National Stationery Week – Bullet Journalling

Guys it’s one of my favourite weeks of the entire year – National Stationery Week! A whole week to celebrate paper, pens, planners and stickers. Today I wanted to talk to you about Bullet Journalling because it’s been a planning revelation for me since I started it in January.

If you are not familiar with this style of planning, I recommend watching Ryder Caroll’s video about the analogue system he invented. Since then, it has become something of a trend with lots of creative people turning their BuJo’s into places to doodle and decorate.

March-Bullet-Journal-Spread As a fickle planner (you’ve probably seen me change my planner set up lots!), I find Bullet Journalling to be the one that has stuck the longest. The reason for this is the flexibility – you design every page yourself, so if one spread doesn’t work for you, just amend it the next week or day! It allows you to create pages for anything that you want to record, track or note. I have doodle pages, lettering practice pages, calendars, sketches, brainstorms and even budgeting and sales trackers.

Easter-Bullet-Journalling-Doodle

I am exploring colour and lettering in my Bullet Journal and it’s been incredible to have just one planner for my personal life and business. It is busy inside, but it’s kept me on track and really suits my goal focused way of working. If things get written down, they get done for me!

You can basically use any notebook for a Bullet Journal, but I love one with dotted pages. Here are some links to the notebooks and pens that I use:

Leuchtturm 1917 Notebook

Leuchtturm 1917 Notebook Limited Edition Copper Version

PaperMate Flair Pens

Artline Stix Brush Pens

I also made a video on my Bullet Journal which you might like to take a look at to see it in more detail.

Once my pink BuJo is full, I shall be using this limited edition Leuchtturm Copper Notebook. It’s just really beautiful!

Copper-Leuchtturm-Notebook-Bullet-Journalling

Finally, I’ve been working hard behind the scenes this month on some new stationery themed pin ideas and I can’t tell you how excited I am!! It’s been really tricky deciding on colours, but I can tell you they will be shiny and pretty special. They take around 3 weeks to produce once I have finalised the designs, so keep an eye out and let me know what you think!

Are you a Bullet Journalling fan? What are you using to keep organised this year? Don’t forget, you can keep up with National Stationery Week online by searching the #NatStatWeek tag!

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National Scrabble Day – Trivia And Treats

It’s no secret I love Scrabble – but did you know my favourite word game is actually Boggle?! But, I still own 3 Scrabble sets – The Super edition, this travel version and the special edition Pink Scrabble for Breast Cancer. I love playing it so much.

Claireabellemakes-Pink-Scrabble

Anywho, as 13 April is National Scrabble Day in the USA, I thought I’d share some fun things I have discovered about Scrabble since I started playing years ago and some moments that stick in my mind from creating with word tiles!

#ScrabbleFacts

  • Scrabble was originally named Lexiko and then Criss-Cross Words! The inventor Alfred Mosher Butts eventually settled on the name Scrabble in 1948.
  • 53% of all homes in Great Britain have a Scrabble set. Or maybe 3 like me….
  • The highest known score for a game is 1049 by Philip Appleby from Lymington in 1989
  • Over 150 million games have been sold in 121 countries around the world and it is produced in 29 different languages. Welsh was only added in 2006.
  • If all the Scrabble tiles ever produced were placed end to end they would reach the equivalent of eight times around the earth.
  • There are over a million missing Scrabble tiles across the world
  • Each hour, at least 30,000 Scrabble games are started
  • You can get the highest score of 1778 points for the word “oxyphenbutazone” which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug

Travel-ScrabbleUpon seeing my designs, people often ask me if I just keep buying Scrabble sets, but that would be pretty expensive and you only get one K in each set! That means a lot of sets for the popular KNIT necklaces ūüėČ

Super-Scrabble-Board-Game

Here are some more things I have discovered since playing and creating with Scrabble:

  • The supplier of my tiles has spent 25 years working on board games with Spear‚Äôs, Mattel and Bucher and Harrison and now manufactures and distributes a range of speciality games and puzzles across the world
  • I once sent a handmade Scrabble Inspired brooch pin to someone at Hasbro games in America (the brand that publishes Scrabble there)
  • In June last year before the UK voted, I played a game in which my tiles spelled out BREXIT as I took them out of the bag. Two weeks later the result was announced. I voted to remain.
  • I love it when a pub has board games. Especially Scrabble! On the flip side, I don’t like puzzles.
  • I really want to make a range of swear word Scrabble inspired designs, but I’ve never had the guts!
  • I still love it when customers tag me in their purchases and I know it will never get old. I especially loved this blog from Sam who shared her WTF necklace!
  • I own the following Scrabble themed items; tea towels, fabric, rubber stamps, stickers, notebooks, lunch bags, cookie cutters, magnets and pencils. Most of which were gifts!

