Meet the Maker: An Interview with Wulla

Maybe it's something to do with this chilly weather we've been having or maybe it's because I'm a big fan, but I've decided to open up this month's interview to another fibre artist. I can honestly say that I am in total awe of this woman and have sat next to her and watched her work her magic! To top it off she is the best company and incredibly humble- she has it all I tell you!

1. Tell us a little about you and your business.

Hi My name is Caz, I’m 32 years young and am an Indie Yarn Spinner and Dyer. I am the criminal mind behind the brand Wulla, producing super chunky and giant yarns. Like me, Wulla is all about being big, bold, loud and proud. I aim to produce unapologetically big yarns with attitude! Everything is spun and dyed by me in my studio in Milton Keynes which I then sell online and at Yarn Fairs across the UK. I love working with 100% wool fibre and most of my range is currently super soft merino. Its just on a scale you have probably never seen before. I love to Crochet and Knit as well as Spin. I also work closely with The Fibre Lounge in King’s Langley, Hertfordshire where I teach Spinning and Yarn Dyeing.

2. What inspired your business name?

Wulla is a corruption of the Anglo Saxon for Wool, Wul, which I added a little feminine twist at the end. I am a huge history nerd, I have an archaeology degree amongst other things. I love the heritage of crafts we have in our culture and the thought that I am a practitioner for a craft that was done by women back to the bronze age 5000 years ago. Wulla to me, combines all that heritage and knowledge passed on through the ages combined with a really contemporary forward thinking mindset, helping bring Handspun Yarns to a new 21st Century audience.

3. How did you first discover your passion for your craft?

I have always been crafty and worked for 7 years as a Historic Art Restorer/Conservator so working with my hands and being creative has always been a corner stone of my life.

I am definitely a multi-crafter and like the moniker, Maker. I got into textiles again about 5 years ago when I was working away from home a lot and wanted a hobby to do while away. I made quilts, picked up knitting again and learnt to crochet. 4 years ago I bought a pair of Rachel John’s Extreme 24mm Knitting Needles at a Knit and Stitch show at Alexandra Palace. I spent the entire show looking for something to use with them and couldn’t find anything that spoke to me. I always knew I wanted to work with chunky yarns, but I didn’t really have a clue about the yarn industry and what was out there. Being a maker and problem solver at heart, I thought the most obvious thing to do was to learn to make my own yarn. I went off for a spinning lesson, bought a second hand spinning wheel, read books, watched you tube videos and made a lot of terrible yarn but by then the obsession to make my perfect yarn had already taken hold…….

4. How long has your business been running?

It's still early days, officially just over 18 months, but actually building a business based on a craft skill is the accumulation of years or practice, testing, trial and error and fine tuning. When you buy a product from a maker, you are paying for all that experience. It's something that I am so much more aware of as a business owner myself now.

5. What inspires your creations?

As well as heritage and craft, I love ‘weaving’ in ideas from contemporary visual arts, street art, subversion, feminism, activism, the 90’s, urbanism; it's all about big colours and textures. All the things that I am interested in, then maybe next week, next month, next year, it will all change. I’m always looking to be challenged and inspired. When you get one of my products, you are getting a little bit of ‘me’ every time. It's one of the best things about being an independent maker.

6. What is your proudest achievement to date?

Just starting this process was just a massive deal for me. 2016 was a pivotal year for me. My relationship broke down, I had to sell my house, move back to my parents temporarily, mentally I was in a really bad place- depressed, with confidence at rock bottom. But I knew it was because my life had become centred around things that didn’t make me happy, that didn’t fulfil me. I had allowed my decision process to be co-opted by other people. I knew that something had to change and I was the only one who could make it happen. Starting Wulla has been a revelation in so many ways. It has reignited my sense of purpose, my drive and ambition. I had a sense that a lot of people around me thought I was a bit bonkers, maybe I am but wherever Wulla goes, it will always have given me something, that schooling, education, working for other people never did. It gave me the confidence to be who I am and do what I do.

7. What is the biggest lesson you have learned?

Asking for help! It's such a hard thing to do, and I have been the worst at it, but you can never do everything yourself in a small business. There are so many unsung heroes behind businesses. Mentors, friends, supporters, other small businesses. You would never guess how wonderful, skilful and creative your circle of friends and family are until you need to get a task done but realise you need some help to do it. Mine have been fabulous. Graphics, branding, website design, photography, help manning trade shows, encouragement, opinions, cups of tea…so many people have given me so much help, and generous with their time. I have been amazed!

