A woman from Ore has channelled her own personal heartbreak to launch an arts and crafts workshop in the village.
Hazel Hollands, 58, has – in her own words – been living in a ‘black hole’ for the past couple of years following the deaths of her mother and husband.
In a bid to turn things around, Hazel decided to start up her own business – something she described as a ‘last chance saloon’.
The business – All Things Arty, based at 85 Mount Road, Ore – is set to open on Easter Saturday (March 31), less than two years after her mother’s death.
Hazel’s story begins in 2007 when she quit her job in the civil service, sold her house in Ore and went to live in Turkey with her husband in order to be close to her daughter Melissa Anderson and grandson.
The family ran a cabaret club in Turkey alongside Melissa’s husband – a Turkish national – until things turned sour.
Hazel said: “My daughter split from her husband and was desperate to get back to England with her son.
“We managed to get her out of Turkey but this caused problems with our son-in-law and the business we had in Turkey never really recovered.”
In late 2014, Hazel returned to England to look after her mother who was becoming seriously ill while her husband stayed out there.
She said: “I decided to come back to England because I just felt like I couldn’t be in Turkey while my mum was so ill.
“She had a brain hemorrhage which had forced her into a nursing home.
“In July 2016, she passed away.”
Just three months later, her husband died suddenly while still living in Turkey.
Hazel added: “That was a really tragic time and it compounded a really fraught year.
“For two years, I was fighting to keep the business running in Turkey until, finally, last year I managed to sell the business for a fraction of its value to prevent it from being taken from me.”
Then, in May 2017, Hazel was diagnosed with left ventricular dysfunction – a serious life-threatening and limiting heart condition – just five years after she underwent open heart surgery for an unrelated heart condition.
She added: “Following the diagnosis in May last year I was told that most people die in the first two years but I was fortunate it had been found early.
“I still have problems with my breathing but medication is changing and I am hopeful things can improve.
“When I told friends and family about my plans to start a business, they were concerned for my health but I think this is something I need to do. This could be my last chance.”
A friend of Hazel’s was eyeing up 85 Mount Road, Ore, eight weeks ago as the venue for a new micropub but was turned down by Hastings Borough Council.
She told Hazel to go for it as there was a chance she would get the required support.
Hazel added: “I was thinking do I go for it and take a massive risk or do I play safe?
“It was a Thursday and I was told I needed to make my decision by the following Monday. “Finally, after a long weekend, I decided to go for it.” Hazel took on the unit – a run down building in Ore split into three sections – a front room, middle room and back room.
Each room will serve its own purpose, including space for workshops and storage, according to Hazel.
She said: “When I took on the unit, it was in a really bad way but I have painted the walls and tried to do it up on a shoe-string budget.
“The front room is pretty much ready to go now. The middle room is kind of like a party room and will be used for lots of different sessions and workshops.
“The back room will be used for storage and potentially a Santa’s grotto at Christmas.”
Initially, Hazel is hoping to run workshops each month where people can visit and paint pottery, blanks or mosaics.
The rest of the time, the business will be a venue for people to go to practice their arts and crafts.
Hazel will continue to work three days a week as a civil servant at Ashdown House while running the shop from Thursday to Sunday.
She added: “My dream is to one day quit my job and run the shop full time.
“I have been given tremendous support from friends and family and I am so excited to open the business.
“People can come along to the workshop and pay for a blank, a mosaic or a pot and just spend their time working on their own project.
“I will not be selling products in the shop but customers can just pay for what they use in the workshop.
“After a few fraught years, I felt it was time to dust myself off and do something new. I am trying to be a bit different.”