Q&A with Handmade Oxford exhibitor Studio Wolle

On: April 3, 2020
In: Design stories, Events
Views: 1171

Ahead of Handmade Oxford (17 – 20 September) we caught up with Lara at Studio Wolle, to find out how she has adapted to the new everyday.

How have you been adapting to the new everyday?

It’s been a bit of a stressful time if I’m honest, as I can imagine it has been for everyone in this situation we find ourselves in. As I damaged a tendon in my elbow at the start of lockdown I have had to find different things to do while I rest and heal. I honestly miss weaving, it’s a massive stress reliever for me so it’s been challenging to be without that for a while.  Not being able to weave has started to affect my own mental health and it made me think about how the loss of our normal daily lives may be affecting other’s mental well-being.

In terms of adapting, my main thoughts were about how I could find something to offer people that would help pass this isolation period with a bit more comfort in their lives. Due to the nature of my products, they often carry a higher price tag than people want to spend in this current time. So, I started thinking about small items which promote productivity while still allowing me to be creative and make a little bit of cash to help keep my business going.

It’s been important for me to be able to stay productive but also potentially help other people who are also struggling mentally in this time. I have found painting has been a great temporary replacement for weaving, it’s been therapeutic and allowed me to switch off my brain at times. It’s also easy on my elbow so that’s another bonus!

I have been hand-painting some small notebooks which I plan to sell soon for a few pounds, I’m hoping people will be interested in them as a encouragement for them to draw, write, and generally be productive. I am using one of my painted notebooks at the moment to write down ideas for weaving patterns that I want to try out once I can weave again and doing that has helped me stay more positive.

What does your working day look like at the moment?

My working day varies a bit, as I work for NHS 111 my time is split between those shifts, mentally regenerating after those shifts and then my business work. On most weekdays I spend my morning catching up on emails and other assorted admin tasks that I have more time for now that things aren’t so busy. From about mid-morning I am usually in the studio where I can immerse myself with being creative for a while, my cat Marley will often come and sit in the studio with me and sleep, but his silent presence is nice all the same. In the evening I will usually head to work at 111 at about 4.30pm and then I will be there taking calls till around 12pm.

At the weekends I work solely at 111 from 8am till either 2pm or 4pm, so my afternoons when I get home I usually leave aside for self-care and personal time otherwise I think I would burn out.

Working with your online customers and suppliers, have there been any challenges?

I will be honest, online sales have pretty much dried up currently, so that has been challenging in itself as panic does set in a little bit sometimes. Thinking about ways to market in a tasteful and conscious way during this time has been something which I have had to put a lot of thought into.

In general, all my current suppliers that I use are all still operating fairly normally so I haven’t thankfully run into any hiccups yet! I think as long as the postal service is still running things can carry on moving forward which is reassuring at least.

What joy does creating bring at the moment?

As someone who can often get trapped inside my own head, being creative is my main outlet. Being able to find freedom through creating during this time of restriction has been ever so important for me.

Due to my work at NHS 111 I do find it hard to switch off, over the past few months the demand on the service has risen and risen, as soon as I start a shift I am answering calls non-stop. Everyone around me at work is under so much pressure and stress and whilst it is a very rewarding job it has become very mentally and physically draining. It is easy to feel surrounded, at work at 111 it’s a fairly constant stream of peoples concerns about covid-19, then the news and social media is swamped by further information and opinions.

So, for me being creative in my downtime offers me that time for relaxation and to escape from everything. To me this is so valuable as otherwise I think I would feel overwhelmed most of the time.

The sense of community and support that is within the handmade craft world at the moment is amazing, being able to create seems to be ever so important for everyone. It’s truly wonderful and inspiring to see the support between makers, customers and just communities in general at this time.

As a team we have seen you give time to 111 – what positive comments have your audience given you to keep going?

I have only recently started speaking about my work for 111 in relation to my craft so it’s a fairly unknown aspect for many of my followers. I think the current situation has encouraged me to speak about it more and how that work informs my practice.

When speaking to people about it recently, many are sympathetic as you can imagine. A lot of people tell me to take time to relax and switch off, to make sure I eat well and take time for myself.

Being able to help people when they call 111 is rewarding in itself, but I appreciate it so much when someone will tell me that my creative work has helped them feel a little joy. Being able to help people in anyway is what keeps me going and trying.

How are you thinking of using this time to prepare for Handmade Oxford in September?

Well, in some ways I am thankful as I have some extra time to heal and be careful with my elbow! But mainly it’s a good excuse to further develop ideas and to produce a better body of work. It’s given me more time to go over past work and development samples. With the extra time I am thinking about how I can diversify my product range to offer more than just cushions. Nothing too drastic but a little more variety never hurts!

Currently I am using this time to teach myself to use Illustrator better, so I can create some digital designs to potentially be printed on woven fabric, either as bag lining, bag covers, table linen etc.

I am working on my business presence and marketing strategy a lot more now so hopefully by the time the show happens there will be a little bubble of interest.

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