Tell me more about your craft? What is it? When did you find out you were good at it?
I make jewellery. Handcrafted Jewellery- Xuggle “Pronounced Zu’gl, it is a collective noun for a collection of pretty things”
Not really but it is definitely a talking point when people ask, and a lot of great conversations and friendships started with that name!
I started playing around with craft a week after I left full-time work, I can’t really remember why, my daughter was getting married and I did a lot of things for it including making her veil, headdress, and the bridesmaid’s hair combs and I think I got the creative bug then.
I started with wire and beads, then progressed to copper, booked myself on a silver ring making course and watched endless YouTube video tutorials.
I bought little bits of equipment and after having huge trouble with soldering I did an online course – the day I did my first piece of perfect “sweat soldering” I knew this was the job for me!
Looking back the first items I made were quite basic, and I surprise myself sometimes when I am very pleased how professional my work looks now.
Why did you decide to turn into a business?
I was asked to take part in a village fair and found my work sold very well and at that fair met a man who invited me to show and sell my work in his shop in County Durham.
When a hobby becomes an obsession and you are constantly making things, you soon have a lot of items which fill your space at home, and I felt the need to sell.
The good feedback from customers is addictive – even if you don’t sell anything, the conversations you have with strangers who appreciate your work is an amazing “buzz” and a confirmation that you are doing well.
Tell us more about the process, the step by step process of your craft- From the concept to the final product.
I work with different materials, but all need to be a natural product – metal, wood, glass and it’s even better if I can up-cycle material, then ideas just evolve.
I studied Fine Art 25 years ago and we were taught to sketch constantly as a preparation for the final piece. I find this really difficult. Ideas just come into my head, things I see, hear, read or dream and when they do, I have to put them into action. I have been known to get up at 3am because I woke up with an idea and was so excited by it I couldn’t wait till morning to get to work.
I do sketch but it is more as a reference during the process so I can remember how I got to the final piece, material, size etc.
I find that my designs begin with an idea and then evolve during the production, somethings work well and others don’t, and then when it comes to adding beads, colours and fabrics then it is really sitting with each piece and seeing what “goes” – it has to look “organic” – as though the bits were meant to be together.
I work with Copper, which is a wonderful material to use and can have many different finished looks from bright and shiny to aged and textured.
Brass is a lovely colour and beautiful when used as a contrast, with other metals.
I use wood and hand painted designs such as Mandalas or Doodles or have Japanese or Goth styles Silver in the more “classic” styles
I love working with and combining different materials, textures and colours. Most pieces have a meaning, that may be obvious or hidden, and lately, I have been drawn more to a spiritual path and feel that my work in more “alternative” than “classic”, but I do try to cater for all customer types.
I love the process of working with an old, plain bit of dirty metal or wood and watch it be transformed into a beautiful, sparkly piece of unique jewellery- true alchemy!! It never fails to amaze me.
Where do you sell your product?
I took the decision to push myself and take chances – apply to sell at events throughout the Northeast – not say no to anything.
A year of market research! To know where I fit in and where I don’t, who are my customers and where do they shop.
I supply my jewellery to a few shops and galleries in the Northeast of England, and I attend various Spring, Summer and Winter Fairs, I love to engage with customers and getting lovely feedback is so important, as I still suffer from a bit of “imposter syndrome” even after all this time!
I am looking to find more independent shops to stock my work this year.
Have you noticed a rise in crafters and people buying creations?
Over the last 21 months I have helped to set up and run a Crafters Cooperative in County Durham, and the overwhelming response we got was how refreshing, our unique and handmade items are, people, seem very tired of the large “high street” shops that are all the same and want something small, independent and different.
I have sold at many fairs festivals and pop up events and these are all really well attended.
There is also a huge amount of extremely gifted and creative people who haven’t had the time or opportunity to take the time to get their craft off the ground and make it a business due to the demands of family, jobs and life in general.
What is the crafting industry like?
I am at my happiest when I am working, creating my jewellery, but as with any creative process, it is hard work. Ideas take time to develop, sometimes they do not work other times things work out well, but change as you work, most of the time I’m surprised at the finished piece, as it can be very different to how I thought it was going to be!! I love that!
That is the easy bit- the next and harder part is selling and finding “your” customer.
Jewellery is a very personal thing and there are so many factors to be taken into consideration. Style, price etc.
All my work in completely handmade, and I pride myself on that, making every element, but this takes time, and the finish of jewellery is also very time consuming, I even handprint /stamp my logo on each individual card or box.
If you go to an event and sell nothing it is very disappointing and disheartening, but if you have a really good day and I have sold over £300 in 3 hours before, this is wonderful but you start to panic as you have so much work to do to replenish your stock before the next fair, which is usually the next weekend. Last year I worked most weekends between May and September than most between October and 18th December!! Long days often 13 or 14 hours from leaving home in the morning to getting home in the evening, but the crafter and market community are wonderful and supportive and will always share tips and experiences.
Although it is hard work and long days I thoroughly enjoy it.
Do you recommend people starting up their own crafting creations and turning it into a business?
It is difficult to start any business, but I think it has been especially difficult in the last year when retail is suffering and the political and economic future is so turbulent and uncertain, but I have very much enjoyed the journey so far. Looking back, I was quite naïve, I concentrated more on the creative side and not enough of the gaining “business” knowledge, there must definitely be a balance maintained for success.
Xuggle Email is firstname.lastname@example.org
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You can find Xuggle at the following Outlets
Allendale Forge Allendale, Northumberland
Creative Artist Studio Vallum Farm, Millitary Road, Northumberland
Something Special Haltwhistle, Northumberland
Up Coming events
Star Bazaar 27/4/19 Warwick Street, Heaton, Newcastle
Ethical Market and Mingle 5/5/19 The Exchange North Shields
Wedding Fair 11/5/19 Hexham Abbey, Hexham
Northumberlandia 18 & 19 /5/19 Cramlington, Northumberland
Allendale May Fair 25/5/19 Allendale Town, Northumberland
Winter Gardens 9/6/19 Hexham, Northumberland
Alternative Night Market 23/619 Roker Hotel, Whitburn, Sunderland