It has been a while since I wrote here. I tend to spend a lot of time on Facebook and Instagram and forget to write here – but I still like having this space to store things, so I haven’t forgotten about it!
As everyone knows, the world is in a very different place at the moment, with the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way we live, do business, connect, and build community. More people are now aware of Zoom than they were just 6 weeks ago, and internet usage is up all over the planet, while fuel usage is down, pollution levels have dropped, unemployment has risen, and whole industries have been decimated through the shut down of public gatherings. On the upside people around the world are spending time with their family in ways they never have before, neighbours are reaching out and arranging street dance alongs, photos of people dressing up to take their bins out have gone viral, and creative minds are coming up with new ways to share.
The Handmade Market is one business that has been creative. Having to cancel their March market a week before it was due to go ahead, with thousands of dollars and hours already invested, both by the organisers, and the makers, they decided to create a virtual market so that the designers and producers still had an audience. Following the success and lessons from that market they have arranged another virtual market for next Sunday, 26 April 2020, and I am part of it! How does a virtual market work? Well, you go to the website www.handmadecanberra.com.au and go to the gallery, and as you click on each designer or producer you get to see the market offer they have (mine is free domestic standard shipping) and the code to use, and the link to their shop! Easy!
I have been busy making, and photographing and updating in preparation, so hope to have something for everyone! And of course, the market is set up for Mother’s Day shopping, but there are always gifts for everyone!!
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!!)
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!
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!
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!
Yesterday I attended the Collected and Created Gundaroo Market as a stallholder and am pleased to report that it was a great day! Not only was the venue lovely (the historic Soldiers Memorial Hall in Gundaroo) but the whole market was well planned, attended by beautifully talented local creators and collectors, and had the whole community supporting it. All my thinking about attending markets, branding, displays, etc, came together seamlessly and I had a lovely day telling the story behind my products, selling to interested customers and generally enjoying the whole experience.
Of course although I am the face of my business the reality is that it doesn’t happen without the team behind the scenes. My parents provide such huge amounts of support that make it possible. Yesterday Dad drove over to Gundaroo (about 15 minutes cross country from us) to help me unload my car, then he came back with my two daughters in the afternoon to help with the packing up. In the meantime Mum looked after the children, tidied my house, and gave me the peace of mind to be away from home for the day.
Now we are the in after market phase and although my first inclination is to sit back and chill for a few days, the reality is that I don’t have time! Last night after going through and counting my sales, working out the overheads and determining the level of profit (important so that you know whether you truly made money or just had fun) I also sat and assessed stock to determine where the gaps are that need to be refilled before the next market in two weeks time. A quick online order to supplement my supplies, a list of products that need to be made, and a plan is starting to come together.
After market analysis is important so that you can see what sold well, what didn’t work, what you need to change in your display and what you forgot! One of the stall holders I spoke to yesterday said that she was surprised by what sold and what didn’t, and I had to agree. Even with knowing your target audience, and researching what you think will sell best, until you actually hit the event the predictions are just that, predictions. Things that didn’t move at all at my last market went like hotcakes at this one, and items that I thought would really appeal to the community didn’t move at all! This doesn’t mean that I will abandon those products but I will think about how to make them more accessible, appealing, and inviting to my customers.
Things to think about before your next market:
How do you keep track of your stock? Is there a better way to track what sold and what didn’t? Do you need a spreadsheet that you mark off as items sell, a notepad that you make notes on as things move, or an inventory system connected to a point of sale that provides a full retail experience?
How did your display work? Where there products that didn’t move because they were lost in the display, or items that customers couldn’t easily see? Do you need more height variations, more signs, or different ways of showing pricing?
How did your stall set up work for you as the seller? Did you have a place to take money and wrap purchases without crowding customers? Did you have a place to sit when you had a few minutes break? Did your cashbox and credit card facility work for you or was it too unwieldy and awkward?
Do you have supplies to replenish your stock, and how long will supplies take to arrive? If you have enough for the next event but none for the event after that, assuming you sell the same amount, is it time to order more now so that they are ready when you need them?
How did you feel about the experience? Were you happy talking to customers or did you feel overwhelmed? Did you find that people were queuing to pay for items because you were too busy? (I know – there are worse problems that can happen, but if customers get tired of waiting they will just walk away instead.) Do you need to have someone else to help you serve customers for the next event? Were you tired, hungry, thirsty or stressed? What can you do to change that for next time?
What was your most frequently asked question? If the question was about how much something cost, it is time to rethink how you display your prices. If it was about what a particular item was, it is time to rethink how you package and display that item. If it was whether you made all of this yourself then that is a great conversation starter! Thinking about these questions can help you to be better prepared for next time.
Having now addressed all of those questions myself I am off to conduct another Distance Education session with my son, then start making lists. There are some packages that need to be rethought, some signs that need to be made, and a shelf unit that needs to be painted to provide more height on one table. Plus some blue wool and fuzzy green ‘cactus’ wool to be sourced!
I hope that your after market analysis gives you lots of inspiration to keep growing your business.
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