Becky Farmer’s wedding day last year turned out to be life-changing in more ways than one.
As she has a degree in fashion design and loves using her clever hands to make gifts for friends and colleagues, it was no surprise when she decided to make the invitations, decorations, signs and bunting for the reception herself.
What was a surprise was how the ensuing enthusiastic comments from guests got her thinking about what she really loved doing the most. Up to that point, the gifts made on the kitchen table had been a hobby away from the office.
Becky says: “The crafts and gifts had always been a side project. We really went for it and the wedding guests liked what I did and I realised how much I enjoyed doing the work.” She pauses and then adds: “It was at that point I realised it was growing into something more.”
She continues: “I’m from Otley originally and came up north from London to a job as a garment technologist so, although I was working in fashion, making gifts and decorations pushed more creative buttons for me. It just felt more creative than working at a computer.”
Having a full-time job but also having an activity outside work that is closer to the heart is a challenge. Becky took that challenge and Head in t’Clouds was born.
The name comes from the first gift she had ever made – a mobile of floating clouds for the baby cot of a work colleague when she was in London and when she had a reputation for being the “crafty one”.
She hand makes fabric banners in a range of sizes, bunting, hand-embroidered items and wedding favours. For the run-up to Christmas, she makes advent calendar kits with 25 cardboard house templates and a list of Christmas-theme activities to go in the houses.
Becky sells her products through her own website or through Etsy, an e-commerce website. She has moved upstairs at her home in Harrogate to a bright and ordered room, leaving husband Andy working at his laptop downstairs, now the sole occupant of the kitchen table.
As she knew she would, she gets a huge amount of joy from not only the creativity involved with Head in t’Clouds but also the contrast between making bespoke items as the customer requests and the experience of mass production from her previous working life.
She explains: “I’m sending something I made to someone else. It’s important to me that I do everything and that I have control, I’m not relying on someone else. I like being self-employed and using a skill I have. I’m actually making things.”
She adds: “And making things may be less important to some people but it feels important to me. I’m making something that individuals will treasure rather than being involved in the production of millions of T-shirts that people wear for a year and then chuck out.”
She tells how a customer asked her to make some bunting with just three pennants featuring a “1”, a “0” and another “0”. It transpired the customer was of Korean heritage, living in New York who was marking the tradition of celebrating 100 days since a birth. “It was so nice to celebrate and so nice making it. I knew exactly what it was for and you wouldn’t get that in mass production,” Becky observes.
And accompanying this sense of the individual is a feeling for the ethical. Becky uses recycled and unbleached fabric for her banners and she doesn’t sit on stock that gathers dust on her shelves.
Intriguingly, another aspect of Becky’s work addresses the issue of sustainability and the life cycle of clothes. She runs workshops in Headingley, one of which teaches about making alterations and repairs to clothing. It is fair to say this course reflects the growing sense these days that clothing is not disposable and can be given a new lease of wearing life. And last but not least, there’s the support that her skills and experience can give to other independent businesses.
She works with Luna Bride a Harrogate-based bridal gown business on the technical drawings that are required for the actual gown fabrication. “I didn’t realise how useful my skills could be working as a freelance,” Becky acknowledges.
Becky is excited about the future. She is working on an idea for clothing kits where she will provide the fabric, instructions and guide so that customers can make their own chosen item of clothing. Given today’s growing sense of sustainability and self-sufficiency, it could very likely catch the moment. Head in t’Clouds yes, but Becky has her feet firmly on the ground too.
This post is part of our ‘Spotlight on’ series where we highlight some of the best independent businesses in Yorkshire. For a limited time only, get 10% off your first Head in t’Clouds order by using the code BALTZ10 when you check out.
Head in t’Clouds website: www.headintclouds.com