We are super excited to have Gillian Harris, crafter extraordinaire, author and owner of The Gilliangladrag Fluff-a-torium! in Dorking joining us at thread 2017. Meet Gillian in her special thread workshop to make some Wooltops Pompoms, and afterwards at her book signing, where visitors will have the chance to buy a signed copy of “Easy Stuff to Make with Fluff” for a special thread festival price of £8.99.
We spoke to Gillian ahead of thread to discuss her passion for making, her route into publishing and how to make the most of a day at the festival….
What sparked your interest in textiles and crafts and how did that lead you to opening The Gilliangladrag Fluff-a-torium in Dorking?
I have always been known as Mrs “Arts & Crafts” – even as a small child I used to make things from felt for my friends! After spending many years as a digital graphic designer, I stopped working to have my two daughters and then went down a very organic path which eventually ended up with me working with wool. I ran my business from my studio in the garden for many years, but when we started to supply other stores with our kits and wares, we seriously ran out of space and took over our whole house. It was then that I moved the business to The Gilliangladrag Fluff-a-torium in Dorking, where my studio sits above the shop, and my team and I make and sell our own branded goods!
What has been your most enjoyable and proudest moment whilst running the Gilliangladrag Fluff-a-torium and what treats can people find if they visit?
I’ve had a lot of proud moments along the way so it’s hard to just pick one! I’ve written four books now – three specifically about Felting, and my latest book “Easy Stuff to Make with Fluff”. When each of those was published I felt incredibly proud. I also felt proud when I was asked to appear on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch! Plus I LOVE designing our own branded kits and products and it’s always a proud moment when those appear somewhere high profile too! There are SO many exciting treats in our shop, visually there is a LOT to look at! We specialise in interesting ‘ingredients’ for crafting, knitting, crochet – and most textile crafts you could ever think of. We have a great mix of high end supplies from smaller artisan companies, and lower cost items from more mainstream brands too, so hopefully there’s something for everyone!
You have written three successful books about felting – how did you get into publishing and has that changed your crafty ambitions?
With my background in graphic design I was able to design my own website long before most people had a website! It was by having my website that I got discovered by my publisher – Pavilion way back in 2005. I have been working with them ever since! Having books published adds kudos and credibility to what I do – that’s for sure. Plus it really helps spread the word about our shop and business.
What tips do you have for anyone thinking of starting their own business?
I would advise anyone wanting to start their own creative business to make sure you think about the financials. Think about how much money needs to come in each day for you business to survive, and work back from that to make sure it will be viable. There’s a massive difference to selling a few things on Etsy as a hobby and actually earning a living from what you make and do. It’s not all about money – obviously – but if it’s a proper business, then it needs to bring home some bacon! There are so many more opportunities these days for being able to run a successful creative business online, even on a small scale from home, and especially for woman and working mums.
Who, or what, inspires you in your creative journey? My creative journey is inspired by all sorts of weird and wonderful things! Colour plays a key part in what I do, and inspiration often comes from flora and fauna, or from colourful travels. I travel quite a lot, and often come back feeling excited about something new! Obviously there is a lot of inspiration online these days too, although I find it difficult not to get too side-tracked by what I see online. Sometimes I purposely DON’T look at things online because I want to keep a clearer head and not be too influenced by things I see. Does that sound a bit mad!? Otherwise I fear that we are all constantly regurgitating each other’s work. I know that it’s difficult to be really original and come up with something new all the time, but sometimes I have to leave Pinterest out of the equation so that I can think more freely.
We are really excited that you will be running a Wooltops Pompoms class at thread and then staying to greet visitors and sign copies of your new book, “Easy Stuff to Make with Fluff”? Can you tell us more about the book and what is your favourite project included? The book covers everything you can do with “unspun” wooltops (i.e. the wool before it’s spun into yarn) This is traditionally just used for spinning (into yarn!) or wet felting or needle felting, which are covered in the book, but I also explain and show how to use it for weaving, giant knitting and giant crochet – which are really popular right now. And ultra fast! My favourite outcome is the Giant Knitted Floor Cushion called “Cushty Cushion” with the little felt flowers on it. It was super easy to make and is really striking – I just love how it turned out!
“Easy Stuff to Make with Fluff” covers all the crafty things you can do with unspun wooltops – what inspired you to focus on that as a craft form?
Well they form a large part of what we deal with on a daily basis in the business here! We have a whole wall of wooltops in the shop and sell over 70 different colours! So I am constantly thinking of new things that one can do with them. They go into all our wet felting kits and needle felting kits, plus also our latest drop spindle kits. We also sell our own ‘house blends’ which I design, and we have recently started having them spun into our new Gilliangladrag branded “Holy Fluff” yarn too! It’s very exciting having so many colours to play with every day.
How can a visitor get the most out of their day at a textile show such as thread?
I would advise prior planning! I treat it a bit like visit to Ikea. (i.e.don’t go without a plan otherwise you’ll just end up with a load of tea lights pot plants and meatballs! 😉 So I always go online and try and find a list of who’s exhibiting and what’s going on, so that I can make a plan about who I want to visit, what I want / need to buy and timings of talks and workshops etc. Then I know I won’t miss out and can enjoy the day without too much stress. Obviously you don’t have to stick to the plan once you’re there, but it’s always a good idea to have one! (Gosh – that’s the most sensible thing I’ve ever suggested 😉 haha!)
Gillian’s Wooltops Pompoms workshop will start at 11am. Places will limited and on a first come, first served basis. The book signing for “Easy Stuff to Make with Fluff” that follows will be open to all. Follow Gillian on Instagram @gilliangladrag or Facebook Gilliangladrag. The Gilliangladrag Fluff-a-torium, 20 West Street, Dorking, RH4 1BL.
thread…festival of textiles takes place on Saturday 30 September 2017 from 9am – 6pm. For £5 advance tickets click here. A day ticket includes access to the marketplace, talk programme and exhibitions. A full schedule of bookable workshops are available via the thread pages at craft.farnhammaltings.com. A workshop ticket includes day entry to the festival. A full listing of marketplace exhibitors, the talk programme and additional information is available at craft.farnhammaltings.com and follow us on Instagram , Twitter or facebook for news and programme updates as they happen.