By Helen Bowman
Tell us a little bit about your background and how your business came about
I was born and bred in the North East and love the area. When I was 16, on the day I collected my O-level results, my family threw me out for being gay. The following three years were spent sleeping rough in London and the South East until I met two women at Greenham Common, who offered me a place to stay. They changed my life. I got a part-time job, and my new friends put me through college, where I trained as a social worker.
After 21 years in social work, I decided to pursue my passion for photography. I spent two years in New York before setting up an art photography company based between Berlin and the UK. After eight years, I planned to move to New Zealand with my wife. We wanted to live a life of self-sufficiency and art. Sadly, eight weeks before our scheduled departure, my wife was killed in an accident. Only a few weeks later, my home was burgled, and I was attacked.
I struggled severely, and I was diagnosed with several mental health issues, including severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I knew I needed purpose and structure to lift myself up again, so I added some life to the plans my wife and I had drawn up for the shop we’d dreamed of.
I taught myself to felt and rented a studio. It all feels like a lifetime ago, but it was only six years ago next February. I moved into my current shop three years ago. I lost my speech earlier this year as a result of the PTSD, and I now communicate through speech apps on my phone and tablet.