Made By Mrs M


Dream Plan Do - My End of Year Review

Books, BusinessKate Marsden

If you were reading my blog back at the start of the year, you’ll know that I was excitedly delving into my Dream Plan Do planner from The Design Trust, and I was determined to stay on top of it this time in order to reap the maximum benefit. I even managed to write an update post here.

My very well thumbed planner (and my shiny new one!).

My very well thumbed planner (and my shiny new one!).

Well, here we are in month 12 and I’m pleased to say that I did fall off the wagon… but not completely! I’ve decided to take this opportunity to look back on the year and my work with the planner, and to explain why (despite the fact that I’ve not completed it) I’ve gone ahead and ordered next year’s book.

There are a couple of reasons I went a little off track… Unlike previous years where my business really was product based, this year I scaled that right back (for why, take a look at this post from last November) and at the same time I made the decision to take the pressure off when it came to launching 2 collections per year. Both of these topics feature heavily in Dream Plan Do and I will admit that I started to loose my way once I got to these chapters. In addition to the changes to my business I also, somewhat unexpectedly, took on a temporary teaching job which, while the hours are far from long, has had quite an impact – both upon the time I have to work on my business and on the ideas I’m having for my work.

So back in the summer I set about thinking of an alternative way to use the planner. One thing I’ve found particularly useful in this second edition is the Wheel of Life – so it’s no longer only about my business – there’s a more holistic approach. Considering this has also been the year in which I’ve finally become completely hooked on exercise again (after a VERY long break) I’ve used the planner to think about where I’m going with that too and thinking about how I use my time as a whole (oh and not feeling bad about taking time out to go to the gym – I need it both for my physical heath and my sanity!).

The planner has also helped me to generate new ideas and think more about what my priorities should be. This time last year, the idea of not launching collection or having masses of products scared me; but now it’s actually quite a relief not to have a massive inventory I need to somehow shift before Christmas! It has also helped me to focus on selling more commissions, improving my teaching, and thinking about new workshop ideas. I’ve learnt that I can’t always take each chapter literally but there’s something to be learnt from each of them.

Other things that could have thrown a spanner in the works included my spur of the moment decision to launch my Kickstarter (which was successful, thank goodness!) and also that to do fewer markets and events. The lack of events did, predictably, result in fewer sales but I’ve actually streamlined what I do and significantly reduced my costs so it’s not worked out as badly as it could have done.

Image (c) The Design Trust

Image (c) The Design Trust

Looking back on the year, I have achieved quite a lot of the things I set out to do (if you exclude my financial goals, which still feel like a pipedream, and my complete failure to embrace Pinterest – one for next year’s planner…). When I review last January in particular I can see that I’m going to need to carry out a similar soul searching exercise again as I feel I’m starting to go off track (however I do have the urge to launch a collection in the spring – someone stop me please, it will only end in tears!).

So where am I at the time of writing? Well, I’m working through the “is your website Christmas ready?” checklist, revisiting time management (which has been a far greater challenge for me over the last few months) and I’m itching to get started on my lovely new 2019 Dream Plan Do planner which arrived last week.

I really wanted to cut myself more slack this year – nothing I ever do is good enough, so I tend to just keep ploughing on blindly no matter what, without taking time out to assess whether things are working (or to celebrate successes). So I have made the effort to try not to work ALL of the time and to sit back and think, for example, of how many more people have my artwork displayed in their homes at the end of this year, and how many people I’ve taught to make lampshades… it’s a good starting point at least. Next year I need to build upon this and be brave when it comes to dropping the things that aren’t working.

I can’t wait to get started on my new planner, but if I don’t (or can’t) complete every page, or even every month, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. If nothing else it’s an amazing tool to get me off to a good start in January, a useful document to use to review at the end of the year to see how far I’ve come (or not!) and an invaluable reference book the rest of the time. I’m very much looking forward to curling up with my new copy over tea and cake next month.

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...


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.


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).

A New Zine! The A-Z of British Buildings Part 1...

Architecture, Art, Books, Drawing, TravelKate Marsden

After the success of my Croydon zine last month, I decided to make another featuring the artwork from my A-Z project on Instagram! As I'm aiming to keep all of my zines short and sweet I've split the project into two, and so I give you A-M...


The zine features black and white images of my drawings - you can see them all on Instagram here - together with handwritten notes.


The locations in this first part are: Aberdeen, Birmingham, Coventry, Durham, Edinburgh, the Finsbury Estate (London), the Giant's Causeway, Harlow, Ironbridge, Johnstone, King's Lynn, Liverpool and Mancheser.


Once again this is a limited edition zine. You can get hold of your copy 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.


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!

IMG_2665 (1).jpg
Postcards Mock Up_edited-1.jpg

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!


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.


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.


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!

The book

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.

Another postcard

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.

And another postcard...

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).

Yet another postcard

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! 




A Portfolio Boost...

Books, Pattern Design, Paper, Sewing, Studios, TextilesKate Marsden

I've not just been working on some interesting (and quite different) industry led briefs in the Winter School this month, I've been woring on some of my own ideas too (and entering some competitions - more on those another time).


For serveral months, I've been noting down any ideas for little things I could work on to enable me to add some more varied work, and I've started going through that list. The first, which I completed last week, is a cover for one of my favourite books. I went so far as to make an actual mock up of the completed jacket! I give you To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf...


It's just printed onto bog standard paper so the colour representation isn't perfect. Here's the pattern I produced, which is a reworked and recoloured version of one I worked on about 3 years ago...

To The Lighthouse Square for Portfolio.jpg

I've added some more images of the mock up at the end of this post.

Back in October at the Knitting & Stitching Show I took part in a Gelli printing workshop which was great fun (and messy - I rarely get messy nowadays and that needs remedying!). I asked for a Gelli plate for Christmas and I finally cracked that out for a play a couple of weeks ago and did lots of lovely, messy printing!


I'm keen to play with more texture in my pattern designs, but I'm also thinking of producing a short run of monoprints for my Etsy shop. Let's see...

A couple of weeks ago I made some dolls, inspured by the ladies I used to draw when I was studying fashion. This was also really good fun - even if I did make a few mistakes in the planning stages - I'm going to get some more printed up and I'll be making them soon.


So at the moment I seem to have gone from complete drought to ideas overload (and I think this is a good thing!). For once I'm allowing myself to go off on a bit of a tangent, before I get all sensible again and start to reign it in! I'll no doubt be sharing yet more new things soon, so watch this space.


I made a book!

Books, Inspiration, Photography, ProductsKate Marsden

As I reached the end of my 365 project back in December, I started to think about making something to mark the end of it. I did manage the whole year after all (and nobody was more surprised about this than I was!). Then I came across Blurb and decided to make myself a book (by the way this is not a sponsored post)...


It's small, but perfectly formed, and I absolutely love it!


Now, Blurb books come with an ISBN (which excited me more than is natural) and you can sell your books through them or Amazon. I was really keen to list it on Amazon, but aside from the fact that the books end up costing a small fortune to buy, the terms and conditions as the owner of the book left me quaking in my boots, so I'm giving that a miss for the time being!


That hasn't stopped me wanting to share it with the world though, so it's currently available as a pdf download in my Etsy shop (at about a 5th of the price it would've been for a hard copy). Blog readers can also save 20% on this using code COLOURBOOK - the code is valid until the end of January and you can find full details in the listing.





A Well Timed Pick-me-up

Books, Craft, Drawing, Inspiration, Painting, ReviewKate Marsden

I've always felt that Emma Mitchell is very good at judging what people need and when - like the day I turned up at her beautiful cottage in Cambridgeshire, feeling a bit nervous about joining a bunch of people I didn't know for an intimate workshop at the dining table (it was ace by the way, you can read about it here) - I was handed tea in a beautiful handcrafted mug and the most delicious cake I've ever eaten. And so the ice was well and truly broken!


I think Emma was one of the first people I "met" on Twitter, long before she had the Instagram fame she has now achieved! So you can imagine how thrilled I was to hear there was a book in the pipeline. Well it's here now and has already been really popular (my pre-order copy took ages to come as it would appear that Amazon ran out!) - it's clear to see why.


