The Hills Meets: MOSTYN Gallery

An article in The Independent once declared that ‘art galleries ought to be amusing’. Not, as we discovered they meant, in a comedic fashion, but instead using the historic sense of the word - entertaining, interesting and enthralling. Unfortunately, research has also found that for many people, the concept of attending art galleries was considered “not for the likes of me”. Whilst art galleries were originally invented as places of leisure for a new urban populace, they are intended to be educative, but just like the theatre or the cinema, the newspaper article claimed that they should also ‘give you the promise of excitement and thrilling engagement’.

The Hills Meets: MOSTYN Gallery - Countryside Blog Wales

Here at The Hills, we wholeheartedly agree, and so does our fabulous local art gallery MOSTYN in Llandudno. I had the pleasure of catching up with Audience Relations Manager, Lin Cummins, and Barry Morris, Retail Manager, to find out more about the nature of the modern art gallery and how the public can engage with artists to create this ‘amusement’ of exciting contemporary art!

To introduce MOSTYN, it is the largest contemporary art gallery in Wales and shows work from all over the world alongside fabulous art and craft from artists and makers based in Wales. As Llandudno is a tourist town, the population grows massively during the holiday seasons and the gallery welcomes many people from all walks of life. However, there's more to MOSTYN than its reputation as the foremost contemporary gallery and visual arts centre in Wales. Behind an impressive Edwardian terracotta facade, topped with a landmark gold spire, the original turn of the century galleries have been merged with stunning modern spaces in an award-winning architectural design. The six gallery spaces exhibit the best in international contemporary art and craft, showing artists and makers from Wales and far beyond. With friendly staff, activities for all ages, a lovely shop and a bright and airy café, there is most certainly something for everyone.


The Hills Meets: MOSTYN Gallery - Countryside Blog Wales

Lin is clear that at MOSTYN, they operate a very ‘open door’ policy and of course culture vultures flock there, but she is keen also to ensure the door is wide open to everyone and anyone. With such a varied visitor demographic, from local families and holidaymakers to international artists and journalists, their new season exhibitions include artists from New York and Zurich but also from artists based just up the street. Thanks to their beautiful shop and café, for some local residents, MOSTYN is now very much a part of their regular social route around the town.

Whilst some people may still think of galleries as places where you have to be intellectual and knowledgeable to enjoy a visit, MOSTYN is working extremely hard to dispel the myth that galleries are only for the knowledgeable elite, and the staff are only too happy to chat with you about the exhibitions. Additionally, events are held alongside their exhibition programme and these are so successful in opening up the conversation in all kinds of ways to include both the community and artists. MOSTYN presents art that is relevant and accessible to all without compromising on a curatorial approach, which is to bring the best in international contemporary art to North Wales.

To further aid accessibility and approachability, the visitor experience team and retail staff are practicing artists or creatives, and so they too are passionate about contemporary art, craft and design. Additionally, MOSTYN holds talks for new exhibitions with the Director, Curator and visiting artists, which are always a brilliant opportunity to gain an insight into works on show, and what goes on behind the scenes.

In an age of digital and social media and online streaming, we would argue that while essential to sharing art to a far wider community, nothing beats viewing art up close and personal. By heading to a local art gallery, you experience not just the exhibition, but the atmosphere, architecture and conversation that you can’t witness online. That said, MOSTYN is excited to soon be launching a digital strand that will be hosted online, as well as shown in the gallery. Whilst the digital world holds a wealth of opportunities in some respects, the shop at MOSTYN allows personal browsing and advice from knowledgeable staff so that choosing that special gift becomes a more personal experience than e-commerce.

With a growing number of shoppers moving away from the mass-produced to the unique, MOSTYN has chosen to keep its store in-house and offline to ‘better support more makers, and provide a more personal shopping experience for customers.’ In North Wales, MOSTYN acts as a hub for the local community and visitors come not only for the galleries and exhibition programs, but also to take part in a variety events, talks and engagement activities. They can learn a new skill at their adult and children workshops or browse for gifts in the exquisitely stocked shop. To put the icing on the cake, the visitors and local community are invited yearly to vote on the Open exhibition, the next one will be taking place in 2019, to present the ‘Audience Award’ to their favourite exhibit. It is a testament to their curation that whilst only one can win, every single work usually receives some votes - there really is something for everyone!

