Category Archives: Business for craftspeople

To market, to market. Part two – 7 things to do in preparation for a market.

Thanks for all the lovely feedback on my earlier post about things to think about before attending a market.   I have had some great conversations with people as a result of this!  Today I am going to focus on the things that you should be doing in preparation for attending a market.   These are all things that take a bit of time and organisation and need to be done in the weeks leading up to the market – not the day before. The stuff you are doing the day before is a whole other list!!

  1. Organise some great product shots.

What?   Why do I need good photos of my products for a market – the customers at the market will be able to see them in the flesh (so to speak!).   Hypothetical narrators questions aside, the answer is that having great product shots means that the promoters of the market are going to be able to share your images on social media, and on their advertisements, so that people are enticed to attend the market. If you have some dodgy shots taken on your old iPhone3 in dim lighting and with a cluttered background the organisers are not going to want to use your images, so you miss out on attracting a whole bunch of potential customers.   I have seen some shocking product photos provided by designers – one set was of some beautiful handmade knitwear displayed on a glass topped table that was covered in greasy hand prints and dust – which definitely did not induce me to look further at the products.

Tips for good product shots include natural lighting ( I personally love taking photos outside in spring in the middle of the day but that is not always possible or convenient!), a flattering background that doesn’t overpower the product, and if the product is an unusual one, having it presented so that it’s purpose is obvious.   For example a scarf will have more impact draped over a form than folded flat on a table.  Backgrounds don’t have to be elaborate – I have friends who have had great success with some patterned wallpaper that gave the look of wooden boards or bricks.    Once again, making sure that your photos reflect your brand is important.  You don’t have to have a professional photographer take shots for you (especially if all of your products are one of a kind) but it can be a good idea so that you have a nice set of professional images to use in your marketing.

A designer I know has a great eye for matching objects and creating stories.  She has helped out a few other designers I know by taking flat lay photos of their products paired with accessories that enhance them. Those photos really pop on social media!   (Hmmmm……maybe I need to give her a call myself!)  Remember – you don’t have to do everything yourself – you might know someone who is happy to help with making sure you have great photos.

2.  Make sure you have a way of letting people know who you are.

I get really frustrated when I attend a market and see a stall that I like, but I can’t see the name of the stall or business so I can’t make a note about ordering from them, etc.   Letting people know who you are is really important.   Getting a banner made up doesn’t cost a lot these days – a vinyl banner with your own design from Vistaprint starts at about $20.  If you want to do something different to match your brand there are lots of options for handmade signage, from painted fabric banners, to bunting, painted wooden signs, light boxes and more.   It just needs to be something that can be identified by someone who is a few metres away from your stall. Hanging it below your table may look cute but can’t be seen by someone the next row over. Hanging signage above your stall or on a stand that stretches above eye level is much more effective.

The second thing you need to have organised in this regard before you attend a market is business cards or flyers.  Customers will often take a card so that they can remember you for a custom order, or to come back to at the next market, or for them to follow you online and purchase from you in the future.   If you don’t have an easy piece of paper for them to pick up they aren’t going to remember you.   What should be on your business card or flyer?   Your business name, your tag line (you know – the bit that tells people what your business does), your email, social media addresses and website.   I used to keep mine really anonymous until a marketing expert told me that if she is given a business card that doesn’t have a name on it she throws them out.  As a result I now have my name and phone number on there too – in case someone wants to place an order that way.

3.  Be ready to take people’s money.

After all, that is the name of the game. You aren’t there to take names, you are there to take money in exchange for your wonderful products.  (Actually you might also want to take names but we will talk about that later. Right now we are focused on the moola, the cash, the big bucks. Alright – I will stop now.)    What does that mean for preparation?   You need to think about how to look after the cash that you receive in a safe manner, and you need to decide if you want to be able to offer credit card facilities.

