Tag Archives: business

the art of making

The Art of Making

First published May 20, 2016 

This year has been quite a corker, it’s my 40th birthday in August and it has spurred me on to really take stock and enjoy life more so you will have seen I’m a little quieter on the old posting thing. I’ve been branching out on a few new projects (one of which you will see on the tellybox in the coming months) mainly around teaching and inspiring people to get involved with using their hands to make things to bring wellbeing and calm into their lives, I’m very passionate about this subject, and you’ll know why from my last post.

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ARTISTS
The way I see it is that you (and me) buy professional beautiful works of art from us makers/crafters/artists whatever you want to call us. It not only helps small businesses and the economy but it keeps true traditional artistry alive when done at its best. It creates jobs, keeps individuality and personality and independence on the high street alive so we’re not taken over by discount stores and the mass produced often unethically sourced crap.

I want to spread my love of making to everyone, that doesn’t mean copying others, by the way, undercutting them and then just selling stuff themselves. That’s not really what this whole craft revolution should be about.

Artists aren’t doing it to make a quick buck, they very rarely live in big houses and go on fancy holidays and shop at Harvey Nicks, they get by usually on a lower than minimum wage and work all hours because they LOVE with a deep passion what they do. They train for years, they learn business skills, legal skills, marketing strategies on top of the artistic skills, techniques and raw talent they have. We need to create and we’re more than happy to do that and suffer the consequences of riches and fancy cars. We make it look easy because we’re THAT good because we are trained professionals. Our soul, personality, and essence is contained in each little piece of joy that we produce.  The creative process is about making something truly yours, (not a copy or an imitation) that’s the whole point, making something that shows the world who YOU are, not showing together yet another knock-off, we have enough cheap imported tat to do that, we don’t need more devaluing our skills and expertise.

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COPYING?

I’m often asked ‘Aren’t you worried doing workshops that you’ll just be showing everyone how to steal your work?’
Well you know what, there will always be people in this world that are selfish and after an easy buck I can’t stop that, I can’t change their inner thinking as nice as it would be. What I teach in my workshops and retreats is the skill to make something that brings you joy. I have a definite style, it comes from deep within me, I can’t teach that. I can tell you how I see things, the colours, textures, and processes I use to achieve my work but I don’t know what I’m going to produce from one moment to the next so I can’t see someone else doing that, being able to preempt my next move or read my mind. I will always move forward and have new ideas because I am a creative and an artist and me, just me. I teach you how amazing it is to make something that came out of your very own brain and out through your hands and into something that is ALL YOURS.


So create for yourself? yes yes yes. Create as a business? yes yes yes but do your research first.
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MAKING A BUSINESS WORK

I am saddened when I see people try to obviously emulate my style especially when they under charge and make me look like I’m ripping people off, which by the way I would never do!! But I do value my experience, my talent and my time. I charge based on costs and time and experience, I am happy to be transparent about my costs if anyone has a problem with it. People rarely have a problem with it though because they do value creativity and the importance of it.
I have tailored my business to work in this new way because when I started out as Little A Designs (now trading under my own name) I was copied to such a huge extent I was personally and creatively broken. My logo was taken, imitated and my brand devalued, my website design was stolen, even the words I’d written from the heart were copied and pasted into other peoples websites, my designs were ripped off and undercut, everything I cared about and showed the world was taken. So I had to rethink. I had to make something even more me. To separate myself in some way from what others could emulate.
I guess in hindsight this was the best thing for me because I am now in a very happy, a lot prouder and calm work wise. I know what works for me and my family life, what I can give to people mentally and still have the energy to live and have fun. My style has evolved and now is a better representation of me than it ever has been.
Lucky me for learning all this so soon into my career. But sadly it’s not the case for everyone.
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A NEW OUTLOOK

Two dear friends have been copied extensively in recently months and I’ll tell you what it feels like, firstly, pretty shitty.  You feel isolated, you feel violated and sick and frightened that people will not realise how hard you have worked and how precious those original ideas you created are to you. You can feel paranoid and angry but more than anything you feel really hurt. I felt personally invaded. And I wanted to give up. But then I reminded myself why I was doing this whole thing in the first place. I picked myself up after a little cry and got busy being better.
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INSPIRATION

All ideas are inspired from somewhere, there is always a source for all our ideas whether it be a past master artist, the landscape, a sculpture or everyday object but what makes artists really great is the way in which their own mind interprets that inspiration and makes these evolved ideas solidly their own. I don’t just mean altering it a little, I mean finding a new take on it, problem solving, experimentation and enjoying the simple art of making something new. If you want to set up a business to sell your art it’s not just the piece of work you need to be able to make,  you need a business plan, you need to know how to cost your work competitively but realistically, you need to know the legalities of copyright infringement, tax, accounting, this makes you a business and a valid artist and not a just a hobbyist.

These are important facts that many don’t consider when they see something on Facebook, Etsy, Instagram or at a craft fair when they see some work and think ‘well I can do that’. But if you have already thought of all those considerations then FANTASTIC! Research that someones not already doing it (because even if you haven’t copied them, there may be someone out there doing the same thing as you, in which case if they got there first it’s their Intellectual Property and as much as you may not like it you’re just going to have to come up with a way of doing it differently).

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THE JOY OF MAKING

All that being said ( I got a bit carried away there, it’s not quite what I intended to go on about but it’s out there now, haha) making things with your hands is the best feeling in the world and anyone can do it. And I want everyone to do it!! Go to workshops, learn from true artisans, have a go, let go of your insecurities and experience a new skill.

In todays society we are always on the go. I know I am rarely without my precious phone in my hand. We never stop working, we never stop comparing, we just never stop and we become exhausted and lost in the cyber world. So now, more than ever, is the time we are all looking for something else to do with our hands, something constructive, a new skill that takes us back to a quieter time where we can relax with simple repetitive movements. There has been a resurgence in the creative arts recently and it is now a scientific fact that sewing, knitting, crochet are great stress relievers and act as a form of therapy.

Embroidery was used to help treat shell shock in soldiers that fought in the Great War. This is exactly one of the reasons I transferred my skills from painting to embroidery. To provide myself with an outlet that would sooth my heart. I had only ever tried the odd piece of cross stitch as a child and so have completely retrained my self and learnt embroidery from nothing. Yes I have a basic knowledge of  perspective, proportion etc but these are not things I concentrate on or impact my stitched work at all. So what I’m saying is that you can do it too! Regardless of any previous artistic capabilities.

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THERAPY

The reason I feel so passionately about this is that, art and embroidery saved me from severe mental health issues, it continues to save me as I go through issues with chronic pain, it has given me a sense of self, independence and belief as a mother and carer of a child with complex needs, I don’t want to be defined by my disabilities. Being creative is an essential therapy for me every single day. It is quite often not important what the finished piece looks like, it is the journey it takes me on that is rewarding. But obviously if it happens to look great then thats even better. My creativity and personality is what defines me.

I believe that embroidery can be as all consuming as you want, you can use a pattern you’ve bought in a book or magazine, and turn off your mind from the business of the outside world or you can immerse yourself in a complex design that makes you problem solve and challenge yourself.

Its so easy to get started now too, you’ve got nothing to lose, creativity can be shown in so many ways, through music, writing, embroidery, paper cutting, card making, the list is endless. There are no rules to follow. You can make it up as you go along. Don’t expect immediate perfection, an artist trains every day, like an athlete. You wouldn’t run a marathon without training, so be kind to  yourself & celebrate each step. The secret is never compare yourself to others, make what makes you feel good.

‘To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it’

Kurt Vonnegut

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Photo credit: Eve Photography
Venue: Hope & Elvis
Flowers: Kirsty from Darling & Green
Tutor: Marna Lunt “Spring florals in stitch’ one day workshop

To book onto one of my courses if this has got your creative juices bubbling pop over to my website and have a look whats on offer.

 

Vicky Trainor ~ The Vintage Drawer

Name: Vicky Trainor

Company: The Vintage Drawer and The Linen Garden

Website: www.thevintagedrawer.com
www.thelinengarden.co.uk
http://www.facebook.com/VickyTrainorStationery
https://www.etsy.com/shop/vickytrainor

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Sum up your business in a sentence. ‘Professional potterer and maker of all things floral and linen’

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When did you start your business and why? Many years ago in the 90’s I used to have a greetings card business, working wholesale with large high street stores and lifestyle independents. It was always my dream to work for myself and I grew my business from working in my friends granny flat to a large commercial studio. Loved it, but it took over my life and sometimes what you think you want isn’t actually ‘it’ when you get there.

Then I chose a rather important role – to be a Mum – and have moulded and re-shaped the business to fit around family life.

I love working for myself. The freedom, how each working day is so very different from the last, the opportunities it delivers and the ‘flexi time’.

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What & who inspires you?
The beautiful selvedge of a fabric, a faded floral linen print, French rustic living and English heritage, painters from Vermeer to Vanessa Bell to Hockney……., weathered surfaces against newly painted grounds, natural forms against pattern, the Victoria & Albert museum, Pinterest, The Bloomsbury Group and The Arts and Crafts Movement in general.
I am also inspired by a wonderful community of friends who also run exciting and creative businesses. Their friendship, support and advice is invaluable.
What sets you apart from others? I am always striving to do something different. Setting up The Vintage Drawer has to be one of the best creative moves I have done. I moved from being a printed stationer to a stationer only working with vintage fabrics, stitch and haberdashery. The Vintage Drawer Collection has now grown and developed and now has a broad range of lifestyle/interior and gift products too, as well as stationery. So I suppose it is developing more into a making and styling brand than working in any one specialism. As a maker, I am also a natural hoarder and I affectionately call my studio ‘the linen garden’. As my hoardings can get out of control at times I have now opened a vintage haberdashery and fabric on-line shop called The Linen Garden. So there are now two sides to my business – ‘I make’ and ‘you make’.

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What did you do before setting up your business?
I lectured in Textiles and Surface Design from A Level through to degree level for 20 years.

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The best part of your day/ running your own business.
The best part of my day is when I first come home from the school run in the morning – I make a pot of coffee and potter for 30 minutes before tackling my to-do list. It normally involves pinterest – a tad addicted – may need to seek therapy soon.

