By Kate Marsden
Happy New Year!
There’s a definite chill in the air, and I for one always feel the need for some extra colour in January, so we’re kicking off 2019 with a post which is both warming and cheerful! I met Flora, knitwear designer at Collingwood-Norris a few months ago and fell in love with her beautiful work, so I’m delighted to be chatting to her about running her small business from the Scottish Borders and the importance of our campaign.
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
Well, I’m a knitwear designer based in Galashiels, in the Scottish Borders. I have a small knitwear business, Collingwood-Norris, and am currently designing and making accessories- hats, scarves, fingerless mitts and large blanket scarves, all made individually here in the studio, and finished by hand.
What does a typical day involve?
My days can be quite varied - it’s part of what I love about being a mostly one-woman business! Each day starts with a good dog walk somewhere in the hills around me, and then I get busy with work. I normally spend some of each day knitting, but there are so many different things to do that some days are more admin based, or if I’m at an event then I’m suddenly a sales person! The variety means it’s never dull, and I’m constantly learning, and working on how to improve the business.
Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
Currently I have a studio at home - it’s a lovely room with lots of light, and lots of colourful yarn! I have one big old vintage knitting machine, and a smaller domestic knitting machine, as well as a linker, some tables, and more yarn, all fitted in. It means I can do everything in the one place, which is great!
When I’m not working, I like to be outside with Stitch (my dog), or being creative in other ways - baking, knitting and crocheting (for fun!) and spending time with the people I love.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?
Brexit is certainly one - it’s not an easy economic time. I also think that creating eco-effective designs and products is a great and important challenge that all designer/makers can work towards and embrace.
On a more personal angle, I think having a small business can feel quite isolating, and daunting, and the challenge is to constantly have enough self belief to keep going and make it work! You need to be an eternal optimist!
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
I want it to grow! I also want to add more jumpers and bigger pieces into my range (watch this space) in a more affordable way. I’m also hoping that by growing the business, I’ll be able to provide more work for others.
Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?
Believe in yourself! A good friend of mine once told me that there are no right ways of doing things, each small business is unique, and so you have to do what is right for you. I always liked that advice!
Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.
First on my list is the Iona Craft Shop - it a fantastic shop on Iona, full of exciting things- almost all of which I want to buy! They stock a lot of small Scottish and British designers.
Concrete Wardrobe in Edinburgh is also fantastic for a wide range of Scottish, design-led craft.
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?
I realised very soon after I started following Just A Card on social media that it was about so much more then buying just a card, and that it was actually encouraging people to shop from small, independent businesses, and that every sale counts, no matter how small.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
It’s such an important campaign! Businesses like mine need all the help we can get. While compliments are lovely, they don’t pay the rent! I know my work is quite a bit more expensive than the price of a card, so I hope that even if people can’t afford to buy it, they will at least spread the word, because it all helps. Supporting independent designers, makers, shops, galleries etc means you get more diversity in your local high street and area, and the profits go to real people.
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 think I first came across Just A Card on Twitter, although I use Instagram and Facebook more often. To support the campaign, spread the word on any social media platform you use, and talk about it! I know that by talking about it, and the difficulties small businesses have, I now have friends and family who make a point of shopping independent whenever they can, and I do too!