Meet the Star Maker, Helen!
November 2020 saw us host our third ever Postable Pop-Up event...seeing around 300 UK based small businesses pop-up from home, to showcase their brands and products from corners of their homes, studio desks and garden offices! These events are hosted on Instagram as all brands come together via the hashtag #POSTABLEPOPUP for everyone to browse and to shop small!
With physical markets not able to go ahead due to lockdowns, our online solution has created a community-driven event, that fosters real connections, encourages positive shopping small habits and provides a unique space for shoppers and makers to collide, and for small businesses to continue to show up and showcase themselves within a safe space online.
This is the first event that we decided to host The Postable Pop-Up Awards, to recognise and celebrate the efforts that our makers went to get involved from home. There were 5 awards and today we are proud to share with you our winner of the November 2020 Best In Show. Helen’s interpretation of the postable pop-up embodied everything we absolutely adore about small businesses. Firstly, the products are unique, beautiful and unresistable!! Secondly, Helen presented her work beautifully through the use of video content, behind the scenes, collaboration with other artists by hosting a live chat with Melissa from Western Sketch which was such a nice touch to take it in turns speaking about one another’s products and taking the pressure off hosting a Live alone, whilst also sharing posts about her top picks from the pop-up weekend!!
If you took part in #POSTABLEPOPUP, you would have definitely heard or seen Helen! An extremely hard-working mum of two, began her businesses from a desire to do what she loved and have work flexibility around school times! From learning how to sew from her grandmother and developing this interest through school and university, Helen produces beautiful wildlife prints from a combination of appliqué and freehand machine embroidery. Alongside creating such intricate designs, Helen is a true small business cheerleader and that is why we choose her for the Best In Show Award! Helen focused on promoting other maker's stalls just as much as her own during the #POSTABLEPOPUP, being a true ambassador for collaboration over competition within the creative community!
Where did your love of your craft come from?
Ever since I was a child, I have loved drawing, crafting and making things. After finishing my A’Levels, I completed a one year Art Foundation Course, experimenting with lots of different creative mediums, from cardboard, wire, fabric, paint, papier-mâché, clay, and many more interesting materials – skills that have definitely helped with home-schooling! This broad experience channelled into a Fashion and Marketing degree, combining fabric and textile techniques, with a better understanding of how to promote creative work.
What is your favourite part of taking part in #POSTABLEPOPUP?
My favourite part of postable pop-up, and other online markets, is setting up my ‘stall’ at home. I enjoy thinking of different places to display my products, in new and exciting ways, clearing corners of the house, and using different props and furniture. I have also got personal satisfaction from the challenge of teaching myself new tools – especially digital – something that, if I’m honest, didn’t come naturally. Once I have planned my display, I have come to really enjoy making time-lapse videos of the set-up process!
What has helped you stay inspired during lockdown?
The online community on Instagram has definitely helped me stay inspired during lockdown. Social media has a mixed reputation, but I have found the creative Instagram community to be very energising. I think this is particularly important to Indie-makers like me who work from home, who don’t have office colleagues to bounce ideas around with, at the coffee machine! It is also a valuable gauge of what has the potential to sell – there’s nothing more rewarding than likes, shares and positive comments from people who have no connection to you, as a way of validating an instinct that what you are doing, has a market.
What was your biggest learning curve in 2020? And what are your hopes for 2021?
My biggest learning curve last year was how to juggle day to day work of running a business, with home-schooling and keeping my children happy. Also, trying to keep my business visible online, through online markets and taking part in Instagram challenges was completely new to me, as it was to everyone! It surprised me how maintaining a visible presence through active marketing took up as much, if not more time, than the core textile work!
My hopes for 2021 are that I can continue to create new designs; there are lots of British countryside animals and birds that I would love to replicate in fabric. My designs are currently printed on greetings cards, coasters, and most recently tea towels, but I would love to explore new homeware products. I am also passionate about independent shops and galleries, and the designer-maker livelihoods they support, and would love to connect with more potential stockists. In an uncertain world, the growth of the indie creative network, and shop local movements, feel like important pieces of the jigsaw in a more socially and environmentally sustainable future.
If you could choose any independent business, who would you love to collaborate with?
I would love to collaborate with Lorna Gilbert Ceramics, who I ‘met’ through the Instagram community. She produces amazing hand- thrown ceramics, and recently organised a brilliant charity event, with over 100 potters taking part, all raising money for different charities. This is another stand-out feature of the community; there is little sense that makers are competing with each other – the vibe is definitely ‘there are plenty of customers out there for us all, how can we work together to make it happen’?!
What’s your favourite thing you’ve ever made?
I have two favourite designs that I have made over the last couple of years.
My children found a perfect, albeit sadly expired, buff-tailed bumblebee, by our back door in 2019. It was the first time I had really looked at this beautiful insect in detail. It was so fluffy, and I had never realised how long the bees’ legs were! I used an old sari fabric for the wings and added the details inside them by hand. A friend of mine commented how lovely it to have been able to preserve this tiny insect forever in a design, something that hadn’t even occurred to me! It’s amazing how studying something closely sets off a new train of interest – in the summer we planted several packs of bee-friendly flowers in the garden!
I also love the wren design, particularly how his brown feathers look against the new cyan background colour – an experiment at the time. I am so glad I was ‘brave’ enough to try out new colours for the backgrounds, rather than sticking to my established grey wool backdrop. It reminds me that we all have to push ourselves out of the comfort zone every now and again; we cannot afford to tread water, even if we’re afraid!
Where has your love for nature come from?
My parents have always loved walking in the countryside, and from a young age, I can remember going out with them, looking for birds and wild animals, and picnicking in the ‘wilderness’ of Wales, the Lakes, and the Yorkshire Dales whilst on holiday. I love taking photographs of seasonal plants and flowers, and how the landscape changes throughout the year. I find it very calming to be out in the countryside, and it helps me ‘switch off’ from everything. My garden studio looks out onto farm fields, and a nature reserve beyond – so I feel very connected to nature when I’m working.
What advice would you give to fellow small businesses that you wish you knew when you were starting out yourself?
The biggest challenge I have had to overcome in starting my creative business is confidence in myself and my products (I’m not sure that ever goes away!). I can also be very critical of my work, and can agonise over a design for hours, particularly a pet portrait commission, which in my mind cannot be anything other than perfect!
I am also a bit of an over-thinker, and a perfectionist, which has stopped me in the past from trying new things, particularly starting up a new business. I was so worried that the new business wouldn’t be perfect from the outset, that for quite a long time I didn’t really commit to anything, but thought lots about it.
My husband (who works in innovation) encouraged me to take a deep breath and make a start; ‘just do anything’! It helped me see that unless I tried something to ‘test the water’, I couldn’t develop and refine a more saleable product. He often talks about ‘prototypes’ and failure not being a failure, as long as you can learn from your experiments - seeing what works and what doesn’t, and what people will buy. The advice I would give is just to go for it… and get constructive feedback from as many people as possible, especially people you don’t know! This will help you to iterate your offer!
Thank you for being so brilliant Helen, and for sharing so much with us!
If you would like to check out Helen's wonderful products and how she makes then make sure to head to her Instagram @lellibellecards! To stay updated on Helen will be up to next then head to her website lellibelle.co.uk, or you can shop the products on Etsy or Folky!
To read more about our other winners, head to the Curated Makers blog here
To find out more about the Postable Pop-Up events click here