"Tall Tales & Wee Stories" to quote my fellow Glaswegian, Mr Billy Connolly. I guess this could be seen as the name-droppy bit. I was a little reluctant to create this page for many reasons (and I'll probably end up taking some of it down again). But friends and family reckon it should be included so I've been outvoted, for now. As well as my 'Tall Tales' it's actually a great place to share some of my 'Wee Stories', the stories behind my AMAZING customers' orders which are often my favourites! Some of these stories are very moving and personal, so thank you for giving me permission to share them. If you have a story to tell then send me a note firstname.lastname@example.org - Big love to you all, Alissa x
"Let's start strong with the beautiful and super talented Fearne Cotton. Mother. Broadcaster. Writer. Founder of @happyplaceofficial and all round belter. I adore Fearne, she's our kinda woman - MASSIVE Bowie fan - and does a lot to support and promote small businesses. She has a huge platform (3.2 M Insta followers, just sayin'!) that she uses for the power of good, so hats off to her for that. One of the good guys.
When Fearne, all flowy and gorgeous, shared this picture of her rocking her Electric Eye Apparel sweatshirt (purchased as a gift from a very lovely friend and supporter of Electric Eye) I hadn't long launched the brand. I was relentlessly trying to get my brand 'out there', trying to increase my followers (I cringe when I think of my shameless spamming now), get sales up and was having daily 'what the f*ck am I doing, I'm going to fail' conversations with myself. I knew that Fearne had the sweatshirt, but whether she's post it or not was the unknown. I definitely didn't stalk her instagram page for a few days though... that would be weird. Anyway, when this popped up on my instagram feed I think I squealed like a little school girl. I danced around my house and instantly shared screen shots with all of my family and mates. FEARNE COTTON IS WEARING A SWEATSHIRT THAT I MADE!
I know you shouldn't get hung up on this kind of thing, but the excitement was real and it was a sort of validation that 'yeah, people might actually dig this'. Overnight my followers jumped up, the orders rolled in and I was given a much needed confidence boost at a time when - if I'm honest - I could have packed it all in. I responded to every 'where's your sweatshirt from, Fearne?' comment on her instagram feed - which looking back, was probably a little uncool but you learn eh. Anyways, long story short I don't think Electric Eye would be here without that wee bit of serendipity. So thank you F.C. - you're a Star... man!"
"In early 2019, I was contacted by a lovely woman as she wanted me to stitch up a very special custom sweatshirt for her with the lyrics 'To dream the impossible dream' embroidered on. We got chatting on email, as I do with many of my customers, and she shared with me that this sweatshirt was a gift for her elderly Dad. This wonderful man was living with Dementia and his daughter had made the extremely hard decision to move him to a supported care home. This song, by Matt Monro, was one that meant a great deal to both of them and one that her Dad would often sing. This really struck a chord with me, and reminded me of my own Grandmother (who also has Dementia) and I - and the songs we would sing together. This gift was a sweet reminder for a Father of the happy times he shared, a prompt that could perhaps spark a memory when worn - and a talking point for the care home staff. For those who has experience of dementia, you'll know that music and lyrics can trigger a memory where words fail. My grandmother can sing songs from her childhood, start to finish - but struggles with more recent memories. As I watched my machine embroider those lyrics I was so moved by the story that was woven in along with every stitch.
If you're unfamiliar with the song, here are the lyrics; 'To dream the impossible dream, To fight the unbeatable foe, To bear the unbearable sorrow, To run where the brave dare not go, To right the unrightable wrong, To love pure and chaste from afar, To try when your arms are too weary, To reach the unreachable star, This is my quest To follow that star, No matter how hopeless No matter how far, To fight for the right Without question or pause, To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause, And I know if I'll only be true To this glorious quest, That my heart will lie peaceful and calm, When I'm laid to my rest, And the world will be better for this, That one man scorned and covered with scars, Still strove with his last ounce of courage, To reach the unreachable stars'. Beautiful.
