Sharon Iannuzzi, Teacher and Crafter
Other than embarrassment, there should be a word to describe the sensation of meeting someone who appears familiar but whose name remains elusive to the observer. At the official Bridge opening earlier this month, I fell into conversation with one of the people looking after the children from Felixstowe Opportunities Group. I was certain it wasn’t the first time we had met but her name remained just out of reach, on the dusty back shelves of my memory. After some conversation, it transpired the person was Sharon Iannuzzi of “Mrs I Crafts” and yes, of course I knew her face and her name. Further details emerged when Sharon told me,
“I grew up in Trimley St. Martin at 29 Old Kirton Road and lived there until the age of 22. I’ve organised Charity events at the Sports and Social Club, I married in St. Martin’s Church in 2010 with Val the Vicar taking the service and in the past I’ve organised Christmas Craft Fairs at Goslings, although maybe not this year because Di Conroy tells me the polytunnel has blown away.”
I wanted to find out a more about the person who dispenses delicious yarns, fabrics, craft materials and cake. Consequently, one recent Saturday morning, I set off to talk to Sharon in more depth at her shop in Cordy’s Lane. It was 10.00 o’clock and the shop, “Mrs I Crafts“ had just opened its doors to the public. Sharon was busy inside, wiping down paint flecked tables in preparation for the day to come. The blue paint was the trademark of the newly formed “After School Art Club” where the initial activity for the children had been colour ‘Mark Making’ with feathers following a rendition of the story, ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt”. Where did the After School idea originate, I asked Sharon? It was the result of an art training session she received when she was teaching. Her answer sparked off a trail of connections when she revealed her educational background and at that point, everything started to slot together, including several mutual acquaintances. Sharon’s told me how she came to be where she is today and her shop is a story of several threads being woven together.
As a child, Sharon’s interests were shaped by her two Grandmothers. Her paternal Grandmother was Belgian and had met her husband during the Nineteen Forties when he was in the Forces. She was a knitter and tapestry maker and after settling in England, opened a shop in Felixstowe’s Undercliff Road West called Marie Ward Fashions. All the clothes were handmade and she supplied many of the gingham school dresses of the period. Part of her creative legacy to Sharon was teaching her to embroider and to crochet. On the other side of the family, her maternal grandmother taught her to bake and today, Sharon is responsible for making all the cakes for her shop. During the Summer these are made on a daily basis and indicate a high degree of customer care and satisfaction. These two influential women sparked interested in domestic and creative crafts.
Sharon received her school education at Trimley St. Mary’s school when the Head Teacher was Reg Dixon. Her first teacher was Di Harold and her last was Alison Davies. In 1997 when the time came to pursue a career, Sharon choose to do a B.Ed. in Teaching, attending Cheltenham and Gloucester College. There she specialised in Art and Design with a focus on Key Stage One students. In the small world of coincidences and connections, her first job interview for a teaching post in was with the same Alison Davies who had been her Primary School teacher. This led to an appointment at Rushmere Hall School in Ipswich where Sharon worked for six years. Firstly, with Year 2 children, then Year 1 and finally, the Reception Class. In 2006, her next move was to First Base in Ipswich where she spent another six years working under the Head Teacher, Eithne Lemming, who went on to found Gemstones, an independent educational services company in 2012. This was to be Sharon’s third educational job and one which finished as recently as July 2019. There is one other area of interest for Sharon, which is how I recently came to meet her; she is involved with the Felixstowe Opportunities Group, an organisation who hold play sessions for Children with additional needs. These are the very same group of children who joyfully opened The Bridge at the start of September 2019. Sharon has an active role in the organisation and is both a Co-Chair as well and the person who applies for grants for the group. Fund raising and Grant applications require care and exactitude if they are be successful and Sharon deploys both these qualities in pursuit of raising money for the Opportunities Group.
All of the above is a brief description of Sharon’s areas of interest and influence: crafting; baking; teaching. These all come together in the emporium which is ‘Mrs I’s’. Described by the owner as a long held dream, it opened in September 2018 combining many delicious ideas and crafts. It is likely some people may recall it’s earlier life when it used to be first Station Nursery and then a Children’s Clothing shop. A surprisingly wide range of small business premises occupy the surrounding area known as Trackside Park but it is Sharon’s shop, with its outward looking face which beckons and welcomes all passers-by. The concept of the shop is to sell homemade crafts and their materials, tea and cake and also crafting workshops. The website describes the business as a Cottage Industry but it is somewhat more that, I believe. It provides an almost irresistible combination of the majority of Sharon’s interests all rolled into one tempting package and it is a package deserving wider exploration.
If you are someone with nascent crafting pretensions, you may need to talk to yourself firmly if you are to avoid spending all your spare cash on some of the delights on offer. Walking in to the shop, the eye takes in tantalising glimpses of fabrics and yarns. Their colours and textures encourage your fingers to twitch in anticipation. Just what could I do with this selection of yarns, you may muse? Scarves, mittens, gloves, bunting? Small blankets, large blankets, pram blankets, cot blankets?
