Meet the Maker – Flowsica
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Flowsica Flowsica is an incredible abstract art and abstract jewellery brand run by Vicki Demirdjian who will be joining us at our Christmas Fair in London.We caught up with artist Vicki to discover more about her work. Read the interview below to find out more… How did it all start?After 30 years as an International Head-hunter, I decided I had had enough, I closed my business, which gave me time to focus on my hobbies, art being one of them.  I needed a piece of artwork for my kitchen diner, but I could not find anything I liked, so I decided to paint something myself, this led to friends and family asking if I could paint them something, which led to the birth of Flowsica. The story behind the name… Florence and Jessica are the names of my grandmothers, they were both incredible women, so I decided to name my art after them. What is your creation process?I do not really have a set process; I begin with a colour combination in mind and then let the creativity flow. Where are you based? Essex What inspires you?Life in general, people, places, experiences.  I love colour, I love how nature brings colours together naturally, for example the ocean or forests.  What makes your brand or products unique? My products are unique as I let the paints flow freely, they naturally take shape, I then tweak until I am happy with the outcome, when I would happily put the piece in my home, its finished. What are your plans for the next 12 months?To continue learning, developing, and exploring my skills. What is your next project? I have just started upcycling my acrylic skins to make pendants, earrings and bracelets, they are so different and an ideal Christmas gift. What is your biggest achievement? My daughter for sure.  Selling my first piece of artwork at Spitalfields Art Market, I was blown away and could not quite believe it.  Its an amazing feeling to know something I have created is in someone’s home. What are you looking forward to the most about exhibiting at the Christmas Fair? I am so excited to be doing my first ever large exhibition with Country Living, I love the magazine, and follow avidly on Instagram, I feel so privileged and honoured to be a part of this year’s event, I cannot wait. Your three top tips for crafters and makers…Believe in yourself. Its never too late (I started painting at 54). Remember you are perfectly imperfect. Any advice for fledgling businesses… Keep trying – persistence.
Meet the Maker – BeeHype Honey
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BeeHype Honey BeeHype Honey is run by two young entrepreneurs with a shared love for natural foods and healthy living. They set out to create a one-of-a-kind selection of the finest craft honey and honey preserves. The carefully hand-picked honey varieties will tickle the palette of even the most passionate connoisseur. The mission is to prove that healthy natural food can also taste incredibly delicious!We caught up with BeeHype founders Stela and Mo to discover more about the brand. Read the interview below to find out more… How did it all start?One of our favourite things to do is watching Shark Tank which instilled the thought in our heads that “if they can do it, why can’t we do it?”. We knew we wanted to do something big, but we just hadn’t figured out what that was yet.We were living with Mo’s high-school friend back in 2018, and one day he received a big parcel from his parents in Bulgaria – our home country, with some “essentials”. We were wondering what was so special that he couldn’t just buy at the supermarket here. He opened the package and inside were some traditional spices, herbal teas, and… a big jar of honey. And that’s when it hit us – growing up, both of us had access to high-quality honey, straight from the hive, but in the UK we were never able to find the same taste.We reached out to some friends back home and we managed to get a dozen of jars of different honey varieties sent over to us. We organised a blind tasting with our friends and colleagues and the results were beyond belief – they said they’d never had anything like this in their lives, they had never known the true taste of natural raw honey. What seemed like plain old honey to us back when we were kids, was so special and exotic to our friends here.And that’s when we knew we were onto something, so we set off on our journey to create BeeHype. The story behind the name… BeeHype honey was created with a mission – to excite people about honey and prove that healthy, natural food can also taste incredibly delicious. That’s where the ‘hype’ part of the name comes from. Where are you based? We’re based in sunny Glasgow, find us at stand E51 at the local Country Living Christmas Fair and try our exquisite honey varieties. What inspires you?We’re big foodies, inspired by natural, healthy and delicious foods. We’re also very inspired by business owners who started from scratch and created successful businesses. What is your best-selling product? Our bestsellers are Lavish Lavender and Salted Honey. Lavish Lavender is bursting with flavour and has won 2-stars at the Great Taste Awards thanks to its delicate floral taste. Salted Honey is a healthy alternative to the salted caramel spreads we all love but with no refined sugar, dairy, preservatives or saturated fats and 40% fewer calories. What makes your brand or products unique? We partner with small, ethical beekeepers in Bulgaria – a land of four beautiful seasons, endless fields of lavender, pristine forests and untouched meadows. Thanks to this our honey is full of vibrant flavours and healthy nutrients.Our passion for healthy foods has driven us to create healthier versions of our favourite jams, spreads and sauces. So, came the inception of the UK’s first Salted Honey – a healthy alternative to salted caramel spreads, as well as our Cacao Honey – a healthy alternative to Nutella and chocolate spreads that’s free from gluten, nuts, palm oil and refined sugar. What are your