Made By Mrs M

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And that was Just A Card Week!

Business, EventsKate Marsden

I know I know, it's been nearly a month since Just A Card Week but better late that never?!!

The week was overwhelming and wonderful in equal measure. It was all I could do to keep up with it at the time as it coincided with our annual open studios event, but keep up I did.

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Along with many others, I really enjoyed the 5 day Instagram challenge - seeing the number of people involved and reading their comments made me feel rather emotional! This little campaign we've been volunteering for for years actually means something to people and that was a really special feeling.

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Not only did Just A Card gain THOUSANDS of new followers that week but I'm sure many more exciting things will come from it for the campaign (Sarah keeps getting asked to go on the radio now so that's definitely a good thing!). The images here are mine from the week, but do head over here to see them all.

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We have lots of brilliant new things planned for the autumn, including a bigger and better Indie Friday so do watch this space! In the meantime thank you so much to everyone who took part and continues to support the campaign - you made us all very happy indeed!

Just A Card Week!

Business, Events, InspirationKate Marsden

I'm so excited to share that next week (14-22 June) will be Just A Card Week. Those of us at Team Just A Card and all of our supporters will be shouting very loudly about the importance of supporting independents and shopping small with an Instagram challenge, daily social media tip blog posts and an amazing giveaway (which will be run by yours truly).

Head over to the Just A Card blog to find out more about the week!

While I was away in the States the other week, something else exciting happened...

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We launched our wonderful Just A Card pins (here I am modelling mine in Seattle) and they SOLD OUT in less than 48 hours! They're beautifully made and are a great way to shout quietly about the campaign (if that's more your thing!). To find out when they're back in stock head to the Just A Card website and join the mailing list.

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Looking forward to sharing all the Just A Card love next week!

Do remember that if you're after a Just A Card sticker for your shop window you can collect one from me at Carshalton Artists Open Studios on 23/24 June and 30 June/1 July. I'll be at stop 14 on the trail which you can find here.

The Kickstarter - How did it go and would I do it again?!

Books, BusinessKate Marsden

Well, it's pretty much done and dusted now! Only a couple of outstanding books to post (fill in your surveys kids!!) and all of my Kickstarter pledges have been fulfilled. I started thinking about whether I'd consider doing this again and I think I probably would. Here's what I've learnt...

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1. You MUST have a good idea. OK, so I flew by the seat of my pants and made a fairly impulsive decision to launch the Kickstarter, but only because I realised it was the only way I'd get the book printed. I could've invested in the printing myself and then tried to sell the books but not only did the Kickstarter campaign test the market, it also provided a certain amount of urgency which wouldn't have been there otherwise. So that leads me nicely to...

2. Treat it as a market research exercise. A soon as I got my head around this it ensured that the whole process of getting funded was a lot less stressful. If people didn't pledge it meant there wasn't a market for the book. All I'd loose would be time (as I'd had the sample book made for myself anyway).

3. Don't be greedy. Think about how much you really need and do try to make a profit if you can but really the purpose of the exercise is to get your thing out there. I really wanted a pile of my own books - I wanted to see them going out to their new homes - the fact that I made a (very small) profit was just a nice to have rather than an essential (and remember that I do still have copies left to sell - so I'm left with an asset).

4. It's not always necessary to have stretch goals - and do keep the rewards simple! Mine wasn't that complicated really, but when it came to dispatch there were still many variations - signed copy or not, with or without postcards, 2 copies, shipping destination. This part took a lot longer than I'd anticipated.

5. Manage people's expectations. I said May for dispatch (and allowed myself the whole month) - postcards actually went out in late April and the books went at the end of the first week in May. This allowed for unforseen delays (and in fact the printing of the books was delayed by a week) but meant that the backers all received their rewards when they expected to.

6. Don't leave it too late to plan packaging etc. I planned what I needed before the Kickstarter ended and had everything lined up ready to order as soon as the funds were released (bear in mind that this is 14 days after the end of the campaign).

7. Allow for people to drop out. I was pleasantly surprised as none of my backers pulled out before the end, however one person's credit card was declined so I lost that backer. Make sure you'll still have enough cash to satisfy the pledges in the event that this happens.

8. Celebrate but not too much. It's not over until it's over! In my case the fulfillment was a lot more time consuming than the funding stage. I know this isn't always the case.

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Would I do it again? Yes I think I would. I believe it's important to leave a good gap between campaigns and to wait until you really do have that amazing product (rather than looking around for something to do a Kickstarter for - it should be the other way around). Also, take a look at who your backers were - I rarely sell my work to friends and family but a lot of familiar names were in my backer report! Think of it a little like getting sponsorship for that half marathon you're doing and remember that people get bored of being asked for cash for these things too often - even if they are getting something out of it!

A little reminder that I do have a few copies of my Kickstarter book available here. I'll also be signing copies at 133a Stanley Park Road, Carshalton as part of Carshalton Artists Open Studios on 23/24 June and 30 June/1 July (more details here).

The Kickstarter finishing line is in sight!!!

Books, Business, PhotographyKate Marsden

Well the last month has gone pretty quicky! My 28 day Kickstarter campaign started on Monday 12 March and will end at lunchtime this coming Monday 9 April. You can read a little more about it in my initial blog post here, and I also wrote about my amazingly successful first week.

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It's now time for the final push though! So if you've been procrastinating or unsure now is the time! Head over to my Kickstarter page to watch the little film I made and to find out about the reward options (there's something for every budget!).

Thank you so much to everyone who has pledged and shared so far!

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March Meet the Maker

Art, Business, Drawing, Inspiration, Painting, Paper, Pattern Design, Photography, Textiles, SketchbookKate Marsden

I had so much fun taking part in #marchmeetthemaker over on Instagram again this year. In case you haven't heard of it, it's an annual challenge organised by Joanne Hawker (who even won a Mollie Makes Award for it last year) where you post an image every day following prompts set by Joanne. It's a great way to meet new people and to share your work too. I've popped some of my photos from the month below, you can see them all (and the full captions) over on my Instagram.

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Juicy Goals and Good Distractions...

Business, Books, InspirationKate Marsden

We're nearly at the end of March - how did that happen?! After what's felt like an almost endless winter we've seemingly time travelled and it's suddenly (supposedly) spring! While I get my head around the fact that we're less than 3 months away from Open Studios (more on that later) I thought I'd reflect on January to March.

As with last year I started out with the Dream Plan Do planner from Patricia van den Akker of The Design Trust. Last year I stumbled at the second hurdle... February (or the look at your accounts and do some maths chapter). With hindsight I think this was because I knew things weren't going well with my business, and had a combination of feeling stuck and not wanting to face facts (such a lovely heady combination....). Anyway, by the start of this year my facts had been very much faced and I was ready for new beginnings!

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So here we are and I've completed the March chapter and lined up my next 90 day juicy goal (which relates to making a success of said Open Studios - I'll be writing about this a lot more over the coming months but if you're interested now you can read all about it here!), but for now I want to reflect on the first one.

Patricia has put the book together in such a way that you look at your business but also other aspects of your life too. I think this is particularly important for business owners as it's so easy to get totally absorbed in your work, and then forget about anything else that isn't essential to everyday life. At the start of the year I looked at the wheel of life and the wheel of business (an example of the former is below) and it was pretty dire - I'm pleased to say though that I've achieved all of the things I aimed to (including my financial targets for the first three months which is a relief as well as a surprise!). I think this is partly (and perhaps ironically) due to taking more time away from work - you can read my earlier post about this here.

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My first 90 day juicy goal though was to work out what on earth I'm doing/offering then update everything to reflect and promote that (sounds simple enough - it wasn't!). Admittedly there are still a few tweaks needed (and I may need to revisit my plan to use Facebook advertising to get in front of my customers better...) but I made such good progress that I'm basically considering it achieved. As I mentioned in my post last Thursday, I had no plans whatsoever to launch a Kickstater so that was an extra job! I have to say though that coming to the end of March having achieved my goal and funded my Kickstarter (it's still running until 9 April here folks!) has made me feel a lot more positive about my business generally.

