Every now and again an opportunity comes up which stops you in your tracks and makes you want to say ‘no’ and run away. Well Friday night was my opportunity for a little panic. I had an email from BBC Radio Stoke asking me to go into the show to talk live about the new ‘bronze oatcake’ jewellery first thing on Monday morning. Knowing I had a really busy weekend with working my part-time ‘normal’ job and plans for the whole weekend with the family that couldn’t be missed, I knew I wouldn’t have any time to prepare. Public speaking does NOT come naturally to me, I’m happy to talk to total strangers about my whole life story waiting in a queue in Tesco if they asked but to be put in the spotlight is a different matter. I just knew that it would do me good as much as my whole being was saying ‘no, you’ll definitely bugger it up and freeze on air or accidentally swear or make an obscure joke that nobody gets!’ but I decided to just say yes and I’m glad that I did . I do still think I sound like a mongoose who’s got the giggles but it’s just been shot in the bum with a tranquilliser, but that’s okay as I don’t have to listen to myself if I don’t want to. It’s crazy how your internal voice is just absolutely worlds apart from what it actually sounds like to other people! It’d be interesting to hear the psychology of that. I bet there’s a book about it. I’m a little bit addicted to audiobooks on Audible at the moment and I think there’s some ace books which helped to push me to say ‘yes’. Mel Robbins 5 Second Rule definitely influenced me and Brene Brown’s Power of Vulnerability is also another good one (she does some ace TED talks too). It was only local radio but for me it was a giant leap.
Anyway back to the bronze oatcakes! Before the show they sent me a list of questions to help prepare me for what they might ask, I didn’t get chance to say it all so I thought it might interest some people to read it on here.
1. Tell me about your business.
My business is called Scruffy Little Herbert and it’s been running for 5 years. I specialise in giftware which celebrates the quirks and passions of the Potteries and Staffordshire. My main products are ceramic mugs and plates and I also screen print my clothing range for all ages , from babies right up to adult sizes. I had two kids very soon after starting the business so the business has grown alongside the them, It’s been quite tough juggling motherhood and starting my first business but the products have always been popular and this year I’ve really begun to see it flourish. The products are stocked at Trentham Garden Centre, Waterstones, Made Here in Newcastle and Middleport Pottery as well as this website.
2. How did you come up with the idea of oatcake necklaces?
The main aim of my business is to make people smile and to pass on our local culture and history to the next generation and some things (like oatcakes) definitely need to be passed on so they are a recurring theme in my work. I’ve always loved unusual clothing jewellery and I think sometimes it easy to take life too seriously so I wanted to design a product which was long lasting but a smaller more portable item that people can take with them where ever they are.
The reason that they are created out of bronze is because of the Staffordshire Hoard. When I was designing my Stokie Willow mug I researched the hoard to inspire some of the designs for the border and I imagined these little trinkets as oatcakes. so the hoard definitely influenced them! One thing that I didn’t expect was that it would be a product that completely divided some of my customers. Very much a marmite product, but I’ve been inundated with requests and several designs sold out within hours. We’re squirrelling away to restock though, don’t worry!
3. How hard are they to make compared to your other items, like the mugs and plates?
Much trickier! With the mugs I design them and they’re produced by a local factory called Heraldic Pottery in Trentham and with the clothing I screen print them in-house and they are quite simple to do. With the bronze necklaces I design them and I am fortunate that I have a volunteer (my mum) who does the tricky work of firing them in an enamelling kiln. She was a ceramic artist when I was child so she has the experience of perfecting the temperatures needed for the bronze clay. It’s been a lot of trial and error up to this point but we have finally perfected them.
They are made from pure bronze clay which is made from pure metal and an organic binder. It is just like clay to work with. We condition the clay by kneading and wedging it so it’s nice and smooth. It is then rolled out and textured added using various tools. After drying them the organic binder is burnt away by heating it up. It is then fired in coconut based charcoal at a higher temperature for a couple of hours or so at a steady heat. then it is removed from the kiln to cool down. After that is is put in a pickling cleaning solution. Then it goes through the final stage of filing and polishing the oatcakes to make sure there are no rough edges and comfortable to wear.
4. Are you excited for Christmas – it must be a busy time for a business?
It’s always a busy few months for me in the run up to Christmas. I’ve had several commissions to do recently including one for the Children’s Department in a local hospital as well as stocking up the shops that I supply with my products to across Staffordshire. I am also producing a brand new mug which I’m really excited to launch later this week which is a play on the traditional Willow pattern and celebrates Body diversity and promotes body positivity and this week I will of course be responding to the frenzy that these oatcake necklaces have caused!
The show went well and clips were also replayed on the main BBC Stoke live news at 6pm , you know you’ve made it when you hit the main headlines, haha! Hopefully it leads to some more publicity, I will be going to bed very content that I created this new little space of confidence in my mind so that I can revisit it if I ever need to in the future.