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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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!

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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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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Sick Day Blues

Travel Posters for Lazy People by H. Caldwell TannerI have always been quite a sick person. As a child I had every cold, flu and ailment known to mankind. Sniffles were regular, sore throats common. If it was out there, I caught it. As I grew up, sadly nothing much changed in that department, and as a result sick days were commonplace, such a normal part of life they weren’t worth mentioning. However all that changed this year.

Perhaps because I’m happier? Perhaps because I come into contact with less people, after all I worked retail or hospo for as long as I’ve worked, both people saturated industries. Despite the change, the crazy amounts that went on and that I organised and have achieved I have been sick a total of twice this year, a record in my books! The second time snuck up on me, and hit just last week.

I had started to feel I was out of ‘firsts’ when it comes to the crafty self employment game. Although as soon as I typed that I realised what a silly thing to say that is, I’m so new, there are a million ‘firsts’ waiting. Perhaps it’s more correct to say I have become complacent about all the firsts I achieved before quitting my 9-5, things I already know how to do now that it’s my full time gig.  But last week was a definite first, my first sick day(s) where there was no one to answer to except myself. No one to call, to make my excuses, no matter how real or fake…

That’s something I always hated about the inevitable sick day phone call, no matter how real it was, no matter how close to death I felt, I always felt racked with guilt. It was never guilt about them having to get someone to cover me, or about not being there to do my job. Even though I was genuinely ill, I was always terrified they wouldn’t believe me. This has been true of every sick call I have ever made, in every job I have held.  Although there was the simple beauty of after ‘the’ call putting the phone down and that being it, back to bed, no more guilt, no more responsibility… time for more sleep, and healing of whatever sort.

sick days actually sick imogen wilsonWhat I discovered last week was although I could wake up, feel like crap, and go back to sleep instantly (without having to drag myself to the phone for a split second of acute guilt). The trade off was three days spent in bed with the dull thudding ache of guilt in the back of my head. I had one of those flu’s. The ones where you can’t achieve anything. Scrolling through Pinterest makes your head spin to the extent where you think you might throw up. Where you can’t concentrate on reading, where TV makes your brain strobe and eyes hurt.  So all I could do was lie on my back, with my eyes closed, hoping for sleep but instead thinking about all the things I could be doing if I was well.

One of the things I didn’t have the brain strength for, through the snot fog and brain throb, was writing my blog. I don’t write it a week ahead, or even a day ahead. I write it the Monday I post it, perhaps something I need to change as my Monday posting was thrown out the window totally last week.  Luckily the only person who brow bashed me for being out of action was me… the customers who’s orders were postponed a day or two were very understanding, and my lovely husband picked up the slack where he could…

Now to put a couple of practices in place to cover me in case it happens again… I’m off to write next week’s blog, in draft form, just in case, although knowing me next week I’ll probably start from scratch on a whim…