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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Planning Ahead

Now that I’m back in the swing of things a little more and back doing that pesky stuff we all take for granted… you know, getting up and going to work every day… stock is beginning to pile up, and the scary looking to do list is shrinking rapidly. Amazing how you forget how much you can achieve when you don’t have ‘morning’ sickness all day.

I am currently finishing up a ridiculous amount of new Ex Libris stock (for release in the next couple of weeks) which I am making with leather from a reasonably new partnership with my favourite local shoe company, Minnie Cooper (so neat to add another string to both my ‘locally made’ & ‘re-used’ bow). It’s awfully daunting making stock in bulk that hasn’t been released yet. There is a certain amount of excitement, and a huge mental pat on the back when you see the containers and containers of finished work surrounding you. However with it comes that feeling in the back of your brain, and pit of your stomach, ‘what if no one buys it’. The difference between this stock and the other bulk stock I have made in the past (and recently) is that the other bulk stock is stuff that I have been selling for years, or months at least… and has been flying off the shelves. There is less stress and less on the line, because I know the products are already popular. This is more of a gamble, a big leap of faith, so I’m crossing my fingers and toes that it is popular… but not too popular, I’m hoping it will last me right through Christmas (I wasn’t kidding when I said I’d made LOTS).

Minnie Cooper Embossed Lizard Leather

Minnie Cooper Embossed Lizard Leather

As I just mentioned, I’ve been making bulk stock of other popular items too, in preparation for being out of action after the birth. I have been making like I’m on death row. The whole experience is such a roller coaster. So exciting, and daunting, and to feel on top of it all requires a lot of mental organisation and list making. Nothing like a deadline to light a fire under your bum!


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Photo Editing for Beginners

For the last couple of weeks I have been glued to my computer. As with everything I have been attempting recently the simple task of editing my Ex Libris product shots and photos from the photo shoot wasn’t as quick and easy as I’d anticipated. Looking back, I made it far harder on myself than it needed to be.


Sneeky looking close up of Gen. No detail is too small!

I spent several weeks waiting for my photo shoot to occur, ready to launch Ex Libris except for those pesky photos. Once the shoot was over I was left with 766 photos to sort through. After my first sweep through turning them the right way round and doing the cursory delete of obvious atrocities I was down to 619. After sleeping on it and going through once again I only managed to delete about five- holy crap this was going to be harder than I thought. I was scared of deleting something that I might need later (story of my life) so I kept that folder as a back up and copied them all to my desktop where I could delete with gay abandon and no chest pains and ‘what ifs’. I got it down to 150 almost instantly.

Now that I had a manageable quantity it was up to me to up the quality. The shots were great, I loved them all (hence my reticence to delete any of them). My photo editing up until this point was pretty preliminary, the odd crop, brightening, lightening, the occasional contrast fix. I decided to up my game on these ones though, a professional photo shoot calls for professional photo editing. A bit of playing around and I realised it wasn’t that hard to get the effects I was after. A bit of ‘that was never there’ with the stamp tool and some blending with the band aid tool (otherwise known as the healing brush tool for those not up with my lingo).  It was incredibly time consuming, but very rewarding, I had so much fun doing it and am quite chuffed at the results.

before and after

Two examples of before and after my Photoshop magic. Now you see it, now you don’t

Then I realised what was missing from my impending launch- product shots. I had been so amped up about the photos of my products being worn by someone I had forgotten the fundamental product on crisp white background shots. While I‘d been sitting idly, twiddling my thumbs waiting for Genevieve to get back from Europe I could have been doing them. Some more twiddling of thumbs ensued while I waited for the weather to clear up so I could take my light box outside for optimum light… then it was on. Nothing could hold me back, or so I thought.

Some of the shots were easy, the items easy to photograph. Some a bit trickier, interesting angles were employed and composition went out the window. Half the photos would need a good crop, by the end I was all about the colour, the angle, the product looking good- screw what you could see in the background. My new ‘I’ll fix it in post production’ ethos came through a little too heavily for my own liking.

