Natalie Craddick and Mae are the creative souls behind Craft'd, an arts and craft studio in the French Concession Shanghai and a newly opened studio in the UK. Their monthly craft meet ups proved so popular they were able to leave their full time jobs and open up a permanent space for people of all ages to get crafty.
Tell us about Craft’d. How you got started and how you’ve expanded.
Natalie: Craft’d first started in 2015 as a meet up - we hosted monthly craft in bars and restaurants around Shanghai. After about 6 months, they became so popular that we decided to open our studio and run classes on a more regular basis. Our studio in the French Concession now offers craft classes for adults and children as well as weekly kids sewing clubs and school holiday camps. I relocated back to the UK at the beginning of 2019 and now run a similar operation in the UK - the Craft’d bus! I converted a bus into a mobile craft studio, offering crafty, pamper and sewing birthday parties for up to 15 children as well as school sewing clubs! Currently due to the lockdown in the UK I am running virtual craft camps and birthday parties.
Mae: Craft’d started as a meet-up group that Natalie started. I immediately got hooked and joined every single event! I’ve always been entrepreneurial and I saw the potential from day one! Natalie was supposed to move to Spain later that year but changed her mind when we realised that we could leave our full time jobs and make Craft’d work. At that time, we were the very first foreign owned craft studio that offered one off classes so we had the support of the expat community since day one! It’s been such an amazing journey!
What kind of crafting do you teach?
Natalie: All kinds! The Shanghai studio teaches everything from sewing, knitting and crochet and weaving to calligraphy, watercolour and jewellery making. We are proud to offer a wide range of craft activities to suit everyone.
Mae: I teach watercolour, calligraphy, sewing, soap making! I can pretty much teach most of our classes except knitting, crochet and classes taught by our specialists.
Besides creating something beautiful or useful, what are some of the benefits of crafting?
Natalie: When we first began the meet ups we found that having a craft to focus on helped ease the normal social tensions involved in meeting up with a new group of people. Crafting provides a unique social atmosphere where not only are you focusing on your craft, but you are connecting with the people you are crafting with. Besides that, there are so many benefits from crafting and there have been numerous studies on it. It can reduce stress and increase happiness. Learning a new skill builds up self-esteem and confidence. It encourages focus and contemplation in a world where it is so easy to be distracted, especially at the moment.
Mae: I know crafting is my full time job but even during my down time and holidays, I still craft. It is my own version of mindfulness. Personally, it helps me relax and decompress. I think this holds true for others as well. I also think that crafting builds self-esteem as you get to create something you can be truly proud of! And lastly, crafting builds community! I cannot tell you how many wonderful conversations I’ve had with people that started because of a craft project.
You’ve now started a UK branch of Craft’d. How do you manage both Shanghai and the UK?
Natalie: I manage the UK and Mae manages the Shanghai studio. Whilst we don’t have much involvement in the day to day running of the different ventures, we speak daily and continue to bounce ideas off each other all the time.
Mae: Natalie handles Craft’d UK and I handle Craft’d Shanghai. But we’re still pretty much a team! We talk everyday and bounce ideas off each other and brainstorm a lot! We are also each others devil’s advocate and biggest critics!
What’s your favourite thing to craft?
Natalie: I love to sew. Teaching kids and beginners how to sew is one of my favourite parts of my job. I also love to crochet and cross stitch, but I will give any craft a go!
Mae: It changes all the time for me as I am always looking out for something new to try! Currently, I am into macrame and fabric printing.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Natalie: Pinterest and Instagram are a constant source of inspiration as well as sharing ideas with other creatives. However myself and Mae have both found that we are at our most creative when we turn off the internet and our phones and simply brainstorm and think. The internet is such a useful tool in so many ways, but you often get the best ideas when you are free from that distraction.
Mae: Pinterest, Instagram, everywhere! Most of the time I am inspired by the idea of creating something that doesn’t exist! A few days ago, I thought about how cool would it be to have a scented face mask? So I got some lemon printed fabric and sewed a face mask. I then inserted a filter and worked out a way to subtly infuse lemon essential oils to it.
A few months ago, I saw people on facebook doing lots of puzzles. Two weeks later, our wooden Shanghai skyline puzzles came out of production!
In 2015 Craft’d brought the ‘yarn bombing’ craze to Shanghai. What’s the latest trend in crafting at the moment?
Natalie: Macrame and all its variations seems to continue to evolve and trend! However, here in the UK it is lovely to see crafters putting their skills to use by sewing up scrubs for NHS and key workers, as well as handmade masks.
Mae: I would say that Nordic inspired crafts are still in trend! And elements like Marble, brass, cement and wood done in a modern way is still very much popular.
If you would like to find out more about Craft'd you can find them at: