What's Next?

Sunday, 14 October 2018
So if you've known me on social media for a while, you'll know I'm not one to shy away from talking about the downsides of running a small business and being self employed. This year has been a struggle for a number of reasons and a tanking business has not helped, so today over a 1000 items sold and 728 orders later I closed my Etsy shop for the second time this year but this time for good. Why? Well the first time was to move over to my own website, except I wasn't quite as ready as I thought I was and still had a lot of old stock to get rid, so I reopened to bridge the gap. Things have been incredibly slow but I used this as an incentive to get a move on with things behind the scenes. But then things slowed down even more and then came Etsy's policy changes to benefit their shareholders, and pushing the free shipping and absorbing of costs to drive up sales campaign I decided that Etsy was no longer the site they claimed to be. The final straw was the 'we'll be promoting shops who offer free shipping over those who don't.' Small business just cannot compete with corporate companies and I don't want to. I decided to close a few hours earlier than intended because a) no sales and b) a message complaining about shipping costs!

Here's the thing, small businesses tend to lose a lot of money over shipping and packaging costs because they are not cheap and massive corporations have given consumer's the false idea that shipping is cheap. Absorbing the costs is not moral and not practical either because if you have to refund on an item, you're also refunding the cost of shipping, ie you're out of pocket! Here's another thing cheap goods still come at cost! A business cannot survive on likes alone and people not willing to spend money on goods because they equate cheapness as value for money. Value for money is not just about the price, if I can't afford something I just don't buy it, I don't email the seller and complain that there prices are too high or I can't afford shipping, I don't expect them to cover those for me just so I can have something. Consumers have been spoilt and mislead over how much things truly cost. Big companies get massive discounts on supplies, they use cheap labour in factories abroad, delivery drivers are overworked, someone is paying for that so you don't have to! I will still support and buy from sellers who are on there but I personally won't be going back.

I still have stock to get rid of, this weekend I took the last of the fabric scraps and unfinished projects down to the recycling centre. Where I can I reuse, resell or recycle what's leftover from projects etc but in truth running a craft business can produce a lot of waste and just not physically. It also feels like a lot of time and money that has been wasted to and that's where the feeling of failure hovers but it's not really unless you never gave it a shot at all right? I still have some supplies to use up and will but I work wise I want to primarily focus on writing and art, as you know from previous posts I've been clearing out a lot of stuff to make space physically and mentally for this. This doesn't mean giving up being creative in other aspects of my life, I will still be doing creative stuff like sewing, and DIY projects round the home, and baking things and whatever takes my fancy that week but it's more about creating a distinction between work and pleasure, though I will probably be cutting back or personal projects for a while until I get myself back up and running.

I still have some decisions to make, like do I shift my writing over to here? I think I probably will and keep the things like painting and embroidery etc for instagram because that's more visual and will work better over there. I have started writing, I set myself a 500 word a day limit, the first week went well and hit well over target. Last week distracted my shop stuff and trying to get suppliers and sites I rely on to run an online business to do their jobs took up a lot of my time, and I just about hit 600 words, which I'm going to have to redo because I've decided to change one of the character's background story to make the rest of the novel work. So yeah, I guess I'm attempting writing a novel again!

Apart of me is a bit sad to see something I've been working on go down the proverbial pan but then on the other it's also a relief and has left me with no real excuses to keep putting off what I always said I wanted to do as a career, which is art and writing. The art side still needs a little refining but I'm currently doing a small photo project on one of my instagram accounts which is focusing on finding beauty in mundane objects/settings but with a colour theme and is inspired by Worship Blue's #super_ordinarylife tag she set up there. I have managed a little practice water colour painting and concluded I need more practice. I have some ideas that I need to spend time sketching out but they will probably be in acrylic or gouache. I have a load of embroidery hoops with which I want to some mixed media art projects with and I'm also going to do some collage work.

Writing wise I'm still keeping a personal journal, not everyday but still pretty regular. I have as already said started a novel, well I'm hoping it will end up long enough to be a novel and I've started collating old essays from past blogs and started on ideas for new ones because well I like writing essays. So that as per usual could have been a lot shorter because I realise now that I've probably mentioned all this in previous posts but things are changing on here and in life for the better, hope you'll stick around and see what I'm up to.

The Great Declutter

Monday, 8 October 2018

Decluttering is all the rage, I'm not really into the whole minimalist lifestyle I like my creature comforts but I also like being able to find the stuff I want and need on a daily basis, or to walk into my craft room without fear of being crushed in a avalanche of supplies. I've been looking at old photos of my work room when we first moved in here and I have saying I really want to get back to a decluttered state and clean floor space like in the above picture and I am getting their slowly. Running a business can mean taking up a lot of space but with the wind down of my old business and switching creative paths, I'm hoping I can get back to the way things were, although it doesn't help that this flat lacks any decent storage space, especially with all the odd shaped rooms.

As I said before in a previous post I've been taking advantage of the slow down in business to rethink and reevaluate what I want to do etc with my life and with that I decided to have a massive clear out. Apart of the clutter problem is that I work from home, so all my supplies and inventory are also stored here for ease of access but my business is changing direction so I no longer need half the stuff I have left over. My own personal style has changed with my new vocation, my dress is more casual because of being self employed, also I don't wear a lot of expensive or nice clothes because of accidental spillage from paints and materials etc.

I have to say I've not read much on the Kondo or Swedish death cleaning methods. the Marie Kondo methos is where to you only keep things that bring you joy so I guess a good reason to throw all the bills in the bin! The SDC method is mostly aimed at the over 50s which I'm approaching but don't actually fancy it carking it at quite such a young age but with a recent death in the family of someone close to that age, this method kind of makes sense in clearing out your stuff and prepping as if you might leave tomorrow. It makes sense to leave stuff in order so others don;t have to deal with it but it also makes sense to declutter every so often so the task doesn't get so overwhelming that you ignore it until it cannot be ignored any longer like moving house. And that is my main reason.

We are renters, London is expensive, the average property price in London is currently £626,000. Flats are around the half mil mark and houses broaching one mil, well they do in the area which I live and although I've lived in London my whole life I never actually saw myself being here forever, which is why I've never worried about buying a property here but that issue has now been taken out of our hands because everything is out of our price range but I'm not lamenting over it. We know we have to move sooner or later, we just put a deadline on it. we figure we have more rental before being able to buy but I also don't want to be dragging a bunch of stuff round with us just for because we can.

We love books, records and movies. we are homebodies, we used to go to lots of gigs but I don't get the same enjoyment out of it anymore. I don;t think it's much to do with getting older, I think as circumstances changes so do you, sometimes passions fade and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Anyway I digress back to declutting. It's taken way longer than I though because in effect I've had two declutters on the go, one business, one personal but I'm nearly done and I no longer feel that when we need to pack it's going to much, much easier.

I'd start with room by room and just pull out everything you don't want, don't need, is broken or has been ignored for a significant amount of time, what I like to call the maybe one day projects, i.e. maybe one day I'll fit back into that dress or maybe one day I'll fix that item or maybe one I'll finish that project! Keep the  to be repaired/unfinished projects in a separate pile. With the rest of the stuff, split into three piles, sell/donate/recycle. Here's how I grade.

Selling - There are a number of sites that you can sell stuff depending on what you have to sell. For my vintage stuff I use eBay and Etsy. For my retro and clothes in good condition I use eBay and Depop. For DVDs books and CD's I use music magpie and Ziffit, those that don't sell on I stick in the donate pile. Selling takes time and patience and sometimes dealing with difficult people asking pointless and ridiculous questions. Remember you are under no obligation to accept low ball offers just to sell stuff, take into account the cost of time as well. My hard and fast rule is no money is better than lost money, remember to take into account postage fees and selling fees and Paypal fees. It's also worth noting that some electronics can be sold for spare parts like old lap tops/phones etc just remember to wipe them first and restore to factory settings.

Donating - Check whatever you are donating is wearable/usable, do not you a donating service as your personal rubbish removal service. Some companies like TRAID will collect stuff for you if you have a lot to donate. I donated a bunch of my old vintage clothes inventory that wasn't selling, along with some personal items. Places like the British Heart Foundation will also do furniture pick ups, things like sofas, chairs, beds need a fire safety tag attached to the back, and of course they need to be in a decent selling condition.

