UK-based designer-maker Helen Dennis is the woman behind paper craft brand Frances & Francis. This talented young paper artist, designer and illustrator is based in St Albans, just north of London. She's also an instructor for Crafttuts+. Today we chat to her about social media, her favourite tools, and how to stay motivated.
QHow did you learn to craft with paper?
I studied animation for my Masters degree so I was constantly creating models and scenes for stop motion productions. I'm basically self-taught and love working out how real objects would look if they were crafted from paper.
QWhat are your favourite tools and equipment?
I generally always work with paper and a hot glue gun. Sculpting with paper is fantastic, due to the durability and flexibility of the material. I'm terrible with the hot melt glue gun as I think I've pretty much got asbestos fingers from the heat of the glue!
QDo you read any blogs for inspiration?
I generally try to stay away from blogs that are similar to what I do as I find my inspiration can be drawn from anything from fashion magazines to classic artwork.
QHow would you describe your style?
My style is pretty feminine with a dose of fun and a pinch of silliness!
QCan you tell us what's on your desk right now?
MacBook, fish tank, huge box of papers, tape measure, glue gun and glue sticks, F&F wooden characters, paper work and pencils.
QWhat's your best tip for beginners?
Get outside advice from professionals if you can, or anyone willing to offer their advice. I found that submitting my work to design blogs not only gave me reassurance, but it helped me work out who my target market was.
QHow do you keep motivated?
I'm a great believer in the fact that hard work pays off. There are always going to be days and weeks when you feel like you haven't got much done, even though you have. These are the days when I refer to all the thank-you cards and gifts that I've very kindly received from brides or event planners. They reassure me that it's all worth it!
QHow do you market your product? Are you on social media?
Social media has always been key for Frances & Francis and I've received sales through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I do "unfollow" people if they're constantly selling on these sites, as I prefer to communicate with people through visuals and discussions.
QAre you on Etsy? What's you best tip for photographing and styling your craft?
Yes, I sell on Etsy and through Not on the High Street. Photography has been super-important to us and the best advice I can give is to take tips from a professional. I hired a great photographer for my very first single stem bouquets and watched which angles he shot at and what lighting he used. I then applied this in my studio using a piece of A1 white paper for the backdrop.
QDo you listen to music or watch TV while you're crafting?
During working hours I never listen or watch anything as I am most productive when I'm not distracted. In the evenings, I watch series and programs and craft at the same time to convince myself that I'm having an evening!
QWhat's the hardest thing about your job?
Explaining to people who I've just met in social situations what I do for a living! Networking is fine but when I'm introduced as 'so and so who makes paper flowers,' they look at me as if I'm crazy!
QWhat's the best thing about your job?
For me, it's being my own boss. I have no one else to blame if something goes wrong. I feel I've learned a lot faster than when I was working for design companies.
Thank you, Helen!
You can find Helen's incredibly beautiful tutorials for Crafttuts+ here.