Super-Scrabble-GameI mentioned treats didn’t I? I’m having a little sale in my Etsy shop at the moment and there are a handful of Scrabble inspired goodies included such as necklaces with minor imperfections, seconds if you will. There are only a limited amount available so be quick if you’ve had your eye on one of my designs!

Now I’m off to make some treats of my own, I was gifted these Scrabble cookie cutters for Christmas and I think we need some sugar over the Easter weekend. Obviously with a cup of tea and a game of Scrabble!

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Instalife March 2017

HOW THE FLIP IS IT APRIL ALREADY?! March was a fun but transitional month for me, as some projects came to an end and I started working on new things. One thing I loved participating in throughout the month was the March Meet The Maker challenge on Instagram. We posted one photo a day based on the prompts set by Joanne Hawker.

You can see all the original posts in my Instagram here or in this Facebook album where I have collated my 2016 and 2017 Meet The Maker posts!

It was a great challenge to share more of my story for Claireabellemakes and some of the posts were personal as well as a bit of fun. Looking at all the posts on the tag was really fun too – the creative community on Instagram is brilliant.

March-Meet-The-Maker-2017 Meet-The-Maker-2017

Towards the end of the month I realised that this blog passed 1 MILLION VIEWS. Kind of blown away by that and still thinking how to say thank you to you all! I’m thinking of doing a giveaway so stay tuned and give me a shout if you have any ideas.

Thanks to all of you for following along with my Instagram posts, it’s still my favourite platform to get creative with ūüôā

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Tourist In Cambridge – A Photowalk With Olympus

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of joining a group of Cambridge bloggers for a photowalk around Cambridge to test out the new Olympus PEN E-PL8 camera. Today I’m sharing my images from the day as part of my Tourist In Cambridge series.

I’ve been thinking about getting a compact system camera for a while now, so I could take a lighter camera out and about to events instead of my DSLR. Having been a Canon fan girl for years, I wasn’t sure how I would like the Olympus PEN range, but we had tech support from David for the whole day to show us the settings.

Cambridge did the best job for us with beautiful sunshine and Spring flowers everywhere.

Cambridge-PuntingOlympus-Pen-EPL8-Review

The E-PL8 is pretty light in comparison to an SLR and looks fancy too with a nice leatherette finish. It has some cool features and filters built in and syncs with the Olympus app to transfer via a wireless connection to your phone. Great for instant sharing. In my opinon, the app and wireless transfer was quite a bit better than the Canon one.Polka-Dot-Vans-Sneakers Trinity-Lane-Cambridge

We took a stroll through the city with fashion bloggers taking outfit photos and me typically waiting for a quiet spot to capture bikes and flowers. The Backs were looking super pretty with all the Spring blooms.Spring-The-Backs-Cambridge

Spring-Tulips-Cambridge

We played around with depth of field and I definitely found the camera accessible in terms of point and shoot on Auto or P mode.  The-Backs-Cambridge

The colour select feature was a favourite but a bit tricky to find in all the many menus. It wasn’t that intuitive to use, but with a little help from David we used the smart control panel and selected some of our favourite colours. Danielle is a pro at ¬†posing for fashion shots!Olympus-Pen-EPL8-Colour-Select-Feature Kings-College-Cambridge

I had a play around with the manual settings on the camera too, to try some long exposure shots. I found the menu less intuitive than Canon, but then that’s probably because I’ve been used to that for some time!¬†Mill-Pond-Cambridge

Magnolia-Blossom-in Cambridge

The camera also has a flip out screen which confused me a little as there was a knack to opening it! Great for flat lays though and I loved the live update feature. Being able to see your exposure changes on the screen before snapping was great. I did miss the view finder, but you can buy one as an add-on.Magnolia-in Cambridge Bike-Spotting-Mint-BicycleBike-Spotting-and-Magnolia

There were definitely pros and cons for me for the Olympus PEN E-PL8. It’s a fun camera to use and is great for instant sharing and minimal editing. The menu for me seemed a little clunky – for example, finding the grid feature was embedded a few levels deep.

