58 brave souls. 58 extraordinary corsets and costumes. I’m blown away all over again.

This year’s Foundations Revealed Competition is going to be our biggest ever. Makers at all skill levels, from beginners right up to highly advanced craftspeople, have submitted their work. From March 1st, when all the entries are unveiled, they will be JUDGED ON THE INTERNET FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE by both our voting members and the general public (who will be able to comment.)

What does it take to find that kind of bravery?


It was built up for about eight hours beforehand, and then it was over in five seconds. In an unremarkable parking lot in London one night in 2006, I got to feel real, visceral bravery for a brief moment. Barefoot in the dark, in a crowd of twelve thousand people, I walked on hot coals like some magical witch doctor or stage magician.

It was an event designed to enable you to face your fears, and at its centre, the firewalk was a symbol of overcoming anything that could possibly hold you back. If you can walk across hot coals, you can do anything, right?

It was not just scary, it seemed totally bonkers. To walk across hot coals without burning your feet is a skill for which, sure, you can Google a rational scientific explanation. But in a dark London car park, lost in a crowd of crazy chanting nutcases on a September night, all the rational scientific explanations in the world won’t stop an ominously glowing patch of RED HOT COALS in the distance from looking like a spectacularly bad venue for a stroll.

And then the crowd parted, and the way opened up in front of me. Multiple other ten-foot tracks of hot coals were being raked over either side of the one directly in front of me, and I was standing on a patch of grass, the whole front of my body warm where the heat was radiating from the fire. Some guy was shouting in my ear, reminding me how to do this crazy sh*t. What exactly to do before I began walking; how to walk; what to shout out as loud as I could whilst walking; and what to do at the other end.


And with crowds of people behind me and no going back, there was only one way out of this. Like clockwork I stomped through every instruction I’d been trained for all day without letting my rational mind in. One foot and then the other made solid footprints on glowing ground, boom-boom-boom, one helper on either side holding my hands, and at the other end, a second guy caught me and stopped me to wipe my feet, ensuring that I wouldn’t take any hot and burny souvenirs with me. Hugs and high fives all around, and it was over, just like that… and I looked back at the fire, and I kind of wanted to do it again.

I didn’t feel a thing… except a huge vacuum in my brain. A huge, gaping, “wtf just happened?” space appeared. If I can do that, then what else can I do?


Vintage style wedding gown by Cathy Hay, (c) 2005


Now, nobody entering the FR Contest has to walk on hot coals, but it kind of feels like a similar experience for some. Scary-exciting. The thought is exhilarating, and yet at the same time, why the heck would you put yourself through that? The answer, for me, is to try to give people a little bit of what I got from that firewalk…. the firewalk that came ten months before I started a business, three years before I made an impossible Worth gown, five years before I went to Haiti. Every crazy, courageous thing I’ve done can be traced back to the way I changed that night. Nothing could stop me any more. And I want that for every creative person like me.

So what made me able to walk on hot coals, and what makes our entrants able to enter the Competition, and what do you need to be brave in your next leap of faith?

  • Good instructions. Get good advice. Find out from others who’ve been there how to do what you want to do, so that you can succeed without re-inventing the wheel. Our Members get that from the FR archive and mentorship, but there are lots of places where you can learn about whatever it is you want to do.
  • Community can give you support, encouragement and the best kind of positive peer pressure. They won’t let you give up on yourself. Our community has become a rich well of love and support during this year’s competition, but this isn’t a sales pitch for Foundations Revealed; you can find supportive community in all sorts of places, online and off.
  • Focussing on the end goal. I wasn’t looking at the coals. My head was up, looking ahead at the guy who was going to help me wipe my feet. Keep your head up, and stay excited about how cool the end result will be.
  • No going back. Declare what you’re doing publicly. Give yourself no way out.
  • A willingness to sail uncharted territory. The best adventures stretch you to places you’ve never been before. I’ve been so proud of the way the Competition has become synonymous with living dangerously by trying totally new techniques and materials. You grow by leaving your comfort zone behind.

I have now done that firewalk three times, and correspondingly, many of our competition entrants come back year after year. I like to think that the act of taking part has made them braver, and so this post is dedicated to them, the bravest souls in sewing, for their belief, their commitment, their love for each other as they’ve encouraged each other all year, and most of all, for their creative bravery.

What brave act will you commit to today?