MOSTYN is proud to always welcome individuals and groups to experience contemporary art and be part of wider community. For example, Lin and Barry shared a story of a mother who has been taking her children to the gallery for three years. ‘She often refers to the gallery as “her church”, bringing the children in regularly to experience the exhibitions, take part in workshops and activities, meet with artists at our openings and use our shop and cafe. We’ve watched as the children have grown in confidence and developed their artistic abilities, and their love of contemporary art.’

The Hills Meets: MOSTYN Gallery - Countryside Blog Wales

As a registered charity MOSTYN is dedicated and also proud to support independent makers and small businesses in its retail spaces, and all income generated is invested back into the exhibition and engagement programme. Put simply, MOSTYN encourages people to tell everyone what a fabulous place it is and are always looking forwards to seeing them return with the whole family!

When was the last time you stepped into your local art gallery? You could be in for an unexpected treat!

 
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Janet Hill

I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 18. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats, four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.

The Hills Meets - Julie Leoni

One of the most pleasurable and fulfilling activities of running my own business is meeting and spending time with talented people. In this week’s ‘The Hills Meets’ feature, and I am thrilled to be joined by my great friend, Julie Leoni. You may recognise her name from her monthly guest posts on The Hills, when she so beautifully explores themes from nature and our lives alongside. She draws on her own experiences and training in bereavement, domestic abuse, mindfulness, meditation, Transactional Analysis and other therapeutic approaches in her writing, and has previously shared her inspirational musings and stories of multitaskingcommunity and priorities.

I wanted to know more about her current work which has been dominated by her new book - Into the Woods; When Love Isn’t Always a Fairytale. Julie is such a valued writer here at The Hills, so I am pleased to be able to share this fabulous endeavour of hers with you, and encourage you all to follow the links at the end of the post to find out more.

The Hills Meets - Julie Leoni

To dive straight in Julie - you are soon to be launching your second book, on a completely different topic, and in a totally different style to your first!

Could you tell us what has brought you to writing a second book now and why this subject matter?

I have been involved in the Freedom Programme (a domestic violence programme), which clearly lays out what makes a ‘Nice Guy’ and what makes a ‘Dominator’. It was such an eye-opener for me and made sense of the experiences I was hearing about - it made me even more passionate about achieving a deeper understanding of domestic abuse. I was curious to learn how women get into these relationships, what stops them leaving sooner and what they learn from this dreadful experience.

My background as a qualitative researcher has given me the skills to gather information so I interviewed women about their abuse. In order for the experience to be truly ethical and empowering for them, I returned the transcripts of the interviews to each woman, the actual recording as well as every draft of the book.

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The first draft of the book was similar in style to my first book, Love Being Me. However, it didn't light me up at all so I put it to one side for a while. Then, through friends of friends, I met Kate Taylor from Middlefarm Press, Shrewsbury. Kate wanted to work with me as my Managing Editor and even offered her service for free. I was delighted to have her support. She believed wholeheartedly in the book. Her years of professional experience, and the fact that she was so interested and engaged made all the difference and I was newly inspired to pick it back up.

From the outset, Kate asked me many questions about what I wanted the book to achieve; who I wanted to read it, why I had chosen this narrative style, and so on. From here we started to play with the idea of fairy tales. I’ve always been a day-dreamer and I love fairy stories, my excitement for the project was totally reignited. I started to write again, and just loved every moment of re-imagining the traditional fairy stories using the interviews as a starting point. The whole process worked with ease and my imagination went wild!. Importantly the fairy tale form allows the interviewees to remain completely anonymous, and fairy tales universalise stories.

It was Kate too who suggested finding an illustrator for the book to complement the written style. I am extremely lucky to be working with Anita Wyatt, who has had her work commissioned by the National Trust. Anita has kindly donated all of her illustrations for the book, just because she liked the stories and wanted to join us in making a difference.

I don’t underestimate the importance of Kate and Anita’s skills and support. In some ways, I feel their generosity has been its own parallel story where women help other women to find their own power.

You have much experience in supporting sufferers of domestic abuse, how common is this problem?

I come across it more often than you might think in my work. When I talk to people about the book, it is shocking how many have either experienced domestic abuse personally, grown up with it, or have friends or family living with it. Refuge says that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

Domestic abuse is meant to be part of Sex and Relationships Education in schools, but how it is covered is not prescribed so it falls to the school and the individual teacher to decide. Too many people are either uninformed about abuse or just not comfortable talking about it - I definitely don’t think it is covered as powerfully as it should be in schools.

