I am very excited to see that one of my clients had their stunning bohemian outdoor wedding featured on Love My Dress. Their wedding photos were taken by Ashton Jean-Pierre and their wedding was held in the land of beautiful Maunsel House that has doves and peacocks in the gardens. The Wilde Bunch made all the gorgeous floral decorations and also the flower crown for the bride.
Last year, Lisanne and Andre asked me to design wedding stationery for them. I had designed some wedding invitations before that and enjoyed the challenge that comes with it – making sure that the design elements are consistent throughout the stationery, developing new styles of lettering and ensuring that clients are completely happy with the stationery for their special day.
For this commission, I had the opportunity to design not only invitations but also the table plan, food menus, name place cards, thank you postcards and signs. Lisanne and Andre were looking for a dreamy watercolour effect across the stationery, and pretty handlettering accented with curls. They also wanted the invitation to be an illustrative ‘map’ showing how they met at school, and then their individual paths through life while still being together, rejoining at the ivy covered manor with peacocks and pond where they were having their wedding.
Last month Aneurin and I went away for a long weekend in Edinburgh to celebrate our 5-year anniversary. We absolutely love the city and I want to share my highlight of the weekend, the glasshouses in Royal Botanic Garden.
They are huge and my idea of heaven – according to the website there are 28 glasshouses in the garden! We spent much longer than expected wandering around, for nearly half the day, but it was definitely worth our time. I took plenty of photos and inspiration for my future paintings.
Since I started my online shop and selling greeting cards, I’ve always referred to important occasions to give me ideas to develop my line of greeting cards. I have always thought about designing cards for Valentine’s Day, sketching out ideas and illustrating some designs but it never really came together until this year.
I came up with the idea to paint sign language related card designs about two years ago but hesitated, thinking they wouldn’t sell well. I didn’t have the dough to take that risk as well, or enough skill or confidence to paint hands well enough to be printed on a greeting card! This year I felt more prepared to take the plunge. I painted three different designs, two showing “I love you” in American Sign Language and the third showing “love” in British Sign Language.
I was pretty happy with the new paintings at an earlier stage, but I was still unsure about printing them so I shared a snap on my Instagram to see what my audience thought of them. I received loads of positive feedback and I went ahead and printed them all, along with two lovely hand lettered heart designs saying ‘I heart you’ and ‘Be mine’ that I hoped would appeal to people who may not be interested in sign language!
With this new collection, I felt (and still am) out of my comfort zone because these cards don’t look consistent with the rest of my products on my shop – they don’t have nature elements or one bit of green colour in them. But after seeing how well they have sold, I am so pleased I finally found the courage to bring this idea to fruition. I feel proud to incorporate sign language, my first language, in my illustrations.
I may have designed them for Valentine’s Day but I think they turned out to work well all year round! I hope you love them as much as I do.
In the first week of 2018, I found myself still clinging onto my Christmas break. I spent my Christmas in London with family (and a new arrival, my nephew Victor!) and then chilled to the max for a few days, which was really nice after consecutive weekend markets through December that left me feeling frazzled. I wasn’t ready to face the world, social media, etc. I am sure many of you will sympathise!
Last week I came out of my shell and I am beginning to get back into the swing of things. It helped that I received a wholesale order and an online sale, which gave me a push to emerge into reality! I started to think about what I want to accomplish this year, while reflecting on my 2017.
Last year was probably the most successful year for my business so far! Financially, I am not sure about – I need to get top of my accounting! – but I am chuffed about the variety of client work I got to do, and being featured in more publications, most recently Creative Countryside magazine. I have also had my most successful market stalls to date!
Despite seeing more success, I was struck down with self doubt and stress more often than not. It hindered my ambition to be creative daily, and my social media presence has suffered a bit too but I’ve proven to myself that I will always find ways to manage it.
Here’s what I did in 2017:
- I got featured on A Year Of Creative Habits website as an alumni
- I worked on my third and biggest wedding related commission – in which I designed and handlettered invitations, food menus, table plans, name placecards, signs, thank you cards and envelopes – and I loved it!
- Aneurin and I had our romantic weekend break in Peak District for our 4-year anniversary and we are eagerly planning our 5-year anniversary break now (we are thinking Edinburgh!)
