This evening Amanda Sutherland told us about her history as a designer and showed us some of her creations.
She said she had always been good at crafts as a child, her first sale being a pair of earrings made from insoles that she sold to one of her teachers. She reckoned that sale started her off on her career.
After leaving school she studied design for two years at a college in Ware. She always preferred designing and making 3-D objects. From there she joined a specialist design college in London for a further two-year course. While there she spent her holidays on placements with a variety of design houses and shops, which gained her valuable experience she was able to put on her CV.
She then became involved in theatrical costumes, acting as an assistant wardrobe mistress for a theatre company and eventually joining the largest company of theatrical costumers. There she became an expert on the costumes of different periods and helped to dress some leading stars of the time.
She then moved on to an upmarket bridal wear company. She told us that sometimes a potential bride would come into the showroom with a picture of a svelte model in a tight-fitting gown and say “I want one like that.” Such brides-to-be were often somewhat on the large side and would have to be persuaded to try something more realistic for their particular figure.
From there she became freelance, making wedding hats and tiaras. During a chance visit to Cambridge she came across All Saints Garden Art & Craft Market in Cambridge. She decided to set up a weekly stall there but realised wedding hats and tiaras would not attract enough sales to make it worthwhile. She therefore established a hat stall with hats she had designed and made herself, based on hat shapes from the middle of the 20th century.
This proved successful. She then branched out into jewellery but did not want to compete with more established jewellery stalls in the market. One of her specialities is jewellery made from recycled drinks cans! She originally got her supply of used cans from another of the stall holders but now gets them given to her by a variety of people who know her.
As well as using recycled materials she also uses “repurposed” materials, ie items which have never been used but which she uses for an entirely different purpose from that for which they were intended. For example, she showed us some ladies’ cravats made from mens’ ties (and even socks!). Some of her hats are adorned by repurposed mens’ ties.