Interview with Me Made May Creator Zoe – Part 1

 

This week we are super lucky to bring you the first half of an interview with Zoe Edwards, renowned sewing blogger and creator of Me Made May! Here she talks about what inspired her to start the self-sewn fashion movement and how having kids has changed her approach to sewing.

Who are you and what do you do?
My name’s Zoe and I blog all about my explorations into sewing and refashioning. These passions form a big part of my desire to live a more sustainable and authentic life. I also aim to inspire and assist others in making/remaking their own clothing. I currently live in Eastbourne with my husband and our daughter Dolores and our son Frankie.

I am a self-employed sewing teacher, and although I’m currently on maternity leave, I usually teach classes at The Village Haberdashery and Tilly and the Buttons’s HQ, London, and MIY Workshop, Brighton. I firmly believe that sewing and creating can have a fantastic impact on mental health, and am also convinced that enjoying sewing needn’t break the bank.

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What exactly is Me Made May?
Me Made May 17 (#MMMay17 on social media) is a challenge designed to encourage people who sew/knit/crochet/refashion/upcycle garments for themselves to wear garments and love them more. The me-made and self-stitched challenges have been taking place for eight years now and they work on both a personal and community level. This challenge is all about improving your relationship with your handmade wardrobe, and perhaps also learning about yourself and your creativity.

What made you decide to go about setting up MMM, and how much has it grown/changed over the years? 
I didn’t ‘set up’ Me Made May as such, it kind of evolved from a personal, solo challenge I set myself in 2010 whilst I was living in Barcelona, Spain. I wanted to see if I could really rely on the clothes that I’d been making myself, so I decided to wear only me-made things (excluding bras, socks, tights and shoes) for the duration of March that year. It was a really illuminating experience and I want to try it again in a slightly warmer month, so I asked via my blog if anyone wanted to join me (specifying their own challenge) and I was surprised that about 80 people decided do so! And the rest, as they say … Last year we had at least 800 people ‘officially’ taking part. In more recent years, participants have really taken to social media to connect and interact with each other, although that aspect is entirely optional. The challenge is trying to fulfill your own pledge, taking outfit selfies and sharing them is in no way compulsory!

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How has it affected your sewing career? 
It’s hard to say. I guess more people have heard of my blog because of Me Made May, which has allowed me to semi-fund my sewing and blogging activities by having sewing-related companies sponsor my blog for a modest fee.

You’ve released several of your own sewing patterns in recent years – has the popularity of MMM helped with that or was designing and releasing your own patterns always part of the plan?
Ha! There’s definitely no ‘plan’ to the stuff that I do! I work on what interests and inspires me. Luckily, I have been able to forge a small income through some of those things that lend themselves to making money, like teaching or selling my sewing patterns.

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You’re a mum of two now – does that impact on your personal sewing in ways other than restricting your time?
It has definitely helped me streamline my sewing efforts towards making garments that I can wear at a play park rather than in a cocktail bar! I also love making things for my children. It’s so satisfying to use up cute scraps and small pieces of fabric that would probably otherwise end up in the textile recycling bank and make adorable (and hopefully useful!) little garments for my kids and their friends.

Next week we hear more from Zoe about precisely how you can get involved with Me Made May this year. 

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Meet the Staff – Raquel

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This week we take some time to have a chat to Raquel who has been successfully running the show for us on Saturdays since well before Christmas. Coming from a home interiors background, she has shed a different yet equally creative eye on the proceedings at the shop, and her enthusiasm for all our lovely wares has been a delight to witness – read on to hear her take on what’s what at Emporia.

Who are you and what is your position at Emporia?
My name is Raquel and I am the Saturday manager, working alongside lovely Millie.

What have you been doing since you started?
I started working at Emporia back in October last year. Working only once a week is a little tricky as it has taken me a while to get to grips with the versatility of the business, as Emporia is so much more than a shop selling beautiful fabrics. I have assisted with some of the children’s sewing parties which has been so much fun! Also meeting the local customers and helping them choosing anything from the shop, from fabric to wool or presents has been a highlight as I really enjoy chatting and everyone is very friendly.

What else do you do with your time?
I have a very active three year old boy who keeps me on my toes constantly. Recently we moved from London to Ashford so getting used to the country life has taken my s lot of my attention. We have a massive garden and I have been busy just keeping it tidy. Also I have been making curtains for all the rooms in the cottage where we live as each of the windows seems to be a different size, but it has been great getting my sewing machine out of the cupboard.

