Monday, 26 August 2013

Fruit Cake, Files and Firsts.

Let's just imagine that I could be totally self-employed by this time next year (though not a Del-boy millionaire). It's taking a lot of hard work, long days, longer hours, but I'm beginning to see the possibilities. Something I just couldn't imagine while I was just selling jewellery to an already saturated market.

Someone once told me, and I read it somewhere else, you're unlikely to make a living making and selling jewellery, and to be honest they are right. It's taken me nearly three years just to break even. I tried diversifying, using polymer clay as well as beads, which was moderately successful, and making other items like candle holders, compact mirrors and crochet hooks. Only the crochet hooks have been really successful and I really must get some more made and listed when the weather cools down a little.

Then I viewed the whole market from a different angle. Jewellery making is a very popular hobby, so popular there are TV stations dedicated to it. No wonder sales are few and far between with so many people making their own. Hmmmm....making their own....well why don't I share some of my designs in tutorial form? I wrote a couple of tutorials, and guess what, they sold like hotcakes, over and over again. I wrote more, more sold, a couple more, and they sold. Now they threatened to take over my jewellery shop on Etsy completely. So I opened a new shop just for the tutorials in the middle of July, and have been steadily doing well ever since.

Someone said to me I should sell my doodles as well. Now this one I seriously baulked at, as I didn't believe I was good enough. I showed someone else, they said the same. Then I noticed several sellers selling colouring sheets for download and I thought...hmmmm. So I dragged out my big pile of doodles, scanned them all in, coloured them and listed them in yet another new shop...Artzentric...

I've had a lot of fun with these...first the drawing of them, which is incredibly relaxing and helps to get a busy brain to calm down, secondly colouring them in on the PC, which also helped me learn about various facilities in my programs, and thirdly enhancing them. Take this one for instance. The first is the original, then the coloured-in version, then an enhanced version.

I may get these printed up at a later date and see how they go as prints. Currently I am only listing the uncoloured version.

So, that deserves cake. My partner is diabetic, but he can eat this cake without any spikes in his levels, (except that he loves it and tends to cut himself a huge slice, so I have to watch). This is not to say I recommend it for diabetics, quite the opposite, but a treat for himself now and then when things are stable is ok for him. It's one my grandmother used to make all the time and every time I taste it, it reminds me of many happy teatimes around her table. I reduced the sugar by half, as the fruit makes it sweet enough anyway, and it works a treat. Here's the recipe. 

8oz Self Raising Flour
8oz mixed dried fruit
8oz butter or margarine (I use Vitalite as he's dairy intolerant)
1 tsp mixed spice
4 oz sugar
3 large eggs.

My method. Whack everything except the fruit and one tbsp of the flour into a mixing bowl, and mix thoroughly. Coat the fruit in the remaining flour and tip into the mixture. Stir until evenly distributed. The mixture should slowly drop off the spoon, if it's too stiff, add another egg bit by bit until it's the right consistency. Put it all into a greased and floured 8 inch deep cake tin (line it with greased greaseproof paper if you want), and bake at 180*c for 1-1 1/4 hours until a skewer or knife comes out clean.  Leave to cool and resist eating it until at least the kettle has boiled. :)

Oh and theres a new tutorial up, for my bracelet. 

So what was the first? I have my first beading class coming up in September, as a guest designer at the Elephant and Dragonfly Studio in Canvey Island, Essex. Really looking forward to that. There is still room for more, so join the page and ask about it. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Busy Times!

What busy times ahead. This little cottage industry growing and coming on in leaps and bounds. I've so much to tell you about what has been happening in the last couple of weeks since my last post.

First I have extended my Willow collection to include a wedding collection, which I am really pleased with. It took a while to do, but it was really worth the effort. Made with white super duo beads, silver metallic seed beads, and clear ab crystal beads, I really do think this makes a stunning bridal ensemble.

I also have a chance to do a class, teaching this particular style, which I'm still trying to arrange.

