Another Market Wrap up

I am sitting at home with a large cup of tea reflecting on the weekend that was – the Handmade Market.  It was a big weekend – loads of customers, lots of sales and lots of lovely discussions about wool, tea, teabags, the environment, and everything in between!   I sold out of reusable tea bags, have very low levels of stock to list in my online shop, and generally need to get back to work to restock – not a bad position to be in!   First of all though I need to clean my house – the last week of intense preparation means that once again my housework was at the bottom of the list of priorities – oops!

A few highlights of the weekend in pictoral form – including a photo of me that a customer took and sent to me!

What next?   Possibly a market in August, otherwise focusing on rebuilding stock and filling custom order will be my priority over the next week or so!   (After I sleep, clean, and catch up on all my messages!!)

Mid-winter making

This is the perfect time of the year for making – it is cold outside but inside in front of the fire, with the winter sun shining through the glass, is perfect!    My fingers have been busy with new creations and returns to old ones, and gearing up for the next Handmade Market on 28 and 29 July.  And I have been trying out my self-description as an artist!   I have been surprised at how easily it rolls off the tongue and how people just accept it as a fact!   I am reminded that confidence is everything – if you are confident in yourself then others accept that you are authentic.

I have filled a few custom orders, and created some new designs in the tea cosy range.  This custom order, for the Devonshire Teas being served at the Henry Lawson Festival in Grenville a couple of weeks ago was fun!

 

Of course I have also been busy growing my second business as a Thermomix consultant!   It has been wonderful to rediscover my creativity in the kitchen as I am reminded again about all that can be achieved with food and good equipment!  I have been enjoying getting out and meeting customers, and having that time for myself on my own terms!  Occasionally I think I am mad for trying to grow two businesses at the same time, but they both provide such different inspiration and energy to my life that I am going to keep them both going and see where it leads me!  (I was a bit excited when Thermomix released a new recipe collection aimed at High Teas though – the overlap seemed too perfect!) I have uploaded a few recipes to the Thermomix Recipe Community website, so if you are interested in Pineapple Whip, Gluten Free pizza bases or Gluten Free Banana Bread, head on over and have a look!   I have also been playing with hiding vegetables in snacks with these spinach scrolls!

I had a moment of madness a few weeks ago when, after a cortisone injection in my shoulder left me in considerable pain, I decided to play with a pattern I had found on Pinterest as a distraction from the discomfort.  I shared it on my personal Facebook page and my friends started requesting them straight away!  I ordered in some nice thick cotton from Bendigo Woollen Mills and have started filling orders for *drum roll please* “Dishcloths of Holey Profanity”.   They are based on the pattern created by TeezToppers but I have added in my own variations to make them suit my style.  I haven’t decided whether to continue this as a full line in my handmade business but they are certainly providing a pile of fun for my friends at the moment!   I say that these are the perfect dishcloths for tackling yet another mess in the kitchen that you didn’t make!

In addition to fresh tea cosy patterns I have also been working on restocking jewellery for my online store, Trove and The Collective Store in Brisbane. Next I think it will be time for some candle making as I have some teacups that are just crying out for a bit of love!

Of course all of this wonderful time to create does come at a cost.  I dread having to open my studio door at the moment as it is chaos in there, and I keep hoping no one drops in for an unannounced visit as my housework is definitely below standard! But my sanity is relatively secure so I am happy despite the guilt!

I hope that this season finds you with time to do the things that are important to you!

 

I am an artist

My attendance at the Handmade Market went really well! Not only did I sell tea cosies, cup cosies and reusable tea bags, but I was able to talk to so many interesting people over the weekend!  I think that the face to face interaction with customers is one of the absolute best things about selling at a market.  They get to hear your story and you get to hear theirs, and it fills up my creative soul to have this interaction!

