We all get inspired by different things at different moments in our lives, but there is no doubt that there are always certain people who stick in your mind along the way, for me, Helena is one of these people. When I lived in Leeds, I was very lucky to have spent time working for Rose & Co, in their gorgeous Victoria Quarter vintage apothecary. That’s where I met a lot of people involved with vintage, burlesque and beauty for the first time and as many of you know these interests have stayed with me my entire life in various forms. I met Helena, whilst working for Rose & Co where we sold some of her Candy Candy range, I was always in awe of her outfits and loved hearing her stories and inspirations.
In addition to her range of beauty products (Bubble Witch on Etsy) and fashion items under her brand, Candy Candy, this month, Helena launched her first book, Introduction to Witchery, a craft book inspired by folklore and history of witchcraft with stunning vintage inspired illustrations from the incredible Andrea Kett. After battling with the corporate world of publishing, Helena has decided to crowdfund the book and you can find out more about how you can support on her website. I’m delighted to share with you this interview with the lovely lady, so you can get inspired too, remember there’s always a way to bring your ideas to life, sometimes you’ve just got to think outside of the box.
Tell us a little about your background, how did you get to be self-publishing a craft book?
I don’t enjoy writing and, despite what my husband thinks, it doesn’t come natural to me, but when I am passionate about something or feel the need to tell a story, the words jump out of my brain and into my fingers rather than my big mouth for a change.
During the last few months prior to closing the Candy Candy shop in the Corn Exchange, I started writing about the Celtic background and folklore stories of All Hallow’s eve. Halloween is my favorite holiday and ever since I experienced it during my high school year in America, it has become a healthy obsession. After 50 pages or so I realised I had something pretty interesting so I submitted the idea to three publishers. To my very big surprise, all three got back to me. Things developed and I eventually was offered a contract with the publishing house I actually wanted to go with. A different publisher (who had my manuscript) brought out a very similar book months later, resulting in my deal being withdrawn. It was an awful blow. The book they brought out was shockingly similar in looks and concept. I never thought for one second I would be at any risk of being copied from a reputable publisher. My agent at the time knew that copying an idea is a very difficult thing to combat . I thought about contacting them but I am now glad I let it go.
That experience made me determined to do something so representative of who I am creatively, that it would be pretty difficult to recreate. I moved on and I started Introduction to Witchery. From the start, it felt like a very personal project and the type of book I would buy without hesitation. This book brought me a publishing deal too, but after careful consideration and having my husband getting involved (reading every single word of their contract) I decided to turn it down and do things my way. I’d rather sell less copies of something I am proud of than sell more copies of a book that is highly commercial and generic.
What your main inspiration behind the Candy Candy brand?
I honestly take inspiration from everything and anything and I think that’s evident within the Candy Candy brand.
If I’m out in the woods with the dog I may see something in nature that inspires a project. Or something I’ve seen on tv, an outfit, the lyrics of a song, a painting, you get the idea! At the moment I’m into 70’s cinema weirdly enough. I try to stay away from pinterest and the internet in general when it comes to generating ideas. I bloody hate it when I think I’ve come up with something amazing only to find out later that it has been done before!
Visiting new places, however, is the most inspiring experience of all. Every time I travel, I return home with a huge list of ideas. Just before finishing the manuscript for Introduction to Witchery, I went to Salem, Massachusetts. If witchery is what you are after, witchery you will find there. It was fantastic. It turned into a little road trip down the East Coast of America. I filled half a notebook with ideas for projects.
How do you think your Spanish heritage has influenced your creative journey?
Unlike the 52% of the voters in last June’s referendum, I very much feel European, not just Spanish. I left home at 17 and went to study in the US and I’ve been out of the country since then. I do however feel that I have my roots in Europe and that my upbringing and style will always have an element of elegance that I very much inherited from my maternal grandmother. She truly was the personification of style, think Coco Chanel or Schiaparelli. We watched old homemade films from the 40’s when she was young last Christmas, and I was in pure awe. Her outfits were impeccable. However, 20 years in the UK have had a more defining influence on me, and that is definitely represented in the way I dress. Two of my favorite designers of all time are British and the epitome of eccentricity, Westwood and Meadham. I think being Spanish has, in many ways influenced my character while living in the UK has highly influenced my style.
What advise would you give to someone who has a product idea they want to launch?
That really depends on the day you ask that question. I am so stressed at the moment that right now I would say forget it and enjoy life! I have an irritating habit of complicating my life. Market research is key really, are there any similar products out there? Who is their target market? How do they sell their product? When I started the vintage Halloween book, I could not find a similar book anywhere, hence I got a response from all the publishers I sent it to. Find a gap in the market, believe or not they do exist!
In your opinion, what’s the best way to find inspiration?
I suppose this is very individual, what inspires one person doesn’t necessarily inspire another. For me, travel, art and architecture are possibly the most reliable sources of inspiration, but for others it could be food, poetry, anything really.
You collaborated with illustrator Andrea Kett, how did this partnership come about?
I have been a fan of Andrea’s work for many years. I totally get what she does, and more than any other illustrator I know, her drawings are full of detail, satire and hilarious puns. I wanted my book beautifully illustrated and there was no other candidate for me than Andrea. We were born in the same year and we both have had the same influences. We bounce ideas off each other and complement what the other one does perfectly. We always seem to be on the same page and that has been a great asset. Just to decide the outfit of the witch on the front cover, we must have exchanged a hundred emails! It’s been great working with Andrea, we both get excited to receive material from each other. I am privileged she agreed to do this. Only at Christmas, she turned down a celebrity commission because it didn’t fit her style. I admire that, people seem to have lost integrity when it comes to art.