Life Lately #17: It’s Been A While

As the title says, it’s been a while! Life has been hectic and ever changing this summer so I’m here with an update on what I’ve been up to.

It’s been a sociable summer for creative events, but Jo and I decided not to run a Cambridge Creatives photo walk this year. Jo married Will (catch up on her amazing wedding blog series here) and has been rather busy enjoying some adventures, so we decided on a more low key punting and picnic event this time around. It was a lovely relaxed day with lots of familiar faces and we even had a puppy attend! Thanks to Siobhan for these ace photos.
Cambridge Creatives Punting Cambridge Creatives Summer Picnic Claireabellemakes-HelloSunshine The last few months have also been filled with self care and I’ve been attempting to exercise multiple times a week. After my elimination diet for migraines in April, I have been feeling healthy and I think my new fitness regime has really helped. I’m combining the gym with yoga and weekly swims at the Lido. I used to hate swimming but the early morning outdoor experience has really been refreshing and enjoyable!
Jesus Green Lido Cambridge The UK heatwave has meant I’ve spent a ton of time outdoors this summer. One ridiculously hot day was the London In Colourful Company walk and we also met up in Margate for the annual trip to the Dreamland theme park. It was the perfect seaside day out filled with ice cream, roller coasters and fish and chips to end.

In-Colourful-Company-Walks My personal life has been changing a lot too and I have been packing down my studio. I decided to close my shop for August to take some time to move house and adjust to a smaller space. It has been sad and challenging, but I am determined to make everything work.

My life circumstances have also meant that I decided to go back to a day job on a full-time basis. I’m excited to have a secure, regular income again and will be figuring out how to fit the business around that. I did it for 4 years at the beginning, so I am sure I can do it again! I’m lucky to have worked for a great tech company on a part time basis for the last 18 months and will be increasing my hours there and learning lots of new things.
Claireabellemakes Break timeDespite the shop being closed, there have been some lovely customer snaps being shared on social media. I’ve also taken some time to update to more eco-friendly packaging for my products and I am designing lots of new things behind the scenes!Claireabellemakes-pins-necklaces-packaging Moving has meant I have also had a new space to adapt to and decorate! I have enjoyed selecting what prints to put on the walls as well as arranging my house plants and picking cushions and bedding.
Claireabellemakes-New-SpaceDespite having all the changes and lots of fun this summer, I have been doing some freelance work too. The beginning of August marked the start of Copenhagen Fashion Week where 15 of these stunning bicycles were used as part of Net-A-Porter’s campaign. I was commissioned to make the handlebar streamers for the bikes and it’s been amazing to see how everything was styled! You can see lots more images and videos over on the Net-A-Porter Instagram.
Net-A-Porter Bicycles Copenhagen Fashion Week

Photo credit: Dan Roberts StudioTammy-Studio-Cat

It’s now time to continue the studio pack down and give this one a little squishy cuddle. Hope you’re all having a great summer? Tell me what you’ve been up to!

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Claireabellemakes is 6! {Giveaway}

It’s time for a giveaway! I’m not quite sure where the years have gone, but Claireabellemakes has just passed 6 years in business and I wanted to celebrate with you! To enter, just head on over to my latest Instagram video¬†here and follow the steps there. I have 6 mystery prizes on offer that have all been carefully selected from the shop.Claireabellemakes-Studio-PegboardIf you don’t use Instagram, drop me an email here and say you’d like to be entered. Winners will be drawn at random on Wednesday 18 April.

Seeing as I’ve just launched the confetti and sprinkles collection, I thought I’d have some confetti fun of my own to celebrate ūüôā

Thanks for all your support whether you’ve been following since day one or you’ve just found the blog and shop. Good luck in the giveaway!

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Life Lately: #15 What Have I Been Working On

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any updates here…… *Blows dust off keyboard* but I’m happy to be back today to share a little of what I have been working on.

February and March are typically quieter months for sales, so I have been spending time working on stuff behind the scenes such as planning a new website and designing new product collections. I’d love to know if there is anything you’re interested in seeing on the new site as it will have a shop built in and lots of new features!

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New Glitter Heart pin colours coming soon!

In March I was also super excited to work with Lucky Dip Club again to create a surprise stationery set for their subscribers. It was so much fun testing the waters with this new product idea and it seemed to go down well. I have a few of these limited edition sets available in my Etsy shop if you would like to snap one up. They will be back in different designs in the future, so watch this space for more stationery!

Fun Plans Stationery Set Lucky Dip Club Claireabellemakes

I am thrilled to¬†be working with a few new stockists this month, both in the UK and internationally. Tania’s Teahouse in Dubai is one that I am dying to visit – it’s the most beautiful place which opened on 8 April! They are stocking my TEA necklaces which I am so pleased about and I’m following along on their Instagram and dreaming of visiting one day. If you are a shop interested in stocking my work or you know somewhere that would fit my designs, just get in touch!

Tania's-Teahouse-Dubai

Image credit: Grazia Middle East

I have also been working on uploading my designs to the Thortful website and app via my shopfront here. The selection of cards available on Thortful is really fantastic and they support independent illustrators and designers by printing and shipping cards directly to the customer.

Thortful-Store-Front-Claireabellemakes

On a personal note, I’ve been struggling with migraines a lot lately and had a constant fortnight of pain at one point which was very frustrating and draining. A lot of people ask me what I have tried or whether doctors can do anything more and to be honest I’ve exhausted most options! I currently use a neuro-modulation device called Cefaly on a daily basis which I love as an alternative to preventative medications.

The Migraine Relief Diet

In April I began a very strict elimination diet to determine if any foods or drinks have been acting as triggers. So far it has been a huge amount of work – thank goodness for my Bullet Journal for planning! I am cooking every meal from scratch and avoiding so many things such as gluten, most dairy, processed food, sugar and a huge list of random ingredients (no avocados, garlic or tomatoes which I am finding hard!). Hopefully I will see some results after a couple of months of using this book. If you are ever interested in hearing more about my health journey do let me know and perhaps I’ll write a separate post.

So that’s my updates for now! Even though it’s been hard to be working at a slower pace, I’m prioritising my health for a little while and that feels good right now. I hope to have more news on the website and new collections very soon!

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How I Overcame My Creative Business Funk

I’ve been wondering whether to write this post for a while but as I see the blog as my creative place and business diary, it seemed like the best place to share some thoughts on overcoming a creative/business funk. It might seem like a pretty negative post, but I think it’s important to discuss the harder parts of running a small creative business sometimes.

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Let me update you on January. Now I am a person who likes new starts. I like the chance to set new goals and learn new things. I love Mondays and I’m a pretty positive person. However, January didn’t seem to bring me that feeling of renewal or excitement this year. It was really tough, a bit dark and kind of confusing really.

There were a number of reasons it felt like a difficult month. I’m going to share my experience with you because it might help others and to be honest it will probably be cathartic for me. One of the first reasons was pretty personal. I felt very very low for most of the winter season. I struggled with SAD, had anxiety pretty much every day and ended up with a 12 day stomach flu that wiped me out. Funnily enough, my migraine condition was pretty good through January and I tried to visit the gym twice a week, but it just felt like I was battling my mental health each day. SAD is a weird one because it hits me each year and I’ve somehow forgotten it exists. It takes me a good week or two to realise why I feel unmotivated, down and just really really sad.

In business, January is the month I work on my accounts a lot; usually submitting my tax return, analysing income and expenditure, and generating sales reports. I had been putting in some extra hours in my part-time job and most of that was to cover a job that used a spreadsheet all day. When it came to looking at my accounts at the end of each day, I had spreadsheet and number fatigue and it really didn’t help. I pushed through (because tax return deadline!) and have to admit that not seeing the growth I’d¬†planned for was kind of demotivating. Yes, my sales increased a little and my conversion rate was healthy, but I did feel disappointed that I had worked so hard to see lower results than I wanted for the shop.

People don’t talk much about money and that’s OK. I run my business because I want to make money. Being able to do something creative and earn a living from that is what drives me. In 2017-18 I made a conscious decision to let go of all my freelance work to focus more on the shop and product development. It was a scary moment because HALF of my income in 2016-17 was through freelance work. I’m pleased to say that even though I felt a bit disappointed with sales, I’ve built my income up to almost what it was when I was taking on monthly freelance work. I’m working on approaching new stockists to replace that freelance income with larger and more regular orders. It feels like a better way to control my income than relying on other companies and chasing unpaid invoices all the time. I reckon the amount of time I spent chasing payments could be much better spent on developing new product collections.¬†In-Progress-Making

Another big factor in feeling ‘stuck’ in my business, was social media and the general vibe I was feeling from Instagram and other platforms. I wrote a post about this here¬†but to summarise, I had a feeling that everything had become rather judgmental and bossy – possibly as a result of people sharing their opinions on new year’s resolutions and new starts. I decided to take a step back from all business activity in January including social media. I can’t say my sales didn’t suffer (because I had a terrible month for the shop), but I definitely felt better for accepting it was time to post and engage less. I had considered taking a complete break for 1 or 2 weeks with no online interaction and to completely switch off from the business. However, I kept going and engaged when I felt like it without any kind of schedule.