8. What is your favourite make?

So not your usual ‘make’ but who said yarn was just for knitting or crochet? I had so much fun doing it. Last autumn I went to London with a rucksack full of yarn, a camera and one of my besties and we did a little yarnbomb/mini yarn installation on the Southbank. My Meta yarn was the first range of yarn I ever released and hanging in a grimy graffiti space just made it sing. It was like releasing it back to it's natural habitat. So much fun, I'd love to do more yarn bomb and sculptural fibre work again. I think a lot of people are just a bit overwhelmed by the scale of giant yarns because they are so different to what they associate their fibre craft with. I want to open people’s eyes to what you can do with yarn. It’s such an amazing medium to work in. I love the fact it’s still a growing sector of our industry and where some people are worried if they don’t have a pattern for a project; I love the fact I have complete artistic licence. My mind just runs with possibilities, and because it makes up so quickly you can complete projects in super fast time. Excellent for beginners, newbies or pro’s who just want instant gratification.

9. What is the best feedback you have received?

Not sure you call it feedback, but I love it when kids are just getting into yarn and buy my yarn. I love chatting to them, seeing what they’ve bought and finding out what they want to make. If the kids are buying it, that tells me I am doing the right thing. They are the future makers and creators, as well as being very picky consumers!! If they are getting into buying handmade yarn, then our future as yarn producers is looking rosie right?

10. Is there anything you regret?

Regret is looking back and wishing you did something differently, but that’s life and you can’t change it so why lose sleep over what has already happened. Making mistakes and learning from them is crucial. We need to do it. I’m always making mistakes, in fact I’m suspicious if I think I did something too easily. It’s not always easy to do, but I build that time into my projects and work. Experience tells me that if I allow myself the time to make errors, work out what I’ve done wrong and make it better then I will learn so much more that way and develop as a maker and business women.

11. What are your goals for the future?

I feel like I am at a cross roads at the moment. I had a lot of initial goals setting up the business, first sales, first fairs…and now some those things have miraculously occurred. It still seems dreamlike at times. Moving forward I have soooo many plans and projects, I just keep filling notebooks and notebooks with all the things I would like to do. One of my focus’ this year is to really build my spinning repertoire. We have a burgeoning Spin Club based out of The Fibre Lounge in Hertfordshire and as someone who has spent so much time spinning at home by myself, its wonderful to have more like minded spinners to share ideas with. I want to try out loads of different techniques and really develop my skill set. It's all going to be about the experimentation!

The ultimate dream? I am working towards a little house with a studio by the sea, hanging out with my future rescue dog….I’m not sure I can go to the bank manager with that on the business plan but…shhh…don’t tell….

12. What is the best part of being a maker?

I literally don’t know why you wouldn’t want to be a maker of some sort. It runs through me like Blackpool Rock! It's in my soul and in my blood. My mum is a multi-crafting stitch queen and Dad an engineer-er of everything, I think that’s why, and this will sound very dreary but I love THE PROCESS!! I enjoy the process as much as the outcome. Whether I am working on something for my business or just making for pleasure, the making journey is always the best bit. It’s the same as finishing a book and the sense of sadness that it's over. Making is addictive. You put one thing down and you immediately want to pick up a new project. I finish spinning one yarn, I want to pick up fibre and spin another. It’s better than drugs and alcohol and way better for your health. I just love being creative and problem solving, so as you can imagine I have several WIP’s on the go and not all them yarny, I want to make more of my own clothes, I still have a quilt to finish. I just need more hours in my day!!!

13. What is your least favourite job to do?

All the cleaning up! Dying is a messy job. I have perpetually blue and pink fingers, it doesn’t matter how many gloves I put on…I wish I had a house elf (when I say house elf I mean a ‘free’ elf working for pay, with good working conditions and excellent job satisfaction…!)

14. What advice would you give your old self?

No one else is going to do it…so stop thinking about it and just do it!

In fact I might print that off and put it above my desk … I’ve been known to forget it…

15. What advice would you give other makers?

It's cliché but love what you do and do what you love. If my business failed tomorrow, I wouldn’t stop spinning or dyeing. Craft will get you through the bad times, the pain, the sorrow in life. It will give pleasure to you and those around you. It will be your legacy, if it’s making something that will be loved and cherished, or it might be passing on skills to a new generation. Keep making and keep learning. You are never too old or experienced to learn something new. They will be prising a Super Chunky Crochet Hook out of my cold hands as I go into the grave.

To find out more about Caz and to see more of her awesome work, follow her here:

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