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My experience on Kirstie's Handmade Christmas

Way back in October, I received a message request on Instagram, completely out of the blue, from a researcher working for Raise the Roof, the production company behind Kirstie's Handmade Christmas. The message said that they loved my work, and would I be interested in applying to compete on the show?


After my initial message saying that yes, I would, I had a phone call with the researcher where we chatted about what they were after (something festive, preferably 3D and interactive), what I do and, specifically, what it was she liked about it (the miniature element); so that got me thinking about what I could make in the allotted time that fit the bill. I came up with the idea of making a festive scene inside a matchbox but still had no idea what that scene might be. I was asked to play around with a matchbox that evening and sketch out an idea to present to the producers of the show the next day.


MY DESIGN


Turning the box over in my hands, I considered possible scenes. I thought about making it into a house - the outside might have a window looking in to the festive scene, perhaps Kirstie Allsopp putting the star on top of her tree. But then I thought back to my own childhood and my vehement belief that my grandad lived inside the postbox at the end of our road. He actually lived in Hong Kong but my mum wrote regular letters to him and allowed me to drop them into the postbox. You can see my confusion.


Anyway; I then got to thinking about my own daughter and her wonderment about where her letter to Santa goes when she drops it through that slot... what if, by magic, it was transported right into Santa's mailroom? Now there's an idea. I drew out my sketch and emailed it straight across to Emma, the researcher, with a few notes.


A hand drawn sketch of Santa's mailroom inside a matchbox by Kat Taylor for Kirstie's Handmade Christmas
My initial design sketch of Santa's mailroom

The next morning I received a phone call from Emma saying that she absolutely loved my idea and would be pitching it to the production team later that morning and that I could expect a call some time the following week to let me know if I'd been successful. In the meantime, I should complete the application form and make an application video which needed to be in by the coming Friday. But only a few hours later, Emma called me back and said that the producers thought my idea was brilliant and would like to offer me a place on the show!


From that moment, I had nine days to perfect my design before filming on 13th October! I worked day and night on my design and went through many iterations before finally landing on a scene that I was happy with (the night before I set off for Devon to start filming).


ON SET


I travelled down to Devon by train on the Sunday to be picked up at 5am the next morning to begin filming. I was picked up by two of the show's runners in what felt like the dead of night and driven down winding roads in the pitch black before arriving at Kirstie's property and parking in a field. One by one, the contestants were delivered to a tent where we were offered hot water bottles, blankets, tea and a hot breakfast. No sooner had my breakfast arrived, though, than I was taken off to be filmed for my one to one interview in a little barn type room that was beautifully bedecked as a little grotto.


Sheffield cut paper artist Kat Taylor during a one to one interview on the set of Kirstie's Handmade Christmas
My one to one interview in Kirstie's grotto

It felt a little weird having a camera just inches from my face, but I tried to ignore it and act natural, answering the questions as fully as I could. I was asked multiple questions at a time and struggled to remember what I'd been asked so was worried that I hadn't answered the right ones or had perhaps not answered as thoroughly as I would have liked. Never mind: the interview was over in just a few minutes and I was taken back to the green room tent to wait with the other competitors until we were invited onto set.


Christmas decorations and children's toys are the backdrop of the set of Kirstie's Handmade Christmas
On the set of Kirstie's Handmade Christmas

Christmas decorations and children's toys are the backdrop of the set of Kirstie's Handmade Christmas
On the set of Kirstie's Handmade Christmas

DURING THE COMPETITION


After unpacking all of our tools and papers at our allocated work space, Kirstie Allsopp came on set, introduced the programme, and before we could even sharpen our scissors, announced that it was time to start cutting! At this point my nerves kicked in. During my time trials at home, I had barely made it within the allowed four hours and I honestly had no idea if I'd be able to do it here. But everyone on set was really laid back, including the other contestants. We were chatting and joking, talking about our crafts, and once I settled into that, the nerves melted away and I was able to get to work and stop worrying about the clock.


Cut paper collage artist Kat Taylor working on her design on the set of Kirstie's Handmade Christmas
Starting with the outside of my postbox

I started with the outside of my postbox. First, the red wrap that would go all the way around my matchbox.