I took far more photos than I needed, like always. What can I say, I just can’t help myself. If there is a photo to be taken I will take five where there needs to be one. The preliminary once over and first cull was easy. But as so much cropping and editing needed to occur before I could tell which were the best shots, the next several days were spent glued to Photoshop touching up, lightening and cropping photos that would later be culled. I know, I can hear you say it, and I agree- what an idiot.

screen after screen

After cropping, photo editing and several deletes I was left with screen after screen like this

After spending so much time attached to my computer I was excited to be finished editing. Photo shoot, check. Product shots, check. Sadly all the remaining steps needed to complete the launch are also computer related, so even though the editing is over I am in no way done at my laptop. Next is listing them on Etsy and Felt and pitching them to shops and my newsletter. Sometimes it feels never ending, but the end is near and I’m so excited to get everyone’s reaction to it all!all of it!

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Friends, Favours and a Photo Shoot

I recently became aware of Shh by Sadie’s work, as a fellow Wellington designer I noticed she was stocked at many of the same shops that I am. I liked her stuff; it’s stylish, current, fun and playful. But what I noticed most about her work was how professionally it was photographed. She had models wearing it, in a ‘proper’ fashion shoot environment. I realised this was what was missing from my work, it seems like such an obvious step, I mean jewellery is meant to be worn, and when buying it it’s important (if you can’t try it on) to be able to see how it falls, hangs, or its size in relation to a person wearing it. Nothing gives you an idea of scale like seeing it worn; measurements on a page just aren’t the same.

Treasure Huntress from Shh by Sadie

Treasure Huntress from Shh by Sadie

Something about having my own photo shoot seemed too big and scary though. I mean where do you even start? How much would it all cost?! Eeep! The extent of my photography skills (although improved since I started) weren’t going to cut the mustard. So I decided the first step, like with everything else I set out to do, I sent an email. To Sadie (via her facebook page), asking her how she did it. I crossed my fingers that she would, living in my home town, be down to earth and happy to help out a fellow creator, and lucky for me she was! She broke down how easy it was if you were clever about it, looking around for Photographers who were keen to work cheaply or for free in exchange for having work to add to their portfolios… tips that that I hadn’t thought of. I had put photo shoot into the too hard box and as a result hadn’t thought of the solutions, I was too stuck on the problems. Then I did a bit of Pinterest searching for possible feels, compositions, clothing options, and before I knew it I had the majority of what I wanted in front of me. I had ideas for my current origami range, for a range I’m just about to launch –Ex Libris and for one I have made the jewellery for but haven’t launched or photographed yet – Major Tom. Before the overwhelm could get to me I singled out Ex Libris and decided it would be a good one to start with, to launch it right…

Genevieve, the face of Ex Libris (modelling a pair of blue book earrings)

Genevieve, the face of Ex Libris

The first step for me was going through my Facebook friends to look for the right face for my brand. I also know a couple of quite talented photographers and had one in mind… I asked him, and was over the moon when he said yes.  After doing a bit of research and discovering this article, I asked a friend who is quite talented in the art of make-up (both Halloween and beauty, although the former wouldn’t be needed on this occasion) if she would be my make-up artist. A make-up artist, now that is professional.  I couldn’t believe it, it was all getting so real. The main hitch to my plan was that my preferred model was travelling around Europe and wouldn’t be home for several weeks… But she was so perfect I asked her anyway, once I got her face into my head she was my brand, I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing it.

Gen’s European absence turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as up until a fortnight before the shoot I only had four items to photograph. Originally the collection was book earrings and book necklaces in two colours (black and brown). They looked great, and I was proud of them, but after all the organising I realised I would be insane to go ahead with a full on photo shoot for only two items, so added cuff links and brooches to the mix and rounded it out by adding colours (five colours for each item in leather and one animal conscious vinyl option). I’m so glad I did and I’m so proud of the results.

Genevieve modelling a pair of blue Ex Libris earrings

Genevieve modelling a pair of blue Ex Libris earrings

Adding cuff links to the equation also added a new element… a male model! Going for the 100% free approach I asked my handsome husband and was very lucky he said yes, as usually he doesn’t like having his photo taken! We also photographed the brooches on both models as they are a unisex item.