Magnolia-Blossom

The colour quality of the photos I took was pretty good and the touch focus feature was super easy to use. It’s a good camera if you don’t have a ton of photography skills already.

Olympus-Pen-EPL8-Camera-Review

I have been considering the Canon M range as I can use my existing DSLR lenses if I grab an adapter (around ¬£90). After using the Olympus PEN range, I definitely want to do some more research about which one would work for me. I’m leaning slightly more toward the Canon range purely because it’s less of an outlay for lens costs.

I hope you enjoyed this little review today and some Spring photos of Cambridge. This photowalk made me really excited for our Cambridge Creatives one on 23 April! There are 60 people currently RSVP’d to come along, so it’s going to be a really fun, colourful day ending in a picnic on Jesus Green. I’m SO excited! More info here.

A big thanks to Olympus UK and Campkins¬†for the day and to Ally for organising. It’s so great to have a group of bloggers in Cambridge to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon with every now and again.

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*Some pages on this site may contain links to outside sites, including paid affiliates. Read more about my disclosure policy here.

What I Have Learned After 5 Years of Claireabellemakes

This is one of those blog posts that I have been thinking about for some time. Like all the thoughts in my head needed time to organise themselves before I could write them down. In a couple of weeks I am celebrating 5 years for Claireabellemakes which seems pretty surreal to say. I wanted to share with you what I have learnt in those 5 years, but also what I have learnt in the last 6 months since I quit my job. That has been the biggest learning curve.

You-Got-This-Card

Card available in the shop

Running a business is a self discovery tool. Not only do you learn about profit and loss, marketing and product development, you learn about yourself in so many ways. I never really knew who I was or what I wanted to do as a career until I started Claireabellemakes when I was 28. I guess I was a late bloomer in that sense.

There are so many things to talk about, to share, to reflect on. I get lots of emails asking me about my business journey, but it’s often hard to reply because it has been just that – A JOURNEY. So much evolving and learning that it’s hard to put into words sometimes. Today I’m going to share some of the ridiculous moments and some of the realities. I’m going to be embarrassed and I’m going to be proud. This post is really a bit self indulgent as it’s about me….but as this blog is also a journal of my business life I figured it’s OK to record these moments! (And sorry in advance Mum, there are a couple of swears, because I feel really passionate about some of this stuff). Grab a cuppa, it’s a long one…..

Claireabellemakes-Business-Journey

It’s all or nothing

When people ask me ‘how did you get to where you are?’ the general gist of my response is ‘by working really hard’. I consider myself a life long learner and actually really love learning new things. If you want to know about something, the answers wont just magically appear – you’ve got to research and put the time in. I just don’t believe in half arsing things. Now I know this about myself, I know where my limits are and what kind of effort I want to put into each product or project. And yes, those limits are going to be different for every person and maybe different depending on the project. Your working style¬†might differ to your competitors and that’s OK. You’ve got to find your own boundaries and stick to them. I’ve had a couple of challenging working experiences in 2017 that have taught me about my own boundaries and working style and it’s been so valuable. I’ve grown as a girl boss,¬†but also as a person. I’ve learned¬†that I like structure and forward planning and that I want to believe in everything I am working on.

Remember it’s a journey

Everyone starts somewhere.¬†I used to take TERRIBLE photos. I didn’t know what I was doing. I actually thought that this product shot was OK to put online and now when I look back, I cringe¬†SO hard. But y’know what? I keep it to remind myself how far I have come. ¬†I’ve learnt about lighting and product styling and sticking to brand values. You can’t learn everything at the beginning, so it’s important to remember that evolution and development is part of being a business owner. Maybe something you did 5 years ago was shit, but what did you learn from it? How has that project or product made you better at what you do? Look back as well as forward because it will remind you of the progress you have made.

YAY-Product-Photography

Let go and it will help you grow

You have probably heard the quote ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. Maybe it’s something that comes with age or growing as an individual, but I can’t tell you how good it feels to let go of comparisons. It’s a tough place to get to because there are so many people doing awesome things,¬†but I’m now able to see those people as inspirational and motivational. Competition is healthy, it keeps us pushing forwarding and aiming higher, but only if we see it in a positive way and begin to focus on us.

I’m not going to lie and say I don’t look at successful creatives and think ‘how has she managed to do that’ and ‘why haven’t I been able to get there yet’ because sometimes I still get those feelings. These are the times that I remind myself that everyone’s journey is different and what one person defines as success is completely different to another.