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Your favourite product & why. I am currently loving my wedding horseshoes. They are new for this year and a bit tricky but because they take so long to make I find their making rather therapeutic….

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Your greatest business tip. Stay true to your own ideas and skills and don’t be too inspired by the industry you work in. It helps ensure, in a certain way, that you stand out.

Also learn how to say NO, and feel confident in that decision. Sometimes you feel as if you can never turn down any business/collaborative/marketing opportunity, but it all takes time out from your main avenue of business and ‘earning a crust’. Be considered in your choices.
Being creative means you are constantly spinning in your own whirlpool of ideas. I spend a lot of time on my own as a lot of makers do, and as much as I love my studio and what I do, you can go a little stir crazy. Invest in a small proportion of time in making arrangements to see/meet people/clients/friends outside of your working environment.

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Your biggest weakness. Too many ideas which I find very distracting.

Your biggest success. Having the confidence, last year, to finally throw my business up in the air and slowly catch only the sections, as they fell, that I loved, that made me happy and that I felt earned me a living. My business income contributes a lot to the monthly running of family life so I have to be quite disciplined….it was very unnerving and scary as I pulled out of all advertising but it is helping me develop my new chapter. I live my life in chapters and this one is turning out to be rather an exciting one.

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Funniest moment. I have a terrible memory but the funniest moment recently involved a car boot, my friend Tea with Ruby, a Victorian chamber pot, a bloke and a pansy – I’ll let you make your own story up….but I can still make myself cry with laughter now thinking about it…boy do we have a hoot when carbootin’…

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Favourite quote. “There are hundreds of languages in the world but a smile speaks them all”. Anon.

Favourite motto. “Before doing anything always give it two coats of thought”

Your favourite colour. Blue nodding to Grey

Favourite artist. Vanessa Bell

Vanessa Bell
Vanessa Bell

Favourite season. Spring

Star sign. Aries

Business dream. To be paid £100 per stitch.

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Favorite flower. Auricula in late spring and a scented rose in the summer

What are you listening to right now. The Cocteau Twins and P J Harvey in abundance.

Your simple pleasure. Being away in my caravan with the family, my comfy camping chair, my blanket (it’s always cold up north) and a glass of red. By the side of me are all the magazines that I have bought for the last few months that I never seem to have time to read.

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What’s your brew. In the early morn ‘Lady Grey’ – no milk – by the time the first school run is done I am onto ‘A strong Italian’ black, no sugar.

Tell us a joke. Currently – Royal Mail

I think this is one of my favourite interviews so far. I find Vicky such an inspiring person, I  so enjoy her company and am lucky to live very close by for regular chats. She’s a very kind and generous person with her time, ideas and support. And clearly I don’t need to tell you how beautiful her work is, it speaks for itself. Thank you Vicky for sparing me some time to do this interview, I have loved learning more about you and seeing more of your incredible photos.

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Metamorphosis Part One

I haven’t written for a while, sorry about that. This year has been a year of changes for me so far and I’m spending a lot of time thinking, learning, researching and basically hiding out in my own world trying to assess what’s going on or what I want to go on in the world of Little a and Marna Lunt. I’ve been experimenting with new styles and working on my brand and really just sorting my head and thoughts out. Asking those difficult questions, what exactly do I want to do? Do I want to mainly be a stay at home mum that sews when I can? Do I want to make this business something more than I have now, with a proper plan, working hours and a firm future? How serious am I really? And do I have the focus and support to do what I think I might be able to do? Where am I mentally, what capacity do I have left for work after my own issues and then Arthur’s considerations? These questions have been there buzzing around my brain from the start but in truth I have half heartedly answered them and been so vague, trying to fool myself I have been more savvy than I know is true. I fudge my spread sheets and answers to make myself feel better with my own personal spin and  justifications and choose to listen to what I want gaining the wrong sort of encouragement. We are all guilty of a lack of confidence and burying our heads in the sand at times and that’s really not the end of the world, as long as you know when to face reality. But I’ve really been trying this last few months to be true to what I want to do, to try and resist the things that are just easy and not gambling with taking that big step forward. I am lucky to have a wonderful husband who questions me and makes me think about my goals and my family, he does it in a loving way and an intelligent way. He lets me skip off down into Marna La La land but is quick to stop me when I’m going too far. I also have a couple of extremely good friends in business who have become a great support to me & who have taught me masses of life lessons. I have attended a few workshops and courses which have really spurred me on and have had a fabulously positive affect on me and I have met up with a few great business ladies and had meetings that have given me a solid and excited outlook.

So changes are a foot in the Lunt household and it’s an exciting time. You won’t see them immediately but they will trickle in bit by bit. Sorry about my quietness that will change in the coming months and by the middle of the year I hope to be a frequent blogger and see you more in this medium and world. I may have a new name, I may have a some new products to show you, we’ll wait and see but it will definitely be an interesting journey that I hope to share with you, showing you my new skills.

A little exercise I was set this week in one of my courses was a mood board of what I want  my blog to be. So I set myself up with a fabric backdrop and went exploring in my studio. I don’t have the tech skill to produce amazing graphics so I thought lets find some real stuff I can display. I was looking for a little bit of everything that I thought I want to show about myself. Colours I love, textures, things I own. General things I have lying around that make me smile and inspire me. This is what I can up with.

Thanks for listening and I hope you liked looking at my little experiment with table top styling. I loved doing it so much, I think there are going to be many more to follow. I’ll be back soon to show you my fab outing to London this weekend and about my amazing photography course adventure. Toodles and kisses.

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Emma Fontaine ~ Emma’s Fabric Studio

Name             Emma Fontaine

Company      Emma’s Fabric Studio

Website         www.emmasfabricstudio.co.uk

Sum up your business in a sentence  A place of solace for my fellow fabric hoarders; a cacophony of beautiful fabrics, fabulous trims, project inspiration and colour in bucket loads.

I just love fabric!

When did you start your business  I’ve been dabbling in fabric for a long time, but the turning point was probably meeting Nicki Trench (author and sewing tutor) and my ‘Fabric Fruitloops’ sewing group a few years ago.  We were all in an evening class together, with Nicki as our tutor.  They set me on the path to my fabric shop dream!

What and who inspires you?

Print and colour inspire me.  I’m a big fan of the American designers who use incredible illustrators who often license their designs in various forms, fabric being one of them.

I’m inspired by various small businesses that develop to become real contenders in their marketplace.  Being an expert in your field is a very admirable quality.  Among these are the ‘Biscuiteers’, ‘Johnny’s Sister’,  ‘Belle & Boo’, Lesley Bee and Millie Pilkington photography (individually) and Julene Harrison who is an amazing paper cut artist.

Individually, I’ve been fortunate to meet some great people like Nicki Trench, who taught me to sew properly!  I also did a course at London College of Fashion and met an amazing make up artist/lecturer called Lucy Wearing.  She literally ‘paints’ a face in fine art style and has a celeb client list to match.  Also, Chris Bissell the fashion photographer, an incredibly nice man and amazing photographer.

What sets you apart from others?  I never speak negatively of competitors and we all do our own thing, hopefully well!  I just love fabric, I’m always happy to advise and receive many calls a day asking for help in colour matching etc.  So I suppose I’m saying that I’m a people person and provide the best customer service I can.

One of my favourite fabrics at the moment.

What did you do before setting up your business?  I worked in a Government role, I also worked in sports management before that and also for the BBC.

The best part of your day/running your business  Being able to decide how I spend my day, being my own boss and making my own decisions.  However, in reality my day is dominated by getting orders out and I press everything before sending too.  I love buying new ranges, it’s just fabric shopping on a MUCH bigger scale!

Why did you start your business?  If I’m being honest, it was to indulge my fabric hoarding passion!  I’m sure there’s a better answer, but that’s the truth…!

I had a lovely friend called Mina who encouraged me to start my business, she died just before I launched my website.  One of her last texts to me referred to how she thought my business would be a success, I’ve kept it!  She was a fabric hoarder too and a superb seamstress.

Your favourite product and why?  Sorry, can’t choose!  I only stock things I like although I refer to things as ‘ favorites’ on a daily basis, this changes every few hours!

One of my current favourite fabrics.

Your greatest business tip?  Very simply, remember you’re in business from the start.  Think of yourself as a business person.  Hobby crafting and business don’t have a clear overlap so start as you mean to go on.

Favourite colour  Does it sound strange if I don’t have one?!  I think it’s because I’m surrounding by so much colour all the time,  I have a massive range of solid colour fabrics and like them all.

Star sign  Aries – don’t know what that means.  I look like a sheep?

Your biggest weakness.  Too many to mention Marna, I wouldn’t know where to start!

Your biggest success  The launch of the website probably, incredibly complex when you sell fabric in three different lengths.  Seeing Emma’s Fabric Studio referenced in magazines too is always a great feeling.

Funniest moment  BT assigning me the phone number of someone else in my village who had disconnected their line a couple of months previously.  The husband and wife were experts in their field, I can’t tell you what specifically, but let’s just say the phone calls would be more suited to a mortuary than a fabric shop.

Favourite quote  John Wayne had some great ones, you wanted me to quote Gandhi or Bill Gates didn’t you Marna?!!

Favourite motto  Not a motto as such, but the measurements of a fat quarter, half metre and metre are my manta and stated on an hourly basis!

Favourite artist  Susie Grindey did the artwork for my website, I love her style!  Other than Susie, I have eclectic taste but nothing abstract I’m afraid.  There are two galleries I love in Falmouth, one is ‘Demelza’s Gallery’, I’ve been introduced to some great artists there.  The other is called ‘Driftwood Gallery’ and displays wonderful artwork from people as varied as Rolf Harris and Prince Charles.  They introduced me to the work of Henderson Cisz.

Susie Grindy’s artwork

Favourite season  Autumn as I love the change in flora and fauna, it’s still warm but it means Christmas is around the corner too.  I LOVE Christmas!

Business dream  Being a first port of call in people’s minds for fabric.  Employing all my friends and family, not just a few!

Favourite flower  Bluebells

What are you listening to right now   I always have the TV on in the background and right now it’s on Sky News.  Bit boring, sorry!

Your simple pleasure   Concerts – absolutely love them.  I’m taking my sister Lucy to see Whitesnake and Journey in May, she is my accounts queen, so I have to keep her sweet!

Your brew   I don’t drink tea or coffee so it’s water, squash or Diet Coke.

The Mina Bundle

Kirsty Johnson ~ Darling & Green

Name: Kirsty Johnson
Company: Darling & Green
Website: www.darlingandgreen.co.uk facebook.com/darlingandgreen
The website will be opening very soon but Kirsty’s available on the facebook page just go say hi.
Sum up your business in a sentence.
Glorious flowers for a charming life!
When did you start your business?
We started up just under a year ago. It has been a dream of mine for a long long time but I finally made the leap in 2012.
What & who inspires you?
So many people and things! Our surroundings in the stunning North Yorkshire countryside is hard to beat. A simple walk or sometimes even a quiet moment in my garden taking in the views can set me up for the day. Looking at the natural forms of foliage and wildflowers makes a real impression on our work… Wandering lines and natural flowing forms is so much more beautiful than tightly ‘arranged’ blooms.
I take a lot of inspiration from the work of Constance Spry. She was a florist, social reformer, teacher and author. She made a huge impact on home making in mid-20th century Britain by teaching people that with a little imagination they could beautify their homes with flowers plucked from hedgerows and by making use of unusual everyday containers such as soup tureens. This style is so current now, I adore Saipua and spend hours swooning over their breath taking work. 
What sets you apart from others?
Our style is unique, certainly in this area… I also think the fact we don’t have the 9-5 pressure of running a shop allows us to focus our time on being more creative, coming up with looks that are individual to each project. A key element of business that will hopefully set us apart going forward is our cutting garden. We have very recently acquired some land which is in the early stages of being transformed into our own little flower farm! It was the next obvious step for us as we are passionate about British flowers and I think offering stunning locally grown flowers to our customers will be fabulous.
What did you do before setting up your business?
My degree was in Design Marketing. After a great first job working in Marketing Communications at a local college I went more into branding, working as a Brand Manager for Travel Inn then I went to the ‘other side’ working for design agencies. That experience has been invaluable and means that we can keep all that expensive design stuff in house!
The best part of your day/ running your own business.
I love the fact that  none of it seems like work! If I have an early start to go to the flower market it’s a joy. Working with a natural product definitely has its problems but also brings the bonus that no day is the same. I still get excited at seeing a new variety of flower or interesting colour combination.
Sharing Darling & Green with my business partner Katy has been a joy too. As well as being a treasured friend she teaches me so much – as anyone who knows her will testify, she is the world’s calmest and kindest person.
Why did you start your business?
It was one of those things that just ‘happened’. I had dreamed of having my own floristry business for years. When my circumstances changed a few years ago and I found myself as a single parent with two children and no job I decided it was now or never! Luckily for me, Katy (who I had met when we worked together at a local florists) was incredibly supportive both personally and with my business dream. After a few evenings chatting through the possibilities it seemed natural that she would be part of it too.
Your favourite product & why.
I’m not a huge ‘things’ person…. All we really need is a good pair of scissors. Working with flowers, often in cold temperatures has made me very reliant on Vaseline Rose Lip balm and I adore Love & Toast Gin Blossom hand cream.
Your greatest business tip.
Do what you love and the rest is easy.
Your favourite colour.
A toss up between grey or deep purple… or ideally somewhere in between.
Star sign.
Leo – though I am the least Leo person I know.
Your biggest weakness.
I can’t say no!
Your biggest success.
Turning a bit of a hard time into an opportunity. Darling & Green has brought lots of happiness and confidence into my life. We have worked with so many wonderful and talented people who have turned into fabulous friends.
Favourite quote.
 To love is not enough, one needs freedom, sunshine and a little flower. Hans Christian Anderson.
Favourite motto.
If you are going through hell… keep going. Think that was Joan Rivers! Also ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’ – I worry about everything so this little reminder keeps me in check.
Favourite season.
Strangely I much prefer Winter. Putting aside the lack of flowers outdoors, I love a roaring fire, dark nights and wrapping up warm.
Favorite flower.
I don’t have a favourite… there are too many and it changes throughout the year!  don’t think I will ever become immune to the charms of a David Austin garden rose. I love big, blousy hydrangeas…. We are growing one of my favourite Dahlia ‘Cafe Au Lait’ this year – that will be exciting.
What are you listening to right now.
I stumbled across an old ipod recently and have enjoyed reminiscing. Going back to my favourite album of all time Grace by Jeff Buckly was wonderful. I’ve also been playing Fleet Foxes, one song in particular, White Winter Hymnal reminds me of being pregnant with Ralph my youngest, he used to wriggle when it came on!
Your simple pleasure.
A long walk with my children. Mia is 14 and Ralph is 3. The age gap doesn’t matter , they adore each other. Seeing them holding hands whilst our dog Ernest does his best to knock them over warms my heart.
What’s your brew.
Plain old Yorkshire gold… with the occasional fresh peppermint tea when I am feeling virtuous.
I think you’ll all agree that the photos are a feast to the eyes, all of them are by Kirsty and Katy of Darling and Green, I have been lucky enough to work with Kirsty on numerous photo shoots of my work and any flowers you see in my images are by Kirsty’s fair hands. I’m a trained florist myself and believe me I am a very picky lady and will only accept the best so I have no second thoughts in recommending them every time. And that fact that she’s utterly fabulous and kind is not a bad thing either;) xx
Photo credits go to Kirsty herself, Lyndsey James Photography, Eve Photography, Becky Mitchell Photography. You can not reuse these images without express permission.

Cassandra Riley ~ Gracie’s Garden Bazaar

Name – Cassandra Riley
Company – Gracie’s Garden Bazaar
 
Sum up your business in a sentence – 
I’m a freelance embroidery Artist;I create original textile art with a fairytale storybook feel and one of a kind embroidered jewellery.
When did you start your business?
Towards the end of 2009. My son was one and a half I had given up work to look after him so decided it was the right time use my art training and start building a career for myself that would fit around our family life.
How did you name your business?
I’ve always made up stories to go with my sketches so late one sleep deprived night a new character flitted into my imagination
 ‘Gracie has many talents and like any good heroine, she lives under a curious curse…she cannot stop making lovely things! Everything, and everyone, inspires her. This may sound like a blessing rather than a curse but Gracie’s poor fingers ache, her eyes grow tired and her small cottage is bursting at the seams, and into her garden. This is where a glimmer of hope enters this story..
At twilight, those in the know gather for the arched wooden gate to open. It is then that Gracie’s Garden Bazaar takes place. People come from far and wide to choose a ‘gracie make’…it is said that whatever you choose, luck will come along. They all know the story of Gracie, who pours her heart and soul (and some magic) into everything she touches.
But as Gracie’s visitors unburden her of her makes they also leave their own stories and woes (yet more inspiration). What a vicious circle is woven!’
So Gracie sort of became my ‘bloomer wearing’ alter ego and provided me with a way to combine my illustrations,storytelling and also use the vintage textiles I’ve always collected in a light hearted and (I hope) an engaging way.
What and who inspires you? – 
My husband and son are so supportive and can always been counted on to give an honest critique or not complain about the trails of embroidery threads which seem to attach themselves to everyone and everything in our house!My husband is very creatively talented and it’s so refreshing to see the beauty of the little things in life again through my son’s fresh and appreciative eyes.People aside,I would say my biggest inspiration is undoubtedly books.I have always treasured books since I was very young until this day and my earliest memories are poring over beautiful picture books and trying to absorb every tiny detail.I particularly remember loving the books of Janet & Allan Ahlberg and Shirley Hughes and I’ve noticed my son loves these books too.
I think this is why I love adding small details to my embroidered illustrations that you would only notice if you looked very carefully like a child.I have a lot of fairytale collections and always find myself returning to Italo Calvino’s ‘Italian Fairytales’ if I need inspiration.I also find period films and dramas particularly inspiring especially the costumes.When we lived in London I loved to go to the V&A and the fashion and textiles collection was my favourite place to visit.
 
What did you do before setting up your business? –
After gaining an Art degree I managed an Art and Framing shop in London for around five years.It was a very hands on role and loved the framing side and also really enjoyed the task of being a buyer for the cards,gifts and jewellery we also sold.I still carry that knowledge with me and it gives me a more balanced and grounded viewpoint of the business.In my spare time I studied further studies in Book Illustration at Chelsea College of Art and realised it was illustration I wanted to specialise in.I took on some private commissions and had some greeting cards published.
Living in London was particularly expensive so we decided that we would up sticks so we could eventually start a family and I would have more of a chance of working from home freelancing without so much financial pressure.So we moved to Northamptonshire and I ended up being a full time civil servant and taking odd commissions in my spare time still until I had our son and decided to stay at home to look after him.I waited until he was around one and half and started Gracie’s Garden Bazaar, mostly working in the evenings and grabbing any spare minute I could.
The best part of your day/running your own business? – 
Is being able to fit my job around my family life. My husband works long hours and at times it can be a real struggle to meet deadlines especially as we have no family living nearby but at the same time I cherish the fact that it’s up to me(no one else) to just get on with it and stay up to early hours if that is what I have to do. I’ve always thrived under pressure,as long as I have a supply of coffee and chocolate! My son has started school this year so it’s already refreshing to be able to embroider in daylight instead of twilight and save the paperwork for the evenings.
What sets you apart from others? – 
I feel I’ve reached the point I am at quite organically.My Gracie story and the timing of staying at home to look after my son gave me a focus to try combining my different interests and I started off making textile jewellery with vintage materials and using my illustrations to promote this but gradually I found I loved hand-embroidery and this was the perfect drawing medium for me.So I feel my style is very unique to me and often my pieces are multi layered use my storytelling in them too.
I do also pride myself on the quality of my work and I will work tirelessly until I’m completely happy with something. I’ve also been told I’m very good at making anything look very pretty too…not sure about that when applying my make-up in the morning,lol.
A Mermaids Song 
Your favourite product and why? – 
I would have previously said a black micron 0.05 pen but recently I started using a plastic snap embroidery frame and I’m completely won over.The sides come in different lengths so you can assemble it to your needs which I love because I can make it big enough so the whole piece is visible when embroidering instead of taking it in and out of smaller hoops.
A new embroidery in progress
Your greatest business tip?
Do not spend too much time on Pinterest! What I mean is do not get distracted by what your contemporaries are doing or doubt the direction you are taking.If your work is authentic and created to best of your abilities it will stand out and find it’s own audience.
And always treat people how you would like to be treated and always be honest.
Your biggest weakness – 
Wanting to do everything at once but luckily I have found hand-embroidery has a really calming effect on me and helps me focus and strangely makes me feel at home.Also I have a terrible weakness for vintage textiles and chocolate (never together of course- I’ve made that mistake before)
Your biggest success – 
I know it’s a cliché but having our son and seeing what a special individual he already is really makes me beam.He says he wants to be a doctor and ‘sew pictures like mummy’ when he grows up!
I’ve had some lovely moments since starting Gracie’s Garden Bazaar such as been featured in Sew Hip magazine twice and being on quite a few of my all time favourite blogs such as Feeling Stitchy but teaching myself to embroider has probably been the achievement I’m most proud of.I know a lot of people are taught by their mum’s or grandmas but strangely my granny is extremely gifted with a needle and thread but because we grew up in a different country to her she never had the chance to teach me.
I’ve always liked sewing but had never tried embroidery until two years ago so it must be in the blood I guess.
Paisley Girl
Funniest moment – 
Well,this didn’t seem very funny at the time but we often laugh about it now.My love of vintage can sometimes go too far.Years ago I bought an old Lloyd Loom chair and some other bits of furniture at a car boot sale early one Sunday morning.I was so chuffed with my bargain chair as it cost a couple of pounds and was imagining where it would go and what cushion would look nice on it,that I forgot we had a small car at the time and it might not all fit in.So we remained optimistic and squeezed everything but the chair in the back and decided if I got in the passenger seat we could sit the chair over me.I know,stupid idea but my husband got the chair in with me wedged under and you can guess it..CRACK (went the windscreen and £150 to replace it)We still have our ‘most expensive bargain’ chair and believe it or not at the time I actually tried to justify to my husband it was still a bargain!
Favourite Quote – 
‘Creativity is intelligence having fun’Albert Einstein
Favourite motto – 
‘You must do the things you think you cannot do’ Eleanor Roosevelt
Some years ago a friend gave me a keyring with these words on it and I still carry it with me everywhere to remind me to be brave and have faith in myself.
Favourite colour –
Plum
Star sign – 
Sagittarius
Favourite Flower –
Star Jasmine and foxgloves
Favourite season –
Summer.It’s the longer days and the magical warm fragrant evenings that I love(when we do have nice weather in Britain)
It’s also the season we spend more time together as a family and always head for the seaside.
She was a sewing machine
Favourite Artist – 
I adore the book illustrations of the contemporary illustrators Jane Ray and Angela Barrett.Their work is so recognisable and is full of glorious detail and a magical quality.
What are you listening to right now? – 
I have quite a few favourite musicians that I never tire of listening to such as Kate Bush,Tori Amos,Kate Rusby and Kristin Hersh but more recently I’ve also been listening to Soley and Priscilla Ahn. I also love soundtrack music especially when working and my favourites lately have been Doctor Who Series 5 and Pixar’s Brave (especially if my son is being creative next to me)
Business Dream – 
To keep dreaming and stitching.This year I’m concentrating on themed collections of embroidered illustrations which I will sell as prints and cards.
Long term,my ultimate dream is to move into book illustration.I made a conscious decision to not blog as much as ‘Gracie’ because I have big plans for her – being such a book loving maiden;she might get a kick out of being in print herself;)
What’s your brew? –
I grew up in an Irish family so we joke that I must of drank too much tea as a youngster because I can’t even bear the smell of it now. I’m a coffee drinker mostly but I’m partial to a fruit tea when I’m being good.
I have to be honest I’m a little bit in love with Cassandra, what a talent and inspiration and a truly gorgeous lady. The patience she has to do such detailed and immaculate work I envy. I can’t wait to see what the future brings for Gracie’s Garden Bazaar, I’ll be following and purchasing along the way.
Good luck lovely Cassandra and don’t forget us when you’re queen of the world;) xx

Gold Award? Yes please thank you very much.

Just a quickie post this morning to let you all know I’m the very lucky winner of mumpreneur gold award for my website.

Mumpreneur is a fab website and company that helps and gives advice to us working mums out there that are striving to carve out a sucessful business for ourselves. It’s a great place to network to get advice.

They have a huge amount of entries for their website awards and a panel of professionals look in detail at alsorts of elements that make up the content of the site. From there they decide whether they can award you anything. And I only went and got a GOLD one, the best you can get. I’m thrilled and so so proud.

I had a very solid vision of what I wanted for my showcase and I was lucky to find a lady called Tia from Who Ate My Crayons who designed it for me, she also designed this blog. You’ll find more info about her in my artists interviews. Angie from Artwork by Angie also helped hugely in the final project by designing my logo, and considerable of the artwork used thoughout the pages, she too can be found in my artist invideas section. And finally Lyndsay James who took nearly all my product photography and was my first interviewee on the Saturday morning posts.  I really rather love these girls for helping me and get this fab little addition to my pat on the back page.

My lovely gold award.

I will be posting my craft bag of delights info tomorrow so watch out for all my favourite things I need and use in my work. I will also be telling you what you need to be able to start making things with my on my How To’s which are separating next week. Also watch out for Saturdays artist interview who is Cassandra from Gracie’s Garden Bazarre.

 

Andrea Berry ~ Polka

Name: Andrea Berry

Company: Polka

Website: facebook.com/polka8 . Notonthehighstreet.com/polka

The fabulously smiley and colourful Andrea.

Sum up your business in one sentence: A collection of bold, bright and colourful handmade accessories.

When did you start your business: I have always sewn things since I was at School really, but started making things to sell around the beginning of 2009. I started out doing textile pictures, layers of fabrics with buttons. I progressed onto making bags and brooches and once I set up my facebook page I started selling lots. I also joined folksy around the same time and then notonthehighsteet in September 2009.

What and who inspires you: I absolutely love buying fabric, one of my favourite things is to look on my list of fabric websites and get really inspired by new designs, colours, patterns. I love fashion too! In fact if I wasn’t doing this my dream job would be a fashion buyer. I get a real buzz seeing all the latest trends and colours. When I first starting selling my wares I was really inspired by Becky from Dots and Spots. I love her style and her business has gone from strength to strength, she started out on her kitchen table and now has a warehouse!!.

Love this shopper, Andrea’s colour ans style are unmissable.

What sets you apart from others: I like to think my style is unique and very me!, I love using bold clashing colours, I don’t really do beige!

What did you do before setting up your business: Well  I’ve  been a manager at The Little Chef,  worked in an office! And until last year worked in the evenings at Morrisons. All mundane ( to me) jobs to pay the mortgage.  I had Maisy then Ewan so was a full time Mummy while they were little but once they were at School I was really itching to work from home and do something creative. I had studied printmaking at Edinburgh college of Art many moons ago and I loved doing photography so was desperate to be creative again.

The best part of your day/ running your business: After the mayhem of the school run I love coming home, switching on the computer and setting up my sewing machine to work on my order list. I have to admit I do have facebook on pretty much all day!. I have a lovely group of friends on here ( you know who you are!) who also work from home running their own craft business, I love that we chat through the day usually around teabreak time, its like having workmates!. No two days are the same, I’ll be working on brooches one day and then maybe a lovely intricate handbag the next.

A flower brooch that look stunning on bags, jackets, notebook, laptop covers, and the list goes on.

Why did you start your business: I wanted to be creative again and to be flexible so I could work round the children. My kids are older now so it gives me more time to do this full time while they play out after School ( they play out alot!).

Your favourite product and why: My very fantastic and robust sewing machine. Its a Husqvarna Viking and its brilliant. Its on every day so gets alot of abuse!

Your greatest business tip: Write lots of lists!! I do lists for everything, it keeps me focused as I’m easily distracted. I have a monthly order list on my page and when I’m really manic busy I break the day into an hour by hour list!. Also do what you love doing and don’t worry about what people think or if people will like it. I’m always trying new designs some work and some don’t. If your selling your products online make sure your photos are absolutely perfect. You don’t need an expensive camera or even any other kit, I always take my photos outside in natural light and just make sure they are 100% in focus. Also have a play around with different backgrounds to see what suits your product. I personally love bright backgrounds and recently have been experimenting with different props to create a look.

Business Dream: To actually get a website of my own , I have been saying I will do it for over a year now but never get enough time to sit down and sort it!

Your favourite colour: Oh crikey thats a really hard question! If you know my work you’ll see I love all colours!. One of my favourites is cerise pink and I love teal blue oh and I love lime green and navy and orange, see told you it was hard!

Star Sign: Virgo, a total contradiction! Apart from list making I’m pretty unorganised!,very emotional I cry at Ice age and any other kids film with the token sad bit in it! and I am pretty messy, maybe I need a different star sign!

Your biggest weakness: I have alot so here goes, red wine, white chocolate, salted pistachio nuts, a very large collection of shoes ( I just cant stop buying them!) a very large collection of dresses ( ditto shoes!), big chunky necklaces, again a huge collection! Can you see a pattern here, yes I’m a shopaholic!!.

Gorgeous glasses and phone cases.

Biggest Success: When I applied and was accepted to be on the notonthehighstreet website. I was so thrilled when I was accepted as I think its a lovely looking site. My page on facebook is going from strength to strength and since September 2011 I have had a flurry of orders on there, its my busiest outlet and I’m really proud that I have built it up on my own, well not just on my own I have fellow crafters who share me quite often too!. My biggest success on there was my Christmas market night back in November. I made a tonne of things and they all sold out within half an hour! It was very exciting

Funniest moment: Well lets just say its a good job I work on my own and at home as I’m the clumsiest person ever, just call me Frank Spencer ,you would laugh hard at the things I’ve done!. I have had a few Frank Spencer moments in public too. I tried on some rollerblades in a big sports shop once and me being all cocky said “ yeah yeah I can easily still do these”! next thing I’m flat on my bottom, legs in the air and dress… well it was perfect You’ve been framed material!. Another time I was going through the automatic doors in BHS! When they shut, I was one side and my bag got stuck on the other side!. I could go on theres plenty more, and now your probably thinking “ wow how does this girl operate a sewing machine”!

