facebook page to sell them on. I eventually did after much persuasion, but kept it to myself so that when it all failed I didn’t have to let anyone know, however I wasn’t prepared for the way it’s really taken off.

 

I’ve always enjoyed creative things, I can’t say I’ve ever had any belief in them though, what I see in my mind, isn’t always how it turns out, whether it be on paper, photography or fabric; sometimes I find this so frustrating. With the felt decorations though, things pretty much turned out how I wanted them too which made a nice change, but felt is such a forgiving fabric I find!

I would urge anyone who is unsure, stuck in a rut, feels ‘I can’t’, just to try. You don’t have to aim for big scale things, aim small and slow, don’t pressure yourself. I personally found that keeping it all to myself gave me much less pressure as if it all went wrong, I didn’t have to let anyone know. I’m so glad I started the facebook page first as I’ve found it a really supportive community of crafters. There have been a couple of very small issues that have cropped up but nothing that outweighs the overwhelming support I’ve found from others who are just like me, scared stiff and really don’t know what they are doing! It’s so easy to assume everyone has been doing this years and is sailing through knowing just what they are doing and doing it to perfection, but I was pleased to see that this wasn’t always the case. It’s been so much more fun going on this journey with others who are doing just the same.

Button Heart

Even if you don’t want to take it to the level of selling things, I found just by doing something, something for me, something that I could actually see, that I had achieved in the day, rather than spending the day doing daily housework that within ten minutes of everyone arriving home it felt like I’d done nothing, the washing baskets were once more full, the house a mess and it was time to cook dinner and make tomorrows packed lunches, it felt very much like groundhog day.

cute as a button decoration Whilst of course this is mostly still what I do, I also have this, my own little  ‘thing’ something that I can say, I’ve done that. It’s been such a lovely feeling to get feedback from customers who have been so pleased with their items and to know someone has hung something in their house, or given as a gift. While I make them I’m generally sat worrying about them as I stitch, “will they like it, is it as good as it should be, will it get ruined in the  post.” It makes is so worthwhile to hear how much they liked the items.

Best of all is when people ask my children ‘what does your Mum do’, rather than the, ‘nothing’ that they’ve given as a solid answer for years, they now say. ‘She’s setting up her own craft business’.

I know I’ve often read how people say that if they can do it then anyone can, but I still sit and think, hmmm, but you’re not me, I really can’t. But I have. I’m still waiting for it to all fall flat on its face to be honest. I’m hoping one day that I’ll get over the ‘it’s bound to fail’ issues. I even worry about what if it DOES get bigger, how will I cope? I guess I’m just a born worrier.

All you can do is try, do something you enjoy, maybe something you used to do years ago, or that something you’ve been meaning to give a try but are just too busy. If you do, I’d love you to drop by my page and say hello, I would love to share the support that I’ve been given too.Eco Bag Union Jack Heart

Good luck  :)

 

Find me on Facebook www.facebook.com/handmadewithhugs

http://clairescraftblog.blogspot.com/

www.flickr.com/photos/clairegibbs

 

 

This is the same flickr page, but takes you to a photo that is all about my lack of self belief; I hope it would show people that I really AM that unsure of myself http://www.flickr.com/photos/clairegibbs/5925347391/in/photostream

 

Click to see more articles on morethanmummies.com

Would you like to write an article for morethanmummies.com? Click here to find out more


 

If you like this post please share, like or tweet :)

Comments

  1. Sarah Kay says:

    I loved reading your story it reminds me of why I started making things and how much it has helped build my confidence and given me a purpose besides being a mum. I started selling some of my little creations on ebay last year and it took me ages to tell anyone what i was doing because i thought they would laugh.
    When i did tell them they were all supportive and my husband and family think it’s great.

    Just doing something for yourself that you can be proud of is wonderful.

    Well done Claire for acheiving what you have done! And good luck for the future. X

    • Claire Gibbs says:

      Thanks Sarah, I’m so pleased to hear you too have found it a positive experience too. Its amazing what we can achieve with a little bit of courage :) xx

  2. Having met Claire through facebook and our joint love of crafts, I can honestly say I am truly inspired by her strengh and courage that she has shown throughout her personal “battles”. Being the honest person Claire is, she informed me of some of the things mentioned above when we started chatting. I share some similiar issues, and knowing that Claire has still achived such wonderful things; her boys, husband and of course wonderful Claire’s Crafts, makes me feel like it is possible to overcome mental health issues, not just that, but have a happy, enjoyable life! Your crafts are beautiful and unique, hopefully from all the wonderful feedback you will know how much people appreciate your makes.

    Claire, you are my craft hero!

    Lots of love
    Lauren xxxx

    • Claire Gibbs says:

      Aww Lauren,
      You actually made me just cry reading that , I’ll have soggy felt now lol

      I’m so glad we’ve ‘met’ and only wish we were near enough to meet properly. Thanks for your support along the way, it’s been a much more fun journey sharing it with you along the way :)
      Biiig Hugs xxxx

  3. Helen (aka Doodlebags) says:

    like you my children had all gone to school and I was left wondering what came next.

    Only yesterday my partner and I were discussing how brave it was for me to take the plunge and start making things to sell. I was so nervous when I asked someone for their opinion of what I had made – and that was my partner’s mum, so how I ever found the courage to approach shop owners is beyond me. But I did it.

    Doodlebags is a teeny tiny business but it gives me such a feeling of satisfaction to be doing it.

