Thursday, 22 May 2014

Meet our talented tutors - Sam Sterken - Sewing & Lampshade making


Probably the lady who needs no introduction: Sam Sterken is the founder of Ministry of Craft. Sam set up Ministry five years ago from her kitchen table and hasn't looked back. She's a 'Jill' of all crafts and is regularly asked to contribute to magazines and even TV shows as an oracle of all things crafty.

My latest make from the Great British Sewing Bee Book
What first drew you to your craft ?
Macramé of all things! My mum and Dad ran a sweet shop when I was seven and there was a craft shop next door. I use to spend a lot of time in there looking at big wooden beads and messing with string. I’ve meddled in lots of different crafts ever since.

What’s your crafting background?
I got into dressmaking when I was a teenager using my Mum’s hand wound vintage Singer, and at the same time set up a shop at school selling bangles made with food colouring and aquarium tubing! As you can tell I’m a bit of a craft butterfly and like to flit between projects. I got into sewing more seriously while I lived in New Zealand as part of a world trip, with my now husband. I did two brilliant night classes that reignited my passion for sewing. I like to create practical, useful things now for my family and friends and, if I have the time, do a bit of dressmaking. I’ll try my hand at anything though. This week's project has been painting a gilded frame to make a mirror for my bathroom and sewing myself a T-shirt style top.

Did you train professionally or are you self taught?
I’m mainly self taught although I have been on quite a few adult education courses and local short courses. I'm also pretty proud that from my own lack of skills the idea for Ministry of Craft came about. I've learned loads of new skills from our tutors and it's great that we have now brought craft into so many other peoples lives.

One of my favourite pastimes
What are your main sources of inspiration?
I love flicking through craft books and magazines. I have folders full of ideas and inspiration that one day will end up in neatly organised scrapbooks! I’ve started to browse online more, but I usually have an idea then back it up with an online tutorial.

Who’s been the biggest influence on your career so far?
My mum, because she’s a fantastic knitter and, although she didn’t do lots of sewing when I was young, she’ll turn her hand to anything! She also a fanatical charity shopper and that is one of my favourite pastimes too. 

I have to say my husband as well! He didn’t flinch when I said I wanted to set up Ministry of Craft, leaving a good job behind. He has been a sounding board for me in all areas of the running the business, as well as being the Ministry of Craft photographer and IT department!

A grown up Wigwam!
What’s the best thing about being a crafter?
The first is being able to make things you wouldn’t be able to buy and the second is that it is such and enjoyable process (even if things go wrong). One of my favourite feelings is looking at something and thinking ‘I made that’.

Do you do any other crafts in your spare time, apart from what you specialise in?
I’m really into painting at the moment and went on an Annie Sloan painting course recently. I enjoy decoupage because it’s quick and easy and can be done in front of the telly. I’m afraid to say I’m not a knitter – much to my mum’s disappointment. My patience won’t stretch to completing anything knitted!

What’s you’re the best thing you’ve ever made?
The perfect dress in an American postcard print
My ‘40’s style dress, which I made at night school in New Zealand. I spent a whole Friday evening sewing on the button bar only to find the dress wouldn’t close when I put it on! It’s the first piece of handmade clothing that I have been truly proud of. I also made a teepee for a magazine commission last year, which is high up on my list too.

Have you ever made a creative mistake?
See above!

And your favourite tool or material?
It has to be fabric. I have a piece of printed silk from the 50’s that belonged to my Nana. I can’t make anything with it as I’m too frightened I’ll spoil it. I have a huge stash and this year’s challenge is to use what I have and not buy any more, which getting increasingly difficult.

What’s you favourite crafty story?
In the early days of Ministry I used to keep some of the equipment at home. One day I turned up to assist on a course only to find that my son, who was then a toddler, had taken all of the bobbins for the sewing machines out of my bag before I left for work. The tutor had to run back to her workshop to grab some more and luckily the course went ahead.

Where can we see / buy your work?

What have you got coming up in the future?
Hopefully a bit more time to sew as my daughter goes to school in September!

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