I checked in with my lovely customer to get permission to share this story and I was very sad to hear that her Dad passed away this year, his daughter has the kept sweatshirt and told me that she treasures it dearly."
"I have always adored Jane Fonda. My first design project at Uni was based on Barbarella. It's an overused word, but there's no mistaking that the woman is a legend. (If you haven't watched Jane Fonda in Five Acts then go do it NOW!). Working from home, as a one woman band can be... quiet. No office gossip, nobody to roll my eyes at and the banter can be a little under par. So when I'm locked away in my sewing room I'll pop on some music or stick something on Netflix to keep me company. One particular day Grace & Frankie caught my eye; my office colleagues came in the shape of; Jane Fonda - check! Lily Tomlin - check! Martin Sheen - check! Ding ding ding.
I fell in love with the show and it's amazing cast, it was smart, sassy, stylish and hilarious. And I fell in love with Jane Fonda all over again. Hard. I instantly decided that I wanted to be Fonda when I grew up. So I made myself a little t-shirt with a subtle left chest embroidery 'Jane Fucking Fonda'. Damn Right. I popped it on Instagram and in a weird twist of fate connected with the superstar stylist Allyson Fanger. Allyson loved the t-shirt and, as the stylist on the Grace & Frankie, show needed one in her life immediately. So I stitched one up from my home studio in Manchester, carefully packed it with a little handwritten note and shipped if off to the studios on L.A - then I waited.
ALLYSON "Hey Alissa, Jane loved the t-shirt"... AAAAAND I'M DEAD! "So much in fact, that we have the wrap party coming up in a few weeks and we want to order 'Jane Fucking Fonda' and 'Lily Fucking Tomlin' t-shirts for every member of cast and crew, can you get them to me in 2 weeks?". ME "Oh my god, yeah! Of course! How many do you need?" ALLYSON "About 300". ME "I'll sort it". *Gulp!* Bear in mind that I make every t-shirt myself, I wasn't sure how I was going to do it - but I HAD to make it happen. Shipping would take a week so that gave me 7 days.
And so I sewed and I sewed. All day and all night, into the wee hours. I was seeing the needle punch 'Jane Fucking Fonda' in my sleep. My house was overrun with Jane and Lily t-shirts. "Who are Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin?" my 8 year old step-daughter asked "Goddesses" I replied. For a solid week I stitched, packed, and held up the post office queue (sorry Greenmount residents). And on the 8th Day, I rested. Poured myself a pint of wine and reminded my husband that I still loved him and Jane Fonda would never come between us. Seeing the photos flood in from the wrap party was such a buzz and knowing that in some teeny tiny little way I had connected with Jane Fonda blew my mind.
This t-shirt is still one of my best sellers, most of the orders come from L.A. I like the fact that there's a bunch of people out their rocking their 'Jane Fucking Fonda' t-shirts, every time an order comes through with an L.A shipping address I wonder who told them about Electric Eye, who did they see wearing the tee? So there you have it. Jane Fucking Fonda indeed."
So one of my lovely and loyal customers, Jodie, dropped me an email after I'd put a call out to hear some more of the stories behind my customer's orders. Jodie has been a great supporter of Electric Eye; she always comments on my insta posts and natters on email like an old pal. However, I didn't know the touching story behind the orders that she placed. Here she is, lovely Jodie in her own words;
'Hi Alissa, I hope you and the family are doing well in these crazy old times. My story involves a bit of a name drop which I apologise for but here it goes haha! My uncle was a drummer in a band called the Stereophonics. I was a little young when they first started out so my music taste at that point pretty much started and ended with the Spice Girls! He left behind a pretty extensive record collection (most of which was stolen by my dad back in the day anyways). Since he passed away and now that I am a little older, I set out to go through and listen to the records that inspired him at my age and beyond; from ACDC right through to ZZ Top. The music gives me such a connection to him and I know he would be proud of each and every t-shirt I have sported from your brilliant business! So thank you for giving me that connection. Music truly is power.'
