Laura Collier

Loaf & Bear

Hi Laura,

 

Tell us about your business and the type of products you sell?

I am an artist and designer creating contemporary embroidered illustrative portraits which I then digitally reproduce to design bold homewares, apparel, accessories and gifts.

I create unique and original artworks using freehand-machine embroidery – this means I ‘draw’ with a sewing machine, using fabrics and threads as my art materials. This is something I first did at Liverpool Art College 15 years ago but it was only in August 2019 that I launched my indie biz based around them.

 

 

I carefully digitally transform my artworks so that I can reproduce them as paper products including art prints, notebooks and greetings cards. I’ve also had the designs printed onto the fabric by British textile manufacturers and then turned them into cushion covers and tote bags.

My art takes inspiration from groups of icons and my first series was influenced by the unapologetically strong, powerful and beautiful original supermodels of the 90s. It is a celebration of gorgeous, daring, wild, delightful, sultry, fierce women and features a cool scandi-inspired colour palette of greys, blues and pastels.

I am currently working on my Modern Muses collection and have just released my first three designs inspired by Lizzo, Jameela Jamil and Greta Thunberg! Modern Muses are passionate, inspirational and unapologetically themselves. They use their celebrity platform to try and open minds to a better, kinder more inclusive way of being. They are the bold, dynamic, revolutionary faces driving positive change today.

 

 

How did you come up with the idea and what motivated you to go for it?

I’ve always been creative and I had a small indie biz years ago when I lived in London. I hand-made all sorts of products out of fabric and also upcycled old tea sets. I even had a cute little pop-up shop! However, when I moved back to the North-West about 7 years ago, there wasn’t the same audience and market for hand-crafted items and I didn’t really have any direction and belief in my brand so I gave up and got a full-time job in a call centre.

Then, as I imagine is the case with a lot of mums, whilst on maternity leave, I re-evaluated my goals and career aspirations. I want my son to grow up and find work he loves and that fuels a passion so I realised I needed to lead by example. I secretly worked on a couple of prototype artworks then pitched my indie biz idea to my husband, stressing that I didn’t just want to make any old stuff like last time, but design products and build a brand that I was proud of.

My initial idea for this indie biz was to make cushions with embroidered illustrations on. I love interior styling and felt that the freehand-embroidered line drawings I did back in art college would be a unique concept and selling point used on home accessories. I later developed this idea into printing my artworks onto fabric and then using this to make the cushions as realised it would take too long and be too costly for the customer to buy a cushion with the artwork created directly on it. The stitching would also be too delicate for a cushion that was used to make dens, mountains and trains like they are by the toddler in my house! Changing my initial idea meant I could also print the designs onto other products and expand my offering.

 

 

What is your best selling product?

After launching them only last week my new bestseller is my organic, 100% cotton, unisex t-shirts featuring my Lizzo, Jameela Jamil and Greta Thunberg designs. I have been blown away by how well they’ve been received and after starting with a small initial order from the printers, have had to place a larger second one almost straight away!

 

 

What do you love about running your own business and what do you find hard?

I love that I am in complete control, that all the decisions are mine. I also love that I get to constantly exercise my creativity, from the artworks to the branding.

The hardest part is the same, that I’m in complete control! It can generate a lot of anxiety being responsible for everything – for example if sales aren’t great it’s only down to me to generate more.

 

Do you have a favourite app or work tool you think everyone should know about?

I’m not sure if everyone knows about it or not (or has a better version, if so tell me!) but I use an app called Instaspacer to put spaces in between the text on my Instagram posts. I only joined the land of social media when I launched Loaf & Bear last year so have been teaching myself how to use Instagram since, just picking up tips along the way. It really frustrated me when all the text was joined together on a post, so discovering this app was a massive relief!

 

What is a normal day in your life like?

Let’s go back a few weeks before this new normal in lockdown! I have another job, 3 days a week, working on change projects for a bank. I then spend one weekday with my 3-year-old son Lenny. This leaves one day a week for me to work on Loaf & Bear. I also work on it most evenings and sometimes spend weekends trading at markets/fairs. When working on Loaf & Bear, I do have a little space in our spare room where I store my stock, market displays, packaging materials etc. but I end up doing the majority of my work at my dining table. It’s perfect as its massive, next to the Sonos for background music and right by the kitchen to ensure a steady stream of tea!

I think the work balance works well for me at the moment, my job provides financial stability along with the funding for Loaf and Bear stock orders etc. Up until recently, it did make me pretty anxious that I wasn’t creating as many designs/products as other people who are doing this full time, or I wasn’t as active on social media or didn’t do as many markets. However, I’ve accepted that my indie biz journey is my own and I need to work on it in a way that works for me and my family. I am hoping to grow my business enough to be able to give up my other job though, fingers crossed for that day!

 

What’s next for your business?

For me, 2020 was all about grabbing and creating new opportunities! I had secured some stockists and exciting fairs and events but these have been put on hold due to the current crisis.

I have since put all my efforts into my Modern Muses collection, particularly my initial launch which was on the 2nd April. I am now planning to continue adding new designs and products to this collection as I’m still learning, adapting, refining and building.

I’m also working on ways to collaborate with other artists and indie businesses and would like to work on a kids collection in the future too.

 

What is your favourite Social Media platform and how has it helped in your success?

I only use Instagram as I feel like with the already-limited time I have to spend on my business, managing one social media platform is enough! The biggest help it’s been for me is introducing me to a massive community of artists and makers and small business owners. These have provided me with inspiration, support, comfort and more in my business along with providing me with a lot of amazing gift and home ideas for myself!

 

Tell us 3 facts about you…
  1. I got married on a campsite in Snowdonia (spending my wedding night in a tent) and had 2 honeymoons, the first in Italy and the second in Iceland!
  2. I’m a massive foodie. My husband and I go on at least 2 trips away a year (usually one in the UK and one abroad) purely based on restaurants. I’ve eaten in some of the best eateries in the world, yet my favourite snack would still be eating Nutella with a spoon.
  3. One summer, between terms at University, I worked on the ‘It’s Tough to be a Bug’ show in Disney World, Florida!

 

What do you enjoy most about being a part of Mama Tribe?

It has offered me an opportunity to expand my reach and discover tools and resources. Most importantly it has introduced me to other women who understand the challenges of balancing motherhood with creating, building and running an indie business!

 

 

Thanks for giving us an insight into life behind Loaf & Bear Laura, we love having you as a Member of the Tribe.

Danni x

 

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