pin-ponderings

How i Learnt...

Emma Goodson

How did you learn to sew?
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Well I was lucky that my Nan had her own sewing machine and she was able to sew really well!  My Nan and her mum both worked down at the Brook in Northampton, which was a dress manufacturer, they made ladies dresses for well-known firms including Marks and Spencer’s. I spent a lot of my childhood around my grandparents, as both my parents worked full time during the school holidays and my Nan lived a stone’s throw from my primary, middle and secondary schools.
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Me, my Nan & my Pap.
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I would basically tell my Nan what I wanted, and she would make a pattern out of newspaper, cut the fabric out and sew it all up for me whilst I watched in wonderment! I remember wanting a denim bag making, so she cut up a pair of my Pap's jeans. I'm still not sure to this day whether he ever knew where is old jeans ended up! As I got older, she would let me use her sewing machine and guide me through what I was doing, but i'd only be sewing basic garments like elastic waistband skirts and maybe sewn a patch pocket onto a t-shirt. I wanted to learn more.
My school sewing experience was quite a poor one. The first textiles lesson I had was learning to make a cushion, which wasn't exactly inspiring. I went on to do textiles for GCSE, but I found it really stressful as the class was large and the teacher was unhelpful. (She was actually a Cooking and English teacher!?) I chose to make a jacket which is probably one of the hardest things for a beginner sewer to tackle, but my teacher didn't exactly discourage me from that. As the class was so large, I got little to no help, and being a perfectionist I stressed so much about finishing the project I had a panic attack in the class room and had to be sent home. I did get an A* in the end though!
Not completely discouraged from my break down over a turquoise satin jacket lining, I then went on to do Art Textiles at A Level. I wanted to do Art & Textiles separately, but I wasn't allowed to as apparently they were too similar (so painting and sewing a dress are the same now?) I wanted to stay at the school that I'd just done my GCSE's at to do my A Levels, but they told me that I couldn't do both Art & Textiles A Levels, so I decided to go to a different school that was much further away, that offered Art and Textiles as separate A Levels. But once I got to this brand-new school (where I didn’t know anybody) I was told that they had cancelled the Textiles A Level because there were not enough people that wanted to do it! I felt like there was no reason to stay there if I couldn't do Textiles, so I ended up going back to my old school to do the A Levels. Luckily the new school I went to (for 2 days) started back earlier than my original school so I managed to join back at my old school without missing anything which was quite lucky. Then when I started the actual A Levels, they merged Art & Textiles together so I ended up making wall hangings instead of dresses,*rolls eyes*.
The silver lining to this was the Art Textiles A Level had two teachers, and one of them of was Abi Jackson, who came in to teach one of my first ever textile lessons in Year 7, and was introduced as a fashion designer, and ever since I met her all I wanted to do was be exactly like her! So, I was over the moon when she became one of my teachers. She totally inspired me to carry on sewing and follow my passion for the unconventional side of fashion.
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 My A Level class, i probably had my eyes closed when this was taken!

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At this point in time Abi was working from a studio in the Fish Market in  Northampton town centre, and through this friendship of teacher and student I began spending a lot more time at her studio come shop, which then led to me selling my creations at a fair held there which one of the creatives put on every month or so called the Bicycle Basket Bazaar, which was so much fun because rather than having your traditional table top, you were invited to sell your wares off of a bike, either you could bring your own or they would provide one for you, and it was just a fun take on a craft market which was great fun.
After about a year or so of taking part in these fairs I took the plunge and ended up taking on one of the empty artist / shop units. Initially I was supposed to go in with two other girls that i had met through doing the fairs, but right at the last minute they decided to pull out and I really didn't want to pass up the opportunity to have my own shop! (The rent was affordable, the Fish Market itself was only open Thursday - Saturday so it wasn't too big of a commitment, and I so desperately wanted to be more involved in the artistic community that called the Fish Market their home). I just jumped in feet first and decided I was going to do it on my own. I was still doing my A Levels and working part-time at Morrison's on a Saturday which meant I couldn't spend a lot of time there, but my Mum loved helping out and playing shop!
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This was my first shop, where i sold my own products along side some other talented artists and makers.
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Then i moved into this shop, further in to The Fish Market, closer to the other traders. As the shop was smaller than the first, i decided to just sell my own designs.
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After gaining an A in A Level Art Textiles I continued my education with a Foundation Art & Design Degree at Northampton University. I was encouraged to do this course by my other A Level Textile teacher who said that doing the course stood you in a better position to be accepted onto the 3-year degree courses, I wasn't overly bothered about the course otherwise. Although I did enjoy trying out all the other different aspects of Art & Design, other than just Textiles, I actually found doing the course really difficult because at the time I was juggling my part-time job as well as the shop in the Fish Market. But not long after starting my Foundation Degree the Fish Market started to become very empty! One by one everyone ended up moving out due to the fact that the council who owned the building had plans to demolish it and build a new bus station. Which was probably a blessing in disguise because most of the creatives then went and got their own separate studio spaces with a lot more space and better accessibility. I moved my business to A Most Marvellous Place to Shop which was brilliant for me because I could just rent a space in the shop and not have to man it, which meant I had more time to focus on my university work and obviously make more stuff to put in the shop.
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This is a page from Mollie Makes magazine, where they visited The Most Marvellous Place to Shop to write an article. I didn't find out until years later that i was actually featured in it, not just pictures but in the write up too! Abi's creations are featured in the bottom right hand corner too.
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What did you do after University?
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Well you may be surprised to learn I didn't actually finish my Foundation Degree course. I yet again I had a little bit of a breakdown on the assignment hand in day, which resulted in me not submitting my work, and ended up only completing half of the course. I had basically set myself far too much work to do for my final project (100 different pieces of artwork in a huge 10 x 10 shelving unit) I came to the realisation hours before the deadline that I was never going to get it all finished and just basically gave up. I let my pride take over, because what I could have done was spoken to my tutors and they would have offered me an extension, but I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I had taken on too much work, so I just ran away from my problem. It's probably one of the only times I've ever given up on anything in my life, but I definitely learnt a lesson from it. To not put too much pressure on myself and to ask for help when I need it.
I am a little disappointed in myself that I didn't finish because anyone that knows me knows that I like to see any project in my life through to finish, but at that point in my life I felt like I couldn't. I don't regret any of the choices that I’ve made in my life, & not finishing the foundation course meant I didn't go on to do a 3-year degree which in hindsight was the right thing. I felt that in my sewing journey up until that point, I'd already taught myself what I thought I needed to know and that spending all that time and money on a Fashion Degree would be useless, especially as I was already running the business which was the reason why I wanted to study Textiles anyway. I didn't think spending three years studying to help me get a job in the fashion industry was the right move, when I already had the job I wanted.
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So that was the end of my traditional education journey, but I am a firm believer in the phrase ‘never stop learning’.
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This is me, having a blast, learning how to throw a pot. Well, more like a cereal bowl!
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I always remember in an A Level business lesson, the term ‘Kaizen’ being used. (Possibly the only thing i remember from my business studies, sorry Mr Carter!)
“Kaizen (改善) is the Japanese word for "improvement". In business, kaizen refers to the activity of continuous improvement.
And for me, that means keep on learning, trying new things, keep growing.
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In my next blog post, I’ll talk all about my journey of continuous improvement, and how I carried on teaching myself!

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