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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Down in the Garden Shed…

Along with everything else going on at the moment making my head spin, we decided a wee while ago that we need to move. What’s a girl with a home studio to do!? We currently live in a 2 bedroom house up a million stairs (which will be much harder to navigate when I’m very pregnant or with a pram). It isn’t very large, but it has been a good size for my husband and I, too small for two and a half people though.

This kicks up a whole host of questions, problems and creative solutions for the ‘at home self employed jeweller’. Do we look for a three bedroom house which will cost quite a bit more, or a two bedroom with better access and I share an offsite studio with someone else…

The three bedroom will probably cost more than an offsite studio but I will have the luxury of working any time night and day (with the baby asleep in the next room, or playing on the floor…) a luxury the offsite studio does not provide. However I like the idea of it being a more serious work area, not mixing home and work too much so I keep focused and serious about what I’m trying to achieve. I tried to mix these two ideas together… what about a two bedroom house with a shed on the property. Now I’m not talking about a cold, damp, small, dark, garden shed. But something a bit more flash… with electricity, insulation and (at least one) window! Seems like the perfect solution to me (although of course a big catch would be finding a property with a big enough yard to house this magical dream shed) I researched it and it is very doable, as I’m sure you can imagine… but is VERY expensive and not hugely easy to move when we decide in coming years that we have to move (as we will be renting, not buying). There is also the awfully annoying fact that the range of a baby monitor probably won’t stretch to my wee creative shed… but I really do love the idea.

Roald Dahls shed

Roald Dahl’s shed

Back to the drawing board it seems.

We have looked at many houses over the last couple of months and I’m starting to feel a bit like goldilocks. One is too small, then one is too cold, where is the one that’s ‘just right’? I got so worried that my girth would increase to a size that would make me very unhelpful by the time we find somewhere perfect that I have started packing boxes now, while I still can, and I’m quite surprised how calming it is. It’s also quite nice having a good ‘ol cull. Still no idea where we’re moving too of course, or when, but at least my books are packed…

 

 

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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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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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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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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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Blinded by the Light- Major Tom Scanner Photo Shoot

Not so long ago I was a total photo shoot virgin. Earlier this year while I was hatching plans for world domination one jewellery line at a time, I planned my first photo shoot for my new brand Ex Libris. You probably know that already, I talked about it here, and here. So with plans to launch two brands a month shy of each other, I planned both photo shoots simultaneously. Enough to make my head spin– yes, not the cleverest use of my time- no… but focusing on one thing at a time has never been my style so while I was planning the Ex Libris photo shoot with photographer Brock and model Genevieve, I had a secret weapon for both jobs up my sleeve for the Major Tom shoot… Me.

I don’t particularly like doing things the way everyone else is if possible, my jewellery is a perfect example of that (I hope). I only make things I would wear, and I like to make things that are fun and don’t take themselves too seriously. So when I stumbled on this; Scanner Photoshoot by Henry Hargreaves while looking for photo shoot inspiration I was sold. It was so quirky and different, I was convinced I could make it my own.

Scanner Photoshoot Henry Hargreaves

Scanner Photo shoot by Henry Hargreaves; the results

I loved that it was different, that it would be a challenge and that I hadn’t seen anything like it before. If it was done well it had the potential to be quite outer spacey, the theme of the jewellery I was launching, it seemed perfect. Plus, how fun does this look:

Scanner Photoshoot Henry Hargreaves

Scanner Photo shoot by Henry Hargreaves; the how. Looks like fun to me, especially if you’d like to see spots…

I borrowed a scanner from my parents and did a test ‘shot’. Of course the way a scanner collects it’s data is obvious from the name, it scans, one line at a time, so staying still was a very important part of the process and it was quite a bit harder staying still than I’d imagined… If I breathed too heavily or blinked at the wrong moment it would totally ruin the image. My first ‘moving test’ where I had my eyes open, then shut, then blinked (just for fun, too see what would happen) looked deranged. The scanner picked up a couple of lines of my eyes open, then shut, then open, then shut. It was terrifying, and (sorry) deleted immediately.

The other thing that became obvious quite quickly was how the scanner stretched my face if I used it landscape opposed to portrait. I went from Audrey Tautou to Ginny Sack in a matter of minutes…

Hmmm, if I'd put them round the other way it would look like I'd lost weight...

Hmmm, if I’d put them round the other way it would look like I’d lost weight…

The skylights in our lounge were my other problem, when I realised I tried several things to solve the problem including scanning with a box over my head. To anyone watching I would have looked ridiculous, luckily I was alone… Nothing cut all the light out so I solved the problem later with my new found photo editing skills.

Post production photo editing removed the sky light and made the photos apear more spacey...

Post production photo editing removed the skylight and made the photos appear more spacey…

A close friend pointed out that the scanner puts a harsh glare on the domed jewellery, the thing I am supposed to be showcasing, which I agree isn’t ideal. However when I use these photos it will be more to represent their size, they will be backed up by product shots (shots of the jewellery, well lit, on a white background) so hopefully these will do. I’d love to know if you think the exercise was a success or not, or about any unconventional photo shoots you have been part of…