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What crafts do you like to do?
I make fabric handbags for family and friends in a patchwork style; every one is different and I customise them according to taste. It’s a bit of a hobby and I enjoy making them although is time consuming. I also love upcycling old furniture, giving the pieces a new lease of life. I worked in a paint shop for ten years so I became quite knowledgeable about the techniques as well as getting very into choosing the right colours to achieve a beautiful result. Recently I have been working on a nest of tables and I am pleased with the outcome of both. Painting is very relaxing!

Are there any fabrics that have caught your eye so far? Do you have any plans to make anything with them?
There are so many I like! Anything bright catches my eye and I love some of the children’s fabrics, but my favourites are the ones with a retro feeling about them. I have never tried using patterns properly and I would love to get into it and maybe make something simple for myself like a skirt or a dress. I see Clair wearing amazing clothes she makes with fabric from the shop and I get so jealous, it makes me want to start a competition to create the new Emporia uniform for the staff, so watch this space!

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We’ve got loads of classes taking place at the shop currently – which ones from the spring 2016 list inspire you?
I am very fortunate working on Saturdays when many of the classes take place so I have been watching and wishing I was one of the learners. I would like to sit down with Mandy for the patchwork class as I could definitely do with learning the technique properly to use it on my fabric handbags. Also the pyjamas workshop sounds like my cup of tea and would be great to make them for presents or treats.

Thanks Raquel! A competition to design a staff uniform eh? Only if it can feature pyjama bottoms …

(And if you’re interested in making your own pj bottoms, or some for a friend or child of yours, pop into the shop for more info on the classes taking place on Saturday 30th January and Saturday 27th February 2016.)

Meet the Staff – Millie

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This week we’re having a chat with Millie, our latest addition to the Saturday crew. She’s currently taking her A-levels at Rye Studio School so we’re lucky to have someone young and very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about fabrics working with us.
Who are you and what is your position at Emporia?
My name is Millie and I’m one of the Saturday staff at Emporia.
How is it working out so far? What have you been doing since you started?
I felt I would fit in at Emporia because of my keen passion for textiles, which I hope to pursue in the future. I saw the advert for a position and thought it would be a fun way of learning more about the industry I am interested in. So far I am really liking it – the environment is lovely and I enjoy the jobs I do. Since starting I have been involved in making bunting for a project that is underway. I have also been getting to grips with the shop and the products sold, as well as helping out with some advertisement and making signs for the classes.
What else do you do with your time? Tell us about what you get up to when you’re not at the shop.
I am currently in my final year of college, where I am studying Art, Textiles and Art History, so a lot of my time is devoted to completing college work. My school is also very engaged in getting involved in outside projects; recently I have helped to organise an art exhibition that took place at my school and featured work from artists such as Chantal Joffe, which was really exciting!
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What crafts do you like to do? 
I love to paint and draw, but recently I have been focusing on fabric manipulation for a school project. This means I been getting to grips with different sewing techniques. I am hoping to create an exciting outfit from my different sampling. As well as this I have previously made clothing such as dresses, tops and skirts, but I’m still trying to get my head around the finishing of a product, such as overlocking.
Are there any fabrics that have caught your eye so far? Do you have any plans to make anything with them?
I have been admiring many of the fabrics in the shop, including fabric from the nautical collection, which features a paper boat design on a red, blue or white background. I thought the pattern would be complimented with some high-waisted shorts. I am also a fan of the ditsy pink fabric which entails a small simple diamond pattern. I keep picturing culottes when I look at the fabric, which could be a project I take on. I’ve also been thinking of making a tote bag to carry my work in and a few fabrics have caught my eye, such as the cotton reel print.
We’ve got loads of classes taking place this autumn and winter – which ones would inspire you? 
The Aye Aye beginner sessions interest me. I would like to start getting a bit more crafty – especially with Christmas soon approaching!
Are there any crafts you would like to learn? Are there any crafts on sale in the shop that you particularly like?
I would love to start knitting again and try to advance my technique, as I am only familiar with basic knitting, so I may have to invest in some new knitting needles and some funky wool.
Christmas is just around the corner and there are bound to be loads of festive projects on the go with customers and staff. What are you looking forward to making/doing in the shop in the coming months? 
I love the idea of handmade advent calendars, as they are something you can reuse every year, and they can become very sentimental. There are several Christmas prints in the shop that could look effective together that kind of project.

Christmas is Coming …

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We know it’s still September and to lots of you the title of this post will giving you the heebie geebies, but it’s true, Christmas is actually coming. In fact it’s 100 days away now, and so to mark the occasion we thought we’d share our fabulous festive fabric that only arrived last week.