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You can get your own Dream Plan Do planner here (not sponsored!) - you have some catching up to do but sticking to the schedule isn't essential. This month I really found the SWOT analysis helpful (something I've always hated doing in the past) and things like that can definitely be done at any time. Fingers crossed I keep up with it this year as I'm really seeing the difference it makes to be a bit more disciplined. Then check back with me in another 90 days!

Funding my Kickstarter in 4 Days

Business, BooksKate Marsden

Well that was a bit of a surprise! If you were here reading my post last Thursday you'll know that while things were going well, I was still somewhat apprehensive - maybe I'd found all the colour fans already...

I received quite a lot of advice about my Kickstarter (lots of which was welcome, lots of which was unsolicited, promised miracles AND was almost certainly going to cost me - what's the point?) and I only really followed a few principles. You could say it was a fluke. Anyway, if you're interested I've written about my first week and what I did below. My Kickstarter is still running and will do so until Monday 9 April (subject to the books selling out beforehand of course). You can pledge here and read last week's post about it here.

 One of the postcard designs

One of the postcard designs

Launching a Kickstarter was not in my long term plan (in fact not even in my short term one - my 90 goal in my Dream Plan Do planner made no mention of such a thing). Back in January when  started planning for the year, I really liked the idea of getting my 365 Project printed up as a book - but mostly just for myself so I had a nice record of it. I was really pleased to have completed the challenge I'd set myself and wanted to celebrate this.

However once I'd got this one copy printed and shared it around, people started asking for one of their own. The copy I had was a one off and as a result had cost me just over £20 (and that was with a 30% discount code). As you will have seen from the photos the book isn't huge and there was no way I could retail it, even at cost price.

Blurb provide the option to sell your book via their website or Amazon, but even forgetting for a moment about the crazy retail price it would have, the terms and conditions scared me. Books sold would be printed to order and should someone decide to return it for any reason you, the creator of the book, has to cover all the costs (on the basis of £20-odd per book plus shipping etc). Ouch. Now I think my book is ace but that's too much of a risk to enable me to sleep well at night!

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The book

So I looked at the bulk discounts, and you have to buy A LOT of books to get the price down to an acceptable point. So I abandoned the idea. But still people were asking...

It was at that point I remembered that a friend had used a local printers to produce some children's books at the end of last year, so I approached them. I felt a lot happier about this as not only am I doing my Just A Card duty by shopping small and using a local business, but I can have proper contact with the people are producing the book. I've used them to print cards in the past, and I have a friend's recommendation for their books.

This brought the retail price down to a much more acceptable level but only if I bought 50 or more. So I was left in a bit of a quandry. People had said they wanted it (not 50 people though!), but what if it was only those people who did, or actually when it came to it they didn't (fallen into that trap before). So I sat on it again.

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Another postcard

Until I realised this was the perfect opportunity to launch a Kickstarter. When I went onto the site to set the project up I discovered that I'd already backed no less than 17 of them. I figured it was a tried and tested way to see if the books had a market - I already had my prototype and imagery so I just needed to spend some time making a video, planning and preparing. I decided not to get too stressed about it unless I failed to get any backers at all!

In case it's of interest, here's the process I went through to set up the campaign (it took roughly a day):

1. Pricing - this was the first and most important thing I did. Do not pluck an arbitrary figure out of the air when you set your target! Make sure you will have covered your costs (or at least the costs you have to cover to avoid financial ruin!). You need to take into account a number of things - cost of your product, postage (which is variable if you're accepting International pledges), packaging materials (including any flyers, stickers and business cards - you might need quite a few!) and Kickstarter's fees. This figure may look scary and unattainable... Depending upon how scary it looks you may want to add a small profit too or only make a profit on the pledges after you reach your target. Do price it up properly - there's nothing more panic inducing or with the ability to ruin your "I'm funded!" celebrations than realising you're going to be out of pocket after all.

2. Rewards - once the pricing was sorted I needed to work out the rewards. All the advice I'd read (and most of the successful Kickstarter's I'd funded myself) had a reasonable range of rewards, not only to suit all budgets but also so there's something for people who may want to support you but possibly don't want your main product. So I offered a digital copy of the book, a postcard set, 1 copy or a slight discount if you pledged for 2. Different items have different lead times too - also consider that you won't receive funds until at least 14 days after the end of the campaign - so if you need the money before placing the order, you must factor this in to your estimated delivery date.

3. Video - everyone keeps talking about how important video is to EVERYTHING when for the most point I find videos in my feed irritating and scroll straight past them! Anyway, it had to be done. You're not getting me talking on camera anytime soon, so I used Adobe Clip to make a slideshow set to music (I used one of the Adobe Clip tracks so as to avoid copyright issues - don't forget this!) and I was rather pleased with my efforts.

4. Images - as I mentioned I already had 365 photos from the project, plus pictures of the book itself and montages so I made full use of these. If you don't have images you need really good ones/mock ups if you don't have a physical sample to photograph.

5. The blurb - I'm quite quick at writing when I get down to it... I rewrote a few things I'd already written about the project and added to/updated this. I explained the background to the 365 project itself, why I turned it into a book. You also need to think about what could possibly go wrong with the project and let people know the potential risks before they pledge.

And then I submitted it to Kickstarter for their approval. This took a few hours (even on a Sunday night - I was impressed!). I hovered on the publish button for quite a while before going for it.

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And another postcard...

I'll have to admit that my pre-launch whetting the appetite type marketing was pretty pathetic. A couple of shares of the video on Twitter and that was it. I did however do the following:

1. Listed the press contacts I have who might be interested in the project. I then drafted tailored emails to all of them and they sat in my drafts until I'd pressed publish. Quite a few people picked these up and shared my campaign which was brilliant.

2. Sent direct emails to the people who had previously expressed an interest in the book - as soon as it went live.

3. Drafted an email to my mailing list about it - which I also send just after it went live.

4. Scheduled a series of promotional tweets and Facebook posts (which I hasten to add I didn't pay to promote - I did ask my friends on FB to please share the post if they weren't able to/didn't want to pledge though and a lot of them did this for me).

5. Planned a series of Instagram stories - keeping the campaign up there all the time with regular updates.

And then I went and made a cup of tea. In the first 24 hours the campaign reached 37% funded. I'd been told to aim for 50% in the first 7 days, and then expect a lull before a final push in the last week - I was a little anxious, but it wasn't as bad as I'd feared. I was determined to stay chilled about it (easier said than done!). When I reached 50% on day 2 I realised I needed to keep pushing to get to 100% as soon as possible, in order to be able to keep promoting but without the pressure. I reached 100% four days in (almost to the minute).

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Yet another postcard

Momentum has definitely dropped off since I reached my target and I'm now aiming for 1-2 pledges a day. I'd like to have a bit of a cushion (what I didn't realise until recently is that backers can pull out right up until the final deadline leaving you underfunded after all and then you don't receive any of the pledges - a bit scary!) and I'm also keen to only have a handful of copies of the book remaining at the end, as I don't do many events nowadays so my options to sell them are more limited than they used to be.

People have already been asking me for advice despite the fact the Kickstarter is still running (I'm not there yet kids!), but I honestly think that other than identifying who to promote it to and who to ask for help in doing this, the only way to achieve it is to produce a professional product, a well put together campaign page and have something people want to buy! The beauty of Kickstarter is that it tells you if people want to buy your thing... a little publicly perhaps which can be scary, but other than time (and possibly pride) there's not a huge amount to loose.