Or perhaps the softly enticing fabrics could be converted into clothes or decoration? How much fabric do I need to make ten metres of bunting? I could run some up in an afternoon and it would look just perfect, you may think. Or perhaps I could make some for a friend’s birthday present. Why not? In one corner stylish crochet hooks send out come-hither glances. How can you not buy me, they seem to say, we’ll fit into your hand so snugly you won’t want to stop crocheting for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Coloured knitting needles stand smartly to attention offering a similar promise. They silently cry out to the unsuspecting customer, ‘Buy me now, you won’t regret it.’
Handmade cards look out of their stands, inviting further examination as your mind sifts through the mental list of forthcoming birthdays. It may not even get as far as thinking who should be the exact recipient because sometimes it is useful to have a few cards waiting in readiness. Yes, you may think, these will be just right for someone, although I don’t know quite who they are yet.
An Example of one Sharon’s crafted cards
The cards are principally Sharon’s work and each one is handmade, unique and un-replicated. Elsewhere in the shop, there are sets of shelves, which Sharon rents to other Craft people and these are filled with examples of their work. One shelf holds a range of small octahedrons nestling next to fabric covered boxes. They appear perfect for Christmas branches, although you may decide not to wait and find somewhere to hang them between times.
Another area boasts handmade matching cushions and lampshades:
In all, there appear to be about a dozen shelves of items carefully made by enthusiastic Crafters. At a time when High street shops seem to be disappearing overnight, the pleasure of browsing and purchasing goods should be enough in itself. But at Mrs. I’s, you can go a step further and enhance your indulgence by savouring good things to eat. Should you have forgotten, I will remind you, cake is on the menu and you can speed it on its way with tea or coffee while you take in the pleasures to be found in the shop.
Most excitingly, Mrs I’s. presents Workshops to suit everyone. They come in different sizes and shapes, depending on the age of the audience. Throughout the Summer holidays, Sharon ran activities for children every day apart from Sundays and Mondays, offering the opportunity to spend holiday time productively. Some of the projects on offer included journal making, sewing, friendship bracelets and stamping, all of which may not be otherwise available to children. The next school holiday will be October Half Term and this time making Hallowe’en bunting will be on the menu.. It is a given, of course, that Parents will stay with their children and they are likely to find as much enjoyment for themselves. The After School Art Club for children mentioned earlier will meet on Fridays during term time.
If you think workshops are confined to young clientele then you would be wrong, for Sharon runs Evening Classes for adults who welcome the opportunity to learn a new skill or enhance existing ones. Usually the class size is limited to about six people, allowing plenty of opportunity for individual help and friendly informality. The Beginner’s Crochet class is even smaller and confined to a small circle of four learners. I did wonder if left handed people would have any difficulties but no, this doesn’t present any problems beyond Sharon’s capabilities. The latest class focused on simple crochet and learning to make small but useful items such as pot holders. Over the last year, however, a huge range of crafts have presented themselves. These have included Jewellery making, Bead Workshops, decorating Barge Ware, paper wreath making and foodie sessions with Lisa from Stennett’s Café. Learning how to bottle Clementines, with all the promise of enhancing winter food, has to be a worthwhile skill as we travel into the Autumn months.
The extent of Sharon’s work demonstrates commitment to her enterprise. There is an additional hidden extra to her skills. She admitted she has been a fan of Dawn Bibby, a Crafter who, alongside other media, produces YouTube videos of crafting activities. Such was her enthusiasm, Sharon was invited to join the team of testers. As a result, she receives samples of cards, canvases, embellishments, die cuts and stamps all of which are used for her own unique productions and it is probably true to say, if Sharon has a favourite area of expertise it is with paper.
Having one year of successful trading behind her, what are Sharon’s future plans, I asked? The overwhelming desire is to spread yet further into the community by offering new ideas and opportunities in her shop. In her part of Trimley, it is already a popular place to be and ideally, the social prospects will extend themselves to other sections. By expanding her network of contacts through an open invitation to unknown new faces to this oasis of ‘making and doing’, Sharon has created exciting prospects not only for herself but also for the local people. Taking your knitting or crochet to the shop, sitting down with cake and sharing the hour is a simple but engaging concept.
The shop is not simply the exclusive preserve of Crafters, although it does offer exclusive gifts. It has something for everyone. Sometimes you may wish to take time away from the mundanities of life and seize the chance to engage with like-minded people. Sometimes you may wish to browse. And sometimes you may just wish to eat cake. Mrs I welcomes all amiable visitors.
For further practical information relating to hours and workshops, visit the website: https://mrsicrafts.com
More handmade decorations for sale.
If you have any comments or would like to be part of this Trimley St. Martin project, please contact me at:
 We’re going on a bear hunt. Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury Walker Books 1989
 Like many charities, running costs are always an issue and Sharon may be found promoting and organising Quiz Nights and Table Top sales in order to fund the organisation.