Friday, 26 March 2010

Fabulous Friday... The Interview ~ Victoria Burnett Designs

This week's crafter is Camilla from Victoria Burnett Designs ~ a shop she runs with her sister, Claire...

How did you get started in your particular craft and how long have you been doing it?
The idea for our business really came from our grandmother, who decided to create some wooden mice characters for her daughter (our mother’s) wall. Mum really loved them and decided to take the idea and run with it, setting up a small business that she ran from home. She created a whole range of characters including foxes, pheasants and frogs, and was a regular, along with our father, on the charity fair circuit. Her work was enormously popular, and she was featured in a couple of magazines as well as on the local news. One of her mice even took up residence in Buckingham Palace! This was all achieved with absolutely no advertising and no access to a computer, so no internet, no Facebook, Twitter, or even MISI, just plain old word of mouth.
Very sadly, Mum was diagnosed with cancer, and after a remarkable 6 year battle, we lost her in 2003. In the meantime, I was (and still am) working full time as a scientist in London (studying ageing) but realized that this was not the ultimate career for me. I wondered about the practicality of restarting Mum’s business, and discussed the possibility with my sister, Claire, who is based in Wiltshire and who was also looking for a creative output. Together we decided that we would see if we could replicate Mum’s work. This turned out to be a steep learning curve, as although we had grown up surrounded by these pieces, we had absolutely no idea what techniques she used to make them! Consequently we had to start from the beginning and learn firstly to use a fret-saw in order to hand-cut each piece, then work out what types of varnish to use, in what combination and how many layers, and then see if we could create an antique finish. After a lot of trial and error, we felt that we had a product that we were happy with, and launched the business in October 2009, making us the third generation in our family to produce these pieces. We named the business Victoria Burnett Designs in honour and remembrance of our mother, and in acknowledgement that at the moment we are using her original designs (although we are working on new ones to add to the collection as we go).

Are there any negative aspects to doing your craft and if there are how do you work around them?
One difficulty is sourcing the wood for the pieces as we buy in 8x4 foot 6mm birch-faced plywood. This varies a lot in quality from piece to piece, as one piece may have a perfectly usable face, whilst the next may have knots, plug-holes and random discolouration, making it useless for our purposes. This means that when we go to the wood suppliers, we have to go through their entire stack of plywood to pull out maybe one or two sheets that we can use. As you can imagine, this is not always a popular request as more often than not the 6mm ply happens to be stacked right near the ceiling, so it can take a while, is dirty work, and requires one or two strapping young men to help (ok, so maybe that’s not altogether a negative aspect…)!

What tips would you give to anyone thinking of starting your craft?

Make sure you have a lot of space, time and patience!

How did you find Misi?

Through the wonder that is Google.

What is your favourite item in your own Misi shop?

For me it would have to be Poppy or Prudence. I have a particular fondness for them as I have Mum’s originals at home.

What is your favourite shop on Misi (besides your own)

I really love the products in Moon Cat – perfect for my next house!

Random facts about you:

What is your favourite season?

Got to be summer – sun, wine and plenty of bar-b-ques.

What is your ideal vacation?

Anywhere that involves the first two items mentioned above, combined with great food and plenty of trashy novels.

What is your favourite food?

Err, what isn’t my favourite food? I must confess to a terrible weakness for gherkins and wine gums.

What is your favourite animal?

Orcas, dugongs and dogs (sorry, that’s three).

What actor/actress would you NOT kick out of bed?

I have always had a great fondness for Guy Pearce. And as a lover of Gray’s, McSteamy would be welcome to stay…

Thank you so much for chatting with us. Visit Victoria Burnett Designs on Misi to see more of their adorable characters...



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