You know me, I love a hero. I like to be inspired. I like to think and then ask. ‘How did you do that?’ Most people are incredibly generous if you ask them for advice or a little guidance. In my little series of Crafty interviews I have asked questions of people I admire. I want to know what inspires them, what their dreams are for the future, basically I am being nosy and hope you will want to share my discoveries.
This week I have interviewed the fabulous Sarah Moore. I have loved Sarah’s work since I was bought her first book as a birthday pressie in 2012. I wrote a review of the book here and here, and Sarah being Sarah said ‘Thank you’. Wow! Well frankly that kind attention ensured my loyalty forever. Since then Sarah’s work has gone from strength to strength. She has a regular craft column in my all time favourite magazine, Country Living. She also won the first serious of the Great Interiors Design Challenge on BBC 2. I love her aesthetic, for a long while I felt that my own particular love of colour, floral patterns, tweed, and collecting had got lost in the interiors world. That rather elegant, comfortable, worn and homely English style seemed to disappear. But reading Sarah’s books and particularly Vintage Home rekindled that fire. Hurrah! So please join me in admiring this wonderful creative force.
How would you describe yourself and your work?
Eclectic and a bit unusual describes both I think! I love making and designing and breathing new life into old stuff.
Where did your interest in designing and making come from?
I think that living in the middle of nowhere as a child you had to find your own occupations to keep your self busy. I have always been a bit of a magpie, gathering interesting things on walks, or pebbles on beaches and then turning them into things that I like the look of.
I think I first became aware of your work through the Biscuiteers – is it right that you initially trained as a chef?
I ran a full on top flight kitchen for an events company in the middle of London. For about 12 years I worked a very hard cooking and later designing menus with fabulous company Lettice. I designed service equipment, food installations and cooked for hundreds and sometimes thousands of people. A lot of hard graft, but a lot of fun and great team work and sense of achievement.
How did you get into textiles?
I am definitely a hoarder and I just found that I liked certain fabrics and I love a stack of these, mainly 40’s and 50’s linen fabrics. And you cannot really justify buying LOTS of fabric unless you are happy to make stuff and sell stuff made out of it.
What inspires your work?
The fabrics themselves inspire what we make: We have been making lots of teatowels recently because they look lovely in the house and they make a chore like drying up slightly less boring!
How does your initial inspiration become a finished article?
I find imagining how an end product will be fairly easy and seem to be able to see very clearly how to make it in my head, so I confidently write and make things up all the time. I use a very forgiving and sweet old singer sewing machine for all my sewing, and then have a few lovely makers who come along with proper machines to speed through the real things.
For a long time I felt the British interior style seemed a bit a sea, everything was very much in chalky colours and we all seem to have to follow the Scandinavian ideal. I think when I first saw your books, I felt ‘At last I recognise the British style which I love so much!’ When did your style emerge?
I think that colour and patterns and pretty things around the house just make living a little bit lovely. If you line your shelves with papers, fill you walls with pictures, dressers with china and sofas with cushions and layer up your favourite things I think it makes your space at home more personal and more relaxing to be in.
Last year you won the BBC2′s The Great Interior Design Challenge, has that changed your work and did you enjoy the opportunity?
It was So much fun. Like being on holiday. I refused to work late on my projects, trying to keep things simple and enjoy everything as much as possible. I didn’t want to win, but I did want to stay in the process as long as possible, learning all the way. It has not really changed my work, but I do feel armed with a new set of skills and cant wait to try out proper room schemes at home.
What next? What do you see yourself doing in five years’ time?
FIVE years! I don’t tend to think much beyond tomorrow, possibly this afternoon. It gets me into quite a lot of trouble at times, but I love living for the moment. So I have no idea about 5 years. Our new house has some buildings and a sweet meadow with it: I would love to create some really enchanting camping there. Handmade wagons and pretty decking, cattle trough baths and recycled interiors.
What’s your favourite and least favourite part of designing or running your own business?
I can pack up my laptop/sewing machine/gluegun at a moments notice and be around for my Children, watching them play matches or being in their school plays or whatever it is that they are involved in, and then make up for it later in the day. Part of the worst bit is the looking ahead and planning side of things. I am easily distracted and truly dreadful at admin; fortunately I have mentors in town (who run Biscuteers) who guide me through accounting, tax and compliance of running a small business.
Who do you most admire in the craft or design world?
I am very taken with Marna Lunt at the moment. Properly clever lady with a needle and thread.
What are your favourite things to design or make?
I really like the taxidermy that I make using old fabrics, wools and materials but I have to be very peaceful to do them properly. I can tidy my studio for hours before finding just the right frame of mind to crack on with them, but they are very satisfying to make.
Do you have time to make things for yourself, friends, family?
Its often quite last minute when I am making for us. But I do settle down to make a bed cover or curtain sometimes.
What has been the strangest thing you’ve designed?
A huge perspex fish tank style structure to serve layers of squid in spaghetti, caviar, sour cream and smoked salmon at a big company launch back in cheffing times. A line of funnels and tubes tied to a hedge as an impromptu loo for boys at a friends very rural wedding where the facilities had not arrived…fortunately only involved in the pre design process! And for work, a mad hatters outfit that I made without ever meeting the person wearing it.
For over a year now you have written craft articles for my all time favourite magazine, Country Living. How did you start working for them?
They rang one day. I nearly fell off my chair. I too have always been a massive fan and they had seen a copy of my Vintage Gifts book and asked to feature it and then approached directly to see if I would contribute directly. It is probably one of the things that I am most proud of!
You have just moved house and have the most wonderful barn for workshops, what are the plans?
We are hosting out first open Barn next month: Five favourite vintage sellers and a big winter wreath making class too. We shall see how this goes down and then make plans for more workshops in the new year. Eventually I think that we would like to make a more permanent studio space in one of the buildings as I am currently working out of a little room in the dairy.
What advice would you give to someone wishing to get into the design and interiors business?
It’s hard work to get a little business off the ground. You have to have real conviction and a proper vision for your products, ideas and designs. I certainly wouldn’t like to have worked out my hourly rate for the first couple of years, but if you have a product that people like or a style that people want to tap into you just need to go for it! Be prepared to embrace social media, and if you have left a “proper job” be prepared to take on all the chores, (changing the ink, sending out the newsletters, filling out the forms) and it should all pay off.
The photos in this interview are taken by the fantastic photographers Debi Treloar, Katie Hammond or by Sarah Moore