Well. What an amazing story. Music and lyrics have a way of connecting people on a level like nothing else can and I can totally relate to Jodie's story. It's such an honour that I can be part of that in some small way. Big love to you Jodie (and don't knock the Spice Girls ;) ).
"I mentioned in one of previous stories that working from home as a one woman band can be a rather quiet affair. Unlike most, I don't have the buzz of the office or the chatter of friendly co-workers. Instead I chat online with my lovely customers and my 'office colleagues' come in the form of whoever I'm listening to or watching whilst I sew my way through the day. In the mornings it's always Chris Evans, Rachel Horne and Vassos from the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Virgin Radio. If you don't listen to the show, you should. Chris Evans is amazing at what he does and has created a show that's always super upbeat (they are positivity super-spreaders), informative and his disarming interview technique always leads to great chats with his guests. It's just good juju.
As a fan of the show and seeing how they would often champion small businesses, I was a bit brazen and got chatting to the lovely Rachel Horne about making some custom t-shirts and sweatshirts for the team. I was aware they they were probably inundated with similar requests so wasn't surprised when Rachel said "that would be very kind of you however we can't guarantee that you'd get any mention on the show". However, I knew it was worth a punt and I'm always quietly confident that people will like what I do and dig my product - I take pride in every order, they're well made and good quality. Because I listen to the show, I had an idea of what they might like. Chris is a huge ELO fan so 'Mr. Blue Sky' made sense. Rachel reads the news so it had to be 'I Read the News Today, Oh Boy' and Vassos' book 'Running Up That Hill'. I received a lovely thank you message from Rachel and was told that the team loved their goodies. I saw the odd glimpse of Chris wearing his sweatshirt from stories on Instagram and FB posts and that was pretty cool to see, it was good to know that he liked it.
A few months passed and I woke up one morning to the 'ping' 'ping' 'ping' noise that my phone makes every time I receive an order (it's a great sound!). I sleepily glanced at my phone and my instagram followers had jumped by over 1000 and counting, orders were coming through thick and fast... 'what the f*ck?!'. In amongst all of my notifications I had a sweet message from Rachel "Alissa, Chris has just been chatting about your sweatshirt - listen back". When I listened back to the show, Chris had been ranting about the fact that his favourite 'Mr. Blue Sky' sweatshirt had gone missing from the Virgin Radio studio. He was very complimentary about the brand and was sure to mention the name and instagram page several times - LEGEND!
At this stage I was heavily pregnant and 3 weeks away giving birth. I was having a planned cesarean at 37 weeks as baby had a condition called Gastroschisis (where her insides were growing outside of her body through a hole in her stomach) and would require surgery immediately after birth. The pregnancy had been stressful as you can imagine. Looking back, I think I was a bit numb and paralyzed with fear. I had become quite disengaged and my thoughts were consumed by what lay ahead. So all of this was a welcome distraction and gave me something positive to focus on. Busy hands, quiet mind.
I offered to replace Chris' sweatshirt and happened to be staying in London with my husband the following week so I could drop it into the studio to make sure it got there safely... When I arrived at the studio on a fresh Winter's Thursday morning I had no expectations, of course in the back of my mind I thought 'I wonder if I'll get to meet Chris' but it didn't bank on anything. Initially when I arrived there was some chatter about me hand delivering the sweatshirt live at the end the show but things ran on and, although a teensy bit disappointed, I was just happy to be there. Rachel Horne couldn't have been nicer to me, all of the team were so friendly.
Eventually Chris popped out and he was full of beans! He was incredibly complimentary about Electric Eye and thanked me for the sweatshirt (even offering to buy it!). "What can I do for you? I love your brand, it's so cool! how can I help you?", "you've done enough, thanks for giving me a shout out - I've had so many sales since" I politely replied. We nattered for about 20 minutes when from nowhere he called over one of his producers. "Can we move things around and get Alissa on the show tomorrow? Alissa, how long are you in London for?". My heart leapt! "THAT WOULD BE AMAZING! I can be here tomorrow. Thank you so much!!! Oh my god".
