New beginnings, part III - The final cut
Where were we?
Oh yes, Back in my teenage bedroom, 31, a 3-year-old daughter and a broken marriage.
Another new beginning.
Getting good at this.
Our own flat, shipping out of storage and cries of ‘why did I bring that?!’.
Random jobs and I hanging out around Matilda’s nursery hours. Costume work, events work, caff work... I stitched up 60 purple polar fleece Santa hats in a bangin all-nighter with my good friend Static and I can’t forget that stint being a Zombie…
Kim & I costume assistants on a weird Zombie film, NOT had a big night.
My studio (sans Kim) set up in the questionably built ‘lean to’ on the back of our flat which my landlord had literally glossed over.
All the possibilities!
I could set up my loom again!
My Bernina and Overlocker back to back ready for action.
I could weave! I could make! Really make!
But first a cutting table - I would make one myself.
In my family home I had grown to become the ‘keeper of the tools’. Bristling with a Gollum like pride creeping down the creaky cellar steps to fetch a precious from the toolbox. Those heady days of a blossoming tool kit a distant memory, Leatherman and random spanner aside. Bah, I could manage cutting on the floor a bit longer…
Cue Cyrus – we met on a camping trip, he the childhood best friend of my best friend’s big sister. As a teenager I was in awe of my friend’s big sister who had cool friends with cool names like Cyrus….
Here he was! In the flesh! He was literally the boy next door…
After him reading a bedtime story to our combined children in a sweaty tent we went to the pub and shared a packet of pork scratchings and our love for making and Scotland.
Well that was a lovely surprise!
Cyrus came around shortly after to measure up me a cutting table. That cutting table has pride of place in my studio, it is alive with the love and care and workmanship that Cyrus made it with. I love it.
Christmas 2009. Presenting our made gifts to our families. My Dad infamously say’s ‘You two should open a shop!’.
Cyrus was teaching Design technology at a secondary school in Bermondsey, disillusioned with the education system. I was still random jobbing. Something fell into place…
Stag & Bow was born from our love of making, our love of beautiful materials, our love of objects made with soul and our love of the processes of creation, both physical and mental.
We had looked at a few locations, Stag & Bow but a fantastical idea. Nothing concrete. Glancing sideways at the beautiful dark shop at 8 Dartmouth Rd, the shutter always down.
I knew this shop well. It was ingrained in the depths of my subconscious - In my teenage years a marker on Saturday mornings as I walked up Dartmouth rd. to my weekend job (Provender – anyone?). I would count the dead flies in the window. It was an Undertakers back then. It was an Undertakers for a century. We have since dug some interesting things up in the back garden. We have since had some interesting chats with people talking of visiting family members laid to rest behind the counter.
We took the plunge and started our business with a shaky business plan and £5,000 savings. We would make beautiful things. We would source beautiful things. We would be a platform for other makers making beautiful things.
Opening Day. December 11th 2010. Fresh. Really very fresh.
NINE YEARS SPED BY!
During these years we opened a sister business next door, The Framing Salon for those that didn’t know outgrew her early beginnings at Stag & Bow and has become a beautiful maturing beast of her own.
We also added to our family two more beautiful babies. I am very aware how amazing it was that they could come to work with me at a couple of days old. Sitting on and behind the counter. It wasn’t all roses; I did ere close to a breakdown when everything between 50 – 65 cm high was smeared with Houmous and they both got the hang of 'un-visual merchandising'.
Bertie & Frida - Bless 'em
In the nine years we have been running Stag & Bow I have been running with it. Deep down inside of it. Never coming up for air. On a constant hamster wheel, juggling all the plates, being every metaphor that works here.
The reality of running a small business, having a family, juggling life admin and work admin, trying to grow your small businesses, trying to manage cash flow, trying to honour your creative spirit and get ahead all on a shoestring budget is really hard work.
Our youngest daughter Frida started school in September. For a long time, I had seen it as a goal to head for – Racing towards it. “When Frida goes to school, I will have so much more time to work”, “When Frida goes to school, I will be so much more organised”. All the time being guiltily and mindfully aware having a now 15-year-old daughter that childhood speeds by. Feeling in a constant state of should be.
I had exhausted myself.
In July this year, having not been able to see the wood for the trees in a long time. I came to a standstill. No more band aid loans to get us through the lean periods. Our accountant put it out there – Perhaps it’s time to let go?
I came up for breath and realised I had lost the essence of her.
I had lost the essence of myself.
When you reach the depths something fundamental has to change.
I am not ready to let her go.
Lots of deep breaths.
The change became clear.
My essence is to create and share it with the world.
I need to honour my busy fingers.
I need to breathe.
I need to honour my family.
I need to honour myself.
Cutting back on running costs was a good start to ease the financial pressure. Sadly, saying goodbye to regularly seeing lovely Ann & Madeline behind the counter.
So, here we are, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
With a tinge of Pascale looseness - Giving myself more time to create, more time to plan, more time to process, more time to cut through the stuff that doesn’t work and strategise on what does work. Bringing everything back to basics, back to the essence of what Stag & Bow is about – Sourcing and making beautiful things.
I am desperate to make things. I am also nervous. I might make shit things.
Since changing the opening hours in September, I have found myself in my studio a lot. Making my kids clothes and costumes. Chipping away at my fix it pile. Making bridesmaids outfits for my dear friend’s wedding. Doodling some pretty bad folk art while listening to the Wicker man soundtrack a bit too loudly…. Yesterday I knocked up a new school skirt for Matilda - Not the most exciting project, but for me it was mammoth. Because I chose to do it and then I did it. Just like that!
My essence is stirring.
Bridesmaids in Beach Pyjamas, pattern designed, cut, dyed and stitched by me.
Taking a big deep breath and looking down onto the business, I can now see very well what we have achieved. And I am proud. I am human.
I will no longer ‘should be’ ‘could be’. No more unnecessary pressure.
I want to profoundly thank the amazing women I work with, that love and care for Stag & Bow deeply and genuinely and have talked me out of applying for waitressing jobs at The Dartmouth Arms a few times.
Brilliant Pia, A truly creative spirit. An incredible photographer, artist, maker, Potter & Poet. Thank you for your love and positive words and support always.
Brilliant Sara, the epitome of a ‘can do’ attitude, my friend and cheerleader, skin care specialist, spiritual counsellor and swearing sister. Thank you for being you.
We all believe in Stag & Bow. Our hearts are filled every time someone comes in and tells us what a beautiful shop we have. What beautiful things we have.
I want to give the biggest Thank you to all our customers and friends and family that have cheered us on, and continually supported us. Thank you that you like what we do. We are part of a very special community here. We hope very much you will all be part of the next 9 years and beyond.
So, onwards and upwards. At a steady pace.
A new beginning.
My loom is waiting in our textile studio at the shop.
All in good time.