Meet the Maker – Pedro’s Plaques and Pretty Things
If you’re a crocheter or crafter, we’re pretty sure you’ll fall head over heels for Pedro’s Plaques and Pretty Things – a handmade business run by Karen Gavin, making crochet hooks and notions, as well as hand-painted pennants and plaques. Like many makers, Karen feels a constant urge to make, and understands what it’s like to need to do something creative. In fact, she has so many ideas for new products that she often finds there just aren’t enough hours in the day to make everything she dreams up. So far, her imagination has created crochet hooks adorned with festive flamingos and sherbet-coloured dragons, beehive needle minders, decorative plaques with slow-living sloths, gorgeous vintage rose designs and lots of lovely llamas. Liezl from Maya Croft caught up with Karen to hear more about her background, inspiration, techniques and studio, and find out who this Pedro chap is…
Karen is offering Folksy customers a 10% discount on all orders before midnight on the 31st of December 2019 – just use code SAVE10 when you check out. Shop Pedro’s Plaques & Pretty Things on Folksy >
Having my own business gives me the freedom to express my creativity and pay the bills. That, for me, is the ultimate dream.Karen, Pedro’s Plaques
Hi Karen. Can you introduce yourself and tell us about Pedro’s Plaques?
Hi, I’m Karen. I live in Kent with my husband, our two sons and a very energetic lab cross pup. I create handmade crochet hooks, notions and other supplies for crocheters and crafters. Pedro’s Plaques came from my love of polymer clay and a constant need to do something creative.
What’s your background? When did you start working with polymer clay and what do you love about it as a material?
I’ve always been creative. I studied fashion design at university but I can remember making jewellery and other gifts out of polymer clay from when I was around 12 years old. In those days I only knew about Fimo and would save up to buy findings from the local craft shop.
Pedro was the name of my bump when I was expecting my first son. He was on the very first plaque I ever made.Karen, Pedro’s Plaques
How did you decide on your shop name? Who is Pedro?
Pedro was the name of my bump when I was expecting my first son. He was Pedro for a few days after he was born and still answers to it now. He was on the very first plaque I ever made. It was a gift for my mum and when I started getting requests for plaques from other people the name stuck. I changed it to Pedro’s Plaques & Pretty Things last year to encompass my hooks and notions. I have considered rebranding a few times but Pedro’s Plaques has really stuck now and some customers actually think that’s my name.
Can you tell us how you make your plaques and crochet hooks? Are there any special tools that you use?
Making my crochet hooks is quite a long procedure. Most of my colours are hand mixed rather than stock and the clay must be really well conditioned to go smoothly over the ‘naked’ hook. Every tiny detail is shaped by hand and the little indents on the flowers and leaves are made with a needle – no fancy tools here! Once the hooks are cured they are sanded smooth and buffed to a high shine. Paint is next if it’s a style that needs it, then glaze. The whole process takes me around three days and I tend to work in batches of one style at a time.
I try to work in batches for my plaques too. Each one gets two to three coats of paint and I use a vinyl cutter for the lettering. Most days there will be a little production line of shapes in my workspace waiting for sanding or painting.
I don’t work in collections as such, which lets me go with whatever I feel most inspired by at the time. At the moment I really love painting my vintage rose-inspired hooks.Karen, Pedro’s Plaques
What’s your main source of inspiration? What about the slogans for your plaques? Where do the ideas for those come from?
I am inspired by EVERYTHING! The local wildlife park, our hills and cliffs where I walk the dog and the colours of a favourite scarf have all influenced my creations. I don’t work in collections as such, which lets me go with whatever I feel most inspired by at the time. At the moment I really love painting my vintage rose-inspired hooks. Last month I would have told you that pale pastels were my favourite, this month it’s autumn shades.
Do you ever make custom crochet hooks for people? Have you had any strange requests?
I try to fit in around one custom slot each week but these tend to be booked up quite far in advance. Over the years I’ve had some fabulously wacky requests – a family plaque featuring a beloved vintage car and a parrot, a sign for a boss depicted as a garden gnome and a crochet hook in a fried egg theme, to name a few. I love that every day brings something new and exciting and I never know what will come next.
Tell me about your workspace…
My workspace is split between what would have been our utility room and the children’s playroom. As the boys grow and have less toys, I’m creeping further and further into that space. Eventually I hope to take over that whole room but that’s still quite far away.
I am so easily distracted. If I didn’t have a structured day and a clear plan, then I would get absolutely nothing done.Karen, Pedro’s Plaques
What does your average day look like? How do you make sure you have time to work on your indie business and not get distracted by everyday tasks?
I am so easily distracted. If I didn’t have a structured day and a clear plan, then I would get absolutely nothing done. On an average day I walk the dog after the school run, then work until pick-up time. In the evenings I answer emails, plan social media and wrap the following day’s post. At the weekend I try not to do too much but I will often paint a pile of hooks while the boys play.
How do you stay motivated?
I think the main thing that motivates me is never running out of ideas. I can’t make as quickly as I think of new things and so I’m always working to see what I can come up with next. I have a rule where I have to complete at least five orders each day before I can make anything new. It stops me getting too carried away!
Running my own business has lots of perks, but the creativity part is number one.Karen, Pedro’s Plaques
What do you enjoy most about running your own creative business?
Having my own business gives me the freedom to express my creativity and pay the bills. That, for me, is the ultimate dream. Of course there are lots of perks like setting my own hours, being able to go to events at school, not needing to rely on childcare. I don’t even have to get dressed if I don’t want to (but I do… honest!). The creativity part is number one, though. We owned a traditional sweet shop for 10 years and, although I loved it, it really didn’t let me do what I do best, which is making things.
What advice would you give someone starting their own shop ? What can they do to get noticed when there are so many creative people in the marketplace?
When you first start out it’s hard – really hard. I would say take some time to plan out what you want to offer and who you are offering it to. Stand out from the crowd. Having a product or brand that is instantly recognisable will help so much as you build your reputation online. For me, social media is huge too. I have built a great relationship with so many customers through them reaching out to me via social media and sharing how they use my hooks or display my plaques. That old cliché about finding your tribe definitely worked for me.
Something else that’s worth remembering when you first start is that success won’t happen overnight for most of us. If you made one sale this week aim for two next week, then three and so on. Most of all have fun – find something you love and it really won’t feel so much like hard work.
I really love my flamingo. She’s an old favourite and I haven’t made her for a while… something to think about for tomorrow!
Is there one animal hook you particularly enjoy making?
I love them all in their own way. My little llama is one of my best sellers and I love being able to transform the design to fit in with different seasons or holidays, but I also really love my flamingo. She’s an old favourite and I haven’t made her for a while… something to think about for tomorrow!
Get 10% discount off on all orders from Pedro’s Plaques and Pretty Things before midnight on 31 December 2019 with code ‘SAVE10’