Hello! We’re back to bring you lucky things the fifth addition of our Creative Q&As, and this week we’re talking to Hannah – owner, designer and maker of charmingly colourful statement jewellery and accessories at ‘Tea Party at the Zoo’!
JANEY: Hiya, thanks for chatting to us! Please start by telling us a bit more about you and Tea Party at the Zoo.
HANNAH: Hello! I’m Hannah and I design, make, pack, post and do everything in-between for fashion accessories brand ‘Tea Party at the Zoo’. My HR manager is a cheeky King Charles Spaniel called Charlie; he is great at monitoring staff well-being!
As a child I loved animals and crafting. When I was very young, I stole my Mum’s make up and created a mural on my bedroom wall! I think my folks were much happier when I pursed my creativity in art lessons at school instead of making a mess at home!
Textiles, jewellery making and ‘creating characters’ have featured in my work since I studied art at school. I am originally from Cardiff, and studied an Art Foundation at Howard Gardens (UWIC) in 2010. I then moved up north to study Textiles at Manchester School of Art in 2011.
The ‘Tea Party at the Zoo’ brand was created during my final year at University and I tested my products at local craft markets before graduating in 2014.
It is difficult deciding on a name for your brand! The designs came first, then I observed the zoo for a couple of months and created a mind map of the brand and gave it some more thought. Then whilst drawing and listening to music one evening, boom! The words fell together and Tea Party at the Zoo started to form its brand identity!
I made my debut at Stockport Market and was over whelmed by the positive response to my products. I then decided to set up my craft business at Marketplace Studios, Stockport, an incubation space for MMU art graduates who wish to set up their own business. I had a fantastic couple of years working and living in Stockport, setting up pop shops and working alongside other artists. Last month I relocated to Chester, where I have set up a home studio. I can’t wait to go exploring and it is great to live so close to the zoo!
J: Yay for being nearer the zoo! Can’t wait to see what having all that inspiration so close at hand means for the future, and also very happy to hear that cheeky Charlie is there keeping everything under control! So is the zoo where you find all of your inspiration?
H: Yep, the majority of my designs have been inspired by the animals that live at Chester Zoo, but artefacts and animal sculptures at museums; tea sets; vintage and kitsch memorabilia and vintage fashions (particularly the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s) all play a big part too. When I am designing my products, I picture outfits in my head that would match with the patterns and colours from these eras.
J: I feel like that is the first thing I do when I look at your fab, quirky products – thinking about which of my abundance of striped tees or coloured trainers it could go best with!
Please can you talk us through your design process?
H: I photograph my subjects or sketch straight from life into my sketchbook. From my initial sketchbook designs I then draw up final designs by hand in my style, before scanning them to the computer to be digitally formatted for laser cutting. I laser cut my jewellery and comb motifs onto colourful perspex or wood. After this is done I then sand, clean and hand embellish my pieces before linking them to jewellery findings. They are then ready to packaged, wrapped and posted to you!
J: Wow so just a couple of steps then…! So here’s a challenge for you: what is your absolute favourite animal?
H: That is a difficult question for a zoo keeper! The answer for this question may change from time to time but I think it has to be giraffes – they are so grand and majestic, but have such a sweet and gentle nature. They are also herbivores, like me!
J: A fab choice, I must say! And what do you reckon is on the cards for the future of Tea Party at the Zoo?
H: In the very near future, I will be holding an end of summer sample sale and releasing two new statement earring designs! So, keep your eyes peeled on social media over the next couple of weeks for new designs and special discounts.
I also have to plan and find new ways to reach customers this Christmas. I’m sure many other makers are in the same boat, and we are so lucky to be able to form relationships online. I wouldn’t mind trying an online craft fair!
As well as continuing to sell my products, I am also really keen to run workshops in the future. I do enjoy crafting away in my studio, however I am a very sociable person and do enjoy getting out there and engaging with the public, and getting them involved in a ‘crafternoon’!
J: Workshops sound like the perfect way to combine all of those skills, and the idea of a ‘crafternoon’ definitely sounds intriguing…
And yes I think this Christmas is going to be heaps different compared to what small businesses are used to! So on that topic, how did the recent lock down affect your business?
H: It’s been a strange year to sell products, and I have been so grateful for all your orders. I have missed taking part in craft fairs this year, as I love chatting with customers and meeting other makers! I have sold more products via my Etsy store and social media pages than usual this year. I have really enjoyed preparing parcels in lock down – it kept me sane and I hope my happy mail brightened your day!
J: Well I can’t speak for everyone, but my order from you definitely did just that! So if our readers are in the market for some ‘happy mail’, where exactly can we find it?
H: In this current climate, the easiest place to buy my work at the moment is through my Etsy store. I dispatch items quickly from my home studio and I am always on hand via social media or email etc. if you have any queries regarding my products.
From September, you will also find my work at Marketplace Studios shop and gallery in Stockport, and Cornershop in Manchester. I am an advocate of shopping small and would like to stock my work at independent shops and galleries across the UK, so if you are a stockist please get in touch!
J: Find Hannah’s colourful Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TeaPartyAtTheZoo, or if you are local to the area, check out those new stockists!
Go ahead and give Hannah a follow on Instagram @teapartyatthezoo to keep up to date with those new designs and special offers, or follow along on Facebook (teapartyatthezoo) and Twitter (@teapartyatzoo).
So there you have it! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading those behind the scenes secrets from lovely Hannah, we’re off to watch Planet Earth and dream about our next trip to the zoo!
See you next week!