Of course one of the lovely things about selling at a market is the delightful compliments that you get along the way.   I think my favourites were ‘You have made me smile’, and ‘I can’t help but be happy when I look at your stall’.   Wow – talk about hitting me right in the emotions!   What a privilege to be able to give people joy like that!

On the technical side of things I was pretty happy with my stall set up and display options (there is a lot to be said for being in the right place at the right time when it comes to our local recycling centre – the shelves I bought for $10 could not have been made to fit any better!)

Post market is always a time for filling custom orders, some analysis, some housework, and some planning.  I added a bit more into the mix this time, as I have started in my new role as a Thermomix consultant so was also looking after customers, bookings and cooking.  Then along came a fantastic opportunity that threw a spanner in the works – well, slowed down all attempts to catch up on housework anyway!   I had a call from a friend who asked if I could make 30 tea cosies in a space of 8 days to be used at the launch of the High Tea service at Pialligo Estate.  They wanted some fabric, some woollen, and for me to be as creative as I wanted in their design.  What a dream brief!!   Of course I took it – and then sat down to assess what I could achieve in the time allowed.  The end result was 20 woollen cosies and 10 fabric dome-cosies.    The interesting thing was that my imagination and creativity didn’t diminish as I worked, but actually grew!  It was as if letting myself be free to create kept feeding the ability to create – it was so much fun!

I spent hours working out patterns for silly things like puffy hearts, macarons and amigurumi birds, which will never be reclaimed in financial terms but which were massive investments in terms of creativity.  My mother stepped in to help by creating knitted cosy bases that I then embellished, and my kids became very used to me saying ‘no – I have to keep working’ when they saw me sitting in front of the fire and TV with my hook in hand and thought that meant I was free to attend to their every need!   My Dad kept my wood box full, and drove my son to school.  Mum bought me groceries when I ran out of the basics, and I carried wool and a hook wherever I went.  And then I delivered them, on time, and with my fingers crossed that they would be liked.

Through this process I truly realised for the first time, despite being told by other people over time, that I am an artist.   I take ideas and create them from wool, through a complicated series of knots and twists with a hook, and they are unique, beautiful and works of art.    I had started to accept this in my subconscious but delivering my work to a room full of staff who were preparing for their High Tea service cemented it.  I am not a ‘crafter’, or a ‘hobbyist’, or even a ‘crocheter’.  I am an artist.  Talk about a rush of joy and self worth!  I highly recommend taking a commission that pushes you to your limits to really learn about who you are artistically and creatively!

I have always found it hard to accept praise and believe it, and have struggled with my own self worth for many years.  Taking this step of announcing to myself, and now to all of you, that I am an artist is empowering and freeing.  I have worn many labels over the course of my life, and continue to wear many now – mother having been the dominant one for the last few years. Adding ‘artist’ to the list is definitely about something that is just me, and I like it!

What next?   Well, I have another stall at the next Handmade Market on 28 and 29 July, some custom orders to fill, a Thermomix business to grow, and a creative force to release!  Ha – that sounds scary!   What I actually mean is that I have lots of creative ideas continuing to grow and gather in my head, so I need to get them out and into the world.  Stand by for more updates!

To Market To Market to show off Tea Cosies

Just popping in quickly to let you know that I am still alive and very busy being creative!   This weekend I have my return to the Handmade Markets in Canberra after a 4 year absence!  Well – I wasn’t really absent, I was working for Handmade Canberra, but this is my return as a designer, so it is a bit exciting!    I have been flat out making and designing and getting carried away with ideas, so here are a few of the products I will have on sale and on display at the markets this weekend!

All that colour!!   I will be back soon to fill you in with more detail of what has been happening in the nest, what other projects I have on the go and, of course, how the markets go, so stay tuned!

