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Handmade Seller Interview: the crimson rabbit

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This week’s interview is with UK-based Debbie Seton from the crimson rabbit, who knits and sews all sorts of wonderful items including craft project bags, coin purses, brooches, quilts, shawls, cowls, pouches & dolls …so many pretty things to choose from!

And now I’ll hand over to Debbie for this week’s interview:

Tell us a bit about yourself:

How did you get started in your handmade business?

After working in the financial services sector for 30 years, when an opportunity to take voluntary redundancy arose in December 2012, I jumped at it! I decided to give myself a year to see whether I could make my dreams come true and build my own business from my own creativity.  After so many years working for others, I was keen to find out what it would be like to work for myself too – turns out that I like it!

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What first made you want to become an artist/craftsperson?

I’ve always had the desire to make things and don’t think I ever really made a conscious decision to want to become a maker – I was just born that way.  As a child, the main outlet for my creativity was my imagination, whether it was writing stories or galloping around the Yorkshire countryside where I grew up, pretending to be riding a horse and acting out my stories.  I never remember being encouraged to be creative by my parents, they looked at it as a bit of a curiosity and left me to get on with it.  My development as a maker was really incredibly muddled, learning a little about sewing at school, being shown the basics of crochet by a friend’s granny.  The main driver though was always my curiosity about how things are done, or made, and that’s still the case now – I love learning new things.

Apart from crafts, what do you like to do in your spare time?

My making life is really pretty all encompassing at the moment.  If I’m not in my work room sewing or sat somewhere knitting or crocheting, I’m frequently found with my head in a book or at the computer screen studying, or just generally butterflying around ideas.  The lovely thing is that none of this really feels like ‘work’, it’s all great fun and difficult to find the line where I cross over from working to spare time.  My husband and I love walking at the weekends, switching off and just enjoying the countryside, which is a great way to clear my mind and clarify ideas.

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How long have you been creating art/crafts and how long have you been selling online?

I probably got seriously back into making in the late 90s when I started studying with the Open University for a part time degree alongside my full time job.  At that time, distance learning relied a lot on audio tapes and whilst I was really interested in the subjects I was studying, listening to the tapes would relax me so much that I’d fall asleep!  I decided to pick up a crochet hook again and keep my hands busy making a pretty simple and mindless blanket so that I’d stay awake while I studied.  It worked a treat for my studies and at the same time reignited my love of crochet and knitting.  I was soon making all kinds of things to gift to friends and family and they seemed to like them.

When I started my business in early 2013, I had my own web site shop but soon realized that the online marketplace was so vast that I’d need to start somewhere that already had a captive audience for handmade, and opened my Etsy store in June of that year.

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Do you collect anything?

Far too many things!  I have a bit of an obsessive personality and when I become interested in something, I must know all about it and possess it in any way I can!  My main collections are fabric and yarn, although I enjoy collecting ceramics and wooden boxes and my washi tape addiction is a bit of an issue, although I do at least share that around by using it for packaging.  I live in a very small cottage with a limited amount of display and storage space, so I must force myself to edit.  Pinterest is a fabulous outlet for the hoarder in me – I have an amazing collection of fashion and cute animals there!

What are three tools in your workspace that you could not live without?

I’ll take it that the humdrum tools of my craft like my sewing machine, needles, hooks and materials are excluded from this…  My hemostats are used every day in many, many ways – great for turning things out and getting corners super sharp, but equally useful to manoeuvre a hand sewing needle in awkward places when making coin purses.  My iron is almost as important as my sewing machine as pressing what you’re sewing at every stage is essential to get good results, not to mention the amount of interfacing it helps me complete every week.  I just invested in a new iron, who I’ve called Darth Vader – it really does look like him – all black and serious.  Finally, I couldn’t be without my blue tooth speaker that my husband bought for me last Christmas – I listen to music while the sewing machine’s going and when I’m interfacing or hand sewing, I always have an audio book on – such a great way to catch up on reading whilst you’re at work.

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What invention or new product would you love to be available in the future?

I wish someone would invent an easy way to block knits!  I love knitting lace shawls and the blocking process is the magical way they’re brought to life when they come off your knitting needles.  The transformation of the knit or crochet piece can be truly amazing, but the process is deadly dull and annoying.  After soaking in warm water, you start by threading wires through the edges of your work (and the ends are completely blunt rather than softly rounded, which is ridiculous in itself) and then pinning it out onto a water-resistant surface to dry in the shape you’re trying to create.  I invariably find that one wire slips out as you thread on another, and the action of bending over for ages while you pin it out is beyond tedious.

If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?

It would have to be the power to get people to do what I want.  I am a natural control freak, but I’m also very honest, so I don’t think I’d abuse my super power. Imagine what you could achieve with that?  Safety for the environment and world peace for starters.

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If you had the opportunity to learn one more craft you don’t already do, what would it be?

I can only pick one?!  If it had to be just one, I think it’d be ceramics, which I’m always entranced by.  I can’t imagine this will ever happen though as I don’t have the space to do it.

How many different places do you sell from?

My main outlet is my Etsy shop, although people approach me for commissions from a number of other places like Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, as well as my blog.