Dealing with cash first, there are two main options that I think work for a market – a cash box or a cash apron.  A cash box is useful because you can separate the notes and coins out and therefore give change easily.   It can be locked and you can keep the key on yourself for added security during the market.    An apron has several advantages – you can have a zipped pocket to hold the money so it is on your person at all times and less easily stolen by dodgy thieves, and you can use the apron pockets to hold your phone and credit card reader.    I have previously used an apron that I made myself so it had pockets for everything, plus a copy of my old logo printed onto fabric so it marked me as the stall holder.   I am undecided about which option to go with this time, but will need to make the decision soon so that I can buy or make what I need.

With regard to taking payments from bank cards it is worth thinking about because many markets don’t have ATMs and once people run out of cash they stop buying if they can’t use their cards.  The options for taking money via card are broad these days.  Paypal offers a facility that connects to your Paypal business account, many banks offer a facility that connects to your bank accounts, and there are card readers such as Square which allow you to take payments without belonging to a certain bank.   Each of these methods will charge a fee for transactions, so you need to be aware of how this affects your prices, but with the ability to buy a unit like these starting at $60 it is a good investment to make if you are going to be attending a number of markets.

4.  Know how you are going to display your products

In Part One I talked about designing your display to enhance your product, etc.  In the lead up to a market you need to know what props, tables, screens, marquees, etc you are going to use so that you can buy parts you don’t have, repair any that have been damaged, or make what you need.  A few things to consider here are the size of your furniture and props, and how you are going to transport them to the venue of the market.   For example I have a great set of shelves that would be really attractive as part of my display in a stall, but they can only go in a trailer, not in my car.  Taking a trailer will work well for some venues but not for others, so making sure you know what you are taking and HOW you are taking it is good to work out well in advance so that changes can be made if necessary.

If you are going to use a table cloth (cannot recommend this enough) you need to make sure that you have one that fits your table/s, and check whether it needs cleaning, ironing, etc.  Again – not something you want to be doing the night before a market if you can help it.

Having a trial run of your set up a few days prior to the market is a good plan as it allows you to check that you will fit into your allocated space, that you have all the pieces you need, and that nothing needs repair or replacing.  If you are relying on the venue to provide a table, display board, or chair, make sure that you know the dimensions so that you can measure and check your equipment at home and know that it will fit.

5. Know how much product you have and what you need to make before the market.

I know I sound like Captain Obvious but you might be surprised by the number of times designers ask a few days before a big market how much stock they should bring.   If you are going to have a successful market then you need to have this worked out a few weeks in advance.   It is a good idea to make a list of all the products that you already have, and how many of each item you have, then to make a list of what your target amount to take to market is.    This then allows you to map out how much you need to make before the market.   In determining how much product to take things to think about are what sort of traffic the market is expected to get, how long it goes for, what have been your best sellers previously, etc.   One designer I know who attends a quarterly market keeps records of each market so she can predict how much stock to bring for different times of the year.  When you are starting out it is definitely a bit of trial and error so it is important to have a plan and then you can assess after the market what worked and what didn’t.

I recently read a comment in a forum I belong to by a woman who explained that in deciding whether to attend a market she looks whether she can make 10 times the cost of the stall hire. If she can’t then she doesn’t apply.   This is useful to think about when determining your stock levels.    If you are paying $20 for a stall then on this formula you need to sell $200 worth.  If you have paid $50 you need to sell $500 worth. How much do your products cost – do you have enough to sell to make that sort of money?   Do you have a good level of stock at the price point that you think will sell best? For example a school fair will probably see a high turnover at the low price point with kids spending their pocket money and parents supporting the local school.  At a design market touting itself as high quality, exclusive, etc, customers are going to be willing to spend larger amounts of money on big purchases so you would be short changing yourself if you only take a small number of high price point pieces.

6.   Tell people that you are going to be at this market

Social media promotion of an event that you are attending is a free but effective way of drawing customers to your market.   Most markets will have some graphics that you can use, or you can use your own images and set out the location, date and time of the market.   Creating a Facebook event and inviting all your friends is another great way to make sure that people know that it is on.  And don’t just tell them once – remind people in the lead up to the market that you will be attending and share some images of what you are bringing with you to the market.  Build a campaign so that they can’t avoid knowing that there is a market on next Saturday and that you will be there, and that there are lots of other great things to do in the area.

