Well would you believe it, it’s Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK and the sun is shining! I’m looking for positivity this weekend after a tough week for our country. I’ll be spending time with friends, having a date night with G who has been away this week for work, and of course working on some new goodies for the shop!
This weekend I’m also having a sale in my Etsy shop yay! Just use the code MAYBANKHOL for 15% off everything. A great time to stock up on cards and gifts or maybe even a treat for yourself.ALSO I HAVE NEWS OF A GIVEAWAY! I have teamed up with the lovely folks at Sew Magazine for a big giveaway and I’m thrilled about it. There are 10 of the SEW necklaces up for grabs in their competition. All you have to do is complete this form to be in with a chance of winning one. What are you planning to do this weekend to stay positive? I better run, I’ve got to get to the post office and send out your lovely orders and of course grab a coffee to start my day. Happy weekend!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately. Thinking about the business and what direction I want to take it in. Thinking about what I value in life and who I want around me. Thinking about all the drama that has been surrounding blogging and social media. I thought I’d share what has been happening around here because I’ve come to some conclusions and it’s always helpful for me to write them here on the blog – my online journal if you like.
I want to do less to get more
I have decided to refocus Claireabellemakes to bring it back to what it originally was in 2012! Rather than doing all.the.things, I’m going to focus on products and the blog. That’s it. I’ve ended freelance contracts and finally made the decision to retire Cambridge Craft Parties. I did feel sad at first (because how much fun were they and who doesn’t love buying party supplies and creating with others?!), but I know it’s the right thing to do. They needed a lot of work to make them more profitable and in my heart I was more drawn towards designing products. That’s not to say I wont run workshops in the future, but it was time to say goodbye to the parties.
I’m not giving up freelance work all together, I’m just being way more selective and only working on things I really believe in and enjoy. I’m not going to lie, this part has been scary. Especially as it has meant letting go of income when the landlord just increased our rent!
I don’t want to stress about social media
There has been a lot of drama about social media lately (Instagram bots, algorithms, etc) and I kind of don’t care about it. I did join an Instagram pod because I was curious to see what would happen (I like experimenting), but actually I now use it to keep connected with my favourite creatives and I really don’t care about numbers or engagement anymore. I care that people enjoy my posts online and that maybe they will like my designs enough to purchase something. I care that I am part of a community that supports one another – I certainly don’t care about getting on the Explore page of Instagram or getting a ‘blue tick’ to become verified. After all – what does that really mean? My main goal is to enjoy social media without analysing. It’s always been fun for me and I want to keep it that way.
I know why I am doing this and what I am now
Being reflective these last few months has reaffirmed why I want to have a creative job like this. Ultimately it’s to live a happy life and to make money. That’s it. I’m not looking for validation or for anything else – I just want to be creative and live a nice life. Pretty simple really.
I now feel like a designer maker. For years I didn’t want to use the term for myself and that’s OK. The imposter syndrome has left the building and I finally feel confident to tell people “I run my own business designing products and writing a creative blog”. Self doubt still happens every now and again, but it’s way less often now.
So what’s next?
I’m working on new designs. I’m streamlining the business as well as my physical ‘stuff’ in the studio. Doing fewer things means I can do them really really well. I’m working on wholesale plans. I’m working on a new website design with a shop. I’m meeting creative friends regularly. I’m creating community and attending face-to-face meet ups where I can.
In a physical sense, I’ve probably got less to show for my business since I quit my full-time job last Autumn. However, in an emotional sense, there is more clarity than ever. I just needed the head space and time to figure it all out.
I’m grateful I have had the chance to try so many things. It has helped me determine what I want my brand to be and I’ve learnt a lot. Letting the business evolve from nothing has been so valuable and I’m ready for the next steps now!
Wish me luck…..and thanks for reading my brain dump today 😉 What’s new with you?
This one’s for the stationery geeks! I’ve been working on organising the studio and all my supplies lately (literally the longest project ever) and came across this pen storage.
I shared it on Instagram and the amount of messages I received about it showed me that it was worthy of a blog post and video. Turns out, it’s not just me that finds neatly organised pens in rainbow order satisfying.
The zip up case is about A5 size, but it has 4 sections so can fit TONS of pens. I’m sure I had something like this as a kid too for pencils and all sorts.
Since I started Bullet Journaling this year, I have been using a greater selection of pens from gel pens to fine liners, to sharpies. I’ve linked them all below so you can see which ones are my favourite. Now I always know if I need a pen, it’s here or in my pencil case. No more scrabbling around on my desk to find them!
And because people seem to love a stationery video, I shared a little more on my YouTube channel too. Watch it here! Thanks for letting me indulge today 🙂
Wow April was full of colour! I usually start my monthly favourites post by sharing the best experience of the month. April was filled with some craft parties (possibly the final ones!) and the Cambridge Creatives Photowalk. Both amazing opportunities to connect with creative people!
The photo walk was overwhelming in an amazing way. I felt on a high for a week after and so so grateful that people believed in our event again. I’ll write a separate post soon, in the meantime, enjoy this wisteria shot as a taster….
I decided to wear pink for the photowalk (we all dressed colourfully) and purchased a new phone case just for the occasion. Just a bit of fun!
Planning the walk with Jo was just brilliant. A couple of weeks ago she gifted me this adorable illustration which I need to frame. I love it. You can order your own custom ‘sunshine’ on Jo’s website.
