Last month I had a lovely invitation from The Handmade Fair (read about the fair here) to attend a meet and greet with Kirstie Allsopp. Of course I said yes and hoped on a train (at an ungodly hour) to meet her at 8 am before the wonderful fair opened.
Now before I get into the interview I have to say I'm a huge fan of Kirstie and her passion for crafting, so trying to keep my inner fan girl in check was pretty hard!
What is your absolute favourite craft?
I have a really bad habit of being completely in love with the latest thing I'm doing. Yesterday I went to an exhibition by an artist called Ann Carrington who works with buttons. She’s absolutely amazing and she did all this stuff for the royal barge for the Jubilee. She's now done these vases which are made of horse brasses. You used to see them in pubs all over England and now it’s much more fashionable decor and to see this vast vase which was just horse brasses that was just fused together, I was like right, that’s it! My new thing is to reclaim old horse brasses and that is literally as of last night!
"Bringing up a family and running a small business on the side and that was absolutely my ambition."
Do you still remember the feeling when you put your first book or show out?
Funnily enough the first book I ever did was a home buying book with Phil but then we did Homemade Home. We had this extraordinary meeting with lots of publishers to pitch to us and the publisher that won the right to publish the book came with a box of things that people had made in the office. This was the first time I really realised that crafting wasn’t such a niche thing.
Do you watch your own shows on TV?
You have to watch the shows to do the voice over but often you’re voicing a bit you’re not necessarily in so you don’t see yourself much when you’re on voice over. I never watched the shows in the old days but now with social media you engage with the shows on a different level. Often you watch the shows in order to tweet about the shows. People will tweet you questions and unless you watch the show you’re not necessarily working out what the hell they’re talking about so I watch the shows much more now. I don’t think I’ll ever be confident with that but I've got used to it.
"My Achilles heel is symmetry but I've been really pushed into three is better than two"
What made you decide to start the handmade fair?
Chris Hughes who owns Brand Events started the first Country Living Fair and I worked at Country Living when that started. The first ever fair was massively over-subscribed! Me and the then editor had to go and apologise to the queue and so I worked then with Chris. I was very junior so he didn’t know then who I was and then when my agent said about starting a fair she said there’s this guy from Brand Events. He didn’t know I knew him but I said let’s have a meeting at home and then I’ll be honest with him. He was doing the pitch and I said to be honest with you Chris if anyone could do the fair it’s you as you did the first Country Living Fair and I know you know what you’re doing. The problem with doing the fair is that I’d have to have faith in the person doing the fair and I knew how it all works and how it goes wrong and it’s very important to me. I thought that this year knowing that it does work, I’d go to bed and sleep but I literally laid there with the same worries even though I knew it’s a better location etc. You still feel that it’s a responsibility. If someone is committing to take a day off work or in some cases get child care, they need to feel they’ve had a good day and that’s more important.
With crafting being a part of your job, do you still do a lot of crafts in your free time?
I do a lot of mending. I find that my big thing at the moment is just running to keep up which drives me bananas! It’s not new projects and it’s because I live with four boys, my husband and the dog so there’s not as much time as I’d like but there’s a pile of things I want to be getting on with.
What do you think was the main trigger of your career?
Accident! It really was and I feel a bit anti-feminist saying this as I’m a passionate feminist but I didn't have ambition when I was younger. My mum was married with four children and had a framing business and I thought it was the way forward. Loads of people here today are doing just that- bringing up a family and running a small business on the side and that was absolutely my ambition. Nobody would marry me and I still haven’t got married so I was like- I’m going to have to work then. I worked on country living magazine, loved that but the problem was that magazines are very cyclical. Ironically now my life is incredibly cyclical so even in TV you come around but then I started finding flats for people. I had this little business finding flats and absolutely loved it. This journalist employed me and he wrote about me and the TV companies asked if they could make a show and I said no to the first one that asked! Then the second one asked and they didn’t want to film me, they wanted me to help create the thing. We did the pilot and they were supposed to find other presenters but they never did so that’s Phil and I. We made the show at the weekends for the first three years and ran our businesses during the week. Channel 4 then lost a show and they said can you make eight shows in eight weeks. That’s when we made the jump from running our own property search businesses to being full time presenters. The craft thing goes back to Country Living and I always wanted to bring that to TV. If you can film peoples’ houses you can film peoples’ crafts. If I’ve got time off I don’t shop but if I'm working I find it the best distraction. My producers were very aware as I’d go off in my lunch break and find things from charity shops. They knew I had the passion and that’s how we carved out the show. I do not have a talented history of being a crafter. I’ve learned on the job and continue to learn and if I can do it, anyone can do it. It’s a real thing. People say to me I can’t do that- you absolutely can! I’m always far too inclined to do things neatly and leave it and other people have always pushed me to embellish more. My Achilles heel is symmetry but I’ve been really pushed into three is better than two. My number one tip is three is better than two unless its bedside tables- that’s weird!
So that was my interview with Kirstie! She was so wonderful to meet and chat to and really made you feel at ease. I hope you enjoyed the interview and if you’re gutted that you missed this years fair, don’t fret as there’s a Christmas fair in November. Once again sponsored by Hobbycraft and Mollie Makes, The Handmade Christmas Fair will be held at Manchester Central as an indoor event. Kirstie commented “This unique event will see craft lovers of all age and ability, join together to share, buy and make. I’m thrilled that we have the chance to bring The Handmade Christmas Fair to Manchester, especially as it is one of my favourite times of year!” So if you’re wanting to get into the festive and crafty spirit, check out The Handmade Christmas Fair for tickets and I’ll see you there!
See you on Tuesday!