7.  Read the stallholder information

When I was working on the administrative side of a market it was incredibly frustrating to have repeated frantic phone calls from stallholders asking questions that had already been answered multiple times.   It was equally frustrating to arrive at the market to hear stallholders say things like ‘If I had known there was this event on at the same time as the market I would have brought different products’ when the details had been provided and advice given on this very issue a number of times.   So many of the designers would then say ‘Oh I don’t have time to read that material’.    Really???  This is your business and you don’t have time to read the information that will help you to have a really successful market experience, not get fined for breaking local bylaws, be promoted as a designer to watch, etc?

If you are serious about getting the most out of your market experience, do yourself a favour and read the material provided.    Know what time you can bump in and what time you have to bump out by.   Know what the rules are about whether you can set up a marquee inside a building, whether you need to have your electrical cords tagged and tested, whether you will be allowed to drive into the venue or not.    Know whether you need to provide your own tables and chairs, what size your allocated space is, whether there is free wi-fi, and what will get you banned from the market!  Because when you don’t know these things and are confronted with them during your set up, or in the middle of selling your products it causes nothing but stress!!

 

If you are on top of these 7 things in the weeks leading up to the market you are attending then you are well on your way to a successful market experience!    My next post will be the list of things that you need to take with you to a market – the checklist of what to pack the day before.   If you have any suggestions to add to the list of pre-market preparation I would love to hear from you!

To market, to market. Part One – 5 things to think about before you hold a market stall

In preparation for my return to the world of being a market stall holder in a few weeks time, I am going to publish a series of posts on preparing for a market, and attending a market.      I have spent the last few years working on the other side of the fence, supporting designers to hold stalls themselves, and giving advice on how to maximize their sales, their business and their brand.    Now that I am back on the designer side of the fence it is time to remember all my good advice and apply it to myself.  By writing a series of posts I hope to help myself remember all that good advice, and share it with you at the same time!

  1. What is the purpose of you having a market stall? 

This might sound silly but actually there are lots of different reasons for taking your products to market.   These can include testing your products, marketing your products, taking orders for future delivery of custom products, attracting wholesaler buyers, and, of course, making money.  Your purpose might be a combination of all of these reasons, but it is good to be clear with yourself why you are doing this, as it will help guide your decisions about which markets to apply for, what products to take with you, how to display your products and how to design your stall presentation.

2. Who is your target customer?

While it is easy to say ‘anyone who wants to buy my stuff’, actually knowing who your target customer is can help you with everything from which stalls to apply for, to how to display your products and how to market them.    When I was holding market stalls selling my bags I had a description of my target customer that I wrote down – it included the sort of job my customer might have, the things she liked to do in her spare time, and where she lived.    While my target customer never actually presented herself to me and said ‘Hi, what you have is perfect for me, let me buy it all’, having a clear idea of who I was aiming my products at helped a lot.  It especially helped a lot when someone who didn’t fit my target market criticised my pricing, or when someone who didn’t fit my target market started a conversation with me that ended up with them learning more about my product and buying it after all!

My target customer is more than someone who likes tea.   My target customer also includes people who are buying gifts, who like quirky ideas, quality materials, and unique, one of a kind items.   This means that they probably aren’t going to be found in abundance at a garage sale set up in the carpark of a shopping centre, but will definitely be found at a market promoting handmade or local makers.

3. Do you know your brand and how you want to represent it?

Describing how you develop your brand is a whole separate post, but the question is, do you have a brand, and do you know how you want to use your brand to sell your products?   Knowing your brand can help with things like how you want to display your products, what you will wear while working on your stall, what colours and styles you will use in your signage, and how you will ‘dress’ your stall.   For example, if you are selling a product that is organic and earthy in nature, your brand is likely to be one based on nature, clean lines, and healthy.   Having a market stall dressed with flashing coloured lights and blaring 80’s rock is not representing your brand or telling your story.

