For Christmas 2010 my other half gave me a sewing machine. This made me very happy because I’d wanted one for years, but I was also very afraid of touching it because I had no idea how to use it. We didn’t even have the internet back then so it wasn’t as if I could watch a You Tube video and teach myself that way. So the machine stayed in its box for six months simply because I was too much of a wimp to just give it a go.
By May 2011, I had our first baby who was the opposite of everything a baby is supposed to be: she was (and still is 9 years later), the most chilled out person in the world which meant that suddenly I found myself with more ‘free’ time than I’d ever had in my adult life. So whilst the baby enjoyed her cat-like sleeping patterns (about 20 hours a day), I finally let the sewing machine see the light of day.
Back in those good old days, people like us were ‘rewarded’ with a government grant of £500 for having a baby – ‘baby prize money’ we called it. So we used it to finally join the 21st century and get the internet, along with a brand new laptop which made me feel very modern and cool. I could take the sleeping baby to trendy Chorlton bars (Electrik was my fave) in the day time and sit doing ideas research on my laptop whilst drinking expensive cherry beers. It was an utterly heavenly time which I flippin’ well deserved!
Fast forward six months later and I had built up a nice stockpile of handmade patchwork baby quilts, oilcloth baby changing mats and bags but I had become tired of doing markets and craft fairs and desperately wanted to find another way of selling my wares. Then I started hearing about an American website called etsy which was described to me at the time as being ‘sort of like ebay, but only for handmade things’. My initial reaction was ‘no one would buy handmade things off the internet’, although I quickly caved in, abandoned my Luddite principles and opened up an online store which turned out to be a brilliant learning curve in so many ways.
I kept my etsy shop going for a couple of years, along with shops on a couple of other handmade-focused websites but by this point I was itching to have a real ‘bricks and mortar’ shop and despite us being insanely poor, I knew I would find a way to make it happen no matter what. When I want something badly enough, then I make it happen (I have been described in a positive light as ‘tenacious’ but have also been described in various other not-so-positive terms, such as ‘pig-headed’ and ‘insatiable’, but I like to think they kind of mean the same thing!)
And so, after running a monthly market and setting up a number of little trial pop-up shops in vacant retail units, on Nov 1st 2014, I opened up my proper, real, actual shop, The Chorlton Art Market. If I was to tell you how I made this happen you wouldn’t really believe me – even now after all this time I find it hard to believe that daft little me managed to build up something so great from literally nothing and it is something which will always make me feel a sense of pride. It was sort of modelled as being a ‘real life etsy’ where we sold the work of 60 local artists, makers and vintage traders so it does make me feel happy to know that my hard work ended up being a great success for other as well. I hope those who run it now all follow the same ethos that I had: definitely no bitchy, cliquey, bullying behaviour was ever permitted and any traders who displayed those sorts of traits were out on their ears!
As it was, by 2017 city life had worn me down – the shop was still as wonderful as ever, but we were faced with many issues which ended up making life feel quite hellish; shoplifting old ladies with bags on wheels became my number 1 nemesis, coupled with constant uncertainty about the fate of the shopping precinct which our shop was in. So by July of that year we sold the shop business and relocated to a new life in rural Scotland to take over the running of an outrageously beautiful farmhouse Bed & Breakfast. An actual Dream Come True in so many ways which I still can’t actually believe really happened to us.
But…of course 2020 has been a bit of a mad one, and, as has been the case for pretty much every industry (with the excepetion of PPE manufacturers I guess!), being in the tourism business right now is kind of worrying, especially since we couldn’t have a busy summer and build up some buffer funds to keep us going over the quiet winter months. During the Spring/Summer lockdown, we were so so lucky to receive help from our wonderful local community in terms of regular food parcels and toys for the kids but I wanted to find another way to make a bit of extra money to keep us afloat so that more can be allocated to others when another lockdown hits us.
And so, in a weird reversal of my life I have found myself opening up a new etsy shop, almost exactly nine years after my first one, in the hope that it will bring me in at least a couple of hundred pounds a month like it used to. Of course, the site has expanded massively in the last 9 years and there is inevitably more competition then I remember but I’ll keep slogging on with it every day and keep my fingers crossed.
If you managed to get to the end of this rambling account of the last 10 years of my life then well done and thank you for reading! And if you’d like to check out our wares, head on over to www.etsy.com/shop/RiggHouseCo … in fact, better still, use this link and get 15% off!!! https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/RiggHouseCo?coupon=BLOGOFFER