This week we talk to the colourfuly crafty Jaina Minton of Polka Dot Sundays about her passion for her work, how she could have been a pharmacist in another life, and why Kirstie Allsop ended up seriously getting in the way of her maternity leave …
Who are you and what do you do?
I am Jaina Minton of Polka Dot Sundays and I create home decor, gifts and bits n’ bobs using papier mache and lots of fabric!
How did you get into crafting?
I’ve probably been creating ‘stuff’ as far back as I can remember and hopefully have improved along the way! My parents are creative and have never held me back, so I pursued a degree in Fine Art and then began working as a prop maker for a kids art show called Art Attack. When I moved to London, I worked in a less hands on creative role so I started making in my spare time to fill the aching gap in my crafty heart 🙂
Who and what inspires you to create?
I’ve found if I’m not creating, I feel a tad unfulfilled. I miss the process and the utter satisfaction of a finished piece. So it’s simply a drive inside me that inspires me to carry on. I see amazing stuff being created and shared and I follow talented artists and designers, and all of that visual inspiration sparks ideas and the need to make something too.
Which crafters/artists/designers do you most admire?
Oh gosh, so many. I’m constantly in awe of anyone designing and making their own products because of the time and skill involved. Especially if they are also a parent! I’m a huge fan of the work of Abigail Brown. I met (stalked) her once at a craft fair and she’s lovely and that only reinforced my love for her 😉 I love Brittany Jepson from the blog thehousethatlarsbuilt.com. She makes amazing things with paper and has built a huge following by being super talented but also really likable. I adore the work of Sweet Bestiary. I’ve followed her for years and seen her business grow but still remain very unique and independent.
When did you decide to make the leap from making for friends and family to creating your own business?
I think when enough people had told me I could sell my work, then I finally started to believe them. I first tried out a craft fair, just for fun and to gauge a response from the public. It went well but looking back, I had just made up the prices of my products based on what I think I’d pay and not considering any actual business logic such as covering the many, many, many hours I’d put into the work. Ridiculous. The next stage was setting up an online shop on Etsy, which was a slow burner and didn’t qualify as a ‘business’ straight away.
Things were very small scale and commissions mainly word of mouth and I certainly wasn’t ready to leave my day job. My big ‘break’ came when I was featured on Kirstie Allsop’s Hand Made Britain. I taught Kirstie how make paper bird sculptures and as soon as the episode aired, I had sold out of everything in my shop and had an inbox flooded with orders. It was AMAZING but the timing was crazy as the show aired exactly two weeks after I’d given birth to my first born. I fulfilled every order but it was all an exhausted blur and I wouldn’t recommend it!
What five things would you say were essential when you set up your craft business?
Learning about how to price your work – I ended up going on a workshop to learn the essentials and it was a great confidence booster to help me charge the right amount. It’s not a business if you are losing money and working below the minimum wage!
Know your competitors – It’s good to know who else is out there and what they are making. You can learn from them and support each other, and most importantly, make something different to what is already out there.
Time and support – A craft business can take over your life. It’s incredibly time consuming and you will have days when you feel you can’t go on but having a supportive family and friends to pick you up and encourage you is important.
Love what you do – When you change from a hobby to ‘let’s make this work’, it’s repetitive and you feel like a one person bird making factory. So you need to love it. Really love it.
A website and knowledge of social media – Everyone’s online now and the immense job of marketing is made so much easier with a social media presence. Choose one channel and do it well rather than trying to do them all.
Name three of your most popular designs.
My Nursery Names have always sold well. I think people want to have something unique for their children’s room, and I’m more than happy to advise on colours and fabrics if someone needs help. The monkeys are popular! I make them to order now as then I can offer a more bespoke piece in terms of pattern and colour. I sell a lot of Love words too. Everyone needs some Love in their life.
If you weren’t a professional crafter, what would you be doing with your time?
You mean if I was a different person altogether?! If I had no interest or ability to make, I might have ended up with a ‘proper’ job like working in a pharmacy (I was quite good at science you know) and I’d earn lots of money and go on many wonderful holidays. (Sigh)
Do you run any workshops or take part in any groups?
I do indeed run craft workshops and have started teaching workshops for kids and adults at Emporia! These range from making owls with children to sculpting birds with grown ups, just like I did with Kirstie Allsopp 🙂 I also run private craft workshops for kids parties or hen do’s. I love it and I’m always blown away by the amazing creativity of people.
What’s new with your craft for 2016? Tell us about some of the exciting things we can expect to see from you in the shop or online this year.
As always I have a million ideas and limited time to fulfil them BUT I do intend to make a new collection of products for the year ahead. No details as yet but they will be colourful, quirky and will hopefully make you smile. I’m also looking forward to coming up with new workshop ideas and putting some dates in the diary for more making fun at Emporia …
If you are interested in taking one of Jaina’s workshops or fancy getting your hands on some of her gorgeous fabric covered birds or names, pop into the shop and check out her amazing stuff in person – there’s still time to place an order before Christmas, and there are a few of her Liberty decoupage robin baubles still for sale too.