My brand is more than just a logo (although my logo reflects my brand).   It is about handmade items made with care using quality materials to create unique, one of a kind, products, and products that are kind to the environment.  My stall set up needs to convey this, so there will be no flashing Christmas lights, or hawker style inducements as they don’t reflect my brand.    (There probably will be a few cups of tea happening though!)

4. Do you have a range of products that will appeal to different price points?

If your products are all handmade, unique or artisan items they are likely to have a higher price point.   Not all customers can afford large purchases, but many are attracted to your stall by the promise of beautiful things, so having a range of items with differing prices can allow them to buy something that gives them that sense of being part of your story, without breaking their bank.   At my first stall at the Handmade Markets, selling my bags, I also had a box of fat quarters for sale.   My bag prices started at $40, but the fat quarters were $5 and $6 each.  Part of my brand at that time was about sharing a love of beautiful fabrics in each piece that I made, so selling some of those fabrics stayed with the brand, but allowed for smaller purchases too.    I also had smaller pouches and pencil rolls priced between $10 and $25, again providing a range of prices for those attracted to my brand.

5.Is there a cohesion between your products and how you are displaying them?

The ways in which you can display your products at a market are many and varied and range from the simple to the elaborate with everything in between.  I will write a separate post about the options with displays but the question I am asking here is a little like the question about branding, but has a different emphasis.   A designer who I know and respect changes her display props regularly, always looking for a point of difference between her stalls and her neighbours.  However there is one key point that always remains, no matter what her props – they are always re-purposed objects that subtly highlight that her products are ethically made from recycled clothing.  The cohesion between her products and her display means that the display doesn’t overpower the products but enhances them.

Knowing your brand helps here, but also knowing how your products will stand out helps with this question.   Now that I am focused on quirky tea paraphernalia using large shelf displays where teacups will look lost in proportion to the shelves isn’t going to work. I need to have smaller displays that won’t dwarf the products, and will allow them to  be clearly seen.   A flat shelf full of teacups has much less impact than a tiered display where each cup and saucer can be seen fully.   Tea and all it’s paraphernalia lends itself to a cosy indoors feel, so having an industrial style display shelf would be incongruous.

 

My next post will be all about the list of things you need to do prior to attending a market, and then I will follow it up with a list of things you need to take to the market.    With all of this writing I am sure to be organised for my first stall!   I would love to hear any advice you have about things to think about before you attend a market!

Being business like

A few weeks ago a recent acquaintance asked me if my ‘making ‘ was a business or a hobby. I have been pondering this ever since. A couple of years ago the answer was straightforward- business. I had a plan, I made enough profit that I had to pay tax and there was regular money making activity going on.

Then I had a break for over a year. Little income, no regular activity and no plan. Until 3 months ago when something clicked and I started making again. At first it was just making for making’s sake but it has grown again and while I don’t yet have a fully laid out business plan I do have some vague mental ideas about where I am going! Some of it is instinctual from my earlier time in business and some of it is aspirational because I continue to daydream that my life will magically change to create space for me to have time to be successful. A lot of it is held back by my pessimism/reality checks that my plans are so often undone by family life and my resultant mental health. So I ask myself, like a mantra, ‘hobby or business , hobby or business?’

Where does the line cross from one to another? For me I think it comes with making decisions about ‘making’ in a profitable, repeatable way. My crazy crocheted tea cosies where I create a whole new pattern for each piece? Hobby. I don’t recover the cost of time spent in making each piece if I apply a business model. But do I love making them? Yes!!!! Reusable tea bags? Business. Now that testing has finished I have a repeatable process for making, marketing and selling them.

All the things in between? Some land on the side of hobby, some cross the line to business. What to do with all of that? At this stage my approach is that it is all business. The unique, one of a kind, time intensive creations are attention getters that have a marketing function. The repeatable patterns that can be made in batches cover the costs of making the one off pieces. It all works together to fund materials, marketing and growth.