Acknowledging the worth of your creative output

In planning a business I find that it is useful to focus on that word ‘business’.   I also find that it is really hard to bring that focus when the business involves handmade products. When we make something ourselves we naturally pour a piece of our soul into the end result.  I can associate different products that I have made with different times in my life – music I was listening to, TV I was watching, emotions that were being experienced – and bringing a business lens to those products feels like I have to turn off the connection I have to the piece I have made.  When I think of business I tend to think of words like ‘practical’ and ‘hard’ and ‘serious’, which aren’t the lovely creative feelings that I have when I am designing a colour combination for a crochet project, or thinking about the design aspects of a piece of jewellery.  How to bring those two concepts together is the struggle that many artists experience.   I don’t have all the answers to this, but wanted to share some of my thoughts in the hope that they may be of use to other creative business people.

The first part of finding the connection between your creative side and your business side is to work out whether in fact you want a business.   I see so many discussions online that start with the line “I am starting a business sewing children’s clothes.  I don’t want to make money from it but I want to know about insurance and other requirements”.   The concept of running a business and not making money means that straight away the maker is having a conflict – if you don’t want to make money then it isn’t a business.   You might wonder why someone wants to make products but not make money.   Personally I don’t think that these people truly don’t want to make money from their products – I think that they don’t feel worthy.   They don’t believe that their products are as good as someone else’s and therefore feel bad charging money for what they make.  They think that because their goods are handmade, they are somehow inferior to what is sold in shops, or that people won’t want to pay for goods that aren’t sold in shops.   I think that there are a small number of artists/designers/creatives who truly don’t want money – they want appreciation and love, but they are rare, and appreciation and love does not pay the bills.

If you want to make goods and sell them to cover your costs because you get joy from making, then you aren’t really in business either – you are just selling your products to pay for your hobby.   Which is awesome!  Nothing better than selling a painting and knowing that the new set of watercolours that you have had your eye on is now within reach!  But you aren’t in business.

You know that you are in business when you make products with the purpose of selling them for profit.   Profit does not mean that you make a bag using materials that cost $5 and you sell it for $8.   Profit means that you take into account your time and expertise, all the costs involved in making products including electricity, insurance, time for research, time spent marketing, and then add on profit on top.   Profit is what allows you to earn a living from making, rather than just covering your costs.

Having worked out that you are actually in business, and that you want to make a profit, it is time to hit any feelings of unworthiness on the head.  Any time you have the thought that ‘but I can’t charge that much, it is just handmade’ you need to smack that thought out of the stratosphere, because whether something is handmade or mass produced in a factory doesn’t determine whether an item is worthy of being purchased.  If you make an item that someone else wants to buy then you are entitled to charge for your time and skills.   People buy products that they need or that appeal to them. Some people don’t understand that pricing for handmade items and will say it is too expensive – they are not your customers.   They might become your customers with a bit of education, but on the whole they are not the market you need to target.

To bridge that gap between your connection with your products and treating them like a business you need to build a bit of faith in yourself.   Once you have confidence that your products are made to a standard that you approve of, then you have to accept that they are worthy of being sold, and that selling them properly, for the right price, is just acknowledging or respect the intrinsic value in what you have made.

There are many well written articles about how to price your goods, value your talent, and promote your wares. Read them, and learn from them.   In my own experience, charging the higher price does not mean that items don’t sell.  However helping a customer feel good about spending that much money on your product by creating the story that goes with it can encourage the purchase, and help them to find the connection to the piece that you have yourself.   This is how we take the creative connection and successfully combine it with a business approach.   I recently sold a handmade tea cosy to a customer who saw a picture of it on my Facebook page and wanted to buy it, without knowing the price.   I gave her the price and then told her the story about how the wool that it is made from is grown on farms in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, not too far from where I live, and then processed in Victoria, making it authentically Australian wool.  I explained that I had made the cosy myself, using my own design and I was particularly taken with this design and colour combination myself.   She happily purchased it, because the tea cosy was now more than a photo on a screen, but had a story about it, that included where it came from, and the love that was put into making it.   The connection between business and creativity was successful!