And just like that I frantically changed my train ticket and booked a hotel. Friday's on the Breakfast Show are always fun. More of a relaxed vibe, live music - from The Script on this particular day, and it was around Christmas time so everyone was full of merriment and mince pies being passed around (coincidentally my pregnancy craving - score!). I was sh*tting myself, there I was 2 weeks away from giving birth on the radio show that I listened to every morning. Mental. Chris did a segment on women with small businesses ahead of Small Business Saturday and I was joined by other amazing ladies; Carol Maxwell from Max Made Me Do It and Sarah Keeley from House Of Bluebell. It was great to share the nerves with them! Maggie kicked all the way through the interview, I think she was cheering me on. It's up there with one of my best days ever, which in the midst of the hardest period of my life is pretty special.
After I was on the show my website exploded, Christmas orders galore. Bump and I worked around the clock for 2 weeks (with a little help from my friends) so that I could get the orders out in time for Christmas. The photo to the left is me and bump, 2am, sewing away surrounded by stock and orders. So there you have it, we ended 2019 with a bang! I've since made lots of items for the extended Virgin Radio family; Mrs Evans, Kate Lawler, Eddy Temple Morris, Dapper Dave and his lovely wife - and it's always a pleasure. I'm forever indebted to the team for their continued support and using such a huge platform to champion a small brand like Electric Eye. (For those asking for an update: Maggie was born 31/12/19 weighing 5lbs. She had surgery at 4 days old, 6 weeks in NICU and a few bumps along the way but she's doing great now. Electric Eye was put on ice until I was ready to return in October 2020).
"When I stitched up one of my navy organic cotton sweatshirts embroidered with the words 'There's a Starman Waiting in the Sky' in twinkling gold metallic thread, I had no idea that these words would hold such a special meaning to the lovely lady who placed the order.
It wasn't until I was tagged in an instagram post the following week that I stopped in my tracks. The photo (right) was captioned 'Day 218 - anyone who knew G would know how appropriate this jumper is for a man who literally made stuff fly in space and spent his life wondering and exploring what was out there. As ever, bittersweet - every time I hear about space stuff on the news I have to turn it off now. G was at the forefront of nearly all of it and it was a huge part of our everyday lives. How times change - one day I hope I'll be able to listen to it all again with pride - thanks @electriceyeapparel for the brilliant jumper and great customer service'.
As I scrolled through the instagram account I was moved to tears by the brave journey that my customer had been on. Her account @life_unexpected2018 documented every day since her loss; the good days, the bad, the highs and lows. It was honest, raw and beautiful. I admired her putting it all out there and I'm sure it is a comfort to those going through a similar experience. I recently asked to share a few words about the story behind the sweatshirt, what I was sent was beautiful and says it all better than I ever could...
'Me and Grant got together 13 years ago and married 10 years ago. He designed parts of spacecraft for a living - he worked on things that went to Mars and all sorts - it was his passion and his calling. He was brilliant at it. He'd just set up a space consultancy business when he died very suddenly and unexpectedly of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome. We had no idea and had a 7 month old baby together. It was a total tragedy and the loss of someone amazing but also kind and wonderful. As I was starting to pick up my life I saw your jumpers advertised and the one I chose was not only a lyric from a song we loved but massively relevant to me. It's something I say to my little boy when we look at the sky. It can make me cry and also bring me a tiny bit of peace'.
I'm at a loss for how to follow that, even typing it again makes me well up - especially as I have my own little one now. It means a lot to me that the sweatshirt I made has such a beautiful meaning behind it. Love each other and hold each other tight, to quote Bowie 'The greatest thing you'll ever learn is to love and be loved in return'."