Welcome to the Workshop

Welcome to the Workshop

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Crafty Q&A Part 1.

One of the reasons I wanted to start a blog is that I find the craft community, particularly the online one, so inspiring. I really wanted a forum for sharing my own crafty discoveries.
Since starting the business a little over a year ago, I have received many emails asking for advice. Most people are very apologetic about approaching me with their questions which is very endearing but absolutely unnecessary. I am happy to chat with anyone and everyone about what makes pikelet workshop 'tick'.
I soon saw through email and Facebook how many questions people have generally about running a small business and thought it would be great to use the blog to explore these questions with other crafty business folk. I hope to start a regular post soon.
Meanwhile I have asked people on my Facebook page to contribute questions for me, as I will act as a guinea pig for the first post. Here is one question I received this week, and my attemps at an answer. I think it's a good place to start.

What did you do pre-Pikelet Workshop? Have you always pursued creative endeavours or did you follow a more "traditional" path in your "other" life, that is pre children, facebook etc? I am nosey :) (Shona from Funky Fabrics)

This is really a blog post in itself so I'll answer this question today and work on the more business related ones during the week.

When I left school I wanted to be an actor, so off I toddled to university to study drama and search for my dream. The problem was, being incredibly shy I could only manage a pitiful audition, which meant I never got cast. Still, I had such passion for theatre and didn't really care what I had to do to be involved. I filled many backstage roles, from sound technician to stage manager and, in third year, started a directing course. The lightbulb came on and I discovered that this was truly my 'thing'. I directed many shows back to back at university and a couple outside of it and people responded well to my work. This was definitely my chosen career path and I was insanely happy and motivated. Here's a pic from one of my early productions.

But, I got bronchitis (no doubt from overdoing it) and that led to a very extended hiatus.
I was struck down with Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, at age 21 and whilst my friends were working and partying and enjoying their early twenties I moved back in with my parents and found it a challenge to the postbox and back without pain. My parents were supportive and tried to be patient as I suffered for years at home. I was only able to manage a casual job in a gift shop and my circle of friends shrank dramatically, to be expected really as I couldn't go out dancing with them etc. Mum had always cross-stitched and quilted and I soon
discovered my own love for craft. I even started watching Aussie rules football (which is absolutely not my thing, sorry) as a 'fun' Friday night activity with my family. Yeesh! - dark days indeed.
A friend invited me to join her on a teddy bear making course over a weekend and it was a revelation. My first bear was pretty darn good, he actually sits on my daughter's bed as a write this.

I made a couple more for fun and then my employer asked if I could make some for her to sell in the shop. Grizzly Bears was born. I set up a workspace in my parents' dining room and started making and selling collectible mohair teddy bears. At this time there was a huge industry and a lot of collectors around. I attended a few markets and was even featured in a national magazine. Still, I was in my early twenties and in those days it was certainly NOT cool or groovy to make teddy bears from home. I was too young to take pride in it and yell it from the roof tops so as my health improved my hours in the shop increased and the bear making dropped off.

I went into retail full time and spent many years working both in management and visual merchandising. I started feeling well enough to go out again and resumed a normal life. An old theatre friend approached me about directing a production for a local festival. We enjoyed two sell-out seasons and
I was back directing at last. I did another show at a local theatre and was considering applying to a drama school on the east coast to really immerse myself in the arts again.
But you see, I'd met this guy, and we were in lurve and, well, you know. We got married and then we had a baby. That certainly put a stop to theatre for me as I wasn't interested in working those long hours and not being home with my kid. So I hit the pause button and stayed home. Being a stay-at-home mum was a decision I happily embraced and I am still very grateful that I have been able to continue that way as my daughter has grown.

We spent a few years living overseas, in Brazil and then in Canada, and returned to Perth in time for my daughter to start kindergarten and me to have a hip replacement (I was born with hip dysplasia which lead to an early onset of arthritis, blah blah blah). At this time I started to toy with the idea of making something crafty again. I spent hours trawling the internet and magazines looking for inspiration. It was another year before I made the first 'poppet' for the birth of a friend's baby. One thing led to another, and pikelet workshop was born.

But that's another blog post...



  1. Gorgeous read and WOW ... you really have had your fair share of trials for someone so young! You are an inspiration Jen xx

  2. Ohhh, I loved hearing about your 'back story' Jen. At least now I know where 'grizzlyjen' came from now! Can't wait for the next installment.

  3. Wow a great read. I have not yet purchased a poppet but have looked at them longingly for awhile now. A great story indeed. Look forward to some more!

  4. Hey Jen , What an interesting read. I knew about the theatrical side, well kinda ,from Jo, but had no idea about the rest of it .... we all came to this place via a very different route indeed.Will be keen to hear stories of other small businesses too as you continue the blog ;0)

  5. I learnt something new about you! What a great & inspiring post..I can't wait for the next one. Thanks for sharing a personal side to yourself; I know it inspires others :) xx

  6. Now there's a familiar photo, Jen! I remember that production, it was brilliant. I bumped into Sam recently, she's still singing (with my Sister-in-Law...it's a small world!). I miss theatre too, but you're absolutely right, it's impossible to do when you're a mum, and I remember well the long hours and all-nighters and no-budgets, though I loved it back then. I still dream of being involved in some way, though probably not acting, I was also painfully shy (still am really)! But theatre has a magic I still love. I always felt it was a wonderful way to combine all my creative interests, almost the perfect art form!


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