Busy, busy being creative..!

Monday 3 September 2012

Do What You Love - Interview no.1 - Claire Fenwick

Well, once again lots has happened since I last posted - the Pop-Up shop that I'm in - Paper Scissors Stone opened on the 01 August, and I've really been enjoying the experience of being part of that, and Lydia and I have started meeting, interviewing and photographing the ten people I selected as part of the 'Do What You Love' Project! So with out further delay - Please let me introduce you to Claire Fenwick...

Claire Fenwick – Bristol School of Sewing and Textiles

Claire Fenwick - at her School of Sewing and Textiles in Bedminster, Bristol.
All photographs ©Lydia Samuel Photography

Say hello to Claire Fenwick, Claire owns and runs the Bristol School of Sewing & Textiles and is the first of the ten people to be interviewed as part of my ‘Do what you love project’. 
It was fantastic and great fun to meet Claire. Claire is clearly very passionate about what she does and has bags of enthusiasm for her school and all of the teachers she works with.    The School is set in a fantastic space in The College Project, off Marksbury Road in Bedminster – a really amazing place which runs a whole host of classes and events.

Name:  Claire Fenwick
Age: 39
Location: Bedminster, Bristol
Website: www.bristolsewingschool.co.uk

What do you do?

I own and run a school dedicated to sewing and textiles for adults and children.

What do you love about it?

The feedback from the students once they’ve been on one of the school’s workshops just makes me smile. The teachers I work with are all lovely and really know their crafts and promoting what they do is a pleasure. And finally, I get to make things, be creative and meet new people in a relaxed informal environment, what’s not to like?

Interviewing Claire
All photographs ©Lydia Samuel Photography
How did you get there?

I studied Graphic design at Middlesex university, but although I enjoyed the creative element, felt it was too commercial, so I fell into a secretarial role and worked as an office manager and PA for many years. 

I’ve always been creative but at uni I was trying to be sensible and took the wrong option for me – graphic design – when what I really wanted to do was knit and make things! But back then I didn’t know how to make a living doing that.

As I have gotten older (am soon to be reaching a milestone!) I realised that I wanted to do something more fulfilling and started to think about what I enjoyed doing. I decided I wanted to re-train in textiles and started to look for courses in Bristol that I could do alongside working.  I couldn’t find what I was looking for so had the brainwave to start my own school.  From that idea I started looking for a space and actually found where I am now whilst out walking my dog. Then I began contacting people I knew that had the skills in textiles to see if they were interested in teaching at the school – and it grew from there. I now have 10 teachers on my books and am now getting people coming to me asking to be part of it.

Although I didn’t enjoy my previous jobs, they have certainly helped me to achieve what I have today.

How long has the school been open?

Since March 2012, so not long at all. It’s still early days but all the positive feedback has really helped to convince me that I’m doing the right thing.

What was the biggest challenge you faced setting up the School?

Financing it. It’s completely self-funded, I saved up enough before taking the plunge. Although not having access to lots of money does make you more creative – and I feel that not having everything handed on a plate makes it feel more genuine.

What’s been the highlight so far in owning and running your own business?

Getting the first full paying class (that wasn’t made up of friends and family!)
We like to have small classes of no more than six pupils at a time, this helps to build confidence and provide each student with plenty of time with the tutor.
Also being able to pass the knowledge on. Both my Mum and nana are great knitters so it’s been lovely calling them up and asking for advice. It’s also actually changed the relationship with my mother -in-law as we now have a shared passion for knitting and it’s almost been like a bonding session as we’ll sit together and knit and then end up talking about all kinds of things. That’s been lovely actually.

Can you tell me about any success stories from Students?
One of the very first classes we ran was a Machine Embroidery workshop. Students find this such a great, creative craft. One lady has now gone on to start her own textiles based business using the machine embroidery as part of her upcycled products http://www.facebook.com/DipsychicksSue

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Just ignore all the advice!

What have you learnt about yourself as a result of setting up the school?

That I can do anything! If I put my mind to it I can do it and the passion for what I’m doing sees me through the challenges. I’ve also become more tolerant with problems that arise – in the first two months of opening – there was a flood and I had to deal with that.

If others want to do this I’d say...

Try and stick at what you are doing to get some savings behind you – and do your research before starting up.

What’s next for the School?

Lots! I have so many ideas – one of my main ambitions is to offer City & Guilds as well as being able to actually run courses myself. I do actually come on some of the courses that are run here – after all that was why I set the school up in the first place! We are also hoping to offer tailoring and costume making courses soon.
It’s been an amazing experience so far.  And I do sometimes feel a bit guilty that what I do now doesn’t feel like work, for example I met a costumier the other day and we spent the morning talking about crinolines and bustles.  ;-)

Upcoming events for the Bristol School of Sewing and Textiles:

Fabric & Wool swap – 16 September  - 11.00 – 13.00 Free event – Bring along any fabric and wool you’d like to swap.

Fashion Show ‘The Magical Show of Fashion – Fairground Theme - 20 October, 7pm, £5 per ticket (includes donation to charity) at the College Project

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/BristolSewingSchool

Twitter: @bristolsewing

The College Project website: http://www.artspacecollege.com/

Thank you Claire for being part of the project!

Class sizes are small so each student gets quality time with the tutor
All photographs ©Lydia Samuel Photography

What is The 'Do What You Love' Project..?
After printing this message on my bags I thought - ooh I'd love to find ten local Bristol business people who do what they love, interview them about what they do, why they love it and how they've got there and also 'model' one of my bags.  

I really wanted to work with a local photographer - so approached Lydia Samuel via Outset to see if she would be interested in collaborating with me. She was! Perfect!

So a call-out was created, posted on facebook and twitter and people started applying! Over thirty people applied, and it was really difficult to choose ten. I spent my time going through each application and selected the ten as I felt their passion really shone through. 

Everyone who applied will be featured though in some way as I think it's important to celebrate everyone who is doing something they love!

These interviews and photographs are the results.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview, Claire! Your school sounds fab!!