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


Time flies when you’re having fun- 2013 in review

I can’t believe Christmas is just around the corner and it’s nearly the end of 2013! I have mixed feelings about the impending new year as 2013 has been such an amazing year I’ll be sorry to see it end.

As they say, time flies when you’re having fun…

This year has been one of the most amazing years. It has been FULL of change, something I am usually scared of, full of terror and triumph, happiness and fulfilment, living on the bones of my ass, and of travelling overseas- a year of opposites in many ways. This year I ‘jumped’ into the unknown with no net by quitting my full time job, I also got married, spent all my savings on a honeymoon (while new husband and I were both unemployed) …making my jump into self employment as challenging as humanly possible. My husband got a new job (one where he works ridiculous hours most of the time… throwing me into a new kind of solitary, a new kind of isolation). This year I learned to self motivate, to time manage, about SEO, online sales and photography. I learnt that it’s important to stop to smell the roses and also how to bet on myself. Most importantly I learned what an amazing bunch of people I am surrounded with, and how I couldn’t have done any of this without them, without you.

Oh yeah, and I also launched TWO new lines, Major Tom & Ex Libris and was featured in a book!

Emily McDowell

An awesome card that says it all, by Emily McDowell (Etsy emilymcdowelldraws)

This year has overwhelmed me on every level, from what I am capable of when I put my mind to it, to the support and understanding of the people around me. It’s been a hell of a ride and I feel so grateful to everyone for coming on it with me. From those who I know in person who encourage me with their words and thoughts, and for taking what I do seriously (especially my ‘work wife’ Ria who keeps me sane in the day time). To those of you who like my Facebook posts, read my blog, stock my wares in your many shops, and of course those of you who buy online, straight from me. You can’t understand how much each one of those actions mean to me. So thank you.

This will be my last blog for the year, while I wrap up my internet orders for the year and have a couple of weeks off with family… but this Christmas I will raise my beer and say…

Here’s to all of you! To 2013, to working hard, kicking ass, and taking names.

…and of course all that 2014 will bring!

Happy New Year by Natali Strelchenko

Happy New Year cleverly made from paper by Natali Strelchenko


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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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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…


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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I Blog Therefore I Am


What an odd and wonderful thing blogging is. I was first introduced to the wonders of blogging in 2010 when I left NZ for six months and travelled around the U.S & Europe alone. It was a good way to upload photos and tell of my adventures without sending out the dreaded group email. I loved that people could read up on my comings and goings if they wanted to, when they wanted to. There was also little to no pressure on me, although I was always aware of my bad spelling and grammar (something I am cursed with to this day) I figured my family and nearest and dearest were my target market, and I didn’t care what anyone else thought.

Of course, if you are reading this you probably will know that my blogging aim has now changed. When I started writing ‘watch this space’ it was for exposure. Not to make money through ads featured on my blog, just to push my Etsy & Felt shops to the top of search engines (or give them a small push anyway) and to make me more searchable. Promote, promote, promote, that was the idea. It’s a bit depressing when I look at it like that… but luckily, although that was the original purpose, it feels like much more than that to me now.  It was a pleasant surprise that I enjoy writing it so much, and other than last week (where I went back two days after publishing it and deleted large chunks and edited it) I am generally pretty proud of the results.

to blog or not to blogI discovered on Pinterest yesterday a ‘Grow your blog’ pin and made the mistake of scrolling down to the ‘People who have pinned this also pinned’ section. It was, as you can imagine, promotion of a different kind.

Blog for passion, Blog for profit, Blog advice from your favourite blogger, 50 online tools to better your blog, Build a better blog, Blogging and the road to traffic, Time management tips for bloggers, How to make your blog stand out, How to make $ with your blog, Build your following, Traffic tips- how to drive people to your blog, Promotion, Tips, Build, Sell, Tutorial, Ideas.

It was overwhelming. It was unnecessary, surely? I opened several of them in new tabs, then closed them all without reading them. It was all a bit too bigger, better, faster, stronger for my liking.

Then it struck me. I know why I write this blog, what I get out of it. It chronicles my journey, my achievements, my struggles. Writing about the things I do and why I do them is very cathartic; it’s a bit like weekly therapy. I think it has also improved the way I communicate, the way I write and had helped make me more aware of the importance of the Oxford comma, and my incorrect usage of your & you’re. But I’d like to know what kind of blogs YOU like. Do you tend to look at glossy, photo heavy blogs? Or do you prefer blogs heavier on text content? Perhaps you prefer to read about specific topics so stumbled on this because of a keyword, that’s fine too, but I’d love to know! Do you like that I write once a week, and it’s usually a weighty length, or would you prefer short & sweet, but more often?

I’d love to hear why you read blogs and how you read them, please leave a comment below and have your say!

Ok, I don't actually like tea... but you get the idea. Thanks for reading, for whatever reason...