plans for the next 12 months?We’re now stocked in over 90 independent shops, delis and farm shops across the UK and the number of BeeHype honey lovers is growing constantly.Our goal is to continue growing and place the BeeHype products in as many independent shops across the UK and Europe as possible so we can spread the hype further. What is your next project? Our latest innovation is Chilli Honey – sweet honey with a mild spicy kick that works equally well at a BBQ, as it does on a slice of toast or in porridge. We are working on some other amazing creations and we can’t wait to share them with you so make sure to follow us on social media or join our newsletter. What is your biggest achievement? Our biggest achievement is starting our own business at the age of 24 with no business experience, no knowledge about the food and drinks industry, and no investments or loans.We used our skills to save as much save money as possible – Mo used the skills he learned as a teenager to make our unique labels, he learned how to use my old DSLR camera to take professional product photos and he built our e-commerce website. I was leveraging my marketing and PR background and did extensive market research, created buyer personas and wrote SEO creative copy for our products.We were both working full-time, so we had to sacrifice our beauty sleep to keep things going. At the start, it was just afternoons, but quickly it turned to long nights, weekends and holidays. There were many points where we stopped and we thought that we are in over our heads. Against all odds, we kept pushing through the hard times and things eventually started to pick up. What are you looking forward to most about exhibiting at the Christmas Fair?We have very dear memories from our first Country Living Christmas Fair. It was one of the very few events in 2021, right after the big lockdowns. It provided us with the opportunity to meet our customers face to face again after almost 2 years, which was really valuable to us. We were happy to provide them with unique foodie gifts for their friends and family.It was also very fun taking on the challenge of designing and building our stall from scratch and seeing what the fellow stall holders have done with theirs.The Christmas Fair turned out to be very successful for us thanks to the great organisation and marketing efforts from the organisers.We love connecting with other brilliant independent business owners and meeting fellow foodies and honey lovers. Your three top tips for crafters and makers…Don’t be afraid to talk about the benefits of your products. Your passion will inspire others to try them and fall in love with them too.Don’t be afraid to take risks.Don’t stop chasing your dreams and never be afraid to set big goals – even if they seem impossible for your small business at first. Any advice for fledgling businesses… Dedication and hard work can help you achieve anything so keep going!
Meet the Maker – Sarah Leask Studi...
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Sarah Leask Studio Sarah Leask is a Scottish illustrator & designer from The Shetland Isles. Established in 2017, Sarah Leask Studio grew from her love of colour, pattern and watercolour. She is known for her signature rainbow coloured watercolour maps, which feature many of the Scottish isles. Being an islander herself, there is a strong island theme found in her designs, highlighting some of Scotland’s harder to reach treasures.We caught up with Sarah to discover more about her and her brand. Read the interview below to find out more… How did it all start?The business started kind of by accident when I painted my first watercolour map of my home, The Shetland Isles. I went on to paint several more colourways before selling these as prints – to friends first, then friends of friends and finally through local gift shops in Lerwick, Shetland.Since then, I have created a full range of watercolour map prints which have now been developed into a home and gift product range which you can shop via my online shop as well as at local events around Scotland such as the County Living Christmas Fair! The story behind the name… There isn’t really one! Choosing a name didn’t really go through my head at the time as I hadn’t realised how much the business could grow. It made sense to use my own name in the name as the subject matter – all the different coloured Shetland maps – felt very much like an extension of me. Although I live on the mainland, my home island is a very important part of who I am. Leask is an unusual name here but there are many, many Leasks in Orkney & Shetland! Often, I worry that I should have made the business name easier to pronounce/spell but it doesn’t feel right to change it now! Where are you based? I’m based in Aberdeen and currently I’m working out of my home studio (spare room). This was once just a desk space that has now grown arms & legs is crammed with stock. What inspires you?My surroundings. I’m hugely inspired by where I am from and the sense of community and place that being from an island has. It’s hard to explain. With the watercolour map artwork I create, whilst I know it has huge tourist appeal and attraction, I also really wanted to create something which could be treasured by locals as well. Lots of people from Shetland are really proud of their island heritage and it means a lot to them. I soon realised that this mentality could be found in many of the other islands around Scotland too.I’m also really inspired by colour. I’ve been making colourful art unintentionally long before I set up Sarah Leask Studio. If you look back through my degree show, my portfolio to get into art school and even my school work there is one very clear theme: colour. I can’t really say any more on it other than I love it! I love experimenting with colour and using it to enhance my artwork. What is your creation process? I often have ideas swimming around my head for ages before I get the chance to try them out on paper. As a business owner doing mostly everything