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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Luke, I am your Father…

I just wanted to start this blog with a wee thank you to everyone for their kind messages. I received a barrage after my last blog, through email and Facebook from both acquaintances and strangers, telling me their own pregnancy, and crafting with children stories. It was lovely to have such encouragement and for you to take the time to share your experiences with me. I also wanted to assure you that this blog will continue to be about being a self employed maker, not become a pregnancy blog… although at times (like the blog below) it will be vital that the two overlap, as my circumstances and the way I go about my day to day has changed.

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It took me the better part of the first trimester of my pregnancy to come to terms with the juggling act that my life had become. That sentence originally read ‘was about to become’ but I decided to change it to ‘had’ as something that surprised me most about pregnancy was the immediate life change that occurs from day one. I have many friends with children and babies and none of them had ever talked to me about pregnancy in, what I consider to be, an honest way. I’m talking about the bad stuff. Perhaps the difference between us is I complain and they don’t… either way… from day one all I did was eat, cry and pee. I lived in the kitchen in a way I never expected. I love food, always have… life has always centred around food for me, so what a surprise it was when all I wanted to do was eat, but the idea of food and the act of eating was boring. It was constant and it was hard to achieve anything when I was either preparing food, eating food or cleaning up the kitchen after I’d finished (rinse & repeat) at all times of the day. Awfully hard to make jewellery stock for after the baby comes (or even to fill current orders) when I couldn’t stay away from the kitchen for 5 minutes. Add to that getting up three times a night (at least) to use the bathroom, means not getting much sleep and having to stay in bed till quite late most days… not very productive sadly. Just after coming to terms with the fact the business might suffer in the long run (you know, in 9 months) I came to realise it had already started to suffer… and there wasn’t a hell of a lot I could do about it. I decided to be proactive. A lot of what I do involves smelly glues, sprays and varnishes. So off I went to the safety store to buy myself a proper protective mask so that baby (and I) would be protected from the barrage of toxic smells. It’s something I should have done a long time ago, although in my defence I don’t usually sit around amongst the smell. I glue and then leave the room, but it’s not a chance I feel I can take any more, now that I’m growing someone else’s brain for them… it all seems a bit more important.

My sexy new mask

My new, not so sexy, Darth Vader mask

I decided instead of stressing myself out with could have, should have, and would have been- I’d map out the year. New products for Imogen Wilson Jewellery, Ex Libris and Major Tom, what they would be, what I needed to do and buy to make them happen… when they would need to be photographed, and released and how I would tell the shops I stock that I would be on maternity leave right over the busiest time of the year (Christmas) and how I would deal with it. So really mapping out over a years worth of work to complete in six months… what’s stressful about that?

Must be time for a lie down…


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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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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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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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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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A Watched Pot Never Boils- The intricacies of SEO and website statistics

It's all enough to make my head hurt...

It’s all enough to make your head hurt…

When I decided to create two new brands I knew it would be a lot of work. Registering them for their own Facebook, Gmail, Etsy and Felt accounts made my head spin. I didn’t really make it easy on myself though, I did it all in one sitting, for both brands. Then there was all the work I had forgotten about, Imogen Wilson Jewellery has been around for so many years, and I built it up as I went, I didn’t go in with a fully rounded brand. As a result I had forgotten how much was involved with starting out. It’s all well and good to have a product you’re proud of and think people will be interested in buying/ wearing, that’s almost the easy bit. Logo design, brand ethos, packaging, photography, photo editing, domains (Facebook, Etsy, Felt, Gmail, they feel never ending when you jump in), product descriptions and measurements for online listing…and that’s all before showing the public anything (or emailing shops)… it can seem daunting for one brand let alone three. Then when you think you have a handle on it all there are the statistics to think about.

Love them or loathe them, business statistics are everywhere. At the top of your Facebook page, your blog, your Etsy account, and of course the mother of them all Google analytics. I am still in the early stages of understanding how they work, how to read them, what it all means.

Actually, that’s a lie, a total lie. I have absolutely no idea how they work, I understand them as much as a child might. When the graph or the counter goes higher it means more people have visited my site, which is a good thing- WIN. Pretty basic right? Well apparently not. As with SEO (something else I understand about as much as a chimp) it’s an ever changing game. There is so much information on the internet about it all, yet it all seems to be written for someone else, someone that speaks this ‘other’ language I’m not privy to.

These guys get it so much they're taking a break and laughing at my inability too... Bet Asterix and Lucky Luke are in on the joke too...

I bet these guys understand it and are taking a break and laughing at my inability to. Bet they’ve even got Asterix and Lucky Luke in on the joke…

When Imogen Wilson Jewellery was my one and only brand I was obsessed with the statistics behind each website I used. My Etsy stats page was always open in one of my browser tabs, I looked at my Facebook stats daily. As I said above, I didn’t really understand what I was looking at, but that didn’t stop me being distracted by them often and excited when the numbers rose higher. Another tab to distract me from what I was ultimately supposed to be doing. Then I launched Ex Libris, my second brand, in the background all the while still chipping away at brand #3, suddenly I was logging in and out of Etsy, changing Facebook accounts left, right and centre. It was much like what I’ve heard having a second child is like, I suddenly had three times the work to do (not twice as much, like I had expected).

I realised I was so busy I no longer looked at my stats every hour, sometimes I didn’t even have the time to look at them every day. Checking my emails and looking at facebook just to see if ‘anything had changed’ didn’t occur to me, I had become so busy doing actual work that my mind had focused, and time had become more precious. Perhaps once I’ve gotten into the swing of things and all three brands have been launched, once a ‘normal’ daily routine is established then I’ll learn a bit about how to accurately read and use my stats, then at least if I fall back into old habits I’ll understand what I’m looking at.

When I started my blog, the goings on of Create & Thrive blogger Jess often inspired what I would write about. However as my blog has continued I don’t rely on her posts to spark something in my brain, to inspire me, I stand on my own two feet a little more and write about what is happening in my world with no prompting. However, I wrote this blog yesterday, and this morning in my inbox was an email about Jess’ digital sabbatical and a blog about the experience. She realised that it wasn’t necessarily that she was spending so much time online, it was the work (or lack of) that she was doing when she was there. The topic couldn’t have been more perfectly suited to include here if I’d asked her to write it myself;

“By constantly ‘checking in’ on social media, email, and other interactive online spaces (like checking our blog comments or stats, for example) we are caught in a loop of reactive work. We’re looking for something outside of us to give us something to respond to, rather than sitting back, turning inward, and focussing on what WE can create and give out to the world.”

I spoke a little bit about reactionary work flow here, but it’s so hard to make  yourself stop when you are so caught up in it. Luckily for me it’s no longer an issue, for now at least… Watch this space…