Favourite quote: I’m a huge fan of gangster, horror and any other scary violent film, I know and here I am sitting here sewing pretty,girly bags all day!. So it was hard to find a quote without any fruity language so here goes!

“ In a word pleasure, its like my pleasure in other peoples leisure” Trainspotting

“I’ll get you and it will look like a bloody accident” The cat in the hat

“ Eyes on the prize Violet, eyes on the prize” Charlie and the chocolate factory

Whoops more than one quote there, one of my other weaknesses I cant just pick one answer!

Favourite Artist: I absolutely love the work of Alberto Giacometti, his drawings and his sculptures, I love his scruffy manic way of sketching and his thin spindly men. Antony Gormley is another favourite Sculptor as is Barbara Hepworth, I’ve spent a lovely day down in St Ives looking at her amazing work in the beautiful gardens of her museum. I love Andy Warhol, his screen prints of Marilyn Monroe and Mao  are amazing, the colours just jump out at you. Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon are also favourites, the detail in Freuds portraits is outstanding and I love Francis Bacon, his work is quite disturbing and always reminds me of the film Jacobs Ladder. And finally I adore Edgar Degas, I could look at his numerous ballet paintings for hours.

Favourite season: Summer! I just love hot sunny days even better if I’m in my favourite place, St Ives!

Favourite flower: Gerbera daisy

What are you listening to right now: During the day I usually have radio 1 on. The music is a bit repetitive but I do love Scott Mills, bring back Mark and Lard is all I can say!. I also love The Lumineers, Kasabian, The Kaiser Chiefs, Scissor Sisters etc etc basically I love all sorts.

Your simple pleasure: I love shopping with my Mum, we’ll go to Derby or Burton and we can shop till we drop and never run out of things to say! I do like to chat!. I love going to St Ives and mooching round the gorgeous little shops and galleries, I’ve been going on holiday there for over 20 years and just love it. I love going in the sea even though its freezing! I just cant resist the lure of a crashing wave. I also love fabric shopping, I could spend a whole day looking at all the gorgeous websites, one of my favourite designers is Michael Miller and I use his fabric alot.

Whats your brew: Tea, teabag then 2 sugars then milk then hot water and brew to nearly workman strength!

Kate Brazier ~ Kate Creates

Name: Kate Brazier
Company: KateCreates
Website: www.katecreates.co.uk

The stunning Kate

Sum up your business in a sentence. Colourful, personalised watercolours and cards.

When did you start your business?  I first started painting name paintings in 1996 when I left college, my main customers were my family and I was happy enough to create things to be given as gifts. I left my job to become a full time Mum in 2003. For the first 3 years all I did was take my first daughter to music classes and toddler groups, play with play dough and generally enjoy being a mummy. When my second daughter was born in 2006 I wondered whether it might be possible to do something creative from home and still be a hands-on Mum… and so KateCreates was born.

A beautiful portrait, with personal details creating a gorgeous and special gift.

What & who inspires you?
There are so many things that inspire me. I am inspired by my wonderfully imaginative husband, Andrew. We met at Sixth Form college when we were just 16 and he has this amazing ability to ‘think outside the box’ so when my mind is all befuddled he can come along and say “had you thought about approaching it from this direction?” and problem solved! I am so grateful to him for giving me the freedom to develop KateCreates too, and he is always there with a pearl of wisdom or a cracking idea.
My two daughters are a constant inspiration to me. Such different characters I am so proud of how they are growing up. They make me laugh every day with their take on life. We can learn a lot from how impulsive and honest children are.
I am also inspired by the talent of the other artists, crafters and makers that I have met over the past couple of years. They are a constant source of knowledge, humour and inspiration and I am lucky enough to count many of them as good friends now too.
My parents are also an inspiration to me. They were self-employed and showed us what freedom this could bring, as long as you are organised!

Padstow Harbour
A new range from Kate that’s already proving a massive success.

 

What sets you apart from others?
I think it’s my sense of humour. I like to think that this comes across in my work. I studied Graphic Design and then Illustration at college. My life drawing classes have stood me in good stead when creating my paintings, you need to know the basics if you are going to create something realistic. I always make sure that people can tell that they are looking at a KateCreates, that is very important to me.


What did you do before setting up your business?
Before I started KateCreates I worked for an art gallery based in Birmingham. I started out working in the gallery as a salesperson but I found this very hard as I truly believe you have to love a piece of art to sell it to someone, I would introduce myself and then let the customers browse meaning that I often lost sales to other salespeople who hunted the customers down and pounced! Because of this fatal flaw in sales technique I was moved to the head office where I worked as the exhibitions co-ordinator. I am really thankful for the experiences I had working for the gallery, there is nothing more inspirational than handling beautiful works of art on a daily basis and sometimes getting to meet your heroes!

The best part of your day/ running your own business.
I think the best thing for me about working for myself is the variety. One day I might be painting a 60th birthday card for someone and the next I might be painting a VW campervan or sewing a brooch. I love that I can sit down at my desk and create something unique.

One of giant button brooches which Kate couldn’t make enough of this christmas..

Why did you start your business?
I have always wanted the freedom of working for myself. I am in control of what commissions I take on and that makes me very happy.

Your favourite product & why.
I think this has to be my ancient tin of Caran D’Ache watercolour pencils! I love them. I always work into my paintings to add depth and with these pencils you can use them to shade, add a wash, then work into the painting again. The tin was my husband’s at college and he gave them to me not long after we met so they are sentimental too!

Your greatest business tip.Believe in your product. If you think it’s great then chances are others will agree with you. It has taken me some time to follow my own advice though!

Your favourite colour.Blue. No wait, green. No, red. No… every colour?!!

Star sign.Scorpio

Your biggest weakness.
I have to say I am rather a perfectionist. I never know when to leave a painting alone and constantly go back and tinker with things! Oh, and I am rather partial to Tunnocks’ Tea Cakes and Cadbury’s Starbars!

Your biggest success.In the summer of 2011 I painted a personalised card for a very good friend who was sadly moving to Germany. I posted a picture of it on my KateCreates Facebook page and things went a little bit mad from there. Last year I painted over 80 personalised cards and another 50 personalised paintings! And perhaps I’d better not forget the VW Campers!

Those VW Campers…..

Funniest moment.I think it has to be when a very lovely lady came up to me at my Craft Fair last December and said “Oooh, it’s like meeting someone off the telly!” I couldn’t quite believe it!!!

Favourite quote.“Goonies never say die!”

Favourite motto.You have to know the rules before you can bend them.

Favourite artist.
Oooh, this is a hard one as I have a few! I have always loved children’s book illustration and had a wide collection from my own childhood before I even had any children of my own. I think of all these children’s illustrators, Shirley Hughes is my favourite. Her attention to detail and humour is something I have always admired. She is an inspiration.
I am also a big Pop Art fan and went to an exhibition when I was at college featuring some very famous pieces. I walked around the gallery in awe, it was the brightest, most colourful, wonderful thing I had seen. I saw a couple of Peter Blake pieces whilst I was there – his use of paint, colour, texture and collage was just brilliant.
I have also always been a massive fan of Graham Clarke’s intricate etchings and watercolours. I was blown away last year when he replied to my (rather gushing) comment on his Facebook page!

Favourite season.Autumn I think. I love the oranges, reds, browns of the leaves, the smell of wood fires burning in the frosty air and the low, golden sun. It’s a very mellow season, it always makes me think of new stationery, woolly tights and snuggly knits.

Business dream.
I think my dream for KateCreates is for me to continue to make a living from my artwork and to enjoy what I do. I am delighted to say that I have a lot of customers who come back again and again to order from me and also recommend me to their friends and family. What more can you ask?


Favorite flower.
Hydrangea

What are you listening to right now.I have to say I do love having the radio on whilst I work. CDs don’t work so well as I like to hear the presenters talking, it makes me feel like I am not on my own. I love to sing, loudly, too so I am a Radio 2 girl I’m afraid (unless I am feeling ‘Classic fm-y!!!)

Your simple pleasure.
I love wondering around contemporary art galleries, you know the ones that also sell other handmade bits and pieces, cards, brooches, notebooks with handmade covers, that sort of thing. I just want to be in those kinds of places and soak up the atmosphere!

What’s your brew.
I can’t resist a hot chocolate… 

Tia Lush ~ Who Ate My Crayons Ltd

Name: Tia Lush.

Company: Who Ate My Crayons Limited.

Website: http://www.whoatemycrayons.com

The beautiful Tia Lush who designed both my website and blog.

Sum up your business in a sentence: Design, not rocket science.

When did you start your business? 2005.

What & who inspires you? My husband. He works incredibly hard and allows me to flutter around with my (sometimes) mad-cap schemes. He gives me the freedom to work on what I love and encourages me to try new things but is not afraid to tell me to ‘rein it in’ when he thinks I am being a loon.  My children, it’s cheesy but true. Everyday they amaze and inspire me and make me want to be a better person. They delight me with their imagination and creativity and give me the focus I need when I start to lose my way. I love seeing the world through their little eyes. I am also inspired by other designer/makers. Those who have true entrepreneurial spirit and who work tirelessly to make a living doing what they love. These people are the true gems of the business world and what keeps this country buzzing. I have been fortunate to have met and worked with some of these amazing women and love basking in the shadow of their accomplishments, knowing that I have played a small (teeny weeny) part in helping it all come together.

Me and the mini Crayons. Oil portrait by John Harris www.johnharrisart.com

What sets you apart from others? Coming from a fine art background, I hope that I can offer my clients a unique understanding and perspective when it comes to design. I only work on projects that I feel I will be able to add some value in one way or another. I am a perfectionist (with slight issues of relinquishing control) and make no apologies for it. I have been fortunate that all of my work is now from repeat clients and recommendations by them to others. To me that is the ultimate compliment. My time is limited, so the fact that I don’t need to advertise is in itself a blessing. I get to pick and choose what projects I want to work on and when.

Grammar
Self appointed grammar and font police. Licensed to get grumpy at lazy grammar usage.

What did you do before setting up your business? I have always been a freelance designer working with various individuals and corporates since 2000. But my ‘day-job’ was as a web designer for an advertising media monitoring company in London working within a small close knit development team. I was one of two designers and the rest were developers, so I had to learn to manage and adapt designs to match what could be achieved with the development team as well as managing the clients expectations.