I also think that for me, thinking of what I am doing as a business helps to add a piece of self esteem back into a life where I previously self-identified as successful through my career achievements – a business is something that is about me, something that other people admire, something I can succeed at. (Because let’s face it, any judgement on my success as a parent and carer won’t really be known until they are grown and leading happy healthy lives!!)

The next hurdle is a mental one. I have products that are ready to wholesale so I can, in theory, start marketing them to retailers to stock. Gulp. But I haven’t. It remains on my ‘to do’ list. Why? Because the last few years have been so much like a roller coaster ride I have an ingrained fear that I won’t be able to keep any commitments that I make. Which begs the next question – why am I worried about letting others down? Do they really have high expectations of me or am I just setting my own bar too high and then self sabotaging so that I don’t reach it? Hmmmm…. self-analysis via writing this post indicates that I am, as usual, my own worst enemy!!

To shift myself fully into that business mindset it is probably time to write the plan down, instead of having vague aspirational thoughts and wandering around making stuff. Time to be a grown up, do the analysis and make a clear decision on business vs hobby. Wish me luck!

(In the background I have been playing with fabric combinations to make fabric insulated tea cosies- getting back to my happy place combining colours and patterns!! I have also been perfecting the cactus teacosy pattern!)

If you also ponder the line between hobby and business I would love to hear your thoughts !

Quelling the inner critic

Are you your own worst critic?  I know I am.  I can immediately list all the things that I have done wrong, could have done better, should have done better, should have known better, but I have to stop and think before I can list what has gone well.  You may have noticed in my posts that I try to talk about the good things that have happened.  This is my personal training ground to focus on the good and put the not-so-good into perspective.

With that in mind let me share what I have achieved in the last few days!  I sat down on Saturday and made 5 and 3/4 handbags (the last quarter had to wait until the next day when I realised, late at night, that I had made a small error that required a lot of unpicking to rectify). And I am proud of them!

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One of them sold that night, so I made a another one from the same fabric the next day, and finished off the one that I hadn’t completed on Saturday.  So in one weekend I made 7 handbags.

Then I sewed up 14 bibs, without their snaps and chews.  I was kicking goals for those two days!  I even managed to do a load of laundry, undertake yet another (futile) search for missing items of clothing for the chicks, take the dog for a walk over to drop some things off to the chicks at their father’s house, and to talk to my Mum for over an hour on the phone.

On Monday morning I zipped around cleaning the house in readiness for a mentoring workshop.  (I will come back to that in a minute).  Over the noise of the vacuum cleaner I heard the dog going berserk and opened the door to find a courier delivering a large box from China.  My teething chews arrived!

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The colours are delightful and just as I ordered them, the quality is great and the sight of them had me dancing around the house (which meant that it wasn’t particularly pristine for my mentoring session but it wasn’t the end of the world!)

The mentoring session was fantastic.  (Yes, yes I will get to that in a minute.)  I felt inspired, energised and ready to tackle my own business when we finished.  And then….I tried sewing my new teething pieces onto my bibs.  Slump.  Big time.  The improved quality and flexibility means that, even after a lot of research and tension, needle and thread adjustment, my domestic machine can’t cope with them.  (The samples were okay to sew but I increased the thickness in order to provide a better quality…….without realising that this would impact the ability of my machine to sew through them.  Obvious now of course.)  Determined not to feel like a complete failure I drove across town to collect my good old workhorse Bernina that has been in for a long overdue service.  And discovered that the shop that was servicing it sells Industrial machines.  I have been researching them online for a while so took the opportunity to pick the brain of the shopkeeper.  Then I went back this morning with samples of leather, denim, bamboo, the silicone teethers, etc and tested them out.  What a difference!!!!!  The stitches through the teether looked perfect – and doubling over my thickest leather wasn’t a problem for the machine.  I am hooked!  But this particular shop has only just started stocking industrial machines, hasn’t built or set them up properly, doesn’t have a lot of options or choices, and they are quite expensive.  So…. back to the computer, more research, phone calls, searching, tagging, searching…….  My head hurts!  I finished off the new bibs with some of the original stock of teethers, and will have to hold off on launching the new teethers until I acquire an appropriate machine.  I have a solution, but it has exhausted me in the process!