I'm pretty sure if I'd gone ahead and just got the 50 books printed I'd be sitting here now fretting about how to sell them. Kickstarter provides a fanfare and a deadline and these work well both from the perspective of giving you the incentive to keep pushing, and in helping people to make the decision to support now rather than maybe buy a copy in a few months.

I'll be back to share how the fulfillment stage goes! In the meantime, as I mentioned you can still support my Kickstarter until 9 April via this link. Thank you! 

 

 

 

Don't turn your hobby into your job...

Business, WorkKate Marsden

It’s the dream isn’t it? Getting to do that thing you love doing in your spare time ALL of the time, and being paid for it. Chances are you’re pretty good at whatever this thing is, as you’ve been doing it for years. You might also be in the position I used to be in where you end up disliking your day job to such an extent, that you spend most of your waking hours dreaming of doing pretty much anything else if it will enable your escape.

In my case, the thing I was originally planning to do as my job ended up being my hobby – and I think this happens a lot to those who studied art subjects in particular. Jobs are hard to come by (and of course when I left college the internet didn’t exist…). I think if you can manage to avoid loosing sight of whatever it is you’re aiming to do, and you continue practicing with that aim, the “thing” doesn’t fall into the “hobby” category. In my case though it did, and quite quickly.

Back in the golden days of the day job (yes they did exist!), the hours weren’t too bad and the pay was reasonably good, so my hobbies were plentiful. This was also the time that I completed several short courses at Chelsea College of Art, ran 5ks, 10ks and even a half marathon and still had the time, energy (and cash) for nights out, festivals and holidays.

After the little man was born ALL of my hobbies went out of the window for quite a long time, before designing and making pretty much took over my life. Finally, I had the opportunity to do my “thing” and it was amazing. I ploughed on with this for the best part of three years before coming close to completely burning out last autumn.

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I joined the gym at the beginning of December, with the aim of aiding the recovery of my bad back and just generally making myself more cheerful. I’m now nearly 3 months in, and despite Christmas, illness and school holidays getting in the way, it’s going really well. My first two aims have been met – my back isn’t better but it’s better than it’s been in a long time, I really enjoy going to the gym and look forward to being there (I’m quite ratty when I can’t go for whatever reason) and it’s made me realise something – I was missing having a hobby.

I would define a hobby as a thing you spend time doing, that you enjoy and which is absorbing and/or gives you that sense of flow… But most importantly, I think it needs to be something that you NEVER intend to turn into your job. When the job I’d originally planned to do became my hobby, and then my job, it lost it’s magic. That’s not to say that I don’t still love it (in fact having this realisation has in itself helped a lot!) but that there has to be something else.

Now lots of people dream of being yoga teachers or personal trainers as their second career as they love going to the gym and that’s fine too, but the same thing applies… what do you do when the thing you did to wind down becomes work?

Since joining the gym I’m working shorter hours (I go during the day when I have childcare) but I’m getting a lot more work done in less time. I’ve gone from a complete inspiration drought, to having so many ideas I have to try to prioritise and write multiple lists.

I think I’d forgotten just how much I loved being at a nice gym (mine is nice, I decided to invest – I’m one of those people who’s incentivised by a desire not to waste money so this makes me go as often as I possibly can), and just how good I feel once I’ve been going regularly for a few weeks. I think I was helped by the fact that I had no choice but to take it slowly to begin with because of my back – so there wasn’t any of that rushing in and injuring myself, or rushing in and then loosing my momentum.

I know that a lot of you are either in the process of turning that all absorbing hobby into your job (or dream of it), and many have already done so. The desire to do only that and nothing else (to start with at least) can be overwhelming, but finding time for a hobby of some kind is essential. Not only do I feel better for it but my work is benefitting too. Have you had to find a new hobby or did you always have lots?

 

A footnote…

Now this is not a fitness blog! But a few people have asked me what I’ve been getting up to down at the gym, so this is what it’s amounted to so far… when I joined my back was VERY bad and I was having physio, and under his guidance I started swimming several times a week and using the bike and cross trainer in the gym. I then progressed to BodyBalance classes just before Christmas (these were a firm favourite back in my running days as you’re basically stretching for the best part of an hour) and noticed a huge improvement in my back straight away. I’ve now added BodyPump as well (another old favourite!) and while I was worried this may hurt my back it’s actually made it feel great. I even had a go at a short run and used the rowing machine last week. Oh and an added bonus is that I’ve lost some weight – perhaps I should get myself a nice dress to aim to look nice in on my 40th birthday! No pressure though. After all it’s a hobby!

p.s. The tennis balls… the little man has recently started playing tennis at school so we’ve had a go at that too. I really enjoy playing tennis – rubbish at it of course – but it’s still fun!

False starts, plans and intentions

Business, ExhibitionKate Marsden

I'm writing this from bed, as I'm not well (yet again). 2017 was not a great year for me in so many respects and I'm keen to just put it behind me if I'm honest, but one of the most irritating things about it was the fact that I felt like I was ill (with one thing or another) pretty much ALL the time. I'm sure my anxiety about my business and a few personal things didn't help this at all, but on this occassion I'm on antibiotics so I've decided it's time to let myself have a proper rest (it's a rest and not really a false start!).

Back in Novemeber when I made my big decision to change my business, my plan was to take the best part of January off. Clear my head and sort out what I wanted to focus on. But before the school holidays were over my diary was already almost full with "stuff". Being unwell has forced me to cancel some things, and take a harder look at whether I need to be doing all of the others, and I suppose that's positive.

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One thing I have started looking at is my Dream Plan Do planner. I had one last year too and I have to admit that I struggled (the fact that I filled it in in pencil is quite telling). I don't think I really realised in January 2017 that I was going to have such a terrible year sales wise, and that I'd be forced to make a change - 2016 had been great and I just needed to keep building on that... but when I look back on my 3 juicy goals and my plans written a year ago (which I spent nearly two months writing) they don't exactly scream optimism, in fact I don't really sound all that keen.

In the end I spent 2017 mostly firefighting. Not creating very much new work, desperately trying to shift £3 notebooks and making less money than I did the year before. My husband told me in November that I had to face reality and I think that was it - I'd convinced myself that it just had to work, failure wasn't an option, and I'd keep on going until it killed me...

Fast forward to today (having partially achieved 2 of last year's 3 goals and failed totally at the 3rd) and I actually feel that I'm in a better position to plan. I raced through the first 47 pages of this year's planner (yes 47!) in pen - I have a plan I think I can stick to (if I manage to avoid being sick CONSTANTLY) and it's all sounding a lot more positive. February's chapter is about finances though so I may well come unstuck there again!

I like that Patricia (van den Akker of The Design Trust who wrote the planner) has placed a stronger emphasis on self care and things other than your business this time, as I've come to realise that this is essential for me. 2017 found me spending a lot more time with (read worrying myself sick over) friends and family - this year I'm aiming to spend more time with them without so much of the worrying! And of course there's my health...

I did that thing everyone does, and joined a gym and cut down on alcohol at the beginning of December (to be fair it was pretty quiet down there!). I'm absolutely loving going (and gutted that I'm not there at the moment - hopefully the antibiotics will kick in and I'll be swimming by the time you're reading this) - my aim is to fix my bad back, feel generally more positive (and less panicky), and hopefully loose a bit of weight (I'm not going on a diet as such - I hate them - I'd rather move more and still eat cake).

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So, my overall goal for 2018 is to be easier on myself and look after myself better. Other than that, I have the following plans at the moment (they might change - plus my first Dream Plan Do goal is for three months so there will be new ones in the spring anyway).