The best part of your day/ running your own business? Having the freedom to pick and choose who and what you work on a day to day basis. No two days are ever the same. One day I can be working on an internal system for ITV, the next I can be working on a business card design for a jewellery designer and in the same week I can be working on a point of sale unit display for another retail based client. Why did you start your business? I started my company after the birth of my daughter and when she was old enough and maternity period was over, people started asking me to do work for them and so the company was formed to accommodate this new phase in my life and a way for people to pay me (always a good thing).

Your favourite product & why? My trusted Pantone colour swatch book. I couldn’t be without it when working on branding.

Pantone
Desert island item. Look at those pretty colours!

Your top 5 business and design tips.

1. Help, I need somebody. When your business is ready to move to the next level, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. Whether it be legal, accounting, PR, marketing or design. I am all for ‘giving it a go’, but there will come a time when you will need to seek the assistance of professionals and their services. I am a strong believer in getting the right people for the right job. I could attempt tiling my bathroom, but it would be an appalling finish and would take me weeks. Whereas a professional experienced tiler can do it in a day. The same will apply for design and marketing especially when it comes to website design.

Recent logo designed for an exciting new online venture.

2. D.I.Y. At times I see so many attempts that people make with designing their own website and I suspect that it would have taken them weeks, if not months of their time, time I suspect would have been better spent on the making/running of their business. It does turn out to be a false economy. I have been asked to re-work many websites that have been created, by a ‘friend’ for free or done as a by the person themselves at some point. More often than not I would have to start from scratch because it’s more time and cost effective than trying to work around with what has been done.

3. Learn to say No. When running your own business you want to please everyone all of the time. This is unrealistic and not practical and will just give you brain freeze. I have learnt to stand my ground and most importantly to learn to say no. The first time I had to turn down work I felt awful. But, it was the right decision as I just didn’t have enough hours in the day to take it on and if I had tried I would have stretched myself beyond breaking point. I have come to learn to trust and instincts and judgement.

4. Less is more. When designing a website, choose a colour palette and stick to it. A cohesive design is a consistent design. Use different fonts sparingly and try not to use more than 3 fonts within the site. Generally I would say, have a font for headings, accents and the body copy.

A small selection of recent graphic design work.

5. Consistency. Keep all your branding, online, printed and digital material all consistent. Nothing that screams home-made than having differently designed inconsistent business cards, flyers and branding materials. Make a budget for professional printing (and by that I don’t mean vistaprint) and even if you can’t afford to commission a designer, keep your designs simple and, wait for it, consistent.

What gets you on your soapbox? It always frustrates me when I see the other graphic and web designers offer their services for a pittance. I recently saw someone offer a logo design for £24. Not only does this cheapen their skill and talent, but it brings down other designers who have worked for many years and who price their work to reflect their experience and skill and what is actually required in this sort of project. Of course I believe that there is a big enough market for everyone and if you only want to pay a tenner for your logo, you will always find someone prepared to do it for you for that price, but the old adage of ‘pay peanuts, get monkeys’ springs to mind. There is also a big difference in being a graphic designer, website designer and a website developer. A graphic designer generally is experienced in working with printed work. There is quite a difference between a graphic designer and a website designer. To give you an example. When I was working for the media agency, one of the directors outsourced a website design for a new online magazine with an external graphic design agency. The design that was presented to the development team was great, beautifully stylish and looked fantastic. Sadly, the design did not translate into a website format. So we spent another 2 months reworking the design to make it work for the website. Wasted time and added thousands of pounds into what should have been a simple process. A website designer works on the design, style and most importantly, the usability of the site. How it interacts with the user, what elements will work and what will not work. A website developer makes it all work and does the technical back end part. Any decent developer will be the first to admit themselves that they are poor designers and should not attempt the design side (of course there are always exceptions to the rule). I work on the development for the majority of my clients websites, but on the larger more complex projects I work alongside experienced developer colleagues and this offers my client the best of both worlds.

Your biggest weakness: Cakes, pies, cream buns and glazed doughnuts. Washi tape, marker pens, paper (yes paper) and all kinds of pointless stationery. Handbags, shoes, Percy pigs and salted chocolate.

Heeeello Lover.

Favourite motto: My body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park.

What are you listening to right now: Regina Spektor.

Your simple pleasures: Reading with my children and listening to what they did during the day. Mooching around craft fairs and art exhibitions and talking to artists and designers. Baking a cake and watching my family and friends enjoy and appreciate it. A gorgeous pair of heels. Bunting.

Bunting
Bunting and stationery for my little sister’s wedding in October 2012.

What’s your brew: Builder’s tea and jasmine tea. Not both at the same time.

I have the pleasure of working with Tia on two major projects for me and Little a. She designed my new website and this blog. The whole experience has been amazing. I have learnt so much about myself what I want and need and to have confidence in giving things a go. Tia is a joy to work with. Creative clients I think are the hardest, we have very solid ideas of what we like and what we want, I don’t think of the way it looks on the screen but on the paper and as Tia has explained this is very different. I have learnt to let go and trust in her abilities and the results have rendered me speechless.

I hope to work wit Tia many many more times as she’s knowledgeable, professional, fair and so much fun.

 

Angie Spurgeon ~ Artwork by Angie

Name:  Angie Spurgeon
Company: Artwork By Angie
Introducing the beautiful Angie Spurgeon
Sum up your business in a sentence.  I draw pretty pictures and design gorgeous graphics.  I’m a freelance illustrator and graphic designer.
The stunning christmas warp designs that should be found under every tree, and she’s only gone and used ribbons from my website;) You can buy cards and tags to match this new and stunning range.
When did you start your business?  I’ve been freelancing as a graphic designer since 2005.  Initially, I only took on very occasional projects to keep my hand in as in those early days I was very busy looking after my babies (I’m a mum of 2 girls).  When my youngest daughter began nursery in the summer of 2010, I set to work and designed my first range of illustrative prints and greetings cards called ‘The Birds and the Bees’ and then launched the Artwork By Angie website and blog, shortly followed by a Folksy shop and Facebook page. I’ve been lucky enough to be very busy with all sorts of projects ever since.  I absolutely love it, I get to create pretty imagery and stretch my skills and imagination on a daily basis.
What & who inspires you?  Mainly my children! I’m inspired by a wide variety of things and people, which I think is healthy as the wider your frame of reference the more unique your take on things will be.  I love nature and live near the beautiful Quantock Hills in Somerset – it’s hard not to be inspired with that on your doorstep! I admire courageous people who go for it in life while smiling in the face of adversity.  When it comes to my doodles, I’ve always loved illustrated children’s books and as a child Pat Hutchin’s book ‘Rosie’s Walk’ made a very big lasting impression on me, it is so beautifully illustrated.  Looking at the pictures in books like that made me want to be an illustrator when I grew up.  The great thing about being a mum is you get a chance to indulge in all those types of lovely books again!. Thanks to all this social media stuff, I find new inspirations to fall in love with on a daily basis. It is a fact that I am completely addicted to pinterest.
I adore this print, I have it on my mantelpiece at home and look at it everyday. You can get this print in lots of colour ways and with varying number of babies.
What did you do before setting up your business? I studied Graphic Design (illustration) at the University of Plymouth then headed straight to London in search of fame and fortune – but instead began a 12 year career in client services for a few advertising agencies in London and Bristol.  Looking back, working in advertising was a great way to learn all the skills I needed to set myself up in business whilst still being in a creative world.  I was very lucky to get trained by some of the best brains in the advertising industry and I’m finding all their advice is coming in very useful now.  I’m also able to use all of that experience to help the small businesses I design for, by passing some of that knowledge and expertise on.
The best part of your day/ running your own business.
I’d say it is knowing that I can just get on with doing the best job possible for my customers without having to deal with any office politics. The actual doing the drawings part is what I enjoy best – I feel privileged to be able to make a living doing what I love. There’s also the satisfaction you get when you start to see your business grow and your reputation flourish, as you know that it is the result of all your own hard work and effort.
A stunning range of christmas cards.
Why did you start your business? I wanted to try and make a living out of what makes me happiest whilst slotting it around raising my children.  I also wanted to be an example and hopefully inspire my daughters by showing them that you don’t have to totally rely on others to make your way in the world and to always follow your dreams.  If it all goes wrong, at least I had a go and I’d rather my children saw that as they’ll learn from it.
Your favourite product & why.  My simple black fibre tip pen.  With a humble pen I can make all sorts of magic happen.
I’m putting my order for these in now so I can do my christmas thank you cards. Perfect for all year round. Hmmm now just let me see who deserves one……….
Your greatest business tip.   Always do the best job you can with honesty and integrity.  Work hard, be nice to people and know that you’re only ever as good as the last job you did.  It’s all about the quality of the work so try to let the work speak for itself.  The thing you learn quickly as an ad agent is generally people know a good thing when they see it and can quickly see through any hollow hype.  Word of mouth has always been and always will be the best form of marketing.  It’s best achieved through doing great work and delivering fantastic service.  Having something unique to offer is essential too, it sets you apart making it easier for others to understand what your business is about and identify with your brand….it’s all very basic really, but even big companies forget this stuff and then wonder why their business is failing.
Your favourite colour. Turquoise
Star sign. Aries
Your biggest weakness.  Worrying too much….and Fry’s Turkish Delight
Your biggest success.  My children.  Sorry, I’m repeating myself a little but I’m a proud mum and not ashamed of that!  I’m also very proud of establishing my little business in the midst of the worst recession in history whilst working from a little corner of our bedroom during those hours when my children are at school or in bed.  As any mum running a business from home knows, it’s a very delicate balancing act. Getting my designs stocked by the National Trust feels pretty amazing too – it’s one of those dream stockists I’ve had in mind for a long time.  To see my cards in their shops with my own eyes felt incredible.
Angies ranges of cards can be found in National Trust properties all over the country.
 
