Hello and Welcome to Jes Hooper’s Monthly Maker: THE place to discover artistic innovators and creative entrepreneurs! Every first Monday of the month I’ll be introducing a new artist to my website blog to share their craft, inspirations, and aspirations. Why? To showcase the talented small business’ who are paving the way to success in our creative communities.
What better way to start my new blog project than speaking with a small business with big aims? This dynamic duo support all manner of creative entrepreneurs to meet their full potential in the creative industries whilst fulfilling a particularly sought after niche- finding the ideal gift for the man in your life!
Without further ado, I am pleased to introduce my first guests Paul and Claire Townsend, founders of “For The Man I Love“, an online marketplace of handmade products- all of which make ideal gifts for men. Paul and Claire are a husband and wife team who have a wealth of knowledge in the art and craft biz, having run a hugely successful Art and Craft Market of over 3,500 stallholders (!) for 9 years in Dubai, to making their mark on the Artists Open Houses scene in my home town of Brighton last year. I was lucky enough to be invited to exhibit with For The Man I Love at their Artists Open House over Christmas, and I was astounded by their dedication to the creative field whilst their good taste oozed from both their furniture and the artists who they exhibited. Here is what Claire had to say when I spoke to her for Monthly Maker:
What is the idea behind For The Man I Love?
Men are notoriously awkward to buy for, so we need to give a helping hand to those who suffer!
What inspired you to create For The Man I Love?
I had always spent an inordinate amount of time buying presents for my Husband (Paul), although he had loads of hobbies it was always tough to find something different. Once Paul had started selling his sterling silver cufflinks on Etsy and he kept getting thanks from the men who had received them saying they were the best present ever, he realised that most men did want something unusual and we decided to set up “For the Man I Love” as a one stop shop for all your male gifts.
What first drew you towards the creative industries?
My Husband loved woodwork and metalwork at school and wanted to become a tailor or an architect, but before he knew it, he was working for British Telecom and his artistic side was put on the back burner. Slowly he started to venture into his creative side by screen printing t-shirts, doing upholstery and interior decoration. The silversmithing started when we lived in Dubai, I and my daughters were away in the summer, and my husband found a book in the local bookshop on making jewellery. He read the book, bought some equipment… and the rest as they say is history!
Why is it important to you to support small creative businesses?
By supporting small creative businesses we are helping someone’s daughter have dance lessons, their son have a new pair of football boots, and the ability for their family to have a better way of life; rather than buying a third holiday home for some fat cat CEO!
When selecting artists to exhibit with For The Man I Love, what do you look for and why?
Something that appeals to men mainly! something that isn’t mass produced nor readily available on the high street. Items where we know the back story of the artist and crafter, we are creating our own department store of handmade producers. We know most of our artists very well and quite a few are firm friends now!
What is the inspiration behind Paul’s jewellery designs?
Sometimes my husband just sees a shape on wallpaper, or he likes the design of a building. But often it is designing bespoke commission for a customer. He is very clever about designing pieces of jewellery that are not obvious,….for instance a pilot wanted a pair of cufflinks, but instead of him just making a silver plane or propeller (the most popular mass produced ones) he created a side section of the wing (called the wing rib), so the pilot knew exactly what they were, but to everyone else they are a starting point in the conversation!
How do you find a balance between running your jewellery business, For The Man I Love, and family life?
Luckily now neither of us have full time jobs outside of the home, so we can work whichever hours we prefer and what fits in with everyone else. Both our daughters are not at home any more, so when they are visiting we can down tools and spend time with them. Paul prefers to work from afternoon until evening and does his thinking and gets ideas usually after 11pm. I prefer to get up earlier and starts to slow down around 4pm. So we are ideally suited, as someone is nearly always working!
What is it like to work together as husband and wife and would you recommend it to other creative couples?
We have clear roles, although we do often cross over and that works. I think although I am artistic, I have worked as an interior designer, making soft furnishings, and I used to be a makeup artist, I don’t actually make anything, so we don’t fight over who makes dinner, because we have to finish an item to get to the post office to send. So as long as you have your jobs and you both know when it’s a day off (sunny….let’s go for a walk) it can be quite harmonious. We also have a lot of rooms, so one of us can disappear and be on our own if we need to. That’s important……have your own space and activities away from each other!
If you could name one thing, what has been the biggest highlight so far in creating For The Man I Love?
A neighbour hearing us discussed on a local radio show (we had no idea!) and telling everyone she was with that she knows us. We felt quite famous!
What would your advice be for someone who wants to turn their art into a creative business?
Initially try to stick at your paid job whilst running your creative business at the same time until you can see that you can survive by selling your art alone, then do that. There have been times if we hadn’t had a regular income, well we wouldn’t be where we are today
What is next in the pipeline for For The Man I Love?
For the Woman I Love maybe!
Huge thanks go to Claire and Paul for creating a great business for both makers and consumers! As a new artist it is very refreshing to work with a small business that has such clear and humble objectives in promoting handmade products. If you are looking for a special gift for the man you love, do give them a follow on social media and check out their website!
Next time on Monthly Maker I will be introducing the beautiful clay works of innovative artist Julia Smith; where we talk about the experimental nature of clay and the thoughts behind designing a home studio. So do check in on Monday 6th March!
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