A few days ago, I got a beep on my phone telling me that I had an email. On checking a good friend of mine had mentioned me in a tweet. I had to look to see what she was up to, as it was pretty randon being a Wednesday evening.

Well it turned out that a local hairdresser was looking for a local jewellery maker to supply her shop! Now I couldn't turn that down could I? I contacted her, we eventually spoke on the phone and agreed terms. It turns out the hairdresser has a huge front window she wants to fill with more than just hair product, and give customers a 'little bit of Norfolk' to take with them. So if anyone wants to see my jewellery 'in the flesh' you can go to Hairtech, Church Road, Hovent, Wroxham, Nofolk.

So I have spent the last few days sorting through stock, making a spreadsheet, packing and labelling. There hasn't been much time for making things. I've also had to remove a fair bit of stock from my Etsy shop too, but there is plenty left to see.

However, I have managed to make a few bits and pieces, with a new bracelet design, for which I'm writing a tutorial, and some earrings, which have actually been packed off to the hairdressers, but can be made to order. These had a great reaction on Facebook, so I'm showing them here too.

One last note, is that I have decided to close my Folksy shop down when listings run out in November. I don't want to spend ages spelling out everything reason I am doing this, and believe me there are many. Suffice to say, there are many ongoing problems on the site that are not being resolved, after two years of sellers including myself, complaining about them. It's sad in a way, as I have made friends with many crafters from there, but the good news is, they are all on Etsy!

Anyway, here are a few pics of my latest makes...





Thursday, 1 August 2013

Twins, Tutorials and Teacups

Well, here we are at the beginning of August, and I haven't updated my blog since May. Very remiss of me and I apologise to my reader.

Why? Where have you been? What have you been up to? comes the chorus of questions..or not.

I've been knee deep in beads. I've stopped working with my polymer clay for a while and gone back to my first love, my little seedies. Not with the bead embroidery yet, but I did discover those fantastic little fellows called Super Duo beads.


These are such brilliant little beads, lending themselves to new shapes and textures, and it wasn't long before I'd adjusted too working with them and immediately began designing a couple of pendants. Then I thought 'why not try writing a tutorial for them?'.

So I had to set about finding a program that was either free or inexpensive to make the diagrams. That wasn't hard, I just went on a beading forum and followed up a couple of recommendations for Inkscape. Totally free, easy to use, and voila! The diagrams were sorted.

The first tutorial went up for the Star Flower Pendant on Etsy, and sold..and sold again..and just as I did all that...Etsy only went and made it easy for everyone by providing the ability to upload the file to the site, and for the buyer to then instantly download it from their purchases page after payment. Nothing else to do. No sending out by email any more.

Encouraged by that and a commission I had had for a pair of earrings in the same design as the pendant, I made another one, and another for little leaf earrings.


Now, the leaves have grown into my willow range, with the basic leaf design incorporated into earrings, necklace and bracelet, and these make my latest tutorials. The jewellery itself is popular too, and I'm currently working on a wedding set in white and silver with clear AB crystal beads, and so far it is stunning. These will be on show once I've got more white Super Duos to make the bracelet.


So, amid writing the tutorials, I began to notice that they were taking over the front page of my Etsy Shop, so I've opened a second shop just for the tutorials, right here.

I have to say I'm loving all aspects of making the tutorials, from the initial design, scribbled in pencil in a notebook, to researching that nobody has already done it (it happened with some earrings I had, the design was so similar to mine that I would have been accused of plagiarism. It was purely accidental but I stopped working on them right away and threw away the paper design and gave the earrings away.), to making the diagrams, beading the samples, writing the whole tutorial and selling them to people who want to make MY things.

Meanwhile, my partner's Amputee Support Group, WalkOn Crafters, has received a start-up grant, so everything there is go go go! We have our first meeting this week, and now the nerves are setting in and we are beginning to think it'll just be me and him looking at each other across a table in the middle of a hall. Maybe we'll be surprised. I hope so.