A reflection on #marchmeetthemaker

A reflection on #marchmeetthemaker

You may have seen the hashtag #marchmeetthemaker floating around social media or if you are a maker you might have been joining in. It is a month-long photo challenge set by Joanne Hawker and is designed to encourage you to post more thoughtfully and create a community. This year I decided to join in and we are on Day 26 and nearing the end of the challenge I thought I would reflect and showcase some of my favourite posts so you can get to know me a bit better.

When I set my mind to do something I am very strong willed so I have so far managed to craft a photo for each prompt AND on posted them on the correct days! The success to sticking with it has been scheduling posts, I took advantage of times when inspiration struck or when it was a good photography day and planned ahead. I was also lenient with myself and interpreted the prompts in my own way rather than sticking with the clichés. Some of the posts were shared on Instagram stories only which is why some are missing but if you want you can see everything on my Instagram (@clarisecrafts).

I’ll hopefully come back and update this post at the end but I know it is Easter weekend and wanted to get ahead of the game incase I was too busy hunting down chocolate eggs. My conclusion is that it was a worthwhile challenge and I’m fully committed to continuing posting in the same way as I have seen a great upward trend in my reach which is always a bonus. I will just have to come up with my own daily prompts!

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DAY 4 – FAVOURITE TO MAKE: My favourite thing to make is probably always going to be custom stamps. Each one is completely unique which makes them really special and knowing that they will be well loved and regularly used makes me happy. Custom wedding stamps are usually the prettiest but it can get a bit repetitive as I find myself making the same design multiple times in a single day due to current trends. Business stamps are more varied and interesting as everyone has their own purpose for their stamp and I design and make them to very specific requirements.This was a recent design featuring the customer’s logo on one and then care label information on the other. I do have a thing for standardised care icons as I like the formality and clarity they bring so if I had to pick a favourite kind of custom stamp it would probably be care label stamps.
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DAY 5 – PHOTOGRAPHY: Late last year I invested in an entry level DSLR camera. I was worried that it was going to end up sitting in a drawer not being used as it was too heavy or complicated and that I would stick to what I knew with my iPhone. Surprisingly the exact opposite has happened! I actually watched tutorials, read some photography books and took the camera off auto mode.I’m fairly confident that I know what half of the buttons now do and when I should be pressing them and but I think one of the most effective ways to learn is by practising. I always had in my head what I wanted my photos to look like and I’m quite pleased with what I have achieved. Styling is still quite a challenge but I’ve learned to keep it simple and you can’t go far wrong.
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DAY 7 – ROUTINE: My routine is quite structured now, it has evolved over the years and at times I felt a little bit out of control. Now I have a rough plan of what I’m doing on a weekly basis it is easier to sit down and make start on a morning. I currently only go to the post office twice a week now on Tuesday’s and Friday’s and usually before midday so Monday’s and Thursday’s are spent making and packing up orders. Wednesdays are reserved for design work and Friday is a reserve day although I try to take the afternoon’s off to spend with my OH who no longer works on Fridays. My daily routine is less organised but I generally have a to do list on the go and I find that I am most productive before lunch so I can get motivated by about 9.30 then it’s going to be a good day.
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DAY 8 – FLATLAY: When I first started my business it was all about the flatlay photo, I think they were just called top downs then (feeling old). It worked really well for my products and it was simple to get a half decent shot using my iPhone. I think the main lure of flatlay photography is how quick it can be to set up, you can take them almost anywhere and you don’t have the think about the background too much. Not having to drag a big heavy camera around is also a benefit. Since getting to grips with my DSLR I’ve found myself experimenting more with depth of field and different angles and product photography has become much more enjoyable. However, I’m not going to abandon the humble flatlay as it does have its uses but I’m going to try using the camera a bit more to create them like this one from my recent packaging stamps shoot.
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DAY 9 – HOW IT’S MADE: You might be surprised to hear that I make everything to order; that even includes non customised items! It means I don’t have loads of stock taking up space, I can move with the trends quickly and I don’t feel guilty if I want to redesign a product. Occasionally I make up samples or spares which I save and have a stock clearance a couple of times a year.⠀
All my items are made by hand by me only. I don’t use a laser cutter or any big machinery which takes away from the fact I am literally running my hands over and checking the product every second it is being manufactured. I’m obsessed with quality so this is the only way I can feel confident that everything is top notch.
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DAY 10 – TIME TO RELAX: Being self employed can make it hard to relax and switch off. I made the decision to switch off all app notifications on my phone so that I can decide when to check my messages and it has done wonders for my metal health. I still check the apps far too frequently and I know it is addictive so I’m trying to get better at that.I don’t really have many hobbies so my time to relax usually involves a bit of stitching, reading or short walks. This photo was taken in Otley, one of the best places nearby for a stroll.
