WHEN Claire Tyler casually mentions that she graduated from the Lucy Clayton Modelling School it’s a Homer Simpson moment: Doh!
Leggy and gorgeous, the 48-year-old is the sort of woman you want to detest. But, she’s lovely!
So how did she go from modelling frocks to creating them?
“I made doll’s clothes as a child. Nobody else in my family sewed; it was just something I had a flair for.
“I left school and trained as a model, although I did a business course at the same time as a fall-back plan.
“Then I moved to the south coast where I met my husband.
“I made my wedding dress and the bridesmaids’ dresses, and then all the curtains and bits for our house.
“When my two girls were born, I made lots of their clothes.
“I took on the lease of a small fabric and wool shop in Littlehampton with my mum and studied for my City & Guilds in pattern cutting while the girls were at school.
“In the 12 years that I had the shop, I made all sorts; wedding clothes, fancy dress costumes, ball gowns – anything that anyone wanted,” she laughs.
Now teaching alongside Deborah Harwood at the idyllically-located Textile Space in Charlton, Claire discovered a love of teaching when she ran workshops at her shop.
“I decided to train to teach adult education and Deborah was doing the same course.
“Afterwards we kept in touch and when Deborah started to look for a studio and the barn came up, she asked me if I’d like to teach dressmaking.
“We teach just about every textile-related course you can think of, including corset and bra making, embroidery, dressmaking and tailoring, patchwork, peg loom weaving and screen printing.
“We are close to Goodwood so we also run a course for people to create their own fantastic Revival outfits.”
Although she is still selling knitting yarns online and undertaking private commissions, for Claire the Textile Space marks the start of a new chapter.
“It’s one that I’m very glad to have started.
“Being in the countryside, the barn is so peaceful and we have a wonderfully cosy wood-burning stove. It’s a place that inspires creativity.”
Agreeing that the recession led people to rediscover the joys of making, ‘although it’s not always cheaper’, Claire and Deborah teach a wide variety of students.
“We teach teens to people in their 80s; beginners to those with lots of experience. The key is to have fun and enjoy it.”
As for commissions, Claire has even made clothes for famous people, ‘I’m too discreet to say who’, and, while she has no interest in returning to modelling, there is one catwalk she would love to see her creations swishing about on.
“I’d love to make a dress for the Oscars! When I had the shop, I would always do a red carpet window display at Oscar time”.
All workshop prices include materials. Visit www.thetextilespaceshop.com or call 01243 811300.