My handsome husband modelling a black Ex Libris brooch

My handsome husband modelling a black Ex Libris brooch

In the end my make-up artist friend was unavailable but Gen did a great job of her own make-up and it all worked out on the day. Funny that having the jewellery, model and photographer didn’t make me feel professional enough till a make-up artist was on board.

Looking back over the process the hardest bit was narrowing down the 766 photos to a manageable *ahem* hundred… I’d highly recommend the process and I plan on repeating it with the Imogen Wilson origami range and the upcoming Major Tom collection… I just need to find ‘the face’ of each… Now that I have these delicious photos I’m one step closer to releasing my new range, hopefully this week, watch out world… it’s coming!

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Brand Juggling

When I create jewellery, generally its stuff I would like to personally wear… it doesn’t usually fit with the fashions of the moment, or the colours of the season. This works both in my favour and to my detriment. I like to think it doesn’t matter as the kind of jewellery I create is fun, quirky, and classic in its own way.

I created the brand Imogen Wilson Jewellery around my crane earrings. They were the first origami jewellery I made, they started to sell, I made more. I created packaging, a logo, a brand around them. They continued to sell so I continued to make them, I added new colours, patterns, eventually expanded the range (slightly) to include origami butterflies. They were doing so well that I wanted to expand further, make different origami to add to the collection, monthly, seasonally, hell even yearly would do. But I never seemed to have the time. Just as I felt comfortable enough with where I was, on top of the work, to expand something would happen. A big order, the Christmas rush, a new client, so I just kept doing what I knew, recreating the same things again and again. If it ain’t broken don’t fix it, as they say.

Colourfull array of Imogen Wilson origami jewellery

Colourful array of Imogen Wilson origami jewellery

So when I quit my job to do this full time I thought it would be exactly the time I needed to expand the range. What I didn’t count on was my mind being so fickle that although I did have loads of new ideas, none of them fitted into my pre designed, pre marketed brand. The brand I had spent a long time working on making cohesive, whole, rounded. None of this new stuff fitted my aesthetic at all, it was so all over the place in fact that some of the new stuff didn’t even fit the other new stuff. What was I to do? Some people I discussed it with said I could have collections within my current brand, but I didn’t want to dilute the work I had put into the look of my brand, my website, my Facebook pagemy Felt shop, my Etsy shop. The Japanese theme, the bright colour, none of that tied in with the new stuff. What do paper cranes, books, and space have to do with each other? Nothing (well OK, there is the paper element in the first two- but you see my point).

So I decided to re-brand. Not once, but twice. Looking back (and forward, as the work is in no way done) it was very clever and also a totally stupid idea. I forgot how much work is involved in starting from scratch… First I read the Etsy rules about multiple shops operated by one person… then did a Google to make sure the names I wanted weren’t taken. Not wanting to leave anything to chance I started an email account for each, a Facebook page for each, an Etsy store for each, and a Felt store for each. As I realised immediately that if I was going to go to the trouble of doing logo and design work for two new companies I better save the shop names NOW not later when they may be taken and it may be too late.

Then I had a lie down. Was I nuts? This was going to be a lot of work. I keep telling myself at least I’m doing it now, while business is relatively quiet… that’s what I tell myself anyway, it helps me sleep at night.

Three brand Juggling act. Am I nuts? Only time will tell...

Three brand Juggling act. Am I nuts? Only time will tell…

New brand #1 is called Ex Libris. It is, as the name may suggest, book themed jewellery. You can check out the Facebook page here. I’m currently focusing on slowly growing a following as only some of my IWJ fans have come over so far, I don’t blame them really… there isn’t much to see yet. I plan on releasing the jewellery in September, to the public and to the shops I stock. I’m going to give myself a couple of months to get used to juggling two brands before introducing the third, called Major Tom in early November (all going to plan). You can check out the Facebook page here (and get in on the ground floor, as there isn’t much to see yet, in fact anything, this is the first time I’ve told anyone about it, you are the privileged few)

All going to plan both will boom, Christmas will be a crazy juggling act and in the New Year my lovely computer wiz husband will make websites for both of them. At the moment we are holding fire on the website as I don’t even know myself if three brands is too many for me to handle. Only time will tell… which I suppose is why this blog is called ‘watch this space’…