Do you think that the #MeToo movement is helping to open up this secretive world?

I think the #MeToo movement has started some conversations, but because it has been played out in the slightly unreal world of celebrity, I’m not sure what long term impact it will have. I heard one interview recently where men were questioned, a year on, about the impact of #MeToo on them which misses the point as #Metoo was about giving women a voice which is what I hope my book does. It is great to include men in the discussions and cases of domestic abuse will reduce much faster if both men and women work together against it. People have asked me if men can come to the book launch, this couldn’t be better! Men can educate other men and challenge their behaviours.

What do you want your book to achieve?

I would like the book to start conversations, not just about domestic abuse, but about how women give up our power, how we can re-empower ourselves and support each other. I want parents to talk to their children about it (the book is written for adults so not appropriate for young children to read for themselves). I want those who stand in judgement and say: ‘she could have just left’ to start to understand why ‘just leaving’ is so tough and why it takes most women many, many attempts before they eventually take this difficult step. Every week 2 women are killed by their partner and leaving often happens a time when the violence escalates

What are the women on which the stories are based doing now? What has been their opinion of the book?

They have all approved their stories and the illustrations and a couple of them are quoted at the start of the book commenting on it. To find out what happened to each of them, you’ll have to read the book!

Anything else you want to put forward Julie to make your case for buying the book?

Fairy tales are not everyone’s cup of tea and domestic abuse is not the easiest of subjects to open ourselves up to, but 1 in 4 women living in fear is wrong. There is so much shame, secrecy and misunderstanding about domestic violence, I believe the book goes some way to challenging and changing this. I would like people to buy the book to raise money for DV charities, but more than that, I want people to buy the book, to show they care, to learn about DV so that they can help those who are suffering, to educate themselves and those they care about to avoid it and to challenge unhelpful thinking surrounding the topic.

In short, I want this book to make a difference. I want my grandchildren to grow up in a world where DV is as unthinkable as corporal punishment is to us today. People were caned or slippered when I was at school, how unimaginable is that now? Change can happen swiftly and ubiquitously if we all stand together and say “We do not accept DV, there is no excuse for it, there is never a justification or a reason for it, ever”.

All profits from the print copies of the book will go to Domestic Abuse charities to support families who need it. Please buy a copy for all of the reasons I have mentioned, and please encourage others to do the same and spread the word.

More about Julie: Julie Leoni is an academic, teacher, writer, coach, yoga teacher and mum, and she wonderfully juggles all of these so that her work fits around her family life. She moved from Kent to the hills nearly 20 years ago and can still remember the first two years when she thought she would never feel warm again. Now, however, when she goes back down south to visit friends, she heaves a sigh of relief as she sees the Shropshire hills on her return after the chaos of the M25.

 
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Janet Hill

I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 18. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats, four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.

The Hills Meets - Mary Hill

We are passionate here at The Hills about supporting small businesses, growing a connected community of wonderful people, championing rural enterprise and promoting sustainable living. But sustainable living doesn’t need to only mean ‘eco-friendly’ as it does to many. For many of us, the choices we make in how we live and work need to be sustainable so that we continue to live a happy life here in the countryside.

According to official figures, there were 4.7 million self-employed workers in the first quarter of 2016, the latest period for which we have data (The Telegraph), and we know that most of these brilliant business owners have chosen to be their own boss so that they can have a more flexible and creative work-life balance. Something many of us consider an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Continuing our exploration of the reasons for choosing the self-employed lifestyle, today we are delving deeper into our blog post on the link between shopping small and managing chronic illnesses, through an interview with the main inspiration of the topic - my daughter Mary. As many of you already know, Mary lives with M.E. and it has meant dramatic changes to her lifestyle. Throughout the past years of her illness there has also been worry for her future, will she be able to get a job, run her own home and live a truly independent life when at times her M.E. is so debilitating? She is chatting to me today about her art, her experiences with M.E. and what she feels this means for her future life. I’d like to thank her deeply for opening up to the blog with this, as I’m sure it is not always a comfortable topic to discuss.

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When did you first realise you had a talent in art?

I discovered my passion whilst in sixth form, at the age of 17. Before then I hated it when my teacher would ask me to paint because I had no confidence in my abilities - I was previously only used to drawing. However the more I painted and practised, something in me just clicked. I think I only realised I had a talent when other people started to notice and tell me!

