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Interview: Dawn Bibby
DAWN Bibby’s name may not mean much to you if you’re not creatively inclined.
But if you’re into paper crafting, card-making or scrapbooking, she is a bona fide star.
For Blackburn-born Dawn is one of QVC shopping channel’s best-loved presenters, with thousands tuning-in to her weekly show, Paper Crafting with Dawn Bibby.
“I get masses of fan mail,” said Dawn, who lives in Great Harwood with husband JJ and her three dogs Lucy, Arnie and Charlie.
"In fact, they say I get more mail than anybody else.
"A lot of people write to me asking questions or wanting help and advice.
"Lots send me cards that they've made themselves. I get many letters from people who are housebound through illness and for them QVC is a lifeline.
"They tell me they feel like I'm their friend because I'm in their houses chatting to them. I get some lovely letters."
Dawn is also owner of Topaz Crafts, Oswaldtwistle, and can often be found at the shop passing on her skills to like-minded crafters.
"The crafting industry is massive," said Dawn.
"The beauty of it is that anybody can have a go — it's ageless and classless.
"I get people from all sectors of society writing to me.
"I have kids coming up to me saying they love watching my shows, and their grandmas tell me that crafting has bridged the age gap because now their grandkids want to visit them to make cards.
"I have a 94-year-old man who regularly writes to me, and I have fans in Spain. These people all have a connection because of crafting."
Dawn believes that crafting provides a creative outlet for many people.
"In my experience lots of people are put off being creative in school," she said.
"If they weren't good at drawing they were told they weren't artistic, which isn't true at all.
"But paper crafting has opened up a whole new world to them because you've got products which already have a design on them, and the art is in the application. It's the composition that makes them good.
"I have doctors and nurses buying my craft kits from QVC, all sorts of people who use crafting as a way of switching off from stressful jobs.
"It's 'me' time. You can sit down and escape into a little world of creating something."
At the other end of the scale, many of Dawn's fans are people who cannot leave the house and have used crafting to gain a sense of personal worth.
"So many people have told me how they've created small businesses selling their cards.
"Many people who have had to stop working due to injury or illness have said they were left desolate with nothing in their lives to focus on, but after watching my shows on QVC and getting into crafting they have started selling cards through their partner's work or at the village shop, and now they're making money and have a sense of purpose."
The crafting industry has grown exponentially in recent years.
But when Dawn first started out on QVC 15 years ago she struggled to convince the channel bosses to let her demonstrate paper crafting materials.
"I was first person to take paper crafting on television," said Dawn.
"At first QVC didn't understand it. They asked: 'Why would people want to buy pieces of paper?'
"Thankfully they gave me the opportunity and they were amazed at how people reacted."
Dawn, who studied textiles and fashion at Blackburn College, set up her first business at the age of 21 selling knitwear.
She went on to run her own boutique in Wilpshire called Top Half, but when roadworks outside the shop affected business Dawn diversified and began running craft workshops.
Eventually she set up her own craft shop in Oswaldtwistle Mills, where she was for 17 years, until moving to her present building in Union Road, Oswaldtwistle, three years ago.
It was during a craft exhibition in 1995 that someone suggested she should contact QVC as she was a natural demonstrator.
At first she worked on a casual basis, making the four-hour drive to London to present a 10-minute slot, before driving all the way home again.
"I didn't make any money at first and it took a long time and dedication, but I could see that it could be a really good career opportunity for me," said Dawn.
"I was so passionate about crafting that I knew if I could share it with other people they would want to have a go.
"Over the years my shows became so popular they gave me more air time.
"About seven years ago they gave me my own show with my name in the title, which goes out every Tuesday from 2pm to 4pm. That was very exciting."
It's little wonder that Dawn entered a creative industry, as she was immersed in artistic pursuits from a young age.
"My mum was a dressmaker and when I was little she used to take me to all the material shops on Whalley Range and to Blackburn Market.
"I just fell in love with the textures, colours and designs," said Dawn.
"Mum would spend hours sitting with me, colouring and making cards, and my father was very good at technical drawings."
Nowadays Dawn is incredibly busy — she shows her viewers how to create around 200 cards every week, makes 20 hours of live shows per month, holds workshops, works on designing her own range of products and writes columns for two national crafting magazines, Craft's Beautiful and Paper Craft Inspirations.
But she always finds time to unwind after a long day . . . by crafting!
"I just love it," said Dawn.
"At times it gets frustrating because crafting has become more of a presenting role than a hobby.
"All I want to do is sit down and make cards for fun.
"I drive my husband insane. I'll come home from work and he'll say 'What are you doing now?!' and I'll be sat at the table making a card.
"Or I'll do my decoupage while having my hair done it's addictive."
l For details on Dawn's crafting workshops and her Christmas crafting residential weekend see the website www.dawnbibbydesignstudio.com