Q+A with Debbie Daniel from Craft Guerilla

Craft Guerrilla are the original hosts of the ‘DIY Craft Night in London’. Debbie and her team started in a pub back in 2008 bringing their own original “stitched & pissed” events with craft, DJ’s, board games and more! Now their designer maker fairs provide a platform to showcase upcoming London & UK talent. Their aim is to empower and help creatives follow and realise their dreams of creating a thriving and sustainable hand-made business. bannermini You can hire them for one off bespoke work shops, DIY craft events, and private lessons. They love to share, bringing their merry gang of craft experts with them, delivering their very warm, cosy and friendly teaching skills with them.

Debbie, tell us a little about you, where you grew up, and where you live now. 

I’m the founding member and creative director of Craft Guerrilla, I’m a ceramicist by trade but dabble in lots of craft disciplines. My childhood was spent on two continents (Europe and North America) but I grew up in London. I’ve moved over from Portugal when I was 19 so I grew up here and I had to grow up fairly quickly! I’ve lived in London ever since and I currently live in Walthamstow. I do see myself as a Londoner and I’m pretty happy to be part of it all!

What inspired you to choose your career ?  I’ve always made things from a very early age. I’m from a long line of tinkers, artists  and makers. I was pretty much surrounded by crafting as all grannies ( and my mum !) were amazing at it. Plus my maternal granddad was a goldsmith and I loved sitting beside him at his bench watching him work. I guess in a way being around so many creative people it does rub off on you…so there was really only one way I could go!

Do you have a mentor, or role model that you would like to say thanks to today?  That’s an easy one, it has to be my auntie Zé. She was a maverick crafter and entrepreneur. She started a business making macramé curtains which became a huge success in Porto. But she basically made everything from paper maché puppets to hand-made candles then sold them in local markets and shops in the late 1970’s. I thank her for the time she spent with me in her studio showing me how to make things! She was very patient, a great teacher and passionate about crafting! She was an amazing, inspirational woman who unfortunately is no longer here… but she’s left a great legacy. One of the things she did was open a craft centre for children with downs syndrome which still operates today and an animal rescue centre which functions a little bit like the RSPCA and is one of its kind and was the first to operate in Portugal.

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Which are your favourite cultural/ creative places to take visit (and take kids if you are in charge that day)?  I love going to craft fairs and I always drag as many people as I can to come along! The markets on Brick Lane are pretty good too but in general very young kids will lose interest after 30 minutes! There’s just too much to see and take in so it can be overwhelming. An alternative yet great kid friendly space I also love is The British Museum. It’s packed with great artefacts and antiquities plus the covered hall is soothing and calm…the light in there is magnificent and there’s enough space to sit and relax between all the looking and learning.

Which products/ areas of your business are you most excited about at the moment ?  Currently I’m aiming to work more in the therapeutical field so using craft as a therapy. Lots of interesting and positive results have been achieved so it’s something I’m very keen to develop and explore. I worked with The Alzheimer’s Society and it was awesome. I’m hoping to continue doing more as I truly believe crafting is a healthy and beneficial way to bring people together and also to help people into a healthy and positive mood.

Which talented people or companies are you most impressed with at the moment, and why ?  I have a huge soft spot for The Aviary. I love Victoria Foster’s work, her illustrations and products are both beautiful and inspiring. If I could I would literally buy everything she ever produced! Also Boobou Designs, AKA Lindsey O’Harrow. She found a great product and she’s made it a success. I think it’s really amazing to find something which has such a wide appeal and is so commercially successful. I really admire her determination and skills.

You’ve won a (paid) year off from work for being a ‘good citizen’ (& school for the kids) where do you take the family ?!  I’m a traveller by nature so I’d probably go to Lisbon for a few months just to soak up the energy. It’s such a creative, positive city and a very family friendly place. I think I’d also travel to places where I could add to my craft skills by learning ancient methods so I could add to my caché. Somewhere like Japan and the far east, India, Africa etc.. yeah I say I’d take a year off from work but I’m not able to just stand still and not do anything for too long!

The BIll Gates Foundation is giving you the role of ‘COO of changing the world for a day’ what campaigns/charity do you back ?  That’s a hard one, there is so much we can improve on which is pretty sad… but a lot of people are doing positive things so I’d concentrate on something close to my heart. Because I’m very animal friendly I’d have to back any charities which worked for the benefit of animals, nature and ultimately humanity. For example I love what The Brooke Charity do. They work with farmers and people who use work animals in Africa and India to teach them responsible animal husbandry, ownership and care. It’s all about education and not just bettering the animal’s life but also the people’s lives and the community too. If I wasn’t working in craft I’d be working with animal charities or become a vet to work in disadvantaged communities or third world countries. black duke

Blackduke & Cashman : 83 Grove Road : Walthamstow : London : E17 9BU

Which are your favourite shops/ or destinations for birthday treats, and can you tell us your top 3 Arts & Crafts shops, as we are always on the look out for these?  “Cabbages and Kings” in Stoke Newington has an amazing selection of hand-made gifts and art plus they share the space with “Knit with attitude” so lots of gorgeous wool and knitting paraphernalia. Also We Make London have an amazing shop in Camden which also sells designer maker gifts and finally if I can blow my own trumpet… the Craft Guerrilla concession space in Walthamstow Village in the Black Duke & Cashman shop. We sell lots of amazing hand-made items, zines and illustrations by UK based designers and artists and the guys sell mid century furniture which is another favourite!

Where is your favourite spot for a long lunch with family & friends ? Either Primrose Hill for a picnic or The Albion café on Boubdary Street in Shoreditch for a sit down meal which serves amazing food made with fresh, seasonal British ingredients.

Which 3 children’s books are you most fond of ? I grew up on Dr. Seuss so one of them has got to be “Green Eggs and Ham”, “Charlie and the chocolate factory” by Roald Dahl and finally “Little women” by Louisa May Alcott which isn’t really an obvious children’s book but it is a “coming of age” novel.  It was one of the first “serious” books I ever read when I was young as it was a hand me down, an English 1926’s edition, which belonged to my great granny Albertina. I still have it and it’s one of my prized possessions.

What was the first record you bought, and what music did you last listen to ? Blondie’s “Autoamerican”. I still have it of course as I love listening to it. But don’t let that fool you… I love everything from Opera, 1920’s jazz, punk and electronic to Drum and Bass. My current favourite is the new Daft Punk album and especially the Pharrell Williams track “Get lucky”.

Can you recommend any friends, colleagues or other talented people who might be willing to share a secret or two ? I work with lots of creative people and one which never ceases to surprise me is Sanna King of Sannapanda & Friends. She is a massive talent and an amazing designer maker. Also Ellen Mair Jones, a jeweller and crafter who’s been an active craft educator since the 1960’s, a Greenham woman, activist and amazing all round artist!

The Craft Guerrilla On line boutique showcasing the best UK designers and their hand-made products… easy & quick and available at a click! Concession space featuring a selection of hand-made goods, illustrations, zines and more… at Black Duke & Cashman 83 Grove Road E17 9BU London

You can find out more about Craft Guerrilla here, or follow on twitter: @craftguerrilla & be their friend: www.facebook.com/craftguerrilla & www.craftguerrilla.com & www.eastlondoncraftguerrilla.blogspot.com