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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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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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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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…


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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.

hmmm

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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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…