Creating the story about your product is what makes it different from every other product out there.   It shows that your product has qualities that other products don’t have, whether it is in your choice of materials, or the patterns you use, and that your product is made with personal care and attention, and that these are qualities that are valuable.   It is part of your marketing campaign, but also part of your process of acknowledging the worth of your creative output.

 

New ideas and old habits

This year has started with a bang but I still feel like I am back in the twilight zone between Christmas and New Year, where I am never really sure what the date or day is.  I find myself constantly wondering if March is a long way away, and being unsure of which weekend it is that various events are happening. I swear it is because my brain is too full, and not because of my advancing years.

Despite this sense of time escaping me, or perhaps because of it, I have been rather productive.   I have been analysing what works for me in my product lines,and what was a great idea but hasn’t really translated well.  As a result I am working on producing my tea cosies in ‘collections’.   I am still to fully tease out the names of these collections, but in theory there will be a classic collection, a colourful collection and an artisan collection.  I am not rushing into the final details for this plan because it seems to be benefiting from some reflection and refinement!    As part of the classic collection I have been working on some repeatable patterns, with the intention of being able to keep them easily stocked in my shops, and with the longer term intention of releasing the patterns for them. So far the classic collection consists of spots and stripes!

I also finally had a chance to play with an idea I have had for a while of combining patchwork and sashiko stitching to make some insulated dome tea cosies, and I am very happy with the results.

And of course some flowers were created and applied with gay abandon to a number of cosies.

One of the lovely discoveries that I have made over the last month or so, with thanks to a helpful friend, is the wool from Bendigo Woollen Mills.   It is wool that is grown near my home, and processed and died in Bendigo, so is 100% Australian.  It is also beautiful quality wool, so I am switching over to only use that wool in all future creations, which means that I will be supporting other Australian small business people in the process.

And I finally have my products in place at The Collective Store in Brisbane, and in Trove in Canberra.   (On reflection perhaps my sense of displacement in time has more to do with the sheer amount I have achieved so far this year!)

My initial display at Trove, Canberra

On the home front we have a slightly different landscape after my eldest chick was accepted to attend a boarding school located about 4 hours from home. She has settled in well and is discovering the differences between her all-girl Catholic school and this co-ed agricultural fully residential high school.  She will be home at the end of this week for a few days and I am looking forward to seeing her.  I must admit that I am very happy that the advent of smart phones means that I can stay in touch with her much more easily than when I was at boarding school myself.  Back then (in the dark ages) my sister and I had a phone call from my parents once a fortnight, or we had to dial the international operator to make a reverse charges call to them, and letters written and mailed that took a couple of weeks to arrive.  Now I can be texting with her before breakfast, send her a photo of something happening at home, and she has it instantly.  I am trying not to smother her with contact, but it is nice knowing that it is there when she needs it.

The two chicks who are still home in the nest are having their ups and downs.  I, and they, have fallen back into some old habits, which means that old patterns of behaviour aren’t changing in the way that I need them to. My current task is to form new habits myself, and then with them, in the hope of improving behaviour and school attendance respectively.  This parenting gig is hard and I have been tested a lot over the last few weeks.   I am definitely at the point of needing a break, so am working on putting steps in place to see if I can manage some time away. Fingers crossed!

For now though, it is time to sit and contemplate whether to crochet or sew this evening. Tough choices!    I hope that your weeks aren’t getting lost in the fog of being too busy, and that you are finding time to do little things for yourself.

 

But wait, there’s more…..

Okay, last week’s post about being accepted to have my products in store at in.cube8r Gallery and Emporium was pretty big.  But I may be topping it this week with the announcement of plans to be represented in not one but two more shops, and two more States along with it!

I had to practise setting up at home so that I could say that my products would fit into the space I will occupy in in.cube8r so I commandeered the coffee table as my stand in space!

First things first – my box of goodies is in transit to Melbourne today, and should arrive in time for the stocking of my products on 1 February.  (Still so exciting!)   I have included a couple of new lines of earrings in with the shipment too!