The mentoring?  I told you I would get back to it!  As part of my reflection on what I have to offer, what strengths I have, and what excites me, while assessing how I want to live my life, and find that balance with the needs of my chicks, I realised that all the growth I have experienced over the last couple of years with starting and building my business, and researching every step of the way to the nth degree means that I have a large body of knowledge to share!  And I get really animated and excited when I get to share it with other people!  (My years of being a lawyer, manager, leader, etc don’t hurt either!)

Because I am working on quelling that inner critic it took me a while to form a firm plan, but the plan is taking shape, the inner voice is being told to pipe down, and I have started to offer my services as a mentor for other creative people in business.  I have held a couple of group sessions that have gone really well, and have more planned.  I have come away feeling energised just from the community that exists in a group of craftspeople and artists.  I am excited to see where each of these women will grow their business to, as their ideas and talents are inspiring.   At this stage I have only offered the sessions to a small group of people I know, while I assess structures, venues, approaches etc, but over the next few weeks I hope to launch this as a service that can be utilized by people in my local area, but also people anywhere in the world, through the wonders of Skype!  My feedback so far has been positive, and useful, but I am taking my time and not rushing in to oversell what I have to offer, and not undersell the value that I can add!  Another exercise in taming the inner critic is underway!

Other lessons so far this week include that taking a fresh look at branding and marketing my business is useful.  A reminder from the lovely ladies at Shop Handmade (where I sell my bibs and bags here in Canberra) about packaging saw me re-evaluating what I like in a product and looking at my products from that perspective.  Today I spent some time designing a new package for the bibs.  They will now be packaged in a clear bag (that can be resealed if customers want to open it to feel the fabric) with a sticker on the front telling them who made it, and an insert inside with the care details and the story of the bib (you know – where it was made, what music was playing, etc!)  I am not sure if this is the final design for the packaging, because everything is evolving, but for now I am happy to put them on display in the Shop!

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After a few days of highs, and then lows, I think that tomorrow is a day for even-ness.  Hmmmm…. lets see how that plan goes!

Celebrations

I can’t believe that I completely skipped referring to Mother’s Day in my last post – and that it has taken me all week to post again!  My own beautiful mother (you know – the one who flies in to help at a moment’s notice, who was my super-assistant preparing for the Christmas markets last year, who is amazing in all areas) is worthy of a day of her own.  Last year she was with the chicks and I on Mother’s Day and was part of the celebrations.  This year we missed her and had to suffice with a phone call.  That meant that I got all the celebration fuss from the chicks on my own!  First of all they presented me with the most wonderful gifts including a ‘Mummy Survival Kit’ they had made with their step-mother – chocolates, panadol, throat lozenges (for when I have been yelling too much!!), tea bags, a scratch and win lottery card (I didn’t), a needle and thread so I can always sew, a bottle of gin (they know me so well!), and bed socks, all in a beautifully decorated container!

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The middle chick had made me a jar of cleaning slime (!!), the boy bought me a new mug with chocolates inside it, the eldest chick bought me some bath fizz, and they all gave me a mug decorated with little birds.  Now this was all pretty wonderful, but they topped it all off with my breakfast in bed.  First the menu, then the preparation and delivery.

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(For the record I had ‘Perfect Pancakes, Everything tastes better with Bacon, a cup of tea and freshly squeezed orange juice!)  They even stuck the order up on the cupboard above the stove, and presented me with my bill (to be paid in hugs and kisses) when I was finished.  My little people never cease to amaze me at all they can achieve!

I hope that you were able to celebrate Mother’s Day with your mother, or, if you are a mother, with your children.

