Possibly the most asked question whenever I tell people what I do for a living. So here it is. The shortened and polished version of how I got into the paper craft industry. Grab a cuppa…its a bit of a long post!
Where did my career in papercraft start? Well coincidentally it was with a sister publication of Simply Cards and Papercraft over 10 years ago! When I was expecting my first child, I was unfortunately made redundant and struggled to find any other work, sporting a bump! So to fill my days I begun playing with the remnants from making my wedding invitations a while before. It was simply some card bases, handmade papers and ribbon, but I found I could form flowers from the ribbons and create different looks with the papers…from there I was hooked! A few years and many handmade cards later I stumbled across the Scrapbook Magazine whilst on holiday, when the little campsite shop didn’t have any card making magazines. Flicking through the pages I found that there were many of my already discovered techniques and rapidly expanding tools and materials that I could use to create beautiful scrapbook pages and document our family as they grew.
When I returned home from that holiday, I set straight to work on my first scrapbook page and absolutely loved the process, and of course the outcome. I just had to write an email to the editor of the magazine to thank them for the inspiration. A few weeks later, imagine my surprise when I saw that my letter had been printed in the magazine, along with a photo of my first ever layout!
Following on from this, a year later I decided to enter the Scrapbooker of the Year competition and was awarded Runner up, winning me a 12 month term on the magazines Design Team! I was beyond thrilled!! I continued to work for this magazine for around 5 years, and subsequently, some of the sister magazines too, including Simply Cards!
All of this was whilst I still worked part time and bought up my young children, but eventually I was offered the opportunity to demonstrate craft products in stores, and this was when I started to believe that this really could one day be a full time job. From this demonstrating, the same company asked if would be willing to go on Create and Craft TV as a guest. It really was a dream come true. This honestly is the short version. There were many, many Design Team applications that were rejected, plenty of companies contacted over the years that I had no response from and lots of competitions entered with no joy. One thing I have found is that if you want to be noticed as a crafter, you really do need to create unique projects. They need to stand out from the other maybe thousands of applicants, and be unlike anything else out there.
I continued to work in a local craft shop part time, whilst occasionally doing a Create and Craft show. After a few months, it became clear that I just couldn’t continue to do both, and I had to make the decision to focus on one. Sadly it was the TV shows, but I will never forget how much I learnt from working for 5 years in the craft shop.
Working with Stephanie Weightman was a real career boost. she is the most encouraging and inspirational crafter and business woman I know, and she is keen to help crafters go as far as possible with their career. One day my son had an accident at his after school club, resulting in a hospital trip, so I needed to message Stephanie to let her know I couldn’t be at Create and Craft the following day. In response to this, besides the usual ‘I hope he soon feels better’ There was a sentence saying ‘…and we must have a chat about your signature range…’ I had to read and reread this many times before I fumbled a reply. In all of my crafting journey, the one dream of mine was not to be on TV, nor work for a particular company, but to have a product on the market with my name on. It always seemed like a pipe dream until that day.
For around 6 months I had been teaching myself how to do brush lettering. it was one of very may crafts I had tried out, including sewing, crochet, watercolour, cake decorating…but this one really had my hooked. This was what I wanted to help others learn and develop. It had been hard for me to teach myself and I wanted to put that experience into something that would prevent others from spending unnecessary time and money in order to learn. 3 months later, Lou Collins Brush Lettering products were launched! On October 25th 2018, at 10am my first ever products went to air on TV! that was a career achievement fulfilled and I couldn’t be happier.
Or so I thought…two further collection launches later, in March 2019 I was contacted out of the blue about a brand new magazine that was being planned, all about Lettering. It sounded absolutely amazing, but after giving some advice as to what I thought may work for this new magazine, it was a complete shock to have been asked to work as the Commissioning Editor. I will never forget that phone call as it came at a point when I felt like I needed a new direction and something new to work towards in this fantastic career.
I have been extremely lucky with many opportunities being offered to me throughout, but I truly believe that you do get out of any career what you are willing to put in. I have worked for free, been rejected more times that I can count and had periods of time when I have felt like giving it all up. Nothing could replace the enjoyment of crafting though. Discovering a new technique or finishing a project to be proud of. Nothing can beat it and I feel so ridiculously lucky to have made a career out of a fantastic hobby.