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This week we’re chatting to the founder of The London Loom, a colour-explosion of a studio providing healing, fun, and community-enhancing weaving workshops. A long-time artist and student of other textile crafts, Francesca Kletz fell in love with weaving during a trip to Japan and brought the craft back to London with her, opening the city’s first beginner’s weaving studio. She’s since taught classes at the Tate Modern and Southbank center and is the author of Weave This. We had a chat with her about using art as a form of therapy, what cycle tracking can teach you about your body, and the benefits of having a period-savvy boyfriend…
I have a real love-hate relationship with running a small business.
I love the freedom of being my own boss and I love that I get to follow my creative and business instincts to try things out without consulting anyone else. It is extremely rewarding when something I have come up with does well with my customers and people enjoy what I’ve created. However, I do really miss the stability of having a ‘regular job’. I miss knowing that I can 100% rely on getting my salary and that I don’t have to be the director, administrator, marketing manager, and facilitator all at once to make sure that the business runs successfully. I also really miss having colleagues! I miss the camaraderie of going to the pub after work with your colleagues, especially as I used to work in schools and teachers are really into spending time together after hours. I also suffer from major procrastination problems – I mean, really, what’s the damage if I watch just one more episode of Drag Race after breakfast?!
I quit my job and taught myself everything I know
My transition to teaching crafts was sudden and very unexpected! I had never really considered starting my own business at all, it happened very organically. I quit my job teaching teenagers with Special Educational Needs because I felt really frustrated with the education system. I quit without any plan and just started teaching crafts part time wherever I could.
While living in the Middle East I taught myself how to use a tapestry loom to make decorative woven wall hangings and found a space where I could teach tapestry weaving. But I also wanted to make bright, colourful, woven cloth that I could make garments from. I tried out whatever weaving workshops I could find in London but none quite gave me what I was looking for. When I found the weaving workshop in Tokyo with the looms I eventually imported, a lightbulb went off – like a real, genuine (metaphorical) light bulb, on the plane home from Japan. I ended up importing the looms in my studio from Japan as I was unable to find them in London and the business snowballed from there!
I’ve always been an artist in one way or another
I was a massive hobby crafter before I found my looms in Japan. I had taught all sorts of crafts from embroidery to crochet and knitting and at home I played around with all sorts of textile crafts, I have also always made a lot of my own clothes. I actually used to specifically embroider vulvas and that “self-portrait” embroidery workshop is still one of my most popular workshops for private events and parties.
This year I’ve tried to manage my time a bit better with the business so that I have my own creative outlets that I’m exploring because, even though I still enjoy weaving, it always feels like work now. I’ve gotten back into writing which is very exciting but also very depressing because I remember how much work goes into creating your own art! I also still do lots of dress making and that’s always a great activity for helping me get out of my head.
London Loom is an intentionally healing space because I don’t prioritise skill
I spent a lot of time teaching all sorts of crafts and they can be deceptively stressful – there is a lot of practised skill involved that people often overlook. I do the hard work for my customers, unless they want to participate in my more technical workshops, meaning I set up the workshops in a way that makes it accessible to people of all skill levels. Customers who don’t want to become master craftspeople will still get something satisfying out of it without having to learn all the intricacies of the craft on their first go.
The hardest thing about weaving is setting up the loom – once that’s done it’s very all consuming, mesmeric, and rhythmic. There’s a kind of hum in the studio of the repetitive motion of the looms and it makes people feel very relaxed. Because the studio is small and I’m quite open for chatting during classes – and because my workshops are so heavily attended by women – I find that people just start opening up. Fun fact: basket weaving was actually used to help veterans with PTSD after WW2 and I can really see why.
I’d recommend art therapy to anyone and everyone. It can be frustrating starting off with new creative mediums and I definitely don’t think that every type of art will be relaxing to every type of person, but when you find the art or craft that you can be consumed by, it really is an amazing escape from work, stressful relationships, and looking at screens all day.
Getting into crafts can be much easier than it seems
My tips for people who are looking for a low-cost, low-commitment way to get into a creative hobby would be to start by heading to your local charity shops. Look for yarns, paints, pencils – anything that can be used in the craft you want to start exploring. Once you start looking you’ll be amazed at what there is on those bric-a-brac shelves. It can be really expensive to try lots of different workshops so watch YouTube tutorials and test them out using supplies at home – you could even have a peek in your parent’s lofts or spare rooms for needles and threads.
I’d also really recommend looking into skill swaps. If you have a useful skill such as computing, copyediting, marketing – anything, really – that could be really helpful to a creative person running an indie business. You could teach them your skill or offer them some of your time in exchange for them teaching you their craft. I will happily exchange workshops for people who can help me with things that I find really hard like photography and accountancy.
Limiting screen time is my ultimate self-care tip
I used to check my emails all day long and would be the last thing I looked at before going to bed. If I’d had a slow week I wouldn’t sleep trying to come up with ways to make the business run better. Some people are amazing at compartmentalising but when I’m passionate about something I just can’t do that at all. So I make sure that I don’t have my phone in my bedroom when I go to bed. We’re trying to make our bedroom a phone-free zone and it is really nice to make sure I can’t respond to Instagram DMs or emails past a certain time or be woken up by a lit-up screen.
I’ve tracked my cycle for years
I used to be on the pill so I guess I was aware of my cycle but wasn’t really tracking it. I’ve been off the pill since I was about 25 and I’m 32 now. I really love knowing where I’m at, if I’m in a bad mood I like to know whether or not I’m in my PMS window and, if I’m not, I can figure out what else could be wrong. I use apps to track my menstrual cycle and have done for about 5 years. I really love knowing what my body is doing and learning about how it works. For example, I know how my discharge, cramps, or headaches correlates with certain points in my cycle. I would say I’m a bit of a hypochondriac and I think that learning about my cycle has given me more peace of mind.
I’ve always been very lucky with my cramps
I do get sore and it makes me quite lethargic, but on the whole they’re not as bad as they could be! I’m really rubbish at pushing myself to go to yoga to soothe my pains during this time, even though I know it really helps. It used to affect me much more when I was teaching because you just have to be so on top of things and, when I was feeling sluggish because of cramps and headaches, I found that really hard. I definitely used to wish there was a day off every month where you could opt out of work because of cramps – sometimes you just have to curl up.
Right before and during my period I need more sleep and more head space. I often find that I can’t concentrate on administrative tasks at work when my period is about to start. I have a pending feeling for a couple of days before I’m due on, like my body is distractedly waiting for something and I find that very difficult to work with.
My boyfriend tracks my cycle!
I get SO emotional when I’m premenstrual. I get very tearful about everything, my boobs get massive, I get really bloated and none of my tops fit (which makes me cry, obviously), and then I get really cross. I pretty much always have a go at my boyfriend and then burst into tears about how horrible I was – then he will hug me and say gently “I think you’re about to get your period” which, at first, made me mad and I’d be like “how DARE you?!” But now I realise that he tracks my cycle which I actually find very sweet.
— As told to OHNE
Header image courtesy of The London Loom