Getting my craft on! Re-connecting with my creativity

This weeks guest blog post is by London Local Team member Laura Bonnell, owner of Etsy shop

When you tell people you work as a Fashion Designer, I think most people have visions of you sitting in some glamorous art studio sketching lovely illustrations playing with fabric swatches all day long. Oh, if only this was the case! I remember working with some very put out placement students at one Brand I worked for. They quickly realised after starting work most of their day would be spent entering garment specifications onto a computer, and attaching CADed drawings to boards. They would then repeat the process 20 times before the season was put to bed as styles inevitably changed the second there was another meeting (and there was ALOT of meetings!).

I’d say the reality of what I’ve experienced being a Womens and Childrenswear designer for the past 16 years is that you probably spend about 5-10% of your time doing anything you’d genuinely class as ‘creative’. The industry moves so fast, there is often not much time to think, be inspired or evolve your work, you just have to get it down on paper and sent to a factory to be made as quickly as possible! So, when I decided to take the leap earlier this year to step away from the corporate world, and try my hand at launching my own kids brand, I had a few objectives in mind. The first was to build a business where I could have flexible hours that would work around family life. Now that’s a long way off at the moment as I scrape every last second of nap time and burn the midnight oil after the kids have gone to bed to make my wares and catch up on everything else! But the goal is there, and that what I’m working towards. Another goal was to re-connect to my creative roots. From as far back as I when I could hold a paintbrush I have always been making and creating things. I got my first sewing machine at 14 years old, and used to make toys, and clothes, and it was then I knew I wanted to become a Fashion Designer when I became all growned-dup!

Once I’d nailed the concept for the muklet brand, I set about designing the range. As it evolved I realised I could actually pull together all the things I loved about Clothing, Accessories, and even Vintage. I was able to tap into the wonderful resources I’d gained over the years working in the industry. Another great passion of mine is supporting British Suppliers and Manufacturers, so when it came to choosing the fabric for my cushions for example of course it had to be British Melton Wool from Moons!

To start to build the collection I had to dust off my sewing machine which had last made an appearance after I had a creative surge last Christmas to make everyone decorations for my family’s presents (all 22 of them!) I quickly re-discovered my joy of taking an initial idea all the way through to finished piece, being involved in the entire process, and feeling so proud of something I’d created that someone else could then enjoy. Sourcing retro American vintage pieces has also been another fun mission I’ve embarked on to complement the Clothes and Accessories in the range. I had the best day at Ardingley Vintage Fair some weeks ago, going with a budget and an aesthetic in mind, but finding inspiration in unexpected discoveries then having fun planning how I would use them or up cycle them.

I confess I was a little hesitant to join Etsy at first. I kinda felt like I maybe didn’t deserve to be part of the gang because I wasn’t ‘crafty enough’. There are some amazingly talented artisans in the London Local team, making their beautiful creations from scratch. But over time I’ve come to realise that there are all levels of Makers, and Designer/ Makers. What connects us as a tribe is our love of creation, whether that be a hand thrown pot, or a customised Varsity Baseball Jacket in my case. Starting this adventure has spurned my creativity in other ways as well. I was asked to create a give away present for the first 50 people through the doors of a Christmas Fair I will be doing. So I created these:

I’ve also had to be creative in other areas of running my business like how I display my wares at markets:

Create interesting ways to promote myself on social media:

Deciding how to style and photograph my products:

…and the creativity goes on and on! Although I’m yet to make it to an Etsy meet up (due to being a busy Mom and husband home too late to let me escape on time!) I have managed to meet quite a few of our clan at various markets and other small business gatherings. I love it when after months of chats on social media you finally get to meet someone face to face – and it’s always such a friendly face! I think my most favourite thing about re-connecting with my creative self is that my kids are enjoying watching Mommy be truly happy and creative. They love to come and sit in the office pod where I work and watch (or cause complete chaos, which is usually the case!). And it inspires them to want to make what Mommy is making. Who know’s you may soon be seeing a ‘Mini Muklet’ shop opening soon on Etsy… watch this space!

BusinessLondon Local Team