  • Go to the gym as often as I can, even if it's just for a quick swim and a dip in the jacuzzi.
  • Plan some fun things with friends and family (which will hopefully be easier to do as it's my big birthday year...)
  • Diarise trips into town to see exhibitions as I didn't do this enough last year. On my list at the moment are: Rachel Whiteread and Tove Jansson (need to get my skates on for these two), Orla Kiely, Red Star Over Russia and Modigliani, Elizabeth Friedlander and Frida Kahlo...
  • Plan some photowalks and trips with just a couple of people - not opening them up to others/giving me masses of work to do for very little reward.
  • Business wise:
    • Relaunching with a clear strategy - so this involves properly planning out what I intend to offer and what I don't, along with improving my communication with regard to what I do - revamping my website to reflect this and then just getting on with it.
    • Boosting my portfolio - as I said I mostly fought fires last year and the lack of new, interesting work I have to show is holding me back. I've already started on this.
    • Finally sorting out Pinterest and SEO for my blog - which I've been avoiding as it's not fun, and I don't really know what I'm doing...

So there we go. Nothing too major. I've never been one for embracing change and if 2017 taught me anything it's that I need to learn how to. My ideas about what I want my life and my business to look like in the future have changed (and to be fair, are rather hazy at the moment) but that shouldn't matter. I've also learnt that tenacity is good but there comes a point where ploughing on regardless with something that isn't working is really damaging.

Watch this space for some new stuff (very soon!), oh and if you see me flagging, do give me a kick and remind me of what my priorities need to be!

 

Indie Friday!

Business, ShoppingKate Marsden

Everyone at team Just A Card (and most people who own or work in any kind of independent business) pretty much loathe Black Friday. People stop shopping with us altogether and go and spend masses of money on stuff they don't need (or really want half the time!) from the big chains.

This year, instead of desperately discounting in an attempt to compete, or sitting in a corner rocking slowly, we've decided to do something about it - so tomorrow will actually be INDIE FRIDAY!

 A limited numebr of cushions  now available here

A limited numebr of cushions now available here

We have some wonderful graphics designed by Angela Chick and Sarah Cowan and we really hope you'll join in - if you're an independent shop or designer/maker use our graphics to help promote your work (you can download them here) and let's try and fill social media with the good stuff - we'll be using the hashtags #JACIndieFriday and #JustACard.

If you're more of a shopper than a maker, then please follow the two hashtags and share and share (and if you can, shop too!). We really want to take the negativity away from this day of consumerism and if we can get the hashtags trending, and plenty of people talking and shopping, we will have succeeded!

The Just A Card Christmas Gift Guide is out tomorrow too so keep an eye out for that from 7am at justacard.org/blog - once again compiled by the wonderful Sarah Cowan.

 

2 Minutes (plus a bit!) with... Patricia van den Akker

Books, Business, InspirationKate Marsden

2 Minutes with... returns this week with a bumper (so not really 2 minutes!) post, which I hope you'll find really inspiring. A peek into the world of the wonderful Patricia van den Akker of The Design Trust whose Business Club membership and coaching have helped me enormously over the past couple of years.

Read on to hear more about Patricia and her latest Dream Plan Do Kickstater campaign...

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Hello Patricia! Who are you and what do you do?

I wear a couple of hats! I am a creative business adviser & trainer and the Director of The Design Trust, the online business school for designers and makers, based in North London. I regularly write and talk about creative business development, and work with organisations and businesses across the UK, from Etsy to the New Designers graduate exhibition, to Top Drawer and Made London to various universities and creative professional development programmes. For the last 5 years I also wrote the business column The Design Doctor for Crafts Magazine, and I regularly write blog posts for our own website and others such as Mollie Makes Magazine, Etsy and Folksy.

I’m very involved with the Just A Card campaign ever since Sarah and I had lunch together at my house and she wondered if it would be a good idea to tell the world. My mum had a gift shop when I was growing up in the Netherlands so I have always been surrounded by beautiful products and really understand the tricky business of owning a shop.

Oh, and I have got two lovely girls and very supportive husband too.

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Why do you love what you do?

Haha, normally it’s me asking these kind of thought-provoking coaching questions! It’s one of my favourites, as it says so much about the values and motivations of someone. I often ask: “Why do you do what you do?”

Of course I have been doing some digging around this question, and for me it’s about showing that you can be both creative and entrepreneurial, in fact that you do NEED to be both … if you want to succeed! One feeds the other in my opinion; it’s not about being one or the other. So many creatives use ‘being a creative’ as an excuse for not being organised or not doing well. I think that’s nonsense. You do need to learn about these things if you want to be taken seriously and if it is your business (pun intended).

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That all probably comes from the time when I was choosing a degree subject. My dad wasn’t overly impressed with my choice of wanting to study graphic design and more or less muttered ‘You will never make a living.’ But I did! (Although I never worked as a graphic designer a single day in my life haha!) And I am still trying to prove him wrong, and all the other nay-sayers too!

I love it when I see creatives with a sparkle in their eyes, who are ambitious, who - with a little bit of help - can go so much further. Very few graduates in the UK have a basic understanding of business and marketing, while marketing and branding can be so creative! My audience and clients are my biggest sources of inspiration! You do need to find out your own strengths but also listen to your ideal clients, it’s so inspiring to try and find the right solution and to provide innovative and really useful solutions for them.

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Recently somebody said to me: “Patricia, I have always been really scared of marketing myself, but in the last hour you have given me so many creative ideas of what I can do. They feel really right. I can’t wait to get started and get the word out.’ I love that, to be able to inspire creatives, and yes, also so that the world becomes more beautiful, creative, ambitious and inspiring.

I started my career as a creative business adviser nearly 25 years ago. At that time it was all about teaching people skills around business planning, finance and marketing. But then 10 years ago I realised that I would have very good meetings with creatives, but actually nothing would really change afterwards in their business. They were full of good intentions at the meeting, but often there were lots of things stopping them actually making the change. I was worried that I wasn’t a very good business adviser after all! Then I realised that your mindset is crucial in this change process, so I trained for 4 years as a business coach, which really helped me to start asking bigger questions instead of always having the right answer. In the last 2 years I have become rather obsessed with getting people into action. Not just thinking or talking about the business you really want to create, but actually doing it. Mucking in, failing even, and getting up again and make it happen. So much interesting psychology around that what makes creatives successful and happy, and what stops them! I can’t stop finding out more about that. I am now learning more than I ever have done.

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And so that’s my very long answer to your question about why I do what I do: I love learning and growing, and want to prove that to be successful you need to learn and fail, experiment and play, and keep going!

What inspired you to take the wealth of information on the Design Trust’s website and create the Dream Plan Do book?

I have been working with creatives for nearly 25 years, and there is so much information in my head! When I took over The Design Trust in 2011 (it was originally set up by the late Peta Levi MBE in 1984) I regularly got business questions from designers and makers. As I like to be effective I realised that many other creatives had probably the same questions, so I decided to share them to a wider audience and posted them as Q&A on The Design Trust website. I didn’t realise it at the time, but those were my first blog posts! Now, 6 years later there are over 120 blog posts on the site!

Dream Plan Do as an idea had been in my head for a couple of years (haven’t we all got an idea for a book in our minds?!). Then last summer we had major renovation work done at our house in North London. I work from home so I couldn’t do my usual job of providing online training as it was too noisy. So, I thought it would be a good time to work on my book idea!

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Dream Plan Do is based on the idea that many creatives fantasise about what they would like to do and work really hard, but often they don’t dream BIG enough (often a bit scared of the fear of failure – or the fear of success!), they don’t think it through enough. They might like planning and to-do-lists and lovely planning stationery (who doesn’t!) but are you actually really working on the things that matter?

To be successful (whatever your definition of that is, either monetary or otherwise!) you do need to able to be strategic and think about the long term and be focused, you need to have a plan of how to get ‘there’, and you need to do the actions that get you clients and sales. You need to Dream Plan and Do!

