Where I Work: Hazel, a textile designer working from a home studio in Manchester

Now coronavirus has pushed the UK into lockdown, more and more of us are working from home.

This will be new to a lot of us, who are used to heading into a proper office day in, day out.

To give us some inspiration for our work-from-home setups, we’ve launched a mini series called Where I Work, where each day we’ll take a look at how a different person works from home.

So far we’ve peeked at the bedroom sanctuary of an intern and photographer, seen how one writer is working on a houseboat, and met a barefoot athlete who has no chairs in his home.

Today we’re chatting with Hazel Carruthers of Avalana Design. Hazel is a textile designer who’s created wallpaper and fabrics for brands including John Lewis, Next, and M&S, and launched her own brand in 2018.

She works from a studio set up in her rented home in Manchester.

Hi, Hazel! What do you do for work?

My degree was in printed textiles and I have worked my way through various creative industries such as wallpaper, bedding and soft furnishings.

In the Summer of 2018, I had a ‘now or never’ moment to start my own brand of home accessories, which had always been a dream of mine.

It has been a tough journey, and I’ve learned so much already. The creative freedom and sense of achievement gained from starting my own business has made it all so worth it.

Where are you working right now?

I set up from home when I started up my business. It was the most cost effective thing for me to do while trying to get things off the ground.

I occasionally do pop out for meetings and I also take a wallpaper training course in Manchester city centre every six weeks, which is good to mix things up a bit.

The coronavirus has put a stop to my meetings and teaching for now, but I find working from home really enjoyable.

I share my rented home with my partner of 15 years, Derek, and my three gorgeous wee dogs who keep me company during the day while I work from my home studio.

Can you break down your working space?

We moved to a slightly bigger house in January so I could have more work space. As I hit my second year of the business things were picking up and we really needed the extra space.

I use the third bedroom as my office where I do my admin and Mac work. The conservatory is my studio where I paint my watercolours, store samples, check product and mail out orders.

Repurposing furniture we already had for storage was cost-effective, and I got myself a little fold away drawing table to make the space more versatile.

I like to keep these areas light and bright so my paintings and prints stand out and add pops of colour.

I accessorise with everything I can get in gold and have a ‘Lets’ Do This’ print on my desk for motivation!

I have also created our lounge/dining area to fit with my brand so I have the capability of hosting meetings at my home. You will see I haven’t wasted any time in decorating the living/dining area with one of my wall murals!

What challenges have you faced when working from home?

The biggest challenge from my point of view was not having a team around me, or having anyone around to bounce my ideas off.

I soon realised it’s a quick YouTube video tutorial or WhatsApp photo to my creative friends for a bit of feedback and it’s not an issue anymore.

It has made me realise I am much more resourceful than I thought, it has given me more confidence in my own decision making and my skill set has expanded from having to learn different aspects of the business on my own.

Talk us through a day at work.

The first thing I do is take care of my social media and emails (sometimes from bed!).

I then switch on my Mac ready for the day and make a list of what needs to be done in priority order.

I’ll either stay in the office and listen to the morning discussion shows or head down to the studio to paint or package any orders while listening to some tunes.

I make a point of having a mid-morning coffee, and whatever I am doing, I will stop between 1-2pm for my dog walk.

Then it’s all afternoon to finish my list of jobs. If anything has come up during the day that has taken me away from work I just make up the time into the evening, or at the weekend.

What are your personal rules for working from home?

Having the dogs keeps me to a routine which is great and has meant I fell into a structured day straight away. I think I would have struggled otherwise after 10 years of a nine to five job.

It was difficult at first learning to bend the rules around what time I should be working and when to have breaks or do odd jobs around the house (too tempting).

There is nothing wrong with changing the times you do your work, as long as the work is getting done and you get everything off your to-do list.

What advice do you have for WFH newbies?

I found it so much more relaxing when I opened my mind to flexible hours and it actually reduces stress.

Having a few routine things in place throughout the day does keep me sane. Like making a point of walking for 20-30 mins, or doing a yoga video on your lunch break helps re-focus and motivate the mind, ready for the afternoon. It can be really small things, but if you do them ever yday it feels like there is some structure there which really helps.

Also, take advantage of having the freedom to create a workspace that looks and feels great. It’s amazing how motivating it can be!

Organise it just how you like, add little prints or items you love, could be a quirky lamp or a gorgeous cushion for your chair, and listen to your fave music or podcasts throughout the day.

Do you have a snazzy home office you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing Ellen.Scott@Metro.co.uk.

Share your rules for working from home in the comments section below.

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