    Thank you for sharing your story. Helen x

    • Good for you Helen! :) having support around you makes such a difference. Approaching a shop in my town that sells people’s crafts is on my vague list of wishy washy goals along with doing a craft fair this year. I just have to keep reminding myself that only two months ago I wasn’t even crafting, let alone selling it, I’ve come this far, if it goesno further Ive still done ok, but I’ll never know till I try. My problem is believing my own words lol. I wish you lots of success :) x

  4. Just to say sorry for any awful typos in that comment, I’m on here via my phone on a rather bumpy bus lol

  5. Gill Davison says:

    Claire, your story moved me to tears. Although my situation is very different in some ways to yours, I have gone through all of those feelings you describe, including depression and the ‘why would anyone like anything I make’ syndrome. And the more recently ‘I am totally unemployable, and therefore worthless’ emotions.

    I’m 44 and have adored knitting and sewing and generally creating, for as long as I can remember, and over the past 3 years have taught myself some beading and jewellery making skills. Not many people know this.

    After graduating with an Accountancy degree, I went into IT and then 12 years ago became a self employed contractor in Business Analysis.

    To cut a very long story short, the corporate world was never for me and I struggled for years. Eventually, I needed some time off, a break – well, looking back I think that it was a breakdown! So, having spent the last year at home, decorating, making curtains, cushions and various bits and bobs for our home, although inwardly stressing about going back to work, I now find it virtually impossible to get contract work as my ‘time off’ is looked upon unfavourably.

    I have so often thought about a craft business, but just haven’t had the guts to make the leap. However, I decided to talk it through with my partner last night, instead of bottling up these ideas that go nowhere. I now have his support, which is wonderful. Having googled ‘own craft business’, I came across your post. Let’s just say that you have now pushed me over the edge of ‘readiness’ and I am going to try. I think it is so easy to be overwhelmed by the whole idea of ‘a business’, that it can also become a barrier to it ever happening. Your advice to start small, will keep echoing in my head as it makes perfect sense! Ok, I have doubts, worries, fears, but a seed of positivity has been planted, and that can sometimes be all it takes.

    I have always believed that if you are passionate about what you do, and your aim is to bring joy to others, you are on the right path. Thank you Claire, you are an inspiration and a very talented and eloquent lady!

    All the very best,
    Gill.

    • Hi Gill, Thank you for your comment I have passed it on to Claire.

      We wish you the best of luck with your new venture, do let us know how you get on.

      Best wishes

      Jill, More Than Mummies. x

    • Claire Gibbs says:

      Wow, Gill,
      What an amazing response to recieve. just re read your comment and look at just how many amazing qualifications and experience you have, the 9-5 coperate world might not be your thing, but I have no doubt that you can make which ever path you choose a great success

      I really would recommend starting a facebook page for your craft work. It’s a great way to find your feet and meet like minded people, who are often so willing to support each other with pointing you in the direction of what it is you are looking for, from ideas, to name stickers, websites to craft fairs. It’s been a great, great help to me.

      Fabulous websites such as this are a great source of widespread information too. Definately one to stay intouch with.

      I would love to know how it all goes. I’m hoping to try a craft fair this summer, it sends me into a slight panic thinking about the stock I’d need to get made up ready. But I’m giving myself a bit of a kick and telling myself to try, it’s all you can do. The whole venture is a learning curve, it’s inevitable that we will all make mistakes along the way, but as long as we learn from them it’s OK.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and leave such a touching comment.

      All the very, very best for the future,

      Claire x

  6. Hi Claire.

    It’s really nice to read things written by another mum in a similar situation.
    I went back to work after having my son not by choice, rather, the family finances just couldn’t sustain me being off work.
    Going back, however, was not what my body had in mind, as I took a complete u-turn health wise, leaving me to make the decision to leave my place of work in November. I started my sewing in October, more as a hobby than anything. I have a large chest that I had been steadily filling with sewing items, that belonged to my nan, so it seemed only natural that I start sewing too. Now I use this hobby to try contribute to the family
    finances and help out with the bills. And clear some space…you can only sew so much stuff without running out of room!

    Well done you for taking the plunge and selling them online! It’s a scary thing indeed, one of the more common thoughts I had was “What if no one likes them?” And you are SO right about the amount of support from facebook crafters! Everyone is really there for each other, solving problems, collaborating ideas. It’s fantastic.

    I really wish you well for the future and I hope your craft really takes off, although only as much as you can handle, of course!

    Vicky xx aka, Screwball

  7. emma waltho says:

    hi i am so glad that selling online has worked for you i have seen your stuff and its fantastic i tried it by selling my hand made jewellery but no luck for me even with a fb page i wish you all the best for the future
    emma x x x

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’ll bet most of us mummies who make can relate to much of it. You’re a true inspiration. It’s hard to have faith in yourself when you get into that “I can’t do anything” rut but surprising what can be achieved if you try. The money isn’t the important thing – it’s the self esteem that comes with “doing your thing”. Much love and best wishes for the future xx

  9. Beth Capper says:

    such an inspiration…….I know how you were feeling claire…sitting here nodding whilst reading thinking…” i feel like that to”. I have 4 kiddies and its such a struggle as i suffer with ill health right now and bouts of severe depression and no family for support just a wonderful loving hubby who already has a stressful job without me adding to it.. I want my kiddies to be proud of me and have started to bake cupcakes and decorate them more daringly than icing with a few choccy buttons on…..lol . I have a love of crafty things but always think i am not good enough but reading your story has inspired me…..I know i can do it i just need to spread my wings and take the first step…i wish you all the best in your future with your venture x

  10. Hi there,

    Sadly I am not a mummy but happened upon your story whilst in work googling for ideas! I love craft of all forms but I tend to stick to paper crafts, jewellery and oddly enough, nail art. I would love to start selling things and doing the things that you do but I have no idea where to start.

    I was hoping someone would be able to point me in the right direction, I felt that what little talent I do have is being wasted doing what I do now, but it pays the bills! x x