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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Baby on Board

You may have noticed I have gone quiet recently on the blog front. I started the year slowly, finding it hard to get back into it after truly relaxing over Christmas, as my tardy first blog post explained. I re-organised with new shelving determined that would be the kick in the bum I needed to get moving. It worked for a short time but my energy levels just weren’t there, the motivation was gone.

I was still making stuff, doing my accounts, emailing and filling online orders… but the motivation to write about it, and the passion and excitement behind it… gone. Then I started sleeping more than normal, eating more than normal… and worrying what was becoming of me. Had the freedom of working from home finally sunk in, to my detriment?

Yes and no. I discovered I was pregnant.

What followed was bucket loads of tears and more hormones than you could shake a stick at. I was happy; this is what I had wanted, what we were trying for… it was a good thing. Then why did I feel like such a failure? Mixed in with the joy, an impending dread filled the pit of my stomach. Why did I feel like this? It took me over a month to figure it out, and even longer to admit it to myself… or say it out loud. I felt like I had given up on my dream. Like by having a baby, I was taking the easy road out. Don’t get me wrong, I know having a baby isn’t going to be *easy*, I just mean an easy way of ducking out of self employment, like I hadn’t really given being fully self employed a good enough shot.

Origami Pram By Dominik Meissner

Origami Pram By Dominik Meissner

A mixture of this overwhelming sense of failure, mixed with a mild case of all day ikkyness (other wise known as “morning” sickness) put me into a funk. A ‘sleeping till 11am, staying in my PJ’s, not going out very much’ funk.

I tried my best to make new things. I knew I needed to work extra hard to build up stock levels so once the baby came I would have loads of stock prepared so the business could continue to function, relatively easily, even if I was too busy to be very active in its running. But the funk had taken hold and instead I moped around the house.

I told several friends, none of them creative, how I felt. That I was worried I wouldn’t have time once the baby came to continue the business. They all replied with a dismissive wave of the hand “You won’t have time for that”. Was I doomed?

So I turned to my creative bible, Create & Thrive, for an answer. I wrote to Jess  and asked for advice from people who were/ had been in a similar situation. What did they do, how did they feel, did they have advice for me? The post was answered by Katia, someone in my position… also pregnant, also worried, although a lot more positive that I was being. It helped immediately feeling like someone was in my corner. What helped even more was the comments section, which to this day I refer to if I’m feeling a bit sad, scared, tired, or I’m worried about the impending future I have created for myself.

The comment that struck me most was “Be kind to yourself”. Such a simple, obvious idea, and yet something that hadn’t occurred to me. My due date is mid October which means the three hardest ‘mum’ months (the maternity leave months), are also the busiest of the year in my creative business, the lead up to Christmas. One of the reasons I was so freaked out was I was imagining the Christmas rush AND a new baby. But of course this isn’t tenable. Yes my business will continue, yes I will have a baby, it will be a juggling act… but I’m up for it, if I don’t expect too much, prepare as much ahead of time, and I am kind to myself.

You can read the Create & Thrive post here, thank you to everyone who commented, and of course Jess for fielding my question and sending it to Katia for answering!



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A Tidy Studio, A Tidy Mind

As I mentioned last week, it took me quite a while to settle back into my routine. I think a lot of getting ‘back into it’ was a big old fashioned tidy up. Over the last couple of months my studio has really turned from ‘craft room’ into ‘working space’, I am in it every day, & the supplies I need to survive in my day to day business have been increasing (and it’s always cheaper to buy in bulk) so I have been buying more and using more without changing the look or storage capabilities of the room. The lack of shelving was really getting to me, making me feel claustrophobic, especially as I save boxes as packaging for wholesale shop orders… they were starting to creep up the walls, and I was using the floor more and more for storage… and don’t even get me started on the crap that has lived under my desk for the past two years. As they say- Out of sight, out of mind.

Before and After shots under my desk. Now there is room for the things that are supposed to go there: Feet.

Before & after shots under my desk. Now there is room for the things that are supposed to go there, like feet.

