- news & events
- support us
INSPIRE: The Road Less Travelled...Christine Harvey
This week, we meet the talented Christine Harvey of Rose Cottage Crafts. From archeology to teaching, Christine has finally found her niche with her beautiful crocheted creations.
Tell us about yourself
I am a crochet designer and maker and I now live at Rose Cottage Farm in rural West Yorkshire, UK. I am originally from the Lake District and have lived in Carlisle, Newcastle, Leeds and Bradford. I am still in my 30s (just) and have 3 lovely daughters aged, 4, 6 and 8 years.
Give a brief description of your career path up before you started your creative business.
I went to Art College after school but then got distracted by a desire to work outdoors and pressure from others for me to be more “academic”, so I read Archaeology at University! After graduating I worked as an Archaeological Scientist, did a Masters part-time whilst working full-time, and finally became an Archaeological Geophysicist. This was an interesting job doing surveys to find archaeological deposits before they were destroyed by development. I travelled a lot and also worked on Channel 4’s Time Team programme.
After I had done this for 5 years I bought a derelict house that I wanted to redevelop myself. I taught myself to plaster and do electrics, but work kept taking me away from home! SO I decided to retrain as a teacher – something I’d always considered doing that would give me a fresh challenge. I then worked for 10 years as a secondary school teacher of ICT. So you could say this is at least my fourth career before I’m 40!
What prompted you to pursue a creative career?
I had always been creative, with my mother always doing crafty activities with us as children. I remember my first steps to a creative career were at the age of 14 when I made Fimo buttons and sold them with a neighbour’s hand-knits on the local market. At the age of 16 I took part in the Young Enterprise scheme at school and made and sold tie-dye t-shirts and handmade candles. I loved every part of the creative business from sourcing materials, designing products, making the items and selling them on market stalls.
I started Rose Cottage Crafts whilst I worked part-time as a teacher. I always crocheted to relax and many friends wanted to buy my crocheted items, so I took a stall at my school’s craft fair and did really well! My ‘day-job’ as a teacher was not challenging me and I was finding the behaviour of a couple of colleagues stressful and unfortunately my health deteriorated. In the end I knew I had two operations planned and this was the breaking point for me. The school I worked at was very supportive and they enabled me to leave teaching voluntarily.
What was the most difficult thing about this decision? And what was the easiest?
Predictably the most difficult thing was the concern about a stable income to pay the mortgage! As a teacher I earned slightly more than my husband and we could not live off his income alone. I knew Rose Cottage Crafts would have to earn money or I would have to try and find another job. The easiest thing about then decision was becoming my boss – as soon as I made the decision my health improved and the ‘old-me’ started to reappear!
How supportive of your decision were your family, friends and (former) colleagues?
I am very lucky as everybody was supportive. Nobody had a bad word to say about my decision, possibly as I had experienced some success running it part-time already and they knew that my health was suffering. Although he never said anything, I think my father was concerned that I was turning away from an established career and a good wage. However, I think he was appeased by the fact that as I am a qualified teacher I could return to it later “if things didn’t work out”.
How has pursuing a creative career been compared with your previous careers? What are the challenges, and what are the highlights?
I’ve had many careers and enjoyed them all immensely! The greatest difference and highlight of Rose Cottage Crafts is having a better work-life balance. Being your own boss is so relaxing and stress-free and my health has improved. There is still plenty of stress in running your own business with never-ending lists and not enough hours in the day, but as I am doing things I love I enjoy it. Also, I am accountable to nobody and I am in control which works well for me! However, it is a double edged sword as the greatest challenge is being my own boss! I find it challenging to motivate myself some days and it is hard not having somebody to bounce ideas off. Luckily, I am a member of a very supportive Facebook group called Craft Soup which is full of Yorkshire based designer-makers to get answers from.
Have you had any regrets about choosing a creative career?
None! It may be my honeymoon period as Rose Cottage Crafts is relatively new, but I LOVE MY JOB! How many people get to say that? I am sure we will struggle for money at some point but I would rather be happy and poor, than miserable and well-off. We are not a materialistic family and don’t need flash cars, holidays and gadgets, so to use a creative idiom “we can cut our coat according to our cloth”! We have plenty of cheap family camping holidays planned and I am lucky that my children are still young enough to be happy playing ‘out’ and with each other.
What has been the best thing about your decision to pursue a creative career?
The best thing for me (and my family) has been the improvement in my mood and my health! Free from the drudgery of a conventional job, I find myself relaxed and enjoying everyday. I am now a useful human being instead of working hard for somebody else then coming home and falling asleep, instead of spending time with my family.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering taking up a creative career, what would that be?
I think I would struggle to think of just one piece of advice! My overall advice would be to test the waters, to launch your business part-time in the evenings and weekends to see if there is a market for your products. This should enable you then to calculate if you will be able to make a living off your creations.
What are your plans for the future?
Many, many plans… In the short-term I have recently started to sell my crochet patterns that I have designed on Ravelry and Etsy, which has been successful so I would like to expand that side of the business making more crochet patterns available for download. I am also redeveloping my website with a better e-commerce system and integrated blog about everything that goes on at Rose Cottage Farm.
In the long term I have dreams of a thriving cottage industry, taking on staff to help with administration, marketing and packaging, allowing me more creative time to design and make. My absolute dream would be working out of some converted outbuilding in my garden surrounded by chickens and home-grown vegetables and flowers.