Which medium is your favourite?

I definitely prefer oil paints, there is so much more freedom when working with them on the canvas.

Is there another art form you would like to try?

I would love to try sculpture - I have no experience in sculpture but I would like to give it a go, when you work with your hands it allows you to almost become part of the work itself. 


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What does art mean to you?

It means everything - it was my saviour and my escape during my worst periods of illness and even now it still can be. I feel calm and forget about my anxieties when I paint. I draw inspiration from my surroundings so it allows me to look at the world differently. Art makes you question things and stirs your emotions. Also, art history is very important to me because the progression through time is so fascinating. Art is so personal too, when I create something that’s mine and in my style and my ideas I know it is totally unique.

What does M.E. feel like?

It feels like you're not fully alive, you are so limited in every area of your life. I still struggle with feeling like my life has been taken away. It's so debilitating and frustrating and I feel like I will never achieve what I could have done without suffering from M.E.. I'm running on empty every single day with no break from it, so finding the motivation to make food/get dressed etc is often extremely difficult, never mind creating artwork

How does it affect your daily life?

I don't have much of a life, I don't mean that in a depressing way but M.E. has changed everything. If I do the things I want to do, my body punishes me for days afterwards. It's often easier to give in and sleep 16 hours a day!

Have you been able to access any support?

Medically no but my family, especially my mum, is my whole support. They are my life, I just wouldn't be able to cope with M.E. alone and I sincerely feel for those who don't have a choice but to cope on their own.

What changes have you had to make to your lifestyle because of your illness?

I have given up all my sports so I'm no longer physically active at all. I used to ride my horses and play a lot of tennis which I loved. I had to leave school in the lower sixth and be tutored for my A levels, over 4 years not the usual 2. I can't usually do things in the day time unless I really plan for it because I need to sleep until the afternoon.

What career would you like to have when you leave uni?

I want to paint! If I could make a living selling my work that would be my dream, I am also very interested in teaching at primary school, I love small children and I feel a lot less anxious around them. If I could combine both of these passions I would be very happy.

Is your chosen career going to be possible given the symptoms of your illness?

At the moment, teaching would not be possible because of having to get up early and be on the go all day, but art is absolutely a possibility! I am hearing more and more positive and encouraging stories about those who are successful despite having a chronic illness, and as long as I work hard when my body allows me to I think I can achieve it.

Will art always play a part in your career/life?

I want it to be my whole career! If it turns out not to be it will always be part of my life as a creative person, I can express myself fully and powerfully when words have always been a struggle. Art is a universal language.

What would you say to other people who suffer from illnesses such as M.E. who are worried about how they will work to earn money?

I often think about other people my age who suffer from M.E. who might not have the support that I have from my parents. I have been lucky enough to be able to take several years longer to do my studies, but this has meant a great deal of generosity and extra financial support from family. Not everyone has this opportunity. It is so tough for them.

*Note* - If you would like more information on M.E. and the support available, we recommend using the M.E. association and their related resources.

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Janet Hill

I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 18. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats , four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.





The Hills Meets - Puffin Prints

I’m delighted to bring you another edition of our ‘The Hills Meets’ series and today we are chatting to the lovely - and wonderfully talented - Rachel Bennett of Puffin Prints.As you know, here at The Hills we have long felt that having a connection with the natural world is hugely conducive to the creative process, and Rachel is no different! Based on the Isle of Anglesey, it is very difficult not to be inspired. Drawing the most inspiration from the lovely creatures resident to Puffin Island and the surrounding Menai Straits, I met up with the talent behind Puffin Prints to find out more...


Tell us about your business...

Puffin Prints is a small illustration business run by myself and my Mum! I am the illustrator, and primarily I paint and illustrate quirky puffin pals engaged in their favourite activities, such as eating sandeels, rowing, fishing, and even painting! These illustrations are then printed onto various puffin products, mugs, canvases, coasters, magnets, prints, bags, and our best-sellers, cards. We sell these at craft fairs, via our website and also sell wholesale to stockists across North Wales and to a growing number across the UK.

I also take on commission based work, and have painted everything from puffins driving a race car, to floral wedding invitations, to a pony on a surfboard!!

Book illustration is another passion of mine, and so when I can find the time this is something I also love to pursue - being a massive bookworm, the idea my art published in a book is a dream come true!

Where are you based?

