“I can focus that energy, and zap it”: from Chesterfield pub landlady to making happy memories at well-being studio

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“It’s been a journey this business. Here is where I feel at home, because the Spread Eagle was in town. I don’t know what it is, the pull… Chesterfield.”

Carla MacMillan is all about positive energy. She points to the ceiling in her Colour Collective pottery painting and well-being studio: “Can you feel it?”. Carla points out the subtle crystals half-hidden in the corners of the room.

It’s hard to know if the crystals are doing their ‘feel good’ job, or it’s the warm vibe that Carla emits that makes this place feel so welcoming. On Rose Hill in Chesterfield, just off the town centre, is the Colour Collective’s new home.

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“It was Bakewell, then Chatsworth Road, then we went to Baslow Road. Now I’m in town, which originally is what I always wanted.”

Carla and her coloursCarla and her colours
Carla and her colours

Carla tells of the story of how this place of making happy began. “What happened was, I was a landlady in the Spread Eagle pub on Beetwell Street, with my husband. And he passed away.”

“So I went back to a normal job, and realised I couldn’t work for anyone again, because I was used to working for myself. So, I wanted my own business, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But what I did know, for sure, is that I wanted a happy atmosphere, where people come in to be happy.”

“A pottery business came up, and we went to view it. And straight away…” Carla grins, clicks her fingers. “This is what I want!”.

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‘We’ is Carla and her mother, Norma. “I wouldn’t have been able to have this business without my mum.”

Colour Collective, ChesterfieldColour Collective, Chesterfield
Colour Collective, Chesterfield

When asked ‘Why pottery?’, Carla smiles. “It was literally an accident. The main criteria, happy. Mainly the kids because they’re high energy, love doing stuff creatively.”

“I didn’t know anything about it. But Jane, who I got the business off, who’s now one of my very best friends, she was like ‘Don’t worry about any of that, I can teach you that part of the business’”.

“And people that come, they’re our friends. We’ve made so many friends. Their loyalty is unreal. We’ve had this business going on ten years, and we’ve got people that came right at the beginning that still come.”

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Carla talks of the folk that come to the her pottery painting sessions. “Across the board. Kids. Babies having handprints done. The oldest we’ve had in, we had a group from St Thomas’s church, and we had a ninety-odd year old come in. We’ve had stag do’s. Hen parties are very popular. Kids parties. Businesses come for bonding.”

Carla and potteryCarla and pottery
Carla and pottery

And here is where the ‘feel good’ aspect happens. “I just think it’s good for the soul. So, for instance, when I’ve gone through hard times… I’ve got a pot, painted it myself, just my own thoughts. And it’s helped me.”

“Because I’m doing something, I’ve got out the way. And being able to just do something like that, when I’ve finished that pot, I’ve sorted myself out. My thinking is lined up. That’s what pottery painting can do for you.”

Carla chats about the ‘well-being’ part of her business, and where it came from. “I’m naturally a very spiritual person. When Andy died, it’s what got me through. I was always very private about it, but when covid hit, people started to change.”

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“People were coming to me for healing. Mainly because they’d seen I could heal myself. Spiritual healing like Reiki. And crystals.”

Carla painting potteryCarla painting pottery
Carla painting pottery

“Reiki is universal energy, and we all do it without thinking. You know when you bang yourself a go ‘ooh’?” Carla rubs her arm. “You’re actually pulling in universal energy, and you naturally do it. And that’s what Reiki does. I can focus that energy, and zap it, so that it’s stronger.”

“So, upstairs I’ve got a therapy room. Recently, I decided I wanted to go back to college. And I did reflexology, aromatherapy, and Swedish massage training. Crystals is something I’ve always been interested in. It all fits in. You just make it bespoke for whoever you’re with. I do what that person needs, and I love doing it.”

“So, to me, if you get a stressed out mum, that’s not slept for a few nights because she’s got a baby, I just think it’s going to be such a lovely thing to say ‘Let’s care for you’. It might be she just needs a massage.”

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“Reiki, it heals on all levels, so it might be she needs a good cry and get that energy out of her. And she’s like ‘Right, I can do this’, and she conquers another week.”

And how does Carla react to people who are cynical about such things? Carla laughs.

“They’re my favourites, because I don’t preach. My husband, he was a cynic. He was like ‘You’re born, you live, you die’ when I met him.” Carla stops to laugh again. “By the end he was probably more into it and more spiritual than I was.”

And the answer to life? “All I would say is, we’re energy, and you cannot destroy energy. So, we’ll always exist, in one form or another. And life is what you focus on. In my belief system, we’re living multiple lives all at the same time. But the focus is here and now. This life, as who we are, as this person.”

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When asked to describe a visit to Colour Collective, Carla’s smile (or the ceiling crystals) gives out another calming hum. “It’s a lovely way to spend a couple of hours to escape life for a bit, and do something really lovely. And you’re making memories.”