Written Statement of Employment Particulars

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“Written Statement of Employment Particulars”…

How daunting that sounds! The language of business always strikes me as needlessly intimidating. At any rate, this is an exciting thing to be taking up… the challenge of my first employee!

I am sure there will be a steep learning curve involved. There has been already. I’ve had opinions from various places, some saying that hiring one person is a breeze and others saying it’s a paperwork nightmare! I am hoping, realistically, for something in the middle. After all, I didn’t create Sparklewren so that I might do more paperwork… None-the-less, I’ve needed an extra pair of hands for a while now, and have discovered (through working with some lovely interns) that the assistance can indeed be a pivotal thing.

So, Holly (a former intern and DMU costume/fashion graduate) will be officially starting with me this week! We’re going with a temporary contract for now, as I need to prove to myself, her, and the business, that taking on an assistant is a good move. I believe it will be. She has already proven herself an energetic and eager worker, and in the time that I’ve known Holly her cutting and other skills have gotten more and more accurate. And that’s what you need, someone with the ability to concentrate, improve and learn, especially where the accuracy and expense of corsetry is concerned.

Holly has also been learning a bit about the Birds Wing corsets with me in preparation, and I have started her out studying Goldcrest construction. So for now, she is my Goldcrest Girl!

A few examples from the first trial-run of discounted Goldcrest corsets.
A few examples from the first trial-run of discounted Goldcrest corsets.

The Goldcrest, for those not in the know, is a prototype classic underbust corset that I am currently trialing. 10 panels per side (though usually made with a closed-front for a smooth profile beneath clothes), the Goldcrest is simple but excruciatingly hard to get right. The accuracy you need is exceptionally high and the authentic antique-corsetry-inspired construction that I have developed is hard to master. I’ve the benefit of having done over a thousand runs of this seam and even I still find the technique one that requires intense concentration and vigilance. None-the-less, with some tweaking following trial-run client feedback, I am considering adding the Goldcrest to our made-to-order options, and so it is one of the skills Holly must master.

Of course, the primary reason for taking on a member of staff is to allow the business to continue being a source of creativity and joy. You might expect me to say that the primary function of the business is to “make money” or “be successful” or “define the market”, but it isn’t. The point is simply to create something interesting and contribute to the contentment of myself and others (“contentment” not being a greed-driven, “give me all the things” notion, but simply one of creating security and relative comfort for my loved ones and little personal treasures for my clients)… everything else is just a necessary symptom of running a business.

I only make corsets and gowns because it is the artistic medium (or “craft”, as you prefer) which makes surprising sense to me. I also get bored easily and need to feel engaged and challenged, otherwise what’s the point? This does have the knock-on effect that I have a tendency to focus on elaborate showpieces when most sensible business advisers would be saying, “you got your classic products sorted four years ago, be profitable with them!” Of course, if I’d done that I’d have spent four years making two or three designs again and again and again and again… instead of pushing to innovate and hitting upon very personal aesthetics and complex constructions through the process. Wouldn’t that have been dull!

As an aside, I could also note that nearly all of the business advisers I’ve ever spoken to haven’t understood the notion of bespoke, instead recommending mass-production in far off lands. There is strong reasoning behind this, namely that bespoke corsetry is a near impossible way to earn a safe and proper living. But there you are, we push through because we love the work, and because I don’t believe that something being hard and having no precedent means it can’t be done.

Playing it safe doesn’t result in pieces like the Sugared Leopard “BIrds Wing” corset (modeled here by Cassie Rae Wardle)… Such pieces may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but at least they’re interesting and done with conviction! That’s what I want from myself, to push myself to always make pieces that I believe are worth making, so that the client/collector/bride may have something truly special.

To get back on track, I do love the classics, of course, but I cannot go at them endlessly hour-after-hour (not least because they don’t bring in much money compared to the amount of work I put into them). As a result, I tend to focus mostly on one over the other, which I know is a shame for some of you as you’re always emailing to ask if I’ve space for a simple Swiss Cincher or elegant bespoke Broche and sometimes I have to say no.

A “simple” Sparklewren corset isn’t really simple at all and that has been a challenge. The time involved in even my basic pieces (like the prototype Phoenix above) mean that they don’t necessarily earn the business very much when compared to couture and bridal. An extra pair of skilled hands will help them flow faster.

I have found though, that when assisted by cheerful souls in the studio… who’d have thought? The classics are swifter to work through and I have more time for them! I suppose this is what anyone other than a stubborn one-woman business would see as the whole point of delegation… Attributing tasks to those who are best suited to them. I know something of Holly’s strengths (and I know enough about my own weaknesses) to be confident that as a team we will be able to provide you with both stunningly made classics and artistic couture pieces. It’s an exciting notion, to think that there might be the time and resources for Sparklewren to create more. 

So, a huge “Welcome!” to Holly! Let’s see where this new step for Sparklewren takes us.

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