Favourite artist.  David Hockney – you can’t beat a home grown living master.  His recent ‘Bigger Picture’ works are wonderful.  He’s created some great iPad paintings which have gained mixed reviews, but I love him for validating digital art as a medium.
Favourite season. Spring.  It’s all about new beginnings and the promise of good things to come.
A stunning print by Angie and available to buy on from her website.
Business dream. To continue being able to spend my days illustrating and designing for a living.  I have so many ideas for new designs and where I want my designs to go (there are lots more dream stockists on my wish list!).  This past year I’ve been doing lots of collaborative work with other designer makers which I’ve completely enjoyed and would love to do more of as you get to bounce great ideas around and help bring other people’s ideas to life whilst sprinkling a few of my own little quirks into the mix.  I chose the name ‘Artwork By Angie’ for my website as that is basically all I want it to be about – my artwork as illustrations, originals or digital artwork for graphics – either as commissioned pieces, licensed ranges or prints to be sold from my online shops.  The thing about designing for print is there are so many different formats that it can take, my dream is to see my designs in all sorts of formats licensed out and available in as many places as possible.  Well you’ve got to dream big haven’t you?
More delights from www.artworkbyangie.com

What sets you apart from others?: I’ve always had a very colourful imagination, a good level of humour and have achieved broad experience on the commercial side of the creative world so am able to create and market new designs. As well as having a degree in Graphic Design, I have a post grad qualification in marketing which means I can look at a business and quickly identify its strengths, uniqueness and how it should be communicating that with the correct audience – then I’m able to conceptualise all of that in a visual way. To put it simply, I’m fairly versatile.

Funniest Moment: Whilst thinking about the answer to this I’ve realised most of my funniest moments involve being roped into Karaoke for some reason, which is strange as I’m not keen on Karaoke and do my best to avoid it at all costs. Once upon a time I was seriously offered a job as DJ on a night out when a friend dragged me on stage to do a duet with them. Let’s get this clear, I am no singer so I got the microphone and started holding it out and encouraged others to do the singing for me.  I was told by the organisers they liked the way ‘I was working the crowd’ and would I consider working with them!   I really can’t see myself as a Karaoke DJ somehow – the thought of it still makes me chuckle!

Favourite quote: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” (good old Dr. Seuss – I told you I love kids books!).

Favourite Motto: Enjoy Yourself (it’s later than you think)

Favourite Flower: all spring flowers such as primroses, tulips, hyacinths, narcissus  muscari and blossoms – I love all their cheerful sugary colours which pop up after all the cold, dark dreariness of winter.  I also love alliums and plant loads near my window so I can enjoy looking at their bright purple pom poms.

What are you listening to right now: I find it hard to work without something playing in the background and often listen to Radio 6.   I’m a wordy type and love the lyrics of Ray Davies, John Lennon, Morrissey and Ian Dury to name a few (I could fill your blog on my love of music alone!).  I have very eclectic music taste and love particular songs more than specific groups or artists – but rock and roll always does it for me.  The reality these days is more often than not I’m listening to a Disney Princess soundtrack thanks to my girls!

Your simple pleasure. Going swimming or for a nice long walk ideally with friends or family to chat to whilst walking.

What’s your brew. A strong builder’s brew, splash of milk, no sugar and preferably brewed in the pot with a cosy on top!

I think you’ll agree that Angie’s work is full of colour fun and has a very recognisable style.  When I started my business Angie is one of the first ladies I worked with. She has produced my logo and nearly all my artwork. I have worked with her so much that she knows instantly what I want and need. Little a certainly wouldn’t be where it is today without the stunning professionalism and friendship gained from Angie. I really don’t need most of the stuff I get from Angie, I often try and find excuses just to use her because of the fun and inspiration she brings. I wish massive luck and hugs and know 2013 will bring so pretty incredible things.

Lyndsey James ~ Sorbet & Lyndsey James Photography

Name: Lyndsey James
Company: Freelance Photographer and owner of Sorbet Design.
Website: www.lyndsey-james.co.uk www.sorbetdesign.co.uk

Lyndsey shopping for props in France

 

Sum up your business in a sentence.   I am a Professional Photographer & Product Stylist, working both on location and from my home studio, I am also the creative director for Sorbet Design.

When did you start your business?   My first freelance photography job was in 2002 (wow 10 years ago). I started as a portrait photographer and in my career have shot in the region of 25k portraits give or take a couple, so I take a good portrait! I now work solely on lifestyle imagery, basically shooting pretty stuff! I launched Sorbet Design in June this year.

What & who inspires you?   My parents were self-employed, and their constant battle with their small village shop and their hard working ethic inspired me to also work hard to get what I want from life. My mum now lives in France and I love to visit, drink home-made sloe gin and chat about craft businesses, now she is ‘retired’ she runs an Etsy business herself.

My partner Daniel is also an inspiration for his never ending optimism, I can honestly say this guy is always smiling, and picking me up. We are lucky enough to be working on a new business project together and he also works for Sorbet. When things get a bit heated or stressy he will turn on some crazy music and dance me around the office until I shake it off and am smiling again!

What sets you apart from others?   I think being somewhat of a traditionalist when it comes to photography does. I shoot with an EOS1D digital SLR for convenience, but having learnt the theory of light, studio lighting, developing film and prints with chemicals in a dark room and shooting on medium and large format cameras too, I think you have a better understanding of how to use the digital equipment you use to your advantage. I don’t like to see bad shots masked with a vintage filter in photoshop, clients are paying for quality and knowledge. I also style sets and supply props so my small business clients get everything they need in one package.

Using some of her many vintage props.

What did you do before setting up your business?   When I graduated in photography I had a part time office job (37.5hrs is part time right?) which funded a gallery space I rented. I would spend my evenings and weekends at the gallery making and selling polaroid image transfers of my photographs. It is a lovely art form where you lift the emulsion from Polaroid prints using hot water and transfer the delicate film onto other materials, the bubbles and tears make each piece unique.

A polaroid ink transfer

The best part of running your own business.    Freedom has to be the best part of running your own business. Life is too damn short to be hating Mondays or wishing it was home time, my days are not long enough there is always so much I want to do! Having the freedom to make your own way in life is priceless. That and diversity, because when you work for yourself you don’t have to stick with one thing, why not have 2 or 3 businesses… you can mould your very own unique job by doing the things you love!

The Best part of your day   Each day is so very different! One day I will be in my wellies in a field on a lifestyle location shoot, the next I will be talking tech about website designs (and trying to convince our tech guys at Sorbet that wonky and cute really will look fab).

I also mentor other photographers and teach beginners workshops, there is so much to my job that each and every day is unique. I guess if I had to choose, the best part of my day would be when I get chance to share a cuppa (we call it creative brew) with my designer and illustrator at Sorbet, Helen & Beth. To have others around you that share your passion and who are bursting with creativity is so much fun.

Lyndsey’s portrait by the fab Beth from Sorbet

Why did you start your business?    I studied photography when I left school at 16 and became a pro from there so no question about that one I had always loved photography. As for Sorbet, we started this because I was feeling my client’s frustration when they had beautiful new photographs from me, but a crappy website, or a rubbish graphic designer to complete their marketing. I now offer a complete service for making a small indie business look fab through quality imagery, design and print solutions. The next step is helping them sell more of their products, but that is another adventure…

Your greatest business tips.   After 10 years I have a fair few!

1. Diversify.

Look for ways in which you can adapt your skills by listening to what your customers need or desire. When one of the world’s biggest retailers Shell Oil started out, they were transporting sea shells to be sold in gift shops, until one day they realised that shipping containers of oil made them a few bob more…they don’t bother with sea shells now, despite their logo still being a pretty sea shell.

2. Consider every change.

As a small businesses there is always a desire to be bigger and better in order to be seen as successful, but this is often not the case. I often hear of clients who want to open a shop to sell their products in, but then you would be a shop keeper more than a crafter. Staying true to your craft and only doing what you love means you will stay in control of your business, instead of it controlling you.

I once opened a coffee shop that quickly grew to become a 50 seater, 7 day a week, 9 members of staff, business. The stress of running this dealing with staff rotas and coffee supplies was nowhere near as much fun as the early days of painting the walls pink and ordering our first cupcakes. If you are considering change, think about what your job description will become if you change direction rather than looking at it through rose tinted specs, you can then decide if that is the lifestyle you really want, for me it wasn’t. There is no shame, and often more money to be made, by sticking to what you do best.

first ever creative brew

3. Accept that you can’t love everyone you work with.

Haha I know it is probably not the greatest business tip but trust me it is one that I have to tell so many of my indie clients. Some people you will never, ever, please. When you get your first rude, obnoxious customer give yourself a massive pat on the back and consider yourself really in business, as likelihood dictates that with more customers, comes more odd customers. Don’t take it personally, not everyone will love you or love your work, and if anyone upsets you just offer a refund, walk away, and certainly don’t dwell on it, perhaps it just isn’t a match made in heaven.

4. Use social networking wisely.

In my opinion social networking is fantastic for some businesses and deadly for others. Think very carefully who might be reading your status updates when you post something negative or whinge about others. No matter how bad a day you are having, your business page is another shop window and perhaps not the place for it. On twitter this year I witnessed someone publicly rant about another business which surprised me, my first thoughts were ‘blimey they sound a bit high maintenance! mental note, never work with that person if approached!!’. Of course it is lovely to use such platforms to share the quirks of your day, or share random musings, just keep it positive, happy and friendly!

I also hear all sorts of stories about stalking from competitors…the truth is if you are busy enough you simply don’t have the time! Personally I have to schedule time into my diary to make social updates and use Buffer where possible. I couldn’t tell you who my competitors are, what they charge, what they are doing, because I am too busy to look, and frankly don’t care. There is enough work in this world for everyone, and if someone is stalking your page they obviously are not in demand enough to have the time on their hands.

When someone copies your work, pity their lack of creativity, when someone tells you it is too expensive tell them there are plenty of folk who will happily do the same for less, stand by your product with confidence.

5. Be selective.

Many indies forget that with your new found freedom of running your own business comes power to do what the bloody hell you want. When money is tight you might think that turning down work is the last thing you want to do, but by operating a red rope policy (letting through only the work you want to do) you will find like I have, that over time you will love every job, and make more money out of the not-so-fun jobs.

Assuming crafters are reading this on Little A’s blog….If you are currently making something you don’t enjoy making, then ask yourself why are you doing it? If it is for the money then go for a normal job, you even get paid for holidays and being sick!

