From Microphone to Macrame…..a life changing journey
After two decades on the stage, one soul singer has switched microphones for macrame to launch a sustainable, locally-inspired business.
Diane Birkinshaw, 59, of Hebden Bridge, was determined not to let the pandemic get the better of her when the entertainment industry began to suffer.
So she and her husband Andy, 52, decided to turn to a new creative outlet and craft handmade macrame wall hangings. Together, they launched Sozarri in April this year, and Diane has been busy creating wall tapestries ever since.
Sozarri decor has now been sold all over the country and has even been requested by admirers worldwide.
For Diane, the business began as a way to counteract her struggles with mental health.
“During lockdown, the pandemic was playing havoc with my mental health,” she said. “I remembered how relaxing I had found macrame when we learnt it at school, so I thought I’d give it a try. It was so helpful in keeping me focused and giving me a chance to practise mindfulness. I started by making a large wall hanging, and once I had finished, it was a real joy to see something I had created from my own idea and with my own hands.”
Husband and long-time manager, Andy instantly saw how unique her pieces were. “They’re fantastic. They are pieces of art, but rather than simply being a painting or drawing, these have an extra dimension to them with so much texture and movement. You can see something different every time you view it, and everyone who sees them seems to see something different as well.”
Before the pandemic, Diane and Andy were used to life on the road; Diane has performed on Stars in Their Eyes, toured with Tito Jackson of The Jackson 5, and topped the UK soul charts multiple times.
But when the entertainment industry was forced to close, the pair had to look for an alternative source of income. “We didn’t have much of a choice; we had to do something,” said Andy. “We both love to create. Whether it is music or crafting, we are both creative people, so this has felt like a natural change in some ways. Also, we’ve worked together for so long, it felt good to find another way to continue that.”
As the pair expands the business, Diane’s dream is to see some of their art in a hotel or commercial space. “That would be the icing on the cake,” she said. “To see someone else enjoying a piece and displaying it somewhere they are passionate about would be fabulous.”
Each piece is made with 100% natural cotton, hand-dyed by the couple in their Hebden Bridge home, and many even feature fallen branches from the local woods and forests.
“So many of the pieces are inspired by nature in the local area,” said Diane. “I try to get out as much as possible, and the colours and materials of Hebden Bridge are always so inspiring for me. We’re so lucky to live in such a beautiful place.”
Andy and Diane are now looking to make the business as sustainable as possible. They source rope from a supplier in the local area that has been manufacturing for over 100 years, and they will be doing all they can to meet high standards set by environmental regulators.
“We’re excited for what’s to come,” said Diane. “Starting a business later in life is a little daunting, but we feel that it is also a new adventure. We can’t wait to see where it takes us.”
For more information, visit www.sozarri.uk