Helen Shows Us How She Did It Her Way

It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you see people react in such a positive way to your work. I started to make glass infused with...

Helen's website: Helenhancockglass.com

Q: Tell me your first memory of Creating and when did you decide to build a business around your work?

My first memory of creating is from childhood. I wanted to learn to sew and my mother like many mammies from Derry had been a factory girl, so made many of her own clothes. She let me use her old Singer sewing machine from around age 11 and I made myself a waistcoat. I think that was when I knew I wanted to work for myself.

As a teenager I recall my mother telling me on more than one occasion while having her tarot cards read to her that her 2nd daughter would only work for herself.
Weirdly I am not sure if that’s why I was determined to do so or if the prediction was just spot on.

When graduating from NCAD in 1998 with a BDes in Craft (Glass) I went to work in Seattle with some of the world's leading glass artists.
Sadly on my return to Ireland the challenges I met trying to create my own business in glass gradually chipped away at my confidence.

I didn’t make any glass for many years and genuinely thought it was part of my past.
In 2017 a chance encounter brought the glass back into my life.

I was asked to help a friend make glass and was also contacted by a lady in Canada (Mel) who was creating little glass vessels for capturing breastmilk. I had qualified as a Cuidiu (Irish Childbirth Trust) Breastfeeding Counsellor and also a Birth Doula. 

My world revolved around supporting women and their birth and breastfeeding journeys.

So here I was reintroduced to glass. My first love.

I was scared at first and really did not see myself going much further than a day or two in the Hotshop (hot glass studio) but almost immediately my skills began to return and I was making many pieces within a day.

As a single mother, I knew that glass as a business was not going to be an easy option for me. It’s expensive to set up and to run.

There was no way I could do this without a clear plan.
Mel in Canada asked if I would be the European producer for her Breastbowls and I said I’d give it a go.

Around the end of 2017, a friend had told me about Bite the Biscuit with Tara and that changed everything.

Q: Was there something you discovered about yourself once you started to run your business? 

It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you see people react in such a positive way to your work. I started to make glass infused with human milk (a world first in hot glass) which brought all the mothers I had been supporting into a new light within my support. I was helping them with their breastfeeding journey, now I was offering them a tactile, unique reward for all their hard work. The response was incredible.

Q: How did you grow your business from the kitchen table to now, was there one thing that really changed everything? 

The thing that most people need when starting a business is the belief in themselves. It’s challenging doing this alone. There are plenty of business guru’s out there willing to help you. But as a creative, it is tough to find someone who grasps the uniqueness of the work. I had done courses through other organizations, but felt they never truly grasped what direction I was trying to go in.

Tara Boo at Bite the Biscuit has the ability to instantly capture your drift. She may not know how to produce the work you create but she can capture your personality, your passion, and your drive.

Most of us walk into the prospect of starting a business blindly. We really do feel we are reinventing the wheel.
Tara cuts through all the tripwires that can sidetrack you when first trying to find your way.
She has insight, unlike any other person I know supporting creatives.

Q: What was or IS the biggest struggle with running your Creative business? 

My biggest struggle was me.
My belief in myself.
I had the skills.
I knew that if I was going to do this I had to make money.
I also knew that I had to listen to others and take the knocks also.
In the past, I believe I was so sensitive to criticism and would feel defensive if challenged.
Being part of the Biscuit community meant I was being supported by other creatives, using many different mediums.
I learned that even if someone is copying your work that there is plenty to go around and that you can do even better.
Tara taught me to rise above it and see this as a chance to expand my work, and not retreat.

Q: Why Did You Choose To Use and Join The Biscuit Factory? 

I was so nervous at first because I felt I would be exposed as not being good enough.
We all have self-doubt. I had been out of the creative industry for so long I was sure being drawn back in would mean I felt exposed to ridicule.
I found the group the polar opposite.
The group instantly offered praise and curiosity about what I do.
I felt cushioned from the world I was stepping back into and that made my confidence thrive.

Q: What Measurable Benefits Have You Seen? 

Each time I felt a challenge engulf me I went to my safe place for guidance and was always offered reassurance.
The group has so many incredibly talented people and you do feel the support around you.
Tara’s fascinating way of responding to your query is to see it clearly almost instantly and help you guide your way through.
I feel she helped me bypass so many hurdles that I would have come to and would not have truly benefited my business.
It’s not always easy to open yourself up to another person's opinions on how you should sell your work. But Tara listens so carefully and she gets you.
Her wisdom around the creative industry is astounding.
Her passion is infectious too, which makes you feel more self-assured.

Categories: Case Study