I'm characteristically bad at interviews, so you'll have to excuse me. Carla and I interviewed each other at work; whilst she had prepared questions and seemed to have thought a lot about interviewing me, I got a copy of Fab annual 1976, and used some questions out of it, as well as having a little chat, and randomly making notes. It's an interview technique I like to call 'crap'.
Carla is 22, and I first came across her brand Maus Haus when she moved onto a shelf at Bird's Yard. I was taken with the neatness of her sewn badges and purses, particularly the ones printed with photographs. As she came in the shop more, I found out she was a photographer, and the photographs printed onto the material were her own. We talked about her doing a photo shoot for me, and in doing so, I was really fascinated by the ideas she came up with. Carla seems quiet and shy when you first meet her, but underneath her tiny frame are layers upon layers of talents and experiences. After doing a couple of fairs with her, she's obviously perfectly suited to retail; as she says herself 'I like being helpful, and sending customers away happy.'
I talked to Carla about how she had started her business. She'd worked for a debt collection agency previously, and had found it too stressful being mean to people on the phone. She had to make the decision, as she says, 'whether to be nice and jobless, or a horrible person'. She quit, and began to 'make stuff'. The first thing she was commissioned to make was a purple furry bag at the age of 14, with linked kilt pins for a handle, so she started to make accessories. Her first stall was in Bradford, and it led to her meeting people who gave her opportunities to sell her items in shops.
She came across Bird's Yard through Factory 4, a screen printing workshop in Leeds, who also had a pop-up shop inside the Yard. She loved the shop, and began renting a shelf, but would also often pop in to see what else was going on, and got involved in lots of side events (such as the West Yorkshire Playhouse Vintage Fair, where I first got to know her properly) and photo shoots using clothing and props from the shop.
After finishing her university degree, she didn't relish the idea of getting another office job, and decided that she'd go self-employed. Knowing there were shops to rent inside Bird's Yard, she took the plunge, and expanded from one shelf into her own shop, 'Nouveau' on the top floor. As well as Maus Haus, she would be bringing in other designers she had met and worked with, and had grand designs on having photography exhibitions in the corridor. Even though it's only just been open a month, she sees it as an 'exciting and creative space', and I can already see it evolving every week.
As well as this potted history, I also asked a few questions. Take from them what you can.
Where have all the flowers gone?
Holmfirth Art Market. I tried to build a garden on my stall, as there was a prize for the best stall, and the theme was the garden. It went wrong because I didn't have room for the flowers, and then the train station was evacuated (NB I've written evaporated, but I'm assuming this is what you meant). I lost anyway, the winner brought a real tree with her!
Is handwriting a key to character?
If it is I'm a really messy person. But it's not really my fault as I'm left handed.
Your wardrobe includes?
Giant black fairy wings, hooded cloak, tutu, ladybird deely boppers and a black corset from Grin I bought myself as a treat after working all Christmas as Merrie England Cafe.
What's the first thing you remember making?
I started by cutting up doll clothes, and then made stuff with textiles. I thought it was cheaper than buying them, cause I didn't price my time. Even now the balance between covering costs and not ripping customers off is hard to hit.
Who do you admire?
Leigh Shepherd - she makes my stuff look amateurish
Nicky Dilaston - I met her at an artist book fair, and it made me think I'd like to also do a fair. Eventually things came full circle as I did a fair with her!
Wychbury - everything is so nicely packaged, with great attention to detail. Her sewing themed display was amazing.
Peas or cheese?
Always cheese. I love cheese and hate peas, especially the idea of pease porridge. Maybe that's split peas...I'm just put off the whole pea family.
What's your best seller?
My grey and black stripy purses. They're more 'me' so I'm probably more enthusiastic about them.
Well, I'd better get one of those then...
I asked Carla to make me a bag, as I'm sick of having to dig through a massive canvas bag just because it has a good strap. The bag she made me is so soft, but as it's lined it's also really strong. The strap is exactly the length I wanted, and despite her saying how it wasn't right, it's perfectly finished, like everything she makes. I just had to buy the matching purse to go with it! This purse is like a tardis - it looks very small, but fits absolutely tons inside it. Just like Carla herself.
This bag is just the right size for my iPad, and has a front pocket for my stylus.
Beautiful turquoise lining and matching zip - this is what she thought wasn't neat enough! Look at it! It's beautiful.
The purse has matching lining.
Deceptively small - this purse shape was invented by Carla herself, and is perfect for using as a purse or make-up bag.