From The Studio

Valentine’s Card Collection

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.

Reflecting on 2017 & My Word For 2018

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:

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!

My Ceramic Journey

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…

Previous posts: Part 1Part 2 | Part 3

Christmas Cards 2017

A couple of weeks ago I launched my new Christmas cards! This time I have two sets of four different designs.

When I started thinking about my designs for this year, I wanted to pay homage to my first Christmas designs from 2014 and give them a similar feel – the pastel coloured background in particular, which was the most praised feature at that time. The actual illustration on each design is different from the old ones but the style is similar, and better after three years of practice! The most similar design is the robin one, which I repainted because I felt it needs to be updated.

I didn’t plan to do two sets of cards originally, but one day I spontaneously painted abstract trees, which became my Christmas Forest design. I was focusing on green and blue colours and realised it would actually work well as a Christmas card so I carried on painting with more colours and created another three designs with an abstract theme.

I think I ended up preferring this second set in the end but I do still love my first set with more realistic paintings – so I printed both of them!

I also ordered special luxurious gift tags using elements of my abstract Christmas card set, which are available to buy as a pack of four. What makes them special are that they are folded gift tags with rounded corners. I added beautiful different colours on the back to go with each design. I also tied them with pretty green/white and red/white baker’s twines. All the Christmassy feels!

Which design do you like the best? I am loving Christmas Forest, or maybe Mistletoe most of all so far.

P.S. all my cards are also available in packs of 4 and 12 cards! Why not have a look at my Christmas shop?

Northern Craft Summer Fair & More Market Tips

My last stall with Northern Craft went really well, in fact it proved to be the most successful stall I have ever traded at. I was surprised and so pleased. I was always wondering why I never had as successful a trading day as my first ever stall with Camberwell Arts but I finally overtook my personal best with my Northern Craft stall. Growing my business is paramount so I have been reflecting on why it was a success – I made three changes to my stall and I have no doubt they made a huge difference to my fortune on the day.

New card reader

I made an impromptu decision to buy a card reader few days before the market, which arrived just in time – minutes before we left for Leeds! I printed out a ‘we accept cards’ sign and placed it at eye level on my stall. I didn’t miss out any sales from people that liked my products but didn’t have the cash, because they could simply pay by card – and contactless too! And when I looked at my sales figures the next day, card sales accounted for two thirds of my sales, both in terms of revenue and number of individual purchases. I think this may be the biggest reason why this stall was successful.

More greeting cards

People love greeting cards. My card display rack was always quite bare in the past, and this time I had more greeting cards, enough to completely fill the display rack. I ran a 4-for-£10 offer and my cards flew off the shelves.

Add more height to my stall

I had a bit of height in my previous stall by arranging some framed art on boxes, but I eventually decided they are not tall enough! So I invested in three wooden boxes from IKEA and stacked them up. I think my stall looked a lot more exciting than before. I filled the boxes with some Observers’ books, notepads, and a framed original (which I sold!) I know it made a difference as there were positive remarks about them from the visitors.

Northern Craft market had such a great attendance with really engaged visitors and a buzzing atmosphere (with a bar on the floor below!) which definitely contributed to my stall success. Their promotion before the event was effective too. The (very reasonable) stall fee has turned out to be worthwhile in the end.

I said getting a new card reader may be the biggest reason why this stall was successful and it will be interesting to see if it is still useful when I do more markets between now and Christmas. I have four or maybe five markets lined up, including Northern Craft in October!

I hope you find my notes useful. I have written my market tips in those posts if you haven’t read yet:

Ways To Improve Your Next Market Stall
My Stall With The London Artisan

Have you sold your products in the market before? How do you make it a success?