In this month's Meet the Maker interview we get to know talented lampshade maker Helen, of Made by HRM, who's a whirlwind of creativity with a passion for bright, colourful fabrics and quirky prints. Her love of making lampshades and Needcraft clocks has allowed her to build a successful retail craft business from her home, where she also enjoys teaching workshops, all while juggling her new family and her studies!
Read on to find out what makes Helen tick.
How are you today and what’s on your workbench?
Hello! I am well thank you. I have some very exciting custom makes on the bench this week – a tall custom-sized floor lamp and a custom size ceiling light in a very cool Spoonflower fabric by Susi Print.
How do you start the design process and where do you get your design inspiration?
I am not a fabric designer, so I rely on the talents of others for my lampshade and clock collections. I love to support indie fabric shops – so I keep a close eye on new fabrics they are stocking, and as soon as something catches my eye, I grab it!
How would you describe your style?
Bright! I love a colourful and fun print, if a fabric makes me smile, then I want to share it with the world.
Do you follow trends or do you just go with your instinct on what you think will work for a lampshade?
I keep up to date with the latest releases of fabric designers, but I tend to go with my gut and choose fabrics I love, which luckily tend to be the fabrics that my customers love too!
When did you start making lampshades?
I learnt to make lampshades the afternoon before running a lampshade course when I worked as a manager for Cath Kidston in 2012. I am self-taught, and have refined my technique over the past 9 years (I no longer balance the wires on my head before I start to roll!)
What’s your favourite part of the lampshade making process?
The final tucking of the seams and finishing off is my favourite part of the lampshade making process. It’s the final part of the process and gives my shades that professional finish, showing how much I care about the products I make and giving my customers a beautifully finished piece for their homes.
In your online shop what’s your most popular selling shade?
My best sellers are the animal print lampshades, everyone loves a woodland critter or a safari scene to make them smile.
What’s the mix of shades you make to sell online versus lampshade commissions, as part of your business?
I would say about 70% online vs 30% commissions. I keep a wide variety of fabrics in my collection, so I try to have something that will suit most people! Being able to provide something custom for someone, searching out specific fabrics and designs to their specification is really fun, and it’s always great when you find the perfect thing to make your customer happy.
And you also make our clock kits. How did this come about?
I love making lampshades, but when you go to markets and fayres, lampshades can be a little niche! Selling clocks along with my other textile gifts gives me a wider product range and something for those who love an LED downlight instead of a shade!
What do you like about the clock kits?
The clock kits are very simple to use but effective. They allow me to make a product that compliments my shades, and they’re much smaller and easier to store than a
Any tips for new lampshade makers in business?
The manufacturers kits are brilliant! Having the backing plastic flat instead of rolled makes life much easier, and the seam tape is super strong, which means your shades will last forever.
How do you fit in your shade making with the other things in your life?
I am a wife and a new mum, I balance HRM with family life, with training for ordination in the Church of England and completing a second degree – I actually wrote this interview with one hand whilst breastfeeding our new born!
When are you at your most productive?
I am a morning person, but I work whenever I get a spare moment!
And your favourite sustenance when you’re working?
Chocolate and copious amounts of tea! I also need a good film or podcast in my ears to keep me company.
Could you let us take a peek at your workspace?
Where would you like to be in 10 years time?
I would love to be pushing the boundaries of my creativity with HRM, perhaps even taking a leap of faith and designing my own fabrics to use for my shades.
I love to teach, and am looking forward to being able to get back to running workshops and meeting with other creatives again when the Covid-19 pandemic is over too.
What have you learned that’s been invaluable to your creative process?
Having a creative outlet is so important for my mental health and it makes me really happy to share my creativity with others. One of my biggest lessons has been not to compare myself to other people; it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing and whether they have more Instagram followers than me, I am still good at what I do and grateful that I have the opportunity to share it with others.
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