From fashioning fabric dolls and flowerbomb-tastic tree decorations on Channel 4’s ‘Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas’, to showcasing her superlative styling skills for luxury brands such as De Beers Diamonds, when it comes to crafty all-rounders, you don’t get many more multi-skilled than this classy influential crafter with a particular passion for paper and florals.
Renowned multi-crafter/photographic stylist/bestselling craft author/TV presenter, Hannah Read-Baldrey, chats with Angela Sara West about her latest creations and collaborations, her hot-off-the-press subscription service and creating a ‘heaven and hell’ theme for a member of one of the UK’s biggest bands, Take That!
Hannah Read-Baldrey’s love for craft and flowers goes back as far as she can remember… the seeds were sown at a very young age. Much of her inspiration stems from carefree childhood memories of making daisy chains and being influenced by her plant-loving mum. “I think my passion was definitely encouraged by my mother, who studied botany and can name every single one, even the Latin names!” she explains.
The successful stylist with nearly 18 years’ experience is also a well-known craft author and presenter and was recently rated as “one of the UK’s top craft influencers of 2019” by Craft Business magazine. Her beautiful romantic style is what distinguishes her work and, having created for the crème de la crème of craft and luxury brands, TV companies, and publishers, she’s now branching out to garden centers, delivering unique craft boxes to your door, and much, much more!
Clearly cut for a flourishing career in the craft industry, with adoration of botany rooted in the blood, armed with a BA (Hons) degree in Theatre Design from Central St Martins College of Arts and Design in London, her petal-patterned career path has proven fruitful every step of the way. Hannah’s now among the best of the bunch, creating unbelievable flower-filled makes for famous faces and brands, alongside nurturing others and giving them the tools and encouragement to grow their burgeoning crafting skills. What’s more, when it comes to styling a set or shoot, with 17 years’ elegant designing and fashioning experience, she’s second to none.
Bringing high-end floral joy to the world…
With a penchant for experimentation and an appreciation of crafts which look “super luxury and high end”, Hannah is on a mission to bring floral joy to the world, offering “creative styling for creative clients”. The well-known craft personality not only works as a photographic stylist but also designs, makes and often models her designs for luxury titles like Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Vanity Fair, along with leading brands including Hugo Boss, John Lewis, Pure Collection, Reiss and prestigious Savile Row Menswear brand, Ozwald Boateng.
Over the years, she has also collaborated with Cath Kidston, and, for the past 10 years, has created and presented video content for leading magazines and retailers, including Red Magazine, QVC, Waitrose, Tesco and Hobbycraft, alongside her styling role for high-profile clients such as Debenhams, Waitrose, Clarins and Boden. Recent clients include Olivia Burton and Marie Claire, and Hannah was thrilled to be the featured stylist in last December’s issue of Good Housekeeping, which showcased her fanciful craft ideas for the festive season.
“I love working with luxury brands! Often, the designers have a real input into the styling, meaning every element of the shoot is considered.” One of her favorite clients is De Beers Diamonds. “It’s not often that you get to handle diamonds worth millions! When we did the DeBeers shoot, the security guard bought in the most discrete old box, carried with a plastic bag – there is no way anyone would have predicted what was inside… The only problem with shooting high-value items is that I always want to keep them!”
Hannah has carried out copious commissions for leading craft titles, too, and now has a monthly trend column, ‘The Couture Craft Journal’, in the recently-launched Crochet Club magazine from the makers of Crafts Beautiful. “I absolutely love working with Crochet Club, picking out trends on new designers and products really does inspire me and my work. Recently, I have been discussing the power of color and my big craft tidy up, encouraged by Marie Kondo! It’s wonderful to see how many incredible crochet designers and bloggers are really making their creations modern and vibrant.”
Hannah the ambassador
Well known for her chic ‘n’ colorful creations fashioned from fresh fragrant or paper flowers, this busy crafting bee regularly creates style, food and ‘how-to’ video content for brands, advising on everything from creative philosophy to DIY. In her role as an influencer for the UK’s largest arts and crafts retailer, Hobbycraft, she has created floral-inspired Christmas collections and has recently been making ‘how-to’ tutorials, demonstrating a few bang-on-trend crafts. “We’ve been filming lots of lovely videos on candle making, fluid pouring and soap making.” Hannah also holds the honored to have the coveted title of QVC’s Craft Ambassador, alongside the ambassadorial hat she wears for Ellison, representing their Sizzix brand, for which she’s filmed a series on Christmas crafts.
