Stylist, blogger and workshop tutor Emily Dawe on her ultimate multi-hyphen crafting career…
When it comes to creating, Emily Dawe has her fingers in a lot of crafty pies. The Brixton-based interior stylist, blogger, workshop tutor and, most recently, author, spent over a decade working in women’s magazines before making the jump into a full-time creative career.
From styling for big brands like Paperchase and Dunelm to teaching workshops at Kirstie’s Handmade Fair this year – not to mention her first book Paper Christmas having just hit the shelves – Emily says there isn’t a craft she doesn’t turn her hand to, “except sewing which I avoid at all costs, I just don’t have the patience!”
We caught up with Emily over a cuppa to discover the tips and tricks to hosting her own YouTube channel, where her papercraft inspiration comes from and how she plans to juggle her business when she becomes a first-time mum next year…
Hi Emily! Can you describe your workspace and why it works for you?
My workspace seems to be my entire flat! I dream of having a little studio, even a shed in the garden would be amazing, but sadly this isn’t the case at all! We do have a spare room, which was going to be my creative space, but it’s become a store room for all my craft materials, past makes and props for shoots instead. It’s packed to the rafters, but it is organised chaos and I do genuinely know where everything is! I tend to work on our dining room table as I can spread out, but I know I have to tidy it away at the end of the day – sometimes at least! Things will have to change very soon though, as this’ll eventually become the nursery for our baby, which is due next year.
What does your average day look like?
Every day is so different, but I usually start my day by, sadly, reaching for my phone, going on Instagram and checking emails. Some days I stay in my comfies all day, with messy hair and my glasses on, and I get creative, be it painting baubles for a blog, writing out calligraphy place names for a wedding, making up packs in preparation for a workshop, or simply brainstorming creative ideas for a client.
Other days I’m out and about having meetings, attending press shows or sourcing props for a shoot. Some days I’m styling up an event, hosting talks, styling flat lays and filming craft videos for The RE-Vision. Or, it could just be an admin day. I’m not so good at this part, I didn’t realise how disciplined you had to be with keeping on top of receipts. It’s not creative enough for me, I shudder at the sight of a spreadsheet. Getting an accountant a year after going freelance was a real game changer, and I urge anyone going freelance to get one sooner rather than later!
We’re loving your book Paper Christmas, how did it come about?
It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. I was shooting a needle-felting feature for a magazine, and met this wonderful duo called The Wooly Felters. I got chatting to them about how I was thinking of spreading my wings and going freelance and how my ultimate dream would be to create a book – not knowing one of them was a commissioning editor for Search Press books! We chatted through some initial ideas, I made up some prototypes and the rest is history! I’m very, very lucky.
What’s been your favourite project?
I love to incorporate my illustration into my work where I can, so I would probably say the little bird trims, which can be used as gift tags or hung up together on a twig to create a mini mobile. Likewise, I love some of the simplistic makes too, which sit alongside the main projects – in particular the mini party hats for the Christmas characters which sit on top of the cake fill my heart with joy! And the glitter-dipped feather garland is definitely coming out this year to hang above my fireplace.
How big is your crafting stash?
Huge, and it’s getting bigger all the time! For each workshop I host I have to buy in all the materials, things which can be used time and time again, which means I have bags and boxes of all sorts from big sheets of lino to a baskets full of needle felting wool. I have lots of specialist machines too, like my trusty Cricut, one machine I can’t live without now – it’s an essential piece of kit for a papercrafter! I’m not sure my stash will ever get smaller… Sometimes I wish I was a painter, or a digital illustrator!
You have your own video tutorial channel – do you get nervous going in front of the camera?
Appearing on camera can be a very daunting prospect, and I still get butterflies beforehand, but I really think this actually helps my performance! I recently set up a side hustle with a friend called The RE-Vision (@lovetherevision) where we upload how-to and DIY video content to our YouTube channel every week. It’s been a bit of a baptism of fire! I find a few deep breaths before, sucking a mint, a glass of water and a big smile help. I like to imagine I’m chatting to my mum and dad, and that really helps! It can always be reshot if needs be, but there’s something so unnatural about looking down a lens, with no facial expressions coming back at you. It does help having a business partner (and partner in crime) as we really bounce off each other and make it fun, which it is!
What do you love about hosting workshops?
I absolutely love teaching, I’m in my element being around people – getting creative at home just isn’t the same without a buzz of people. Hosting a workshop is very much like being on stage, so I always get a huge sense of achievement afterwards, a real thrill that I’ve shared my expertise, and hopefully people have enjoyed it. It makes my day when I receive positive feedback from attendees, or they tag their craft on Instagram. Everyone needs a pat on the back from time to time – it’s my equivalent of getting a gold star at school!
What’s been the best workshop you’ve ever hosted?
It has to be teaching paper quilling at Kirstie’s Handmade Fair last year. I hadn’t been freelance for long and there I was teaching 100 people at one of the country’s biggest craft fairs. Donned with a headset and overhead camera, I felt quite the master!
And the worst?
The worst has to be teaching origami to a large group. Origami can be so fiddly, you need to be able to see the exact folds every step of the way. There is only so much a diagram can show you. It was very time-consuming going round and showing everyone individually, not to mention irritating for the people at the front who got it the first time round! The next time I hosted one I made it a much smaller group sat at a round table, and it worked out perfectly.
Where do you go to find inspiration?
Things inspire me every day, from the tree I can see from my living room window, to falling down a rabbit hole on Pinterest and Instagram. I notice design wherever I go from a simple line drawing on a menu to the colours on some ice cream packaging. However, people are my best source of inspiration. Being freelance can be lonely at times, so I make sure to plan in social time with other creatives I’ve met through Instagram. I always come back home feeling so inspired and itching to create something new.
What’s next for you?
Things are about to change for me in quite a drastic way with baby’s arrival just around the corner! The plan is to move closer to my mum, so I can still style shoots and events, host workshops and continue filming tutorials with The RE-Vision. Search Press have asked me to do another book, which is super exciting, so that’ll keep me busy around naps and feeds. I’d also like to go back to my illustration and design a set of prints to sell – I have so many ideas. I also have a whole nursery to design and decorate, so I’m looking forward to making mobiles, creating baby prints and starting the whole nesting process.
Where are you happiest?
On a beach, preferably in India – somewhere warm and by the sea, please! I find taking myself away from my four walls and getting some decent headspace is the best medicine for me. That’s where I get some clarity with what I’m achieving in life, and it definitely helps with my wellbeing.
Emily’s top video tutorial and workshop dos and don’ts…
Do: Smile! The whole time, even when you aren’t talking, just showing the steps. It may feel weird at first, but it makes such a difference.
Don’t: Be hard on yourself. People trip over their words all the time, make a joke of it instead.
Do: Speak slowly and clearly. Have a list of bullet points of things you need to run through rather than a long script.
Do: Practise your tutorial with a friend. This will give you a good idea of how long your tutorial will be and flag up anything you need to fine tune.
Don’t: Worry when you have a room full of blank faces staring back at you. They’re just taking in what you’re saying – you’re the expert after all!
Do: Have spares of things. Things can break, ink can spill, paper can be used up etc. Always have back ups.