Recycling - where possible recycle, find out where your local recycling centre is and see what services they offer. And even though we're all guilty of this, including myself try not to chuck in the weekly rubbish collection. I don't have a car but my recycling centre is accessible by bus, yes we are those annoying people who carry three large IKEA bags of crap on the bus but working with a lots of textiles and fibres produces a lot of scrap waste. Fortunately my local centre recycles about 97% off all textiles donates what ever the condition. Non sellable fabrics and textiles get made into insulation and new fabrics. For bulkier waste, it might be worth forking out for a waste collection service. Most councils offer this service, some have better rates than others but there are plenty of independent services that will do it for you as well.

When you get to the repair/unfinished project pile divide into two, will finish/who am I kidding this project is now over ten years old time to get rid of it pile. I'm not gonna lie, I have found unfinished projects older than that! Don't hang on to something just for the sake of it. Repeat the steps as above, it's worth noting that you might be able to donate scraps and supplies to local community groups or schools that run craft groups or knitting clubs.

So that was my long winded quick guide to decluttering, maybe I should apply the same method to writing my blog posts!

The Birds and the Bees

Thursday, 27 September 2018

No this is not that talk, this is a budget mini makeover over.

We are currently renters, so there is only so much I can do in the way of redecorating when I get the bug for a revamp. Mostly I just move furniture around, rearrange the bookshelf to look like a rainbow, buy new bedding and all that.  We try to be sensible when it comes to furnishings, like we got all our vintage bedroom furniture off eBay pretty cheap, the same with our kitchen table and chairs, and the glass display cabinets for our living room from house clearance shops, even with delivery it cost a fraction of the price than it would have from a mainstream furniture store. And yes I'm going to be one of those people but 1930s/40s furniture was built to last, it's sturdy and strong but sometimes we also like to splurge on ridiculous things, like this gold coloured bird foot side table! 

Another blogger posted about this table and because it's so kitsch I had to have it, I love things like this.

In my craft room clear out, I discovered I've been hoarding a bunch of cushions, possibly for a project who knows I have a billion forgotten ideas. On top of other things I've hoarded, I have my own set of cushions that I've been lugging around for a while. I also unearthed some Ikea fabric I bought in a clearance sale, and some teal fur fabric I bought in a textile shop in Brixton probably over five years ago now and was probably for a fur coat I was going to make but I have enough coats.

Gold is one of favourite accent colours right now, no real reason other than I just like it. The birdy table reminded me of the story of Baba Yaga, the witch who lived in a hut that had chicken legs. Then I remembered I had a bird cage again I've been lugging around with me for when finally get our own place. It was shabby chic white, which is code for made to look old so we can pretend it's vintage looking and sell it overpriced! So I spray painted it gold!

I made the bee fabric into rectangle cushions. I washed the feather insert cushions and made zipper cushions out of the fur fabric. FYI I just want to add as a disclaimer that fun fur fabric is not exactly fun to work with, that stuff gets everywhere!

So that's my little mini makeover project for this month.

Bee fabric - £? Clearance sale at Ikea
Fur fabric - £30 Brixton textile shop a long time a go
Bird Table - £65 Urban Outfitters
Bird cage - My own
Spray paint - Wilko
Plants and pots - Ikea

Back to the Drawing Board!

Friday, 21 September 2018

We're not allowed to talk about the downsides and failures of life on line especially when it comes to business because that's negative talk and when it comes to business the majority are bout keeping up appearances and positive vibes only, well in my experience anyway. I am not a fan of smiling and pretending that everything is okay, I've spent years doing that much to the detriment of my mental and physical health. I believe you should share the upsides because it encourages, I also believe you share the downsides because it makes people feel less alone. I going into cliche metaphor territory but life is pretty much like a fairground of rides, sometimes you're just on the merry go round, going round and round in circles, other times your on the roller coaster. Sometimes it's scary like the ghost train, sometimes it's bumpy and sometimes it stops and starts like the big wheel until you get going and get to the great view from about but I guess what I'm saying is nothing stays same, each ride comes to an end at some point. We need to stop acting like everything is fine all the time just because someone doesn't like to face the fact that life can be rubbish sometimes, personally, I think positive vibes only is a bit of a toxic mentality but that is a conversation for another day.

