I remember the first time I ever saw Poppys work. That’s a sign of someone a bit special. I was on holiday in Cornwall soon after having Arthur and we went to the Eden project and I treated myself to a little badge with a pea on it. Her designs stuck with me as being a bright, joyful, simple and beautfiul product and design, she was a breath of fresh air. I never thought for one minute I would be writing a blog with her work on it after meeting her and exhibiting at the same fairs as her. I was in new mum mode thinking of soecial needs and never thinking I would create again. But her work brought happiness to me and I’m sure subconsiously that when I started making cushions, her use of applique was in the back of my mind.
I met Poppy for the first time last year and I think she’s wonderful. I wish I lived closer so I could have pasty chats with her and laugh and generally be inspried by the clever lady. I will stop gushing now but some people you meet really touch you and make you realise that success can come to kind honest hardworking and thoughtful people, you dont have to be cut throat business people and it gives me faith that one day I can do the good things she has done.
I had not so much a light bulb moment as a light bulb week when my company came into being back in 2003. But first I should scroll back to a couple of important experiences that really informed what I ended up doing.
At my interview for my textiles degree in 1996 the tutor asked me what I wanted to do after I finished and I replied “Travel and see the world”
“What if you get offered a job with Louis Vuitton?” he asked
“Still travel” I said
I didn’t get offered a job with Louis Vuitton (or anyone!) instead I found various jobs (including sharpening pencils in the poshest boys school in England!) and saved all my pennies and applied for voluntary work overseas.
In 2001, I finally got offered a one-year voluntary placement working with a women’s craft cooperative, deep in the jungle in Guatemala. A bit of organising later (ditching no-good boyfriends, parting from beloved flatmate etc) I was on an open top motorized canoe traveling up narrowing tributaries with steep sided, tree draped cliffs on either side, egrets posing at the water’s edge, river spray splashing on my face…
…To find a dusty little shop selling a few hand made paper gifts to whoever happened to pop by – not many did!
Although I’d never run a business, had never had any confidence in promoting or selling my own work, spoke only a smattering of Spanish and had just arrived – I knew I was going to absolutely love turning these products into something that would sell, and turning the business into something that would make a proper difference to the lives of the women involved.
I stayed almost three years, living in a straw hut, eating rice and beans three times a day, designing, selling, putting in systems, training and helping to increase the turnover by ten fold.
Scroll forward to 2003 and I’m back on Bodmin moor. I won’t go in to the details but I could no longer stay in Guatemala so Cornwall was the only other place I could think of to go. Back home to Mum and Dad…
Whilst casting around desperately for a direction to go in, clinging onto the last of my savings and feeling like a women on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I got out my Granddad’s old Singer sewing machine and began making bags. I didn’t sell them, didn’t even show them to anybody, I just made them and timed myself, and made more and piled them up, and made more.
Eventually a friend took them into a gallery and the gallery sold them all in a week. A lady who was just setting up as a crafts advisor for Cornwall saw them in the gallery and called me into her office on the Tuesday to say she could advise me how to set up and run my business, and apply for funding to help with this (all for free). On the Thursday I found a shared workshop advertised in the paper for twelve quid a week and was shown around it by a lovely young man. And on the Friday I was offered an interview for a well paid, interesting but part time job – perfect for paying the bills whilst I got the business off the ground.
I got the job… and some time later I also got the lovely young man!
There have been light bulb moments ever since and the business has grown and grown with more and more women involved. A friend from my volunteering days remarked recently that my business is basically run in exactly the same way as I worked in the jungle. I think he’s right, I care about how things are made and by whom, and I care that the work is benefitting them and that they enjoy doing what they do.
It’s the light bulb moments though that keep it interesting, and having a funny, clever and supportive team around me to share them with.
Poppys work is still and has been the inspiration for a whole movement of free hand stitching, her infectious spirit is a joy to be around and comes through in her work. To buy and find more out about Poppy pop over to her website (its a corker), www.poppytreffry.co.uk
I hope you loved reading and learning about Poppy as much as I did, I’ll be back with another fab artist in the coming weeks. Join the newsletter or subscribe to make sure you dont miss out on all the latest as well as offers and free tutorials which will be coming bery soon. Take care. Xx