A Frank Approach to Craft: Meet Ali Goodman / Francli Craftwear

Back in November last year, I was speaking with Heather Scott, a brilliant designer-maker, whose workshop is based in Falmouth and who is yet to be interviewed for the THIS GIRL MAKES blog. However, whilst discussing women in craft, she recommended a few names; amongst the list was Ali Goodman. As I am always interested in hearing from those dedicated to disciplines different to my own, I got in touch with Ali, the talent behind Francli Craftwear (http://francli.co.uk/about/) to hear more about her enterprise.


Where does your interest in craft come from?

I’m not sure when a specific interest in craft first started – probably from studying in Falmouth and surrounded by so many talented makers. People influence me more than objects. The innovation and enthusiasm for craft in Cornwall is really exciting.

Since childhood, I’ve always been drawn to activities that involve my hands. Making salt dough with my sisters was a particular favourite (I tried to eat it every time)! I thought after my art foundation I would go into graphic design or architecture, but I quickly realized I needed a discipline that uses my hands.

Who are your making role models- do you think it is important, or has it ever been important to you, to have female makers as role models?  

My making role models are my friends in Falmouth – a mixture of both men and women.

Having female role models is very important to me. I’m very lucky to have a really strong community of women who make. Heather Scott, Amy Isles Freeman, Sarah Johnson, Victoria May Harrison, Hannah Lawrence, Milly Melbourne to name a few, and there’s lots more!

When we get together and chat about our work, it gives me the confidence to embrace our feminine approach. We are all very emotionally involved with our work, sometimes that can feel like a hindrance, but I’m sure it’s our strength too.

I’m a podcast addict while I work. When the imposter syndrome sneaks in, an episode of The Guilty Feminist always gives me power to take ownership of my place and voice again.

How have you trained within your discipline?

 I learned to pattern cut and sew at university for my Performance Sportswear Design BA(Hons). Since then I haven’t stopped sewing, so I guess a lot of my learning has come from experimentation.

I learn most effectively from interacting with people so I look to improve my skills by visiting other workshops and factories. For example on a recent road trip up the West Coast US, we stopped by like-minded studios on our way and I came home with some really helpful tips.

What was your experience of design technology education growing up, how do you feel it could promote craft to young people and women better?

The ‘Design Technology’ classes at my school weren’t particularly inspiring.

I think most of my making play was at home. My Grandpa was an engineer and keen woodworker, one Christmas we built a wooden toy stables for my little sister – complete with tiny brass hinges on the doors.

My dad is a self-employed Passivhaus architect who’s incredibly dedicated to his work, and probably won’t retire until he’s forced to because he loves it so much! I wouldn’t be self-employed without his example.

My parents were very supportive of me to study art and design, even though my school pressured me to follow humanities subjects. They’re also super encouraging that I’m self-employed, although I suspect it worries them… I feel very lucky that my up bringing celebrated the creative and to be daring. Especially when it can be undervalued in some schools. (Shout out to Sir Ken Robinson!)

It takes intelligence and discipline to learn a skill, evolve it, and express your-self through it. Craft is a challenging and fulfilling journey. If I could change anything to promote craft, it would be to shift the education paradigm so that creative subjects are recognized as equally important as maths and science.

How have you found starting your own practise since graduating?

 Like with anything, there’s good and bad – it’s massively challenging and massively rewarding. I think because it’s my own practice, these highs and lows feel more extreme because it’s personal. If I’ve learned anything over the last 4 years, it’s to accept that the waves are inevitable! It’s not about what went wrong, it’s about what you learned and what you’ll do from there.

Starting my own practice has been a painful learning curve, but I don’t regret any of it.

What challenges have you met since starting your business, and working in the creative industry?

Inexperience! Francli was founded within a year of graduating. I had worked freelance and as an intern, but I hadn’t spent any long amounts of time within another company. This really showed as I started to learn bookkeeping, budgeting, accounting etc. Sometimes I feel a slave to the dreaded ‘cash-flow’…

I noted that you are part of the Folklore collective, how have you found this? How important is working collectively/collaboratively for you?

Working at Folkore has been a great experience. It mostly involves lots of giggling and cake… In hindsight, having the shop as a space and working next to Felix, Sarah and Ellie, has evolved my practice a lot. If you compare the Francli designs from before Folklore to now, it is more natural and refined.

What advice would you have for other females pursuing a career in making?

Just start. It’s easy to think of reasons why you shouldn’t – you don’t know enough, you don’t have enough experience, there’s others that are much better at it than you. It’s likely that none of these reasons are true, and even if they are, you won’t learn them if you don’t start. No one knows enough, no one has enough experience and there’ll always be people better than you. The point is to start, to progress and enjoy it!

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