How to switch off when running your own business...

It’s no secret that we both love Whitley Bay. The beach, the wild waves on winter, ice creams in the summer and the community within the town are just a few of the things we love. We hadn’t ever really intended to open a shop but when the premises became available we tentatively looked around and loved the low ceilings and quirky space of what would become ‘For the Love of the North’.

As we excitedly painted the walls a crisp white we talked about our vision for the shop. From the beginning we knew it would be a space to gather together the work of some amazing North East creatives who were equally passionate about promoting our wonderful region. We hadn’t realised that less than 2 years later we’d be working with over 60 different artists and have a continual list of others we’re talking to and arranging how best to showcase their work.

We also knew we’d like to have a gallery wall. A place for North East artists to have a small solo exhibition. A chance to work with some artists who don’t necessarily fit the main brief of the shop but who we love and want to showcase their work. We’re proud to have worked with a wide variety of North East talent and look forward to welcoming Laura Edgar’s exhibition this week. It’ll run until 4th May with a special ‘Meet the artist event’ on Thursday 28th March from 5-7pm. Always a relaxed evening it’s a chance to chat to the artist and Lucy and Paul with a glass of wine in hand and find out a bit more about the exhibition and future plans for ‘For the Love of the North’.

Before the shop even opened we knew we wanted to be part of the community. Our local community. We’re active members of Whitley Bay Chamber of Trade and helped to organise Whitley Bay’s first ever poetry festival. This year we decided we wanted to do a bit more and are hosting our monthly Macmillan coffee mornings on the final Friday of every month in 2019. We’re aiming to raise £1200 over the course of the year and a currently more or less on track. Our next coffee morning will be on Friday 29th March so pop in and have a cuppa and slice of cake if you’re about.

As part of making the shop feel like a community space we wanted to hold workshops and gather like minded people together. Our first workshops, although a success in themselves, were held whilst the shop was open and oh my goodness that wasn’t a success at all! Too crowded and not relaxing for participants or shoppers we pulled back and thought we’d made a mistake so stopped hosting workshops altogether. As it was always part of our plan we went back to the drawing board and are now offering workshops in the evenings when the shop is closed and we have to say it’s a lovely cosy atmosphere.

Lucy was lucky enough to take part in ToDot Handcrafted Goods Silver Clay making workshop recently under the wonderful guidance of Claire Broome. We hope it’s pretty clear to everyone how much we love running and organising For the Love of the North and we’d never complain about anything at all but it’s certainly busy. Minds continually racing and teaching ourselves new things seems to be the new norm. On the day of the workshop things had been pretty hectic and in all honesty Lucy wasn’t sure if she should just cancel her place and go home and do a bit more work to try and get on top of her never ending to do list (you know the one we all have). Thank goodness she didn’t. It turns out totally concentrating on making something really is the ultimate switch of and for many that is the joy of the workshops we hold. For the duration of the workshop you are totally focused on the subject.

Knowing nothing about silver clay wasn’t actually much of a hindrance as Claire expertly talked us through every stage of the process. In fact she even provided prompt sheets to take home for those who wanted to continue their learning which was a really lovely touch. With this in mind she was also keen to share hints and tips about how to make the process of developing your skills in your own home as affordable and efficient as possible, again a great touch as you want to be able to use the skills you have learnt.

Having been on Claire’s workshop it’s no surprise that she’s currently North Tyneside’s business of the month as her patience certainly knows no bounds. As mentioned earlier Lucy really didn’t have a clue about what she was doing and hadn’t had chance to plan in advance what she wanted to make. As Claire shared examples of past projects and ways to manipulate the silver clay a germ of an idea formed and a present for a very special 70th birthday began to be made.

Once you open the silver clay and it’s exposed to the air around it you’ve got a limited amount of time to work with it. The more you play with it and mould it the less pliable and flexible it becomes. No pressure there then!! Luckily Claire was on hand to answer queries and deal with problems as we raced to get the perfect shape. As our pieces fired in Claire’s miniature kiln she continued with the next stage of her demonstration. This involved blow torches and hot metal so equally exciting and terrifying. No wonder you had to switch off and forget about everything else when concentrating on not melting your precious piece with your blow torch. Great fun was had by all as we panicked and called for Claire (always calm and supportive) whilst the mental changed colour under the heat.

After that we chatted whilst we burnished and polished our pieces. We ooohed and ahhhhed as the silver appeared as if by magic and felt a sense of pride and achievement in what we’d made. And we’ve now got a unique piece of jewellery made by Lucy to give as a special birthday present. Not bad for an evenings work!! We'll share the finished pieces once they've been given as a birthday present but for now this is a hint of what we'll be giving...

Realistically as much as Lucy loved the workshop she probably isn’t going to suddenly take up silver clay making as a hobby. The demands of running your own business are just too great at this stage. But we’d bet that at least half of those on the course go on to make things themselves at home with their new found skills which shows how much fun (and accessible) it was. Thank you Claire for being such a fabulous tutor and taking us into another wonderfully creative world for a couple of hours.

Claire will be running another silver clay making workshop on Thursday April 11th so if you feel inspired to try this yourself you can find details here.

CultiVart will be running another 3 week art class throughout April, this time specialising in collage. Details about the classes here and Paul's blog about the art class here.

We’ve also a got St Mary's Lighthouse, Altered Tins workshop with Jessica Kinnersley Textiles. Details here.

If you’ve got any other ideas about how to make the most of our fabulous Whitley Bay shop please let us know. We can only do what we do because of the support you’ve shown us, the artists and creatives we work with and For the Love of the North. For that we’re truly grateful.