The next shop that I will be appearing in is The Collective Store at Wynnum in Queensland (yes, another interstate move!)   This is a beautiful shop that represents handmade artists and designers and gives us the ability to have exposure in a different part of the country!  I will be sending up a box of goodies over the next week, to start my appearance in their store from 12 February.  I may also need to drive up for a visit at some point, given that it is one of my favourite places!   Just in time for sorting out what to send, I have another new range of earrings ready to join the collection, so will be sure to include those in my parcel.

And leaving the biggest announcement (personally) until last, I am very pleased to announce that I am joining the Trove Canberra Collective at the beginning of March (with my products starting to appear in store in late February.)   This is big because some of you might recall that way back when, (in fact about this time of year four years ago) I had an idea about setting up a pop-up shop with some fellow handmade designers in Canberra. I saw an empty shop and thought it might be a great idea to do for a month.   A group of us got together and the idea grew and became an idea about doing this for more than a month, and forming a collective to represent local artists and designers through a shop front.  It was an awesome idea and had lots of support but after a few months I had to face reality and withdraw from it because my family responsibilities were just too big and my time too limited.   But the groundswell of support continued and with lots of hard work the very successful Trove Collective has now been operating for several years.   I have always stayed in touch but didn’t feel in a position to join them until recently.   When I sat down at the beginning of the year to make a plan for how to build my business and to be smarter and more organised about my products, my processes and my brand I decided that it was time to put my hand up to see if I could, finally, join the collective.  I am so happy to be able to announce that I have been accepted!  It is like closing a circle and is a sign of how my plans are shaping, and how I am keeping a promise to myself to carve out some time for me and what I like.   Every now and then I have a moment of thinking to myself ‘what on earth am I doing’, but then I continue on making and designing and realise that all the hard work I have put in over the years has all been leading to this point where I know what I am doing and am happy doing it.

In other news I decided to push myself a little and, over the weekend, I entered two of my tea cosies in the Handicraft section of the Bungendore Show.  Because I sell my creations I thought I should do the right thing and enter the “Professional” class, which is open to all types of handcraft.   It was the biggest class in the section, with some amazing entries, so I was very pleased (and slightly relieved) to have been awarded a Highly Commended for my cactus tea cosy!   (First prize went to an incredibly beautiful leather saddle so you can see the competition was fierce!)  Putting yourself out there to be judged is tough!

All dressed up and ready to go to Missouri – 8 party favours!

We were also very lucky to have a visit from family who live in Missouri, USA, late last week.  I had met my second cousin 40 years earlier (I was VERY young at the time) but hadn’t met his wife.  She and I hit it off when I discovered that she loves tea and all the paraphernalia that goes with it! A match made in heaven!  I gave her a teapot necklace as a gift, and she then turned around and ordered a set of 8 to use as party favours at her next tea party back home!   I was delighted to be able to put them together, knowing that they are off to be shared with some tea loving ladies across the sea!

With all of that happening in my ‘business’ world you would think that things must be going smoothly on the home front!  Well – they aren’t too bad at the moment but this is the return to school week so anxiety levels are high for everyone.   My middle chick had an interview at her current school last week and her levels of distress at just having to walk through the gates were horrible to witness.   (Nothing to do with the school and everything to do with her perception of danger.)  She is being supported by a fantastic mental health team, and we have several strategies and plans in place to try and get her there, and engaged, but there are some ugly days ahead of us I fear.

Keeping life bright with some rainbow crochet therapy.

My eldest chick is waiting on tenterhooks to hear the outcome of an application to a different school (she jumps on me whenever my phone rings to see if it is the school) so she is a bit wound up too.  If she isn’t accepted at this new school she will happily return to her previous high school, with her friends and where she knows the teachers, so the outcome will be good either way.