myself, I am now really struggling to find time to create new art work! I do absolutely love the business side of running Sarah Leask Studio but I’d really like to work on having some more time to create again.My process is pretty straight to the point I’d say. I make my art relatively quickly, using either only watercolour or pen drawing first then watercolour washed over the top. For some things I like to roughly sketch out in pencil first – animals, buildings, map artwork etc – as these all require greater attention to detail. For floral artwork and landscapes, I love to get straight in there with the watercolour paint. As you can be much more fluid with how you paint nature.The next step is scanning my work into the computer. I have a relatively basic A4 printer and scanner. Once I have the artwork scanned, I pull it into Photoshop to clean up and prepare for print. If I’m making it into a pattern then I will create that in Photoshop as well. What makes your brand or products unique? This always seems to be quite a tricky question to answer but in truth it’s probably me! My products are not necessarily unique, many brands offer the same or similar products to myself. But my artwork is unique! In a world with so many talented artists and designers it can be hard to stand out. I’ve always made a conscious effort to find gaps in the market and to create work that is different to what is already available. I do believe my combination of Scottish themed work with my use of colour to be unique. For example, I love animals and wildlife and really wanted to create an animal range but I knew that this was a very common focus in the Scottish gift world. So instead of painting the animals in a traditional manner I pulled the colours from them out in watercolour dashes to create a design which had a more contemporary feel to it. What are your plans for the next 12 months?Sarah Leask Studio is currently part time. For a very long time now, I have been hoping to make it full time. This hasn’t been possible for a multitude of reasons and I am sure that I could find more to stop me from taking that plunge. However, after all my Christmas events last year I really did start to realise just how much more I could do with the business if it was a full-time job… so I am currently working behind the scenes to make that dream a reality. What is your next project? My heather bee range! I’d like to get samples of this in place for my next trade show. And dare I say it, a Christmas range! Yet to be designed, but I’d really love to have a Christmas range with a Scottish twist as it would be a lovely addition to my current offering. What is your biggest achievement? I’m not sure! But I am quite proud of building my business to the level I have whilst working full time initially and part time the last couple of years. I’ve now supplied over 80 gift shops with around 80% of them still being current stockists of my work, some of them are still current from their first orders in 2017! I’m pretty proud of that. Most of these have been based in Scotland but with Faire (an online wholesale marketplace) I’ve now had a few orders in England & the US as well. What is your best-selling product? In the summer it has to be the wildflowers collection. The rest of the time I’d say the Scottish Gin & Whisky designs. Then my Scottish Isles collection sells very well through my stockists on each of the islands. These three are probably my best-selling collections! What are you looking forward to most about exhibiting at the Christmas Fair?My first Country Living fair was in 2019 – I was exhibiting in Glasgow. I absolutely loved it! Hence, I booked back in for the following year. We didn’t make it that year because of you know what but it was incredible to be back in 2021, albeit on a slightly smaller scale.  The first year I did it I am pretty sure my partner helped me to set up but then had to go back to Aberdeen for work. So, I worked the whole show myself. It was hard going but I was blown away by the feedback from the customers I met there. It would have been the first retail show I had done outside of Aberdeen (and my comfort zone!).There is a real buzz about the show. Everyone there is there to enjoy themselves – to enjoy the food, the alcohol samples (!) and to shop. Which is ideal! Even as an exhibitor it’s a really great day out! Me and Dougy have done quite a lot of our own Christmas shopping whilst there previous years as there are a lot of lovely things to see. I always get compliments on my ‘different’ gifts from friends & family. Last year, we had so much fun working the stand. Dougy is a great salesperson and makes the job of selling to the customers there seem easy! Country Living is definitely a highlight of the Christmas events calendar and not to be missed. Your three top tips for crafters and makers…Make what you love! It always turns out better if you have a genuine interest in making it.Check your figures. If you want to have a sustainable business you need to make sure that you are making enough money on your products. There can be some pressure to sell things for less than is sensible for you – don’t do it! Know your worth and make your money.Work life balance. Something I’m still working on all of the time! But it is very important to be aware of and make sure that you are doing what you can to not burn yourself out. I get work guilt if I’m doing something other than sitting in the studio on days that should be studio days. But I forget that I also work quite a lot of evenings and weekends, particularly in the lead up to Christmas when most people are on nights out and enjoying Christmas markets! Any advice for fledgling businesses… Don’t be scared to go for it. I started my business with next to no money and I have very slowly built it up myself. You don’t need big investments or backing, you can make it work yourself as long as you jump at the opportunities that come your way and/or are there and available for you to take 🙂
Meet the Maker – Dione Louise Home...
