Meet the Maker – PupTart

Hi there, Melodie here, captain of the London Local team and owner of SlinkyLinks Jewellery. This week we are back in Crouch End where I met with lovely Hannah Frew from PupTart London who agreed to take a few hours out of her busy schedule to show me around her beautiful studio and talk about her business.

Our upcoming Spring Market at the local Hornsey Town Hall is getting closer and even though Hannah wasn’t available to take part, she is a big supporter of our local event, of the team in general and a perfect example of the Crouch End craft scene.

Hannah makes “a collection of lovingly hand dyed, hand stitched and hand printed accessories for you, your pet and your home.” You will probably recognize some of her sparkly designs as her glitter and colourful pouches are getting more and more popular.

Originally from Scotland, she moved around a lot as a kid. “I have a super confusing accent” she told me. I’m French so I find all British accents a little confusing but hers sounds super cute to me. Hannah is a proper Londoner though, having lived here for over 10 years now, “Lots of my friends had moved to London after university and I’d always wanted to live here.” 5 of which she’s spent in Crouch End “I love meeting crafty buddies at Edith’s House for tea and scones, The Haberdashery for breakfast and the Earl Haig Hall for Friday nights.  Crouch End also has a pretty awesome Lido that’s open in the summer. “

And she isn’t planning on leaving anytime soon “Yes I wish it was cheaper. One day I’d like a studio space or be able to buy somewhere and that always seems impossible. But every time we think about leaving we always decide to stay.” I think I’m not alone when I say that most of us feel the same way but I guess it’s the price we have to pay to stay in this awesome city.

Entering Hannah’s studio is like having a bath in the sunlight and not just because the weather was lovely that day. Everywhere you look there are glitters, colourful hand-painted fabrics, funny designs but the warmth comes mostly from Hannah herself and the positive energy that flows from her.

Like a lot of designer-makers in London, Hannah works from her own home in Crouch End, North London. Her working space is a lovely conservatory overlooking the garden where her cute little dog Indy is more than happy to chase after shadows.

Her studio is full of treasures, hidden in drawers and boxes or hanging from baskets. New designs she is working on, drying pieces of fabric, new fabrics samples… It’s a crafty girl’s dream!

My personal favourite was the reject box. Indeed, like every great designer, Hannah is a perfectionist and nothing but the best will do for her customers. Hence the reject box, full of “imperfect” bags. To be honest, they looked good to me and Hannah, being the generous person she is, let me take one home with me. I used it as part of my outfit for a wedding and won lots of compliments and hopefully some new customers for PupTart.

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Her favourite and most precious tool is her patched-up brush with which she draws perfect black lines. I also found drawers full of fabric paint and ribbons.

Hannah runs a pretty successful business thanks in part to her background as a buyer. “I studied textiles at university before going back into a familiar retail job when I moved to London. I then became a fashion buyer and found my job becoming less and less creative. I decided to take the leap and open my own online shop selling pet accessories inspired by my dog Indy. It turned out my bow ties were the bestsellers so I decided to start my Etsy shop and haven’t looked back.” 

As easy as she makes it sounds, there is a lot of work behind those words. Her days are busy but you can tell she really enjoys every minute of each “I get up around 7am, walk my dog Indy we normally grab a coffee on the way, then I answer emails and pack up any orders I’ve made the night before. Usually I go to the gym at 9.30/10ish I really like the classes and it means I see other people that day! Then it’s the post office, making until 3, pack up other orders, take Indy for another walk via the post office. Come home and stitch some more normally until about 8ish. Sometimes I’ll hand sew items on the sofa at night, that’s when the pet bow ties get made.

What impresses me most about Hannah’s business model is that she hasn’t compromised on the making. She stills does all the sewing herself and all her prints are hand-painted. “ I love creating and stitching all day long. This was always my dream job and I’m so happy people buy my sparkly creations. I have no problem working on my own, the day goes by so quickly.”

So I asked how she had time to cope with all the admin stuff.

With her background in sales and buying, she makes sure that her margins are spot on and give her enough flexibility to play around with her pricing. When she works on new designs, she always keeps costs in mind. “I normally start with a fabric or pattern idea then I stitch it up. I’m lucky that I make a lot of my own fabrics so I can experiment quickly with low financial risk. I can come up with an idea in the morning stitch it up and have it up on Etsy by that afternoon.  “

She also invested in a good accountant and it saves her lots of time and headaches. And she uses a professional photograph to guaranty great pictures she can use on social media, her shop and send to the press.

Hannah is also very creative in her use of material. Nothing is wasted. With all end of rolls she makes bow-ties for pets and straps for her bags. She also keeps scraps of fabric, just in case.

She is also open to suggestion. Some of her designs were inspired by custom orders. She knows how to listen to what her customers want and adapt her designs accordingly. She told me she would never have thought of selling bumbags until somebody asked for one and now they are one of her best-sellers.

We talked about what she loved the most about running her own business “I love being my own boss, being able to sell something I’ve made myself is amazing. It can be super scary sometimes and you can spend months worrying about a big order or whether you’ll be busy next month. Not having that Monday morning feeling and not always wondering what if, is very satisfying. Also I find all my worrying makes me work harder.

But when you are a small creative business, you are always trying to improve your process and Hannah is no exception. “It can get a bit crazy sometimes and I struggle to keep up. This is a great problem to have and it isn’t something I hate, but busy times like Christmas can be a bit overwhelming. Every year I say I’m going to be more organised and every year it’s the same. It takes me a long time to make some of my designs and I’d really like to have stock made up for busy periods and when wholesale orders come through. So I’m working on speeding up my making process without losing any detail, such as screen printing my watermelon bags instead of hand painting them.

Can the London Local Team help in time of struggle? “I joined last year, as I was lucky enough to take part in the London Local Christmas market. So helpful and it’s nice to be part of such a nice community. The Christmas market was an amazing experience and lots of fun.” Indeed it was and the Spring Market will be even more fun I hope.

Before we let Hannah go back to making beautiful sparkly bags, we asked her what advice she would give to someone starting out. Here are some insights for you:

Don’t give up, my first shop didn’t work out as I’d hoped but it led me to open my Etsy shop which created so many opportunities. The second market I did, I only sold 1 thing all weekend. If I hadn’t had a good first market, I probably would have never done another one and now I love doing craft fairs. 

If something goes wrong stay calm, it’s not the end of the world. 9 times out of 10 there will be a solution and sometimes you just need to go make a cup of coffee and take 5 minutes. 

Oh and don’t compare yourself to other makers. I have loved making lots of lovely new crafty friends, they’re an amazing source of support and one of the best things about running my own crafty business.”

And that’s one of the reason why we started the team, so crafty minded people could meet and exchange ideas in a supportive and friendly environment.

Find more London Local designer-makers at our Crouch End Spring Market, on the 14th of May, from 11am until 4pm, at the Hornsey town hall. Entry is free and we are giving out 50 goody bags to the first 50 people there. So come early and bring your friends!

As for Hannah, you can find her at Crafty Fox market on the 29th of May, in Brixton and like me, enjoy a little chat with her. Or you can can in touch with her through her Etsy shop or her website.

I’ll be back soon with another Meet the Maker article but I have to say goodbye for now.

Melodie from SlinkyLinks Jewellery