The home classroom set up ready to go for this year

And my boy started back at school today!  Luckily his first day was a Distance Education day, where he and I worked on the packet of work sent by his correspondence school teacher.  I was dreading it to be honest, but the first piece of work we tackled grabbed his attention immediately and it was a great start to the school year.   He will go into his other school (the one with physical classrooms) for an hour tomorrow (boy am I hoping that we can increase his time at school this year) to meet his teacher and see his friends, so I will return to the daily drive-and-wait routine.   The good thing is that there are excellent Op Shops in the town where his school is, so I will be able to check them for teapots and teacups on a regular basis!

With all of that exciting news it is probably time for me to go and have a cup of tea and tackle some crochet!  My mind is buzzing with ideas at the moment so lets hope that I can translate them into creations!

I hope that you have had a good week, and that if you are getting children back to school I hope that it goes smoothly for everyone.

Presenting…..

Fanfare please!    Da da da da dum…………Big news from the nest today.   Starting from 1 February 2018 you will be able to find a selection of my products stocked in Melbourne!  I know – interstate even!   I have signed an agreement with the wonderful in.cub8r gallery and emporium, found on Smith Street in Fitzroy,  to take over one of their ‘cubes’ and make it all about tea!

After that news everything else seems a little pale in comparison, but there actually is more news!  The holiday period has been delightful.   We have had a house full of visitors several times a week, lots of kids laughing and playing, and generally sharing time happily.   And this means that I have had time to get some work done on my business.  Planning, scheduling, making and a bit of dreaming have all been happening.  I even did my filing and bookkeeping (just a few months or years overdue – ahem).   Of course this is how I was able to make the arrangements to start stocking my products in Melbourne.   There are further plans like that in the works, but I am sticking to my plan and not getting ahead of myself.

All of that lovely time to work means that there are new products in the pipeline, while some will be quietly retired as not really representing my brand.  I am eagerly awaiting some deliveries before I show you part of the new range I have planned, but can share my latest crochet pattern here today.   This came about after watching a friend put one of my cosies on her steel teapot.  I realised that it’s different shape meant that she was likely to burn her fingers putting the cosy on when the pot was full of hot water, and started looking at a design that would address the massive range of different shapes and sizes that teapots come in.   A few different ideas clicked together and the end result is this new design – classic, flexible, a little bit different and ridiculously practical despite it’s beauty!

The theory behind the design is that if you can slip a hot teapot into a cosy without having to fit the cosy over the spout and handle, the chances of being burnt are reduced.   So instead of slipping it over the top of the pot, the pot slides in from the side of the cosy, and is then fastened with a cord to shape the cosy to the pot.

The design is so simple that it provides its own embellishment and doesn’t need any added if you want to maintain that classic style.

But of course I can’t just leave things alone, so there is a rainbow and flower version coming along in the next day or so too!

Speaking of rainbows and flowers, here are two recent creations completed and listed in my online shop.   The Ladybug’s garden cosies are always popular, and everyone is unique.

And rainbows lend themselves to needing statements, so this time I added a proper statement – “Tea”.

It isn’t quite world domination by tea cosy, but it is a good start!

The next few days here are going to be extremely hot, so my plan is to move between the pool that I bought the children for Christmas (honestly one of the best ideas I have had in a long time) and the beautifully cool family room where my wool is all set up waiting for inspiration to hit while I have downtime from supervising the children making whirlpools and floating in an inflatable flamingo.

Stay cool, leave water out for the animals, and look after yourself.   This year is definitely going to be a marathon not a sprint.    (And if you are reading this in the northern hemisphere do the opposite – stay warm, and make sure your animals have shelter, but still look after yourself!)

The 2017 Wrap Up

It is only fitting that the last day of the year is the time when I finally sit down to reflect on the year that was.   I decided a few years ago to stop saying that the old year was horrible and the New Year would be awesome because there is no magic in turning the page of the calendar.  Life is what it is, and if I am always looking forward to the day when it gets better, I will miss the good that is happening right now.  With that being said, there is no harm is looking back, reflecting, and planning for different outcomes in the future, so it is with that spirit that I am writing this post.