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Dione Louise Homeware Dione Louise Homeware specialises in country living style homeware and personalised gifting. Their products range from cushions and doormats, to personalised glassware and hanging decorations. As a sole trader everything is done in-house from making the products, to posting orders. Dione Louise Homeware is based in Kent and attends various shows across the South East.We caught up with Dione from Dione Louise Homeware to find out more about the business. Take a look below for the interview… How did it all start?I started my business in October 2018 with a few test pieces, selling at small local markets to establish an interest in my products. Once I could see that people liked what I was selling, I decided to set up my social media channels and devote all my spare time to Dione Louise Homeware. With a background in retail, my best experiences came from working in the homeware department and always left me with lots of inspiration. After diving into my new homeware venture, I felt excited, inspired, and fulfilled. I also have a Level 5 Extended Diploma in Interior Design. Making my products and seeing how happy they make other people brings me such incredible joy. My business is entirely customer focused, and I will always work my hardest to achieve a customer’s vision, and to provide the best quality product I can. As I am a big perfectionist, I will never send anything I am not 100% happy with or proud of. Alongside this, I am committed to making my brand as environmentally friendly as possible and always strive for ways to improve packaging, but more importantly improving my carbon footprint.  The story behind the name… Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a story when it comes to the initial set up of the brands name. The meaning behind the name came as I invested more into my business. I originally chose the name when I set up as I wanted something unique and unheard of. As I went on creating, and growing, I wanted to put my name to something, not only because I was proud of what I had created, but I wanted to assure clients and customers that everything I did would be made to the highest standard, as I wouldn’t put my name to anything other than that. Where are you based? Dione Louise Homeware is an online only retailer at the moment; however, I make and ship items from my workshop space in Kent. What inspires you?There are so many things that inspire me and my creativity. I am always looking for new ideas and trying to make my brand as unique as possible. My favourite homeware stores such as Dunelm, Sophie Watson Designs, Pretty Little Home and the White Company are brands that give me inspiration, and that I absolutely love! Instagram for me is a hotspot for inspiration too – for example I love seeing trending patterns/subjects and trying to recreate themes and ideas in my own style and medium. What is your creation process? The creation process for my items is unique to each product line. For my handsewn items I source fabrics I like and fit to my theme and create projects from there. Initially I used patterns I found online, and as my brand developed, I developed my own patterns for my items. With my personalised items, they are sourced blank, and then I design names/patterns/text custom to the client’s request. I do this on a design software and then use a vinyl cutter. What makes your brand or products unique? I’d like to think my large product range and handmade, unique designs set me apart from other businesses. Alongside this I try and kept the brand as eco-friendly as I can which I feel also sets me apart. Finally, my passion and drive for what I do makes my brad unique as I feel this comes across in my shows, products and socials. What is your next project? I am unsure what my next project is. At the moment my goals are currently centred around perfecting existing products and lines, business development and expansion which is keeping me pretty busy!  Something that I’ve always wanted to expand in my business is my large orders for events such as weddings, so I think this will likely be my next project. What is your biggest achievement? My biggest achievement is the brand itself. Although this sounds strange initially, for me setting up a business from scratch, alone, and running as a sole trader has been tough, but also incredibly worthwhile. Growing, developing, and attending bigger country shows have been the highlights, and initially a huge step out of my comfort zone. Building a brand has led to business achievement such as being featured in magazines, to personal achievements such as building my own confidence and being able to put myself out there! What is your best-selling product? My best-selling product lines tend to change seasonally and with holidays such as Christmas and Mother’s Day. At the moment my Koi Carp cushions are my best sellers form my fabric range. My personalised cocktail glasses are currently (and usually) my best sellers. What are you looking forward to the most about exhibiting at the Christmas Fair? I am incredibly excited to attend the Country Living Fair this year as an exhibitor. I have always read Country Living Magazine since I started my business, and it was always a goal of mine to attend the London event. Due to COVID I couldn’t attend sooner, so I am really pleased to be in attendance this year. I am excited to meet likeminded makers and exhibitors and expand my own knowledge and experience. I am also excited to be in a new area and meet new members of the public. Your three top tips for crafters and makers…My top tips would beCreate something you’re proud of. Remember you have to sell your product and you can’t sell it if you don’t like it/aren’t proud of it.Things will go wrong. It is not a reflection of you or your skill – accept these days and sometimes you’ll get nothing done but I promise you’ll make up for it on others!Experiment! Set aside a day/time every week/month to just have a play and experiment. It keeps your business light and fun and allows for that creative energy. Any advice for fledgling businesses… Don’t give up! Running a business is hard and there will be days where you’ll wonder why you did this and if there is an easier option, and truth is there might be. Just don’t give up. If something isn’t working, work out why and if you can fix it. If you can great, if you can’t then can it give? Product line isn’t working? Maybe you can sell existing stock and invest the money into an area that is thriving! Always remember why you did this and where you want to be and you’ll get there.
