Life Lately: In The Studio #9

Time to share a little more behind the scenes in the studio. Lately, I have spent a lot of time working on the computer doing copywriting and social media work, but you’re unlikely to be interested in photos of me in my cactus print pyjamas working on my laptop! So that’s why I’m going to share the makes I’ve been working on behind the scenes today.

I’ll be the first to admit that the desk is not usually this tidy, but I’ve been switching up my pegboard decor and flowers every couple of weeks. Tulips for Spring……

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…..then Peonies for June!Claireabellemakes-Studio-Peonies

I wanted to work on a new sign for market stalls, so got in touch with Laura at Bespoke Laser to create a wooden Claireabellemakes sign.
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I painted it in my brand colours and I love the result! It now comes with me to markets….Claireabellemakes-Laser-Cut-Wooden-Sign

….and stays in the studio when I am not out and about.Claireabellemakes-Studio-Pegboard

I use a clipboard for displaying prints on my pegboard as it means I can change them regularly, depending on my mood. Whatever-Makes-You-Weird-Print

There was a ton of print packing in the studio over the last month, including my new collaborative collection with Daphne Rosa and the designs for Blogtacular.Hustle-Hard-Floral-Print

The view from the studio hasn’t been all that consistent (June hail anyone?!), but there have been a few sunny days as the start of summer arrived.View-From-Claireabellemakes-Studio

I’ve worked on some great custom word art frames for my local, regular customers which has really made me smile.Custom-Word-Art-Frame-Whale-Background Custom-Word-Art-Frame-Grey-Chevron

I’ve also worked on wholesale orders including a bunch of bicycle bracelets for Cycling Center Lab. All the colours!Claireabellemakes-Bicycle-Bracelets

One of my regular tasks in the studio is to undertake Scrabble tile audits. Of course I use a Scrabble notebook and pencil for that task! If you have any ideas for how to keep track of my tiles in stock I’d love to hear them. I’ve been using a tally, but they get used so frequently I often forget to update it!Scrabble-Notebook-and-Pencil

If you follow my Snapchat you will know that I can’t work without Tammy constantly needing my attention! She was pretty naughty last week and plonked herself on the desk, but usually she’s on my chair as soon as I stand up for a second.Cat-On-Desk-Claireabellemakes-Studio

I hope you’ve enjoyed a little behind the scenes update today. I’m still working on clearing out all my supplies in the studio, so expect more Instagram sales soon!

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Rose Gold Stationery Finds

It’s no secret I’m a fan of metallics. I’ll often create DIYs with metallic spray paints, or decorate my planner with gold foil stickers and paper clips. I’ve even been on the hunt for metallic nail polishes lately (Barry M Molten Metals look great if you’re wondering)!

One of my biggest loves for metallics is paper goods and accessories. So today I want to share a rose gold stationery wish list with you following the discovery of some new Paperchase and Etsy finds!

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Platinum Rose PlannerRose Gold Glitter Heart Stickers / Marbled Rose Gold Foil Envelope Liner
Rose Gold Crystal Pens / Handmade Rose Gold Leather Pencil Case / Rose Gold Glitter Tape
Rose Gold Stapler / Rose Gold Binder Clips

Have you found any stationery that I need to know about? I’m still working on finding planner peace, but I promise I will share a video once that day eventually comes 🙂 in the meantime, there will be more Planner Geek Outs.

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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.

Tips For Working On Collaborative Products

Over the last four years I have collaborated with lots of other bloggers, but it wasn’t until this year, that I decided to collaborate with another designer maker. Creating a set of prints with Kate from Daphne Rosa was a fantastic learning experience, so today I want to share my tips for working on collaborative products.Hustle-Hard-Print

How to start

One of the questions people asked us about our collaboration was how it came about. Kate and I already had a good relationship where we met regularly (over brunch) to discuss our business goals and share advice. Although our work is quite different, I knew that Kate was interested in developing her product range and I simply asked her if she was interested in working on something together. It really helped to work with someone I could be honest with and that I had a personal connection with as a friend too. We knew that we could be honest with each other from the get go.

Brainstorm

Idea generation is usually quite a personal process, so working with someone else requires you to be flexible with your approach and to use your listening skills. We began with brainstorming sessions on paper, creating sketches and lists to visualise our ideas. We were clear with our goals from the start so as to manage expectations for the project. The concept stage is a key moment for your working relationship, as it is when your creative ideas will blend and it can be quite rewarding if things click into place easily! We had a few “YES!” moments which was great.

Kate and I planned our work days in both her studio and mine which worked well, as our motivational tools and surroundings are pretty similar (Pitch Perfect soundtrack was the usual choice). At the beginning of each work session, we set our goals for the day and got to work.

Strengths and Weaknesses

 

If you know each other well, it will be easy to identify who is good at what. I am fairly confident with my camera so we decided I could shoot the prints when we first created them. For tasks where we both felt confident, we shared the workload evenly. At one point I wasn’t happy with some of the results of a shoot and I made sure to communicate my worries Kate. It turns out she felt the same, so I was happy I shared my weakness with her. We both wanted the best results we could get, so it pays off to share your skills with each other during the process.