One positive thing was that I was feeling creative outside of the business. Throughout the month I worked on a lot of personal projects such as quilting, knitting and journaling. G and I smashed through The Office boxset (US version) which help to lift my mood too. Accepting that I was feeling stuck was helpful and I chose to focus on activities that felt enjoyable.

One of things that really helped me to work through the lack of inspiration, was to talk to other people. I told G I¬†felt like giving up¬†and just having a ‘normal’ life and he reminded me of all the things I enjoyed and what I would miss. I had definitely lost sight of why I started the business and G said I would miss the creative community a lot if I didn’t do what I do. I knew he was right.

I also talked to people who had felt this way before Рfrom that creative community G reminded me of. Friends and fellow creators were so understanding and just listened rather than trying to force me to find solutions. A few people said they thought I was burnt out, but I really felt rested and not exhausted physically or mentally. I found that letting the feelings run their course was the best thing to do. I accepted how I felt, spent my time doing things I wanted to and slowly let my creative business brain wake up again.

At the end of the month my inbox was starting to look exciting again, with a couple of stockists interested in my work and some sponsored content on the horizon for brand collaborations. I had already taken some time out to Bullet Journal my goals for the first 2 quarters of 2018, ready for when I had the motivation to work again. Thankfully, the start of February has felt more inspired and I have started the month with ideas, sales forecasts and strategies in place.

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In April I will celebrate 6 years since I started Claireabellemakes. I do feel lucky that in all that time I hadn’t ever felt like giving up and that I’ve been motivated and excited about the business the whole time. So I will accept my January funk as a blip and be thankful that I’m paying the biggest tax bill I have had since it all started back in 2012 (thanks freelance work!).

Thank you for¬†reading if you got this far! I’m¬†definitely feeling much more positive about everything now and ready to tackle what 2018 has in store.

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Life Lately #14: In The Studio & Around Cambridge

If I’m being honest with you, January hasn’t been the one. I’ve lacked inspiration, have felt completely unmotivated and the weather and lack of light has been tough for my wellbeing. Self-care has been a priority and I have been going to the gym and trying to take time for personal projects. I’ve still been creating, but I took a little step back from products and social media to regroup for a while.

I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things, so thought I would share another Life Lately post to document the positive things from the past couple of weeks. I hung the new rainbow lamp in the studio – a great gift from G for Christmas.Rainbow-Neon-Light

I’ve been immersing myself in planners for the start of the year and have decorated my Bullet Journal with stickers from Nikki McWilliams. I’ve also been filming review videos for the Momentum Planner and the beautiful Hello Day Chic Planner. They are both up on my YouTube channel this week which just hit 3000 subscribers too!

Bullet-Journal-BIscuit-StickersIn product news, I have been brainstorming and thinking about new cards for the shop. I definitely want to keep the colourful, positive themes of my existing collections for new designs! This has also got me thinking about my tagline for the shop and blog, but I’m struggling a bit with what to say. If you have any ideas, give me a shout!Card-Collections-Claireabellemakes

Brainstorming for new cards means I get to play with the Scrabble tile box – definitely one of my favourite tasks in the studio!Scrabble-Tiles-In-ProgressHere’s a sneak peek at a new print idea in progress…….Ride-And-Shine-Sneak-Peek

One of my personal goals this year is to read more. I just finished this book which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who enjoys snail mail and postal curios. We are visiting the Postal Museum next month Рdefinitely a topic I geek out about and always have done. I used to collect stamps as a kid.
The-Englishman-Who-Posted-Himself-Book Aside from getting back into the studio, I have been enjoying both London and Cambridge seeking out the rare days of winter sun. Jo and I spent this particular day drinking hot spiced apple outside and putting the world to rights.Kings College Cambridge King-College-Chapel-Cambridge Steak-and-Honour-Burgers And of course there is always time for a little bike spotting.Pashley-Bicycle-Cambridge

I’ll be back again soon with a ticket offer for the Knitting and Stitching Show. It’s a great event to visit if you’re into crafts!

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