With Dream Plan Do I have created a ‘coach-like’ book. The best way to explain it is that I have written half the book, and that the other half is up to you! In the Dream Plan Do planner I have broken down the process of working ON your business in quarterly and monthly sessions. Each month has another theme to work on, and each quarter you set a juicy 90-day goal. Did you know that setting a goal for 90 days is the perfect time to get something accomplished? It’s long enough to make some serious change, but short enough to keep your momentum.

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If you could collaborate with anyone (dead or alive!), who would it be?

Oh gosh, can I only select one person? To be honest I am really happy with the partnerships and clients I currently have but if there is one person that I would love to have a good dinner conversation with or get mentored by it would be Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook and Founder of the Lean In organisation. I have found her a rather inspiring role model. I found her book ‘Lean In’ (about women in leadership) really inspiring, because it partly explains what’s happening in society when it comes to women at work but also what’s going on in our own heads and within groups of women or how we raise our daughters. (I have got two girls myself!) It really showed it isn’t an easy topic, and she got a lot of stuff thrown at her because of it, but I found it inspiring that somebody at her level shared her thoughts on that. More recently she has written a book called ‘Option B’, which she wrote after she lost her husband unexpectedly. I still haven’t read it as it’s about grief and if life doesn’t give you what you were hoping for and I need to find the guts a bit to tackle that one … 

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What other exciting plans do you have for the next year?

Next year I really want to make more time to do research into how successful creative businesses really work, the nitty gritty stuff. That’s what I am very interested in: how people and businesses really work.

In the last year I have had to do a lot of strategic thinking and work on my own business The Design Trust. Dream Plan Do in 2016 was really popular but that means that I need to grow the business as a whole to keep it working. Early in 2018 we will be making some major changes to the website (far more based on creative professionals real needs, motivations and goals), and I want to launch a series of new online courses for very new craft and design businesses.

I also want to share more successful role models. There are so many great business owners that have created really interesting business models or different ways of doing business and marketing. Those are the ones that I want to feature as we don’t see and celebrate success enough in society!

And actually I am really looking forward to having more time for research and writing too. I have caught the writing bug, and have ideas for other books too. Often people assume that I am really outgoing, as I do so many public speaking events, but actually allowing myself to have some quiet time to read and research is something I am really excited about. I am putting in my business plan for next year to spend around 3 months in total on research and writing for next year!

You can get the Dream Plan Do planner till 30 October on https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/650014006/dream-plan-do-2018-planner-for-craft-and-design-bu?ref=nav_search

From mid November it will be available online via www.dream-plan-do.com If you order by 1 December then you will have your own copy in the post before Christmas.

 

2 Minutes with... Leona Thrift-ola

Business, Fashion, Inspiration, Products, Shopping, StudiosKate Marsden

ALL the colour for you again this week as we spend a couple of minutes in the fun, surprise filled word of Leona Thrift-ola…

Hello Leona! Who are you and what do you do?

I run a subscription box business called Lucky Dip Club which is the home of super fun surprises by independent artists. We’re on a mission to bring colour, fun and positivity into the world whilst inspiring our subscribers to follow their creative dreams.

Why do you love what you do?

I’ve always embraced colour and been drawn to the more playful side of design so being able to make a living producing the products that I love is fantastic. I’m obsessed with creating a shopping experience that makes my subscribers feel like a kid in a candy store. I also love discovering new artists and having the opportunity to collaborate with so many talented people and share their work with our community is really fun.

I’m pretty sure the original Lucky Dip Club was the first box of it’s kind that I came across (much imitated, never bettered!). What inspired you to create it in the first place?

Aww thank you very much! In 2006, I launched a range of colour themed Lucky Dip bags full of surprise jewellery and when I closed that business down 5 years later I had sold thousands of Rainbow Rebel mystery bags. I was looking to start a new business and the subscription trend in the beauty industry had caught my eye so I decided to mix the two and Lucky Dip Club was born!

If you could collaborate with anyone (dead or alive!) who would it be?

I’d LOVE to collaborate with Lisa Frank. Not only is she a kitsch powerhouse and forerunner of the unicorn, rainbow and neon trends but she started her business at the age of 24 in 1979 and still runs it to this day. So much to admire!

What exciting plans do you have for the next year? 

We’ve literally just re-launched and our new website is online with new subscription packages - Lucky Socks, Happy Pins and My Rainbow Life. The plan over the coming year is to grow the Girl Planet community and turn Lucky Dip Club into a subscription box that’s fully community driven with the launch of our charity partnership programme. Exciting times!

Thank you Leona! You can get your Lucky Dip Club fix here and follow on Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

2 Minutes with... Georgie St Clair

Art, Business, Drawing, Inspiration, Painting, PhotographyKate Marsden

I’ve been following Georgie St Clair on Instagram for ages. Her images never fail to make me smile, and her unique, beautiful artwork literally stands out from the page! Read on for a little dose of floral inspiration…

Hello Georgie! Who are you and what do you do?

Hello! I’m an artist and illustrator living in Brighton with my gorgeous 3 kids and hubby. I create floral and botanical art and illustrations, created using real flowers and foliage. I sell my prints online and work with a variety of clients across the world. My latest client was in South Korea. They found me all thanks to the power of the internet and Instagram - which I’m slightly obsessed with!
Why do you love what you do?

Lately I have been finding myself feeling so grateful for what I do. It really is a dream come true; a dream I’ve had for a very long time (I’ve just turned 40 so it’s been years in the making). My creative business really only started in September 2016 when I decided to go freelance.

Now, I make beautiful things everyday from flowers and foliage - what’s not to love?! I love being my own boss, being accountable only to my clients, customers and myself. And importantly I can work around my 3 children.

What inspired you to start creating your beautiful illustrations incorporating real flowers?

When my daughter was born (she is now 4), my little treat during those early days with a newborn baby was a simple vase of fresh flowers.  I also started drawing again, during her nap times. I’d left my drawing board on the dining room table one day and a wilting flower dropped onto the drawing. It looked so pretty and voila an obsession was born!

I also discovered Instagram around this time, so started sharing my creative experiments and collages. People seemed to like what I was doing which gave me the confidence to carry on.

If you could collaborate with anyone (dead or alive!) who would it be?

The first person that comes to mind is Frida Kahlo. I discovered her as a teenager and have loved her ever since. Strong yet vulnerable. Original and bold both in her art and in life. And she could rock a flower crown like no other! She fascinates me. Along with Audrey Hepburn she’s one of the influences for my illustrated character ‘Sassy Du Fleur’

I’d also like to create a huge installation using real flowers and one of my portrait illustrations, so if there’s any florists out there who are up for an artistic challenge, get in touch ;)

What exciting plans do you have for the next year?

Too many to list - but that’s my problem. I have too many ideas, ambitions and plans. So my first plan is to organise myself!

Latterly I have translated my illustrations and floral designs into personalised products and homewares, from phone cases to cushions. I soft launched the phone cases in June and they have been really well received so far. I’ll be launching notebooks and cushions next. I plan to expand the ranges even further and move into wholesaling and art licensing. Maybe even sign up to my first trade show. Watch this space!

Thank you so much! You can see more of Georgie's work on her website and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

 

 

2 Minutes with... Jane Foster

Art, Books, Business, Drawing, Inspiration, StudiosKate Marsden

I’m really excited this week as I get to introduce you to someone who has been a huge inspiration to me ever since I made the decision to take my business full time a few years ago. Meet the wonderful, colourful Jane Foster!

Hello Jane! Who are you and what do you do?

Hi, I’m an illustrator, author, textile designer and screen printer living in Kingsbridge, Devon.

Why do you love what you do?

I love being creative and turning my passion into making a living so I can live the life I choose. I adore all parts of what I do and love the variety involved in illustrating, screen printing, sewing and designing along with also running my little business single handedly and doing all the various other parts involved such as photography, social media, packaging orders etc.. I’m creating an intentional life where I can work flexible hours and spend lots of time with my nine year old daughter.