On the family front 2017 can be summarised as the year of school changes!  My middle chick started high school, but after struggling with anxiety issues that interfered with her attendance, changed schools in the second half of the year.  Her attendance didn’t improve but her anxiety has, so there are plans in place to support her attendance this year.    My boy started the year at one primary school, then shifted to another, across the border, where he was placed in a support class which was much more successful than mainstream classes without the right supports.   His attendance was still limited to two hours a day, and then reduced to one hour a day, so in the last few weeks of the school year we transitioned to a combination of school attendance and Distance Education.  This is the plan for 2018, so I will be his teacher at home to cover the time when he is not at school.   And finally my eldest chick stayed at the same school all year, and made some great progress in her participation in class, and tried out new subjects like Engineering with much joy.   At the end of the year, following some health issues, I decided she should go and live with her father for a while so she bid farewell to her school and friends, only for the decision to be reversed after some professional advice about the wisdom of her move.   At the moment she is in limbo about which school she will attend in 2018, with several options open to her, including a return to her previous school.

We had our final family stay in hospital in Sydney as part of the ongoing support for managing my boy’s behaviour, and I am proud to say that the staff there couldn’t stop praising us for the major changes that we have made and how well we are doing as a family.  The skills that I learned there will stay with me for life and I often find myself thinking ‘What would Tamar (the senior psychologist on our team) say”  when faced with a new behavioural challenge.   How blessed we are that this service is provided under our Public Health system and didn’t cost me a cent but made such a change to our life.

Supporting three kids with mental health issues, one of whom also has disabilities, is tough work.  There are times when, as another one falls apart just when I think everything is going well, I wonder where I went wrong.  Luckily there are lots of great people around me who are good at calmly pointing out that I am not the cause of the various issues, and that sometimes life just sucks.   I have had some moments of falling apart during the year under the weight of trying to keep everyone’s heads above water, but am happy to be ending the year in a good frame of mind, with solid plans for supporting each child, and continuing the endless search for time for myself!

New teapot earrings made to my own design!

On the farm front we grew our flock by adding a new ram, Gordon Ram-say, who ensured his future with the production of 11 lambs in October, from 7 ewes.  Four of our previous lambs went to the butcher at around the same time, and we have since sold two ewes with lambs to our neighbours, so we are currently sitting at 16 head.   We renewed our chicken flock and currently have a standing delivery of 4 dozen eggs a week to friends in town, plus plenty for our own consumption, so it is going well – bar the current mite infestation that has me cleaning and spraying the coops every few days, and constantly feeling that I have tiny bugs crawling on me!   The realities of farm life!

Shadow

We acquired a new dog, with Shadow the Belgian Shepherd joining us in August, and then sadly lost our beloved Dottie in the week before Christmas.    Our house is a lot quieter without her and we miss her daily.

Dottie

The biggest change for me was the return to designing and making.   After a long period of stagnating, and being uninspired, the return to making started with a desire for a tea cosy for my glass teapot.   Then it grew!  Between researching and designing reusable teabags, collecting and re-purposing teacups by making candles, and planters, and then making tea themed jewellery, a whole new business has grown up under my existing brand.   With that growth I have found a new burst of energy, inspiration and joy.    I have attended three markets, and have plans for more in 2018.

Mesh tea infusers with removable charms are one of my new products going into 2018

I also have plans for products that are repeatable (instead of requiring a new design for each product as I have so often in the past) with ideas about selling some through shops as well as online.   Whether this all comes to pass or not my brain is happy to be back in use!

