Not so long ago, Maple Road, Penge used to have a thriving street market. Then it was no more. This year it was relaunched, sort of, a shadow of its former self. However, recently I found a temporary stall where a young lady was showcasing her designs. This appears to be a trend nowadays. She also has an on-line shop, and this is what she had to say for herself.
Alexander Baron: Thank you for taking time to talk to our readers. Can we start with your name?
Steph Taylor: Steph Taylor, I'm 28 years old, and I make Bohemian jewellery and accessories under the name of FizzCat
. [You can also find her creations at the on-line shop Etsy
or follow her on Facebook].
AB: Where are you from?
ST: I grew up in Essex, and left as soon as I could! It wasn't the most creatively encouraging environment. I lived in Cambridge for many years and travelled around a bit, before moving to South London a few months ago.
AB: Where did you study?
ST: I half-completed my A-Levels and managed to get into university in Cambridge, (not the
Cambridge University - the Polytechnic round the corner). I tried two different degrees and dropped out of both after the first year – English with Creative Writing, and Photography. I was never very good with institutions, rules or structure…so university was a good experience, but not my cup of tea really.
I worked as a carer and a cleaner, and saved enough to go to Australia for a couple of years, where I took more photographs than I ever did at home, learned to play the guitar, and wrote a book [that is yet to be published]. It's amazing what you can achieve when you have lots of time, an inspiring landscape, and no money. It led me to where I am now. My crafts I taught myself largely by having fun...with a lot of trial and error, a fair bit of swearing and many YouTube tutorials.
AB: How did you get started with your current trade?
ST: Very slowly! After figuring out what I wanted to do, then working as a cleaner for a year or two and getting more dispirited every day, I encountered a wandering minstrel under a tree. Seriously. We talked for a few hours, and I never saw him again, but meeting him inspired me to quit my job and start up my own business. He was so inventive and entreprenurial in his approach to life that I remembered I could be too. My travels were very hand to mouth, but I learned that there's always a way to get by.
So I quit my job and registered self-employed in a flurry of enthusiasm, before sitting on my butt for two months. I have a real problem with procrastination. One night I got drunk and, with my boyfriend egging me on, signed up for a Christmas fair. I hadn't touched a sewing machine in three years: I had four weeks, no money, and nothing to sell. I got busy!
AB: Do you work many markets?
ST: I've been trying out a few in South London, but I’m focusing more on creating new products and developing the website so everything’s ready for the markets and festivals in spring. Also it helps to find the right place before having a regular stall.
AB: Why FizzCat?
ST: I lived with an amazing cat called Fizz. I was trying desperately to come up with a business when she walked into the room and mewed. "Aha! FizzCat!" I cried. It was a real eureka moment.
AB: When did you start your on-line business?
ST: Just under a year ago.
AB: Does it make you a living or do you have another job?
ST: I don't have another job at the moment, and I’d do anything to avoid getting one! The business is finally starting to pay off, and though some people would say it’s peanuts, it’s the most satisfying money I’ve ever earned.
AB: What do you hope to come of this?
ST: I'd love to have a shop in one of those little huts at Camden Lock. For a bit. Then to get a little house with a massive workshop in a warm, friendly country - somewhere that doesn't charge an arm and a leg for postage. I'd sew in the garden all day, make jewellery by the fire all night, and take in all the stray cats.
AB: What advice would you give other people especially of your age?
ST: Your talents lie in the things you love. Don't waste your days in a job that doesn’t inspire you, or give up because there isn't any work. Make some. Figure out the things you love doing, and do them every day. The confidence comes later – you have to start first. I’m the most unlikely businesswoman ever so if I can do it, anyone can.
AB: What is your full range of products?
ST: I make Bohemian wirework and gemstone jewellery; colourful, one of a kind, eco-friendly accessories such as bags, purses and utility belts, phone cases, headbands, arm warmers and smoking accessories (tobacco pouches, lighter pockets etc)…and the occasional new invention or random creation!
AB: Do you make custom products?
AB: What is your strangest request, product, etc?
ST: Nothing too strange. I had an order for seven lighter necklaces all with oil barrels drawn on, which I thought was quite funny because I have an eco friendly hippie shop. He was a nice man though. I made them anyway, I was just chuffed someone ordered seven of something!
AB: What is your most successful?
ST: The wirework tree of life necklaces are pretty popular at the moment.