We’re based in Beaumaris, Anglesey, and this is, undoubtedly where most of my inspiration comes from! Just off the coast of Anglesey near Penmon, there is an island inhabited by many wild seabirds, seals and in particular, puffins! It is called Puffin Island and from years of sailing around the bay, and around Puffin Island itself, I was inspired to start painting these adorable little native birds.

Why has this particular bird become the name and the main feature of your current artwork?

It all started from my passion for the sea, and my love of the area that I live in. Anglesey is such a beautiful place and living in Beaumaris there are endless opportunities to soak up the stunning coastal views across the Strait, as well as over to Puffin Island. Having lived in the area for many years, moving away to a city-based university in England made me pretty homesick. I sent a hand painted birthday card to my Mum whilst away at university, and happened to paint a puffin for her because it reminded me of home. Mum loved the card so much, she wanted to print some and trial selling them in our family business, a ladies clothes shop based in Beaumaris. Pardon the pun, the puffin cards flew out and the range expanded from there!

When did you launch your business?

I sent the card to my Mum in February 2016, my final year of university. I graduated with my degree in Theoretical Physics around August, and then spent the following year building my business and expanding the range, as well as working two other part time jobs.

Does anyone else work with you?

At the moment, our business is run by myself and my Mum. I take care of the painting, graphic design and a lot of the admin and we work together on ordering and testing new products and finding new stockists. Mum then manages the stockists and stock levels, as well as lots of other jobs!

Where do you do your painting? Do you work from home or do you have a studio space somewhere?

I will paint pretty much anywhere, I always carry a sketchbook and a portable paint palette with me for when inspiration strikes! However, I do have a dedicated studio (a converted second bedroom) in the house I share with my partner Farren. It is a large room filled to the ceiling with puffin stock, with one corner that I have turned into my working area. It’s here that I paint puffins, package orders and usually do most of the admin work that comes with the business.

How easy has it been to set up Puffin Prints?

In one way, very easy indeed, in the sense that it happened quite naturally and almost by accident! It wasn’t at all what I had planned for myself, being at university to study Theoretical Physics, my plans were to go on to study a Master’s degree, and work in the world of Physics. I was always a little unsure which path to follow though, art or science? I struggled with my decision for a long time when I first went to university, and I think this way, I got the best of both worlds. However, I think that I’ve always been drawn back to art, I have always been so passionate about art and nature, and with Puffin Prints, I can combine my love of both in my paintings.

On the other hand, though, it has been quite difficult to manage, since I have been working at it part time for the past two years, alongside two other jobs to make ends meet. It has often been a struggle to get things done outside of regular working hours, and more often than not I am up late into the night trying to finish a painting, or get an order in, before getting up to go to work at one of my jobs the next day. This often means I’m running on empty and it isn’t a healthy way to live, as increasingly I found I didn’t have time to relax or enjoy myself, so in that sense it has been quite a challenge to persevere.

What is your goal for your business?

At the moment, my goal is to expand the business and locate more businesses across the UK to stock my puffin designs! I would love to be able to commit to my business full time, I feel like I would really be able to move the business forward in a significant way if I had more time to dedicate to Puffin Prints, so my current goal is to support myself financially so I can have more time to paint!

My long term goal is to be able to help endangered puffins by raising money through the sales of my puffin designs. The Atlantic Puffin is endangered, and their population is declining. If there was some way I could contribute to helping prevent this tragic effect, then I would love to be able to do so one day.

Tell us about your new range of beautiful stationary!

As I mentioned earlier, another branch of my job as an illustrator is taking commissions. I have designed and illustrated several wedding invitations in the past few months and it is something I have thoroughly enjoyed. My main priority of course is that the Bride-to-Be is happy, as I appreciate what a stressful time planning a wedding can be!

As such, having enjoyed this process so much, I am going to offer bespoke designs for invitations and cards with customisation available. I still have a lot of planning to do for this though, so it may be a few months before they are available on my website.

We are also awaiting samples of some new Puffin Prints stationery - A6 magnetic notebooks for the fridge, featuring our favourite puffin designs. Watch this space!

What have been the obstacles, if any, to your progression and growth?

The main obstacle throughout the process of building my business has always been time! I am always trying to find extra minutes and rushing around, and it is often very difficult to prioritise your own business when you have two other jobs to do! Accountability is a large part of this, since if I don’t do my job properly in my other main jobs, I am 100% held accountable by my supervisor or boss, and have immediate consequences to face. With your own business, this isn’t as true, since if you don’t find the time, the job doesn’t get done and it’s only you to tell yourself off! Having my Mum as a partner in the business has been a great help, since she certainly holds me accountable, which definitely helps me stay motivated!

