Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Meet The Member - Naomi of Historika

Seeing as Naomi is our new team leader, we think we all ought to know more about what makes this gal tick!!

Please introduce yourself. 
Hi there! I am Naomi, and I live very close to the sea in East Sussex, southern England.   

Please describe your work / style.
 I sew late eighteenth and early nineteenth century clothing for women.  My customers are re-enactors,  Jane Austen fans, or those who simply enjoy 'being' in another time!  I try to make my clothing as historically accurate as possible, which means A LOT of hand sewing, and authentic fabrics and techniques of the period.  Many of my items are underpinnings, accessories such as bum pads, and hand stitched buttons.  I find all the little 'details' of an outfit fascinating!!

Who, or what, inspires you when you are creating your work?
As I am sewing away in my little room, I find that my mind often wanders back to those millions of seamstresses throughout history, who toiled day after day in often horrendous working conditions, and for very little pay.  Whenever I feel myself starting to grumble about the poor light on a grey day, or my aching fingers, then I picture myself back in the 19th century, with no heat, extremely poor light, and having to work halfway into the night to make sure that I reach my quota of work! I then realise how lucky I am.  The thought of those amazing women who produced such beautiful work, truly inspires me. And the more pieces of antique clothing I see, the more I know it to be true!! Such tiny stitches- and the love and care that has gone into them astounds me.

What made you decide to start selling your work?
Well, I have my little sister to thank for that! I was having a career crisis after leaving the healthcare sector where I had worked for over 10 years, when she said to me- 'I think you should sell on Etsy'.'  It is amazing what one person who believes in you can do. She gave me the shove that I needed; and I am SO glad that she did!!

Do you have a website or blog address?
I have to be honest here- I struggle with the internet and computer world! Being a woman with 19th century hankerings, in a 21st century world, can be a battle!  I would love to have my own website in the future, and am hoping to get my blog started this year sometime (once I work out how to get one together)! Having an online shop has been such a learning curve! 

How did you learn your craft? What took you in that direction? Were you inspired by another artist, or perhaps a favourite teacher at school?
I am mostly self taught when it comes to sewing. I probably started sewing when I was about 7. I struggled with it at first, but it wasn't long before I grew to love it. The gentle rhythm of a needle pulling and pushing through the fabric relaxed me, and I found myself centred and calm.  Not being able to find clothes that I liked or that fit me properly (I have a good old fashioned 'Pear shaped' figure- narrow top half, and a lot of' junk in my trunk' to make up for it!) in shops led me to making my own.  I do think though that watching the beautiful clothes on 'The House of Eliott' threw me into historical dress with a passion.  

How long have you been creating? Is it an outlet for you after a stressful day job, or were you born with a paintbrush in your hand?
My 2 sisters and I were always encouraged to use what we had to make things to play with as children.  I remember always making things to do with history, or sewing. If we were playing lego, then I was the one making the sewing machine. When my mum put all manner of things in front of us- toilet rolls, silver foil, old containers and cotton wool, I was the one who made the 'pretend' candle out of a toilet roll, with a flame drawn on a piece of paper sticking out of the top, and a cardboard base and handle. I used to carry it up to bed with me and 'blow' it out! I can't remember a time when I didn't make things.

Is there any other craft skill you would like to learn?
Oooh, there is SUCH a list! Firstly, I can't wait to get back into lace making. I had a kit given to me as a present when I was about 12.  I produced a tiny piece of a bookmark, and it took me forever! I haven't done any since then, and was thinking how cool it would be to make dresses with MY lace on!! Exciting!  Also, drawn thread-work, white-work and gold-work,  all the old embroidery techniques, smocking, and corsetry. 

Anything exciting planned that you’d like to share?
Everything is exciting at the moment!! I am loving every minute of my life right now, and still can't quite believe that I get up each day and get to do what I love most in the world!! It's amazing!! 

Have you had any work featured in magazines/books/galleries?
No, I haven't yet... but I hope to!!  In my heart of hearts, I would love to write a comprehensive book about Regency Fashion one day, and of course, as a positive thinker, I do think this might happen!! We shall see!

Has your work won any prizes/competitions?
I wish! I keep looking at the Your Wardobe Unlock'd (historical dress online magazine) Yearly Competition with longing...perhaps this year I will bite the bullet and enter! :)

If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be………
Doing something that mattered.  If I couldn't do what I loved, then I would want to be doing something that made a difference.  Perhaps working to rid the world of sweat shops, and getting either those young children back to school, or decent working conditions for all.

Describe your perfect day.
Mmmmm, easy. A whole day spent on the 'Victorian Farm' with Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn. Dressed up in Victorian clothing, feeding the ducks and chickens with Peter, making some cheese, having a simple but tasty meal with them all, bringing in the harvest with Peter.  So no, forget the other 2- just Peter and I all day long....

Describe your proudest moment.
My proudest moment? I don't think that I have had it yet!! And I can't wait!!

What do you do to relax?
Relaxing, er I'm not sure if I know how to do that! I have always been a bit of a workaholic, no matter what I have done. And now that I can do what I love, I want to always be doing it! But to wind down at the end of a day, I read. I have always loved losing myself in a book, especially historical fiction!!  Jean Plaidy and I were firm friends in my youth. Then I found CJ Sansom's mysteries set in Tudor England (one of my favourite periods). He writes brilliantly; and I find that I cannot put them down. You can almost smell the filth of the streets!! 

What animal would you like to be, and why?
'I wish I was a glow worm,
A glow worm's never glum
'Cos how can you be grumpy
When the sun shines out your bum?!

(and no, I didn't write that- but it made me laugh)! 

What’s your weakness?
Oooh, I would have to say chocolate. And for some reason, I seem to be attracted to the chocolate that is other people's.  I have been know on many occasions to buy easter eggs as gifts, then eat them, then go buy more and wrap them to deter myself...then eat them... See what I mean!!! :)  My family have learnt now never to say 'help yourself' when handing around chocolate, as I most certainly will, and they'll be none left for anyone else!!  Perhaps I should have chosen the hippo as my favourite animal.....


  1. GREAT interview Naomi!!! So wonderful to get to know you better :) ((I also LOVE what animal you'd be!! hehe))


  2. Naomi what fun to learn more about you and your love of sewing and historical fashion! Your garments show that love! Wishing all your dreams come true!

  3. you are so charming! the pieces you craft are beautiful. i am a history buff as well, participating in many colonial reenactments in the southeast of the u.s.
    i must say your pieces certainly inspire dress-up and playtime and a whispered longing for the simplicity of the past. that makes me happy.

  4. How nice to come across this. I am still using and adoring the piece that you made for me last year. Such a treasure!


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