OK, I don’t actually like tea… but you get the idea. Thanks for reading, for whatever reason…

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Making Little Jumps

If you missed last week’s blog– I was made the offer of a lifetime after I contacted what I mistakenly thought was a shop, asking if they would stock my wares. The ‘shop’ ended up actually being a company who represented several brands, a sales agent/ distributor. She was interested in me… She would sell to (over 200) shops, market, deal with buyers, ship and represent me at the gift fair. I would have to make things in this season’s colours, sell them to her at slightly less than normal wholesale, cut ties with my normal shops, and create like crazy

I felt like I’d been blindfolded and turned in circles. It could be huge exposure but it felt like I’d be putting all my eggs in one basket. Which is where i left you… pondering the problem all week, as i had been…

Luckily for me, the crafting community is a tight nit one and I know some incredibly time generous, lovely people. Earlier that week i had been invited to join  four crafter’s (only two of whom i actually knew, vaguely) to meet up for self employed crafty business  meetings to share experiences and give advice- just the kind of thing i needed. The only problem was the meeting wasn’t for a fortnight and I just couldn’t wait that long, so i emailed them with my problem.

Sue jumped to action almost instantly and suggested we meet up to talk it through over coffee the next morning at The Roxy. Beverly and Monica agreed, they would see us there. This alone was enough to overwhelm me, these three women (two of whom I had never met) were willing to give up their morning to help me nut out my difficult situation. Amazing. I went to bed feeling better about the situation already, we’d sort it out in the morning. Then overnight the stress of the week caught up with my immune system and I got sick. I woke up sniffly, throaty and unhappy. It was raining outside and I couldn’t face going out feeling as crap as I did, especially as the cold wet weather would no doubt make me feel worse. Now if you thought these women were amazing before, you just wait… they met up anyway, without me, and talked over my problem for me and emailed with the results of the meeting.

I’ll just give you a minute for the amazingness of these women to sink in… it’s OK, i’ll wait…

The Roxy Cinema- where important decisions and delicious snacks are considered (and consumed)

The Roxy Cinema- where important decisions are considered and delicious snacks are consumed.

They emailed with a large, helpful email- they suggested that instead of looking at what this woman could give me to look at myself, my practices, to ponder things like ‘How am i doing on my own right now?’ and ‘Do I enjoy selling directly to shops?’ (yes). If I get a huge demand of 1,000 orders a week (or more) can i meet it swiftly without comprising on quality? (honestly i don’t think so), and if not, do i have a line i CAN produce quicker to meet this kind of demand… could I offer her that instead? It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, test the waters a bit before jumping in.

There were so many helpful questions to mull over, most (luckily) were instantly answered in my head upon reading them: If I have to pay her a commission, pay lower wholesale prices, register for GST, or hire someone to help meet volume requirements can I absorb that into my price? Can I afford to continue if she doesn’t make any sales for me? What are my turnaround times? Payment terms- what are they!?

Being a stay at home machine doesn’t sound anywhere near as fun as this Pancake-making Machine that W. Heath Robinson envisioned!

Being a stay at home machine doesn’t sound anywhere near as fun as this Pancake-making Machine that W. Heath Robinson envisioned!

One of the things they pointed out, that I had already been mulling over was ‘How many orders can I manage a week?’ I have an impressive amount of origami bagged and ready to make into things, I like to keep my hands busy while watching TV, and it’s nice having something to fall back on if I have a surprise big order or if I go on holiday… but if she wants me to start, from scratch essentially, with new colours, all of that goes out the window. Then there is the clincher ‘How many orders do I WANT to manage in a week?’ it’s all well and good saying I want to be a creator, to be self employed and sit at home all day making, but if I have to make (not create) like a machine… it’s not quite the same!

However they reminded me… My jewellery would be marketed in a professional manner and I’d never have to leave my studio… That the rep can keep me abreast of jewellery design trends and give me updates on what’s selling and what’s not, suggest potential modifications to my jewellery line based on experience in the marketplace. Of course it’s not all roses… “Having an agent doesn’t exactly mean sitting back and just creating, you still need to communicate with her regularly, check how things are going, provide free samples, marketing materials and anything else to help them sell your products. Are you guaranteed presence at gift fair? if yes how much space? Is there a minimum commitment period, is there a review period?”

With all this spinning through my head, a very thorough email but perhaps one that raised more questions than answers, I realised in the first sentence they had hit the nail on the head “it’s awesome and flattering when someone wants to do business with you” I think through all the pros and cons, the talking about it, the feeling of dread in my stomach I kept coming back (subconsciously of course) to being so flattered I couldn’t even consider saying no even though it’s what I had instinctively felt since the beginning! They also reminded me that I am the one who holds the cards in her hand, not the other way round. She wants me, she isn’t going away, and it’s not a decision I have to make now, or even this year.

Sue said it beautifully ‘It’s big and overwhelming and possibly that it is big and overwhelming is an indication that this is a leap too big for now, when you are just making little jumps’