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DAY 12 – POSTAGE & PACKAGING: I’m not ashamed to say I’m a bit of a packaging geek. It is an ongoing battle between being a minimalist and saving every piece of beautifully designed packaging I come across. One of my favourite things to design is packaging stamps and I have quite the collection now. Stamping is one of the quickest and easiest ways to make your letters and parcels look fun but professional at the same time. It is also very eco-friendly.
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DAY 14 – DREAMS & PLANS: Today’s theme is dreams and plans and this is something I struggle with. I never really plan anything more than a few weeks or months ahead and I don’t know why, I guess it is just who I am. Since the start of the year I have been doing more drawing on paper so hopefully I’ll be able to use those doodles as part of my creative development. I also dream of a house full of lovely greenery, my plant collection is slowly building so we’re halfway there.I guess my only real plan is to keep doing more of what I love and less of what I don’t! 
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DAY 19 – CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: Right now I would have to say I can’t live without the DSLR camera! A few months ago I was feeling a bit stagnant and that my marketing efforts were a bit lacklustre; I knew how I wanted to portray myself and my business but it just wasn’t looking right. Now I know what is possible and it has opened up a load of possibilities for development and creativity so I’m very excited about that. I use my phone less and less these days, I even prefer to use social media on the iMac because I think it takes away the hustle and allows you more time to say what you really want. I’m not in a crazy rush to post something that’s not my best, I can source the most appropriate photo from my hard drive and plan my posts in advance so If I need new photography then I have the time to do it properly and enjoy it.
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DAY 20 – TOOLS & MATERIALS: When it comes to tools and materials I use on a daily basis, it is pretty standard stuff. Even my stamp making kit is pretty low tech utilising only light and water but it does the job.The majority of my raw materials are clear so very difficult and uninspiring to photograph so I decided to focus on the paper based side of the business instead.I have always been a huge paper addict, a lovely sketchbook or textured card make me so happy and I’m not ashamed to admit it. There is a simplicity about paper that inspires creativity; you can sketch, paint, write, layer, cut, stick in so many different ways that you always end up with something unique.At the moment I am having a massive sketchbook revival making scrapbooks as well as using them for drawing. I’m slowly getting over the fear of ruining that perfectly pristine sheet.
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DAY 22 – SKETCHBOOKS & LISTS: If I could make lists of lists then I absolutely would. Although my list books are not very pretty and most of the time the writing is illegible but when they are scrunched up in the recycle bin at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.Sketchbooks on the other hand are something I’m precious about. I’m always terrified of starting a new book incase I ruin it or something doesn’t turn out quite right. I’m trying to be more free about putting pen to paper, knowing that if I need to tidy up my drawings I can do it digitally in Photoshop and Illustrator. I think digital drawing is just as valid as the ink kind but when I’ve spent all day in front of a screen it is nice to relax on the sofa with my sketchbook.
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DAY 23 – HANDS AT WORK: Quality control is where I take my time. It is not worthwhile rushing because so much relies on getting the perfect outcome. My QC threshold is pretty high on all my products but especially stamps. I use both sight and touch to test my products; running your fingers across is a great way to see if there are any air bubbles or loose bits. As my stamps are clear polymer mounted on clear acrylic it is so hard to tell if there are any issues by sight alone. I always test them in ink too but I think the hands are a really integral step in this process. The only downside is that my hands get very dry and sore but I think it is worth it.
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DAY 24 – ACHIEVEMENTS: Achievements are not something like to shout about but if I had to pick something that I’m really proud of is when I was asked to be an Etsy Resolution mentor last year, my task was to help new Etsy sellers find their feet and it was very rewarding. During the training at Etsy HQ in London I got to spend it with the lovely @jillyjillydesign and @handmadebymonica. The office was brand new at the time and they hadn’t yet finished decorating so I’m enjoying seeing up to date pics from this weekend’s Captain’s Summit.A close second was getting invited to meet Linda Kozlowski, COO of Etsy with a few other sellers including @lunaharkinand @elsieandnell to discuss improvements to the platform. She had flown over from the US so it was a real privilege to get to chat with her.
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DAY 25 – BEING A MAKER MEANS: Being a maker means so much to me. I like to be one hundred percent accountable for myself by physically crafting things as well as doing all the other stuff that comes with running a small business; marketing, shipping, admin, accounting…I’ve thought about outsourcing things for a while to streamline my processes and free up some precious time but I’m not sure it is for me. I like to be hands on and relying on others causes me so much stress. It means that I am limited with how I can progress but I’m sure I’ll work it out in time.
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DAY 26 – BOOKS, BLOGS & PODCASTS: I absolutely love books, especially ones that I can come back to time and time again. Brand Brilliance by Fiona Humberstone (@thebrand_stylist) is a permanent reference source for me, I also enjoy reading her blog as it is full of words of wisdom.
My copy of Brand Brilliance is especially precious to me as I was lucky enough to go to the book launch last year and Fiona signed it for me. It’s a great little reminder to Be Brilliant.
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A Visit to The Print Fair at The Hepworth, Wakefield