Consisting mostly of these gorgeous Scandinavian style designs, the colour palette of red, grey and cream makes for a very simple yet sophisticated range. It features a whole host of traditional shapes and patterns, like reindeer, stars, hearts, missletoe, snowflakes and trees, all designed to recreate that Scandinavian feel for Christmas.

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Perfect for making placemats, tree decorations or festive bunting, these simple patterns blend together so well you’ll be forgiven for wanting to get your Christmas on early with this bunch of gorgeous designs.

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Who doesn’t love a reindeer? Definitively Scandi, these little chaps are destined to trot all over Christmas stockings and Santa sacks ready to grace the fireplace or the end of the bed come Christmas Eve.

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Fancy getting started on a Christmas quilt? This clever design gives you the option of cutting out the picture panels and placing them on a different background, or just making use of the panels as they are and quilting around them once you’ve sewn up the wadding and the backing. It’s not cheating, it’s called being economical with your fabric.

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For those that like a little more colour for their Christmas makes, we’ve also got a couple of festive brights in the shape of these lovely prancing reindeer and the cheerful trees.

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And if you’re planning on sewing an advent calendar this year, then look no further – we’ve got the panel and the pockets all in one design, on only 60cm of fabric! Easy to follow instructions are also printed on the pattern, so you really can’t go wrong.

Now is the time to start thinking about who’s on your Good list and therefore deserves a gorgeous handmade gift from you this year, or simply how you’d like to decorate your house! We know there’s still plenty of time for Christmas shopping, but Christmas sewing is far more enjoyable.

Interview with Lotte Jamieson

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This week we are feeling rather smug, but also completely shattered after setting up the Emporia Vintage and Craft Market pop up next door. It’s here and it’s finally open, and best of all it’s crammed full of absolute loveliness – if you haven’t had the chance to pop by and have a nose, then you are seriously missing out.

So as the pop up has launched and we are most definitely in the run down to Christmas – only 41 days left to go! – we thought we would share an interview with one of the crafters who is selling their wares next door. Lotte Jamieson is both a knitter and a sewing enthusiast and her stall features mini quilts, delicious coloured knitted beanies and Scandi style Christmas decorations – here she talks about her jump into crafting professionally and why there should be more Star Wars themed craft going on in her house.

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Lotte Jamieson and I am a writer, knitter, sewer, painter and all round crafter, who is generally willing to give anything creative a go.

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How did you get into crafting?
I have always been a creative sort since I was very small and I come from quite an arty-crafty family, so I guess it was inevitable that I would end up with craft in my blood. My mum taught me to knit and sew, but I was never patient enough to do much until I had my own children and suddenly I felt the need to make things for them. I went to art college a million years ago and loved being challenged and inspired on a daily basis.

Who and what inspires you to create?
My children inspire me hugely with the things that they love, and I try to make them items they ask for: my son is a tad obsessed with Star Wars at the moment and has requested that I make him a cuddly Luke Skywalker, so that’s on my To Do list. But also because I think very fondly of the things that were made for me by friends or family when I was small (and now!), I think it is a very special thing to create something entirely from scratch for someone you love.

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Which crafters/artists/designers do you most admire?
I have a huge amount of respect for anyone who can knit Fair Isle patterns as they must be the most complicated things ever to create.  Come winter time I swoon over all kinds of woollen creations, but I particularly love chunky cables and creative knitwork that is inspired by the traditions of longstanding community knitting – like the patterns created on jumpers for fishermen and farmers all over the UK hundreds of years ago. Many of the designers from Rowan make amazing knitting patterns that completely tie in with this way of thinking. I’m also a big fan of Wool and the Gang’s designs, which offers a much more contemporary take, and many of them are made with super duper chunky wool that require seriously big knitting needles, which I also love.

When did you decide to make the leap from making for friends and family to creating your own business?
I haven’t fully made the leap yet, although my friends tell me I have! My work life has gone through so many changes since I had my children, as I became a freelance writer after my second maternity leave, so I am currently running two potential businesses. My first serious venture into crafting as a business has been the Emporia Vintage and Craft Christmas pop up, which I am very excited about. But if I do go all the way and create Lotte Jamieson the label, I know it would be immensely hard work, as well as being incredibly rewarding.

