Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Local Loveliness- Interview with Emma from Hapitat

You may remember that I recently visited the MK Handmade and Vintage Extravaganza at Centre MK. I had the opportunity to speak to a number of extremely talented people who kindly agreed to do interviews for this blog. Well we are kicking off in style with an interview with Emma Read who is the talent behind Hapitat. Emma creates beautiful floral headpieces, fabric flower bouquets and much much more! So without further ado - here is the interview:

Tell us a bit more about yourself!

I was bought up in a sleepy village in Hampshire, I studied Art and Design when I left school, and planned to go to University to do a degree in Art, but I got scouted by a model agency, and decided to put my art on hold for a year to model in London. A year turned into about 10 in the Big Smoke, but when our little boy came along, we decided to move out to Buckinghamshire to be close to my husband’s family.
 I found I had more time to myself as our boy grew up, and that’s when my creativity started up again.
I was invited to Ascot for a hen weekend. I had a vision of what I wanted to wear on my head, a huge flower headpiece, but couldn’t find anything big enough, so I set to work making my own.  Using some leftover silk from the dress my sister made me for my wedding, I created a huge silk flower. The comments on race day where amazing, so when I got home I set to work creating more. I found inspiration from my collection of vintage fabric lace and netting, I set up a shop on Etsy and my first customer was Courtney love Cobain. Since then the customers have been flooding in.

When I saw your stall at MK Handmade and Vintage fair I was blown away by the attention to detail and luscious materials that you use to create your products. It’s probably unfair to ask but do you have a favourite material?

I absolutely love working with all vintage fabrics. Each piece is unique, whether it be faded by the sun over the years or slightly frayed, I just love working with it. Each piece has a story to tell. New fabric can be great too, but vintage is the one for me. Call me weird, but I even love the smell of it. It reminds me of when I was growing up,.My Mum and Dad did a lot of amateur dramatics and they borrowed clothes from an old lady who had a massive collection in an old barn,. My Mum would take my sister and me, we would run around trying on top hats and feather cancan dresses- a little girls dream giant dressing up box. I think that’s where my love of vintage really stemmed from.

You’ve recently had your items featured at the national wedding show and by Etsy France. Tell us more…

I was contacted by Etsy admin a few weeks ago. They said two of my huge silk flower headpieces had been selected by the National Wedding Show to appear on the catwalk. I was so excited, but also nervous. Shipping my beloved flowers off to be borrowed and having worked in catwalk shows I know how clothes and accessories can be flung around in the mad rush, but I’m very please to say, they arrived back to me in perfect condition this morning. The response has been amazing. Etsy said they had literally 100’s of people enquiring where they could buy my headpieces for their wedding.
I also sent a similar ivory headpiece to Paris for Etsy France’s first press day. They are recreating an apartment of a young family and are filling it with handmade Etsy goodies, one area is dedicated to a wedding and that’s where my headpiece comes in. Apparently it’s going to have huge press coverage, so I’m looking forward to hearing feedback from that.

One of the products that really caught my eye was your Indian headdress. Can you tell us more about the inspiration for the piece?

The Indian headdresses have been a really big seller especially in the run up to the  UK festival season, but I’ve also sold a lot to US customers. I believe their festival season has already started.
I just love dressing up, and the festivals are an ideal opportunity to let go of your inhibitions. I don’t take things seriously at the best of times, but this is a good excuse to just go utterly mad. I often team my headdress with gold hot pants and leopard print leggings. I think we all have an inner child and it’s good to let it out every now and again.
The vintage leather I’ve used is from a collection I’ve had for years. I just love the look of vintage leather. It can be distressed by hand, but it never looks the same as real battered vintage leather. Some of the vintage trim I’ve used was bought from an Etsy seller in Texas. I started off using recycled feathers, but I’ve recently been buying luxurious German cockerel feathers from a supplier in Wales. The natural iridescent colours are just so pretty and they create a very striking result.

What is your favourite part of the creative process?

I get very excited by fabrics, as you have probably already gathered. I think I get most excited when different textures and colours really work together. I have so much fabric I’m forever finding new combinations, and when I come across a bag of fabric I’d forgotten about in my attic, I’m almost falling down the stairs rushing to get started (and yes I have a bruised bottom, where I have fallen a few times)

Can you name three major influences on your products?

As I mentioned before, the amateur dramatic wardrobe/dressing up dream when I was a child.

The huge collection of vintage fabric and lace in my attic that I have acquired over the years is an enormous influence.

Nature all around influences me, especially this time of year when the new blossom and shoots are coming out through the entwining tangled plants that winter left behind. I’m always a bit sad when it all needs tidying up. I love natures beautiful mess.

Can you name three things about where you live that benefit/inspire you and your work?

The charity shops and car boots around here are great. I’m always picking up vintage fabric, lace and old vintage clothing and hats that I can recycle into something beautiful.
I love the peace and quiet of the countryside, spending time searching for fairies at the bottom of my garden or by the riverbank with my children help inspire me too.
I don’t drive but I manage to find everything I need right on my doorstep.

You’ re committed to recycling – what sparked that passion? Does it have particular delights or challenges?

My family have always recycled and have been very eco friendly since I can first remember. My grandmother was thrifty during the war. They didn’t have a lot of money and that rubbed off on my Mother. Nothing was ever wasted and they were taught to make and do. My Mum made all our clothes and grew their own produce and we were bought up around jumble sales and craft fairs.

I don’t find that recycling hinders me, I find it’s more of a challenge than just buying something new from a fabric shop, that’s what makes it so exciting.

I noticed that you have been creating flowers with new materials – plastic bags! Is this something we can expect to see more of?

I’m always looking to recycle different materials to work with. I discovered that you can iron plastic bags together in layers between greaseproof paper and it makes it sewable and less flimsy and crinkly. I think I’ll be using this at the summer festival where I run Hapitat flower workshops and teach people how they can make flowers out of just about anything.

What else can we look forward to from you in 2012?

My little girl is still quite young (16 months) so she takes up a lot of my time, but I’m going to continue with my online Etsy shop and Hapitat website, as well as doing my craft stall every 3 months  at MK Handmade and Vintage Fairs in Middleton Hall Central Milton Keynes.  I’ve been approached by few local boutiques’ that would like to stock some of my flower headpieces. I’m also hoping to be getting a lot of giant flower headpiece orders from brides who saw them at the National wedding show.

Emma will be at the next Handmade and Vintage Extravaganza at Centre MK on 26th/27th May but if you can't make it then or can't wait that long then you can find her here:


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