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About HappyBerry

An interview with the founder.

Laura Eccleston Crochet Designer

Have you always been creative?

I’ve always loved being creative. Ever since I was a child I have played with yarn, whether it was making friendship bracelets for my friends in school or making endless worm chains by finger crocheting. I also loved painting and drawing, making models, the list goes on. I come from a very artistic family as both my father and grandfather, even my grandmother were artists and my great uncle was an interior designer who travelled the world so it was natural for me to develop this love of creativity. It was also a way to deal with growing up. I was often badly bullied in school for being quiet and studious and my father suffered greatly with bipolar and depression so being creative was a way to cope with the very deep emotions I was going through at the time. So for me the link between making things and mental health is something very ingrained in me and subsequently in the ethos of HappyBerry.

When I left school I went on to art college and developed a career in graphic and web design, working in London for many years. I always thought that was what success was and what was expected of me, but I was miserable. The fast pace and chaos of city life, the sexism in the work place and just the repetitiveness of feeling unappreciated, working in a soulless, uncreative environment (once in a converted garage with no natural light!) and just to make someone else rich… I grew depressed. I remember reaching an extremely low point in London where I would come home to my tiny flat, that had a leak from upstairs that the landlord refused to ever fix, that was crazy expensive and miles from where I worked, friends and family and just sitting in the dark with a bottle of wine and falling asleep in that position. I knew I had to change my life.

I made the decision to leave London to move closer to family, much to the confusion and anger of others because I was leaving a well paid and successful job. Who would do that right? But I began working as a waitress under the attention of a wonderful French chef and hotel manager, which was a real change in career path and I was happy there because I loved caring and hosting for people and I considered going into this as a full-time career, but due to pressure from family to ‘do something more with my skills’ and to be ‘successful’ I was pushed to return to working in IT again.

I think waitressing in the UK has this image around it that it’s something you do when you’re desperate for a job and you can’t do anything else, but it’s so much more than that. I realised that I was not driven by money, I just needed enough to get by. I was driven by something else, a need to do something of value, to have a purpose and help people in some way. It was not a happy decision for me to leave waitressing and return to IT, but I managed to get a job within a teaching field, which I felt had some purpose. It was during this time I finished my degree and worked as an English teacher in Japan with the support of a wonderful boss, but sadly the company developed financial problems and I was made redundant after about 4 years of working there. It felt like losing a family and I felt really lost at this point.

I found another IT job, but it was in real estate and it was all about the money for the people at the top. It was probably the worst environment I had worked in so far, terrible for office bickering, back stabbing, sexism and unprofessionalism so it was no surprise that a few years later the company collapsed from bad management and it was at this point that I finally made the decision to leave the corporate rat race altogether. I couldn’t face finding another soulless IT job, especially as a woman who was getting older and who was having to compete with younger, post graduate male designers. I was never going up, always sideways so it was time to drop out altogether and find a better pace of life with more purpose.

How did HappyBerry come about?

For a while I worked as a cleaner and in care work for the elderly and terminally ill, but it was when my daughter was born that I finally came back to my love of yarn and found my creativity and purpose again.

So in 2009, HappyBerry came into being really from a need to get back to my creative roots and to share my very old passion for yarn and crochet that I had forgotten about for so many years. I was designing and making so many things for my new baby girl and it was so much fun. It was inspiring and energising and I hadn’t felt like that in a long time. I was desperate to share that feeling with other people so this became my purpose. I had finally remembered how creativity was what really drove me inside and helped me mentally.

The name ‘HappyBerry’ encompasses that. Happy because I want to share how creativity, crochet in particular can support our mental well-being and I wanted to make people feel happy by sharing my patterns and designs that were making me feel happy. This is why HappyBerry patterns are and always will be free for others to enjoy, to help make crochet accessible for all people no matter who or where they are in the world. There couldn’t be any barriers to this. The Berries? Well, that was simply because my daughter loves raspberries and she had been the key to everything!

After a decade now of HappyBerry, what keeps you going? What is your motivation?

For a long time I felt crochet was often taught in an unnecessarily complicated way. I often found crochet patterns were not explained well or missed important information with an assumption the crocheter would simply know what to do. I felt a very strong need to simplify crochet patterns by designing my own and to help make crochet more accessible and of course it had to be free too because for me it was all about supporting mental health, not just for other people, but my own too. I’ve never wanted HappyBerry to be a business, which often confuses people if you don’t know my back story, but it’s simply because I hate money. I hate what it stands for and how it can hold people back just because of who they are or where they were born. I hate how it changes people, the competitiveness it creates and I’ve seen the damage it does. I see it even now in the crochet community, this incessant need to get a point over someone else and to be at the top, but the top of where? And why? No-one is ahead of anyone else, we’re all just on the same playing field, in different places that’s all, doing our own thing.

