Meet creative bright spark Nicola Gouldsmith
PUBLISHED: 11:52 04 November 2014 | UPDATED: 11:52 04 November 2014
Tessa Allingham finds inspiration from the craft guru
Is your creative mojo taking an autumnal dive as memories of summer fade to a hazy puff? Feeling low on artistic spark? Then may I humbly suggest you need a dose of Halfpenny Home?
I defy even the most stubbornly unimaginative not to feel a bubble of creative fizz on opening the door to this Aladdin’s cave of haberdashery. It’s a place so brimming with colour and joy that it can’t but brighten the dreariest of November days or coax out the maker in even the most reluctant.
The volume of stuff in the black weatherboarded former windmill (and latterly dovecote) at Alder Carr Farm means that Nicola Gouldsmith, the cheery whizz behind this place, is usually tucked away at a cramped desk under some steep stairs. She emerges, giggling (she giggles a lot), careful not to send a spool of shot silk ribbon spinning across the floor, or tip a rattling pot of multicoloured buttons off a ledge, and we creak our way upstairs.
A chunky pine table, busy with remnants and works in progress, fills most of the floorspace. Just like downstairs, every nook and cranny is home to some haberdashery notion or other: a jug of bamboo knitting needles, a stack of embroidery frames, back issues of Mollie Makes magazine, some vintage ric-rac and pompom trims, colourful twists of silks and tactile loops of wool. She can’t help herself from buying up collections of buttons (delicate mother of pearl, oversized wood, quirky gnomes) and rolls and rolls of fabric. This is the sort of place that catapults senses into overdrive.
Nicola explains. “I worked in the world of interiors for 20 years but I’ve always loved craft so when I stopped work because of my illness [Nicola suffers from debilitating rheumatoid arthritis] I opened Halfpenny Home in Needham Market in 2009. We quickly got a reputation for stocking quirky bits and pieces, things that are vintage or hard to find.”
It didn’t take much to persuade Nicola to up sticks, reels, spools, buttons and every last notion earlier this year and move to a “dream location” on Alder Carr farm, however. “This place feels right. I’ve known the Hardinghams [the family behind Alder Carr] since 1985 and I was really excited when they offered me the dovecote.”
It’s around this pine table that people gather for Halfpenny Home’s popular workshops, hosted by Nicola and led by expert crafters. This month alone you could make your own soap, craft an appliqued Christmas stocking or crochet a Santa Claus figure. At another time you might be upcycling hats with expert Suffolk milliner Scarlett Valentine, needle felting, or getting to grips with Tunisian crochet – yes, I’m not sure either – or learning how to spin.
Events are for all ages. “I’ve had children as young as eight, and even a 74-year-old lady who had been put off sewing at school, but loved fabric and learnt to sew here.” Cruelly, arthritis means Nicola can’t now sew or knit for long periods. “But I can still pass on the joy and satisfaction of making something.”
On the edge of the table is a pile of paper, the final draft of her second book, Indigo: dye it, make it. Published this month by Cico Books, it explains different dye techniques and suggests makes. It’s been an all-consuming project but Nicola, typically, has thrown herself into it wholly. “I love the indigo dying process, the colour that emerges, how versatile it is. And I loved the process of devising the makes; my favourite is the teepee.”
We head back downstairs. She can’t help but overflow with enthusiasm. “I’m obsessed by fabric, I love colour, I love yarn and I love spinning even though I’m not very good at it!” She confides with a giggle: “I have so much fun here I almost feel guilty!”
For more information on workshops, go to www.halfpennyhome.co.uk or call 01449 721123