Our speaker in November was Penelope Childs. From an early age Penelope enjoyed dressmaking, embroidery and crochet but she was never one to follow a pattern and always managed to put her own creative stamp on it everything she made.
After training and working as a dance teacher at the London College of Dance and Drama, Penelope set up her own dance studio and also did freelance dance teaching all over the UK.
However, 2001 Penny experienced a complete change in lifestyle relocating to Scotland and helping her husband in his landscape photography business. When she wanted to escape she would head for the coast, watching the waves and mountains and beachcombing for stones, wood, slate and shells.
After being persuaded to work in a friend’s wool shop, Penny was inspired by the colours, textures and beads and re-discovered her creativity and she start making craft items again.
On her return to Shropshire, Penny began to design and make bags influenced by the colours and texture of Scottish tweed. Then, on a visit to the Isle of Man, she found the Laxey Woollen Mill and struck up a real connection with the owner John Wood who still makes fabric, including the Manx tartan on a hand loom using local yarn. This immediately appealed to Penny’s sense of style and she is a frequent visitor to buy small amounts of fabric to make her unique bags and crafts.
Penny sells via local outlets and on line via Penelope Designs. She also works with her husband at The Six Seasons Gallery based at the beautiful Maws Craft Centre, situated in what remains of the former tile factory of Maw & Co.
All Penny’s handbags are unique as the styles are dictated by fabric and nothing is wasted, every scrap is used. To make her bags look as part of a more cohesive range she has two main shapes: the Daisy Bag, each adorned with a different daisy and the Tile Bag based on Maws tiles again each one decorated with a different tile.
Penny also makes wirework jewellery from semi-precious stones or glass or stones she has collected. Penny says she loves their raw state and the fact that each one each one uniquely smoothed by the sea.
Penny’s business has evolved from chance meetings and lucky finds; her advice is to follow whatever opportunities arise and to rely on your intuition to interpret the situation and turn it to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to try something new, with online tools and information it’s easier than ever to design products, build your own website, design and print your labels.
As her children flee the nest Penny has found more time to spend on her business from developing her brand to investing in new equipment, finding new outlets and re-launching her website. One very busy lady!