Obviously HappyBerry has costs, it has to survive financially, but all the monies made either from sales of PDFs I send people or through donations and advertising are pumped straight back into funding the website. I wash my hands of the money. It is just there as a means to an end. The website often makes a loss actually, even more so as the popularity has increased, but my passion for crochet will never diminish. HappyBerry is not a business, it’s not even a hobby really… it’s so much more than that to me. It’s really a life mission to make the world a happier place and to make a positive impact in the best way I can through something I love to do.

Do you collaborate or work for magazines?

I have done in the past, but it is not something I do any more. This is mainly because I view HappyBerry as its own entity, it has its own energy and when you start working with others, especially companies it starts to feel more like a business and I feel my creativity becomes diluted and diminished like I’m back in that corporate world. I have nothing against the crochet community, I think there are so many creative and inspiring designers out there now. It’s been wonderful to see the love of crochet grow so much in just the last ten years, especially with the younger generation, but I definitely float around on the outside, doing my own thing. A lot of my time is simply spent designing and creating or working on my other projects that aren’t to do with HappyBerry. I’m an introvert so I enjoy my own company and doing my own thing. This fuels my soul and it all comes back to this sense of mental well-being, with coping with life woes, which I try to work with in others. It’s about being authentic and comfortable with who you really are, and being proud of that. I often get judged for being quiet, living in my own creative bubble and not getting involved so much with other crocheters, but it works for me. That said I do team up sometimes with companies to help promote their products if I feel it fits within what I’m trying to do so I do come out my hidey hole sometimes!

What does the future hold for HappyBerry?

HappyBerry has grown massively over the last ten years and I feel so proud of where it is today, but we do plan to move away from social media more and more and focus primarily on the website. Costs are increasing so we have opened up a monthly subscription area where I offer a dedicated one on one interaction with subscribers, crochet-a-long courses and exclusive patterns. There is also a ton of bonus content crocheters can enjoy from us as well such as behind the scenes footage, our podcast, and a new digital magazine coming soon. I also host LIVE webinars and tutorials and basically just develop a closer connection to our biggest HappyBerry fans who have always been there for me. The human touch is very important and over the years I have made some wonderful friends through HappyBerry who continue to support me as a designer and I hope in return I can support them.

HappyBerry has been a real journey for me, sometimes a lonely journey, sometimes a really emotional journey such as when we lost a HappyBerry fan through suicide, that was really tough and it still sits with me even today. I felt I had failed really badly in not knowing what was going on behind the scenes. It’s so important to try and reach out to those in trouble mentally, to just listen and to support without judgement. I sadly learnt this at a very early age from my father, but I am so glad that he is still with us today and is proud of what I do. He has taught me so much in so many ways. He's also shown me the value of creativity when it comes to mental health because his art has been a life-saver for him in many ways, just like my crochet and art has for me.

One of my biggest focuses right now is the digital magazine we are going to be launching soon for subscription members. This magazine is a huge project for us because it's going to be all about crochet of course, but also about mental well-being and getting back to nature and how that all ties in together. The articles will be coming from some amazing people we've connected with over the years who share our passion on self healing, meditation, forest bathing and of course crafts. Even my daughter will be contributing. She has an insane amount of knowledge and passion for birds so I'm really looking forward to sharing her work too. The magazine will feed into the podcast and the behind the scenes as well and there's going to be some amazing live webinars and live tutorials as well out in nature and on the road as the weather warms up so we're super excited to get started.

Away from HappyBerry I do try to actually make some kind of living, primarily as an artist and teaching all things from art, embroidery, knitting and of course crochet through YouTube, but that is becoming increasingly more difficult and confusing for me as the format is changing a lot. I also help my Hungarian husband run a small business making models and gaming terrain, he is super talented. He has been an invaluable source of support with HappyBerry from the very beginning and helps keep me organised and motivated. He also shares my beliefs and values. We actually met through my art channels so he also shares my love of creativity and of making things. We both prefer a quiet, simple life and our days are spent getting back to nature in our little camper van called Valentina, hiking and exploring the forests and mountains of Europe and the UK, whilst sleeping under the stars and spending time with our children as much as possible. This is our shared dream and passion and we both really hope you’ll follow along and share our journey of creativity!

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