I wasn't going to talk much about the business side of things on here but after being self employed for nearly four and half years, I've learnt a lot of things, mostly from scratch and that sometimes no matter how hard you work at something, if it's not meant to be it's not meant to be. Since December last year my business has suffered a 60% drop in sales! It was going up and up and up and then suddenly nothing, I admit I was not prepared for this, I just got caught in the flow and it wasn't until I hit that brick wall of reality I realised no one is immune! Not gonna lie I took it a little personally, I even blamed myself saying it was my own fault for not working hard enough but working seven days a week is not exactly lazy. It sparked off a depression episode but I'm okay now.

So I took a break and went back to the drawing board, figuratively and literally. Things picked up a little but not enough to warrant carrying one, there really is no point in flogging a dead horse, so I've decided to do something I've been meaning to do my pretty much since I was a teen, and that is to make a career out of writing and art. So I bought some painting boards and paints and then realised what with all the clutter I've accumulated from my handmade and vintage business ventures, I didn't actually have that much room to paint in. My work room is tiny as it is and storing a bunch of vintage and craft supplies takes up a lot of room. If you follow me on insta, you'll know on stories I was regularly worried about getting trapped under an avalanche of crafts supplies. So I decided to do a clear out, which I go on more about in a different post but it ended up extending into my personal stuff as well because certain aspects of my life have changed, like I no longer really dress up vintage or retro. It's taken a while but it's kept me busy whilst I fine tune my new career plan.

But the clear out has been good, not just physically in terms of space but also mentally. Spinning lots of plates can be hard and I know that I will always have doing an assortment of things, I personally need that kind of diversity because I have a lot of interests. I read Emily Wapnick's How To Be Everything which I found very helpful for people who basically want to do and be everything. I'm also currently reading Emma Gannon's The Multi-Hyphen Method and also have a few other books to read on being self employed etc as well. For me I've narrowed it down to writing and art, which is partly why I came back to blogging, I am currently also setting up a writing blog and this blog will be for my creative endeavours and also art for me covers a lot of different mediums.

I'm kinda sad Etsy hasn't worked out but their recent policy changes and new business plan have also given me the kick up the but I need to strike out more on my own or at the very least find a different platform. Etsy used to be a company that looked after the small indie sellers but when they went public and started allowing loopholes for bigger business to get their foot in the door, it's now just gone down the same path as some of the more corporate selling sites. You just can't treat little businesses the same as big businesses for many reasons, which I'll skip for now as this post in quite long already! Anyway I'm closing my Etsy for good on the 21st October this year and eventually will open my own store on Bigcartel or Shopify, I'm looking into other options as well like Society6 and Artfinder for further down the line. I'm also going to work full time on my main Instagram page to focus on my work and get it out there.

Starting a new career adventure is scary but I've put it off too long but somehow the timing feels right now. I'm removing distractions or more accurately excuses, so I can just concentrate on writing and designing. I've done some preliminary sketches for some painting and I want to combine my embroidery work with some abstract art ideas I've had and I have ideas for other art projects as well. I will be mostly on Instagram as it is of course a great (algorithms aside) place to show off work and also with instastories you can do little vignettes of work updates etc though to be honest it just mostly me having conversations with my cats! 

As always what started off as quick post has turned into an essay! have a great weekend.

Why Do You Knit?

Thursday, 13 September 2018

I first learnt to knit when I was quite young, it's not something I took up regularly until I was late into my twenties because I needed something that quietened my mind. I find the repetitiveness of counting stitches in each pattern repeat soothing and meditative, the concentration it requires tends to block out all peripheral noises, and I discovered it was a good way for people not to annoy the stressed woman with stabby sticks in her hands during my lunch hour at my old toxic as hell office job.

I am not a great knitter but I am not a dedicated knitter either, I still have a cardigan that needs to be finished that I started in January and even then I'm not sure I want to because I can't decide whether I like it or not. I'm not very good at knitting cardigans and I need to take more time to adjust patterns to my figure rather than just knit according to instructions. I like to knit when I watch TV, I'm one of those people who can't just sit there and watch TV my hands feels restless otherwise, so I knit. If it's something I've knitted before I'll knit something with pattern repeats, if not I'll knit something that requires less attention like knitting stocking stitch of something.

