Today I would like to introduce you to Helen Anderson. Helen is one of the most lovely people I have had the pleasure to meet and I also have a soft spot for her wonderful husband Sandy who will have you laughing within minutes of meeting him. I first met Helen at an art retreat. She has the most amazing sense of humour and we soon hit it off.
Helen took a huge leap of faith recently when she opened her shop – Handmade at Helen’s. It is a wonderful shop that not only stocks amazing products but offers workshops and retreats. My aim this year is to get up and visit her.
Handmade at Helens is a relatively new business. When did you set it up and why?
I first opened my doors on 10th September 2016. It’s long been a dream to own my own craft shop and run classes, so when the opportunity came along I thought, why not? Also, there really isn’t much available in this area and I wanted to offer something a bit different. Luckily I have a very supportive husband and that has made everything so much easier!
How on earth do you choose what lovely products to stock?
I spend a lot of time researching current and upcoming trends, and of course I always ask my customers what they would like to see me stock. I would never stock anything that I would not personally use, or feel comfortable recommending to others. That’s Rule #1!! I always try to look for the more unusual items too.
Have you always been interested in craft and creativity?
Absolutely. My earliest creation was a little dish that I still have, made aged 2 with the help of my late Dad who was an amazing crafter. I still have it. Dad had his own potter’s wheel in a shed in the garden in the Fens, and Summer holidays were the best time because we would just spend hours together, doing all sorts of crafts. My Gran also taught me sewing and crochet – she used to be an amazing seamstress and often made my clothes. Think Flower Power 70’s and you get the idea!!
Your shop is on some beautiful grounds in Scotland. Can you tell us a little about this?
I am extremely lucky and privileged to work in an A-listed building situated in the historic grounds of The Crichton in Dumfries. It is stunningly beautiful there with incredible views and even has its own church! I have recently moved into a space four times the size of my original shop which allows me dedicated spaces for the shop, a packing area for online sales, a spacious creative space for myself, a die-cutting area, storage, and also the workshop area which can comfortably seat up to 32 students.
You hold regular workshops and retreats. What artists have you had come to Handmade at Helen’s and what could we expect if we came to one of your weekend retreats?
This year I was very lucky to secure Marta Lapkowska for my first ever retreat – and what a wonderful weekend we had too! In 2018 we are looking forward to welcoming some wonderful guest tutors including Birgit Koopsen, Allison Turner, and Eileen Godwin. I’m hoping that you will be able to come and do workshops for us too, Katie! In 2019 there is someone very special planned, but my lips are sealed at the moment on that one!
If you come to one of my retreats, you can expect an exceptional time – fun, laughter, wonderful company, great tutors, a 10% discount in the shop, fantastic refreshments all day long, and memories that will last a lifetime. I have also negotiated discounted rates at a nearby Scottish Country House Hotel which is just superb. There is also a cocktail bar, spa, and swimming pool on The Crichton too, so a perfect getaway retreat to unwind and spoil yourself!
Do you have have any plans for 2018 that you can tell us about?
I am hoping to expand the online side of the business, with some special mixed media additions that will hopefully appeal to new mixed media artists as well as seasoned ones. I have been asked to offer online sales to other countries too which I need to have a think about. I bought a Go Pro video camera which hasn’t been out of the box yet, so there may even be some YouTube videos … who knows?!