Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Squeak! I'm Meet the Artist on Popular Crafts

How exciting!  Today I'm featured on Popular Crafts website as their Meet the Artist feature.  Me!

You could be featured too - see the link at the bottom of the post!)

I wrote in reply to the 10 questions posed quite some time ago, and hadn't really thought any more about it.  So it was a lovely surprise to read the tweet saying I was the maker being featured today.  A little bit of cutting and pasting - and here it is.........

1. Tell us about yourself, what you do and your work

Hi, I'm Jan May - from Truro, Cornwall.
I design and sew my fabric designs under the banner - Cajame Creations - Sewing my way through life one stitch at a time.
I'm a forty-something fabric geek with crafty tendencies and the ability to devour books, wine & chocolate in vast quantities.  I have every intention of ignoring my age and growing old disgracefully (within the realms of all things decent), and will probably be found with occasional red or cerise streaks in my hair when I'm in need of an ear trumpet and false nashers.
I'm definitely a cup-half-full sort of person, and it's probably true that I have a quirky sense of humour too.  I ricochet through life in a constant whirl of fabric creativity and hatred of all things housework. I love to be a little different and am always coming up with new ideas.  I really do dream in fabric (yes - my life is that exciting!) to design my own unique Cajame Creations, and even get around to making some to sell in my Cajame shop on Folksy every now and then!
I enjoy all things sewing/artistic related, including quilting with a modern twist - and am a huge fan of embroidery and vintage buttons.  My primary passion is anything involving fabric, where my skills seem most suited to the creative side.  I have a wealth of ideas, and certainly the ability, but know I often lack the attention required to produce them.  Ideally, I need someone chained to the desk in my sewing room ready to whisk something up at my whim.  All the designs I sell are my own, and I am in the process of producing patterns based on my makes.
I also love to dabble with my life-long love of writing. I'm a constant blogger (you can find my blog at http://CajameCreations.blogspot.com) and post regularly on all things craft related.  One thing I'm never short of is words, and I've been delighted to write articles recently for Craft Magazines, and very much hope to do more of this in the future.
I love a challenge with an idea to mull over, so if anyone likes my style but can't see exactly what they're looking for - don't hesitate to ask!
Simply send me an e-mail at jan@cajame.com and I'll see what I can come up with.
Just in case you may be wondering about the name Cajame (pronounced caj as in casual-ah-may) It's Cornish for Daisy May.

2. What are your inspirations?

Oh my goodness...... where to start with this one?  Does here, there and everywhere cover it?
Seriously, I can come up with an idea by day-dreaming (which I'm very good at by the way).  Perhaps I've seen something earlier in the day that's triggered an idea.  Or, I've seen something that I know would look brilliant if it was up-cycled into something new.
I suppose I am mostly inspired by anything vintage, which I adore - and of course the fabric itself, of which I'll admit I have a fairly extensive stash to which I'm constantly adding.  I often source unusual fabric pieces by my raids on local charity shops, and I AM the self-proclaimed Car Boot Sale Queen.  It's not so much the price of new fabric that bothers me (but my goodness - isn't it getting expensive!), rather the fact I like to be different.  I find girl's dresses a wonderful source; an absolute steal second-hand, and it's surprising how much fabric is left once attacked by a rotary wheel.
I must also give a mention to my Mother-in-law who is an accomplished quilter and tutor.  It is Elaine who rekindled my interest in sewing, and gave me a new direction.  Before I met her, I was thoroughly engrossed in dress-making and crochet.  Once I realized that quilting needn't be old-fashioned, there was really no stopping me, and I've progressed to where I'm now the happiest I've ever been with my sewing.
3. When and where did you study/learn and has your work changed since then?

