Welcome to this week’s Feature Friday! This week we introduce the lovely Amy Donoghue from Hope the Black Dog…
Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you and your Etsy shop?
Hi! I’m Amy from hope the black dog, and I make DIY kits and gifts promoting positivity and mental health awareness. I donate £1 from every sale to Mind charity. I’m based in Nottingham and I live with my fiancé and my two pet rats, Marie and Rosa.
Do you sell on any other platforms?
My best selling platform is actually through Instagram , I do a lot of giveaways and discounts on there, and I love the friendly community that I’m part of over there.
Tell us a little bit about how and where you work?
I have different “stations” around the house where I do different tasks. I do any sewing on the sofa in front of the TV, I make necklaces at the dining table, I take my photos in the spare room under the window, and I package and wrap my parcels in the corner of the living room!
What inspires your work?
When I was diagnosed with Anxiety, it was actually about 15 years too late. And the reason for this was because I just didn’t know anything about mental illness. I thought depression was just about self-harm and I felt like the only conversations happening about mental health were in a negative light. What I wanted to do with Hope the Black Dog is promote discussion about the realities of living with mental illness. I wanted to talk positively about it, about the huge victories that we have every day, and how much stronger, empathetic and understanding our struggles make us. And by making it pretty, and making it empowering, it encourages people to talk, to get help and to understand.
I am just wondering if you want to talk in any more detail about your journey getting help? It’s been a really long journey from my childhood anxiety to where I am now. I didn’t understand ANYTHING about mental illness, so for a very long time I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. I didn’t think that people like me got things like that. It wasn’t until a friend very similar to me admitted to having depression when we were at University together that I began to realise that anyone can have a mental health problem. I started investigating all of the physical symptoms that I was having, and all of them could be related to Anxiety (things like digestive troubles, acne, back pains, food intolerances, thinning hair, fatigue …. ). So that was when I went into the doctors and after bursting out crying for about ten minutes, I eventually managed to get the words out “I think I have anxiety”. It wasn’t until about a year later that I was able to admit to myself that I had suffered from depression too. I felt like it would be insulting to my family, or mean that I have failed at picking a satisfying job, or my friends were letting me down. I know that’s complete rubbish NOW but at the time it was terrifying. The doctors were so kind and so patient with me, and referred me to therapy, and explained my options when it came to medication too. I’ve been going back and getting more advice and more help on a monthly basis, and I’ve had two separate courses of CBT, as well as a couple of medications, and now I feel like I’ve got my life back. Sure, the side effects are difficult, but I feel like I’m getting back to the happy, carefree girl I was before the anxiety took hold, and I’m going to keep working hard to cherish that!
What you would advise someone to do if they think they might need help? My advice would be, if you’re even suspicious about a mental health issue, please go and talk about it. The doctors have heard far worse and won’t be baffled, and if you don’t feel like they handle it as well as you’d like – go see another one until someone does. It’s scary but it is so, so worth it.
How do you find managing a business on your bad days – if in fact you still have bad days? It can be hard when you’re having a bad day. My bad days aren’t as bad as they used to be, but they do come along. I do a “little quit” where I accept that I’m not going to get anything done right at this moment on the business side, I give myself a rest, and then when I’m ready I do something else. Even if it’s something small like making a cup of tea. Do one tiny thing. Eventually I’ll either feel like I’m ready to do some work, or I’ll try and be kind to myself that at least I did something today. Aim for a non-zero day so that tomorrow you won’t feel bad about yesterday.
Speaking from my own experience I think openly talking about mental health with your partner is one of the most rewarding and valuable things you can do. I wonder how much you would say this is true and what your experience is of this? My fiance and I have been together for about 7 years now, and for 5 of those years I had no idea I was dealing with mental illnesses. When I decided to talk to my doctors about it, I mentioned it to Matthew and he didn’t bat an eyelid. He wasn’t judgy, or flippant, he didn’t try and persuade me that it “was just a phase” or tell me “you’re just stressed” as I was expecting. He gave me a hug, he made me a cup of tea and we talked about why I thought I had anxiety. He’s not a man of many words but the ones he did say were just right. We talk openly about the limits of my anxiety, and he’s very understanding when I message him 85 times because I had a horrible vision that he might have been attacked on the way home, or that I throw a huge tantrum when he leaves a cupboard door open, even though I’ve made a mess of the whole rest of the house! He’s so pleased and proud of my journey, not just that I’m a much nicer person to live with now that I have learned to cope better, but because we are both so pleased to have mental health talked about so much more openly.