Enter my new shelving, and a solid week of organisation. Just what the doctor ordered. I went through everything in my studio with a fine tooth comb. If it wasn’t going to be useful it had to go. If I was going to keep it, it had to be accessible, which was my last storage solution‘s problem. Yes it looked great, and technically fitted everything I needed… but each time I used something from it I pulled it out and put it down on my desk, where it would stay, until the desk was full (two deep usually) and then I’d use the nearest chair, floor, or balance it on my knee. Not a good way to do business really…

Before and After shots of my ex 'Wall of Doom' transformed into 'Wall of organisation and labelling'...

Before and after shots of my ex ‘Wall of doom’ transformed into ‘Wall of organisation and labelling’…

To the casual observer my new shelving might look as ugly, busy and messy as my previous disaster wall. However I know where everything is, it is all easy to pull out and put back (not like the previous set up which needed an excavation team to get into and out of again). I know what you’re thinking- It’s so big! It’s so tall! Why are there so many boxes on the top? Well reader, those are empty, and for packaging up wholesale orders; they don’t seem so bad now do they?

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Letting go of the Holidays- The slow beginning to 2014

When I decided to quit my job and become self-employed full-time it was a whirlwind of busy. I quit, got married, went on honeymoon then got home and threw myself into it 100% from day one. I was originally worried about self motivation, time management, and most importantly… getting up in the morning. I was worried I would sleep the day away, surf the net, be lazy, go shopping, see friends… and not do the necessary knuckling down to get stuff done. To my delight the opposite was true. Last year I worked harder than I ever have, I worked long days, I pushed myself and I worked – longer hours than I imagined, structured days, timetabled weeks. I learnt HEAPS, made new connections, got stocked at new shops, launched two new brands and… as you can imagine, was a bit exhausted.

When my husband and I decided to go away for a week over Christmas I thought it would be stressful preparing, December is the busiest month of the year after all, was it a good idea in my first year of self employment going away? I wrote lists, I filled orders, I made sure all the brick and mortar shops I stock were full. Multiple customer orders (via Etsy, Felt, email and Facebook) came in every day, and I was able to fill them easily as I was busy through winter making stock for just this reason. The closer it got to Christmas, the week I was worried about taking off, the calmer everything became and I had a lovely time. Totally the opposite of what I was expecting. I had never thought about it that hard, and of course shop wholesale orders slow down closer to the big day, as stuff needs to be in store well beforehand in order to sell, and online customer orders slow down as shipping time is an important factor. Imagine my surprise that my busiest Christmas to date, my first as a self-employed maker, was also my most relaxing, my calmest.

Open Book by Elizabeth Mayville

Open Book by Elizabeth Mayville

The week before Christmas I put my online shops on ‘holiday mode’ and tidied my studio. My plan of attack for 2014 slowly formed in my head and new collections, ideas and promotions slowly swirled and came slowly into focus.

Then we flew North, for a week of reading in the sun, drinking beer and sleeping in. It was bliss. I took my workbook with me, and some printed out calendar months, thinking I would start writing down my plan of attack for 2014 while there… but instead, I didn’t. I relaxed, truly relaxed, for the first time in over a year. No work talk, no work planning. No making of any kind. I love my job, I love what I do… but it was WONDERFUL. Thanks to Facebook’s new ‘scheduling’ function I didn’t go online for the better part of the week either, which was a new kind of bliss I never could have imagined.

When we got back I decided to give myself one more week off, as my husband still had a week of leave left. We relaxed a bit more, caught up on some chores replied to pressing emails and pottered in my studio when I felt like it…

A week into January Lindsay (my husband) went back to work, so I decided I would too. I had a handful of customer and shop orders in my inbox so attended to them first. I used some of the $$ made from holiday sales to buy in bulk all the necessary packaging and findings to see me through till (hopefully) mid year, then when I was finished with all of that, I treated myself to a half day and read in the sun.

Every day that week went a little like that. Sleep in, a bit of work, a bit of play, a bit more work, finish early. It had gotten to the point where I was getting worried that I may have lost my momentum from last year. My productivity was out the window… even though I was filling orders I wasn’t moving forward with anything new… paper work had gone completely by the way side too. Till late last week. It took a whole month of chipping away at it, but finally I’m back to some kind of routine. Who knew it would be such a relief, almost better than the holiday… knowing I’ve pulled it together. Must try harder next year…

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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!