Are you able to offer one piece of advice to those who are just starting out and have been inspired by you and your work?

If you want to make your career work, very hard gritty determination along with talent will get you there in the end. There is no short cut (I’m sorry to say!)

If you could collaborate with anyone who would be?

My dream would be to collaborate with the Finnish company Marimekko.

What exciting plans do you have for the next year?

I’ve several more children’s books in the pipeline along with some new product collaborations.

Thank you so much Jane! You can see all of Jane's work on her website and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

2 Minutes with... Lucy Heath

Blogging, Business, Inspiration, Photography, ProductsKate Marsden

Welcome to the first in a new series of mini interviews. I for one know that I have very little spare time nowadays, and I’m sure you do too, but I still want to be inspired! We’re kicking off with the divine Lucy Heath…

Hello Lucy! Who are you and what do you do?

I’m 35 and I live in the countryside in Somerset with my husband, 2 young gorgeous boys and our two westies Mabel and Moose. I juggle a few hats and work as a product photographer as well as writing my blog. I’ve been so lucky to win a few awards for my blog and at the end of last year I launched the Backdrop Store which was a long term dream. I still work as a consultant in the development industry, where I started life as a Land Buyer for the national house builders. Life is hectic but happy!

Why do you love what you do?

Every day feels like a rollercoaster. The ripple effect that is the power of social media means that I never know who might come across my blog or Instagram feed and then drop me an email or message. The best part of it all is that I connect with like minded people who in lots of ways feel like they already know me, just from photographs. I get to work around my children, be there for school pick up and cricket matches and if that means there are more than a few evenings on a laptop well that’s fine by me. I feel so fortunate to have the freedom to balance home and work life. It feels like the best of everything most days.

What inspired you to set up your gorgeous backdrop shop?

The posts I have enjoyed writing the most and the sessions I have loved giving at conferences have always been about empowering the home photographer. Helping people understand the basic principles of photography, sharing hints and tips and encouraging others to fall in love with the hobby of mine that became a career. There never seems to be enough time in the day so my husband said you need to think of a product - that can help people, that you can produce as many as people might want to buy! And the number of tables and surfaces in our house that I have collected over the years was taking over…! I think a background is the base of your composition and styling, whether it’s a still life image or the backdrop to a portrait. It’s not a new concept but I am hoping I bring a new creative side by producing a unique range and collaborating with others to develop new lines. Watch this space. I am pinching myself every day that someone wants to buy one!

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

I watch in awe of the American bloggers who have taken their passions and turned them into internationally acclaimed products and design services. My favourites Joy Cho (Oh Joy) and Emily Henderson are a constant source of inspiration and I watch their Instagram Stories religiously because they remind me that being yourself is the best business strategy. What you see is really what you get, they just have smart, focussed heads on their shoulders. My pipe dream would be to collaborate with a worldwide party company to create my own range of party ware. You name it - I’d like to develop it. Crackers, straws, plates, bunting and more - all in my print. I had a wonderful artist paint a pattern for me a year ago and it’s going to sit hidden in a drawer until the right time! Dream big!

What exciting plans do you have for the next year?

I am utterly hopeless at SEO, strategy, scheduling and all the other important things that take a creative online business to the next level. So I am setting myself some goals for the next six months to take me into next year that will help me reach more lovely people who enjoy taking styled photos or could use the backdrops for clients and their work. My launch and learn approach is still very much leading the way but I want to have more structure and ambition. I have several collaborations with incredible artists developing behind the scenes and I want to see if I can expand the product line beyond backdrops to include a tool kit for the home photographer. I feel so lucky that next year just feels full of possibility.

Thank you so much Lucy!

You can find Lucy's website (which contains her blog and her backdrop store) here - she's also on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

 

Stopping Doing ALL the Things - My Actions from Blogtacular

Blogging, Business, Events, InspirationKate Marsden

I came away from last Saturday's Blogtacular feeling a little different to last year. I don't know if it was the timing (with the election - let's not speak about that), the fact it's been a tough few months for my business, or the fact that I didn't manage to go on the photowalk or to the Friday night party this year but I felt a little tired and flat. By Monday morning though (still feeling tired!) I started looking through my notes, photos and goody bag and I can confirm that the event itself definitely wasn't responsible for my deflation.

Once again the opening keynote struck a chord. I'm really bad at saying no (mostly to myself but also to others) and I'm really really good at allowing the work to heap up until it swamps me and I feel totally overwhelmed. Natalie Lue really got me thinking and I'm pretty sure I'm wasting a whole heap of time doing stuff I don't really need to do (I'm even wondering if I should continue to blog three times a week - radical I know!).

She encouraged us to take a step back and look at what we're actually doing - I need to question if this is where I want to be, and if it isn't something has to change. As ever Blogtacular comes at a good time of year when my work tends to slow down a little anyway so this can be a good time to reflect.

And of course there was the old comparison trap - which we're all aware of yet all continue to fall into I'm sure - and I may have to pop up a quote on my wall - "You're seeing the tip not the iceberg"...

 Natalie Lue - Image (c) Blogtacular/ Amber-Rose Photography

Natalie Lue - Image (c) Blogtacular/Amber-Rose Photography

I also got to show off my amazing new necklace which was made for me especially for the occassion by Ruth of I Am Acrylic - isn't it amazing?! It features my drawing of the National Theatre complete with polka dots! I had lots and lots of complements and you can be sure to see this one again (in fact I'll probably be wearing it to every event for the foreseeable future!).

So as ever, Blogtacular was a fantastic opportunity to meet and network with other creative bloggers (and non-bloggers) - it was great to catch up with people I hadn't seen for months, and in some cases years, and to meet some people I've known online for years (yes, my "computer friends"!).

After the opening keynote I went to a really good panel session with Alison Perry, Sunita Harley and Emma Gannon - it followed on nicely from Natalie's talk and focused on staying sane online. I defintely took some actions away from this one - social media has been making me pretty stressed recently but it's vital for driving traffic here and elsewhere and for staying in touch with people, so I need to look at how I'm managing this.

 Alison Perry, Sunita Harley and Emma Gannon - Image (c) Blogtacular/ Amber-Rose Photography

Alison Perry, Sunita Harley and Emma Gannon - Image (c) Blogtacular/Amber-Rose Photography

After a really tasty lunch (and a look at Lucy Heath's wonderful photo backdrop stall - see below - I'd pre-ordered one which you'll get to see lots of over the coming months!) I headed to the Finding Your Niche session with Cath Dean, the editor of Mollie Makes.

Cath took us through various exercises to help us to identify our niche and while I had done this type of thing before, it was a while ago, and I realised I needed to sit down properly and do it again. I didn't have time in the session to really think about things properly, so got to work on Monday and I'm still working on it. Needless to say quite a few things have changed since I last did this 2-3 years ago...

 Cath Dean - Image (c) Blogtacular/ Amber-Rose Photography

Cath Dean - Image (c) Blogtacular/Amber-Rose Photography

Finally it was on to what was probably the highlight of the day for me - Xanthe Berkeley's video workshop. I chickened out of going to this last year as I'm a bit scared of video - both filming it and being in it (OK, mostly being in it!) as it was a toss up between this and the self-doubt session I decided I'd just throw caution to my self-doubt and do the video!

 Xanthe Berkeley - Image (c) Blogtacular/ Amber-Rose Photography

Xanthe Berkeley - Image (c) Blogtacular/Amber-Rose Photography

And I'm so glad I did. We had so much fun and I learnt quite a lot in just an hour and a half! Here's my little film...

So now I'm completely addicted and may just start filming EVERYTHING (and really annoying my husband and son!)...

The closing keynote was the rather lovely Emma Gannon (I bought her book and I'm already racing through it - by my standards anyway as I have so little time for reading!). I had that whole "Emma's so young and successful and I'll feel inadequate" thing, but she is so very good at what she does that I forgot all about that. Lots of words of wisdom and again following on so nicely from Natalie's opening keynote, it gave me plenty of food for thought...

