Welcome to our Featured crafter article on Yowe, our recent winner of the ‘Make Me Smile’ Mini Challenge. Alison was thrilled to be voted as the winner. I love this article as Alison, rather than just tell us about what inspires some of her creations she has shown us and they are truly incredible, I love her bags and a girl can never have too many bags!
Tell us a bit about your background and your business?
Although I’ve dabbled in many crafts purely as a hobby throughout my life, it was only when I was made redundant from my job in 2011 that, thanks to the support of my husband, I went into crafting full-time. I had just recently been bitten by the felt making bug and although I was pretty sure this would form a major part of my product range, I was a reluctant to paint myself into a corner by using the actual word “felt” in my business name. That’s when I decided on the term wool creations. That gave me scope to include knitting, crocheting etc as long as I used wool based yarn.
As I am based in the beautiful city of Stirling in Scotland, I hoped that I would be able to tap into the tourist market. For that reason I decided I’d like the business name to reflect my Scottish heritage. I began searching a dictionary of old Scots words and when I came across the term “yowe” (rhymes with now) which is an old Scottish word for a ewe, I thought it sounded perfect. One of my daughters is a graphic designer and came up with the fabulous logo for me. I love it!
Tell us about what training and qualifications you have or needed?
I don’t have any formal training in arts and crafts, just a lifelong passion for it. Until last year I spent my working life as a scientist. But you know, in some ways crafting isn’t so very different from science. As crafters, aren’t we also fascinated in the outcome of trying new things? Aren’t we always striving for improvement? It’s that drive to create something even better that keeps me motivated.
Tell us about what you make and where you sell/exhibit your work?
I make a range of unique hand crafted gift and accessories e.g. bags, scarves, jewellery etc. all of which are all wool based. I use a lot of different techniques such as wet felting, needle felting, nuno felting, knitting/crochet then fulling, machine stitching wool, etc. I still have a lot of new areas I’d like explore in using wool.
I was fortunate last year to be offered a small exhibition of my work in the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum. I was very grateful for this opportunity, especially as it came so early on in my crafting career. At the moment I have a selection of my work featured in display cases at a couple of nearby venues, Linlithgow Burgh Halls, and the Howden Park Art Centre, Livingston. I also sell at local craft fairs and that is something I particularly enjoy. It’s great having a chance to interact with customers and take on board all of their comments. I also sell via an online store on my website www.yowe.co.uk
Where do you find your creative inspiration?
Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint where my ideas come from. I realise that something must initially spark off the thought process but it often feels like it happens subconsciously. When an idea hits me I’ll scribble down some notes on paper, or ideally, I’ll actually make a start on it. The fun part of the process is seeing how it develops as I go along. Invariably the finished product bears little resemblance to my initial idea!
A selection of little memo pads (strands of wool machine stitched on to a felt background)
I love working with bold colours and I also like to introduce textural effects into my work.
A couple of needle felted brooches
I also pick up a lot of inspiration from my travels. I have just recently returned from a trip to Guatemala which was absolutely fantastic. What an array of wonderful colours and textiles there was everywhere. My head is crammed full of new ideas!
Tell us about some of your favourite or most challenging pieces and what inspired you to make them, is there a story behind them?
I think my favourite items are the handbags. Every Yowe bag is different. I hand knit or crochet them using mostly pure wool but I add a few choice synthetic yarns for texture. Next, I felt the bags to give extra body and durability. Finally, I put a lot of care into choosing a complementary fabric to line them. The overall creation is a one of a kind fashion statement!
I have two different ranges of bags, standard and “Chit Chat”. Sometimes the yarns are simply chosen based on colour and texture combinations I enjoy and I knit away as the mood takes me. By the time I have finished the bag a name has usually popped into my head!
My “Chit Chat” range is a bit more exclusive, as each bag comes with its own little story. Using photographs I have taken on my travels as inspiration, I choose an appropriate colour scheme and attempt to convey the overall feeling of the photo into the design of the bag. It occurred to me that if I printed a copy of my actual photograph on the bag label, people might enjoy seeing how the bag had been developed. Here are a few of examples showing bags and the front of their labels (the reverse of the label contains aftercare instructions).
I have also made a few bespoke items for customers. This can be quite challenging but it is also very satisfying.
What piece of equipment could you not live without or which is your favourite and why?
I don’t actually use a lot of equipment in my crafting. I appreciate my sewing machine for making the linings of my bags, though I then sew them in by hand. However, my sewing machine might feature a bit more prominently in future work, if I can bring to fruition all the ideas that are buzzing about my head! Of course, crochet hooks, knitting needles and bubble wrap (for the felting) are all fairly essential to my work.
What are your goals/plans for the future?
I’m very happy with my new lifestyle. I enjoy all the different aspects of it… the crafting, the marketing and also selling at craft fairs. One area I would like to improve upon, however, is channelling more traffic to my website. I hope that might result in a boost to my online sales. It’s my fairly modest goal that one day I’ll be able to surprise my husband with a holiday completely funded by my crafting!
Where can we find you? (Contact details etc)
You can find my website at www.yowe.co.uk I also have a business Facebook page simply called Yowe. So, if you’re looking for a special gift for someone, or would simply like to treat yourself, why not have a browse through my unique wool creations.
Thanks for reading.