Flower power from a floral fashionista
This green-fingered flower fan picked a different type of client to kick off the spring and summer seasons’ crafting. Hannah’s been working with Dobbies Garden Centres lately and is now set to influence crafty gardeners, too, having created some style and craft videos for their social media channels, showing a number of magnificent botanical-inspired makes. “Dobbies and I have been developing some lovely spring craft ideas that are being made into video content. Spring is, of course. the most beautiful time of year to be in the garden!” Her favorite flower? “The Julia Rose Peony… or, as I like to say, the most flamboyant and flirty of all the flowers! It’s huge and pink and wonderful. I’m not sure what’s not to be inspired by flowers… Each season brings a new color palette, shape and scent.”
With on-trend florals continuing to bloom on the catwalk and high street, the leading stylist’s blog ‘Couture Craft’, at CoutureCraft.co.uk, inspires readers to add a beautiful botanical touch to not only clothing but home décor, accessories, gifts, celebrations, food and drink and more. She loves to share her latest news and tips for not only craft, but cookery, interiors, lifestyle, and fashion and has been showcasing a slice of her personal life and projects on this platform for over 15 years. A fabulous feast for the eyes, her website at www.hannahreadbaldrey.com, meanwhile, highlights Hannah’s commercial work, with sensational set designs, a selection of her illustration work, plus food, fashion, beauty, and still-life shots.
Secret celeb collabs, Rolling Stone makeovers & styling Take That parties
Hannah has worked with a fair few famous faces over the years. “The loveliest, and most random, celebrity I worked with was years ago… I helped Take That’s Mark Owen style his now wife’s birthday party on a boat on the River Thames in London! It was a ‘heaven and hell theme’ – very TT! Recently, I have worked with the most fabulously creative Jo Wood (former wife of The Rolling Stones’ guitarist Ronnie Wood) at her beautiful home, and Paralympics presenter, Sophie Morgan, who is an amazing painter and illustrator.”
Mum’s the word, but Hannah reveals she’s been filming for “a new top-secret celebrity craft show”, too. “I’ve been shooting an exciting new project for Channel 4 TV for which I, sadly, can’t release any details for yet. But, needless to say, we are bringing celebrities and craft to daytime TV later on in the year, and I couldn’t be more delighted!”
Craft – it can be a piece of cake!
Hannah creates most of her work at home, with many shoots taking place in her stunning south London abode. Her beautiful romantic style is reflected throughout the Victorian property, which enjoys an eclectic mix of elegant, exotic and Boho chic creations… a glorious collection of a few of her countless craft projects carried out with love and, of course, inspired by beautiful blooms. Not only do her craft creations look good enough to eat, but many of them are also, in fact, edible, as multi-skilled Hannah is a keen and creative cook, too, having completed Leiths School of Food and Wine’s British Baking course just a few years ago. It comes as no surprise that her magnificent cakes come complete with fabulous sugar flowers and frequently serve as centerpieces for her spectacular set designs.
What’s more, with seemingly no end to her talents, Hannah also boasts ‘bestselling author’ as another striking string to her creative cross-pollinating bow, having sold over 150,000 books worldwide, including ‘Everything Alice’ and ‘Girls’ Night In Crafts, Cakes, and Cocktails for the Ultimate Party’, published by Quadrille Publishing, plus one of Pavilion’s most popular titles, ‘Flowerbomb! 25 Beautiful Craft Projects to Blow Your Blossoms’. “I’m so proud of ‘Flowerbomb!’ It took about a year in the making as I created, made and wrote the projects, styled the photoshoots and illustrated the whole book, which has several gorgeous papercraft projects, such as the papier mâché Cherry Blossom Vase and my joyful Happy Flower Garland, which is styled as a tail to a giant balloon! I love a giant flower, which is why I created the Giant Rose Peony, and the Cosmos Stationery & Cards, for which you make your own stamps and use embossing powder which, I think, is made of magic!”
Split into sections – Floral Home, Flower Fiesta and Floral Fashionista – Hannah’s stunning book of floral crafts shows how to add a beautiful botanical touch to home décor, wardrobes, clothing, accessories, gifts, gardens, and even our parties. The 25 gorgeous floral-themed projects to make at home using a combination of real and handmade flowers and various crafting techniques, including basic papercraft, weaving, sugarcraft. easy embroidery and embellishment for all levels, encouraging crafters to develop their skills.