I can relate to so much of that! Many congratulations on your engagement, Matthew sounds so supportive… so have you set a date for the wedding yet?
Yes, we’re having a very laid back, floral affair in London with a fish and chip tea! Quite vintagey and a lot of recycled flowery fabrics.
Oooh – sounds lovely and like a lot of fun pulling all the vintage bits and bobs together! What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on my newest product line which is embroidered “body-positive” pants. The diet culture and social expectation upon females in particular, but everybody generally, is so damaging for our self-esteem and positivity. These pants are embroidered with empowering words to give you a boost under your clothes!
What a fantastic idea, I’ll be sure to check them out when they’re launched. How have you found your Etsy journey so far?
I have absolutely loved it. I found the social media side really hard at first, until I found Instagram. The best thing has been meeting so many wonderful people who have become close friends already, particularly within the Nottingham Etsy Team. Sales are picking up and my presence is growing!
That’s fantastic to hear and encouragement to newbie sellers like to me to keep going with it! Any lessons learned so far that you would like to share with other Etsy makers or online sellers?
Just start. Don’t wait until you think it’s perfect, make a start and work on it from there. It takes time and the sooner you begin, the sooner you will start succeeding!
Sounds like very good advice to anyone on the Etsy Resolution course who still hasn’t opened their shops! It’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of perfecting something, never feeling it is good enough and then not moving forward. I’m glad that I just went for it in the end as opening the shop is just the beginning, things will always be getting improved along the way.
Your favourite make so far?
My first make, and my first sale was the kit for ‘Anxiety Is My Super Power‘. I made this because it summed up my feelings about my anxiety. Yes, it’s been terrifyingly hard at times, but Anxiety has also made me achieve so much. It’s also the basis for changing my life and creating my little business, which has been the best thing I have ever done.
Your best seller?
Until recently, it was my ‘This Too Shall Pass’ kit , it’s a very powerful message to lots of people. And since I listed it, my ‘Hug’ Boxes are doing really well too!
My favorite makes from the shop are the ‘W’ anchor necklace (you have to check out this cheeky little make, it’s so cool), the ‘Above All Be Kind’ embroidery hoop, ‘Paralysis by Analysis’ and ‘Pijamas All Day’ embroidery hoops as well as all the cute little necklaces. For the sewers out there the little sewing pin emboridery hoops necklaces are a must! There is so much more in the shop to treat yourself to!
What’s next for your shop?
More clothing kits, more craft fairs and more sales!
Your Etsy crush?
So many! I absolutely adore Deborah Panesar Illustration , as a business woman and as a person.
I am also so grateful for the introduction of CMarshallArts into my life, both personally and professionally.
They are both very talented, I love their customized pet portraits, gorgeous! Your favourite Etsy purchase?
My favourite Etsy purchase is one in the making! The lovely Dawn from DawnysSewingRoom is currently working on a craft fair money belt for me in a gorgeous bright pink flamingo fabric. I already know it’s going to be amazing!
Thanks for that, I love the bright pink flamingo fabric, I’m sure you’re money belt will make quite the statement! The beer bottle top apron is a great idea for a fathers day gift too!
Thanks so much to Amy for getting involved this week. For me personally it’s refreshing to see products that celebrate and highlight metal health in such a positive way. I think Amy is incredibly courageous to talk so openly and honestly about her story, I find her a real inspiration. All of her positive mental health embroidery hoops and embroidered gifts are available to buy in her shop… please pop over and say hi if you are on Instagram, it’s fab account! Amy is contactable across social media platforms, please do show some support:
Etsy shop: hopetheblackdog.etsy.com
See you next week where we will be speaking to the very talented Becky Hogan from Little Wisteria… can’t wait!
PS I’ve quickly run off and bagged myself two DawnysSewingRoom pink flamingo bandannas for my pooches, couldn’t resist! Readers can watch this space… I’ll upload a picture very soon of them sporting their hot pink outfits!
PPS If you love animals then check out this weeks Leapup blog where it’s strictly about the doggie bling… it’s a double bill where we meet two talented Etsy makers. Dog lovers won’t want to miss it!