I don't really remember a time when I haven't known how to sew.  I was taught at a very young age by an elderly spinster great-Aunt.  A fully trained tailor, she had learnt her trade in the early part of the last century.  Her work was fastidious, meticulous and thoroughly, absolutely perfect in every way.  Aunt Olive sewed all her garments by hand, with minute perfection.  Even in her nineties with failing eyesight (no wonder), her stitching was still sublime.   Being taught by her had some disadvantages though!  I can no longer remember what she had me make, but I can certainly remember being rapped on the knuckles with a ruler for not keeping my stitches as neat on the back as the front of my work.
Needless to say, this did put me off for a few years - and no-one is ever going to look at the back of my work again.  It's appalling...... In a well-secured, never to come undone sort of way!  lol
At school I found the sewing class boring, desperately old-fashioned, un-interesting and quite frankly so simple to do that I sailed through it without any effort whatsoever.
It was only after starting work, when I soon raised enough cash to fund my first sewing machine purchase that my real passion began.  Since then I have attempted just about everything possible which involves fabric, and ideally a machine.  I went through a Laura Ashley phase (if anyone in their forties tells you this didn't happen to them, believe you me - they are lying.... as surely I'm not the only one) when I ran up dresses, jackets, skirts, trousers, and even ball-gowns in the most glorious florals, in colours that dazzled the eyeballs. I look back at photos and cringe.  From there I progressed to curtains in all shapes and sizes.  I could do a rather spectacular swag and drape - Just when are they coming back into fashion?
Nowadays I'm altogether more modern.  I've always been creative and full of ideas.  I aim to produce up-to-date items with a vintage twist.  I'm currently enjoying producing my own small pieces of printed fabric, which I love to incorporate into my makes.  I rather hope that my sewing will continue to evolve, I'd hate to be stuck in a rut!

4. What techniques do you use in your work?

I like to sew with my machine wherever possible, as I have little patience and like the near instant results.  I do however incorporate hand sewing techniques into many of my creations.  I enjoy a little embroidery, preferring the more modern "stitchery" term.   Though my embroidery skills will never set the world alight, I am reasonably proficient - and I love the way it adds interest to a make.   I also use appliqué quite often, both by hand and machine.

5. How long have you been working as a textile artist?

I would love to be known as a textile artist........ maybe one day  (lol - in my dreams)  In the meantime I feel I rather muddle along as a sewing jack-of-all-trades.  I've been making things all my life, but it's really only these past few months when I've begun to start promoting myself.
People have been telling me for years that I ought to sell my makes, but I haven't got a great deal of confidence in myself and have always shied away from promoting myself before. It was only after joining Twitter at the beginning of the summer and becoming part of the creative community, (@CajameCreations - I'm a frequent twitterer, do join me) and finding out that people were responding positively to my makes, that I plucked up the courage to start my Folksy shop.
I'm very lucky that I no longer have to work full time to support our family, and it seemed that the time was right to focus on what I love most.
Sewing now takes up most of my time, and I'm loving every moment of it.  I still work a few hours a week as 1. It stops me becoming a stay at home hermit, and 2.  It funds my fabric fetish.

6. What are the best and worst things about working with textiles, and how easy is it to find work and make a living from it?

The best thing is undoubtedly the never ending choice of fabrics available.
I'm drawn to fabric like a moth to a flame, and I don't think I'll ever tire of being excited by a new print.  I can fall head over heels in love with a fabric range the moment I see it.  I love the fact that I can design and make something that is totally unique.  The time I spend online chatting to my online sewing comrades is wonderful; I love to share in the joy of something created by someone else and to read about their efforts.  I also enjoy being able to help anyone else with any sewing problems they may have.
The downside....... is there one?  Okay, it's never likely to earn me a proper living - but the pleasure working with textiles gives me goes a long way to offset this.  I spent years working full time in an office environment earning good money, and I hated every minute of it.  Yes, I had more disposable cash - but I feel like I'm living a different life nowadays, and only wish I'd followed my dreams a long, long time ago.
I will never be short of finding something to make, but as I said earlier it's not that easy to make a living from textiles - and I'd be a fool to pretend otherwise.  Whilst the general public as a whole continues to expect goods for next to nothing from the High Street, it will be a continuing struggle.  However, I do think the tide is turning a little, and people are starting to respond to quality hand made goods and be prepared to pay for them, albeit at works works out at a minimum wage rate or less.  Once made and up for sale, there's still the problem of getting your makes seen - and this requires a certain amount of dogged determinedness.  The world and his wife can open a Folksy shop, and the goods on offer may be top class - but
it still doesn't guarantee a sale.   Regular sales come to those who are well known, a name that is recognized.  I know it is early days for me, and I continue to Blog, Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis in an effort to get my name out there.  It's tricky to get the balance right, but I hope I've succeeded, as my following is growing steadily, and I'm getting a favourable response.  I promote myself by showing my own items regularly, and I also make quite an effort to promote items made by others that I really like, alongside general chit-chat.  Someone who just promotes only their self will soon find themselves with no followers.  So - I suppose the answer is, it's not that easy!  It is however not difficult to do, and I'm rather enjoying the challenge of getting myself known

