Creativity with a conscience

Jo Sealy from Waltham Forest Business Network introduces the creative company that makes, mends and rarely throws anything away

Natalie Bolton is a Chingford designer-maker with firmly upheld principles around craftsmanship and sustainable design.

As a designer she was uninterested in the speed of fashion and the pressure to design more and more product for a world that didn’t need it. She wanted to create a new business that worked outside of those boundaries.

“I have always been very interested in environmental issues and I knew whatever I did would have to have an environmental heart.

“I love watching Money for Nothing and Repair Shop. I love how they take unwanted items and – with creativity, crafts and knowledge – create something new.”

Natalie retrained to become an upholsterer. She said: “It’s been liberating, I was desperate to learn something new.”

She aimed to develop a plan to start a business that focused on rescuing unwanted homewares, preventing them from going to landfill, and re-imagining them in a colourful modern aesthetic.

Natalie started to bring her business plan to life in May last year after using the support of New Enterprise Allowance, which provided a mentor for her to talk to and support to create a business plan.

Since starting, she has collaborated with other makers/designers, using their artwork on cushions and chairs together with commissioned work, working with people to decide on suitable fabrics and techniques. This gradual increase in business means that Natalie’s sister, husband and dad are all supporting her to run it.

Consciously Creative might be a small business, but it packs a big punch – customers from Scotland and Australia are buying their products.

“I used to manage a team of 15 before and lived my life by a critical path, now I’m working in isolation and weirdly find prioritising my ‘to do’ list really difficult!

“I blame my never-ending inspiration, I’m always chewing over the work in my head, tweaking and changing my mind until I settle on the final idea.”

Natalie normally works on a one-off or small batch item, ensuring a sympathetic refurbishment with a twist, taking the unwanted and making it relevant in a modern world. As she continues to build her customer base, she is hoping to see her products stocked in interesting, individual stores.

“I have spent many an hour listening to chief executives talk about what your hard work will do for you, when in reality it was all about your hard work working for them. Now my hard work works for me!”

Find out more about Consciously Creative:

Do you know a great small business in Waltham Forest with a story to tell?