From a pressed floral ‘phone case, sequined bomber jacket and tulip folk cushion, to a velvet flower crown, daisy chain necklace and that aforementioned vase (which takes papier mâché to a whole new level), there are also floral bath bombs and candles to create. “I absolutely relished making all of the floral designs in the book,” says Hannah. “It’s not often that you get to create so many projects about your favorite subject! Books do come with their own challenges, though, as they can be time and budget-restricted, but are always worth the hard work in the end.”
A papercraft perfectionist
When did her passion for papercraft unfold? “I’ve always loved working with paper. It’s an amazing medium; it can be delicate and strong and can be used to make everything from tiny delicate papercuts to huge floral wall installations. When most people think of it, they think of a flat sheet of A4! But, for me, it’s simply so versatile. From making crêpe paper flowers or a birthday card to illustrating a whole book with papercut designs, there are so many ways to use it…”
As for adding a handmade floral touch to a party or wedding, Hannah wears the styling crown. “With the new wave of ultimate Instagrammable weddings, I do love a flower wall for guests to have lovely photos taken in front of. I also love handmade paper or fabric headdresses for the bridesmaids – something timeless that they can treasure forever.”
A perennial favourite for demonstrating at annual events, budding crafters can learn first-hand from Hannah how to bring blooms to life from paper, felt and ‘sew’ much more at the flower queen’s sell-out sessions showing us how to create a decorative explosion of gorgeous 3D flowers in our homes and lives, all exuding Hannah’s elegant style.
Wonderful workshops Hannah has held so far this year include demos at London’s Covent Garden’s Tea & Crafting workshops and at The Spring Knitting & Stitching Show at London’s Olympia, where she signed copies of her book, shared her supreme skills and showcased her pretty Spring Flower Wreaths, demonstrating how to fashion giant garlands from felt, and embellish garments with stunning sequinned sewn flowers framed in huge wooden hula hoops. In past years, she’s even run workshops in the French capital, flying the flag for great British craft across the Channel. “I hosted one with my friend and co-author, Christine Leech, at a big craft show in Paris, which was great fun. We ended the day with a giant plate of cheese!”
A nurturing nature
How does it feel to be such a huge influencer? “I’ve always loved making things, photography and recording elements of my life which, luckily enough, are the core elements you need to be a social media influencer. Over time, I’ve built up a community of like-minded creative people on my Instagram feed (12k followers). So, for me, this became quite a natural path. When working with brands, I try to use their products as much as suitable and promote the things l love about them.”
Inspired by life…
She sources inspiration everywhere… “Life simply inspires me… I love nature, walking around the park and seeing all the amazing flowers, going to an exhibition, eating wonderful food… The house we stayed at in Ibiza last year had a ‘Mother and Child’ picture by Picasso on the wall – it literally made me cry!”
Various paper artists influence her work. “I think I was originally inspired by Rob Ryan’s papercuts, but I’ve now discovered so many paper artists out there, such as Su Blackwell, Paper Petal and Helen Musselwhite, and I find Zack McLaughlin’s (aka @paperandwood_) botanical creations utterly mind-blowing… his birds and butterflies are so real, it’s incredible that they have been made from paper!”
“I absolutely adore the floral design and we were given the most stunning watercolor-painted duvet from Anthropologie last summer, and I have been obsessed by its illustrator, Paint, and Petals, aka Brigette Thornton (@paintandpetals), ever since. Her work is so vibrant and effortless.” Hannah has also been inspired by the beautiful floral jewelry collections from Alex Monroe and Olivia Burton. “Monroe released an Alphabetic floral-encrusted necklace range earlier on in the year, and Olivia Burton launched a Rainbow Bee collection. They’re both delicate and lovely.”
MakeBox+Co. – creativity delivered to the door!
Cultivating the creative community, Hannah has just launched her latest project, MakeBox+Co. (www.makebox.co / Instagram @makebox.co) a unique monthly box of creative projects in collaboration with talented artists and designers. “I’m delighted to introduce the most fabulous project, my exciting new business MakeBox+Co., a craft box subscription service for adults and kids delivered to your door. It’s the brainchild of myself and my husband, combining our talents in creativity and business. Alongside my beautiful designs, we will be working with the most amazing designers to create inspiring and unique boxes.”
