Wise words from Holly Edwards of hollyedwardstextiles.com fame! I set up a conversation with Holly on Thursday September 12th and learnt so much about this quite remarkable young woman whom I first got to know when she was a student at Clevedon School. Holly set up her first textile design business at the age of fourteen, and this her second business is going from strength to strength.
Holly’s story is the story of someone following their dreams and their passion. She says herself:
“If you need a nudge to start something you’ve always wanted let this story be that nudge. If you want something to happen go and grab it with both hands and don’t let anyone stop you.”
Facesofclevedon: Who are the people who have inspired you throughout your career to date – both personally and professionally?
Holly: Definitely my mother, she has always been there for me, giving me ideas, acting as a critical friend and celebrating my success. She’s such a positive person and if I am struggling in any way, she always lifts me and encourages me to come back fighting. My Dad too, I have very clear memories of Dad recording me making ‘Art Attack’ videos – I remember when I was experimenting with bubble painting, I was only about five but we had to stop that one because I started blowing the bubbles up instead of out! Many of my family have been self-employed, up until recently my mum had Aunty Emma’s Travelling Sweetshop and my grandad was a children’s entertainer so it was kind of in my blood.
FacesofClevedon: And professionally?
Holly: Cath Kidston. I wrote to her when I was in school and couldn’t believe when she replied. She sent me a purse and a lovely card saying: ‘I hope you have all the success in the world with your business.’ I’ve got them framed on my wall.
Facesofclevedon: Prior to choosing to study textiles at GCSE did you know it was something you wanted to specialize in?
Holly: I had been making things for a while, just in my bedroom, and posting them on Facebook and got so many positive reactions from family and friends who kept telling me that I should sell them so that’s exactly what I did. I thought yes this is something I’d like to do and ted my first business. It was all about sewing, it gave me a little bit of pocket money and I was doing something I really enjoyed. I didn’t ever think back then that it would develop as it has and be so successful.
Facesofclevedon: What kind of things were you making at this stage?
Holly: I created some amazing pieces but my favourite were the birthday items. I worked alongside many photography companies supplying birthday crowns, hats and badges for little ones.
FacesofClevedon: So post GCSE, you studied textiles at A level and what came next?
Holly: I was in two minds about going to university but did in the end opt to go to Cardiff. The first year was a challenging year for me socially and I don’t think I would have got through it without the business. It was a way of relaxing and cutting off from what was troubling me. Changing my accommodation during the second half of my first year made me feel a lot better but I really felt as though I lost my way in the second year. I just wasn’t getting the buzz that I used to get from what I was doing. After a long summer break and feeling a lot more positive and determined to get on I started the third year. In my third year my friendships really blossomed; it was definitely my favourite year. My final project to end my three years of uni was my favourite to date. The Ted and Tilly Adventures – I wrote short stories and created 31 fabrics samples as part of a children’s interior range.
Facesofclevedon: What other things do you currently make?
Holly: I still make all of the birthday items but now do bunting, cushions, banners, lampshades, personalized decorations, backpacks, drawstring bags…… I’m developing new stuff all the time. I make everything to order so people can choose their own colours, patterns and tell me exactly how they want it personalised. I have also developed ‘The Ted & Tilly Adventures’ short stories based on two of my rescue dogs. I now have three stories which I’ve written and illustrated, a colouring book and personalised, interactive story bags out with lots more being added to the range!
Facesofclevedon: Are you still enjoying it as much as when you started?
Holly: I love every single aspect of my business, I wake up every single day with something different to do. My favourite part is the difference I can make through fabric and personalisation.
Facesofclevedon: Are you still working in your bedroom?
Holly: For the first five years of StitchItWithStyle I worked from my desk in my box bedroom. In 2016 my parents kindly offered to build me my very own workshop in the garden. It was great – until it got cold in the winter and I’d be huddled around a heater to keep warm. I now work inside in my little workspace which I love.
Facesofclevedon: Do you feel as passionately about the story writing?
Holly: I really love it and it’s something I hope to develop. At the end of The Beach story I introduce Bailey a dog who is obsessed with socks; the smellier the better! I’m going to have lots of fun with Bailey!
Facesofclevedon: Am I right in saying you do story time sessions?
Holly: Yes I visit schools, nurseries, groups, and community events – I’d really like to do more in schools. Ted always comes with me and I have big handmade story bag full of props to help tell the stories.
Facesofclevedon: Do you ever think of getting involved with businesses like Not on the High Street?
Holly: No because it would tie me up so much and I like having a lot of variety and flexibility in my working week. I also work as a carer which is a job I love doing but I wouldn’t be able to if I was working for another organization like Not on the High Street. I also just love the idea off making personalised items and I’d lose that.
FacesofClevedon: What is it about the care industry that you love?
Holly: I love the fact that I’m making such a huge difference in someone’s life. It’s very rewarding and of course it’s so different to the designing and I like variety. I also feel as though I’m giving something back and of course I love wearing multiple ‘hats’
Facesofclevedon: You’re a designer, a story writer and teller, a carer…….is there anything else you are currently involved in?
Holly: Yes I do some free-lance work for another design company which has been a great way to learn how to make new products and I do some teaching.
FacesofClevedon: Tell me about the teaching.
Holly: The technique I use in a lot of my work is called free motion embroidery which you can do with a normal sewing machine. It’s like drawing with a sewing machine. I do workshops for people interested in learning this technique. You can be so creative with it and that’s why I love it so much.
Holly’s story has been neither straightforward nor easy but it is a huge success, a success which she is rightfully very proud of but one which she has always been quite reticent about.
I think the clue is in the lovely silver bracelet that she wears, inscribed with the words:
“Work hard in silence; let the success be your voice.”
Facesofclevedon loved talking to you Holly and wish you all the very best for continued success.
Check out some of the beautiful items from Holly’s Christmas Shop here:
Find out more about Holly Edwards here: