imogenwilsonjewellery

Walk with me, every step of the way as i try to grow my teeny craft business into something sustainable… watch this space!


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2013 Christmas Gift Guide- Something for Everyone!

Well it’s that time of year again, fair season, gift season, when the weather warms up but the shop windows and TV advertising still features trees covered in snow and snowmen. It’s a weird hemisphere we live in.

The busiest time of year for everyone, but hopefully also the most fun in lots of ways!

To make shopping for the perfect gift easier I have created a ‘Imogen Wilson Jewellery 2013 Christmas Gift Guide’ as having three separate lines (and therefore shops) can seem daunting to navigate at times (even to me) I have compiled an easy to navigate, thorough guide with suggestions from the three lines for everyone from your wife to your boss, and don’t worry there are ideas for men in there too!

christmas_bunting_hero

You can view the guide here

For your Sister- Imogen Wilson Jewellery Yellow Crane earrings!

For your Sister- Imogen Wilson Jewellery Yellow Crane Earrings!

Making the guide was loads of fun, and a tiny bit challenging. First I made a list of all the people you might buy for, then I made a list of all the gifts that might be appropriate from each line… then I edited and whittled the gifts down to the perfect one for each person… it felt a bit like playing Santa…

For your Brother- Major Tom space cufflinks!

For your Brother- Major Tom space cufflinks!

Next year I will make the list a little earlier, as I left it a bit late this year. Also fine tune it a bit as I worry it’s a bit long… But I suppose that is/ can be the beauty of the internet… Ctrl F is your best friend!

Ex Libris orange brooch- sSomething for everyone, either sex

Ex Libris orange brooch- Something for everyone, either sex

I hope you enjoy it!

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To Market, to Market, to Buy Handmade!

My first stall, where I sold origami crane earrrings, mini toppers (tiny hats) and gingerbread

My first stall, where I sold origami crane earrings, mini toppers and gingerbread

I made my first pair of cranes because I wanted to wear them myself. They were so fun to create that I made another pair, and another, and another… Soon I had 30 pairs of crane earrings hanging off a vase in my lounge and nothing to do with them, so I decided to attend my first craft fair and see if anyone else thought they were as cool as I did.  

The fair I chose was an outdoor fair, a couple of weeks before Christmas, at the top of Cuba St Wellington. I had a great time, got heaps of awesome feedback, made a killing financially, and best of all was approached by Jacki of Rex Royale and asked if they could stock my wares… that fair started my business, the excitement I felt and the confidence as a result of my success’ there. (Ironically given my recent experience and stresses with the tempestuous weather conditions, which you will read about below, I don’t remember being stressed or worried about the weather at all)

Selling at fairs has many perks, you are face to face/ one on one with your customers. You can gage their reactions to new products, engage with them in a way you can’t online. You can ask their opinions, test out pricing, be in an environment surrounded by other makers like you and give your products a face, a personality, a story! All going well you make a bit of extra money from the experience too. I’m not sure of the exact number of fairs and markets I’ve sold at since that first one, but it’s in the double digits. I’ve been part of some great events over the years, but more recently I have had a series of such disappointing fairs (some badly organised, others under publicised…) that I had decided to hang up my float and retire from the fair game. My attempt at attending the Thorndon fair was the final nail in the coffin, or so I thought…

I've been around the block when it comes to Wellington stalls...

I’ve been around the block when it comes to Wellington stalls…

Three years ago I decided to apply for the Thorndon fair, a fundraising event organised by a local school (the profits from table hire goes straight to them). It is a large event, outdoors, on the first Sunday of December. I applied, and was accepted. I prepared for ages, borrowed a trestle table (so I wouldn’t incur the extra hireage fee) and organised a lift there with my bags and bags of stock, displays and of course the table. The day of the fair it was horrible. Rain, lots of wind, plain old yuck. We packed the car and drove there, just in case, some people had shown up and were setting up their stalls (as there was no plan B) but nearly all of them had pop up gazebos, with sandbags, which I did not. Also of course, the product I was selling being light and paper… well, it would never survive. So we drove home, with me sobbing the whole way.

The next year I was more prepared. The weather wouldn’t win again. I applied, was accepted (with a slightly better spot) and I purchased a pop up gazebo so the rain wouldn’t stop me attending. The day of the fair Wellington had record winds. I could barely stand still in it, let alone sell my delicate wares. The gazebo just wouldn’t survive in weather like that. So I chalked the whole thing up to experience, safe in the knowledge that I tried (twice) and that at least the money I had wasted went towards Thorndon school not into someone’s pocket… It was my donation to children’s education, I tried to convince myself (while sobbing).

This year the application arrived in my mail box and I went online straight away to unsubscribe.

Craft 2.0 in the atrium, my stall is in the middle there behind those people...

Here is Craft 2.0 in the atrium last year, my stall is on the right just behind those people… The certainty of a venue you know will be rain free- Bliss

Weeks later a friend of mine, Nini from Things Unseen, emailed to say she had a spot (undercover no less, which was good as I had sold my gazebo after the last failed attempt) she wasn’t able to attend herself but didn’t want to loose her spot (as it would go to someone else if she declined… once you have a good spot it’s hard to get it back). She offered it to me, she would pay for the spot, I would just have to attend (weather willing) and sell some of her jewellery on my table. It seemed too good to be true!

I said yes to the spot around 6 months ago and on the Monday before the fair (with 6 days to go) I remembered it was on. I was totally unprepared so spent the whole week preparing, doing nearly nothing else except fair prep; making new stock, making new displays, packing my bag (a full sized backpacker pack plus a full bag in each hand). The weather forecast looked good, rain Tuesday to Friday then sun on Saturday and most importantly Sunday. It was true to form, it rained and rained and rained. Then Saturday arrived and some sun poked through… with light showers and 140k winds… it wasn’t looking good. My stomach knotted, I worried all day. Had I put ALL this effort in for nothing? I went to bed that night with crossed fingers and toes.

The morning of the fair was SPLENDID. The weather couldn’t have been better. It was sunny, warm, and mostly still (it’s Wellington, that’s really as good as you get here). The fair was wonderful. It was busy, I met some lovely people and saw many friends. I sold heaps, ate candy floss with my friend Heidi (who kindly offered to help me), introduced my new range Ex Libris.

…but most importantly it restored my faith in fairs.

My friend Heidi who helped out on the day, Thorndon fair 2013

Heidi who helped out on the day, Thorndon fair 2013


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Make Good Art- Neil Gaiman

Today’s blog is a short one to read… but longer than usual if you choose to watch or listen.

This week I re-watched Neil Gaiman’s commencement address at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. It’s a video I had seen when it first hit the internet and I loved it then… and I was chuffed to re-discover it last week. It is a beautiful and inspiring speech which hit home in several ways that weren’t as relevant to me the first time I watched it. The first is something he calls ‘imposter syndrome’ the fear that one day someone in a suit and tie will come and knock on the door and say “Sorry, it’s all over, you have to go and get a real job”. It must sound so irrational to someone not intimately in touch with the creative self employed lifestyle, but I understand the fear innately as it is one of the nightmarish fantasies I have often…

The second was the best piece of advice he received, ignored and wishes he hadn’t. Simply to appreciate the ride he was on, enjoy (and be aware of) his succcess instead of being too busy meeting the next deadline, creating the next idea, getting to the next job. This hit home for me quite hard, I try to fill my days as full as possible, always a new job lined up, I do stop to smell the roses, but not in the way he described and not nearly enough… It has made me change the way I work slightly, to have more fun in the moment and take advantage of the fact I work at home, my way.

So instead of writing a long blog, I leave you with the video to watch here. You won’t regret it… if you are creative or not.

The third was… Make. Good. Art.

Make Good Art Neil Gaiman

Make Good Art Neil Gaiman


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Studio Envy – How to make the most of what you’ve got

I feel extremely lucky to have a studio. A whole room to call my own, to spread out my mess and unload my brain onto the canvas of its walls and, most of the time (if I’m honest), the floor. In previous houses I’ve worked out of a corner of the lounge, and I have several friends who still do. There is nothing wrong with doing it that way of course… but now that I am full time I’m so glad I have my own space to express myself in.

Floor biggest shelf

There’s my chair, the one I’m sitting in right now writing this blog, and there is the mess that is usually by my side…

The trouble with living in an age when everyone and his dog have a design blog, a point and shoot camera and a million times more talent in using it than I do. Everywhere online that I look not only do people have amazing photos of their studios, they also seem to have studios that are full of light, are tidy, clean, and beautiful. They are often so beautifully manicured it’s like no-one has ever worked in them. Whenever I see one of ‘those’ studios (don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean) I am filled with jealousy. Jealousy, that these imaginary internet people have such tidy work tendencies.

Beautiful, light, bright and oddly empty, studios- Magazine ready!

Beautiful, light, bright and oddly empty, studios- Magazine ready!

I had a professional photo taken of my studio at the start of this year, the very talented and lovely Alden Williams (a friend of a friend) came over and took this photo of me, below, for a photo essay he was creating about self employed Wellingtonians and their environments. I tidied for weeks, in fact it’s possibly the tidiest my studio has ever looked. But he didn’t want it to look staged so he chose bits and pieces and messed it up a bit so it looked more lived in…

Photo thanks to Alden Williams. Me at work

Photo thanks to Alden Williams. Me at work

Anything I tidy in my workspace is almost immediately messy again five minutes later. I have rearranged it umpteen times making things more accessible (so they don’t need to ‘live where they lie’ when I’m finished with them) but I just don’t seem to have the touch. I also have genetics and years of procrastination working against me; I’m both a hoarder, and someone who has a million projects ‘on the go’ so half they stuff that surrounds me is to deal with ‘later’. While I type this I have piles of half finished collage and a box of wedding bits and bobs to make into an album under my desk,  mere centimetres from my feet. I live in a house with nearly no storage and even though these projects have nothing to do with my business they are art/ craft projects, so they end up here, where they will stay till I have the time to deal with them.

Before and after desk photos, creative people rarely tidy

How my desk usually looks vs. how it should look…

A couple of months ago I started a Pinterest board called Studio Envy & Ideas (you can see it here). I started it to collect ideas so I could give my own studio a facelift. The things I have pinned are storage solutions I think are clever, things I might try to copy…

Pinterest storage solutions a plenty!

Pinterest storage solutions, so many great ones, how to choose?

Of course there is also a handful of beautiful (and functional) studios that I can gaze at and daydream. I lean toward the full, busy, shelf filled studios not the stark, white ones (as shown above)

Organised doesn't have to be empty...

It’s not about how much you put into a space, it’s about ho you organise it

My studio needed better storage, shelving, and a bit more order on the walls… I knew that keeping it tidy would be a whole different challenge but I thought I could at least set myself up a bit better to succeed. I took some ‘before’ photos then started to rearrange (which really means that I took everything off my desk and put it on the floor where it stayed for two days because I hadn’t thought it all through properly and I wasn’t sure how to put it all back). I added some more shelves, put everything back and have been working like that ever since.

Before shots

Before shot

I still have grand plans for the space, but I’ve realised what the creative community really needs isn’t another photo of a beautiful studio, it needs an honest one. So today, this is how my desk looks (side by side with how it looked several months ago when the picture above was taken…) . It’s closer to two bikini before photos than it is a before and after… but it’s honest…

before and before

Before and after, not much different really other than some messy looking (yet highly useful) shelving…


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Blinded by the Light- Major Tom Scanner Photo Shoot

Not so long ago I was a total photo shoot virgin. Earlier this year while I was hatching plans for world domination one jewellery line at a time, I planned my first photo shoot for my new brand Ex Libris. You probably know that already, I talked about it here, and here. So with plans to launch two brands a month shy of each other, I planned both photo shoots simultaneously. Enough to make my head spin– yes, not the cleverest use of my time- no… but focusing on one thing at a time has never been my style so while I was planning the Ex Libris photo shoot with photographer Brock and model Genevieve, I had a secret weapon for both jobs up my sleeve for the Major Tom shoot… Me.

I don’t particularly like doing things the way everyone else is if possible, my jewellery is a perfect example of that (I hope). I only make things I would wear, and I like to make things that are fun and don’t take themselves too seriously. So when I stumbled on this; Scanner Photoshoot by Henry Hargreaves while looking for photo shoot inspiration I was sold. It was so quirky and different, I was convinced I could make it my own.

Scanner Photoshoot Henry Hargreaves

Scanner Photo shoot by Henry Hargreaves; the results

I loved that it was different, that it would be a challenge and that I hadn’t seen anything like it before. If it was done well it had the potential to be quite outer spacey, the theme of the jewellery I was launching, it seemed perfect. Plus, how fun does this look:

Scanner Photoshoot Henry Hargreaves

Scanner Photo shoot by Henry Hargreaves; the how. Looks like fun to me, especially if you’d like to see spots…

I borrowed a scanner from my parents and did a test ‘shot’. Of course the way a scanner collects it’s data is obvious from the name, it scans, one line at a time, so staying still was a very important part of the process and it was quite a bit harder staying still than I’d imagined… If I breathed too heavily or blinked at the wrong moment it would totally ruin the image. My first ‘moving test’ where I had my eyes open, then shut, then blinked (just for fun, too see what would happen) looked deranged. The scanner picked up a couple of lines of my eyes open, then shut, then open, then shut. It was terrifying, and (sorry) deleted immediately.

The other thing that became obvious quite quickly was how the scanner stretched my face if I used it landscape opposed to portrait. I went from Audrey Tautou to Ginny Sack in a matter of minutes…

Hmmm, if I'd put them round the other way it would look like I'd lost weight...

Hmmm, if I’d put them round the other way it would look like I’d lost weight…

The skylights in our lounge were my other problem, when I realised I tried several things to solve the problem including scanning with a box over my head. To anyone watching I would have looked ridiculous, luckily I was alone… Nothing cut all the light out so I solved the problem later with my new found photo editing skills.

Post production photo editing removed the sky light and made the photos apear more spacey...

Post production photo editing removed the skylight and made the photos appear more spacey…

A close friend pointed out that the scanner puts a harsh glare on the domed jewellery, the thing I am supposed to be showcasing, which I agree isn’t ideal. However when I use these photos it will be more to represent their size, they will be backed up by product shots (shots of the jewellery, well lit, on a white background) so hopefully these will do. I’d love to know if you think the exercise was a success or not, or about any unconventional photo shoots you have been part of…

 


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Etsy Treasury Addict

My name is Imogen, and I’m an Etsy treasury Addict.

You may have noticed if you have been reading my blog for a while, that I get hooked on things easily. I have a rather addictive personality, and when it comes to the internet, there is no such thing as too much. I have written previously about my addiction to Pinterest and also how I click through my tabs checking my stats as if I’m possessed, another of my e-weakness’ is Etsy treasuries.

What’s an Etsy treasury you may ask? The delightful collection of objects on the front page of Etsy, is a treasury. The treasuries are made by the makers, the sellers, the shmucks like me who sit for hours at a time choosing the eighteen items for each treasury with care. It is put there by the Etsy team, and changed often. I’m not sure how often, but I’d like to say hourly, or at least every couple of hours.

I made my first treasury around six months ago after my excitement at one of my items being featured in someone else’s. It was harder than I imagined it would be to create my own, I know what you’re thinking, how could it be difficult to copy and paste eighteen measly products into one collection? Hard. If you choose to theme the treasury, or not, the composition and colour of the photos chosen need to compliment the others around it. It could be that you could have the right collection objects just in the wrong order, it becomes a mess very easily. Having a screen that is pleasing on the eye is the aim, if your eye glazes over it focusing on nothing, you have failed. The items you have chosen might compliment each other well and be awesome, but be photographed terribly. There are so many opportunities to fail…

imogen wilson jewellery etsy treasury green spring pastel blue wedding

Pastel infusion, Wedding in blue, & Spring in my step – Imogen Wilson Jewellery treasuries

The aim of the first treasury I created was to get on the Etsy front page, the same aim I’m sure 99% of the other people who create them have. However one of the sneaky catches to this is, you can’t feature your own product.