The week then started off with a new idea I am pursuing.  I invited a small group of craftspeople that I know to participate in a group mentoring session, facilitated by me, to discuss the business side of having a creative business.  Three amazingly talented women were able to attend and we had a really interesting two hours talking, sharing, and exploring ideas.  It is such a privilege to be able to share the knowledge that I have gathered about having a creative business, and we are going to meet again soon to continue our discussion.  I am exploring the concept of being able to offer this as a service for individuals and groups – including by Skype for those who don’t live close by, so as I develop the concept I will keep you informed.  There is something so invigorating about being in a conversation with other people who are developing their craft and are interested in how they can take it to the public – this is going to be fun!  I added a few new links to the Resources page (at the top of the screen) so do pop by and check them out.

A large part of my week has been spent juggling children’s sporting activities and social lives, attempting to get organised at home, and getting involved in some discussions about my future (wooooo…..scary stuff!)  This has meant that not a huge amount of sewing has happened.  Which is a bit slack given that it is three weeks until the Handmade Markets and I have 1000 ideas that I wanted to have completed for the Markets!  Looks like I am going to have to rein in my ideas and streamline the items I am making (which is of course very sensible, but always slightly frustrating to any creative person who loves to follow bright and shiny objects and ideas wherever they may go!)  I have cut out a pile of fabrics ready to create bags, and will be making bibs this weekend too – all those pretty fabrics have been calling my name all week!!!

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However today I spent the day working with a fellow craftsperson, teaching him how to sew a cushion cover.  He normally works with wood (and makes beautiful creations with his wife that you can see at Creations by Holmes) and it was really interesting as we worked together on designing and making the cover how similar the principles of construction using fabric and wood are.  Although it took most of the day we were both pretty happy with the end result and, as usual, identified how to do it much more efficiently on the next occasion.  The exchange of ideas and concepts in sewing and wood-working was a really good intellectual exercise too!

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I wrote last week about the humour that we have been enjoying about the fact that I am officially a ‘human’.  Another factor in being a human is that we ‘mature’ according to my optometrist.  I tried to tell him that it is just getting older but he insists that my eyes aren’t getting older, they are ‘maturing’!  Anyway – whatever the phrase, I have had to accept that my eyes are changing and after wearing glasses since I was 12 I now discover that I need to move to multi-focal lenses!  Eeek.  Forget the ‘maturing’ thing – that just feels old!  A friend and I had vowed not to move to multi- or bi-focal lenses until we were 50.  I had to send her a text of defeat telling her that I couldn’t wait that long after all.  She was in a very high level meeting and tells me that she saw my text and couldn’t help laughing despite her surrounds!  Ah well – at least it brought a smile to someone’s day!

I have many other exciting things bubbling around in my head, but have to wait a while before sharing them.  What I can say is that I have had great joy this week in making decisions that are good for my family, even though they may not be good for my finances.  The future looks different, but it looks happy.

And now I need to leave the vortex of the internet and get to work sewing!!!

 

Being human

This week I am able to announce that I am officially human.  Even better, I am a local human.  I am one of 101 local humans selected to be part of a ‘human brochure’ about Canberra.  My chicks think it is hilarious that I am now a local human.  Over the next couple of months I will meet my fellow 100 humans and we will get to visit all sorts of VIP events at local attractions – many of which involve food and/or alcohol, and places I haven’t visited.  The chicks get to attend a few events with me too.  Then we get to spend time sharing our experiences in our local region, using social media, culminating in a weekend in October where we can show our city off to family from out of town.  It is a pretty big deal.

Of course, you know me – part of me is terrified about all the juggling of competing priorities, about letting myself put me first for once, about meeting all these uber-cool fellow humans and remembering that they have all been fooled into thinking that I am uber-cool too.  The other part of me is really excited about getting to go out and have fun with adults doing cool things!  If you follow me on any of the social media I use (instagram, twitter, facebook – oh my I am so cool these days) you will see the hashtag #humanbrochure appearing and you will now know what it is about! (and I promise I will try to reduce my use of the word ‘cool’, given that it isn’t actually that ‘cool’ these days.)

