Creative Secrets with Abigail Lagden takes a look behind the rainbow Powertex at Curiously Contrary and finds a surprise or two! Abigail also shares some wise words about finding time for your passion when you run a creative business.

Creative Secrets with Abigail Lagden

Curiously Contrary is the creative business of Abigail Lagden. She’s based near Bishop Auckland in County Durham in the UK where she sells her creations and runs workshops for people wanting to make their own Powertex crafts. Running a creative business is busy work so a huge thanks to Abigail for taking the time to answer some questions about her creative life.

Abigail Lagden, a Powertex Tutor

Abigail Lagden from Curiously Contrary

Abigail, when did you start creating and what is your earliest memory of making art or being creative?

I wouldn’t say I was a particularly creative child but I absolutely loved making things in pottery classes at primary school when I was nine or ten. I enjoyed making things that were physical and three dimensional and of course playing with all the pretty glazes! 

After moving to secondary school I do not remember a single art lesson. In my mind art was drawing and painting, two things that I was pretty rubbish at and that didn’t really interest me at all. I would much rather do science and maths!

I only really rediscovered the joy of creating about 10 years ago when I went home to visit my parents and my mum had turned my old bedroom in the attic into her craft room. There I discovered the delights of die cutting machines, alcohol inks, stamping, etc 

From then I was been a bit of a serial crafter, flitting from one craft to the next, until I found Powertex which just ticked all my boxes. Messy, three dimensional sculptural techniques that produce stunning results brimming with texture and intrigue.

Powertex Gnomes by Abigail Lagden

Powertex Gnomes by Abigail Lagden

You are running your own creative business now at Curiously Contrary. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got here?

If you’d told me even 5 years ago that I would be running my own creative business I would never have believed you. 

As mentioned, my interests were always in the sciences. I studied Chemistry at university, and after a few years working in London I got my dream job as a Crime Scene Investigator in Liverpool. After working operationally for years, I then moved to the North East to pass on my skills as a CSI Trainer, teaching forensic practitioners from across the UK and internationally.

After 9 years, the decision was made to close our department and we were all made redundant.

I hadn’t been very happy with my job for a couple of years and to cope with this I had started creating and then I also discovered Powertex. As I was already a trainer it seemed a natural step to train as a Powertex tutor and I started running a few workshops on weekends whilst continuing with my ‘real job’.

Being made redundant actually came at the perfect time for me and was the push off the cliff that I needed to properly consider the possibility of developing my part time creative practice into a business. And that’s what I did – it has been a lot of hard work and a steep learning curve but it has also been fantastic fun and infinitely rewarding. May 2019 will mark the two year point from when I went self employed full time. I still have to pinch myself to make sure it isn’t all a dream and I have absolutely no plans to go back to having a ‘real job’ any time soon!

Powertex Highland cow by Abigail Lagden

Powertex Highland Cow by Abigail Lagden

Your story is extraordinary! So, as you have such a busy life, how do you make time to create for yourself?

It helps not having that ‘real job’ to take up most of my time, but this does mean I have to make a living from my creative practice. 

This means a lot of my time is spent developing, marketing and running workshops as well as selling my creations at events and in retail spaces. Whilst these activities require me to create, it is creation with a specific purpose rather than the fun kind of creation which develops my skills (also known as ‘playing’).

It can be difficult to find the balance, but I try to allocate at least a few days a month to experimental creating. One of the reasons I love being on the Powertex Design Team is that it makes me put that time aside and often pushes out of my usual creative comfort zone and I learn a lot from that. 

Do you have a favourite product or medium to work with and why?

I use quite a wide range of products and media in my work but when I think of my favourite products, I always come back to bronze Powertex Universal Medium used as a fabric hardener. I just adore the depth and textures that you can create, the drapes, ruffles and appearance of flowing fabric that make sculptures that people just want to reach out and touch.

Powertex Chest by Abigail Lagden

Powertex Chest by Abigail Lagden

You have a very recognisable style in your Powertex work. Do you have any tips for artists or crafters looking to establish a style of their own?

I would probably say don’t try too hard to force yourself to develop a style, it will develop naturally as you create over time. Maybe, start by gathering inspiration from artists and makers whose work you admire but try not to just copy what they do. Identify what it is you like about their work – the themes they depict, the colours they use, the textures they create, the techniques they use, etc. You will then be able to take those elements and put your own slant on them by combining them with the things from around you that speak to you. 

But most importantly… Play and Experiment! 

What are the benefits of having a creative practice in your life and what are your challenges for keeping that practice going?

For me the main benefit is that I am doing the thing that I love all the time and sometimes I actually get paid for it! 

The challenge therefore for me is to make sure I keep enjoying it and to make sure that it doesn’t turn into a chore.

Powertex Elephant by Abigail Lagden

Powertex Elephant by Abigail Lagden

So while making art and crafting can have positive benefits it can also come with some challenges. Do you have any advice for people feeling a loss of creative mojo or self doubt when making art?

Every creative goes through spells where they struggle for inspiration or doubt themselves. When I’ve lost my mojo, there are a couple of things I often do:

1. Have a complete break and distract my mind from the pressure to be creative. I go out for a long walk with the dog or go and visit a local attraction, meet up with a friend for a coffee. Often these things will get my brain sparking with ideas.

2. Do something creative I’ve not done before – usually this means go on a workshop. Learning new techniques and practices will get the brain working again and often I can see new ways to look at my own practice or ways to incorporate new techniques.

Do you think it’s important to find a creative community?

Yes, very. When I started my creative business, I didn’t know anyone who was creative except my mum. I had been employed within the world of policing for over 15 years and that was my world. 

After I decided I wanted to develop my creative practice into a business I started going to networking groups and business support workshops that were aimed specifically at creative businesses. Through these I started to develop a wide range of contacts in all different fields and have made a number of friends. I found it really helpful to meet people who look at things in a different way and who understand that need to create. 

Wow! Thank you Abigail for sharing your story and your creative secrets. Your journey might seem surprising or unusual but it’s the perfect illustration of how a little dream can become a rewarding and fulfilling reality. I’m looking forward to seeing what you achieve next.

You can find out more about Abigail and Curiously Contrary on her website and on Facebook where she lists her workshops.

Powertex Workshop with Abigail Lagden

Powertex Workshop with Abigail Lagden

Interviews with other Powertex tutors can be found over here where you can meet Anna Emelia Howlett and Annette Smyth among others sharing their creative secrets!