A Visit to The Print Fair at The Hepworth, Wakefield

Friday is our new adventure day and today we headed to The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield as I wanted to check out The Print Fair which was happening this weekend (23-25th March).

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Photo credit: @andrew_marshall88

The best way to convince me to leave the house is food so of course we had to start our adventure with lunch in the gallery cafe which is filled with greenery and beautiful planters courtesy of Geo Fleur; the food didn’t disappoint either. Once refreshed we took a stroll around the gallery itself, admiring the work of local artists Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore as well as light installation exhibition by Anthony Mcall.

After spending a relaxing hour wandering around the gallery, we headed across the grounds, passing the street food vendors to The Print Fair. It was quite busy even though it was a Friday but I got the opportunity to chat to a few stall holders and thought I would share a few of my favourites with you.

The first thing to catch my eye were these lovely mixed media works by Lucy Freeman. I especially loved the embroidery hoops as they were plant themed which is my absolute favourite.

Then I spoke to a lovely guy called Iain from Print Garage. His pieces were the kind that you could look at forever and keep seeing new things. I also loved his print display on wooden coat hangers.

This gorgeous stand was Ali Appleby. I could happily fill my house with those gorgeous printed cushions and I was so tempted by a windowsill print, maybe I will treat myself to something.

My final highlight was the fun and colourful work of Anna + Kate of The Smallish House. I loved the eclectic mix of homewares but how everything worked so well together as a collection. I couldn’t pick one specific thing that I liked as I think I would have to have it all.

There were so many other fantastic artists and printmakers but I don’t want to spoil it for you if you are planning a visit. The Print Fair is on for the rest of this weekend so is worth stopping by especially if you are local to Wakefield. You can find out more about the gallery here

 

How To: Set Up Instagram Story Highlight

How To: Set Up Instagram Story Highlight

If you like to hang out on Instagram you might have noticed the Instagram stories highlight feature. If you have no idea what I’m referring to then you might have seen the little circles on a person’s profile about the main grid. They will only be there if that person has added them so don’t worry if you haven’t come across them yet.

The benefit to these ‘highlights’ is that you can add some of your quick posts that aren’t quite grid-worthy but that you want to hang around for longer than 24 hours. You can even add posts retrospectively but bear in mind that highlights are shown chronologically from oldest to newest.

