23 July 2007

How I started designing

Talking to SueH on the phone the other day we both realised that I had never really told anybody how and why I started designing. Well, here is the story!!!
I would have been in my early forties and had been tatting for about twenty years when I fell into designing quite accidentally. I'd always 'jiggled' with patterns but never ever thought of making my own.
Over the years I'd also learnt other laces including knitted, crochet, bobbin, hairpin, netting and filet. There were no lessons available on any of these and so I had to find out 'how' from books. I also used to make clothes for myself, do patchwork, clothing repairs etc. All this combined with a full time teaching job. Really I was just so busy and it was relaxation to just sit and follow a tatting pattern in the evenings.
Anyway, I digress!!!!
One year when I had a particularly large and difficult class of reception children to settle into school I thought hard on how I could ease them into the classroom situation each morning. I decided to wear some funny earrings. After a while those who had previously been nervous and clingy with their mums would dash in to see what teacher was wearing in her ears each morning - success!! I started off with things like dog biscuits, sweets, tea bags, bath plugs, clothes pegs and anything and everything I could find round the house which were light enough to wear. My boss hated it. The County Council Infant Adviser loved it and wanted me to write an article for a national magazine about admitting children into school life. I now
have to remind myself why I didn't do this article. The reason was that I couldn't type and didn't have a typewriter.
At this time I had two teenage daughters, a home to run and a husband who was away on business a lot of the time. All on top of an ever changing and stressful job!! The earrings continued over the next few years with the children making me their own 'versions' out of paper, toilet roll middles, Lego etc. I wore each and every one with pride although it was very embarrassing when I forgot to take them out when I went into town shopping!!!!
It then occurred to me that this was all getting a bit 'silly' and expensive as I was also buying 'daft' earrings too. The boss was getting more and more 'unpleasant' about my various ear 'decorations' so I decided to tat my own - he could hardly object to that! I've still got the old notebook somewhere that I wrote the patterns in. I made things like cats, squirrels, giraffes, elephants, horses, traffic lights and eventually a few 'pretty' ones. The kids loved them too and the boss couldn't object!

A bit more time passed and my husband went off into the mist with my friend and I was left in a bit of a 'stew' with many very big problems to deal with. One of the many was redundancy so there I was at 48 with no job, a mortgage and very few skills to fall back on and to offer to the workplace. I decided to take a crash course in basic office skills - particularly typing as it was becoming clear at this point that computers were going to become the new office skill which would be needed.
I spent hours and hours in the middle of the night taking the basics that I'd learnt during the day and expanding on them.
One day, shortly after I'd finished teaching and while I was doing the courses, I cycled into town to look through the craft magazines in W H Smith. I couldn't afford to buy them so I squatted down on the floor behind the shelf and wrote down addresses on a scrap of paper. I started sending out some of the tatted earring patterns to magazines. They were all accepted and in due course published. I found a few problems with this. If you sell to a magazine they are often 'sponsored' by a thread company who then require you to sign over the copyright to them. I found that for a pattern they would pay around £60 - £70 which isn't a lot considering how much time went into a design and certainly wasn't going to be a good 'career shift'!! Certainly NOT enough to pay my new mortgage!
Some years later when life got better and I started designing for other magazines I refused payment so I could keep my own copyright. I still stick to this principle as it also helps keep the craft accessible to the magazine world as nobody has to find money to pay me!
I had already decided that office work might just pay the bills if I was very careful so I embarked on a career of temping!!!
The internet came into my life shortly after I moved in with Nick a few years later. Woweee, there were other tatters in the big wide world. I found that people suddenly wanted my patterns (one of the first I'd done was the Tattysaurus) but on dial up and emailing them to each individual this became expensive and time consuming!!! So I had to find out how to make a web site.
Fortunately I had a long term temping assignment (3 years!) at a software company where the young lads encouraged me, gave me hints etc to make my first web site.
The designing continues as it's now an integral part of my life.


Lace-lovin' Librarian ~ Diane said...

You've followed a very interesting path to designing, Jane! Maybe there's hope for me yet! I work with elementary students (preschool through 5th grade). I don't wear earrings very often because of allergies (my ears swell up and turn red!), but I love necklaces and bracelets. I think I should take the plunge with your gecko design and see how the kids respond! Thanks for sharing!

LadyShuttleMaker aka MadMadPotter said...

I am trying to picture the bath plugs LOL! This is really weird but I posted about designing too and I promise I am not copying you. I was stunned to check your page and find that we posted on a similar topic at nearly the same time.
Albiet YOURS is waaaay more interesting than mine.

Sewicked said...

Love that story, Jane. Thanks for sharing it.

Bonnie said...

Another great story, I loved reading it. I had a huge smile when I read your idea of wearing fun earrings to interest the children. This explains some of why you share your knowledge and patterns so freely. Saying Thank You just doesn't seem like enough, but here it is....... THANK YOU, JANE!

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