Focus interview with freelance journalist Momtaz Begum-Hossain

Momtaz Begum-Hossain is a freelance journalist and craft expert, skilled in knitting, crochet, sewing, papercrafts, jewellery making, ceramics. Her work has appeared in magazines for adult and child crafters, and she also has her own blog.

This week, FeaturesExec caught up with Momtaz to discuss her work, and interviewing Zippy in Starbucks!

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
As a freelance writer and crafts expert I specialise in writing about arts and crafts. Sometimes I’m designing ‘how to’ crafts projects and other times I’m interviewing people who work in crafts, or I could be writing about developments within the industry.

Where are we likely to see your work?
My work has been featured in several children’s and adult’s crafts magazines and also general lifestyle titles. It’s a niche field but one that’s growing. More and more people are returning to homescrafts, not only because it’s cheaper to revamp, recycle and make stuff, but because it’s creative and fun. I’m hoping that as one of the UK’s only Crafts Experts, editors will be banging on my door for advice.

At the moment I write a blog called The Crafts Café ( published by the Creative Choices, which a career website for creative people and you can also find my book “Bollywood Crafts” in Borders!

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
I was lucky enough to interview Zippy from Rainbow who is an all time hero of mine. We met in a branch of Starbucks and it was a completely surreal experience. As we discussed what it’s like being a puppet, the store started to flood and before we knew it our feet were wet and water levels were rising. Sadly this meant the interview was cut short and I never got to ask him what Zippy actually is…

I also visited a primary school in Hertfordshire and interviewed children about their ‘after-school knitting club’. I loved their enthusiasm. There were quite a few boys in the class too. One was knitting pants for his teddy bear and there was a tiny girl who in the space of a weekend had knitted a pillowcase, twice the size of her.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
One of my ambitions is to travel the world to learn traditional crafts techniques, such as Maasi beading techniques, Peruvian weaving and Rajastani block printing. There could be numerous features attached to it, not to mention the blog, TV series and accompanying book!

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
Press releases, people I meet, going to events, looking out for trends and what’s in the shops.

How can PRs be useful to you?
There are hardly any craft specific PRs out there and the ones that do exist can be really stingy! Often there are new products around and they expect me to recommend them without actually seeing or trying one out. I’d rather be sent stuff I can properly test and review.

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
Email or post is good.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
Extremely useful – I always come back with feature ideas and it’s a great chance for me to network.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I wish there were more craft PRs out there!

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I’m 50% a journalist and 50% a crafts expert. Within the crafts part, I teach arts and crafts workshops, run craft parties, make and sell my own work (you can find me at Greenwich Market in SE London or online at Folksy) and generally act as an arts and crafts agony aunt. I’m skilled in most crafts including knitting, crochet, sewing, papercrafts, jewellery making, ceramics – you name it, I’ve done it! I’m a total crafts addict and so I’m happy to do the job of making and writing about crafts seven days a week. It’s a job, hobby and lifestyle rolled into one.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I would put it towards buying a luxury sewing machine, high end machines retail at £4-5k so there would still be a lot of saving up to do!

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
When I was 15 I did work experience at the BBC. On my last day I was asked, “If you were in your dream job and you were given the chance to do some more training, would you do it?” I said no, thinking a dream job was the most important thing. But my mentor explained that you should never stop learning, you should always try and upskill and further your knowledge and education and I’ve stuck with that advice.

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
Coming from a family of four sisters, we pool our magazines, so I get to read every woman’s glossy, weekly and fortnightly in existence! I also like to spend a couple of hours a month in large bookshops, reading random titles. I like Amelia’s Magazine and I also get my Bollywood fix from reading Indian gossip mag Filmfare. As a born and bred Londoner, I swear by Time Out. I don’t tend to buy papers but I do look at them in my local library. Bookswise I’m still getting through the No 1 Ladies’ Detective series and I’m also reading Stanislavski to accompany my Friday night drama class. Blogwise, I can’t live without

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