imogen wilson jewellery etsy treasury nevermore botanicals collections

Natural botanicals, Nevermore, & Collections – Imogen Wilson Jewellery treasuries (which don’t feature my jewellery)

After realising how difficult and time consuming I had found it creating each one, I decided to look at it through different eyes, as a learning curve to hone my composition skills. I thought at the time that it was a valuable exercise, no such thing as too much practice… I created a new Pinterest board (why not merge the addictions) to keep track of them all, and share the love. The Treasurypin changes the orientation of the treasury, making it long and thin instead of the normal 4×4 format… which isn’t ideal… but it’s so much easier than screen capturing each one (like I have here), so that’s what I do…

ihhb

Book worm, Antiquated heaven, & Bookworm – Ex Libris treasuries

As time chugged on my intentions changed again, I wished to get others to notice my wares, to like, heart, favourite, bookmark, pin my items. Especially as I branched out and opened my new brand Ex Libris (and started tinkering with Major Tom). “Hello everyone”, my treasuries shouted, “I’m here!”

Major Tom

Big blue yonder, Over the Moon, & Floating round my tin can – Major Tom treasuries

Of course I have fun making them, or I wouldn’t do it. However the more I write here the more ridiculous the whole exercise feels, a bit like explaining facebook to someone who doesn’t use it, like a huge waste of time. However I’ve found the opposite is true. It has given me a greater understanding of what’s out there in the handmade marketplace. Of my competition, my community, and the handmade pricing structure. I am increasingly becoming more and more aware of different photographic techniques, props, and where my own photos are lacking. I’d highly recommend it for someone trying to hone their eye, or learn more about their own products or product photos!


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No man is an island- The pitfalls of working alone

I have always been quite a social person, put simply, I like to talk. At school I would distract others with my babble, at work I would distract others with my conversation… in life… umm, yeah, I’m sure there’s a pattern here… I don’t tend to go in for the Astrological, but I am a perfect fit for my star sign- Gemini- The twins. I talk enough for two of me.

Although I didn’t particularly like working in hospitality, or retail (the fields I’ve worked in for the last ten years) the social aspect of them made them both bearable. Customers to talk to, workmates, in the trenches together, battling it out.

stand alone

The concern I heard the most from friends when I declared boldly that I would be quitting my 9-5 job was how solitary it would be, would I cope with not having people to talk to for 8 hours a day? I assured them I would be fine, regular outings to meet people for lunch, dropping things off and picking thing up from the post office, these everyday tasks would make it less solitary surely? Plus what’s giving up a bit of conversation in the grand scheme of things if I get to live my dream, follow my passion, and do what I want. I would just have to make sure I saw more of my friends, had better quality time with my husband…

All of that was awesome, in theory. In reality however… I have been so determined to make this work I have been working more hours a day than I imagined and have less time for my friends, not more. I hope this will change once I get into the swing of it, get used to the weekly demands and plan my weeks out a bit better. My husband has been unemployed, and been in the next room, the whole time I have been self employed (the pressure I felt as a result of that, in the early weeks, is a whole blog post in itself). So while I’ve been working at home, in my studio, he is never that far away. Although we take turns making lunch for each other, we often don’t eat together, and the majority of the day is spent apart. Unless I need an opinion on something, it’s like working alone, but the fact he is so close means I have never felt it.

Print from 'FebruaryLane' on Etsy

Print from ‘FebruaryLane’ on Etsy

Till today.

Today is his first day at his new job and before lunch time I have already managed to psych myself out. I thought I would enjoy the time alone, I mean that’s what I signed up for isn’t it? Drinking my morning coffee (made for me by him) felt normal. Till the last two sips (after he left) which felt closer to drinking a shot of vodka- my head spun, my stomach hurt. It was akin to a panic attack but with no panicked breathing… It took me two hours of feeling that way to connect the dots, maybe I missed him. Nahhhh surely not, that’s ridiculous. Maybe I’m worried about working alone? That’s closer to being possible… what a wimp.

When the vomiting started I realised that no, not even I was that pathetic.

Being alone is one thing, having food poisoning a whole other…