At the moment I'm trying to learn more stitch combinations, I still catch knit brioche stitch without watching a video first each time, one day it will click and stick in my brain but not just yet. I need to work on gauge, this why I probably shouldn't knit when watching a tv or a movie, tension affects your tension if that makes sense.

I currently have a cubbyholes full of wool some bought, some donated, I don't use high quality wool or hand dyed because I basically don't have the funds. Knitting is an expensive hobby and that is not a criticism it's just a fact because good quality supplies cost money! Something that is not really appreciated when it comes to creativity. I don't knit professionally and I never will because I'm a slow knitter and I like to do it to relax, I'm also a selfish knitter and only like to knit for myself and my husband. I've decided in my me made wardrobe plans that I want to add some decent knitted pieces for winter, so I'm prepared to wait and save up for some decent wool for some really nice intarsia patterns I've found and taking into account how long it takes me to knit, they should be ready around 2025!

I'm using up my old stash for practice, I'm might sell the sample pieces for funds for new projects for my me made wardrobe but I'm in no hurry, that's the things about selfish knitting, you can take your time.

Sewing For Love Not Money

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Whilst I don't have much to show at the moment in way or work or projects and to get me back in the practice of writing, I thought I'd cover some creative related topics that I think are important or interesting etc.

There was an article recently about how hobbies are important outlet and they shouldn't be valued in terms of money. I forget where I read it now but the fundamental basis was that it's good to have a creative outlet whether it be knitting, sewing, or this case making different types of devilled eggs for fun not for money. Your hobby doesn't have to any any rhyme or reason behind it other than you love it, their is no wasted time in something you enjoy no matter how trivial someone finds it.

We have become obsessed with putting a monetary value on things, people see you making something and automatically their brain goes kerching and they're telling you should sell your stuff. The best bit it they would never buy your stuff because it's not their thing but you would make loads of money from it. They think they're helping but actually the fact of the matter is there are loads of people out there who think like that aren't actually willing to spend the money! So you learn to nod in agreement and say thanks I'll give that some thought whilst mentally filing it in the shredder.

The thing is it's actually incredibly easy to believe these people because we what to think our work has value and it does, just not the value we think it has. Making stuff and then trying to sell it can actually hard work and can be at times very demoralising, I have learnt that a lot of people at the end of the day just don't appreciate how much supplies costs, and then factoring in the skills and time it takes to make that item. I call these the 'I can make that' brigade. You will always encounter one at a fair or event who loudly declares whilst inspecting your item 'I can make that' whilst looking smug and occasionally will add 'for half the cost' as an extra twist for the knife. I've learnt not to take these personally because these people are not actually crafters or artists because if they were, they would definitely not say these things.

But I have learnt over the years not to focus on the people who say but the people who do. People see you making things and they say you should sell your stuff because that is how they value time, time is money or it's just a waste. This is obviously not true, as I said before there is no wasted time if you enjoy something. Hobbies are meant to be relaxing, they are meant to be enjoyed as soon as you start equating your time to a monetary value then it's no longer a hobby and anyone who's run a business knows that running business is not a hobby! But when you both your work and your hobbies are creative, it's important not to let the lines blur too much and now I'm kind of dividing my creativity into more distinctive camps.

As I move into a more art based career, I'm going back to spending more time sewing for me than anything else. Yes I have a few cushion covers and tote bags to finish but in regards to clothes, I was toying about starting my own line and considering I got to a point where I wasn't even enjoying sewing myself for various reasons, why bother starting something that stressful and time consuming if you're not gonna enjoy it. But I want to get back into making my own clothes especially learning how to make trousers and some nice coats because it's really hard to find decent trousers and coats that will last without spending a bucket load of money, which I do think you should invest in your wardrobe staples but that is a conversation for another time. 