Next, I cut out the tiny gold lettering of the Royal Mail sign and King Charles' initials, followed by the collection times plate and a tiny holly decoration.



Just as I was starting to work on the inside of my box, I was joined by Kirstie and spent some time chatting and teaching her how to make a tiny real envelope (I'll post a tutorial for that another time) that she could post into my letterbox.


Kirstie Allsopp and cut paper artist Kat Taylor chatting on the set of Kirstie's Handmade Christmas
Chatting with Kirstie about what I was going to get her to make

Cut paper artist Kat Taylor explains to Kirstie Allsopp how to make a miniature envelope on the set of Kirstie's Handmade Christmas
Talking Kirstie through how to make a tiny envelope using my hand painted papers

Kirstie Allsopp posts her tiny letter to Santa into Kat Taylor's matchbox mailroom
Kirstie posting her tiny letter to Santa

Once Kirstie had left me to it again, the game was on to try and finish my matchbox mailroom before my time ran out! I started frantically cutting out and sticking together Santa's pigeon holes complete with miniature letters, a little post sack with candy cane decoration, a post cart stacked with yet more letters and my tiny characters who measured just shy of 2 cm each. The smaller I cut, the more my hands shook. Nerves were really setting in. And not just for me. All of the contestants were feeling a little stressed by this point!


A tiny cut paper elf swings from Santa's Mailroom sign in Kat Taylor's matchbox mailroom on Kirstie's Handmade Christmas
My tiny elf swinging from Santa's Mailroom sign measured just less than 2 cm

A cut paper Mrs Claus holds aloft a tiny letter from Kirstie Allsopp in Kat Taylor's matchbox mailroom on Kirstie's Handmade Christmas
Mrs Claus holds Kirstie's letter aloft, the last to make it before the final collection!

But, with minutes to spare, I stuck my last stick, checked the mechanism of my Naughty or Nice detector and chocolate dispenser (which unfortunately weren't shown on the final show) and downed tools, ready for Kirstie to escort us out of the tent and towards a very delicious lunch on the lawn (it was 24 degrees outside - a bit of a contrast to the morning when we were all wrapped in blankets and breathing out smoke!).


Kat Taylor's completed matchbox mailroom on Kirstie's Handmade Christmas
My finished mailroom

THE JUDGING


While we sat in the sunshine on the grass eating one of the best curries of my life, the judge, Nathan Ward, was in the tent deliberating over the winner... but who would it be?


Judge Nathan Ward looking at Kat Taylor's matchbox mailroom on Kirstie's Handmade Christmas
Judge Nathan Ward all smiles while looking at my matchbox mailroom

Not me unfortunately.


Competition was tight. And we all agreed that all of us were winners because we'd had an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience and made three great new crafty friends in the process. The winner in the end was Sam Wilde with his lifesize cardboard sleigh. Also amazing were Roisin Harper-Simpson with her ridiculously detailed interactive table runner and Dawn Thornhill and her beautifully intricate shop window light box.


Kat Taylor with the other contestants, judge and Kirstie Allsopp on Kirstie's Handmade Christmas
All still smiling after the winner was announced

Before we all left in our own directions, we exchanged numbers and have been in touch via WhatsApp most days since the competition. I'm so grateful that I now have a little team of supporters to cheer me on in my career, and to sound ideas off when I'm not sure if something is working. I truly believe we'll be friends for years to come and we're already talking about our next adventures in paper together!


Kat Taylor (third from left) stands with the other contestants of 2022 Kirstie's Handmade Christmas
L-R: Sam Wilde, Roisin Harper-Simpson, me and Dawn Thornhill

The show aired on Friday 23rd December 2022 and you can still watch it on Channel 4 catch up here.

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1 Comment


deborahfrith29
Dec 28, 2022

Well done Kat, it was a beautiful creation. I live in stocksbridge and am a papercrafter too ( junk journals and scrapbooks and anything else that inspires me) so was really delighted for you. Loved reading this blog of your time on the show, as you say what a once in a lifetime opportunity.

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