Meet the Maker: Jen Walsh, Knots & ShotsPosted on 16th March 2021
Tell us about your business, what is it you do and how did you get into it?
My name is Jen and I am a self-taught crafter specialising in macrame, I have always had a passion for crafts especially learning traditional techniques. Originally from Ireland I moved to Bristol, UK in 2012 and set up my small business Knots and Shots at the end of 2013, knots for my macrame and shots for my photography!
My interest in macrame began when I wanted to make plant pot hangers for some of my houseplants. A friend showed me the basic knots and then I began to teach myself more advanced macrame techniques. I now specialise in plant pot hangers but I also make wall hangings, home wares and have a range of accessories including clothing, bags, key-rings, jewellery and more!
I’ve had a lifelong interest for photography, dabbling quite a bit throughout my youth and in 2008 I received my diploma in Fine Art Photography from Limerick College of Further Education, in my home town in Ireland. Over the years I have built up a portfolio of fine art images, most of which I would describe as abstract nature. I also do some commercial photography including events such as music gigs and markets, some local small businesses such as cafe’s and of course all my own product photography!
Nature is at the core of both these things, my houseplants and focussing on the details through my photography. Growing up in the country side I have always enjoyed connecting with nature and being outside, moving to a big city took a while to get used to but being surrounded by plants certainly makes it easier! With the skills I have developed I aim to connect more people with nature and plants by bringing it into their homes through macrame and photography.
How has lockdown affected you and how have you adapted?
Lockdown has meant lots of changes! Not having the markets and shops that support my sales and without workshops or venues supporting my classes it meant I had to rethink everything. Workshops turned into DIY kits for people to make at home and markets moved online, mainly via Instagram stories which meant learning a whole new process and way of selling.
The only outlet for being visible to people was my online presence and before it was just one part of things, it quickly became the sole focus for me being able to continue doing what I do! I enrolled in an online course to assist me in understanding online marketing platforms, building my organic SEO and audience engagement and reach. I am currently doing this course and can’t wait to start implementing more of what I am learning.
Navigating the new normals of online shopping and engaging with customers via social media platforms was interesting, so different from the in-life interactions I was used to. I had my ups and downs but I have learned so much in the last year and it all stands to me moving forward. I still have a lot to do and learn on the tech-y side of things but I’m getting there!
What do you find the most and least rewarding aspects of being your own boss?
The best thing about being my own boss is choosing my own hours and what I do on a day to day, granted that’s not always the case but it is most days! I like the flexibility it gives me to work around other commitments and the variety it allows me in my day to day. It is a challenge at times for sure but I enjoy how rewarding it is and how I still can’t quite believe I have grown a hobby into my full-time job.
It can also be pretty full on! I kind of like an element of that but it is hard to ever take a proper break, to ever fully switch off from it. There is no one to take over from you so time off means that I am worrying about missing things and also that when I get back there will be lots waiting for me and I will have to work harder to catch up again. As with everything there are loads of pros and cons but the pros outweigh the cons and I can’t imagine doing anything else now!
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
When I am not working I like going for long walks with my dog Keefa, I love being outside and exploring the various parks and nature reserves around Bristol and the surrounding areas. Even though I live in the city there are so many beautiful green spaces to visit both within walking distance or a short car journey. I have really missed going further afield during the lockdowns in the past year so am really looking forward to some longer day trips soon! I also really enjoy gardening, growing vegetables in my small urban garden and looking after my ever-growing collection of houseplants.
What is the piece of work you’re most proud of?
I am most proud of my macrame craft kits, I love teaching and how rewarding it is, sharing my skills and seeing how happy people are when they are creating something new, something they might not have thought they’d be able to do. I never thought that the kits would bring me this same sense of satisfaction but they have, they have helped spread the macrame bug further afield than my workshops could and made it more accessible for everyone too.
I always say that macrame is a relaxing and therapeutic craft that keeps your hands busy and gives your mind time to rest. In this past year I think that’s what a lot of people needed and knowing that they have helped people to find some relief or release with one of my kits is really heart-warming. From feedback and messages to the amount of kits I knew were being opened on Christmas morning I am filled with pride and gratitude!
Bristol is renowned for being a creative city, how has Bristol had an impact on or inspired your business?
Although this is where my business started so I don’t have a comparison I am not sure I would be where I am now if I wasn’t in Bristol! There are two sides to this – firstly it’s the creative community of makers, studios, shops, market organisers, creative spaces, etc. It’s so incredibly large and vibrantly diverse in skill and style! I have had so much support from various community groups both online and in real life to the shops that stock my work and the advice and inspiration I’ve gotten from fellow makers within the community.
The second part of this is the customers, the community we live in that values handmade and handcrafted, chooses local and buys our unique items and experiences. Both these things have contributed to the growth of my work and my business and am very thankful to be part of this inspiring city.