The aim of Making WInter is to inspire us through the darker months with makes and bakes and colour - it reminds me in part of The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady - a book which my Mum had when I was little and which I used to flick through regularly (while attempting to copy the drawings) - but obviously less of a diary and more of a modern take, with beautiful photography and lots more besides.


Any book which inspires me to bake has to be a success (although I have been thinking about that cake Emma made for nearly two years so I probably just needed a nudge) - I'm also thinking of getting the old crochet hook and yarn out again (if I can remember how to do it). I've realised how rarely I now craft for the sake of it rather than for a product or so I can write about it here.


I'm very much inspired by the idea of keeping a winter nature diary and I think this is something I should try doing with the little man - maybe we could both keep one! I spent an evening sitting on the sofa just flicking through the book and it made me want to get up and do something and I think that has to be a good thing...

FullSizeRender 95.jpeg

Making Winter by Emma Mitchell is published by LOM Art and is available now.

This is not a sponsored post.

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...

cut annual financials.jpg

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.

Patricia at goNorth Festival Copyright Tim Winterburn HIE.jpg

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).


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.

cut out wall + journal planner together.jpg

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.

portrait in green square.jpg

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!


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.

cut out wheel of life on brown.jpg

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 … 

Dream Plan Do cut out blue cover laying flat.jpg

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

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


Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

Books, Art, Inspiration, ReviewKate Marsden

I'll admit that I'm struggling a little bit at the moment. My motivation is lacking (yes I know, again). I'm finding it quite hard to keep ploughing on and putting everything into my work when business is so slow, and I'm wondering where it's all going. Add to that a seeminly endless list of personal stuff that's weighing me down, and well I'm sure you can imagine...


I received what felt like a rather timely surprise last week. It was a surprise as it was a book I'd preordered months ago, and then completely forgotten about. Regular readers and friends will know that I'm a massive fangirl of artist Lisa Congdon, and A Glorious Freedom is her latest book. We chatted about this one when I sat opposite her at dinner after Blogtacular last year and I'd been keenly awaiting it'a arrival ever since (I suppose I forgot about it once I'd pre-ordered as that meant I didn't need to think about it anymore!).


I say timely, as not only was I in need of some cheer and inspiration, but so far I'm finding being 39 pretty rubbish. I'm sure it's psychological - next year I'll be middle aged after all! And what have I achieved so far? Well, not a lot! Back in the summer I toyed with doing a 40 before 40 list, but my birthday was more than 2 months ago now and that hasn't happended. Anxiety, being generally busy, and the feeling that I'm certain I won't achieve it has stopped me. A Glorious Freedom is making me feel a bit better about this though (oh, and I'm not going to bother with the list).

The book profiles a wide range of women (all over 40, some well into their 80s) who were what we might call "late bloomers" or who had a complete change later in life. Perhaps a much needed reminder to keep going, but also stories and situations I see cropping up all the time with my friends, and realising that when many of us are the age I am now we can feel as though that's it - if the current situation isn't working for us for any reason that's the end. We're supposed to be grown-ups by now and have it all sorted (so apologies to my younger readers - I'm 39 and I don't feel like a grown-up yet).


This quote from Brene Brown has resonated with me the most. I think this is so true - I made the jump 4 years ago (4 years ago this month since I resigned from my job), but despite that I still spend a lot of time focussing on what I'm supposed to be doing, and what society expects me to be doing - although I am the Mum at the school gates in the slightly crazy brightly coloured clothes (I've stopped worrying about that)!

I haven't finished the book yet, but I'm working through and plan to read the every page. I think the one thing I'm taking from it so far though, is that what you're doing is never set in stone, not at any point. If this doesn't work out for me (as I fear) there will be something else, and what's to say that thing won't be even better? I'm also realising that sometimes it's good to have a bad week - read non-productive, can't focus on work - as this can be a sign that you need to switch off, or focus on yourself for a while (even though you're not supposed to focus on yourself!).