 

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I am a huge fan of having everything coordinated so as soon as I made the decision to start using highlights on my profile, I wanted to create some cover photos for each category so that they looked pretty and consistent. You can have as many highlights as you want but remember that visitors might not be keen to keep scrolling through endless stories, so only pick your favourites and keep it relevant. It is also worth pointing out that you might only be able to see 4 or 5 highlights (on larger screens) at initial glance so keep those for your best posts.

Setting up highlights is pretty simple but it does require a little bit of faffing to get the covers where you want them. Annoyingly you have to have added the covers as part of an existing story. My workaround was to design and add all the ones I wanted at once with an apology/ explanation as to what I was doing. I’ll no doubt have to add some more covers as I plan more highlights.

Step 1: Create your custom covers in your favourite design programme. The dimensions are 1080 x 1920 pixels for a story so it will be easiest to position the text by creating files of these dimensions first. Here is a handy guide to give you an idea. I saved them at 72dpi and the quality was fine as they are going to be very small.

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Step 2: Download the files onto your phone and then upload the covers as an Instagram story in the usual way. You might want to make the posts into a actual story if you don’t want to confuse your followers.

Step 3: There are two ways to turn them into highlights. The first option is to view your story and click the heart in the bottom right, it will then allow you to create a new highlight or add to an existing one. Alternatively you can click on the circle on your profile with a + in the middle and the word ‘new’ underneath to set up your highlights. You can do the same thing to add individual stories from the past but remember they will go before the cover post. You can only post stories older than 24 hours using the second method.

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Step 4: When you are on your own profile page (as shown above) you can view each highlight tag that you have set up and click the three dots in the bottom right and choose edit highlight. This is where you can add and edit the cover, you can even reposition it to ensure it is completely central etc. Click done to save your changes.

I hope that helps explain the method I use to keep my Insta profile looking tidy and coherent. If you need any more help feel free to message me and I’ll do my best to answer any questions.

That Time I Had a Wobble

That Time I Had a Wobble

If you follow me on social media you will probably have already seen this post but I wanted to give a little more context and have a more permanent record of my experience.

About a month ago I had a major wobble with my business. After an unexpectedly slow start to the year I was starting to doubt myself and what I was doing. Clarise Crafts has grown very consistently since I started in 2013 and I’ve been fortunate enough to not have any major setbacks. So when I was geared up for a crazy busy January; usually one of my busiest months of the year and the sales just fizzled out I started to panic.

Etsy is my primary income source, when I set it up I considered it just a bonus but when Facebook made some changes to their algorithm, my direct sales rapidly decreased as my Etsy sales rapidly increased. I’m fully aware that having all my eggs in one basket is not a good business structure so I am still building up my website traffic, mailing list and everything else that goes with it.

I have no idea why my Etsy sales experienced such a massive slump, I spent hours scouring forums and groups to see if there was anything going on. I came to the conclusion that there was not one reason but it was possibly a whole host of reasons

  1. A large chunk of my orders are now wedding and baby related from individuals so I am at the mercy of the retail calendar which naturally slumps post Christmas.
  2. There was a drop in the exchange rates for USD and as nearly half my customers are outside of the UK, my products did not seem as good a value.
  3. Etsy have been working on lots of updates to the interface and the search functions. Products have started clumping again so this is a sign that things are going on behind the scenes we don’t fully understand.
  4. Probably lots of other things I haven’t considered yet.

I had a few days of comfort eating and Netflix binging (I watched all 10 seasons of Friends in 2 weeks, seriously!) and then I decided to do something about it. My head was still in such a negative space and I didn’t feel like staring a computer screen with my sparse order list so I went back to basics and took out my pens, notebooks and sketchbooks and just started doing. ⠀

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In those quiet times over the past few weeks I’ve amazed myself with what I have achieved, I’ve created so many new designs, in fact I have redesigned and updated most of my major product ranges. I also had time to work and practise with my DSLR and feel I’ve made massive strides with my photography. I even honed my workflow for better productivity when hopefully the busier times return.

