Last month, I kicked of the 2013 series of Mummy Plus interviews by interviewing Owner/Manager of Tatty Bumpkin South East Oxfordshire, Louise Steele. To find out more about this series, and to ‘meet’ Louise and learn why she’s a Mummy Plus, head back to 20 March in the archives and have a read. Oh, and then come back here to meet this month’s Mummy Plus!
For April’s Mummy Plus interview, I caught up with Genevieve Bennet. Genevieve is a textile designer who works mostly with leather, creating stunning bespoke tiles and panels to add a touch of luxury to your home. It’s not just me who rates Genevieve work highly. She was nominated for the Elle Decoration British Design Awards 2012 and has even been commissioned to create a panel for the living area of a royal residence last year. In addition to running this business, Genevieve is also Mum to three-year-old Torben.
You started your business in 2008, before you had Torben. What was that like?
A terrible time to start a business in retrospect given the economic conditions! I had no idea. However, this meant that things were slower starting up than they would have been, so I continued freelancing as well for some time. Now that things are more established I’ve realised that this was a good thing, as I invested time and money in new products and design and now that people seem to be getting the budgets back, everything is ready. The other plus is that it has given me time to really iron out issues and get everything in place, which is so important.
Tell us a bit more about what you do.
I run a business which designs, makes and sells custom made decorative leather wall coverings for the luxury market. I create hand sculpted, engraved and embossed leather tiles and panels which are used as artwork, wallcoverings, within bespoke cabinet furniture, headboards etc. I also design textiles for homeware brands, such as rugs, bed linen and table linen.
What has been your favourite creation so far?
I just created a sculpted leather wall covering for 60 square metre dining room in an private residence in New York. It was made in a beautiful dark grey leather and is a really lovely floral design. It suited the space very well and the client loved it so I was happy.
Who or what inspires you?
Pattern and colour. Amazing craftsmanship. Simple striking pattern. 1930’s decorative arts. Elizabethan armour. Spitalfields silk designs. The list is sort of long, but these immediately spring to mind.
How did you manage ‘maternity leave’ when you run your own business? Did you take any time off?
I did take off ten months, somehow. It coincided with the worst bit of the recession so things were a little quieter. I did find I had a lot of thinking time when my son was very small so I found it weirdly productive creatively. I came up with one of my main products in that time, but really just in my head and some sketches. Then, when I went back to work I made it happen quickly as I had worked out all the details in the middle of the night while awake!
How do you manage childcare when you’re working?
I have an incredible childminder who has looked after Torben since he was ten months old. I started with her only three days a week, now it is four. I had only planned to keep him with her for six months (then possibly move him to a nursery) but he is so happy and she is so brilliant that I kept it going. She is actually now like family, like another parent to him.
How do you ‘switch off’ when you’re not working?
I am working hard on this. I do yoga and meditate. I make sure I stop at 9pm every night so I have one hour to myself before bed. 10pm is bedtime as I get woken up so early. I do go to the spa every month as I find this is instant relaxation. Or I leave London to visit my parents in Derbyshire.
What’s your biggest challenge at work now… Has it changed over time?
The biggest single problem is having to have an income from the start. I could not just work on my business and invest money waiting for a couple of years to make a profit. I have always had to freelance and split my time, so you are constantly in danger of losing momentum. Now I am finally making the leap and just doing my business, which is very exciting.
If money was no object, what would you do with your time?
Employ someone to do all admin so I could spend all my working time being creative, then I would spend more time with Torben and eventually travel more with him to show him the world.
If you had to describe Torben in just three words, what would you say?
Physical. Funny. Fast.
Complete the sentence: ‘I’m a Mummy Plus…’ in no more than 40 words.
‘…a creative energetic person who loves design and art and probably works too much but lucky to make a living from it. Kept sane and happy by incredible friends and family (including the most beautiful son I could ever imagine)’
If you enjoyed this interview, and have more questions you would like to ask Genevieve, please leave a comment below or email me, and I will pass them on.
If you would like to take part in a Mummy/Daddy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter. If you’re a bit shy but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy/Daddy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.