Made By Mrs M

One for the Makers...

BusinessKate Marsden

Last week I spotted a post by the lovely printmaker Kathy Hutton (check out her work - her prints are just wonderful) on the subject of the ebb and flow of being a maker (you can read her post here). In fact three makers had taken part and written posts on this topic from their own perspectives and posted them on the same day. Here's Mirta of Modern Botanics' post and Tempy of Grey Whale's.

Anyway, they all got me thinking - I regularly have times when I feel that I'm struggling and at the moment it's pretty bad. I commented on Kathy's Instagram post and eventually came around to thinking that perhaps more of us should be sharing these stories and so here's mine. Please be kind...

I work on my own. This is a good thing generally, I'm an introvert and while I've always been pretty good in a team, I have no trouble whatsoever with only having my own company. Back in the days (pre-child, pre-self employment) I took myself off to a spa for 5 days - on my own. It was wonderful.

Having said that though, at the same time I'm my own worst enemy, so having other people around can be useful. Self doubt plagues me constantly - when I'm busy I worry that I won't be able to cope (I always do - I work very hard and love what I do - I haven't failed to cope yet) and when I'm quiet, as I am at the moment, I just feel sick as all I want to do is be able to carry on doing this. No orders basically means no business, and I start to feel the clock ticking on my return to the corporate world.

When you work with other people, they share the peaks and troughs with you, they can give you a boost and inspiration, but they can also annoy the hell out of you! I do like working on my own. I'm exceptionally lucky to have been able to put in the years of work in the city, which have enabled me to be in the position where I'm able to afford to do this - I don't have another job. I'm able to do the school runs, be around for my son, and work the hours that suit me (albeit that they're much longer than they used to be in the day job - I'm not complaining, I love what I do!) - so I'm living a bit of a blessed existence.

Then there's my friend social media. Again, I'm making no complaints here, as I wouldn't be doing this at all if it weren't for the support and encouragement of the community on Twitter and Instagram, and if I didn't have these platforms as free methods to market my business, but everyone else is doing SO WELL.... The photos of sacks of orders on a Wednesday in early March, the Not on the High Street millionaires. I know that Instagram doesn't always show what's going on in the background (quite literally) and I'm as much to blame for this as anyone else - I'm careful what I post - I want it to be pretty, I want the vast majority of my posts to be cheerful and happy, because nobody is interested in my worries, and who wants to come across as needy?

At the moment though I'm struggling because I was on a roll and it seems to have ended. It was both a roll of inspiration for my work and a roll of sales (the two almost always seem to go hand in hand and make me extra busy!). The autumn was OK, and year on year sales have increased dramatically - all heading in the right direction. Christmas started late (so in mid to late November I was having a little wobble) but once it started I was really busy and ended the year on a high. January is usually a very quiet month for me, and I plan lots of admin and website work each year, but my sale was massively popular, and the non sale products were flying. I had other projects on and launched my new collection and website (which I'd been designing and working on while I was massively busy over Christmas and New Year) - so I was still on a high - I felt like I was finally getting there - January was as successful a month, in every respect, as December.

February was quieter but I expected that. I'd got the new collection out there and consciously took a little break from designing. February 2015 (thanks to some press coverage) had been my best ever month for sales (up to last December, which was better). I thought I was down this year, but by the end of the month I was slightly up on last year, so pretty happy. The reaction to my new work had been brilliant - the best so far. Then March started and it was as if someone had pulled a plug. Less social media interaction, a lot less web traffic, and virtually no sales. Worse than 2 years ago. I don't know what happened. As far as I'm aware nothing changed, but maybe it did. Maybe, says my old impostor syndrome (I had this in the day job too so it's clearly just me and not about being a maker as such!) everyone has found out that my work is truly terrible - they've all decided this simultaneously, so the sales have stopped.

Those I've shared the way I'm feeling with, have reminded me that this is normal, and fine. I should take the time to develop new designs and products (I have zero motivation to do this at the moment - maybe this is where that colleague could come in handy - note how I've completely fallen off the sketchbook wagon again too...) and maybe (shock horror) take a bit of a break... But I can't escape the sinking feeling that this is it and I'm a complete failure.

Now to be fair, I always have peaks and troughs - it's just that it's a pretty dramatic move from busy to dead this time - overall everything is still heading in the right direction.

It crossed my mind that if I'm looking up at all these other designer/makers and thinking they're so successful and I'm not, then presumably some people look at me in this way too. Hence this post, and yes I love what I do. But no it's not as easy as I try to make it look, and despite my current urge to throw in the towel, I'm sure I'll keep going until I can't afford to eat any more.

So it seems that quite a few of us are having a wobble at the moment, but I think we should all keep posting the pretty, cheerful stuff, yet maybe take a step back when looking at other people's posts - they're posting the highlights of their days (you honestly don't want to see my washing up and my wrangling of the child to get him to school do you?) and they're trying to hone their photography skills. Even those who really are super successful still have wobbly days - I don't think its something that ever goes away - especially if you're passionate about what you do, as we all are.

Well done if you've managed to stick with this ramble to the end! I hope it makes sense (as I've nervously edited it so many times!!). If this has made you feel you'd like to share your experiences please write a post as well - maybe we'll all start to feel better when we realise that while we are physically alone in a room working, so many of us are in the same boat.