I can’t get over how quickly 2018 seemed to pass. It seems to me that time goes faster as I get older, and last year is definitely the fastest year I’ve ever had!
I think it has to do with how hectic my year was. It’s not a bad thing at all – I just can’t recall when was the last time before Christmas that I had a moment to catch my breath, especially in the festive period when I had markets almost every weekend AND prepared to move house at the same time.
Buying a house is one of my biggest bits of news from last year! Aneurin and I also got engaged! I wanted a short engagement but we agreed to focus on the house first. Now that’s sorted out, whether we are going to have a wedding is on my mind and frankly, the thought of walking down an aisle does not do my anxiety any good, so I like the idea of eloping! Either way I really cannot wait to marry my love!
My 2018 word was “GROW”. My sales improved significantly in 2017 and I wanted to work harder on my shop, grow my product range, and partner with more stockists. That is exactly what I’ve done over the last year and I saw results from the hard work. I hoped for more stockists, and need to work on outreach and promotion, but I launched a lot of products in 2018 – a Valentine collection celebrating sign language and the Deaf community; wire bound notebooks; new collections of prints and cards; Plant Ladies and Potted Plants postcards; aptly named GROW tote bag; a weekly planner, and ceramics.
I am most excited about my ceramics – my first ever glaze fire in late 2017 flopped and it left me disheartened, but in the summer of 2018 I gave it another shot and tried another kiln firing place. This time my ceramics came out really nicely and they were fit for sale! I have had an overwhelmingly positive response to my ceramics, and while I still love designing stationery I’ve found I really enjoy the hand building aspect that comes with pottery, applying my illustration in different ways and bringing more one-of-a-kind pieces to my shop.
I am stumped what is my word of the year for 2019 and I haven’t come up with any new year’s resolutions either – but I do know that I want to be better at self care while I continue to grow my shop by carrying on what I am doing. I want to improve certain areas in my business, such as my online marketing and connecting with my audience through this blog and my mailing list. I am also looking forward to settling into my new home and studio. I am feeling optimistic about what this year will bring and excited to see what else I can pull out of my hat in my work!
I have a ‘to paint’ list pinned to my notice board in my studio. But I’ve found that while having a list can be useful, it can be overwhelming deciding where to start because that list is SO long!
My list is organised into categories, one of which is ‘patterns’. I think my pattern ideas have been sitting there for over a year untouched, so this year I thought it was high time to tackle this part of the list.
I spent the last few weeks working on two new patterns, both using my existing artwork and painting new elements. I am so thrilled about how they turned out. I wasn’t confident with making patterns but my confidence is growing after collecting inspiration, reading helpful articles about pattern making, like this post by lovely Natalie, and ultimately throwing myself in at the deep end.
I am excited to carry on with this project creating more patterns. So far, I’ve made Woodland, Butterfly, and Leafy. You’ll see them popping up on new products on my shop in the near future, including the new notebooks I will launch this week!
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.
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.
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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