I want to get back to sewing my own clothes because I like learning new techniques and the challenge. I want to get back to sewing my own clothes because I get to know me better especially as I'm at that age where my body is beginning to go through a lot of changes on top of other issues I already have, it also serves to remind me that none of us as a standard one size fits all shape. I like sewing because I can express myself through the clothes I wear, yes buying from shops is easier and I get no everyone has the time or resources to make their own clothes but to a certain degree I can make something a bit different to everyone else. I can draw inspiration from different styles I have seen and mix them up for my own.

Anyway the next time someone tries to value you work or even devalue it by comparing it's worth to something else, remember you don't owe them any explanation! Why you create is none of their damn business!

Getting Back On Track

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

I've been self employed for just over four years now, it has definitely been a roller coaster of a ride full of learning curves thrown in with the ups and downs. This year has been bit of a down, up until last Christmas things were on the up and and up and then suddenly it was like I was cut off, business plummeted! Now I know we're not supposed to talk about the downsides of business but I think that is rubbish, all we see are the good stories and successes but we rarely see the journey that goes with it which is definitely not smooth sailing all the way. And if it is, well that's cool but for the majority it can be a bit daunting, as only seeing successes can make you feel a bit of a failure, even if the intention is the opposite but I'm not here to talk about that. So things were going great and then they weren't and to be honest it left me a little baffled. Of course the economic uncertainty and the fluctuating pound is probably not helping but the sudden crash in business left me a little wounded and out of sorts. So I decided with the unscheduled break to try and make good use of my time.

When I became self employed I didn't really have a plan, well I had a half a plan but I had to make a decision, carry on in a job that was mentally and physically breaking me, or jump ship and take a chance. I took the chance and in a bid to get going I did what I knew and that was to make things, it was better than doing nothing. I get that not everybody has those options, trust me I was at breaking point and it was always my plan to be a freelance creative but in a job that left me with no mental energy at the  end of the day, it was hard to set that up on the side. I saw an opportunity and took it, to be honest I would not have been able to do that without he support of my partner and for that I'm very grateful.

My plan was always to do art and writing but I started making handmade items instead because that was what I could do with the resources I had at that time. I also got into selling vintage because that is something else I knew how to do and it served it's purpose for that time. So with things quietening down it gave me a chance to revisit and rethink my career plan and finally get back on track with my original goals, and I've spent a good part of the year clearing out the old to make way for the new. Now that is pretty much done, I have created enough space both physically and mentally to finally start. Apart of me keeps putting it off because of fear, I've had so many failures and things not work out, it's like can I take one more hot but you have to keep trying. It's important to bear in mind that your passions may not always be the making of you, mostly it's down to timing but sometimes things are just not meant to be but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try, right?

So I have to learn to draw and paint again, it's been so long my skills are very rusty. And I need to start putting aside dedicated time for writing and other things. I also want to get back to making my clothes again, everything has been on hold and the longer I leave it the more practice I'm going to need, so really I just need to get on with it. I have some online courses I've dug out out to give me a kick start. One is a Seamwork build your wardrobe course, the other is a Gala Darling radical self love art journal course, I have also been planning some projects of my own. One is a painting project, I think I've nearly pinned down the topic but needs just a tiny bit more refining, although I haven't decided if it will just 100 paintings or 100 consecutive days project. The other is a 100 hoops project which won't be done daily because I can't stitch that fast in that much detail but it is a good way to use up the 100 embroidery hoops I have hoarded in my work room! Eventually I will want to sell them in my web shop, I'm trying to move away from relying on Etsy now that it's just a free for all and focusing on investors instead of sellers! So my plan is to open a stand alone probably on big cartel of shopify, haven't decided yet.

The thing with getting back on track is sometimes it's just best to just dive in and get on with it. I have months where I'm not inspired to make anything and then today I wanted to make all the things, which is good because I need to clear out the last of my supplies which I'm using for a small Halloween and Christmas collection. I'm literally using what I have left over, so that's gonna be fun and very shiny collection (seriously I have a lot of rhinestones to use up!). I also have a lot of half started projects to finish but on the plus side my goal of clearing out all the old stuff by the end of the year looks to be on track, especially now the weather has cooled down and I can also get back to knitting in the evenings.

Anyway I think I've rambled enough, suffice to say I have enough to get on with for the moment, I will be back with updates soon!
Tasha M Campbell 2018 - (present). Powered by Blogger.

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