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Up & coming – Hawthorn Handmade

Stephanie Carswell shares her love for needle felting through her company, Hawthorn Handmade

When did you launch Hawthorn Handmade and why?
I started designing kits as a way to bring needle felting to as many people as possible. When teaching workshops, I could see the joy it bought and I was often asked about kits to take home. I finally found the time at the end of 2012 to sit down and make a plan. It was clear there was a market for it and though there were other kits available, I wanted to create a set of designs that people would be really proud to make. I also wanted to create a kit that wouldn't only teach them how to make what's on the box but also how to needle felt so they could then explore the craft on their own. We launched the first six designs in May 2013. I've since created 10 more standard kits and our mini kits.

What's your career background?
After working for a few years in hospitality in France and various other jobs including a sales assistant in a high-end jewellers, I moved to Bournemouth in 2006 to study Arts and Event Management. On graduating I worked at a local craft centre and an arts festival before opening my own contemporary craft gallery, which I ran for four years showcasing the work of British designer makers. It was there that I started needle felting as something to do on the quiet days and I haven't stopped since! I closed the gallery in March 2014 to focus on felting and Hawthorn Handmade full time and am enjoying the freedom this has given me to grow the business.

What makes your products different from others in the marketplace?
All of our wool and fibres are British, including the Alpaca in our Barn Owl kits. Using British wool is something I feel very strongly about and we're an active supporter and partner of the Campaign for Wool. I'm also very proud of our detailed instructions. They really do guide you through the whole process with over 27 large colour photos and clear steps as well as an introduction to needle felting and a size guide.

Please tell us a bit about your collection.
To date we have 16 standard kits available and three mini kits, as well as a range of felting supplies. The mini kits make a very cute animal head brooch, though we've had people turn them into key rings and even fridge magnets. Our standard kits each make an animal that's about 15cm wide so you get plenty of wool to play with. There's a wide variety of creatures available and you can order them with or without a foam block (used as a working surface) meaning the kits are very flexible, especially for the growing number of customers who are making the whole collection.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
I'm really inspired by the Dorset countryside surrounding the town where I live. There's so much wildlife in the area and I'm a huge animal lover, so turning that passion into designs is something that comes quite easily. I'm also inspired by the wonderful variety of British wools and fibres I find. It's great fun finding a fibre and wondering what animal it could become.

What's your best-selling design?
The Rabbit is our most popular kit closely followed by the Swaledale Sheep, but the new Fox designs have been really popular so they may take over soon.

In what types of shops are your products stocked?
We've got over 65 stockists now including everything from small high street wool and gift shops, to garden centres, wool mills, museums and galleries; so a pretty broad variety!

What are you working on at the moment?
The mini kits have proven really popular so I'm currently working on the next three designs; a hare, a sheep and a highland cow, which will hopefully be available later in the summer.

T: +44 (0)7941 528 124 or visit www.hawthornhandmade.co.uk to find out more.