Meet the Maker – Littlechook
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Littlechook Littlechook design personalised aprons for cooking and baking in delightfully bright colours. They also have a range of organic cotton birthday t-shirts.The aprons can be personalised with any name that you like. There’s a whole range of designs to choose from making our aprons a perfect gift for little chefs!We caught up with Karin from Littlechook to find out more about the business. Take a look below for the interview… How did it all start?I studied textiles at art college and my first job was as a designer in a traditional Scottish weaving mill which made tartans and tweeds.I had various jobs over the years and decided to quit the corporate world after doing a screen printing evening class. My main products are childrens aprons and this started when I wanted some aprons for my own daughter’s who are both brilliant cooks. The story behind the name… Littlechook comes from when my parents lived in Australia and I just loved the Aussie word “chook” for chicken. Where are you based? I am based in North London. What inspires you?Lots of things really. Clothes I see people wearing, going to The Tate, browsing Pinterest and seeing wildlife and nature. What is your creation process? I start off with hand drawn images which I then digitise so they can be cut out (using a vinyl cutter). I then use a heat press to transfer the images onto aprons, pyjamas, and t-shirts. What makes your brand or products unique? My aprons are personalised so they are a great gift as kids can choose their favourite animal or dinosaur and it encourages them to get baking. What is your next project? I am working on a new range of children’s pyjamas in bright colours. What are your plans for the next 12 months?To develop my own website – it’s been a bit neglected. What is your biggest achievement? Adopting a rescue dog and seeing her change from a scared wee scrap into the most loving family dog. What is your best-selling product? Personalised Aprons for children aged 2 – 13 years. What do you love about the Country Living Fairs?I am looking forward to the lovely festive atmosphere that the Fair always has and to meeting up with customers old and new.I love the variety of products and I always enjoy the food area and end up buying way too much cheese. Your three top tips for crafters and makers…Make sure your product is well designed and well made. Customers love and will pay for quality.Have brilliant customer services.Don’t stress about social media and number of followers. Any advice for fledgling businesses… Make sure you calculate your prices properly and join facebook groups or local networking groups as there’s a whole creative small business community out there who are welcoming and helpful.
Meet the Maker – Kimi Design Decou...
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Kimi Design Decoupage Kim Cumner is the founder of Kimi Design Decoupage. As an artist she is particularly focused on the art media of watercolours. Her designs are also created using the 17th Century art of decoupage. She creates original watercolour paintings and prints this onto tissue paper. This is then delicately glued onto glass vases, tea light/candle holders, bowls and coasters by recycling, up-cycling to create a beautiful, stunning effect that transforms new, old and used pieces of glassware. The finished product is fully functional and can be used as normal.We caught up with Kim from Kimi Design Decoupage to find out more about the business. Take a look below for the interview… How did it all start?My love of all things artistic began at a very young age. I worked in education for over 23 years and after a bout of illness I decided to concentrate on my artistic aspirations and began the journey of creating on glass by using the same technique as decoupage, which for me is ‘paper on glass’. The story behind the name… I wanted to use my childhood name Kimi because art was birthed in me at a very young age. It’s always been my favourite pastime and a brilliant form of therapy. The meaning of the word design is to create, fashion, execute or construct according to plan. To conceive, to plan out in the mind to have purpose and to devise for a specific function. I love to design and create from my heart and love the privilege to be able to do this!Decoupage; this particular part of my art is to decorate objects with paper. It originated in France as a means of artistically decorating pieces of furniture with pictures. By the mid 20th century decoupage became a household name in interior decoration. The word is fashioned from the middle french decouper meaning to cut out. Where are you based? I live in Weston-Super-Mare and work from home amongst all my family and beautiful surroundings. My family take so much pride in my work, it belongs to us all. My husband Abbot comes with me everywhere as a major support with transporting, travelling and talking to all the lovely people we meet. What inspires you?I am inspired daily as I discover more and more; the beautiful colours and detail in our world and natural surroundings… the whole of creation itself! My designs on glass allow us to bring the outside in to our homes and habitats. What is your creation process? I begin with taking photographs or sketching flowers, animals, insects etc. I then paint with watercolours and work with this until I am happy with the final design. In order to print my design I need to anchor down the tissue paper onto a piece  of A4 sized paper with wasabi tape around the edge so I can run it through the printer. Once the print is on the tissue I can begin to rip it up into smaller manageable pieces in order to apply it very carefully and gently to the glass using a soft brush and glue. I source my glass from many places, this includes retail and charity shops and any antique or craft shops or markets. When it is complete I leave to dry then return to fill in any gaps or to add more of the design. I coat to finish with glue, when I am happy with the coating I leave to dry again.  What makes your brand or products unique? I have been creating using the art of decoupage for just over 4 years. People who I meet at fairs and markets tell me they have never seen my art done in this way before. Each piece that I create is made individually and although I use the same designs over again I never put them onto the same piece of glass. This means that each product is a unique one off piece. I am always painting and creating new designs so there is no limit. What is your next project? I will continue to create and look for new, amazing subjects to paint and I will always be looking for old and new glassware that is unusual, functional and beautiful to use for my designs. What are your plans for the next 12 months?I will continue to make and create and attend as many markets, shows and fairs as possible. I am so happy to be joining The Country Living Fair for the first time in November and will design and create some lovely Christmas Robins in preparation for this. What is your biggest achievement? I have thoroughly enjoyed designing and creating my products for weddings, anniversaries and birthdays, including Christmas gifts. I am so proud and amazed that my art and talent has become ‘something special’ for others to give and receive. Also that so many customers love my work and come back time and time again for more. I am again so thrilled to be affiliated with ‘The Country Living Magazine Fairs’ and feel extremely honoured to do so. What is your best-selling product? I sell everything I make, people love it all from Agapanthus flowers to Elephants and Bee’s. What do you love about the Country Living Fairs?I love all the different designs and ideas that have been made into a business. I am so thankful for the people who are dedicated to helping and to those who are willing to promote and support my small but growing business. Also for everyone who attends the fairs, who purchase our products because they just love them. I am so proud to be part of it all at the Country Living Fair. Your three top tips for crafters and makers…Because you love your designs, ideas and craft so much-share them with others.Enjoy talking about your passion for your craft.Celebrate and believe in your own ability, be teachable and flourish. Any advice for fledgling businesses… Enjoy all that you do. If things become difficult work through the situation, don’t give up! Keep encouraging yourself and believe in what you do. Always be open to new ideas regarding your craft and take a few risks. Be mindful that you are learning as you go and that you are developing your professionalism and skill in all that you do.
