Welcome the first Meet The Maker. In these posts I’ll be taking you through the wonderful makers I have collaborated with. You’ll get to know a little about them, why they’re doing this and how they got to where they are. And, hopefully we can inspire you to get creative. Where better to start than with myself. Buckle up guys, this is going to get personal.
Hi, I’m Robi. I’m 25, I like be surrounded by nature and I always seem to be ill (I have a lactose intolerance and IBS). I also like photography, walking around woodlands, speciality coffee, getting tattooed and dogs. Oh, and I suffer with anxiety and depression. I’ve been taking antidepressants since June this year, and I’m in an okay place. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m working on it.
Let’s start with a bit of background of myself. For as long as I remember being creative has been a huge part of my life and so has the outdoors. I was given a small film camera when I was a very young child and loved to take photos of anything and everything. I also loved being outside, I loved going out riding around where I lived on my bike and exploring the woodlands near my home.
Being dyslexic I struggled a little in my academic studies but excelled in creative subjects. At secondary school I took art and textiles, I thought about being a fashion designer at one point! However, my depression (I wasn’t diagnosed but believe I’ve had depression since a young age) made me believe I wasn’t any good at this because I told myself the work I was creating wasn’t good enough (In fact, I was getting very good grades).
My Grandpa had a huge influence on me. I loved nothing more than the time we spent together. I’d spend my summers walking along the coastline with him and looking for creatures in rock pools. I never realised that he was a photographer himself and actually had his own photography business. I didn’t find this out until after his passing, which happened in the last year of secondary school. I really struggled with coming to terms with the death of my Grandpa, as he was such a big part of my life. But art and photography helped me through this dark period.
After my GCSE’s I decided to further my studies in the creative field by studying art, photography and media. I went off to Weston College to study my A Levels and then an Art Foundation course. My Art Foundation was great, I got to study artistic fields I hadn’t done before. I received an Honours for my Final Major where I finalised in Graphic Design. After finishing my Foundation I wanted to leave schooling and get out into the real world. But I was told I had to apply for University. Teachers and parents are so focused on their students/children getting a degree they don’t think about what the actual person wants. I quickly scrambled an application together and somehow got into Camberwell.
At 19 I found myself packing up to move to London to study Fine Art Photography. I did not know what I was getting myself into. I hated university, the students were pretentious and I felt like a complete outsider. Also, what is Fine Art Photography? People weren’t even taking photos. Continually I said to my parents that I didn’t want to be there and that I wanted to drop out. I think during this year my depression and anxiety was really taking over my life without me knowing. So instead of studying I did the classic student thing and was drunk for the majority of that year. Alcohol is a great way of blocking feelings.
Somehow my parents convinced me to complete the year, which I ended up failing (yup you can fail your first year, who knew?!). After having a bit of a breakdown, my parents again convinced me to carry on studying. I applied for a graphic communications course at LCC and the following year I was still in London.
I don’t think I even got through the first semester without wanting to drop out. Luckily, I got rushed to hospital to have my appendix removed. During my recovery I repeatedly told my parents that I wasn’t going back and wanted to drop out. Still they tried to convince me to stay, but after having an anxiety attack a few days before moving back to London, I think my parents finally realised that I wasn’t messing around.
To this day I wish I never went to Uni, it’s definitely a dark part of my life that I don’t like to think about, but I guess it’s also helped me become the person I am today. After dropping out I didn’t really know what I was going to do. I went back to my job as a catering assistant and fell into a depressive routine. You don’t always realise you’re depressed. I was eating well, exercising and I could hide my feelings from my friends and family pretty well. No one knew, or that’s what I think anyway. My depression had really taken hold of me by this time and I was coming home crying most nights after work not really knowing why. So I quit my job, took a month off and I guess I was trying to find ‘myself’. Well I didn’t find myself but I did find David and I landed myself a new job on our first date. Two birds, one stone.
At this point in my life, coffee had sparked my interest. So I found myself in the cute little cafe/coffee shop on Whiteladies called Brew. I spent about 2 years there learning and growing my knowledge about coffee. During this time my interest in anything artistic had completely gone out of the window. Years of telling myself that a creative career would never happen and is extremely difficult to get into, I succumbed and decided that coffee would be my calling. I liked my job, I got to drink coffee and got to meet such a varied amount of people. But once I got home I would be tired and in a foul mood. I’d lash out, say horrible things and blame it on ‘only having a certain amount of happiness for the day.’ But that’s complete bollocks, that’s depression. I was living with David by this point and things only got worse.
Now depression is different for everybody. I like to think of mine as a little devil on my shoulder whispering things into my ear constantly. I would hear ‘You’re rubbish at your job’, ‘No one likes you, you have no friends’, ‘Even your own boyfriend doesn’t love you, who could love you’. You add fuel to the fire by drowning it out with alcohol or drugs, but that only makes it worse. This is another very dark point in my life that I try to black out. Things got really bad between David and I, it was affecting my job but I couldn’t go on like this anymore. I went to the doctors, got some counselling. With this ‘changed’ me; I decided hospitality wasn’t for me and still thinking I wanted a job in coffee, somehow I wangled myself a job at Extract.
I started Loof in 2016, I was still working at Brew at the time. The main inspiration came from when we visited Amsterdam, and found this secluded florist selling these small cute terrariums and I just had to have these gorgeous indoor gardens in my life. That’s when I realised no one was making or selling terrariums in Bristol.
It was just a bit of fun to begin with making some for the flat, and then selling to friends and family. The more I got into creating these small worlds the more I wanted to know more about them. I began to study how to make them, the plants you need and how to look after them. And I’m continuing to learn so I can give you the highest quality product I can give. Things really start to fall into place when I was invited to my first market, which was held at Harts Bakery in Sep 2016. From that market onwards I knew this is what I wanted to do. I enjoyed it so much that I knew I needed to focus on it a little more.
I built this business from nothing, just a glimmer of hope and whatever money I had spare in my bank account. Nothing has made me more happy and proud of myself than starting this brand. There’s so much that I envision for Loof and I’m so excited for future projects. But also terrified, but that’s kinda the fun of it. And here we are, new brand, new website and collaborations with some fantastic artists.
I have to give David a large portion of credit, as it was his idea for me to start the business. If it wasn’t for his love and support I would never have the confidence to do this. I’ve also got the support of family and friends but it absolutely terrified me when I had to tell them I was quitting my secure job at Extract so I could focus on this adventure. I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and support from everyone.
I’m still struggling with my depression but creating Loof has really helped me to become a person a younger me only dreamt about. Never in a million years did I ever think I would be running my own business but getting to do things I love on a daily basis. As I get older I realise I want to be doing something that’s fulfilling with my life, creating work that people enjoy and experiencing new things. And there’s no time like the present.
I really hope you enjoy following my journey and hope to inspire people on the way.