What five things would you say were essential when you set up your craft business?
Support! Friends and family have been absolutely essential when it comes to having the confidence to start thinking about something which you previously viewed as a hobby, as a business.
Caution – I had been contemplating turning my designs into something a bit more serious for a while, but sitting on the ideas, thinking them through and talking to other people in the craft business definitely made me plan more carefully.
Inspiration – if you don’t have the ideas, you don’t have a business.
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Passion – staying up late and sewing ribbons onto what seems like a hundred Christmas decorations before the opening of your craft fair, or stuffing eight massive fabric pumpkins in a row for an seasonal order can get a bit tedious. If you don’t love what you’re doing, then it’s probably not going to work out.
Determination, or just Hard Work. You don’t just have to work hard at making gorgeous products, you also have to work hard at your costs, your prices, getting to grips with all your figures, all the time. Although you should never feel like you’re in the middle of The Apprentice, once you’ve gone commercial with your crafts, it should feel like you’re running a business; so if you’re not making money, something has to change, and if you don’t have the determination to make those changes, you simply won’t make it work.

Name three of your most popular designs.
The three things which seem to be getting the most attention at the moment are my cabled hats in super chunky bright coloured wool; my fabric birds inspired by traditional Scandinavian designs;  and my mini quilts, designed for children to carry them around without having to drag an entire bed quilt along for the day.

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If you weren’t a knitter and sewer, what would you be doing with your time?
Either copywriting and editing – my other line of work – or doing the washing and cleaning the house … It’s amazing how quickly you can run out of underwear whilst knitting a pair of legwarmers.

Do you run any workshops or take part in any groups?
I am taking some beginners knitting classes at Emporia this winter, in an attempt to get more people hooked on my own woolly passion. If these go well I will be back to teach cabling workshops and perhaps other quick projects for those wanting to learn more skills of the knitting variety in the new year.

What’s new with your craft for 2015? Tell us about some of the exciting things we can expect to see from you in the shop or at the Emporia market this year.
I am planning on continuing to push the cables with my knitting, and see what other products I can create with them in. With the sewing, I am determined to create my very first full size double bed quilt, which will require a lot of planning and a lot of courage to make the first stitches! If I’m successful, you can expect to see some of them cropping up in Emporia in the coming year.

Interview with Mandy Munroe

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This week we take a little look at the life and work of renowned quilter and patchwork designer Mandy Munroe, who is heading our way in August to give us the lowdown on kick starting our very own patchwork pieces in her one day workshop. Here she talks about her passion for fabric, how her grandmother’s craft drawer got her into sewing and why she loves nothing more than browsing the charity shops for unusual finds.

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Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Mandy Munroe; I’m a quilter, textile artist, patchwork teacher and blogger. I design quilts regularly for Popular Patchwork magazine and was commissioned to create the hand dyed patchwork wall pieces for The Environment Centre at Singleton.

How did you get into crafting?
My grandmother always encouraged my brother and I to make things. She had a craft drawer and we were allowed to use anything in it. She taught me to knit, crochet and embroider. I learnt to quilt when I lived in US for a few years. My children were small and it was a hobby that allowed me to get out, learn something new and meet like-minded people.

Who and what inspires you to create?
Fabric! I love finding new colours and prints to make something snuggly and useful.

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Which crafters/artists/designers do you most admire?
Anyone who creates for exhibition or sale is putting their heart and skills out there: it can be scary. I love to buy from local artists, designer makers and crafters, and have just been visiting open studios in the area, there are lots. We are very lucky to have such a vibrant creative community in Ashford!

When did you decide to make the leap from making for friends and family to creating your own business?
When I moved back from the US in 1996, friends asked me to teach them. At the same time a US patchwork magazine wanted my quilt for their front cover, and it’s been a slow build from there.

What five things would you say were essential when you set up your craft business?
Being organised, having a planned, professional approach; knowing the value of your skill/product, it’s important to value your time; having the ability to adapt to your market/audience; being part of a local network has been invaluable for sharing the organisation and promotion of events; having an online presence – website/blog/facebook page.

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Name three of your most popular designs.
My Slouchy Bag gets lots of compliments. Beginners Sew and Slash throw workshops are always full and my intermediate classes for modern Crazy Log Cabin quilts made from scraps, is in high demand right now.

If you weren’t a quilter, what would you be doing with your time?Thrifting! I love charity shops and collect vintage tablecloths, doilies and threads. Plates, jugs, cups and saucers all make me happy.

Do you run any workshops or take part in any groups?
Yes – I’ll be running a Beginners Patchwork class at Emporia in August, and I love to Knit and Natter on Fridays at Emporia too. I’m also a member of Jo Blox, Oast Quilters and NYCMetroMod quilters.

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What’s new with your craft? Tell us about some of the exciting things we can expect to see from you this year.
I’ll be teaching workshops and taster classes at the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in August. The Modern Quilt Guild are planning a conference in Texas in February 2015 and I’ll be going to keep up to date with the modern quilt movement, plus I’m designing more new quilts for Popular Patchwork magazine so watch out for those too!