Craft-Party-Decorations-Claireabellemakes

I once had a chat to a creative friend where we talked about the creative community and feeling part of the ‘cool crowd’. I thought of this analogy that there was a really good party happening – the music was great, there were tons of balloons and some amazing food on the BBQ. At the beginning you’re down the street and you can hear the music and it sounds pretty fun. A little further down the line you’re actually peering over the fence and looking in at all the fun. Before you know it you’ve got an invite and having a great time. And eventually you’re the party organiser with the guest list and you’re ordering the cake. But there are bigger parties to throw and there’s always louder music to play. That’s not to say it’s about popularity or being ‘cool’, but that there is always going to be someone ahead of you and always someone looking up to you. It’s a party journey and everyone is at a different point in the celebrations.

Maybe you’re not a party person. Maybe it doesn’t feel right to dance. Y’know what? That’s absolutely OK. You can walk away and go and put your slippers on and get under a blanket to watch Netflix. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. I walked away from some projects that didn’t feel right for me this year and I feel better for it. Create your own party. A blanket party is a pretty good one in my opinion.

Lacy-Crochet-Blanket

Know your worth

You hear the advice ‘you should never work for free’ a lot and I think it’s a topic that needs a separate blog post in itself. Knowing your worth is pretty powerful and it comes back to boundaries again, but also defining what value is to you. Is your motivation to run a business to make money, or to do what you love? Maybe it’s both or maybe it’s for a completely different reason.

I recently learnt what I was willing to do for a client when they asked for more work for no more money. ¬†I had to assess what the value was for that project and whether it fitted with my boundaries. I stood my ground and eventually had to cut my losses and move away from it. For that job, money was my priority and I wasn’t able to get what I felt I deserved for my time. I’m sure that client will find someone who is willing to work for less. This same situation has happened with really big clients (I wont name names) and maybe I have lost out from an exposure point of view, but I think integrity and worth is a very important part of what I do.

I guess it’s about confidence, not arrogance. A fine line that I hope my creative friends would ever pull me up on if I crossed it!

Authenticity is so important

People will see through bullshit. In this industry we live our business and sometimes personal lives online. It’s all too easy to curate our Instagram feeds and to show how we want people to perceive us. I am a big advocate for keeping it real. Yes, I share my tidy studio online because it looks nice and it’s hardly ever like that, but I also share the crap behind the scenes from time to time. I sometimes post pictures of my face when I have a terrible migraine and look awful, because that’s my life. Sharing a bit about the people behind the business can be powerful and relatable. Learning where the line sits is key though! Oversharing can be just as damaging to a brand.

Recently, I’ve learnt that some people I knew online aren’t who I expected them to be when I have seen them talk in person. On the flip side, I’ve met people who are exactly like their online brand. It’s definitely a more satisfying outcome to experience that, so I’m always conscious of keeping the balance when I post online.

4th-Birthday-Outtakes

Outtakes from my 4th birthday blog post

People matter

The community is so important to what we do. I’m generally quite an outgoing person, so I know it’s not always an easy part of business for introverts and shy people. I’ve learnt that reaching out to people who inspire you is scary, but rewarding. I know that people talk. I value face to face interactions so much and have booked my 3rd Blogtacular ticket for that very reason.

It’s so important to connect. It’s like that La La Land song¬†‘Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know’.¬†You might be sitting next to the editor of your favourite magazine at an event and not even realise. Or maybe you realised a friend of yours knows someone you admire and could perhaps introduce you. Never underestimate the value of people. They can help carve your path and guide you in the right direction. This is why I’m planning on using a business mentor this year.

Creative-Community

And people can give you a lift. The creative friends I’ve made have played a huge part in me feeling confident about what I do. Two of my creative besties even read this blog post for me before I hit publish and they give me courage every single day to keep being me. They cheer for me when things go right and they listen when I am struggling to find my way.

Sure, I have so many more things to add to this list about the things I have discovered. I’m still learning and growing and I always will be. Maybe in 5 more years I will have a completely different perspective on running a business. Maybe I will be creating a different kind of party. One where I mess about with balloons just for fun.

OH AND GUESS WHAT? I’ll be doing just that on 23 April for our Spring photo walk in Cambridge. Bikes, Balloons and Besties. Come join us!

Wisteria-Bicycles-Cambridge-Satchel

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