Meet the Maker – Leiho
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Leiho Leiho is a social enterprise where every purchase helps to fund impact driven projects and essentials items for those in need. From their range of smiley bamboo socks to organic cotton T-shirts, their mission is to inspire a more purposeful way of gifting and wearing socks whilst also improving the quality of life for vulnerable communities.We caught up with Joey Li from Leiho to find out more about the business. Take a look below for the interview… How did it all start?We started Leiho when we found out that clean socks were one of the most requested items of clothing at homeless shelters. Alongside that, there are many essential items such as toiletries, clean underwear, clean water or even a hot meal that those without a home don’t have regular and easy access to. We want to build a brand with purpose that helps to fulfil the basic human needs of warmth, comfort, safety and health for those in need whether it’s through projects or donations. The story behind the name… Leiho means ‘hello’ or ‘how are you’ in Cantonese and sometimes, all we need is a bit of acknowledgement to show our compassion and care. Where are you based? Both my co-founder and I are based in London. I grew up mainly in Singapore and Hong Kong and Thuta grew up in Myanmar! What inspires you?Being able to create a brand that helps people has always inspired both Thuta and I. We feel extremely humbled to be able to work with different homeless charities and organisations to really support people in need and try to make a positive difference in their lives. The feeling you get when you do something good is quite fulfilling and to see so many brands creatively tackling social and environmental issues is very inspiring. What is your creation process? The most important thing for us is to have our products represent a ‘feel good’ aspect of giving and living. If you own a pair of Leiho socks, you are guaranteed to be walking around with literal smiles on your feet (our logo says it all) but we also want to design simple products that encourage others to do good. The product development process also means that we create things that genuinely stand for a brand looking to make a difference.If you’re asking for our design secrets, it’s literally Google images, Microsoft word, Canva and our logo. We genuinely are so grateful for our suppliers for being so patient and understanding about our design briefs because we are no graphic designers which means we aren’t experts at creating cool templates of our products. If you have a look at each collection there is always a pair of socks for someone out there. From a funky pattern, funky colours to black and white socks – we design basically design sock personalities. What makes you, your brand or products unique? Our logo represents our brand perfectly. It’s all about being kind, caring and spreading joy.We’ve built such an amazing relationship with our supplier who goes above and beyond for us because she truly believes in what we do. So our new product lines are always much more developed than the previous whether it’s being more sustainable or more durable, we are constantly evolving as a brand and that is literally all down to our supplier Sule (a.k.a our sock hero).We do have other products that sit as a limited edition or test product. We like to spice things up sometimes and source products with suppliers who are constantly improving their methods of sustainable manufacturing too. What is your next project? Our next project is to start producing different types of socks. We get a lot of athletes request for sport socks so we think there is a really interesting market to tap into. After 2 years of patiently waiting, we recently launched kids socks too and we can’t wait for people to start gifting Leiho socks to kids! We want them to represent a future generation of changemakers. If people can gift socks to their 7-10 year old kids and tell them the story behind the socks, perhaps that might inspire them to make impactful decisions and even incorporate more acts of kindness into their everyday life. What are your plans for the next 12 months?It’s a secret but we hope to really grow our impact in the next year that will feed into the products we sell. We have plans to really work on more exclusive projects with local charities to help boost people’s confidence, morale’s, hope and self-worth even if they are going through a tough time in life.We also want to be able to shift more towards the B2B side and be present in lots of events, corporate gifting as well as with consumers. I think socks make great gifts all year round and if we can spread a simple message through a pair of socks to people of different ages and backgrounds then we are happy. What is your biggest achievement? We’ve had a few big achievements for both the business and the impact. In terms of business, it would definitely be the fact that we’ve been bootstrapping for nearly 3 years, meaning everything we make is being reinvested back into the business and we’ve survived those 3 years somewhat comfortably with growth. The next 3 years is a different story but to come this far without seeking for investment is a challenge we wanted to accept and are really proud of.We are also extremely grateful to have worked closely with Legacy Marketplace to secure Spotify as a co-brand client. There are currently 1040 exclusive Spotify x Leiho socks out there and we couldn’t be more grateful to have been able to produce socks for such an inspiring company.In terms of the impact, our biggest achievement is working with SPEAR, a homeless charity in South West London – we’ve supported and worked with them in many ways from donating essentials to their residents, hosting cooking workshops for their clients and helping to support their health days with the NHS for people experiencing homelessness and refugees. The partnership is far from coming to an end and we can’t wait to continue supporting Nicky and her team at SPEAR. What is your best-selling product/line? Our hero products are 100% our bamboo socks. They make great and fun gifts, and we can’t wait for the socks to hit different shelves nationwide. The best-seller by far has been our Forest Green bamboo socks. We’ve done 2 shades of it now to get the right colour so that it’s a classy, fun but subtle. It could pass off as funky socks but you could also see it paired with a suit in a boardroom, so I’m not surprised as to why it’s the best seller! What are you looking forward to the most about exhibiting at the Christmas Fair?We are so extremely grateful to have even been considered for the