  Emma Gannon - Image (c) Blogtacular/ Amber-Rose Photography

 Emma Gannon - Image (c) Blogtacular/Amber-Rose Photography

So onto my actions...

  • Video - I really want to do more of this. So I set up a new YouTube channel the other day and now I need to fill it with stuff! I made a slightly less successful film in Columbia Road Flower Market on Saturday and shoved that up there too (not sure what happened to the format it looks pefect on my phone - still lots to learn!) but anyway - following Natalie Lue's advice again and taking an "imperfect step"! You can see my YouTube channel here - I don't expect anyone to subscribe but if you do it'll make my day!
  • Working on my niche - this is both for the marketing of my products and services, and for this blog - the audiences are similar but not the same so this is going to take some time. I've started though and plan to finish and start putting it into action asap.
  • Create Twitter lists - Emma Gannon recommended making a list with the people who inspire and lift you so you can essentially create a curated feed. As mine's been getting me down so much recently I'm planning to do this. Doesn't mean I won't look at my whole feed but it'll be nice to be able to step back from some of the negativity when I need to.
  • Podcasts - they're up there with books as something I say I don't have time for - but you know I'm sure I do. I've subscribed to Emma's and I'm keeping an eye out for more - let me know if there's one you think I'll like!
  • Identify new blogs to read - I'm guilty of just reading a handful regularly and dipping in and out of others as and when I see an interesting tweet or Instagram post - I'm going to hunt out some which will inspire me - starting with people from Blogtacular...
  • List everything I do - in a typical week and work out what I can stop doing - there must be loads of stuff! I'm feeling completely frazzled at the moment - so I will be going back to think about how often I blog and whether that's too much.
  • No more actions! So one of my actions is to stop writing so many actions! I've attended online webinars and talks and all sorts of events lately and have so many pages/books full of things I HAVE to do - it's too much - hence I'm frazzled. I need to take that step back, stop doing ALL the things and start planning out my time in a more effective and efficient way. It might even mean I get some time off occassionally!

And that's that for my annual dose of creative business fun! I'm interested to know what plans Blogtacular will have for next year - you can find out more about the event on their website.

Cloth & Candy a.k.a. Fabric Heaven...

Business, Craft, Dressmaking, Sewing, TextilesKate Marsden

I'd been following Fuz of Cloth & Candy and her gorgeous online fabric shop for a while, and then a few months ago I discovered that she lives just down the road from me! So I dragged her and her son over to my favourite local cafe to chat fabric and business and stuff. Be prepared to coo over fabricy goodness...

Tell us a little about yourself and what prompted you to launch Cloth & Candy.

Hi, I’m Fuz. I’m a wife, a mum to a busy toddler and an all round crazy fabric hoarding lady. Being a creative at heart, I’d been longing to set myself free of the 9-5. Having worked in the fashion retail industry for ten years, my work had always allowed me to be surrounded by beautiful textiles and design, so it was just a case of taking the plunge to do it. We were planning to start a family and after some long hard thinking, I decided, what better time to just give it a go. So I did!

When did your love affair with fabric begin?

I am lucky enough to have a mum who loves sewing so she taught me a lot when I was little. I used to enjoy tapestries, cross stitches and little sewing kits. I made a rag doll once, I swear it was the scariest thing ever, but I loved it at the time ha ha! I had some amazing textiles teachers at school too who taught things like appliqué, dyeing and even machine embroidery.

Also, I think a big part of the excitement, has come from my heritage. The vibrant colours, handiwork and general culture of Pakistan and Bangladesh have really helped to create this passion for textiles and design.

How do you spend a typical day at Cloth & Candy HQ?

I am first and foremost, a mother, so my day is a real mix of megablocks, fun fabric stuff, and generally chasing after my toddler all round the house. I tend to prioritise my tasks the night before, just so I can make the most of the day. During his nap time, I could be taking pics of some of the amazing fabrics, catching up on emails, wrapping parcels or planning my next projects. We usually have a trip to the post office in the afternoon which always involves a visit to the duck pond or the playground! I get a lot of my stuff done in the evenings though, I am quite the night owl.

It can be tricky to switch on in the evenings for work after such a tiring day. When you run the show all by yourself, work can creep into spare time too. I’m trying to be better at giving myself time off as it allows me to be more creative and come up with fun, new ideas for the business!

What attracts you to the designs you choose to stock at Cloth & Candy? Everything always seems to work so well together!

This is the part of my job I love the most! I look for great colour combos and striking designs. I love modern prints, with a bit of fun and boldness to them and yes, I generally try to make them sit really well together. The fabrics genuinely excite me and I hope I’m inspiring people to use these fun patterns in their projects. I’ve had a few customers tell me they've started sewing for the first time just because they wanted to own the fabrics in my collection!

Like my motto goes, if I don’t love it, you might not love it, I don’t put it in my shop.

Do you find any time for sewing yourself? What do you like to make?

Since the little one arrived, I’ve been rubbish at giving myself time for this. This year, a big goal of mine is to get back to the sewing machine more. After all, I do have a pretty good stash at my disposal!! I’ve started to get that time in for some simple projects like drawstring bags and pouches. I’d really love to give dressmaking a go this year though. I’ve wanted to make myself a dress for some time now and I just need to get on and do it!

And what do you enjoy doing when not consumed by fabric?!

I like to relax! Curling up with a good book, watching Netflix, chilling out with the hubby. I like to visit markets and art galleries when I can and enjoy the odd craft workshop every so often. We like to travel too. I get so inspired by the places we visit! We recently visited Brussels and absolutely loved it. Next stop, Kuala Lumpur!! Oh the fabrics I will find…

We’re all planning our summer holidays at the moment - which destinations have you enjoyed fabric shopping in?

Ooh, Paris is super fun for fabric shopping. I love trawling Le Puces Flea Market for vintage bits and bobs! But, by far my most favourite place to shop for fabrics has been Japan. That place is full to the brim with creativity, colour and design. I was in heaven and I’m sure the fabric tipped me over the baggage allowance limit!!

Are there any other small businesses closer to home which you’d recommend to us sewing fans? 

If you haven't already, you need to head to V V Rouleaux in Marylebone, London. All the trimmings your heart could ever desire! And for some cute, colourful craft kits, check out The Make Arcade. We will be stocking some of their sewing kits soon!! Oh, and there’s this other amazing shop I know… Made by Mrs M??

Can we expect to see you popping up at any events again this year?

For sure!! You will find me at Summer Sewmance in Brighton this June and then I’ll be back at the Handmade Fair at Hampton Court in September. I love being able to share what I do and meet fellow fabric fanatics so do come along if you can!

Thanks so much for chatting with me Fuz! You can find the Cloth & Candy website here, and also on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

March Meet the Maker

Business, InspirationKate Marsden

Last month I took part in #MarchMeettheMaker again over on Instagram. It's organised by Joanne Hawker, and encourages makers, artists and designers across the world to share more about themselves and their work, via a series of daily prompts. It's great fun to take part in and I love being nosey and find about about other people's studios, inspirations and the like.

Anyway, here are just a few of the photos I shared. Head over to my Instagram to see them all (there are some little hyperlapse videos too), and to see everyone's head here.

Motivation (or a lack of...)

Business, InspirationKate Marsden

I ended up thinking about writing this post on the third day of staring at a blank blog schedule. I tend to be a bit all or nothing (my friends would probably say this applies to everything I've ever done!) and deciding what to write about is no exception to the rule. It's a little bit different at the moment though as I have precisely zero motivation.