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Discuss Money Early On

At the concept stage, Kate and I did a lot of research for suppliers to determine if our product would be a viable venture in terms of profit. Remember that there are two people putting time into the product, so you will need to set an hourly rate together, as well as agreeing on profit margins that fit with your current business models. This might mean that you have to be willing to compromise a little and to accept a lower profit from sales as you are splitting it two ways. We created expenses and sales spreadsheets specifically for our project so all money could be tracked and recorded. Work out who is going to pay for what before you even begin, so you can manage cash flow. We decided to split everything evenly and communicated clearly at all stages of the project when money was involved.

Continually Manage Workloads

Workload was probably our biggest challenge for the project, because it needed constant management and attention. We were both very aware that we wanted the workload to be evenly spread and spent a lot of time being very British asking one another if they felt they were doing too much or if they were overloaded. Once we got over being polite about it, we just made sure to communicate our other commitments to each other.

Timelines

The previous section about workloads leads nicely into timelines for your project. At one point, we failed to inform each other of our clashing holiday dates, which mean there was a bit of a scramble and a late night to get things finished in time for our deadline. As usually organised people, we could have done with one more diary session to solidify our launch date and manage the remaining work.

 

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Marketing Plan

Once your product is made and you are happy with the result, there is just as much work to do in promoting it. We created a marketing strategy for how we would launch the prints, drafting a press release and working out who we could send prints to for possible social shares. Creating a buzz around our product launch was important to us and getting feedback was key. It helped us to realise that it wasn’t just the two of us who thought the products were a good idea! As our audience was fairly niche (we aimed them at other makers and creatives) it was important to determine our customer and target the promotional material accordingly.

Analyse

The work isn’t over once your product is launched. Tracking sales and monitoring social shares and feedback is key to learning whether your product has been a success. It may be that you need to work on spreading the word a little more, or that you should send out more press releases. Keep communicating with your collaborator to see how things are progressing.

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I am so pleased I worked on this venture with Kate. Not only did it push both of our creative boundaries, but the cross promotion allowed us to capitalise on each other’s followings and find new customers for our own shops that may not have come our way otherwise. The best thing for me was seeing our idea come to life and having a lot of fun working together.

You can find each print in our shops and also a set of 5 prints with a stand too. Claireabellemakes x Daphne Rosa Flyer

You may also know that I also recently collaborated with Sew Crafty for a set of sewing themed prints. You can win a full set of the prints by visiting the Sew Crafty Facebook Page here before Monday 18 July 2016.

Sew Crafty Comp

I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes post today. If you like these kind of posts and you want to hear more, leave me a comment below or find me on social media!

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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.

Creative Inspirations: Yellowstone Art Boutique

For some reason I’ve been finding it hard to blog lately. So today, I’ve decided to focus on the Creative Inspirations series which is in fact the longest running series on my blog! I started it in 2012 to share my favourite makers and creative people with you all.

Today it’s the turn of Yellowstone Art Boutique which was launched by Hannah Stoney in 2011. The shop stocks a wonderful collection of creative work by British artists from a wooden cabin in Staffordshire. Hannah’s collection of bicycle print textiles and ceramics first caught by eye, which then led me to discover their online shop filled with amazing things! I hope you will enjoy this interview today.Creative-Inspirations-Yellowstone-Art-BoutiqueC: Tell us a little about yourself and how Yellowstone Art Boutique got started?
H: I knew before I went to University that I wanted to open a creative space one day. Back then I thought it might be more of a fine art gallery but over the years my love to handmade and craft developed. I graduated from Cheltenham with a First Class Honours in Painting & Drawing and then worked in a printmaking gallery in London to learn a little bit more about sales and the business side of running a gallery. I started writing a business plan and worked toward opening my own shop, then in March 2011 it became a reality. It was such a long time coming that I could hardly believe it when I had an actual shop! I’m passionate about championing British design and so sell work by trained British makers in Yellowstone Art Boutique.

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C: You are located in a very skilled area of the UK, what influenced your decision to only stock British artists?
H: Being in Stoke-on-Trent is amazing as so many local customers are from very creative and skilled families. It means that our ceramics have to the best of the best as our customers really know their stuff! Saying that, when I opened there was very little creativity in the area so local people loved what I was doing. Now lots of events, shops, galleries and even TV shows (The Great Pottery Throwdown) are based in Staffordshire. I’m proud to have a store in the ‘creative county’- what could be more apt!

I think it’s important to be heralding British made work as there is so much diversity and I love supporting home grown talent. I don’t need to look elsewhere and our customers would much rather buy from British makers.

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C: Tell us about your typical day in balancing a successful creative boutique and being a designer.