So, I'll continue putting one foot in front of the other (I have the school run to do later so don't have any choice in that matter really!), keep working hard, keep hoping everything will turn out OK in the end, as it probably will. It's quite telling that all I look to read at the moment are books and blogs about motivation, but all I really want to do is curl up under a blanket in front of the fire...

A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives is written by Lisa Congdon and published by Chronicle Books.

2 Minutes with... Hester van Overbeek

Blogging, Books, Craft, Inspiration, TutorialsKate Marsden

We’re heading to the seaside today to meet craft writer extraordinaire, and fellow concrete lover Hester van Overbeek

Hester photo by James Gardiner.jpg

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

Hi! I’m Hester, a Dutchie living in the seaside town of Ramsgate, and I like to make things!

I’m a craft and DIY blogger on and write DIY books, books published so far are Furniture Hacks, Crafting with Mason Jars, Making Concrete Pots, Bowls and platters. My latest title Made with Salvaged Wood will be published in October. 

I love using materials I already have lying around so you could say I’m an up-cycler. The tutorials on my website are all interior based and range from small home accessories makes like plant pots and cushions to bigger build like a wardrobe made from old doors and a wood clad bed base. When I moved into my current home I documented the makeover from the tired stuck in the 90’s ex rental to the modern Scandi style homely home it is today. You can find a new video tutorial on my website every week.

Made with Salvaged wood book.jpg

Why do you love what you do?

Whats better then looking at a piece of furniture in your house and think ‘I made that!’

Being your own boss is great as well, sometimes it seems like I work 22 hours a day but on lovely sunny days I can take a long coffee break and walk my dog Kermit on the beach. I’ve always been freelance (my previous career was doing makeup and hair on photo shoots for magazines and ads) so don’t even know what it’s like going into an office very day :)

Ikea dogbed hesters handmade home.jpg

Out of all the different crafts and DIYs you’ve tried, which technique is your favourite?

I’ve tried every craft technique and besides knitting I love them all. There is just something about having to follow a knitting pattern so precisely that I sort of loose all interest. Which is weird as I like following instructions, love a flatpack assembly! ;)

If I have to choose I think wood will be my favourite material followed by fabric and concrete. Wood is so versatile and easy to work with, just make sure you measure twice before you saw. Same goes with fabric, I love using scrap bits of fabric and wood and turn them into new projects.

Concrete was a new material for me when I got commissioned for my Making Concrete book but it fast became a favourite. I’m not very patient so having to wait for the concrete to cure before seeing any results was a bit testing but the end results just give such a lovely industrial vibe to your interior.

kitchen makeover hesters handmade home.jpg

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

Oh, that is a tricky one as there are so many possibilities. I’m slightly obsessed with Ikea (think I could easily live in their store) so anything with them would be amazing. How great would an Ikea hack kit be that you can buy with your flatpack!

I’m a magazine addict, a production in one on my fav’s would be absolutely amazing. At the moment I love Cereal, Kinfolk, the Magnolia Journal, Sweet Paul and Living magazine by my all time hero Martha Stewart.

An other collaboration that would be amazing is with a power tool brand, I’m on a mission to get more girls convertible in using power tools. There are some great DIY girls in the USA but over here its still a very male dominated environment (Builders are very surprised I do all the DIY in the house and not my boyfriend) I’m all for gender equality and hate the pink DIY tools and books some brands think we girls need

Coffee cup jar hesters handamde home.jpg

What exciting plans do you have for the next year? 

I do a series on my blog called Meet the Maker in which I interview crafter makers and have a look around their studio or workshop. I haven’t done many video’s for this yet but there are a lot more planned in the next couple of months. 

My new book Made with Salvaged Wood is out in October and can’t wait to see what people think of it, it’s my favourite so far! All project are made from wood you might already have lying around in your shed, from bits you can find in a salvage yard and branched you can find in the forest.

wardrobe build hesters handmade home.jpg

Thank you so much Hester! Read Hester’s blog here and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest.




Modern Lettering

Books, Inspiration, Paper, Review, WorkshopsKate Marsden

I first met Becky from Betty Etiquette when I attended one of her wonderful calligraphy workshops at Liberty a couple of years ago. Now I'm afraid I have to admit that I've barely picked up my pen and ink since (slaps wrist) but her style of lettering is so beautiful, and there are few things nicer than receiving one of her hand written envelopes in the post!

