Some of you may remember my excitement last Autumn when I retrained as a professional curtain-maker. I shared my fabrics, my new skills and my samples with you all and, along with them my hopes and dreams for the future. And then it all went quiet. The blog returned to its more usual themes of cats and gardening, and it was almost as if I had never done the course. Or at least, that is how it may have appeared.
The truth was that I have been practising in the background, although probably not as much as I should have and, beyond that, I had a huge “what am I doing” panic. D and I talked about “the company”, almost as if it existed but I put off actually doing anything about it for some time, focusing on home and garden for a while, until I felt a bit braver.
Happily, before panic set in, I had signed up to attend my first trade fair in April, thinking at the time that I would be up and running by then. The company may not have come into being, but April arrived anyway and, before I knew it, I was on a train on my way to stay with a friend in Worcester, so that I could attend the fair in Cheltenham.
And boy, am I glad I went. Firstly, it was great to see my friend settled in a new home (and her curtains, I am happy to report, are very well-made!) Her partner offered me some sound business advice too and, with that echoing in my head, I set out for the fair feeling less apprehensive than I had expected.
With over 80 stalls, all aiming their services at interiors-industry professionals, it was totally overwhelming. So overwhelming, I failed magnificently as a blogger and didn’t take any photos at all. Fortunately, the organisers, the Curtain, Blind and Furnishing Makers Friendly Forum (or CABMFF for short) took loads and put them on their Facebook page, so feel free to have a look at the link if you are interested. Everywhere I looked, there were fabrics, curtain poles, gadgets that I had never dreamed existed and so much more. It took a while to pluck up the courage to talk to any of the stall-holders. I felt I had “Not a real curtain-maker” stamped on my forehead. Everyone seemed to have specific questions for them such as things they were seeking for clients, and I didn’t know where to begin.
In the end, I approached a haberdashery supplier and asked for a catalogue. I was totally honest about just starting out and that I had come mainly to get a feel for these events and they couldn’t have been more encouraging or supportive. Of course, they are hoping I will be a new customer for them but even so, I felt bolder. So I moved on and started talking to others, collecting contacts and information as I went. My leaflet collection grew and so did my courage. I sat in on a talk and raised my hand when she asked if there were any curtain-makers there. That felt strange but very exciting too. Everyone I spoke to treated me as someone who belonged in the industry and, by the end of the day, I felt like it was true. I was no longer playing at this – I am proud to say that I am a (very new) professional curtain-maker.
At least as fascinating as the stalls were the conversations I heard around me. Phrases like “This fabric was £150 a metre – I had to get it right”, “And I told her, this is my business not a hobby, you know” offered tantalising glimpses of the challenges I have ahead. The best story for me, as a Lancashire lass now living in Yorkshire, was the chap who had been asked at interview in a Yorkshire firm about his Lancashire origins. He got the job, though, so I presume it all worked out OK.
I came home totally inspired. That week, we registered the company and I started work on business cards and the website. I still have a way to go, but I am aiming for a July launch, so watch this space!
Being surrounded by so much creativity had even more benefits. I had started to attend a craft and natter session at the village club at around the same time, and one of the ladies had shown me how to crochet. I am – sorry, I have to say this – hooked. I am feeling firmly back in touch with my creative, textile side and I am loving it.
I am writing this in the garden, finally enjoying some late evening sunshine and the results of our hard work on the lawn. Surrounded by beauty and all the love and support I could ever ask for, I am confident that my future will be an altogether more creative one.