Laura Cartledge meets a Brighton maker who is set to spread the designer love across Sussex.
There is one thing Brighton-based Claudia Thomas doesn’t like being asked.
“My dreaded question is ‘what do you do?’” she laughs.
This is because the answer is not a short one…
She’s the creative force behind Claudia Made This, which boasts jewellery, accessories and artwork.
Last year, just a month after graduating, she launched We Made This Markets which aim to ‘spread the designer love across Sussex’.
“I am also a visual merchandiser,” adds Claudia, “so I am always running across Sussex doing window displays.”
This work has included Claudia creating giant contact lenses for Barraclough & Stiles Opticians, with an upcoming design requiring a purchase of Astro Turf for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
It goes without saying she likes to keep busy and isn’t afraid of thinking outside the box.
“When it was coming to the end of my degree, I didn’t feel like sitting in an office at a computer which, for me having studied graphic design, is what I would be doing,” Claudia explains.
“I had kept on creating my jewellery while studying and I looked for venues during my finals – which I don’t recommend, but it worked out well.”
So, as well as organising the markets, Claudia also sells her pieces at them, which gives her a different approach.
“Quite a lot of the time, and this isn’t a criticism of all markets, they just sit and wait to see what happens,” she agrees. “While I go out there with leaflets and I pull people in. The thing is I am selling at the markets as well, which does give you a kick.
“My favourite bit is that I see this wonderful work and think ‘that is lovely, I will have these people,’ then I get to chat to them in real life,” she smiles.
“Getting to meet people and talk to them is very different to buying online. I think handmade is easier to sell when you have a person – it is nice for both the maker and the buyers.”
With so much local creative talent, Claudia admits selecting people for stalls can be hard and turning people away even harder.
“I myself have been rejected from markets. It is not easy, but sometimes the market is just over-subscribed, especially at Christmas. Sometimes we have a lot of jewellery-makers apply,” she admits. “Quality is key and I always try to keep a really good variety at the markets too.”
Claudia describes the focus as being on ‘traditional crafts but re-imagined’ and admits she ‘can’t switch off’ when it comes to finding makers and designers.
“I’ve heard people say that arranging events takes over your life a bit and I see what they mean,” she says.
“It is a good experience but I didn’t realise the amount of work which goes in.
“It is daunting, especially the first one I did. I was so nervous I don’t think I slept the night before,” Claudia recalls. “And I had spent about 12 hours in the day doing all the baking for the café.”
The hard work is paying off, in fact it could be said Claudia is doing the job too well as she always ends up purchasing something herself.
“I am always thinking ‘who can I buy this for?’ and recently I bought a lot from Nula at Noolibird, she sells gorgeous stamps,” she reveals. “A lot of it is to do with just meeting other sellers.
“They tell you about places to sell and where you can stock your work. Like a lot of people, I work from home so it is really nice to meet other like-minded makers.”
The feeling is clearly mutual and, with news We Made This Markets will be taking its first steps outside Brighton in the next few months, Claudia admits: “I’ve had people hug me after the market and say ‘your baby is growing!’ It is really lovely and I look forward to what the future brings.”
We Made This Markets
Saturday May 3: Horsham United Reformed Church, Springfield Road
Saturday June 7: Friends Meeting House, Ship Street, Brighton
Saturday July 5: Cliffe Hall, Cliffe High Street, Lewes
Saturday August 9: Horsham United Reformed Church, Springfield Road
Saturday September 20: Friends Meeting House, Ship Street, Brighton
Claudia is looking for people to run craft workshops at the Horsham events. For information on this and
everything else, visit www.cargocollective.com/wemadethismarket