Meet Your Maker: Laura Howard of Bugs and Fishes

UK-based Laura Howard – trade name Lupin Handmade – is the proud owner of the fantastic felt blog Bugs and Fishes, showing the crafters of the world how to make the most of this particular material. Here she talks about her favourite makers, how she first began to blog and just why felt really does it for her.

Black Cat Originals (BCO): Have you always been a crafty soul?

Laura Howard (LH): I’ve been making things for as long as I can remember. I was always one of those kids who’d rather make outfits and furniture and houses for my dolls than actually play with them and I spent my teens making handmade cards and gifts for friends and family. One of the first felt things I ever made was an apple we sewed at primary school. My mum still has it in a frame on her dressing table.

BCO: What is it about felt that you find so appealing?

LH: I really love colour, and the range of shades that felt comes in these days is amazing. I also love how much instant crafty gratification you can get from a small felt project. The work I sell in my shops is mostly made from felt, but I knit and crochet as a hobby and I do paper crafting tutorials on my blog. I also have a growing fabric stash that I really need to find some projects for!

BCO: What inspires you as a maker?

LH: A lot of my products are inspired by wildlife and flowers from the British countryside but I’m also hugely inspired by colour and the challenge of finding the perfect project to best use a certain shade of felt or special bit of ribbon.

BCO: What projects have you got on your to-do list right now?

LH: I’m working on a couple of tutorials for my blog, and some new flower brooches and headbands for my shop. I’ve also got a couple of scarves to finish and I’m knitting a square a day as part of a sky blanket (where each blanket square is based on the colour of the sky that day).

BCO: What led you down the blogging path?

LH: I’ve been blogging for over five years now. I first started my blog just because lots of other Etsy sellers had blogs and I thought it was something I ought to be doing. I started blogging regularly and really enjoying it when I began my Crafting 365 project in the summer of 2007 to do something crafty every day, take a photo and blog about it. It didn’t take long before I was totally addicted!

BCO: How on earth do you find the time to blog and run a craft business at the same time?

LH: I first started my business part-time when I was out of work due to illness after graduating from University. I worked part time in a local gift shop for a couple of years while running my business in my spare time, and finally became completely self-employed a couple of years ago. Running a crafty business is all about juggling things on your to-do list. I love blogging so I make it a priority in my schedule, but when I’m really busy it can be hard to find the time. I try to take photos whenever I can and to schedule a few posts in advance if I know I’ve got a busy week ahead. Because I make things for a living I normally have lots of things to blog about but it can get tricky when I’m busy working towards a deadline and can’t share what I’m working on.

BCO: Where did the nickname Lupin come from?

LH: It’s an old nickname from when I was at school. One of my friends refused to call people by their names – everyone had to have a nickname! I was Laura-Lupin, Loopy, Laurie-Lupin, all sorts of different things. Lupin just seemed like a natural choice when I had to think up a name for my Etsy shop, and I now sell my work under the business name Lupin Handmade. My blog name comes from the name of a zine I wrote in my teens and when I was a student.

BCO: So what do you think makes a successful craft blog?

LH: I think honesty is really important. I don’t mean that you have to start pouring your heart out in your posts, but that if someone is blogging with an authentic, honest voice – making and sharing things they love – then people will respond to that.

BCO: Any tips to help people with their own blogging ambitions?

LH: I actually wrote a whole blog post about this a couple of years ago. After having my content ‘borrowed’ without my permission many times over the past few years, and with the rise in online photo sharing via sites like Pinterest, I’d also definitely recommend watermarking or otherwise labelling the photos you share on your blog.

BCO: So you’re not a massive fan of Pinterest?

LH: I don’t use Pinterest, though I do check to see what people have been pinning from my blog and my website. I think the concept of being able to visually bookmark things is great but I definitely have a few concerns about the copyright issues the site raises (and which the recent changes to the site’s T&Cs don’t fully address) so I probably won’t set up an account until they have private boards. I also have to admit that I’ve deliberately avoided browsing other people’s boards simply because I suffer enough “awesome image overload” as it is – I find my own creativity suffers a bit if I spend too much time online browsing other peoples work and Pinterest is just this endless sea of awesome images.

BCO: Which of your tutorials are the most popular?

LH: It varies depending on what time of year it is and what’s been featured where, but two of my most enduringly popular tutorials are my Felt Butterfly Mobile and my Snowflake Curtain.

BCO: Tell me about your book, Super-Cute Felt.

LH: I started sharing tutorials on my blog a few years ago just for fun and then had a few published, and when I reviewed a book published by CICO Books on my blog someone in their office checked out my blog, saw all my tutorials and got in touch about writing a book. It was a very nice email to get out of the blue!

BCO: What’s been the proudest moment of your crafting career thus far?

LH: It’s awesome seeing my work in books and magazines, but the thing that makes me most proud is when I get emails from people saying how much they’ve enjoyed making one of my tutorials or how happy someone was with a gift bought from my shop. I got an amazing email once from someone who had used one of my tutorials to make a special gift for her grandmother, it was wonderful hearing how something I’d designed had become something so important to a total stranger on the other side of the world.

BCO: So what’s next for Bugs and Fishes?

LH: Ooh, lots of things! One project I’ve just started is turning some of my popular tutorials into PDF patterns for my Etsy shop. I often get emails from people who’ve found a pattern on my blog and want to sell things they make from it at craft fairs or to use my tutorial to teach a class, so now people will be able to buy the PDF versions and use them for their own business.

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