Of course, with the confirmation that I am human, comes the realisation that I am a mere mortal, and therefore fatally flawed.  Which isn’t really a surprise to anyone!  The notification about being human also arrives at the same time as a whole slew of good things, and an avalanche of challenges.  Life.  Gets you every time doesn’t it?

Good things first (then you can choose to skip the challenges if you want!)  I was selected as part of the launch of a new feature on Ebay where you can make your own collections of things that you like.  They selected a pile of bloggers and other people to create the first collections, to set the scene for the launch.  So far I have had two sets of 5 collections approved, and am working on a 3rd.  I tend to use Ebay for very functional things, so taking the time to stop and look around has been interesting.  One thing I have learned, very quickly, is the importance of good product shots.  I have been aware of it for selling on Etsy for a long time, but really hadn’t thought about it in the Ebay context, until I was looking for images that would hang together well.  Oh my there are some shockers out there.  One image of a gorgeous vintage porcelain piece had a background of a piece of uncovered, dirty rubber foam.  Others showed delicate things for babies sitting on the carpet for the shots – which just didn’t work!  The whole image of Ebay as a place for bargains might be the reason, but given the amazing array of good available there, I suspect that the move to collections might start to have an impact on the way people choose to display their wares.

The next good thing was lovely feedback from a customer, lovely feedback from a colleague, and a request to be allowed to quote one of my blog posts in someone’s book (!!!) all within a day or two.  It is a bit like getting a compliment from a random stranger while walking down the street – it makes your day!  I have also managed to have some of my items on Etsy make the front page after renewing my involvement in my teams on the forums – one of those cases where promoting others really does help yourself.

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This one made the front page of the US site, so massive exposure for my bag!

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The middle chick is currently directing the shooting of a video that will star the boy, as an entry in a competition to represent the local milk company.  Whether they win or not is irrelevant as they are having so much fun making it, negotiating the story line, and adding special effects – it is hilarious to listen to them!

And finally, I was able to sit down and make my first bag using the leather I recently purchased.  It is very different from sewing with fabric – not just because of the bulk of the leather when dealing with seams etc, but because it seems to stretch and move when it is sewn (despite my judicious use of clothes pegs to hold it together) and unpicking (which I did a LOT of) leaves holes in the leather that don’t disappear like holes in fabric do.  Still – the results are so different to fabric that I think I will continue learning and practising.  I am considering investing in an industrial machine – I suspect that would help a lot!  For this one I used some leather from a piece of milled hide, a part of a sleeve from a suede jacket a friend sent me, and lined it with an indigenous print cotton.

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As for the challenges?  My boy.  That beautiful soul who snuggles in and remembers the most awesome details about conversations you have had years before, who loves to be able to help, who fills my heart with joy.  Once again we are back to dealing with challenges.  The respite gained after the trip to the chiropractor was short lived.  I suspect the change in houses over the weekend contributed to it.  For a boy who doesn’t deal well with change, moving between houses each week is challenging.  I have said it before and I will say it again.  Divorce sucks.  It doesn’t just suck because the adults are hurt and grieving. It sucks because the children who have no control over their environment get hurt, over and over, for years after the fact.  I struggle every day to think about how I can reduced the impact of our family circumstances on my boy.  There are no simple answers.   However his school continue to find ways to support him to feel okay about himself.  When a relief teacher did something in reprimanding my boy that still makes me shake with emotion, the boy was able to come home feeling good about himself (and completely unaware of how upset I was) because the executive teachers made sure that he was safe and felt wanted and useful.  God bless them.   We are entering another phase of analysis and diagnosis with yet another specialist.  The next few months will be challenging.  Again.  Thank heavens that when he is good he is awesome!

Heading into the weekend with the rounds of winter weekend sports, children who need to be ferried from friend to friend, and all the other activities that seem to fill our days of ‘rest’ I am hoping to be able to get a little bit of sewing done – and finishing those last few rounds on the rug for the girls’ room!  I’ll check back in and let you know how it went!

Have a great weekend, wherever you are!