By Kate Marsden
Something a little different, but absolutely beautiful for you this week. I think Jose was meant to feature on the blog as she was suggested to me by a fellow team member, but I was already aware of her stunning work as I’d met her at a workshop last spring – clearly fate!
Jose makes the most exquisite, detailed bird sculptures I think I’ve ever seen. Read on and be prepared to drool…
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
Hello! I’m Jose and I make life-like bird sculptures out of wool and other natural fibres. I make each bird by hand using a mixture of crochet, needle-felt and embroidery. I sell my work online through my website, Etsy and at craft shows.
What does a typical day involve?
I don’t really have a typical day, but I do try to get out for a walk in the morning to help get my brain in gear. If I’m starting a new bird, I spend some time sketching it to get a feel for its personality and proportions. Then I’ll choose the yarn colour and texture to suit the bird I’m making (I need a LOT of different wool!), and start crocheting the body. The face, tail and legs are added separately, and I use needle-felt and embroidery to bring out fine details.
I like to ring my birds as a finishing touch; I used to breed budgies when I was growing up and it seemed like a natural extension to ring my handmade birds too! I’m something of a perfectionist and it’s a labour intensive process, taking anything from a few days to several weeks to finish a single piece.
Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
I’m lucky enough to work from home in a converted bedroom. It’s not huge, but the light is lovely and it’s bright and peaceful. It overlooks the garden, where I have a great view of our bird feeders that bring in a wonderful array of birds - and inspiration!
In my studio, I’ve got a rather crowded workbench which is usually covered with lots of half-finished birds and ideas, an area to take photos, and my essential wall of wool! I often work into the evenings and weekends too - I find the creative process quite meditative and restful so it doesn’t really feel like work.
When I’m not working, I really enjoy walking in our local woods, bird-watching (obviously), and (when I have the energy) going for a run - I completed the couch to 5K last year and am trying to keep it up!
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
This year, I’m planning to make some more exotic birds - hummingbirds and Birds of Paradise maybe - and I’ll be exhibiting at more shows in the UK (MADE Canary Wharf and West Dean College Art and Design Fair).
In the future, I would love to do a large-scale installation at a gallery - I’ve done a gallery window display, which was fun, but I’d really like to do something bigger. One of my personal goals is to have some of my work accepted by the V&A museum, then I’d feel like I’d really arrived
Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/ small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?
The main tip would be to keep the faith, and don’t be afraid to charge what you need to earn a living from your work. It can be so hard when you’re starting out to believe that people will like what you do and buy from you - but keep going! If you can, find someone with experience who’s willing to give you advice and encouragement. I was very lucky to meet Suzanne Breakwell, whose fantastic support and practical advice helped me gain the confidence I needed to keep going.
Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.
Suzanne Breakwell - a talented artist and the creator of some truly exquisite bird sculptures made from recycled paper and wood.
IO Gallery- a lovely independent gallery in Brighton, run by artists, for artists and stocking a huge range of beautiful work from local artists.
The Found Gallery - featuring both emerging and established British makers, this is a gorgeous little gallery near Edinburgh, which gives special emphasis to work using upcycled and recycled materials.
Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?
When I first heard about the campaign, I had thought the message referred just to the sales of cards. But any sale, however small, is an important one.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
The Just A Card message is a really important one for me. Not only do the small sales mount up and help keep you going financially, but every sale is like a little pat on the back, a morale boost that encourages you to keep going!
Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
I retweet Just A Card tweets whenever I can, and show the logo on my website. This year, I’ll be printing out the poster and displaying that on my exhibition stand as well. I think the more we can raise awareness about the value of even small sales, the better for everyone trying to run a small creative business.