Maybe like many crafters you make a whole range of stuff, but perhaps have a few items that are not as much fun, my advice is to up the price to a point where it wouldn’t matter to you, or get rid of that product and concentrate on the ones you love. Passion in your work really comes across, and when something is created with love and passion it shows, and word will soon spread about your fantastic work.

Your biggest success.   No it’s not my SBS re-tweet from Theo P, however nice that was, I thankfully have more to shout about than a good bit of PR for my business. I guess the coffee shop was no mean feat, from having no idea about that industry to setting up and opening a city centre coffee house with my friends within 3 months, on a budget of just £15k, and resulting in a queue out the door most days  was pretty spectacular now I come to think about it. Despite the stress resulting in a sale of the business after 9 months I learnt an awful lot and could confidently open another one if I ever wanted to.

Sorbet Design has also hit the ground running by offering something a little different so I imagine that will be successful if it keeps going at this rate, we are already looking into more staff and our websites are winning our clients awards!

Funniest moment   At work it has to be the photo shoot that involved photographing a world champion kick boxer for the front cover of his book. The autobiography was of his time in prison, and the cover shot was to look gritty, and intimidating. He was wearing only jeans and boxers and was wearing real handcuffs. The resulting cover shot was a far cry from the actual shoot, where the poor guys jeans slid down while he was handcuffed, and I had to hoic them up using a tripod because I couldn’t reach him, there is always a fabulous non glamorous story behind every photo shoot!

The Boxer

Business dream.    There is a plan on the horizon for something very exciting, a new sales platform for indies! allowing me to help thrust these fabulous gems into the public domain and boost sales in even more ways than just photography and design.

Sadly something this exciting takes time, but when it has launched and is working wonders for clients old and new, I will have achieved my business dream.

(My book finally being launched is another dream, but now I have a fab team at Sorbet Design, progress on this can now continue. I just got too busy to finish the thing!)

Favourite Quote:

Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but to skid in sideways, totally worn out, screaming ‘holy shit what a ride!’

Motto:

Create & Inspire (I now have this written on a silver band I wear, it reminds me of my goals when things get a little hectic!)

Your favourite colour.   Yellow, happy and sunny and especially nice teamed with grey. I love to wear yellow.

Star sign?  Scorpio

Favourite artist?   Kenton Nelson

Kenton Nelson

Favourite season?  Autumn

Favourite flower?   Peony

What are you listening to right now?   The Lumineers ‘Ho Hey’

Favourite author?   Joanne Harris

What do you do to relax when not working?  Go for a run in the forest

Favourite Dessert?   Creme Brulee

What is your tipple?   Red wine (esp Chilean Merlot)

What is your brew?   Lady Grey

One of my products for a LJ summer location shoot.

 

Your must have fashion item?  My cowboy boots

Your must have beauty item?  I couldn’t live without Mythic Oil for my big wavy hair!

Your simple pleasure?  Crunching through icy puddles on a frosty winter walk.

A tasty food product photograph.
Lifestyle shot in a field.
A hotel shoot.
Capturing texture
Pack shots for magazines
LJ

See I told you she was good. Lyndsey does my professional photography and since having work done by her my products have appeared in magazines and have changed the business look of my website and marketing materials. I can’t stress how important it has been for me to use this service.

Lyndsey usually books at least 2-3 months in advance, so be quick if you want a spring shoot, I have mine booked! to book a photo shoot visit www.lyndsey-james.co.uk.

 

Coooorrr Country Living Harrogate

Well I’ve been travelling around rather a lot recently meeting lots of crafty business ladies, making new friends. The season started off with the Islington Country Living Fair were I got the chance to meet the fab ladies from some of my favourite Facebook pages. We all decided to meet to celebrate Helen from Kindred Rose’s amazing achievement of getting into the Christmas Country Living magazine. Didn’t see a massive amount of the fair due to having far too much fun with my wonderful new found buddies. All incredibly talented, but more than that, all kind, generous, hilarious and an utter joy to be around.

There is Andrea from Polka, Julia from Julia Crossland Art, Roslyn from Roslyn Mitchell Designs, Helen from Kindred Rose and Kate from KateCreates.

Andrea, Me, Julia, Roslyn, Helen & Kate

I had a wonderful little trip up the road to Wynard Hall to see the brilliant Emma Lamb and walked away with one of her stunning cushions and two pin cushions as well as having a fab chat with her. And I have to say I think she’s rather great, her work is stunning and it’s still one of the best buying experiences I’ve ever had.

The entrance to the CL Harrogate fair, so festive and made me go ‘wow’.

Then I only went and saw the Country Living in Harrogate twice! First time was to see Ranjit from Eclectic Tea and Lyndsey from Sorbet to visit Ranjit’s glorious stand (and buy everything on it). Lyndsey had helped her style it and the stand only went and WON the best festive stand award which seemed to be the only win of the show which was amazing news!! and well deserved, it was stunning. Whilst I was there I bumped into Sara from Kitty Eden which was a fab treat.

Sara, Ranjit, Lyndsey

I spent a lot of that day buying Ranjit’s stuff and chatting wildly & excitedly, so left in a bit of a whirl wind and daze. Couldn’t remember half of what I saw but was glad to be going back on the Sunday with my mum to do a serious amount of Christmas shopping.

One of our first stops was Emily Notman‘s stand which was packed full of beautifully stitched pictures and brooches. Was incredibly hard to chose but had a lovely chat with Emily who is enchanting.

Could have filled a carrier bag with the beauties on Emily’s stand, too much to chose from.
Leah Haliday’s stand full of treasures that rightfully should be all in my house right now.

In the third hall I found a gang of little stands which utterly thrilled me. The first was Dear Prudence which had cards and notebooks to die for and next to it was Leah Halliday’s stand full of amazing vintage goodies which I could have happily spent my mortgage on.

There were three halls packed with sellers and the atmosphere was one of excitement. It’s the first time Country Living have come to Harrogate and they certainly put on a great first show. The halls were decorated with purple and white and each stand looked stunning against the festive backdrop. I’d happily have gone everyday. It was great to see so many familiar names from the area and so many hand made goodies which is what I think Country Living should be about. After all, the mass made stuff can be bought in any high street shop at anytime and this is the place to really show off new British talent.

Green Walnut Designs ceramic buttons being sold on one stand.

One of those talented people is Clare from Green Walnut Designs. I have my company buttons all hand made by her and they are my trademark of a Little a product. Her stunning ceramic buttons were being sold on the Wool and Buttons stand, which had a very cozy feel, so cozy that none of my photos came out all being too dark. But is certainly felt snuggly.

Owl & Cats stand, mmmmmmm yum.

Another favourite stand was Owl & Cat which had so much colour and fun and gorgeous stuff to shower my children with, I am going to be buying rather a lot from this company in the future.

I could happily write for days about the beautiful things I saw, far too many to mention. But from me, the show gets five stars and I suggest you definately make it a big tick on your list for a visit next year. You may even see me there.

And whilst in Harrogate two more places you must visit, the first one being Betty’s Tea House which I am ever so slightly obsessed with. I have a cupboard for there Christmas Tea here and it runs through my veins at this time of year.

The heaven that is Betty’s in Harrogate.

And if you don’t fancy the one in town then sneak to RHS Harlow Carr just up the road, as they have one too.

If you don’t fancy the queues in town then the RHS Harlow Carr may be the place for you and you get to walk around the most spectacular gardens perfectly decorated for Christmas.

The second place is Duttons for Buttons………a treasure trove of buttony delights…….ahhhh. I don’t need to speak, the photos speak for themselves.

I tried to get them all in my pocket but I couldn’t get away with it:(

So you see it certainly ain’t dull up north, it’a glorious region of crafty delights. Come visit us.

A spangley new website

HELLO & WELCOME *waves frantically*

The blanket draped over Phoebes little chair is my first ever crochet blanket. And takes pride of place as a frame on my home page

It’s been a long time coming but it’s great to tell you all and share with you my new sparkling website made by Tia from Who Ate My Crayons. I am so thrilled with the work Tia has done and I love my website, it is very personal to me, from the crocheted blanket on the homepage that acts as a frame around Angie’s information poster. The ribbons that are used as headers are my favourite designs and I sell them on the website and the fabrics I use in my work. Even the frames used in the gallery are my own personal photo frames that hang on my wall at home full of my children’s pictures. Tia is also the designer of this blog which will be center of my new creative world.

A new collection made especially for the new opening.

We started the process in August after numerous issues with my old website, from being heavily copied to technical faults and eventually just falling out of love with the whole thing. I found that I needed a fresh start. I wanted to do more challenging designs and get back to painting again as I just missed that side of my nature. It’s a natural progression for most artists to change with experience and new influence. I needed a bit more control of the creative process.

In the new site you’ll see new materials used, with my vintage linens and tweeds all high lighted by luscious tana lawn fabric and vintage buttons. I will be painting more and producing canvases in mixed media, with more one off pieces available to buy.

 

My card holder, Angie’s Christmas cards and Lyndsey’s photo. A group effort.

I have been lucky to meet so many wonderful women in this industry since starting in social media with Little a and they have all been an inspiration to me, not just their work but their attitudes, their personalities & their friendship. Two of these women are Angie from Artwork by Angie and Lyndsey from Lyndsey James Photography. Angie is the creator extraordinaire of my logo and illustrated graphics and Lyndsey is the talent behind the beautiful images I use of my products. Both these ladies have guided me through many hot spots. I can not recommend them highly enough as woman to work with and trust.

A new design for the website

 

 

So together they have kicked and shoved me to a place that I am happy with and I hope so much that you’ll all join me in my new journey and adventures.

This blog will now be my main form of communication with you. I’ll be posting regularly about all manner of things I plan to do, work, family, new products, inspiration, places I visit. I’ll let you know about suppliers I’ve found, shops I love and give you ideas of things to make yourself and free templates for designs. There will be tutorials and guidance. You may even be asked to contribute your self and get involved, if you fancy it pop me a line.

It’s only me, hello!!

 

 

I also plan to interview my favourite people in this industry, people I love and who are important to me and who I think you will love too. Not just for their work but there entertainment and joy of life, beauty is shown in many ways and I don’t think you can have enough of it in your life.  So I promise I’ll be updating you on activities at least once a week. Please do sign up to my newsletter or my RSS feed and tune in and join in, I want you to feel free to post comments have discussions and interact with me, I’m nice, honest.