April 18 2014 Latest news:
Monday, September 10, 2012
Behind an anonymous black Beckenham door, hidden from the rest of High Street lies a room packed with unique jewellery, one-off handbags and hand-stitched clothing.
Those inside the treasure trove peer out over shoppers burdened with bags searching for a bargain as they learn new skills that mean they can steer clear of chain stores.
The idea for a crafts workshop that allows learners to create anything from necklaces to curtains came to owner Karen Murphy, 46, after she sold her previous business.
She embraced her creative streak and began studying courses in stained glass and jewellery.
“I needed something else in my life and everyone was having a great time, so I thought what a brilliant idea to have a place where we can make and do everything.
“I thought about it for a while and found this place which I love. We had our first class recently and it went really well, everyone made a tote bag and seemed pretty happy with it.”
The half-day and full-day courses are proving popular with women, claims Karen, who has seen a variety of ages come through the door.
A growing internet market for home-made goods means a lot of people are attending courses to kick start careers from their living rooms.
“You get mothers wanting to do something during the day or someone looking to make something no-one else has got,” said Karen.
“There is a great revolution of making things to sell and a lot of these women can go home and carry on with the skills they learn here. It’s great for presents.”
Previously a chartered accountant and energy consultant, the business is a move in a new direction for Karen who now looks forward to getting to work.
Her past careers, though less fulfilling, have given her key skills that meant starting on her own was relatively easy.
She said: “Running the business side of it doesn’t daunt me at all.
“Something that attracted me to this is that my previous jobs haven’t been things I have particularly rushed out of bed to get to. This is much more relaxed and hardly a chore, I really enjoy it.
“We want everyone to try this even if they think they are no good at it. People have a lot of creativity in them and we want to give them the confidence to try something.”
A relative novice in a majority of the courses she offers, Karen has recruited a wealth of experienced teachers that she hopes will teach her a thing or two.
She added: “I haven’t used a sewing machine much and don’t really know how to use it but from doing courses I now have a few tips.”
The workshop will be open six days a week and Karen is keen for people to see it as a chance to meet new people as well as pick up a useful skill.
Tea and cakes flow freely around the classes where everyone is encouraged to help each other.
Karen added: “It’s a very social skill to learn and people teach each other as they go. Everyone picks it up at a different speed.”