Christmas Fair. A lot of our customers are Country Living fans too so it’s a great place to meet them in person and really get to know the other exhibitors. As we are starting to grow, the one thing we will never stop doing is pop ups, markets and fairs! I think the UK has such a big market for events like this and it’s just a very important thing to keep these events running. It genuinely brings a lot of people together and it’s really nice to see.Also, Country Living Magazine is such a dream, so for me it is basically everything in the magazine coming to life in one place at the best time of the year – we are so excited! Your three top tips for crafters and makers…Build something that people will like, use and benefit from. Do your research and ask people for opinions even if it’s choosing colours, designs or styles. People love to get involved and watch brands grow, so build loyalty and make them a part of your journey.Understand people’s needs and values when creating. If you can create something that makes someone think twice about their own lifestyle choices, their gifting behaviour and their purpose – then you truly are a great crafter!Don’t be afraid to try out different things, repeating what you know is safe and comfortable but it’s not as thrilling as experimenting and being innovative. You learn so much more by stepping out of your comfort zone. Any advice for fledgling businesses… Do it with passion, integrity and confidence. The industry now is full of new brands, products and the world is more innovative now than ever before. Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere but the greatest challenge is to really understand how you can do it better, how you can get your foot through the door and how you can survive the rollercoaster ride! Never compare yourself to other brands and businesses out there because what you’re doing is different and everyone has different ways of doing it. There will be lots of challenges thrown at you every single day but having the right mindset to get through the hard days knowing that tomorrow or next week will be better is very important.
Meet the Maker – Irish Black Butte...
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Irish Black Butter The Irish Black Butter Company was launched in October 2017. Alastair Bell,  who has a family background in farming, took time out from his events management and farm model customisation business to explore the potential for an exciting new business, and from there founded Irish Black Butter LTD.We caught up with Alastair from Irish Black Butter to find out more about the business. Take a look below for the interview… How did it all start?It all started through noticing black butters whilst on holidays over a number of years. In 2017 when starting out on a project to write a children’s story book, I took the plunge and began exploring the possibility of creating Irish Black Butter. Over the Summer the recipe was perfected and in early November 2017 the business was launched on a beach at Portrush. People came over and asked what it was and where they could get it and this lead to the first jar of Irish Black Butter being sold on the beach that day. The story behind the name… Black Butter is said to be of Medieval origin. Made with apples, it was a way of preserving fruit. Irish Black Butter is a modern interpretation using EU PGI status Armagh Bramley Apples, local cider, brandy, treacle, sugar and spices. Armagh is known as the ‘orchard county of Ireland.’ The heart of the product is Armagh Bramley Apples therefore it was fitting to call our product Irish Black Butter. With further research I established that people in times past had been making black butter locally so it was nice to bring something back albeit in a contemporary format. Where are you based? We are based at Portrush in County Antrim. What inspires you?Spreading a little happiness and doing something positive. Central to the business is a desire to create something that people near and far can enjoy, that has an authenticity and provenance, which brings happiness and a smile to peoples faces. I took inspiration from a cassette tape in 1979 and it has stayed with me. What is your creation process? Using local, tapping into heritage and spreading a little happiness. What makes you, your brand or products unique? Irish Black Butter is a unique product in Ireland. Using the EU PGI status Armagh Bramley Apple taps into the rich heritage of apple growing in the Armagh area. The ‘butter’ isn’t actually a dairy butter – it is an apple butter which is a concept widely recognised in the USA, Canada and parts of Western Europe. This is a very inclusive product in that it is dairy and wheat free making it suitable for vegetarian and vegan uses. What is your next project? The next big project is really a continuation of what we are already doing and that is to tell people what Irish Black Butter is and how it can be used. What are your plans for the next 12 months?To make our Irish Black Butter available to consumers, chefs, gift/hamper companies and food ingredients business across the UK, Ireland and overseas. What is your biggest achievement? There are a few. Three stars in the Great Taste Awards was awesome. Taking part in Dragon’s Den was a superb experience. James Martin using Irish Black Butter on national television was amazing. I could add the fact that different businesses are using Irish Black Butter as an ingredient and that is absolutely tremendous. In particular ALDI Ireland used Irish Black Butter as a glaze for their Christmas Hams and more recently Henderson Group in Northern Ireland have started using Irish Black Butter in their Chicken and Ham bakes as part of their highly successful ‘The Chef’ range. What is your best-selling product/line? Our biggest selling line is our 225g retail jar of Irish Black Butter. Will this be your first Country Living Fair?Yes, this will be my first Country Living Fair. I’m looking forward to being at a great event, meeting lots of people and hopefully introducing them  to the great taste of Irish Black Butter. What do you love about Country Living Fairs?It’s the mix of people, traders and consumers that together create a nice atmosphere. Added to that I would say that after the  challenges of the pandemic it is especially nice to be out and about again at events. Your three top tips for crafters and makers…Tap into who you are and what you enjoy. Do your best. Persist. Any advice for fledgling businesses… It all starts at the beginning – you choose the when, the where the what and the why. Go forward knowing that you are doing something rather than look back regretting doing nothing.