I started 2017 feeling reasonably optimistic (although around 00:10 on 1 January, I had my suspicions that by next new year we'd be laughing hard at ourselves for thinking that 2016 was rubbish and willing it to be over - little did we know we'd be doing this before the end of January...), I had a list, I had a plan. It started with aiming for a January sale as successful as last year's...

So the sale completely bombed and January was a very poor month for my business. Never mind, push on with the rebrand (which as been very well received and I love it), new collection, plans for the year... then I was ill. Then a week later I was ill again but this time it was a full fever, 17 hours in bed even though I have a child ill (so really bad - most parents will agree that you have to be hospitalised in order to get to stay in bed when you're ill - ranging temperature or no raging temperature) I really couldn't get up.

I had a whole week of being properly ill and that's when my slightly fragile motivation vanished. Completely. As I write this I'm still recovering and feeling a bit wobbly. But also not really sure where to go or what to do next. January was an expensive month (rebrand, new collection) and I currently have no money coming in.

So I decided that step 1 was to identify why my motivation has gone AWOL - not being well ALWAYS makes me anxious and miserable, every time;  work dropping off a cliff when I've been busy and hopeful ALWAYS makes me anxious and miserable, every time; oh and everything that's going on in the world - I'm not going to go into that - we're all struggling there to some extent and I've already lost way too many nights sleep (and will no doubt continue to).

Right - identify the problem - now how to fix it? Well, with regard to being ill I will get better but should probably make more of an effort to rest and get better properly - not something I'm very good at. With regard to business being slow - I've been here before and it's always picked up before, so I should cling to that. With regard to the world, well - giving up on the thing I love because of it would just be wrong.

I did what any self respecting person does in 2017, and headed to the internet for help. On the basis that there's nothing fundamentally wrong, how can I regain my creative mojo? I found a nice piece by Susan K Perry in Psychology Today which set out steps to get it back - all good but maybe for when I feel better:

  • make the thing you're doing more challenging - I wonder if at the moment I'm just going through the motions of launching my new collection, I've done this before. I've changed a few things so I'm more effective and have planned better, but maybe I'm already bored of it (eeek). How can I make this more challenging?
  • taking a fresh approach - so doing the same old thing in a new way - is planning actually not such a good thing for me and spontaneity with my work is better? The extra planning is my fresh approach...
  • look at it from a different point of view - hmm, I've approached it from mine, and my customers' - not sure who's next, the cat?
  • find your intrinsic motivation - this came up everywhere I looked (including in this great Bustle.com article which I'll reference again below). I thought I knew what this was but I'm starting to question it. This is also something that comes up very early on in the Dream Plan Do planner.
  • forget the goal and find the fun - well I have done a little bit of this - see Wednesday's post. Maybe I need to do more - but I'm even struggling to find the motivation to draw for fun...
  • not enough pressure - I think it's the opposite here - I put myself under way too much pressure. One for another post of it's own perhaps.

The Bustle.com article is a 9 point plan! Possibly more than I can cope with this week! It goes right back to basics though with identifying your strengths - I took this VIA Survey of Character Strengths, the results of which weren't surprising, but it did leave me feeling a bit flat and questioning whether I have any real, useful strengths at all.

The article also advised setting really big juicy goals (al a Dream Plan Do again) - I have one of these, and 3 years in I'm starting to suspect it's ridiculous and totally unattainable. Most people would say that the juicy goal is a 10+ year aim though so giving up on mine after 3 would be silly.

I then had a reminder of something I haven't done post my coaching session last summer - rearrange my working day (I wrote about a typical one on Monday but still I didn't think about it!). When are you at your most creative? Do the creative stuff then and plan everything else around it. Oh and exercise - I walk a lot but I've been skipping yoga because I've not been well enough - hmmm.

It went on to show examples of the daily schedules of creatives - my first reaction being "well mine is dictated by school hours, so I just have to fit in what I can" - actually having daily deadlines you can't move like that can be a good thing. Tomorrow I'm going to work on planning my days better - and then start being strict with myself (you will have fun Kate, dammit).

Then we have all the things I'm always shouting about - tenacity (people often congratulate me on this, but I think mine's gone on a winter sun holiday or something, it'd better come back - here's a piece in the Huffington Post about finding your "True Grit"), doing things that make you uncomfortable (see my 2017 goals), accountability - its often the fact that others are relying on me that keeps me going so this is definitely true, and fighting the beast that is procrastination.

Well, what have I got out of this exercise? One blog schedule gap filled... Not sure if I'm feeling more positive or not but perhaps I need to sleep on it. Facebook reminded me of a day out I had 3 years ago today - when I'd just started working for myself and I was full of excitement and enthusiasm. I realised straight away that I need to get that back - just not quite sure how at the moment...

p.s. After I finished writing this post, I came across this article on Talented Ladies Club which pretty much sums everything up for me (if only I'd found this first!) - Three steps to avoid energy burnout if you're an introverted entrepreneur - maybe I would be better off with a "real" job!

Day in the Life

Business, Day in the LifeKate Marsden

It's been a while since I shared a day in my life here so I thought I'd do so now (as things do change over time). I'm planning another series of Day in the Life and Studio Tour posts here - if you'd like to be featured please email me at kate@madebymrsm.co.uk.

Anyway, here we go...

My day almost always starts with a cup of tea in bed (and lately with some cracking sunrises too). I got my Hillary mug in Fishs Eddy in New York when I visited in November.

My son (who's now approaching 7, how did that happen?!) is still a VERY early riser, but fortunately for me Mr M gets up early for work, so I get to stay in bed until about 7am most days.

Once I'm up it's a quick check of emails and social media (less quick on blog post days - Monday, Wednesday and Friday - as I have more to do - I schedule some tweets etc but I really need to do more to save time). Then I down my one coffee of the day (yes straight after the tea), get myself dressed and get everything ready for school. There's usually a 30 minute battle with the little man over eating breakfast, cleaning teeth and getting dressed in there too!

We almost always walk to school (unless the weather is really awful). Sometimes I'm only back at my desk for a short while before heading out to yoga, but most days I'm at my desk with yet another cup of tea and a bowl of cereal before 9am.

This is when I go through the emails properly and start replying to stuff I have to think about! I also use this time to work on the Just A Card blog and this one and process any orders that have come in over the weekend, or since my cut off time on the previous day.

 Excuse the old branding!

Excuse the old branding!

I then check my to-do list (I keep a sort of a bullet journal) and plan out the rest of my day based on this. Sometimes I'm stuck at the computer all day, other times I get to go and have a play/work in my studio which is in a separate room (with no computer - both a blessing and a curse).

Lately I've been using this time to work on my new collection and rebrand. I'm also trying to spend more time with my new sketchbook.

Then before I know it (and often having failed to find time for lunch!) it's off again for the school run. I have a Post Office Drop and Go account, so I drop my orders in there on the way to pick him up.

The time of the school run varies depending on the day as my son does some after school activities. Once I've picked him up we might go to the cafe (for my late lunch!) or to his swimming lesson but most nights it's straight home for a snack and homework - he may only be approaching 7 but he has A LOT of homework. This week we've been making and experimenting with tin can telephones - he just needs to finish writing up his findings.

And then I get to flop on the sofa for a few minutes to check emails and social media again...

Before cooking him his tea. We sit in front of the telly for a while before bath and bed. My husband comes in and we eat together later - he usually cooks (which is great as cooking is one of my least favourite activities). During the evening I'm on the social media and email again although the telly is usually on and there may also be a glass of wine or two involved. I'm not massively fussed about the TV but we always watch Only Connect (which has moved to Fridays - suggesting they know their audience well - NEVER out on a Friday night!). I also really loved Sherlock - at least that will be repeated every 5 minutes for all time!

I usually try to be in bed by 11pm - I may get a lie in until 7, but the little man always wakes me up when he gets up, and I need my sleep! I do tend to check my phone one last time before I hit the hay, which is a very bad idea - another habit I need to kick...