Being completely honest, at the time it felt like it had just dropped off a cliff when in reality I went from crazy busy to just steady and things have already started to pick back up. I’d like to think it was down to my persistence but in reality it is likely just down to the natural ebb and flow of business. I’m now longer as scared of having a quiet time because it means I get to work on those things on the more fun things on the to do list and get to have a bit more creativity.

I would like to thank each and every person who supports my small business as it really does make a huge impact on me. When I initially posted this on Instagram, it attracted over 300 likes and so many encouraging comments which means the world to me as I have feel so disconnected on social media recently. My hopes are to stay connected, be honest and authentic and keep on trucking.

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Goal Setting for 2018

Goal Setting for 2018

I know it’s late but happy 2018! I haven’t done a blog post since just before Christmas mainly because I haven’t really felt the inspiration to write, I’ll blame it on Winter! I don’t really like the idea of setting new year resolutions as you are almost setting yourself up for a failure but there are a number of things I would like to achieve this year so if I write them down it might stop me from giving in too quickly.

1. Sticking to a simple diary and not giving up half way through the year because it doesn’t look as pretty as I think it should (and to stop looking on Pinterest for journal inspiration!)

2. Putting pen to paper. I want to flex those drawing muscles a bit but again, I have held back in the past because I would start and give up when it wasn’t as pretty/ perfect as I wanted. I’ve splashed out on a few nice plain sketchbooks and have been using black pen only to do quick botanical doodles, so far it has been working out and I’m about 2/3rds through my first sketchbook and have only pulled out 3 pages so far.

3. Nourishing the mind and body with good food. This has been a work in progress for the last year or so and I want to continue. I want to buy more fresh produce and cut out any processed products completely. I want to eat as naturally and healthily as possible as much of the time as possible. This year I have been practising with lots of new recipes such as homemade granola.

Photo by Alison Marras on Unsplash

4. Being mindful about purchases. This was another thing I started last year but I slipped a few times and shopped at H&M only to find I hated the items after wearing them once or twice. I have updated my wardrobe with all new luxury hangers and colour coordinated it to bring the clothes I already have to life and respect them in the hope that I love them and they last for longer. No more heaps of scrunched up things in the bottom of the wardrobe.

5. Simplify my workflow to give me more free time to enjoy life. This is a tricky one as being self employed is unpredictable! However, I think I should respect the fact I have the opportunity to design my own life and taking time off is not something to feel guilty about.

I realise that my goals are mainly personal ones rather than business ones. Of course I have things planned for Clarise Crafts but I don’t want to give anything away too soon so you will just have to follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter if you want to stay in the loop. Do you have any plans for this year and beyond? How do you feel about goal setting? Would love to hear your thoughts… 

GIFT GUIDE – Last Minute

GIFT GUIDE – Last Minute

If you think you have left it too late to pick up some handmade goodies in time for Christmas then you are wrong. You will find that most shops are no longer taking custom orders but there are lots of lovely ready to ship items from some great sellers so here are some of my favourites. Be aware that the last official posting date for Royal Mail is 21st within the UK so some may stop taking orders before that.

 

For the person who always has loose change…

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Screenprint Coin Purse – By The Lock

 

For the person who loves making lists…

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Weekly Undated Planner – Not Only Polka Dots

 

For baby’s first Christmas….

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Baby’s Christmas Bib – BabooshDesigns

For your alternative friend…

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Gothic Necklace – House of Bats

 

For the person that loves anything festive…

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Glitter Pin – The Treasured

Don’t forget the cat deserves a treat too…

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Glitter Cat Collar – Poppy Seed Cats

 

Gift Guide – Plant Lovers

Gift Guide – Plant Lovers

This is the next installment of my gift guide to help with your Christmas shopping incase you are still looking for inspiration. Once again I have featured my pick of small/independent businesses. If you would like the opportunity to be featured in any of our gift guide just contact me through the website.

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Grow Your Own Christmas Tree – Ovo Bloom
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Faux Foliage – Petals and Paper
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Cactus Teatowel – Maggiemagoo Designs
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Moon Planter – The Minty Mountain
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Pilea Pin – ONR
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Stitched Flag – Mickle Studio