Tell us about yourself. Who you are, where you live and a
little bit about you and what you do in your spare time.|
Hi, Iím Marie Kitchen. Iím a 36 yr old stay at home mum to 2 little girls aged 3 and 5. We all live, with (outnumbered) daddy, in the lovely market town of Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire situated in The Chilterns surrounded by countryside but with a small town feel with lots of coffee shops, boutiques and restaurants. My husband and I originally moved here from Kent and have lived here for over 10 years. I donít get a lot of spare time but when I do I spend it with my family. We are lucky enough to have lovely National Trust land nearby so we often head out to the woods for a bear hunt and picnic!
What do you make?
I specialise mostly in fun felt items made with children in mind, name banners, letter hangers, hairclip holders, tooth fairy monsters, party bag favours and lots of seasonal decorations. I go mad for the gingerbread man at Christmas. I also make hanging hearts and flower corsages and Iím a big lover of a birdie or two.
I cut and sew everything by hand from my own templates. I do have a sewing machine but I much prefer the control and the feel of the materials at my fingers. Things may take longer to make that way but each item is stitched with huge attention to detail.
How & when did you get started designing & making?
I started by accident really. Iíve always had an interest in crafts and being creative but have no formal training, unless an Art 'A' Level counts! When I had my second child, going back to the London commute was no longer an option for me. So, with finances tight without my old salary I began to make birthday and Christmas presents for friends and their children. This led to my friends asking me to make gifts for their friends and the ball started rolling. I took the plunge in Janí08 to turn my hobby into a business and ĎHeartfeltí was born.
What venues / websites do you sell from?
I started out promoting myself locally, at fairs and fetes as well as getting some products into local independent gift
shops. The first online site I sold through was Craft Market Corner
but now I also have shops on
I am also a member of a local mum's network called
More Than a Mama.
We are a group of 9 Ďmumpreneursí who all met at the school gates or toddler groups and include an illustrator,
cake maker, chocolateer, baby clothes designer and many more. We support each other, sharing ideas and information
and we organise local fayres promoting our own products alongside those of other local artisans and small businesses.
I am also excited to be part of the
We Make Christmas fair.
What / who inspires your work?
I draw inspiration from everything! Iíll take the girls to the park and see something that I think may translate
into a felt creation. I am mostly inspired by my children and their friends. My wobbly toothed 5 year old inspired
me to make my Tooth Fairy Monsters and I know a lot of little boys so I wanted to make a version that both boys and
girls would love. Also, the 100ís of hairclips lying around the house inspired me to make the hairclip holders.
I love colour and polka dots - bright colours make me smile, a far cry from the dark clothes I used to wear
day-in/day-out when working in an office. My customers inspire me too, I get asked to make name banners in all
kinds of colour combinations, my recent faves being a lilac and lime heart garland and a juicy bright multi-coloured
What are your plans for Heartfelt Handmade for the next 12 months?
With my youngest off to nursery every morning from next January, Iím excited to have a little more time to spend
on Heartfelt. I hope to organise a designated crafting room/zone for me, the kitchen table is great for spreading
out at but not when itís dinner time! Iím looking forward to expanding my product line too, I have notebooks full
of ideas so I plan to turn those ideas into some new creations.
Iím hoping to move into lovely cotton fabrics soon as well as my much loved felt,
Iím also interested in developing an idea I have for paper embellishments for scrap booking too.
I want to improve my photography too for a more
professional image for my online shops. I will be spending more time blogging too and hosting giveaways
and writing tutorials, I have lots of developments in the planning stages! As for my part
in the More Than a Mama network, we too have big plans for the future, with one hugely successful
fayre under our belts and 3 more fayres before the year is out, there are lots of avenues and possibilities.
Itís all very exciting!
What marketing tips do you have for other artists, designers, crafters & makers?
I would try and market yourself at local fairs and at any groups you may belong too, or those that your friends and family belong to. Join a local craft/mum network and if thereís enough of you why not organise your own fayre and invite other local artists along too.
I find you can also promote yourself without spending any £ís by writing your own blog, I write 2,
Heartfelt Handmade Blog
More Than a Mama Blog
Not only is it satisfying for you, you donít need to be a writer, just write from the heart and write about what makes you happy. As well as blogging about your own creations, try to add a personal touch to your blog and write about coffee mornings, cupcakes, farm trips and anything really.
I try and tweet on
too when I remember and I like to tweet about random things such as Ďnostalgic sweetsí as well as promoting a new product
that is now available in my shop. Iím not interested in reading tweets from people just selling, selling, selling so
I donít expect anyone to read that from my tweets either. I also draw great satisfaction, support and inspiration from being part
too. Lastly Iím trying to get to grips with
Facebook and have started a fan page on there.
Remember also that you will need to put a lot of time into your business, I work late every evening and at weekends and sometimes I need to work when the kids are at home too. I recommend that you all get round the table and craft alongside each other, future artisans in the making!
There is such a clever crafty worldwide community out there, I feel itís important to be part of it
and take part in the odd swap or too - just for fun.