Tell us a bit about the artist behind your beautiful creations.
I’m Gillian, self-confessed crazy cat lady (I have 7 cats plus a handful of strays that come by for food) and Yorkshire ex-pat. I’m originally from Leeds, but now I live in Virginia, USA in the region between the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge mountain ranges. I wouldn’t say I was passionate about green issues but I do think its important that we try to do our bit. I keep chickens (for eggs not meat – they’re pets!!) and grow vegetables, I compost and recycle as much as possible. I’ll never be a rabid fanatic about it, but I am trying to embrace the “crunchy” lifestyle and cut down on my use of chemicals in every day life, so recently I’ve been experimenting with making my own cleaning products. I love where I live and what I do, I count my blessings every day.
Have you always been creative or did your talent evolve over time?
Not really, I used to draw a lot when I was little but not with any real talent. Still can’t draw so anything that involves freehand work would be my worst nightmare. I fell into soap making because my husband was studying aromatherapy and herbology and would share information with me. From there I did my own research and found recipes for soap making. At first I just made melt and pour soap which is very straightforward but then gradually I started to practice with cold process soap and attended a couple of classes at a local soap school to learn new techniques for liquid and cream soaps. Certainly when I look back at some of the creations I made when I was starting out, I wonder how they even sold they are so basic.
What is it that you enjoy most about your work?
I love the process of taking separate ingredients and creating something new and useful from them. Learning new techniques is always fun and keeps things fresh.
Have you achieved anything in your crafting life that you are particularly proud of?
That’s a difficult question! I think learning any new skill is an achievement to be proud of, but if I had to narrow it down to a single thing, I would have to say the moment I got my first commission for a big order. It was for personalised wedding favours; travel size shower gels, different fragrances depending on male or female guest, plus some fun ones for the kids. Seeing them in the wedding photos set out on the tables was really special.
Other than crafting what else do you like to do?
Most of my hobbies are craft based; I like baking, knitting and cross-stitch, although with cats around, the knitting and cross-stitch can be challenging. Mostly when I get some Me Time, I’m either reading or crashed out in front of the TV.
If you had to choose your favourite from your creations, which would it be?
Oh goodness me, totally unrelated to the business side of my crafting endeavours, I occasionally like to do cross-stitch. I once made a cross-stitch picture of a west highland white terrier and turned it into a cushion cover for my friend’s birthday present (she had a Westie dog at the time). I was fairly novice at cross-stitch at the time and wasn’t sure it would work but in the end I was so pleased how it turned out, and she loved it!
What advice would you offer to someone new starting out in the craft world?
Don’t try to run before you can walk. That was my mistake. I was so caught up with the whole whirl of “I have a business, yay” that I didn’t plan anything properly, so I had raw materials that were not tracked, loads of different types of soap, all different fragrances. It is impossible to keep to a regular, reliable schedule if you spread yourself too thin. Start small and gradually increase your inventory if that’s what you want to do but don’t do everything at once. Secondly, I would say “do your research”. Its all too easy to rush headlong into selling your craft item without thinking about the legal side of things like does it need to be tested, what are the labelling requirements, etc. Make sure you know before you go to market.
If you could change one thing about what you do, what would it be?
I would probably change something I don’t do, and that’s take my own advice! I am a terrible planner! I have lots of ideas whizzing around but I’m terrible at disciplining myself enough to sit down and formulate them into something sensible and achievable.
What do you think has helped your business the most?
Networking. Especially because I live in such a rural area, I haven’t had the chance to make many new friends, and certainly none that are fellow crafters. Before I left the UK I joined the Professional Crafters Guild which is an online community with crafters of all kinds, so many talented people, all who understand the trials and frustrations you might be going through, mostly because they’ve been through it themselves. We share ideas, worries, advice, complaints, celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries and so much more.
Has any person helped or supported you more than any other?
When I first moved to the USA I joined a Linked In group for soap makers and met a lady called Tori Hosier who was invaluable in helping me navigate a whole new set of rules and regulations.
Tell us a random fact about yourself
My favourite song in the whole world is Delilah by Tom Jones. Guaranteed to make me smile if I’ve had a tough day – play it loud and proud!