So when I saw she had a book coming out, I was pre-ordering it faster than you can say "pre-ordering" and just before I went on my holiday, it arrived!

Modern Lettering is a little like a Betty Etiquette workshop, but with so much more which will keep you going for ages. Having been to one and not done a lot since, it's got me itching to have another go. There are pages dedicated to each letter so you can get practing (although I won't be spoiling the book by writing in it - I'll stick to a sketchbook for that) and for me I think the most useful pages are the project ideas - full of colourful examples and ways to make use of your new found skills.

The book itself is a very pretty thing indeed, and features that winning blue and yellow colour combination! I keep staring at it and then absent mindedly thumbing through when I should be working... There are also pictures of cakes...

Modern Lettering by Rebecca Cahill Roots is published by Batsford and available now!

This is not a sponsored post.

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.

Lost Futures - Post-War British Architecture

Architecture, Books, Exhibition, London, ReviewKate Marsden

I spent a very long time in a one room exhibition a few weeks ago... I visited the Royal Academy and saw America after the Fall (which was very good) and the Anthony Green exhibition (which was also rather lovely, and consisted of one room) but my favourite was Futures Found: The Real and Imagined Cityscapes of Post-War Britain - of course it was.

I'm pretty sure I've never spent so long in a small, free exhibition but I read and studied everything (and the other people came and went).

The exhibition took us through the vision of a better and brighter future which the planners of the post-war era had for Britain's cities. It included lots of familiar buildings along with plenty which were new to me.

Obviously one room wasn't nearly enough, and so I had to buy the little yellow gem of a book which accompanied the exhibition...

Now it's rare for me to read a book like this from cover to cover, but having started it on the train home, that's the plan. Packed with brilliant photographs and full page write ups for the different buildings, it's a real treat.

Lots of ideas for new/old buildings for me to draw as well. All of the 35 buildings featured have either been demolished or significanty altered (for example Park Hill), so in a way it's a little sad, but a wonderful record, in every case showing the buildings at their shiny new best.

Modernist Estates

Architecture, Books, Inspiration, Interiors, ReviewKate Marsden

I did rather well for presents on Mother's Day (not expecting much for my birthday now!) - one of them was a book I'd asked for, and Mr M even managed to get me a signed copy...

Modernist Estates is undoubtedly a thing of beauty. The binding is gorgeous (and yellow!), it features my favourte type of architecture, inhabited by real people who have inspiring interiors (elements of which I can definitely apply to my Edwardian house) AND one of my cushions unexpectedly makes an appearance on pages 85 and 86 - that was a surprise I can tell you!

I don't do this design anymore but I think it looks great on this sofa!

I don't do this design anymore but I think it looks great on this sofa!

The featured flat isn't in Park Hill but the subject matter for my cushion does (of course!) make an appearance...

The book is written by Stefi Orazi (and stemmed from her popular blog) whose love affair with modernist architecture began when she was fortunate enough to rent a flat in the Barbican. People ended up inviting her into their homes for the blog and here we see a great selection - it's really interesting to see how people are living in these properties now.

Modernist Estates by Stefi Orazi is published by Frances Lincoln and available here.

More Josef Frank and Svenskt Tenn

Books, Interiors, Pattern Design, Products, Review, TextilesKate Marsden

If you read last Friday's post you'll know that I adored the Josef Frank exhibition at the Fashion and Textile museum. It reintroduced me to Svenskt Tenn, who I'm pretty sure I discovered when visiting Stockholm, but as this was getting on for 20 years ago now my memory is a little hazy! (This reminds me - I need to go back to Stockholm).

Anyway, when the lovely folks at Thames & Hudson then dropped me a line to see if I'd be interested in seeing a Josef Frank/Svenskt Tenn colouring book*, I jumped at the chance...

I've mentioned before that I'm not a massive fan of colouring books, as I prefer to draw rather than colour other people's work, but for this one I may just be able to make an exception. The only downside being that it's such a beautiful book I'm not sure I want to mark it (and wouldn't let the little man anywhere near it, the poor thing!). The first thing to strike me was the size (see my hand for scale!)...

