In a slight departure from my previous blogs, and in the hope of ensuring I don’t bore any readers here with my own life, I thought it would be really interesting for you (and me) to learn a bit more about some of the wonderfully creative people that I collaborate with to bring you a variety of workshops. So, in the first of what I hope will become a series, allow me to introduce you to Harriet of de Winton Paper Co who is coming here to run a full day of Botanical Watercolours and Modern Calligraphy on Friday 8th September.

I know you are from Bristol, but can you tell us a little bit about your background? Were you always a creative child and were you encouraged at home and/or school?  I grew up in Bristol and have extremely happy memories of always being encouraged to make and play. My earliest memory is hoarding empty cardboard loo rolls and sellotape to make Barbie furniture. I often got inspired in the middle of the night, so nothing has changed there! My parents always wondered where I got my artistic streak from as it wasn’t completely obvious in the family, but I always maintained that regardless of artistic ability, my parents had a wonderful appetite for discovery, adventure and culture. I was never forced to pursue any career that didn’t feel natural to me.

Do you have any formal art training, for example did you go to art school?  No, that is the funny thing, my ‘training’ was simply years of messing about with paint, pencils and sellotape; I did an English degree which led to a Theatre Design Post grad as I was lucky enough to have a tutor who recognised my artistic abilities. It was a wonderful combination of everything I loved and I started my creative career as a set and costume designer for Theatre.

Working on set design sounds really exciting, is that the reality of the job?  It is a wonderful existence, working in theatre. It feels like one the remaining industries where there is a lot of rolling up your sleeves and making things from scratch with your hands. I got a nice combination of travel as well as some recurring contracts with companies that came to feel like families. I made some of my best friends in those years and learnt so many skills which branched out my career opportunities significantly.

What sparked the idea of the de Winton Paper Co?  Theatre design had led to editing a sewing magazine, becoming a stylist and illustrator. The more I sat at a desk and illustrated the more I enjoyed it. I got asked by my sisters to design their wedding invitations and it was a real light bulb moment. I loved doing it, so I set up the company.

What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the business?  My favourite part is the people I meet: whether it is building the relationship with the couple, meeting up with fellow wedding industry professionals and dreaming up creative collaborations and styled shoots. And more recently as my teaching has become increasingly popular, it is just wonderful to see that my skills can be passed on and inspire people to pick up a paintbrush again. So many people that come to a workshop have let their creativity lie dormant whilst life got in the way and you can see the spark ignited by the time they leave the workshop.

The least favourite bit is the really busy periods that lead to a lot of extra hours worked in evenings and weekends. Fortunately my husband is also in the Wedding industry as a photographer (Farwood Photography) so he completely understands and is usually working even sillier hours than me!

Who and what inspires you?  Nature has always been a big inspiration for my wedding stationery. As a watercolour artist I focussed on developing my botanical studies and really mastering plants and animals as they are hugely popular subjects with my couples. I love it when a couple comes to me with half an idea and we can then work together to turn it into something really fantastic.

Do you require workshop participants to have any level of skill or experience?  No. My workshops are entry level, very friendly and meant to be fun above all! I also make a point of including a takeaway kit of essentials with the ticket price so that the participant can build on their newfound enthusiasm after the class is finished.

Tea or coffee? Cake or biscuits?  I’m a huge fan of all sorts of tea and coffee – I could be accused of being a coffee snob but I just think of it as a heightened appreciation! The thought of cake has just reminded me that we still have a whole layer of our wedding cake in the freezer which we must get out and eat, it was a gin and tonic soaked sponge, absolutely divine! I think, given half the chance I am a cake person.

Finally, when we last met you were in the process of designing your own wedding invitation, was this easy? Perhaps you had a really clear idea of what you did and didn’t want, or was it an impossible task as the possibilities were endless?  It was a challenge. Particularly because I had designed the save the date in about 5 minutes in a flurry of inspiration. I was waiting for another idea to hit just as easily but it involved a bit more thought. In the end we took the animal paintings I had done from the save the date and developed them into a whole new world of design, inspired by delftware plates! I have since turned it into a collection that couples can order from the site, called the Ophelia Collection, as we liked the idea of sharing the love once the wedding was over.

If you would like to attend the workshop on 8th September you can book by clicking here. Harriet and I would be delighted to see you. One of my lovely friends from Belgium has shared a delicious looking cake recipe with me so I’m hoping Harriet will enjoy it!