Lockdown sparks creative new venture for Worcester woman

written by Michael Whitefoot
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A Worcester-based beauty therapist has used her creativity to start a quirky new business initiative during lockdown – and is seeing considerable success just three months after its launch.

Artistic Nicola Stokes had the bright idea of producing hand-painted, decorative slate signs, wall art and tableware for homes, gardens and businesses. Her designs are now selling under the name of Stonecraft via Facebook, and soon at gift shops in Malvern and Bridgnorth. She also promotes her ranges via the Worcester Virtual High Street Facebook group, the free, ‘shop local’ hub which enables independent retailers, service providers, crafters and entrepreneurs to promote their wares to shoppers across the County and beyond.

But it was thanks to Nicola’s partner, Warren Holland, that production of the slates was made possible. “I was looking for a hobby in lockdown to keep myself busy until I return to work,” she explains. “Then I spotted some roof slate leaning at the side of a house. I asked if I could possibly have it, thinking I might create some painted garden signs or house names. Luckily my partner owns Mercia Water Jet and can cut stone on his machinery, as well as accessing good quality slate pieces. I initially asked him to produce some heart shapes and painted them for placemats. When I showed them to friends, I got several orders. All sorts of other gift ideas and bespoke commissions have developed from there.”

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Nicola Stokes

Using acrylic paint finished with a protective varnish, Nicola hand-decorates each slate with flowers, countryside scenes or inspirational sayings, making no two products the same. “After 20 years as a beauty therapist I’m really enjoying discovering my new creative side,” says Nicola. “The designs are bright, colourful and fun, and I love seeing people smile when they see what I’ve made.”

Special customer requests so far have included an ‘All you need is Love’ slate to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary, and a garden plaque in remembrance of two Jack Russell terriers. Collaboration with another local business has also expanded the collection. Nicola confirms: “Together with PB & J Designs in Lower Broadheath, I’ve launched a range of tempered glass cutting boards printed with six of my designs. I can’t wait to see if they will be popular!”

Thanks to the positive response, Nicola plans to continue with Stonecraft alongside her Worcester-based beauty business once lockdown eases.

To see her ranges visit the Stonecraft Facebook page, the Worcester Virtual High Street Facebook group, and (when shops re-open) Thornbridge Interiors, Malvern and Toadstools, Bridgnorth.

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Worcester Virtual High Street is the fast-growing new Facebook group bringing shoppers, local independent businesses and retailers together to boost local trade, after what has been one of the most challenging commercial years in modern memory.

Set up in 2021 by Worcestershire businessman and photographer Michael Whitefoot, the group is free to join and allows independent shops, service providers, tradespeople, crafters, e-sellers and entrepreneurs from across the County to promote their wares and services to customers free of charge. Shoppers in turn have the chance to discover hundreds of exciting products, service providers, special offers and one-off buys at the click of a mouse. The group already has around 500 members and is attracting scores of new providers and shoppers every day.

“Worcester Virtual High Street is the perfect hub to bring together businesses and consumers at zero cost” confirms Michael. “It’s a great way for local providers to showcase their products or services to a bigger audience, cost-free, whether or not they have a physical shop or their own Facebook page. Meanwhile, consumers can find a huge range of artisans, retailers, tradespeople and professional services from the Worcester area, from the comfort of home. Together it creates a virtual High Street that makes it easy to source and shop local!”