The owner of a local creative haven has opened up about her journey from picking up a needle as a child to teaching and now mesmerising islanders with quirky and fantastical creations in her shop.
"You have got to be brave and a lot of people are scared to be. I never thought I would have a sewing shop, it never came into the equation,” Rachel Concannon says.
While she picked up her first needle at around three or four years old, the textile artist once dreamed of working in the kitchen.
“I cooked and sewed since I can remember,” she recalls. “I always wanted to cook, I made all those beautifully decorated dishes.”
Yet, when you listen to Rachel talk with such enthusiasm about threads, fabrics, the wonders of computerised sewing machines, and the freedom of being creative, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting career for her, even though the road to it took many twists and turns.
After studying Home Economics at college, Rachel went into a teaching degree in textiles and cooking in Bath. Even though she confesses she didn’t want to teach, Rachel worked at Jersey College for Girls for a few years before setting up a sandwich bar in Halkett Street. When she returned to JCG and teaching, she eventually became Head of Textile ‘A’ Level.
But six years ago, she left her teaching career behind after 14 years to set up Rachel’s Textiles Studios in La Colomberie in what used to be a movie café.
“I took this on, it was a huge stress, I hardly had any money, there was nothing in it and I did not have a clear idea of what to do,” Rachel says. “The feeling of being your own boss, it’s bliss, but it’s hard work.”
In addition to being Rachel’s creative haven, the shop also serves as a classroom for her many students.
Surrounded by rolls of colourful fabrics, bobbins of bright thread and any sewing accessory you can think of, Rachel looks perfectly at ease.
“It’s a sewing shop except I made it quirky, I put my own stamp on it,” she says. “It’s calming, it has space, it has the most amazing feeling in it, everyone loves the ambiance!”
Dotted around the space are some of Rachel’s own creations. From the clothes and day-to-day accessories such as cushions, bags and bunting to the designs of a quirkier type, such as a toadstool, a cactus, fairy dolls, llamas and a mermaid; all have a fairy-like quality. Sewn with bright threads, they look positively enchanted.
There are also several mesmerising women, reminiscent of magazine covers, flaunting their flamboyant hair and glamourous outfits in hoops and cards.
“I always loved the fashion, but I was not very fashionable,” Rachel says laughing. “I always had to make my own clothes. It’s just the fashion, gorgeous ladies with lip stick, beautiful clothes and great hair.”
While she still makes her own clothes, Rachel enjoys projects that enable her to let her creativity shine, using scraps of thread and fabric.
“I’m really happy doing both, I do proper household sewing and then I need to lose myself in the sort of bonkers things,” she says. “I love the texture, the feeling and messy threads. I can’t get enough of scrap threads!”
“It’s wild, it’s the freedom of being free. You have got to be brave and a lot of people are scared to be, I do not care. This is all me, it’s all my vision, it’s been brilliant.”
While she never believed she was an artist, Rachel now sees the value in her skilful work.
“I always had that doubt, but I know now,” she says. “If you are told you are not good enough you believe it.”
Looking back on her journey, Rachel says “it was meant to be”. Owning a shop was in her genes – her grandmother ran a tobacco shop in St. Helier – while her artist father passed on the “madness of creation.” Rachel’s sister has also embraced her creative side, which she expresses with paint - not on canvas, but on seashells and stones at Jo’s Painted Pebbles.
Meanwhile, Rachel says her teaching experience enables her to pass on her experience and knowledge to the many islanders who want to learn how to sew.
“I love it,” she says. “I come to work with joy in my heart, I never come thinking I do not want to be here. It’s something huge, I am so blessed.”
This article first appeared in Connect Magazine, which you can read here.
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