The interiors projects luring professional women away from their jobs

Harriet Parker with a selection of the Rossignol posters she is selling at the Hampstead Pop Up Vint

Harriet Parker with a selection of the Rossignol posters she is selling at the Hampstead Pop Up Vintage Fair - Credit: Archant

No longer the preserve of middle-aged men building model railways in sheds, an increasing number of young, urban women are starting small, creative businesses as hobbies.

A Rossignol vintage French school poster showing the 'Birds of Africa'

A Rossignol vintage French school poster showing the 'Birds of Africa' - Credit: Archant

Whether it’s for a little extra cash, to raise funds for a favourite cause or to offer a creative outlet, these low commitment interiors sidelines provide an enjoyable contrast to the day job.

For Harriet Parker, 31, an environmental consultant at an engineering firm, selling vintage French school posters dating from the 1950s to the 1980s is an opportunity to indulge her love of French design and culture.

“I think it seems to be a particularly French thing, the Rossignol style doesn’t exist in England but it’s so recognisable,” she says.

“My husband and I have both lived in Paris at different times and we got engaged in France. We found our first posters when he took me for a surprise birthday trip to the Braderie de Lille, a huge annual flea market. We bought a couple of posters for our house and a lot of people said how much they liked them but they’re quite hard to find for a reasonable price in the UK. When we went to Lille again this year we thought ‘why don’t we get some more and try and sell them?’”

Harriet Parker with Rossignol posters

Harriet Parker with Rossignol posters - Credit: Archant

Parker set up an Etsy shop but finding the admin involved with online selling somewhat onerous, she decided to get a stall at the Hampstead Pop Up Vintage Fair on Sunday, December 13.

“Hampstead seemed like a good place to sell at because it’s got a big French community, it’s got artistic heritage and people are interested in art and design,” says Parker. “I prefer selling at fairs, it’s nicer to sell to someone when they can look at the posters properly and touch them.

“When I lived in Paris I went to a flea market or ‘brocante’ practically every week and we’ve got lots of vintage bits and bobs in our house that are from various markets. I just have to try not to spend everything I make at the fair.”

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While Parker hopes to make a bit of money at the fair, she’s adamant that this is not a soft career change, testing the waters before taking the plunge into dealing full time.

A Rossignol vintage French school poster showing the coffee plant (Le Cafeier)

A Rossignol vintage French school poster showing the coffee plant (Le Cafeier) - Credit: Archant

“At the moment it fits alongside my job quite nicely,” she says. “If it went really well and I wanted a career change then I might consider doing it more permanently but it’s not with a view to changing my career.

“It’s just a nice, different thing to do and since I like going to flea markets anyway it seemed like a good opportunity to see how it goes. If they sell well, then we might buy more and see but it’s just a hobby.

“If we had more space at home then I’d probably buy bits and bobs of furniture as well but I don’t have anywhere else to store it at the moment.”

For some, the sideline is less a hobby than a necessity, with the day job providing some much-needed grounding.

Lucy Chapman at work in the studio

Lucy Chapman at work in the studio - Credit: Archant

Crouch End resident, Lucy Chapman, 37, works four days a week as a teacher in further education specialising in Dyslexia assessment and support and spends the rest of her week, as well as school holidays, as a print maker and artist, having inherited an old printing machine from her illustrator grandfather about eight years ago.

“I think it’s a really good thing to have a bit of balance. I intended to do printmaking full time but working with young people is really rewarding, especially in further education,” she says. “People come from all sorts of backgrounds and it gives you a good sense of what different people are dealing with in their everyday lives.

“Also it’s quite hard to make a living out of printmaking so there are the practicalities of having an income as well. I’d say I probably break even at best at the moment.

“It’s funny because to say it’s a hobby makes it sound like something optional, but I don’t really feel like I’m being myself if I’m not doing it.”

Ally Pally Fireworks screenprint by Lucy Chapman

Ally Pally Fireworks screenprint by Lucy Chapman - Credit: Archant

Training and courses helped Chapman identify more as an artist, as well as use of the East London Printmakers studio in Hackney, where she says there is a buzzing scene of kindred spirits.

“There’s lot going on, a really nice buzz around printmaking at the moment,” she says. Art isn’t such a sociable activity but in the printmaking studio there’s lots of people, it’s a nice community.”

A member of Muswell Hill Creatives and sold at Highgate Wood and Carter’s framers in Crouch End, Chapman is gradually adding more north London scenes to her screen print repertoire, which features various details and landscapes that catch her eye, and her lens.

“I do a lot of London scenes, I’ve always got my camera phone with me so I can take pictures of little scenes I see.

Spring Blossom by Lucy Chapman

Spring Blossom by Lucy Chapman - Credit: Archant

“I tend to photograph a scene and then I draw it. What’s really nice about printing is that you can layer things on top of each other so I could use a photograph for a background and I can put a drawing over the top.

“I layer up all these different scenes but I always include drawing because I really like to see hand drawn line.”

Chapman says that even before she inherited the printing press she was always drawing, for some their creative sideline has a more specific financial purpose.

Sarah Gallagher, 31, is the founder of Gallagher’s Boutique, an online jewellery and decoration shop on Etsy. She lives in Belsize Park and works full time as a community and social media manager.

Sarah Gallagher profile

Sarah Gallagher profile - Credit: Archant

Gallagher started the Boutique following a difficult period in her life. “One of my close friends was very depressed and took his own life,” she remembers. “I didn’t really know how to deal with how I was feeling and I was becoming more aware of the people around me, my friends and family, who were affected by mental health issues.”

Gallagher decided she wanted to raise money for mental health charities. But she stumbled into the project as much as she planned it.

“I was asked to organise my sister’s hen party, and I wanted to make some personal gifts,” she says. “So I did some research on Pinterest and I ended up making these brooches, and all the hens loved it. I was asked to make more jewellery, and gradually started building up my stock and making more unique pieces.”

Gallagher’s Boutique donates 10 per cent of its profit to Mind, a charity that offers support to those suffering from mental health problems.

Sarah Gallagher product shot 2

Sarah Gallagher product shot 2 - Credit: Archant

While the outset was a challenge, the shop has drawn attention and she’s getting orders every day- her bespoke Christmas decorations proving particularly popular.

“At the minute I’m doing a full time job, then coming home and working from seven to midnight making the products,” Gallagher says. “But normally it’s a couple of hours a day and in the weekends.”

Indeed, Gallagher’s Boutique may lead to bigger things in the future. “It is a hobby at the minute, but because it’s taking up so much time there is a possibility to turn it into a business. I’d like to do it part time.”

Sarah Gallagher product shot 3

Sarah Gallagher product shot 3 - Credit: Archant