Organic cotton resusable tea bags

Heading into 2018 seems a little more full of portent that other years because 2018 is the year I turn 50.    I don’t think that there is a lot of magic in turning 50, or that life will suddenly change, but I have decided that there are various things that I can let go of now that I can no longer deny that I am a grown up.   Many of my habits have changed over the last few years anyway, so I no longer go shopping for new clothes, no longer worry about what is the latest trend/restaurant/bar/cocktail/book, and no longer worry that I am not worried!   Over the last decade I have been practising saying ‘No’, and I plan to continue this for as long as I am around.   I am working on identifying when the issue is mine, and when it truly belongs to someone else and therefore shouldn’t worry me.   And I am not investing time in people who don’t deserve the small amounts of free time that I have.  While my 20’s were about having adventures and learning to fit into my own skin, my 30’s were about building a family and my 40’s were about raising my children as a single parent and restructuring my life to achieve this, my aim for my 50’s is about being kind to myself, my kids and our planet.  Anything extra is a bonus!

Wishing you all a kind and peaceful New Year.

Time is marching on

All of a sudden it is December and I am meant to be thinking about putting up the Christmas tree and getting my presents ready.   Having just finished the celebrations for my boy’s 11th birthday it came as a bit of a shock when I realised that my eldest chick finishes school this week and that Christmas is only three weeks away!  What have I been doing with myself?

The short answer is focusing on family and on making.  The longer answer includes market preparation for a market that was cancelled for technical reasons, managing medical appointments for all three children, and trying to stay on top of the basics like feeding them and keeping the house clean.  (Some of those have been more successful than others!)

My son turned 11 last week and wanted to celebrate with a sleepover with three friends. One of them couldn’t make it but the two that did come had a great time and he truly felt that he had celebrated his birthday as he wanted to.   Phew!   It was pretty low key – I took them to the movies then we came home and made pizza, then they played games, built Lego, shot Nerf guns and slept!   Gone are the days of elaborate themed cakes and parties, treasure hunts and party bags, and what a relief that is!!

I have not started on my Christmas making or buying!   With not a lot of money around there won’t be extravagant purchases this year, but there will be handmade gifts, made with love and with the person they are being made for in mind.   Now to remember to actually make the list and make the gifts!   I suspect that, like last year, pyjamas will feature heavily for the younger generation.  I like to tell them that it means that they are wrapped in love when they sleep, but really it is because you can’t have too many pairs, and they don’t have to be an exact fit!

  

As for all the  making – well that has been going well.   When the market last week was cancelled I even managed to list quite a few of my products in my shop, so feel free to have a browse at what I have there now.  A few new tea cosies, some new cacti, jewellery, and even bookmarks have found their way onto my workbench over the last few weeks.  I did a big analysis of my products after the last market (just like I recommended in my last post) and did some streamlining of both products and processes as a result.   While any handmade business will always be a work in progress, I feel better about my set up at the moment, and ready for the next market I am attending, the Makers + Merchants Twilight Market in Goulburn on 15 December from 5 – 9pm.   Goulburn is about 40 minutes up the highway from where I live and I am looking forward to another regional market after the great time that I had at the Gundaroo Market.   Being able to meet new customers and talk about my products is fun, and I know a number of the other stallholders who will be attending so catching up with them will be great too!

      

For now though, I am enjoying the sound of rain on our tin roof, the sight of our tanks and dams overflowing, and the ground soaking it all up.   A great day to be at home making and planning and thinking!    The danger is, of course, that it means that I am already putting in orders for supplies to use in new product ideas that keep popping up.   Next year is going to be busy when all the parcels arrive!

I hope that you have had a great week and that the lead up to Christmas isn’t too crazy.   This year my focus is on keeping our celebrations simple and meaningful.  We won’t be spending money we don’t have on food we don’t need, or rushing around trying to see all the people we haven’t seen for the last twelve months.  Instead I will be working with the kids on making our decorations, making presents for teachers and special friends, and talking about how we can remember the meaning of Christmas and live it in our daily lives.   Lofty aspirations are better than none I have decided!