Yello Interviews: Shawn Layne, Founder of BNHO Crochet
by Karen Rollins Feb 10, 2020
Shawn Layne learned to crochet at 14 from a girl he was ‘interested in’ at the time. However, he only began to fully develop his crocheting skills in 2017 when he suffered from depression and realised how much it helped him to cope.
Now, Shawn has started a business selling his handmade crochet garments and designs.
BNHO Crochet initially began as a small enterprise servicing family and friends, but Shawn is now receiving regular commissions via social media.
Shawn shared his emotional life and business journey with Yello. He told us how important crochet has become to him, how he hopes to develop BNHO Crochet in the future, and why he loves Barbadian culture.
Describe yourself using three words.
Fun-loving, creative, musical.
Please share a bit about your childhood.
I grew up in Oistins, Christ Church and attended Christ Church Boys’ Composite School (now named Milton Lynch Primary).
I had a happy childhood. Living near the beach. My granddad was a butcher, my uncles were fishermen, my mum was a cook.
That was a time when it was understood it takes a village to raise children.
Every household in the neighbourhood played a part in the positive upbringing of the child – me included. It was safe and fun and rounded too because all kinds of characters could be found in Oistins.
Even though I have no memory of my dad and mother in a shared living situation, he was ever-present. My musical journey started at age five, with him teaching me the recorder before more instruments were added, along with the theory of music. I’m a musician and music teacher today because of my father.
My dad remains a huge inspiration to me, and most of my philosophies and beliefs are from him.
Were you always a creative person and interested in fashion?
Yes, definitely. Although I wasn’t really into fashion until about four years ago, it was another form of self-expression that became interesting to me.
Growing up, I liked drawing and creating. Tinkering, figuring stuff out, getting it wrong, and then fixing it.
At St Michael’s Secondary School, art and music became equally important to me. I was almost immediately enrolled in the school band and choir.
My eyes opened to things like drawing with pencils of different strengths, batik, tie-dye, stencils and the many uses of fabric and fibres.
At 13, one of my drawings of a shoe gained a silver award at NIFCA. (The funny story behind that is I misread the exam timetable and didn’t realise the art exam was that morning! All my art supplies were at home, but I borrowed a 2H and 3B pencil from a classmate, and another classmate loaned me his shoe, and I salvaged a grade.)
Languages were also interesting to me, the way we say and express the same thing but differently, or differences in expression based on culture – I loved that. It reminded me of different types of music based on different cultural roots.
One thing that stands out for me during my time at St Michael’s is the fact that, even though music and art are within the same department, I was made to choose between them for CXC. That was shattering. Also shattering was having to choose between Spanish and French.
But all in all, I have no complaints about my childhood at home or at school.
When did you start crocheting?
At 14, I was ‘interested’ in a girl. I used to visit her at home for more “face time” although her parents were ever watchful. She crocheted, and I asked her to teach me so that I could get closer to her even with her parents around.
Watching her turn thread into beautiful pieces was intriguing. It was a bit like the Rumpelstiltskin story!
The relationship didn’t last, but it rewarded me with a skill that over the past two years has now become as much a part of me as breathing.
In 2017 I was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder and picking back up my hooks and yarn to crochet has played, and still plays, a significant role in getting me through, as well as psychology and psychiatry sessions of course!
I crochet every day now, even if it’s just one row. Also, being the beast that depression is, sometimes the only thing that I might do the entire day is crochet.
What was the first item you crocheted?
The first completed project for me was a Rasta beanie. It was horrible. But I got progressively better. Hats and beanies were mostly what I made back then for friends and family.
Why did you start your brand BNHO Crochet?
When I picked crocheting back up and was at it every day, I needed a platform for the results to be seen.
I didn’t want it to be juxtaposed or associated with my current personal social media channels. Still, I wanted to share with other crochet makers, chat with creators, and connect with others who find solace in fibre arts.
I decided on the name BNHO because the letters, when pronounced individually and phonetically in English, translate to a Spanish speaker as ‘Bien Hecho’ which means “well done or well made” and such is the case with my work.
As a guy who crochets I was determined never to hear: “Wow, your work looks good for a guy”. The work had to be able to speak for itself without verbal defence.
I still wouldn’t call BNHO a business though. I do sell some pieces, but I prefer to keep a certain level of sentimentality for the art form.
Usually, I create an item with a wearer in mind. So, from the start I have a vision of the type of person on which I’d like to see the piece, then I’d ask someone that fits my vision if they’d like to have it.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced starting the business? How have you overcome them?
I can’t say I have had any challenges as it relates to crocheting.
The only thing, which is not a challenge, would be when people don’t understand what goes into handmaking a piece and the intrinsic value of having an item in their wardrobe that no one else in the world has or can have.
Value and price go far beyond the cost of materials.
Have you faced any stigma as a male crochet maker?
When I was a teenager, you’d be called names for crocheting, but that was more because teenagers will be teenagers. It was nothing extreme or discouraging, though. I knew who I was or wasn’t.
Currently, the world is more accepting of differences of opinions and preferences. Gender roles are blurred, and it’s easier to do whatever pleases you. So, no stigma, just the occasional: “Wait, men do them things?” but it’s always said positively.
How has BNHO Crochet been evolving?
It’s becoming much more enjoyable as I’m learning to deal and cope with the symptoms of depression.
I concentrate much more now on design and technique and have fun playing with ideas and seeing them worn. Also, the reach has gone beyond just family and friends. Word is getting out, and I’ve been receiving commissioned pieces from strangers.
Another evolutionary step is that I now create and sell written crochet patterns online, that’s been going very well. The intention is to focus more on design, and writing patterns for my designs, which will have a wider reach than me handmaking every piece.
Who are your clients? How do they find you?
My client list ranges from babies to senior citizens, both male and female, but the popular category is ladies between 25 and 35. Boat riders, cruisers, partygoers – the fun-loving group.
Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting the business?
Not that I can think of. Crocheting is one of those things that you can jump right in and enjoy. As it relates to pricing, etc, I would probably have checked with other people that do this full-time (both local and abroad).
What are your plans for the business over the next five years?
Over the next few years, I want to do some local and regional fashion shows – I haven’t done any yet.
Some networking and then maybe get my work featured on the international stage.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Learn, learn, learn. Not just about the field but take advantage of whatever learning opportunities may become available.
Networking is also key. Make connections, meet people – again, not just in your field. Also, and most importantly; be kind, respectful and diplomatic and always be professional.
What do you love about Barbados?
Culture! And I mean that in the full extent of the meaning of the word. Food, music, people, the dialect especially (remember I love ways of self-expression).
Barbados beyond the landmass is what I love most. White sandy beaches and year-round sunshine, though lovely, are not unique to Barbados.
But a Mighty Gabby tune…A bread and two…A pushed up face when you pass somebody without speaking. Those are joys.
By far the good outweighs the bad in Barbados.
Where do you like to hang out with friends?
Naturally, being from Oistins, I love the beach. I also had my daily music lessons with my dad by the beach when I was growing up, so the beach will always be dear to my heart.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
Probably teleportation because I lose too much time commuting.
What’s your philosophy in life?
Not sure if I have a defined philosophy.
I believe in people. Individually we are imperfect, with peaks and valleys that are constantly changing, but together we fit like pieces of a puzzle. We could become the perfect human being if we’d only come together.
A former teacher, and one of my musical influences, shared a quote with me once that changed my perspective during a period of turmoil.
He said: “The only thing that is the end of the world, is the end of the world!”