Meet the Maker – Paige Denham
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Paige Denham Paige Denham is a print designer influenced by pattern, colour, and play. Paige designs and produces a bright array of homeware, stationery and gifts which include, the most colourful of cushions and the most cheerful of cards. As well as her product line, Paige also offers a mural panting service, painting directly onto the walls in your home.We caught up with Paige to find out more about the business. Take a look below for our interview with her… How did it all start?I graduated from Loughborough University in 2019 where I studied printed textile design and fell in love with the traditional handprinted process of screen printing. After graduating I founded my own creative practice gaining support from both the Princes Trust and Cockpit Arts. Two years in and here I am doing my first Country Living Fair! The story behind the name… I wanted to create a brand that was transparent and celebrated the maker behind the prints. Therefore, I decided using my own name, Paige Denham, was the way to go. It is important to me that my customers know my story, the processes used to create, and for the brand to be personable. Where are you based? I am based in a collaborative studio with Cockpit Arts. I was fortunate enough to be awarded their ‘Make It! 2020’ award which has seen me being based in their Holborn studios for a year and a half now. I live in Thamesmead, south east London, and also do a lot of community arts work here. What inspires you?I am inspired by shape, colour and people. I am a big advocate for community and representing those who may not have the same platform as me. Enabling people to be creative regardless of skill or ability is my passion, I aim to show this through the colourful work I create and the places I inhabit as an artist.My latest collection, that I will be bringing to the fair, is named the ‘Playtime Collection’. This is inspired by the theme of play in my hometown of Thamesmead. I love to use storytelling in my work, every shape signifies something, I am very proud of that. What is your creation process? All my work starts with a drawing or collage. I then scan it into the computer and play around with scale, colour, and composition. When I am happy with a design, I will apply it to either a cushion, card or adapt it for screen printing.The murals I paint come about slightly differently as I will spend some time talking to the client, asking questions, and getting a real feel for what they want. I then begin the drawing and collage process before scanning it in and playing with composition.What’s important to me is that everything I produce, albeit homeware, stationary or a large-scale mural, is hand rendered. I want everything to feel like it’s been made my me, by a person, an independent maker. What makes you, your brand or products unique? Everything I put out there is whole-heartedly me. I design prints that bring me joy in the hopes that they will make you feel the same. I am completely transparent when it comes to my creative practice and will often post on my social media channels ‘honesty posts’ about the ‘up’s and down’s’ of being a business of one.The new ‘Playtime Cushions’ are a great example of that. They are brand new this year, measure 45X45cm and will sit cheerfully on your bed/sofa. I wanted the cushions to radiate fun as in my home I want to surround myself with things that make me happy. There are 6 new cushions in the Playtime collection, and they are each double sided. A pattern on each side means you are guaranteed twice the amount of joy in your home! What is your next project? To keep colouring in the world one cushion, mural and artwork at a time! What are your plans for the next 12 months?In the next 12 months I plan to start offering print workshops to help encourage everyone to explore colour and be creative. What is your biggest achievement? My biggest achievement so far has to be working with my local community to produce a 10-metre public mural in my hometown of Thamesmead. The print and patterns in this mural have now inspired my latest collection ‘Playtime’. What is your best-selling product/line? The celebration cards always get the most incredible feedback and, I love to hear who is going to be receiving the cards you buy, but I have to say the collage packs always sell out. The collage packs are made up of offcuts of my screen-printed papers, colourful card, quirky shapes, and stickers. They come with a full set of instructions on how to collage and there are lots of examples of the collages on my Instagram – @PaigeDenhamPrints. They make the most perfect gift, stocking filler or creative aid. Will this be your first Country Living Fair?This is my first time exhibiting with the Country Living Fair London, I will be on stand NB8 on one of the newcomer stands, come and say hi. What do you love about Country Living Fairs?I have been a visitor to Country Living Fairs many times and I love the atmosphere. I especially love that the fairs support new makers. Your three top tips for crafters and makers…Do what you love and make everything with passion. There is no point in making something that you don’t absolutely adore and/or would spend your own money on purchasing.Identify your brand values early, they really help to shape every decision.Be brave, it’s scary to invest in yourself, but if you see a place for your product in the world make it happen. Any advice for fledgling businesses… Continue learning, collaborate and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Oh, and things always take a lot longer than you think they will!