Do you have any tips and advice for artists, like yourself, to start to sell their work, and create a successful sustainable business?

My main tip at the very beginning seems very obvious, but it took me a long time to do it.

Start!!

As an artist, it is very common to doubt yourself and especially your own work, I know for a fact that I am absolutely my harshest critic. From this, it is very hard sometimes to get over the hurdle and just go for it. But just going for it is the best advice anyone has ever given me, and going for it has meant I have been able to pursue my passion, make some amazing connections and most importantly, make people smile with some quirky puffin pals!

 
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Janet Hill

I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 18. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats , four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.


The Hills Meets - Lady and the Tramp

As you well know, here at The Hills we are crazy about our pets and all wildlife, and we take great pride in giving our furry friends the best lives possible. We have our resident vet expert Dugie here to give advice on their health and wellbeing, and we’re now lucky to have Bradie Falshaw from Lady and The Tramp in our Directory to get help them look as cute and clean as possible (a challenge given many of our rural locations)!

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I had the pleasure of catching up with Bradie, a friend of mine whose talents I can wholeheartedly vouch for as she often waves her magic wand on my Westie who goes in like a tramp and returns looking like a fluffy cloud!

How did you first get started as a dog groomer?

I wasn’t very scholarly, in fact I didn’t enjoy school at all and wanted to leave as soon as possible. I was certain, even at that age that I wanted to go straight into a vocation of my own when I left. As a child our family pet was a very hairy New Foundland dog that I used to shave in our garage with horse clippers to keep him groomed, so I knew I enjoyed caring for and grooming animals. My mum suggested I should explore it as a possible business, and thankfully at just 16 years old, I was eligible for funding from the Welsh Government to do my training! 14 weeks later I had my advance qualifications! Then, one of my friends who I met in college opened her own salon so I worked for her for a couple of days week to build my experience.

And your next step was your own business?

My grandad used to own ‘Falshaws’, a shop in the main square in Caerwys for many years, and so my dad managed to persuade him to let me open my own salon in his store room! I saved up for 6 months for clippers, hydronic table, bath, blaster (hair dryer) blades and scissors, and my dad built the dog pens at the back!

What was it like when you opened?

It was great! I loved it. My first client was an apricot standard poodle who still comes for hair cuts now so I can’t have done such a bad job!

How did you grow and what are your dreams from Lady and the Tramp?

At first, I built my client list by doing local leaflet drops, posting on my Facebook page and via word of mouth. Gradually the business has grown and now I have a waiting list and clients need to book well in advance. My daughter is 3 now though and off to school in September, so I will be able to include a couple more mornings to my working week to reduce the wait for my clients, and hopefully remain busy. My dream for the business is to remain small and local, and just to be fully booked as I add more hours when Delilah is full time in school. I currently work with 30 dogs a week over 3 days, and I am proud that I know all my customers and all my dogs names - that’s how I would like it if I was to take my own dog somewhere.

Do you have any advice for dog owners on grooming their animals?

One of my main aims is to encourage owners to read more about the dog they are buying before they take it on - I’d really like more families to do their homework properly before they decide on a suitable breed. I would advise all dog owners to research the grooming requirements of a dog, who may need professional grooming every month to 6 weeks to maintain a healthy condition, not simply receive a pamper once a year. Even if I think that the owners may not be totally receptive to my advice, I make sure I say it anyway. It’s my business and I will run it for the good of the animals first and foremost. For example a dog that has hair so matted will be sure to be in a a lot of pain when I groom it. It is totally unfair on the poor animal to put it through the discomfort of living with matts and the pain of grooming them to remove them!

What do you love the most about running your own business?

I love every second of running my own business, and always have - I’m the one in control, am able to take holidays when I need (even though I’ve not had time off this year at all)! My work can be as flexible as I wish it to be. However, it can be quite stressful when we are busy and I often work long hours so that my clients don’t have to wait too long to book in. I have a lovely connection to my clients and their dogs, and all my bichons wave at me now! I love my waggy labradors (even if they do get you soaking wet) and I am delighted to be back living and working in Caerwys where there is such a tight community.

 
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Janet Hill

I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 18. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats, four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.