7. Can we visit you at your studio / shop?

Do drop by my workshop any time. I wish!  Oh how wonderful it would be to have my own dedicated workshop.   I would never tire of the thrill of driving in every day and putting my key in the lock.  Until a magic fairy comes my way to sprinkle her fairy dust, providing me with the perfect work space complete with paid up business rates, I shall continue to work from my sewing room at home.  I have at least given up all pretence of having a spare room anymore.  Yes, there's still a bed in it - tucked away in the smallest space possible.  Guests are welcome, but rather than slumber away in a beautifully decorated bedroom, they may recline on their pillows and wonder at the splendour of my creations. :)
Of course there are huge benefits to working at home.  First and foremost the fact there are no outgoings involved.  Secondly my coffee machine is on constant standby to fuel my caffeine addiction.  I'm always fully prepared to down tools and brew up - so if you're ever in central Cornwall and fancy a crafty cuppa, do let me know.  Thirdly the dogs are never left alone for long periods, and the cat doesn't sulk at being abandoned.

8. What are your hopes for the future?

I hope that I can continue to grow my presence in the crafting community and become more known.I hope for regular sales and satisfied customers.I hope that I can combine my love and skill of writing with my passion for sewing. I hope that my stash of fabric never dries up. My ultimate dream...... for of course we all have them.....   To publish a book.   To design a fabric range.    Wouldn't it be fantastic?  In the meantime I am rather happy with my magazine article writing, and my home printing efforts.  But one day maybe................. You never know!

9. What do you sell and how can we buy?

I make a range of sewn items including bags, needle cases, pin-cushions, pictures, wall-hangings and quilts.  All are made to my own design, and each piece is totally unique.  I can't bear to make the same item twice, so each design will never be made again in exactly the same fabric combination.  As I design my own makes, I also have the patterns - and I'm in the process of presenting these for sale.  I am wondering at the moment if ready-to-sew kits would prove popular.  I'm thinking that the fabric would be provided all cut out, with nothing to do but sew.  Perhaps I shall trial a few to see what the response
I sell items in my Folksy shop - Cajame
I'm also more than happy to sell items from personal enquiries as I can accept payments via my PayPal account, so if anyone would like an item please don't hesitate to contact me.

10. What is your most favourite piece?

Usually the piece I've just finished!  Seriously, I have to be really happy with what I've made before I will entertain the idea of releasing it to the general domain.  I keep very little of my work, as if it hasn't been sold, someone usually says they like it and so it becomes a gift.  At the moment, I can see three pictures hanging on my wall that I have made - and I think that's just about all I have.  Of course I have some making disasters, mainly because I make things up as I go along, and sometimes my hands simply can't achieve what my brain is wanting them to do.  That's the beauty of sewing, it's a continual learning curve - and there will always be something new and exciting to grasp.  My current favourite is my latest creation - The Pin Master, a watch shaped pin cushion to wear.  I really did dream about this, and got up in the middle of the night to start making a sample.  It's handy and a little bit quirky too..... a bit like me.

I rather enjoyed answering the questions, as some of them really did make me think about what I do.  Over at Popular Crafts, they are always looking for artists to feature.  If you fancy having a crack yourself, simply email the editor, Katherine Jewitt and let her know you would like to take part.
email katharine.jewitt@myhobbystore.com 


  1. You're famous! I really enjoyed reading this. it's always good to find out about other makers, motivates and inspires.

  2. Hey well done, what a good interview. Isnt it great to be thought of so highly

  3. Great article- well done! (and a girl after my own heart with the cerise streaks- I intend to be a pink-haired, doc marten-wearing granny!!)


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