 

So if you’ve been inspired by Mandy’s amazing designs and fancy having a go at patchwork yourself, pop into the shop or give us a ring and book yourself on her one day Beginners Patchwork class on Saturday 2nd August 2014.

 

Interview with Clair Heal

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This week we finally get around to having a little chat with lovely, lovely Clair, the woman in charge of all the crafty deliciousness that is the Emporia shop and market. Here she tells us just how the two came into being, how she got into crafting in a big way, and just what exactly is going on in her life at the moment.

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Clair Heal and I own and run Emporia Fabric & Crafts and also organise the Emporia Craft & Vintage Market, which usually takes place once a month in one of Ashford’s town centre units.

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How did you get into crafting?
I have been sewing for as long as I can remember. My Nanny taught me how to sew, embroider and do tapestry when I was small. When I left school I studied Clothing Technology at Rochester after which became a costume designer until my first son was born in 2002. I didn’t start making crafts to sell until my kids were a few years old after making a few felt Christmas decorations.

Who and what inspires you?
My family inspire me to keep going with what I believe in. I’m also massively inspired by the creative people around me and all the talented local crafters and artisans that I’ve met on my way.

Which crafters/artists/designers do you most admire?
I really admire anyone who just goes for it, there are so many creative people in Ashford. I especially admire female entrepreneurs who have family life to juggle with, alongside the setting up and running of a business. In terms of fabric designers, I am loving Beth Studley’s collections for Makower – we stock her first collection Henna and her second collection has just arrived in the shop, which is called Meadow.

When did you decide to make the leap from making for friends and family to creating your own business?
It kind of evolved by itself; I did my first craft fair at my son’s school where I made a few felt Christmas decorations which went down really well. This gave me the buzz to carry on, so I did a few more craft fairs – some good some bad. It was after doing a particularly badly organised/advertised one in December 2012 that I, along with three friends, decided to hold an open house to sell our crafts to the local community. This went so well I decided to organise a craft fair in our local village hall; I advertised as much as I could and on opening the doors there was a queue of people waiting to come in!

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Next thing I knew, I was phoning around to get a shop space in Ashford town centre to put on my first craft market, and luckily a lovely lady at Park Mall said yes, so on the 10th & 11th May 2013 Emporia Craft & Vintage market was born. So far there have been seven markets in various empty units around town. Unfortunately, it became increasingly difficult to find somewhere to hold it so I then decided to open a permanent outlet selling both crafts made by local people as well as beautiful fabrics, as I was frustrated at being unable to buy fabric for my crafts locally – buying online is just not the same, as it’s so much nicer to see and feel it.

If you weren’t running a fabric and craft shop, what would you be doing with your time?
Sitting at home watching daytime telly!

How do you manage the day to day running of the shop, alongside looking after your kids? Who helps you run the business?
I wanted to be able to take my littlest to school every day, that’s why the shop isn’t open till 10am. My lovely husband Neil is home a lot and is a massive help, and I’m very lucky to have such lovely friends who help out with childcare when needed.

Speaking of kids, there’s a rumour going around that you might be about to have another one …
Yes, it’s true! Our third Bubba is due at the beginning of July, so from the next week onwards I’ll be taking a break from the shop.

What’s going to happen to the shop while you are away on maternity leave?
Don’t worry, it will be business as usual and all will be left in the capable hands of a few lovely ladies whilst I’m away.

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Any news on the Emporia market for the summer? We miss it!
I miss it too, and all the lovely stallholders! At the moment it’s a victim of its own success and I can’t find a shop big enough to fit us all in. I am working on it though and also have plans for something else special – so watch this space!

What are your plans for the rest of the year – when are you coming back? And will the baby be joining you in the shop?
I’m sure I won’t be able to keep away, but I’ll officially be back at the end of September. And yes, the baby will be with me because of course he’ll be a perfectly behaved baby and sit beside my desk!

So there you have it – one more week of Clair and then the shop will be under the care of various crafty ladies (myself included – eek!) for a three month summer special. Now don’t go all stroppy on us, like teenagers with a supply teacher – we promise to have everything running just as normal and there will more info coming soon on classes, special offers and of course, all the usual lovely new fabrics and stock coming into the shop. All that’s left to say for now is: We wish you all the best with the impending arrival – just make sure you spend as much time sleeping and sewing between now and the baby arriving as you possibly can, as there probably won’t be much opportunity once he comes. Good luck!