KATHRYN Caterer has a privileged job. She takes care of people’s most precious memories, of lost loved ones, children and friends.
And it’s growing in popularity – Kathryn has a growing Facebook crowd of 4,685 people and 1,200 Twitter followers.
“About 70 per cent of my customers are repeat clients,” she says.
Working under the business name ‘Prints Charming’ from her home in Wincobank, Kathryn creates charms imprinted with fingerprints and handprints that come in all manner of shapes and sizes. “The one I’m wearing is called the ‘Circle of Love’, it’s a heart within a circle,” she says. “It has a Swarovski crystal in it too.”
Kathryn’s pendant is imprinted with her three year-old child’s handprint, fingerprint and footprint, along with an inscription that reads ‘We made a wish and you came true’.
To create her fingerprint charms Kathryn sends a putty finger print kit to her customers and they return the imprinted putty to her. She then makes a cast of the prints using silver-laced clay.
“The prints are then imprinted on to the silver. Everyone thinks I use molten silver but it’s a special clay. I fire it and then all that’s left is the silver.”
But she doesn’t fire it in a kiln. “I looked at buying a kiln but they cost about £400 so I use my hob – it’s much quicker.”
Kathryn also takes photographic handprints and footprints, reduces them in size and creates a ‘stamp’, which she then impresses upon the clay putty.
“You can’t have anything more unique than a fingerprint, so having a fingerprint of a loved one is such a nice memento. People still feel like they have a part of someone with them with these pendants – it means you can keep something of that person.”
Kathryn is experienced at making memorial pieces, although she says the privilege never wears off.
“Some of them are from premature babies that didn’t survive,” says Kathryn. “I feel different when I’m doing memorial pieces. I feel humbled that someone has asked me to make such a precious keep-sake of their little angel. It feels like quite an honour.
“There was one customer who had terminal cancer and I was touched that they were going through this horrible thing and yet they were asking me to make something for them. She wanted something to leave behind for her children and husband.”
But it’s emotionally-taxing work, according to Kathryn.
“You have to detach yourself in these cases as I have a little girl. I’ve taken my fingerprint and asked my husband to hide it in the wardrobe and if anything happens he’ll have to take that to another maker to have a pendant made.”
But some commissions are close to home, making that detachment more difficult.
“A friend of mine had a 19-year-old son who was in a coma after being violently ill for two days. He had leukaemia and it destroyed his body within about five days.
“I approached her and I said ‘This is the last thing on your mind but if you can get someone to take this finger print kit and get a print you can have a pendant’. She took it really well and was very grateful for it.”
Kathryn started making her Prints Charming keepsakes after experimenting with different silver products.
“I knew of the products that would enable me to make imprints and also I fancied doing something for myself. I’ve tried out various business ventures, including nail art and selling things on but this has been brilliant.”
But it took a lot of will power.
“Initially my husband said ‘don’t do it’ but it sky-rocketed.”
Kathryn sold 65 pendants in December alone and has sold a further 50 since Christmas. She also sells bookmarks, bracelet charms, pendants, ID bracelets, earrings, rings and key rings.
“I have always been creative, it’s just that until this I had never known what to do with it. I love having the independence away from work.”
Kathryn is part of a new trend of ‘mumtrepreneurs’ – women who are starting up small businesses at home while looking after their children.
“I’ve seen how many mumtrepreneurs there are and thought ‘If they can do it, why can’t I?’”
Aside from providing additional income, Kathryn says she’s also encouraged and moved by her customer feedback.
“Some of the feedback has had me in tears,” she said. It’s this, she says, that makes it worthwhile.