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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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?



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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Make Good Art- Neil Gaiman

Today’s blog is a short one to read… but longer than usual if you choose to watch or listen.

This week I re-watched Neil Gaiman’s commencement address at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. It’s a video I had seen when it first hit the internet and I loved it then… and I was chuffed to re-discover it last week. It is a beautiful and inspiring speech which hit home in several ways that weren’t as relevant to me the first time I watched it. The first is something he calls ‘imposter syndrome’ the fear that one day someone in a suit and tie will come and knock on the door and say “Sorry, it’s all over, you have to go and get a real job”. It must sound so irrational to someone not intimately in touch with the creative self employed lifestyle, but I understand the fear innately as it is one of the nightmarish fantasies I have often…

The second was the best piece of advice he received, ignored and wishes he hadn’t. Simply to appreciate the ride he was on, enjoy (and be aware of) his succcess instead of being too busy meeting the next deadline, creating the next idea, getting to the next job. This hit home for me quite hard, I try to fill my days as full as possible, always a new job lined up, I do stop to smell the roses, but not in the way he described and not nearly enough… It has made me change the way I work slightly, to have more fun in the moment and take advantage of the fact I work at home, my way.

So instead of writing a long blog, I leave you with the video to watch here. You won’t regret it… if you are creative or not.

The third was… Make. Good. Art.

Make Good Art Neil Gaiman

Make Good Art Neil Gaiman

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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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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…

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Success List

ok to be happy with a calm life

This week I have decided to continue on from last weeks thought, only with a more positive spin. I talked about losing motivation, due to completing so much… but I didn’t feel happy I had completed so much like you’d expect… I felt overwhelmed, lost, directionless and doubt had started to set in. Then, just when I needed it I got the Create & Thrive newsletter delivered to my inbox. It was just the pick me up I needed. The thing that caught my eye was this post entitled ‘The Success List’ where Jess listed what success means to her. It sounded like she enjoyed the process quite a lot;

“It’s amazing how writing this list opens you up – not only to the possibilities, but also to the awesome things you already have in your life!”

Although I enjoyed reading hers, I wasn’t completely sold on writing my own… it all felt a bit narcissistic and when you think (as Jess points out early in the piece) that when you work for yourself business success and personal success are very closely related. At times it can be hard to see where one starts and the other stops. That said, it is quite a personal exercise. I mean it’s hardly shouting from the rooftops, writing it on my blog is a slightly smaller stage, but it seems just as scary and very public.

At the end of her post Jess goes on to challenge us to write our own. Never one to back down from a challenge I decided to give it shot. I was very surprised with the results!

Success Is…

…being brave enough to make the huge leap and quit my 9-5 job

…not being afraid to put myself out there, to email around, make connections, meet people. To promote not only my work, but at the end of the day myself

…being able to do my hobby, my passion, the thing I do by choice in my spare time everyday as my job

…having completed two ‘self employed tax returns’ myself

…wearing all the hats of the business process myself, from concept to shipping (and everything in between)

…learning something new everyday to make what I do easier and more efficient. If it’s going to work, and grow, I may as well work smarter not harder

…choosing my own hours

…working in my PJs if I feel like it

…having a cooked lunch on a cold day because the kitchen is right there

…going outside to have a coffee in the sun in the middle of the day, if I feel like it

…making things every day

…making things I want to wear which I am lucky enough that people also want to buy

…having more than just my husband reading my blog and my best friend commenting on my Facebook business page

…making connections with people all over the world who do the same kinds of things that I do, brought together by the power of the internet

…getting  up bright and early on a Monday morning and deciding to take a stroll to the beach first thing and start work a bit later (today!)

…doing the work I want to do and doing it when I want to (not working to someone else’s schedule)

…being happy

life happy to be living it

In the future, Success will be…

…supporting my husband and I both financially, so he can follow his dream too

…being able to employ someone to do the bit’s I don’t have time for any more as things have grown bigger…

…to take this dog and pony show on the road! I’d love to buy a wee caravan and travel round NZ working as we go and I love that what I am doing I can do anywhere if we decided to move city or country

…“teaching people that they CAN live life differently and make a living following their passion” This one I copied from Jess. She has been such an inspiration to me and I hope I can pay it forward and do the same for someone else in the future

…buying a house


Oh wait, it looks like we’re already there!