- I released a lot of new greeting cards, including a Mother’s Day card and a new range of Christmas cards
- I visited Budapest for a week with my two friends!
- I talked to Just A Card about being an illustrator and how small purchases mean a lot
- I drew wild flowers for 100 days and this project was featured on Erin Veness’ blog!
- Aneurin and I went on an unexpected, last-minute trip to Exmouth and spent a lovely weekend collecting shells
- I gained 5 new stockists!
- My products made it into shop windows!
- I visited Woodthorpe Tropical House and got a lot of inspiration
- I met alpacas!
- I successfully propagated some of my cacti and succulents
- I collaborated with an embroidery artist to create a plant themed embroidery kit and PDF pattern
- I released a new range of prints, fuelled by my love for my houseplants
- I talked to Northern Craft about how art improved my mental health
- I had my most successful stall ever in the summer, and then had four more stalls running up to Christmas
- I bought my first ever Monstera Deliciosa plant… and it hasn’t died yet!
- My Houseplants notebook got featured on HuffPost
- I designed my first ever notepad to sell on my shop
- My big sister gave birth to a son and without hesitation I drove down to Bristol to meet my one-day-old nephew!
- I did a Q&A with Becky on her blog, Printed Forest
- I worked on lots of special commissions, including a family portrait, bespoke Christmas cards, wedding stationery, and pet portraits
- My robin illustration got published in a magazine!
- I got my hand built clay pieces fired for the first time and I shared my ceramic journey on my blog
- I got asked by my dream client, geo-fleur to create a ‘Happy Holidays Crazy Plant Person’ card design!
- Stylist included my opinion in their article ‘How craft fairs became cool’
In 2018 I want to simplify my ambitions a bit – last year I felt like I put myself under a lot of pressure, and while I want to keep exploring and discovering, I intend to have fewer specific goals, and just follow one guiding principle: GROW.
My business found real traction last year and I want to keep growing it to be more sustainable. I will be seeking out more stockists and continuing to develop my product range – and I hope I will make plenty of opportunities to get my work out there along the way!
You may recall that I started making things with air dry clay about two years ago. I enjoy it so much that I find time in the evenings and at weekends to do my clay projects. Some time this year I found myself dissatisfied with my tried-and-tested materials – I longed for that shine we see in ceramics, and greater strength. I also wanted my work to be guaranteed food-safe and waterproof. I have been playing with the idea to build a ceramic collection for my shop, or when I hold a stall, but I don’t feel comfortable selling crockery made of air dry clay so I decided to look into firing my creations instead.
I found a local kiln firing service about 30 minutes drive away, and got a batch of small bowls, dishes, pots, and a mug – a very wonky mug! – bisque fired for the first time. I was very pleased that they came out well, and couldn’t wait to start decorating them.
Painting with underglazes turned out to be quite time consuming. They don’t have quite the same effect as acrylic paint, the application needs several coats to be apparent and I got the impression from ceramic websites that it is normal.
That was around the beginning of September. While painting my first batch, I had the idea that I could try selling ceramic Christmas decorations on my stalls. It is usually easier to judge how well my products are selling in person than on my shop so I wanted to grab the opportunity. I made some circle and star shapes with the help of cookie cutters. The bisque fire went well except for one breakage and then I spent two evenings painting the pieces. Then it was my first time getting my glazed work fired. I was very nervous!
It turned out I was right to be worried. They didn’t come out as I imagined them to look like. There were no serious cracks or explosions in the kiln, but they simply didn’t have that ceramic shine I wanted and the underglazes didn’t look right. I had thrown myself in the deep end not knowing much about ceramics, and I had to find out why they looked dull. After googling I suspect that they were under-fired or I didn’t apply enough overglaze for them to mature in the kiln.
I was extremely deflated. I realised that I picked a hobby that is expensive and challenging. But I am prepared to persist!
I recently found out that there is another local kiln firing service 5-10 minutes drive away – it is either new or I missed it in my original research! So I will be firing my next batch (hopefully with better glaze application) at that place to see if the outcome is the same or not.
I have asked for a good ceramic advice book for Christmas and hope I have better luck next time! Off I go to continue painting my first batch…
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