Hannah created MakeBox+Co. to help people connect with their creative spirit and claim back time to invest in themselves and each other. Aimed at all ages and skill levels, her brand-new kits are brimming with original and inspiring curated projects that will excite and challenge subscribers, and each month brings a new surprise! “With our backgrounds in craft, fashion, cookery, and technology, we’re building a company and community for all ages that share our vision. Each box provides everything you need, with quality materials that will enable you to cherish your creations.”
In a bid to keep kids entertained and away from the distractions of technology, the children’s range uses storytelling as the basis for creative projects, taking little ones on a newly-themed, creative and educational adventure each month, accompanied by a beautifully-illustrated instruction book to complete the story, and enabling families to spend quality time together and feel more connected. “The first boxes landed in April, just in time for the Easter holidays,” she says. And there’s so much more to come from subsequent doorstep deliveries from Hannah and her hubby. “In the upcoming months, I will be commissioning some wonderful designers to help me create the MakeBox+Co. kits, working with design names who have constantly inspired me over the years.”
Trend-setter Hannah is pleased that brands are waking up to the need to cut back on plastics to help save the planet. “I feel like the need for sustainability and the responsibly-sourced product is not only a trend but a necessity. Brands that are stopping using plastic glitter, for example, are helping to contribute to this plight. The trend for crafters to work with upcycling materials, such as household plastics and furniture, is lovely to see, too. I can only expect us to see more of this.”
Beatrix Potter portrait
Her recent paper portrait of one of the world’s best-selling and best-loved children’s authors is among Hannah’s favourite makes. “I was recently delighted to be commissioned by Sizzix Lifestyle to create one of my heroines out of paper for International Women’s Day. I chose Beatrix Potter! I hope my portrait makes her proud… It was a wonderful opportunity to create something magical. I love to illustrate people with paper, as it’s an almost unexpected medium for that.”
Her fairy tale makes for last festive season are also among her fave creations. “I also loved working with Marie Claire at Christmas, illustrating and creating mini-sets for their festive beauty pages. They were all designed around children’s fairy tales, such as Cinderella and The Nutcracker. Hannah has illustrated all four of her own books and, showcasing her ‘elegant, playful and whimsical’ style, another of her much-loved makes is the huge Alice In Wonderland papercut cover she created for her book ‘Everything Alice’ (co-written with Christine Leech). “It is GINORMOUS… and it’s hanging in my living room!!”
Hannah in bloom
This fun-loving flower girl is now in full bloom herself – she’s also busy creating an addition to the family, with her growing bump benefiting from her masterful maternity makes. “My next project? Well, I will be having my rainbow baby at the beginning of the summer!”
Alongside hard work, she says the secrets to her phenomenal success are “talent, personality, unique ideas, multitasking… and I think a lot of people really like me for my cakemaking skills!” As a very busy, self-described “momtrepreneur”, how does she juggle her numerous projects and manage to maintain a happy work/life balance? “I create most of my work from home, unless I’m out shooting, which allows me to drop off and pick up my son from school 90% of the time, but admittedly can make a short day so, sometimes, evenings come in to play. I work a lot on social media, blogging and Instagramming, so I try to be free of my ‘phone or devices by around 8 pm so that I can actually have a proper chat and sit down with my husband to discuss the day.”
Flowers are frequently described as “sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul”, and Hannah believes creativity and wellbeing are undeniably linked. “Being a family of creatives, we believe in the power of dreams and fairy tales… Craft makes me happy, it allows me to express my creativity and brings me a massive sense of achievement and wellbeing. I am blessed to be able to do what I love!”
Budding beginner? Seasoned maker? Scalpels at the ready for some top tips from a top crafter on paper flower making!
- Don’t feel that papercraft is simply cardmaking, although this is an excellent place to start. There is so much to it. Lots of papercraft can be sculptural…
- Buying pretty papers can, in itself, be inspiring and may spur you on to make other ideas.
- Make sure you have a craft mat, knife and a good pair of paper scissors – sharp is best when it comes to paperwork!
- My favorite thing to make at the moment is crêpe paper flowers, using best-quality Italian crêpe paper.
- Above all, have fun and inspire yourself. Go onto my Pinterest page (pinterest.co.uk/couturecraft/) and look up my inspiration section on ‘papercraft’. Then, you’ll see what I mean!
For inspiration and to find out more, visit Hannah’s blog at Couture Craft: www.couturecraft.co.uk
The portfolio of her commercial work can be found at www.HannahReadBaldrey.com
Sign up for her brand-new subscription boxes at MakeBox+Co: www.makebox.co