H: It sounds cliché but no two days are the same. Let’s just say I never get bored and I regularly forget to eat because I’m so busy (I’m working on imposing actual work times and break times but I’m finding it hard!). I thrive on doing a million things at once, even though it drives those around me crazy. So today I’m working in the shop- I’ve framed 5 pictures, packed some online orders, served customers, replied to emails, hovered up, cleaned the windows and an order has just arrived for me to check, price and display. Who knows what will happen this afternoon!
A typical day in the studio for me involves lots of spreadsheets and head scratching. Then designing commissions and Wedding stationery for clients. Like I said before it’s always a mixed bag though, and you never know what a day will entail.

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C: What are the biggest challenges that come with being an employer?
H: Being an employer is both fantastic and terrifying. My team are incredible so they make managing them very easy but the legalities of it can get a little complicated. The shop (and our 3 online shops) are open 7 days a week so I physically couldn’t do it all on my own. After 5 years I’m finally coming round to the idea that I can delegate some jobs and the world won’t end!

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C: Your small team at Yellowstone includes your Mum, how do you get on working together?
H: Mum and I have a brilliant relationship so it actually works very well. We do things in different ways but we rarely work in the shop together so it doesn’t cause any problems. We are on the same wavelength though so often don’t really have to explain things. At the end of the day, we keep it professional at work when we need to though, and I unfortunately for her, I’m technically her boss so I get the final say! The only downside is that we talk work lots of the time and drive our family crazy. We find it hard to switch off from Yellowstone mode.

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C: Congratulations on recently celebrating 5 years of Yellowstone Art Boutique! Can you share with us what the biggest learning curve has been for you as a shop owner?
H: Thank you! I think managing staff has been the biggest learning curve. Everything has evolved massively and I think I’m a much better boss now I’ve made so many mistakes.

I wrote this blog post about the 10 things I’ve learnt from business which still rings true. One of my biggest tips is to always have new stock and change displays. We aim to have new products every time customers visit. We never want to rest on our laurels.

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C: I’m sure you have to wear many hats as a small business owner including marketer, visual merchandiser, stockist and designer. Which areas of your business do you love and which are a struggle (mine is definitely accounts!)?
H: I love being a buyer and finding new work for the shop. And I love creating new work and seeing it right through to production and then selling it myself the shop- it’s very rewarding. The struggles for me are rotas, sorting out staff holidays etc, accounts..! But I have a brilliant accountant who has got me very organised so it’s less of a headache now. I’ve always been quite academic despite being creative, so I find bit of paperwork therapeutic. Paying the bills, less so…

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C: Any tips for designer makers looking to get their work stocked in shops?
H: YES. Look on the shops website as most have them have a preferred method of contact. For us it is via email and I’ve even written guidelines about what info to send us.

  • Personalise the email to the buyer (you’ll find their name on the website or call the shop to find out) and write a little comment about their shop.
  • Don’t send huge jpeg files or wetransfer files. Just small images and a link to your website or online shop will be perfect.
  • Be friendly! It’s not a job interview so you want your personality to come across if you want to work with them.

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C: Lastly, can you share with us your favourite designer maker at the moment? Who has caught your eye that we need to find out more about?!
H: My favourite designer at the moment is Paper Moon. We’ve sold Nicola’s work for a few years but her prints just get better and better. The pastel colours are just ticking all of our boxes at the moment!

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What a amazing shop eh? I’m so pleased Yellowstone are selling online so we can all enjoy these beautiful ceramics and prints! Don’t forget to check out the website and to go give them a follow on social too. A big thanks to Hannah for getting involved with the series today!

If there are any creatives inspiring you that you want to find out more about, do let me know and I’ll invite them to join us here on the blog.

All images in this post are courtesy of Trove Photography.

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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.

DIY Cat Plush Cushion

I’m pleased to be back from an unplanned blogging break this week. I have been pretty poorly with migraine and also haven’t felt much like writing. It seems that every time we switch on the news something tragic or terrible is happening around the world and it’s been hard to find my usual positivity.

BUT, this week’s saviour was Toby from I Like Cats who sent me this awesome cat plush cushion to try out! It really did cheer me up to have something fun to make and I was pretty excited to be helping Toby share his new cushion kits for his shop.

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The DIY Tea Towel Plush kit can be sewn into a cushion or just used to dry the dishes.

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In my opinion everyone needs a cat cushion, but you can always get this tea towel as a gift for friends who don’t sew.

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Toby’s cute illustrations and instructions make this such a simple DIY to sew.

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My sewing machine is this one from John Lewis which is so easy to use.

John-Lewis-Sewing-Machine-JanomeAs my sewing skills are not super advanced I always pin LOADS!

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Once the cat plush was sewn, I turned him right side out, pressed and stuffed!

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If you aren’t up for hand sewing the opening shut, you can always use fabric glue. I just did a quick whip stitch with white cotton to close the gap.

What do you think of the finished kitty cushion? I love him!

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And Tammy immediately approved!

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You can grab your own cat cushion kit in Toby’s Etsy store. I also have a few of the I Like Cats enamel pins which go so well in my collection. I hope you enjoyed this DIY share today!

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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.