This month I was thrilled to be included in Caboodle magazine again for their Spring/Summer edition. I had some fun with a Christmas present this month – Scrabble cookie cutters! What shall I spell out next?
I chatted to Imogen Owen on the photo walk who has just released her Modern Calligraphy Workshop book. It’s BEAUTIFUL with practical tips for lettering with a nib, as well as brush and chalk lettering skills. I took one of Immie’s classes last year and loved it. As most of you know by now, this year I’m enjoying bullet journalling and have been testing out some different pens for doodling and note taking. Uniball contacted me to share their new sparkling gel ink rollerball pens with you. I was not disappointed – they are the sparkliest gel pens I’ve come across yet!
I have also discovered some awesome new pen storage, but I’m planning on making a separate video for my You Tube channel about it, so stay tuned. Since I quit my full-time job last year, I’ve been trying to spend less money. It was pretty tricky at a car boot this weekend when I saw a mint green typewriter for £15 let me tell you! However, I managed to resist and have been enjoying swaps with fellow creatives as a way to mix up my pin and patch collections without spending money.
This little haul is from a Lucky Dip Club swap event I participated in on Facebook. It was so much fun. Keep an eye on their website for a relaunch of the Lucky Dip Club boxes soon!
Oh and the patches I got have been ironed or stitched onto something which I’m planning to share soon 🙂
Some new pins this month include Ip Dip Designs (got these for a few pounds in the seconds sale!), Corazon Pom Pom and Elhorno who has just released his first pin. I couldn’t resist taking a snap of the pins I wore for the photowalk too, all designed by makers in the East of England! (Hello Sunshine, Daphne Rosa, HAH).
And the final thing I was completely blown away with this month was a kind gift from Doodle Bug and Co. Lou used to live in Cambridge and said she has enjoyed following my Instagram for a little reminder of ‘home’. I can’t believe how beautiful this embroidery of Florence is. Just finding a frame for it now, but I was so touched.
So lots of lovely things to appreciate this month as well as time with friends and family and some sofa/TV sessions when I’ve been poorly. As always, I have Jimmy Fallon on repeat, but I’ve also been watching Girl Boss on Netflix. What do you guys think? I’m unsure so far – her business story just seems so cut throat and not how our creative community really works, so it’s hard to relate. Maybe things were different 10 years ago and more competitive/less supportive?!
What have you been loving in April?
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It’s been a while since I shared a Life Lately post and I always enjoy showing you what I have been up to behind the scenes. March and April have both been busy with events (more on this another day) and it has been a time to finish up some freelance contracts and projects. A bit of a transitional time for the business!
I worked on some fun crochet commissions for a magazine and I sold at Norwich Makers Market for the first time. On the product side of things, I’ve been working on updating my product photography (ongoing) and some new designs.
I product tested some wooden keyrings, but I’m not 100% happy with them yet so have been working on ways to make them more robust.
I took on a big pencil commission for Tech Ladies in NYC which is an inspiring collective of 10,000 women! Each of them receive a custom pencil set when they join the collective.We worked on packaging together which is almost as fun as designing the product itself!
I restocked some best selling cards and started to brainstorm for more card designs. Any requests?
The second run of bike pins sold out which means over 200 of them are out there in the world now!! I sent one to Iceland recently and I love seeing people wearing them. I have restocked a whole new batch in my Etsy and Look Lane shops.
I also sent off 3 new pin designs to my manufacturer, so I hope to have these live in a few weeks. They are for the planner and stationery lovers and will be GLITTERY. I’m beyond excited about these and it’s been so fun working the designs from sketch, to digital images, to proofs. Always a bit scary to hand the final manufacturing over to someone else though!
And I worked on some more custom wall art frames for return customers and realised that each and every one of these has such a great story behind it.
My studio plant took a turn for the worst so I found some plant people on Instagram for advice. Debee shares some brilliant videos of her succulent collections (they are AMAZING) and actually showed how to propogate a string of buttons plant just as mine needed help.
I took some trimmings (scary moment) and hoped I would be able to save it….
….so now I’ve repotted the cuttings with the healthy crown still attached and I hope they will re-root in the fresh soil. My Pilea (shown in the first photo above) seems to be doing OK though with new leaves appearing weekly! Maybe I can be an indoor gardener yet?!
As usual, Tammy has been stealing my chair at every opportunity and jumping in all the boxes once every delivery has been unpacked.
I’m taking the next couple of months to refocus my work. Naturally, I am the kind of person who thrives on having multiple projects on the go at once. However, I have made the decision to focus my business on products and blog work as the main priority. The Cambridge Craft Parties are currently on hiatus and I am still trying to decide whether to retire them completely to really focus on my shop and working with retailers. After a couple of seasons and some private party bookings, I haven’t been able to make them as profitable as I had hoped and they take a huge amount of effort to plan, execute and promote.
I guess what I am trying to say, is that I want my business to be about quality, not quantity. My priorities are to make money to support myself and to feel 100% happy about everything I am working on. Right now, that is translating to simplifying my income streams so that I have fewer projects that I do really really well. It’s kind of scary as it has meant ending freelance work that was guaranteed monthly income, but it also means I now have time to design more products and start working with stockists.
I hope you guys enjoyed the update today! Tell me what’s new with you?