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!


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…



A Watched Pot Never Boils- The intricacies of SEO and website statistics

It's all enough to make my head hurt...

It’s all enough to make your head hurt…

When I decided to create two new brands I knew it would be a lot of work. Registering them for their own Facebook, Gmail, Etsy and Felt accounts made my head spin. I didn’t really make it easy on myself though, I did it all in one sitting, for both brands. Then there was all the work I had forgotten about, Imogen Wilson Jewellery has been around for so many years, and I built it up as I went, I didn’t go in with a fully rounded brand. As a result I had forgotten how much was involved with starting out. It’s all well and good to have a product you’re proud of and think people will be interested in buying/ wearing, that’s almost the easy bit. Logo design, brand ethos, packaging, photography, photo editing, domains (Facebook, Etsy, Felt, Gmail, they feel never ending when you jump in), product descriptions and measurements for online listing…and that’s all before showing the public anything (or emailing shops)… it can seem daunting for one brand let alone three. Then when you think you have a handle on it all there are the statistics to think about.

Love them or loathe them, business statistics are everywhere. At the top of your Facebook page, your blog, your Etsy account, and of course the mother of them all Google analytics. I am still in the early stages of understanding how they work, how to read them, what it all means.

Actually, that’s a lie, a total lie. I have absolutely no idea how they work, I understand them as much as a child might. When the graph or the counter goes higher it means more people have visited my site, which is a good thing- WIN. Pretty basic right? Well apparently not. As with SEO (something else I understand about as much as a chimp) it’s an ever changing game. There is so much information on the internet about it all, yet it all seems to be written for someone else, someone that speaks this ‘other’ language I’m not privy to.

These guys get it so much they're taking a break and laughing at my inability too... Bet Asterix and Lucky Luke are in on the joke too...

I bet these guys understand it and are taking a break and laughing at my inability to. Bet they’ve even got Asterix and Lucky Luke in on the joke…

When Imogen Wilson Jewellery was my one and only brand I was obsessed with the statistics behind each website I used. My Etsy stats page was always open in one of my browser tabs, I looked at my Facebook stats daily. As I said above, I didn’t really understand what I was looking at, but that didn’t stop me being distracted by them often and excited when the numbers rose higher. Another tab to distract me from what I was ultimately supposed to be doing. Then I launched Ex Libris, my second brand, in the background all the while still chipping away at brand #3, suddenly I was logging in and out of Etsy, changing Facebook accounts left, right and centre. It was much like what I’ve heard having a second child is like, I suddenly had three times the work to do (not twice as much, like I had expected).

I realised I was so busy I no longer looked at my stats every hour, sometimes I didn’t even have the time to look at them every day. Checking my emails and looking at facebook just to see if ‘anything had changed’ didn’t occur to me, I had become so busy doing actual work that my mind had focused, and time had become more precious. Perhaps once I’ve gotten into the swing of things and all three brands have been launched, once a ‘normal’ daily routine is established then I’ll learn a bit about how to accurately read and use my stats, then at least if I fall back into old habits I’ll understand what I’m looking at.

When I started my blog, the goings on of Create & Thrive blogger Jess often inspired what I would write about. However as my blog has continued I don’t rely on her posts to spark something in my brain, to inspire me, I stand on my own two feet a little more and write about what is happening in my world with no prompting. However, I wrote this blog yesterday, and this morning in my inbox was an email about Jess’ digital sabbatical and a blog about the experience. She realised that it wasn’t necessarily that she was spending so much time online, it was the work (or lack of) that she was doing when she was there. The topic couldn’t have been more perfectly suited to include here if I’d asked her to write it myself;

“By constantly ‘checking in’ on social media, email, and other interactive online spaces (like checking our blog comments or stats, for example) we are caught in a loop of reactive work. We’re looking for something outside of us to give us something to respond to, rather than sitting back, turning inward, and focussing on what WE can create and give out to the world.”

I spoke a little bit about reactionary work flow here, but it’s so hard to make  yourself stop when you are so caught up in it. Luckily for me it’s no longer an issue, for now at least… Watch this space…

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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!