1. Tell us about yourself, what you do and your work?
My name is Claire and I am the owner and creator behind Claireabellemakes. I balance a life of crafting with a full time job in the beautiful city of Cambridge. I sell handmade accessories such as fabric bow and button rings and vintage button hairslides.
I have fond memories of rummaging through ‘the button tin’ as a child and I don’t think my love of crafty bits and bobs ever went away. I dabbled with knitting as a teen, but in the last few years, my love of craft has reignited and become a huge passion. Some might say an obsession!
In 2012, I began writing a craft blog and making fabric covered jewellery and accessories. I love to work with fabric and buttons and if a project involves a glue gun I’m all set. Most of my spare time is spent sourcing unusual textiles and buttons or working on a yarn project.
2. What are your inspirations?
I find a huge amount of inspiration online from fellow crafters, there are so many magnificently talented people out there! I sometimes imagine what it would be like to have all my creative twitter followers in once space crafting at the same time. Imagine what we could create!
My home city of Cambridge constantly inspires me, I am amazed at how many creative people there are here. Being surrounded by street buskers, artists, yarn bombers and musicians makes it hard to avoid creativity here and there are always willing volunteers to share their craft with you. I try to immerse myself in as many different crafts as possible and always strive to learn more.
3. When and where did you study/learn and has your work changed since then?
My grandmother was a dressmaker, so I am sure I subconsciously learnt some basic sewing skills from her. However, I am self taught and didn’t study at an art school. I’ve always led a creative/artistic life having originally trained as a dancer and later in Arts Management.
Looking back now, I would love to have studied textiles, but I don’t have any regrets. I have an endless supply of books to gain skills from and I become restless if I’m not learning something new. Over time, I have definitely gained confidence and feel I am able to experiment more with the types of fabric I use and the designs I produce for my shop. I know that there is always something else to explore so I am sure there will be more change and growth ahead with my work.
4. What do you like about crafting?
Many many things! I love that anyone can explore crafts, no matter what their background, ability or knowledge is. Creativity can unite people! I hosted a craft party this summer organised by Etsy and it was such a great experience for bringing people together and sharing skills. Naturally we ate plenty of cake, but I’ve come to learn that craft and cake go hand in hand.
For me, craft has opened up a whole new world and allows connections that are much harder to cultivate in other industries. The craft community is exceptionally supportive and I think this is one of the reasons people venture into creating handmade businesses.
On a personal level, crafting allows me to escape from the routine and stresses of day to day life. I love the journey. Seeing a project from the concept to production stage is so satisfying. Whether it turns out right or not, it’s good fun to indulge in your creative side.
5. What made you start your business and how did the name come about?
As a child my Dad gave me the nickname Claireabelle and seeing as I make things, I amalgamated the two. I wanted a name which had a nostalgic quality for me with a memory attached.
Claireabellemakes ‘the shop’ began in the summer of 2012 when I made some fabric covered jewellery. I received so many compliments about the pieces I had made for myself and friends were starting to ask me to make jewellery as gifts to others. I have always admired Etsy sellers and I’m forever shopping on there. I thought I’d take the plunge and try it for myself. I’ve not looked back since!
6. How long have you been working as an Artist? Has it all been plain sailing?
Claireabellemakes has been active since the summer of 2012. Although still in an embryonic stage, it has been a super experience so far and a great challenge. If I have an idea, I like to commit to it fully and give it everything – it’s all or nothing for me!
The biggest challenge so far has been balancing running a handmade business with a full-time job. There are a lot of different things to consider including marketing and finances. I’ve definitely learnt to plan, plan plan!
7. What are the best and worst things about your craft?
Time is hands down the hardest thing about having a handmade business. Balancing life, relationships, family and work with your business goals is tough. If anyone out there has the perfect solution, let me know! Claireabellemakes is not yet at the stage where I can make a living from it, but the long term goal is to work creatively full-time.
The best thing is seeing someone enjoy your creations. It’s that warm fuzzy feeling when a customer is happy and appreciates your hard work to create their item. Receiving a personal message of thanks really makes it all worthwhile.
8. What do you sell and how can we buy? Can we visit you at your studio / shop?
I sell fabric covered jewellery and accessories including button rings, hair slides, earrings, scrabble tile jewellery and bow rings. I am always happy to take a custom order.
I work from home, so it isn’t possible to visit my studio (the spare room!), but I have a strong presence online. You can find my Etsy shop and blog here:
9. What are your hopes for the future?
I hope for claireabellemakes to grow as a brand and for the business to evolve and develop. I would love for my blog and shop to grow on an international scale, but most of all I just want to continue on a crafty path!
10. What is your most favourite piece and what is your biggest seller?
The polka dot bow rings I have recently launched are my favourite item so far. I love anything kitsch and girly and these are just that. I have lots of customers that request polka dot items, so I hope they sell well. The scrabble tile rings have been my biggest seller and I get so many compliments on my ‘C’ ring. I’d only seen the plastic tile jewellery before I made the wooden rings.
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