It's gargantuan. Oh and so much more than a colouring book. It's an introduction to Svenskt Tenn and includes images of Josef Frank's fabrics, examples of Svenskt Tenn interiors and more. It's just a lovely thing - whether you want to colour it in or not!

Swedish Modern: A Colouring Book of Magical Interiors by Janet Colletti is published by Thames & Hudson and available now.

*I received my copy free for the purposes of this review, however all opinions are my own.

House of Cards

Books, Craft, Inspiration, Paper, Review, TutorialsKate Marsden

If you read the Just A Card blog (which I also write) you'll be aware that the marvelous Sarah Hamilton has written a rather lovely book, and here it is!

I had to wait a little longer to get my hands on my copy as I was away over half term but it was worth the wait! It's a gorgeous hardback book full of beautiful images and inspiration, oh and features one of my cards too - can you spot it?!

Image (c) Kirsty Noble

Image (c) Kirsty Noble

Apart from a feast for the eyes, the book contains lots of useful stuff too - 10 tutorials by some of my favourite folks including Gabriela Szulman, Anna Jackson and Sarah herself, plus tips on finding inspiration, selling your handmade cards and licensing your designs and more.

I need to sit down and have a good read, although it's already inspiring me to get my lino cutting stuff out again...

House of Cards by Sarah Hamilton is published by Pavilion Books and it's out now!

If you already have a copy of the book, Sarah will love you forever if you leave an Amazon review - you can do so here!

This is not a sponsored post.

Mrs Dalloway

Art, Books, DrawingKate Marsden

More experiments! I decided to try my hand at illustrating a new cover for my favourite book - Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Inspired by the first line of the novel "Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself", and my love of peonies (come on peony season!).

Peony close up.... Thinking this could make a nice pattern.

Concrete Fans Rejoice!

Books, Craft, Inspiration, Interiors, Review, TutorialsKate Marsden

The perfect mix of two of my favourite things, craft and concrete, arrived on my doorstep last week (literally, thanks Mr Postman - I was in...) in the form of my review copy* of uber craft and interiors blogger Hester van Overbeek's new book. Here it is, (it made me squeek a little when I opened the envelope!)...

You may be surprised to hear that for someone whose such a big fan of the grey stuff, I've never tried my hand at making something out of concrete (Mr M made concrete gnomes one freezing November in the 1990s for a Young Enterprise project - the memory of which has left his hands feeling rather cold - so one of us has experience!).

I just needed an excuse (and some ideas to start with in order to save me getting very very messy for nothing) and it's as if Hester read my mind. The book has lots of ideas (well 35 to be precise) some of which are small and simple, others a bit bigger and messier - so there's something for everyone. Three projects caught my eye immediately:

This bowl is just gorgeous and I know it'd look fantastic on my garden table (which is below my son's bedroom window so I'll get to have a birds eye view of the lovely pattern too - maybe in yellow?). There's a rather nice looking canopy with lights too, which is a rather more involved project but would also look fab on the patio...

Then I jump straight into furniture!

Just look at this table! I would pay good money for one of these and it actually looks pretty straightforward (heads out to buy copper pipes...).

And another bowl (but this time of the indoor variety) - I love the combination of the wood with the concrete (and I already have a wooden bowl like this - just not sure Mr M will let me pour concrete onto it but let's see!).

As I've said before, I'm not terribly good at following instructions in craft books and I like to go off and do my own thing, and I may well do that with some of the things in this book. But as a person who's never worked with concrete before this is a massively useful starting point. The wide variety of projects in the book enable you to see how the concrete behaves in different situations and will undoubtedly help when planning other projects.

Now I just need to pop off to B&Q and then wait for the sun to come out so I can avoid those freezing hands!

Making Concrete Pots, Bowls and Platters by Hester van Overbeek was published yesterday (7 February 2017) by CICO books, RRP £12.99. Buy your copy from Make etc and receive 20% off with discount code CONCRETE20. 

*I received this book for review purposes. All opinions are my own. The link above is NOT an affiliate link.