CraftBritannia Shop of the Week #2, Shalotte
In our second CraftBritannia Shop of the Week interview, we talk to Naomi of Shalotte, designers and makers of couture knitwear, artistic artwear, wirework jewellery and accessories. Shalotte is the creative business of two sisters, Naomi and Abigail, who work as full time designer/makers in the heart of Oxfordshire.
Describe your “typical” working day or week
A typical day for me starts with tea, seeing to our ponies, reading emails and spending a couple of hours on the computer checking my Etsy teams and website, blogging and sourcing materials for projects. Mornings aren’t my favourite time of day so I like a gentle start. I like to photograph in the afternoons, and spend a couple of afternoons a week sorting out new stock, deciding what to put in the shop and what to keep for fairs and events. My business is a partnership with my sister Abigail, who makes the wire jewellery, so we sort stock together. Afternoons and evenings are spent working on projects, designing pieces, making mood boards and doing a lot of research to make sure the pieces are just as I like them!
When you are not doing Etsy related things, what are you doing?
I swim once once a week in the local pool, and have a welsh x fell pony, Tess, who takes up a lot of my time – she is my darling as I’ve had her since I was about twelve. I also love photography so I spend a lot of time in our local woods. Museums are a must too, as is yarn shopping. I read like a maniac, anything I can get my hands on but especially poetry, history and thrillers. As a steampunk I love going to events, and I also love to cook and bake (I make a mean batch of pastry). Oh, and I’ve taken up belly-dancing this year.
What was the first piece you ever sold?
The first piece I ever sold was a custom order a couple of years ago, when I had my first Etsy store (RoseOak Studio). A lady asked about a knitted top she wanted but couldn’t find anywhere, and it turned out she wanted a piece rather like one I already had for sale – a sleeveless low waist top that tied at the shoulders with ribbons – but she wanted it knitted in the pattern of a Gila Monster lizard skin. Now I don’t know about you but I’d never even heard of the creature before! It turned out to be a gorgeous black and pink swirly striped and spotted creature native to Mexico. I had enormous fun designing the top and knitted it in a two toned black and pink matt and shiny tape yarn, but would never make another one as the colourwork was a nightmare! I’m pleased to say she was delighted with it. The first thing I ever sold on Etsy was a pixie hood in linen, with hand cut silk and linen leaves and a hand printed bumblebee patch (pictured below).
What advice would you give someone taking up your craft for the first time?
Crafting as a full time job is difficult, so make sure you have enough money in the bank for 6 months to a year of simple living, because its tough. As a hobby, make sure you get a good book on technique and learn as much as possible, joining a local group if you can. The most important thing is choosing your materials carefully: a bad yarn or fabric starts you off at a disadvantage. Linen is very easy to work with, while pure silk can look like a rag, and wool is a good general medium. And don’t try to run before you can walk – master the basics before you experiment.
What material do you most enjoy working with?
I have a passion for ribbon yarn, and a batch of Louisa Harding sparkly ribbon yarn is my favourite statement studio piece. I also love sari and banana silk, and natural fibres, sequinned mohair and handpainted yarns. My favourite studio is Colinette in Wales, which sells some beautiful yarns.
If you could try a new craft, what would it be?
I’d love to try metalwork again, and ceramics – but I have no affinity with the materials so its probably best if I don’t try again. I envy people who can felt, so probably Nuno Felting (a fabric felting technique) would be my choice as it seems so luxurious .
Which piece of equipment would you be helpless without?
Hmmm, probably my mother’s Elna Air Electronic sewing machine. Most things are replaceable, but you can’t even get a lead for it anymore, though its the best thing Elna ever made. Apart from that it would be my Italian metal scissors, that are older than time, LOL!
Tell us about what inspires and motivates you
My passion is the Pre-Raphaelites and my muse is Arts and Crafts, so I would probably put them top of my list, along with fairy tales and mythology. I am inspired by words and phrases, images, nature and history, and people – random comments can make me dash for a paper and pen. I’m used to grasping ideas from thin air, so to speak, so sometimes they just come out of nowhere. And I find a large quantity of tea helps my creativity no end as well!
Tell us about one handmade item that you own and love
A wooden robot made for me by my father when I was tiny – it rolls across the floor, and its head and arms move.
What plans do you have for your shop in the future?
I have quite big plans for this year. Its taken time, but my sister and I now know what direction we are going in. We sell a lot to America and online seems the way to go for us, so we really want to concentrate on building up our online presence and doing more work via our website (www.shalotte.co.uk) and Etsy. We have pieces in various shops and cafes in the local area as well, so may try to display things further afield. We will still be doing shows and fairs but we’re going to be more selective, and possibly branch out into the wedding market. I want to make more artwear and do more mixing of yarn and fabric, and as I make my own fabric yarn I want to be more involved in the making process before it gets to my needles. My sister wants to concentrate on wirework jewellery, torcs and celtic inspired pieces. It’s going to be really exciting.
Thank you Naomi for this fascinating insight!