Gosh, what a learning curve writing that was. Firstly I was surprised how long it took me. It took me a good 15/20 minutes staring at my computer to come up with the firs two things… When I was finished I had to go through and take out all the negatives I had included… such as “Being brave enough, or possibly stupid enough to make the huge leap and quit my 9-5 job“. Before I started writing this I was pretty sceptical. It felt a bit egotistical… maybe because I’m publishing it on the internet? When I read it over to edit it at the end I had a bit of an emotional ‘moment’.  This exercise had left me feeling so lucky. I would highly recommend doing one yourself, even if you don’t want to publish it online…


Fake It Till You Make It

The week before last I talked about how, what I wear and when I get up affects how I work. The gist was; it doesn’t. In my three months of self employment I have never had a problem with motivation, keeping busy or keeping focussed. Yet by writing that simple blog post I seem to have jinxed myself in some horrible way.

It's all or nothing...

It’s all or nothing…

To be fair, a couple of things happened simultaneously, not just the bad luck that comes with professing your own awesomeness publicly. I completed my To Do List. A mental list which, along the way, has taken at least 50 physical paper states and just as many digital. A list I started this time last year, that’s right a year long list… because that’s how I roll, apparently. Since the inception of this list I have been flat out, luckily for me I’ve never been particularly good at sitting still anyway, especially when there is a lot to do. Last June/ July I started wedding planning, which continued on through till October when the Christmas rush started and took over most of my focus (at both my full time day job and my Jewellery business) – this went on, as you’d imagine, till late December. Then there was actual Christmas, New Years, wedding planning was of course still ticking away in the background while all this was happening. January was full of the stress involved in deciding to, and then actually, quitting my 9-5 job. February was making sure all the shops I deal with had enough stock as I was about to go away, finishing up my day job, and jumping head first into the idea of self employment… but first I decided to add a huge dollop of stress to the equation of doing so by spending all my savings on… March, the wedding and all the related stress and good times that go along with such an occasion, then a two month honeymoon in Asia. While (don’t get me wrong) the honeymoon was great fun and relaxing for the most part we did it more like backpackers than normal honeymooners, so there were many logistics to organise, travelling, culture shock, new food, even when it was good… there was always something going on to think about and keep us busy. In May when we got back I started on the Jewellery related list that had been niggling un-resolved since August when I stopped having time for such things, contacting shops, taking new product shots, starting on some new lines, re-opening my Etsy shop, new packaging & logo design, getting a Facebook routine, opening a Pinterest account, starting a Blog, doing tax, getting a handle on accounting.. the list was endless… and I chipped away at it in some way every waking hour, every day of the week.

Two Thursdays ago I got up and realised I had nothing ‘To Do’. Don’t get me wrong, there is ALWAYS something to do in a business like this, and I still have many ideas sketched out, or things on the back burner. But for the first time since this time last year I felt like I deserved a day off, so I went back to bed.

It was a great day! I read, relaxed and stayed warm. I met a friend for a drink in the afternoon and then another for a big catch up in the evening (many beers followed).

The next day I was hungover, I slept in a wee bit. When I got up I had no direction… no purpose… I procrastinated finding something useful to do. Then the doubt set in, the ‘can I really do this’ moment we all have from time to time. It’s winter, it’s a slow time of year… nothing much sells in winter, bank levels dip as does confidence. What to do in the quiet months is an endless battle with your internal voice- ‘Make more stock, you’ll need it come the busy season when you’ll have no time to make it’ fights with ‘I have so much stock, no one will ever buy it all’. Being able to quell that inner voice, to busy it with next season’s products, getting a handle on accounts, a new project… is key. Fake it till you make it they say… I say let’s make another ‘To Do list’!

Hmmm, they might be on to something!

Hmmm, they might be on to something!