We put 5 Questions to Sarah from The Toggery...
Q) What’s the secret origin story of The Toggery and how did it all come together?
Wow, that's a long story so I'd better try to gather my thoughts to make it shorter! For about ten years I ran three successful part-time franchises of a theatre school and made all the costumes for our shows. This led to making costumes for other branches of the same organisation and then for other theatre schools too. One production, at the Royal Albert Hall, there was a cast of around 800 young people, ranging in age from 6 to 17, and I designed & made just over 600 of their costumes. Hard work! When I gave up the theatre school, I carried on making costumes but eventually began to get tired of making large numbers of each design and I wanted to have more freedom with my creativity. Around the same time, Steampunk was becoming a more well known sub-culture and I started making hats for people who wanted to get involved. Gradually I got busier and a couple of years ago I took the plunge and changed my life completely! ... I sold my flat in London, moved near Oxford to a flat with a large room suitable to use as a workroom, gave up my full-time job as a special school office manager and started being a full-time artisan, working from home. It's been a STEEP learning curve and I'm still attending a wide variety of trading events, building a customer base and finding where The Toggery fits best.
Q) Since you started, what moment has been your highlight so far?
I can't pick one highlight, so I'm going to take the liberty of making it more general. I love it when something I make, makes a customer happy and gives them confidence and pleasure when the wear it, whether it's a hat or a full cosplay. I can genuinely get goose bumps when someone who says 'I can't wear hats' takes my advice about what size/shape/style would suit them and they put on a hat which is just right and they look and feel fantastic. It's such a rewarding experience to have a happy customer.
Q) What’s your favourite thing about what you do?
Hmmmm, so many things. I love being able to get up in the morning and go to my workroom and work on whatever takes my fancy. After two years, I still can't quite get over the fact that I don't have a boss, or a timetable or anyone to answer to and I don't have to commute through London traffic . Of course I still have deadlines to make sure that I have enough suitable stock for each event I trade at, I have the boring things to do like bookkeeping and long drives to events, but it's outweighed 100% by the freedom of working for myself. I miss the security of monthly pay which a full-time job gave me, but I live according to my smaller budget now and the lack of money is a small price to pay for an improved quality of worklife.
Q) This is your first year at True Believers, what can people expect to find at your table on the day?
I hope it will be things they love! There will be some very reasonably priced hats & accessories for those who would like to start their Steampunk wardrobe, and there will be some more expensive handmade items for those extroverts who love something quirky and different. I'll bring gloves and hand decorations, chokers and necklaces, corset style belts and bags of cogs for customers who want to turn their hand at Steampunking their own items. I usually have some fantasy style head ornaments and hair decorations, occasionally tutus and glitter shoes, pocket watches and furry ears. I'll also have cosplay accessories, such as cuffs with Harley's new look tattoo. I hope that even those who don't want to purchase anything will like looking!
Q) If you could pick one line or moment from a comic, which would it be?
Bruce Wayne: 'I'm afraid that when I walk through those asylum gates ... When I walk into Arkham and the doors close behind me .... It'll be just like coming home.'
I also like this quote, not from a comic book, but from Stan Lee: 'If Shakespeare and Michelangelo were alive today, and if they decided to collaborate on a comic, Shakespeare would write the scricpt and Michelangelo would draw it. How could anybody say that this wouldn't be as worthwhile an art form as anything on earth?'
Be sure to check out The Toggery website.
And don't forget to stop by their table at #TBCF2017 and say "Hello".