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 – definitely 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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2017 Highlights for Claireabellemakes

After finally waking from my Christmas food coma, I thought it was about time I wrote my yearly review post! I’m not sure if you guys enjoy these kind of posts, but I love writing them to look back on my productivity and positive moments. After creating a new product every month in 2016, my 2017 goals were to find more balance across my business and to focus on wholesale for the shop. Here we go!

2017 in Review Claireabellemakes

January 

The year often starts slowly as I spend time on my tax return and stock inventory. I also take time to review the year past and set goals. Even so, I also opened a shop with the new marketplace Look Lane and took some time out for a watercolour class with Emma Block – thanks to Jo for the great gift!

Claireabellemakes on Look Lane

February

In February I launched the Glitter pins in 6 new colours and they were featured in  local magazine, Cambridge Edition. I worked on some freelance Crochet commissions behind the scenes.

New-Glitter-Heart-Pin-Colours

March

This was the month the blog hit 1 million views!! I also took part in the March Meet The Maker challenge on Instagram and continued work on my freelance crochet patterns. I hosted another Craft party in Cambridge for a private booking.

Cambridge-Craft-Parties-Novi

In March I also started a new part-time job working as a receptionist in a Cambridge technology company. I absolutely love it and really enjoy getting out of the studio to work with others each week.

April

In April I decided to retire Cambridge Craft Parties to focus on the shop, so hosted my final one for a fantastic group of girls. Jo and I hosted another Cambridge Creatives Photowalk and a TON of people came! I also went on an Olympus Camera photowalk and sold at Norwich Makers Market for the first time.

Cambridge-Creatives-Photowalk-Spring

May

G and I visited Amsterdam in May and I got to see the beautiful tulips and bicycles! This was the month I finalised the planner pin designs after much sketching and designing. I continued with freelance DIY projects until this month.

Bikes-and-canals-Amsterdam

June

The planner pins finally launched and I sold my glitter heart pins on the merch stall at Blogtacular. Attending Blogtacular for the 3rd year was awesome for catching up with my creative pals.

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July

In July I worked with Axa to share a patio makeover on the blog. This marked the start of many evenings spent in our hammock! I also visited Pinterest HQ in London and launched my new card collections in the shop.

Claireabellemakes-at-Pinterest-HQ

August

I got busy in the kitchen in August to make an apple cake for Pink Lady on the blog. I sold at the Cambridge Made Etsy Fair, went on a fun trip to Dreamland Margate and saw my party hat DIY published in Caboodle Magazine. I also spent the day with Viktorija and Jo exploring Cambridge on our bikes. It was such a fun month!

Caboodle Magazine Party Hat DIY

September

In September I visited Etsy HQ to meet the team and was selected to become an Etsy Educator. I worked on wholesale orders and sent the planner pins to my first international stockist; Washi Gang in Australia. I also sent an order to a Tea themed cafe in Dubai!

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Jo and I hosted the Autumn Cambridge Creatives Photowalk where we worked with Cambridge Satchel Company again and set off confetti canons.

Cambridge-Creatives-Photowalk-Autumn-2017 Cambridge-Creatives-Photowalk-Organisers

I was thrilled to get crafty on stage with Kirstie Allsopp at the Handmade Fair for Pinterest  too – A great month for business achievements and productivity. Pretty tiring though!

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October

I worked with Wicked The Musical to run a children’s craft workshop in October and loved every minute! Reloved magazine featured me on their Blog Watch pages and I held my Etsy Educators class in Cambridge to help new sellers get started. I worked with Crown and Glory to add my glitter heart pins to their monthly subscription boxes and took on new stockist Sew Me Sunshine for the SEW necklaces.

Glitterati Box

November

November was spent preparing for the Christmas market season! I also uploaded more planner videos on my YouTube channel and worked with the Sofa & Chair Co and Boots for sponsored content on the blog.

The Cambridge Creatives group visited Escape and Create for a sewing day and mostly just ate cake and chatted about our projects!

The Glitter Wheelie Festive Bikes Decorations were launched in 8 different colours in the Etsy shop (currently on sale until 7 January).

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December

I was thrilled to see the bicycle decorations featured in stop-motion queen Xanthe’s video for Etsy and loved having this full page feature in Velvet Magazine. I took part in Etsy Made Local markets in both Cambridge and Norwich and worked with John Lewis to share decorating ideas on the blog. Jo and I hosted a Cambridge Creatives Christmas meet up at a Wintergarten and I sent out loads of sparkly orders to customers.

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G also surprised me with a 2 day trip to Arras in France where we ate lots of cheese and explored the Christmas markets. It was at a crazy busy time of year, but it was great to take some forced time out and feel festive!

Arras-France-Claireabellemakes

PHEW! What a year. I definitely feel like I had a better balance between part-time work, freelance and business work across the year and I was able to be more selective about the projects I worked on. I loved meeting people at Etsy and Pinterest and seeing all my creative pals work with Kirstie too for her Christmas TV show in December.

This week I usually sit down and figure out all my goals for 2018. I know that I want to work on getting more stockists so if you know any cool shops that my work would fit in, do let me know! I also want to finally finally finally launch a new website and of course keep creating new products and fun content here for you.

Thanks for all your support in 2017! What was your highlight of the year?

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Life Lately #13: In The Studio

Eek I’m finding it super hard to balance all the things at the moment. It seems like when I’m back in the swing of blogging, my YouTube channel goes quiet and vice versa. I am also working a few more hours at my part-time job lately, which means a lot of my time in the studio is during the evenings. Regardless, I thought I’d share another Life Lately post so you can see behind the scenes in the studio, and what has been keeping me busy!

Claireabellemakes-DeskThe studio has been looking particularly cheery lately after a big bunch of sunflowers arrived from Pinterest to say thanks for my Handmade Fair session.
Sunflowers-Bloom-and-WildI’m feeling pretty proud of how well my Pilea is doing too – started as a baby at Christmas time last year. It lives on my desk so gets plenty of light but not direct sun.Pilea-Plant

There has been a lot of making for upcoming winter markets (see details here) and my handy pink tray from Flying Tiger has kept everything tidy when in progress.In-Progress-Making

I’m still not bored of Scrabble. Are you? And this fabric sample pack from Cloth and Candy has definitely got me thinking about more frame ideas. Work-In-Progress-Claireabellemakes

I’ve been packing up wholesale orders for lots of lovely places – the TEA necklaces went off to a stockist in Dubai and Washi Gang in Australia are now stocking the planner pins YAY!Packing-Wholesale-Orders

I had the opportunity to work with sewing subscription box company Sew Hayley Jane on an order for the SEW pins. Exciting to think there are lots more people out there wearing these now!SEW-Pins-ClaireabellemakesIn small business world we think about Christmas products in the summer. I had the tree up in the studio in October to shoot all the new decorations for the shop and I restocked the original wooden decorations too. All of the Christmas collections are now live and I’m preparing for a Black Friday sale towards the end of November too.Wheelie-Festive-Bike-Christmas-OrnamentThe lovely folks at OttLite sent me one of their Natural Daylight LED Flex Lamps to try out in the studio – they are so awesome for crafters as it allows you to see detail clearly and accurate colours. Since the clocks changed it’s been so dark – so I have used it every day!!Ottlite-Lamp_reviewIt has 3 settings for brightness with a touch button to switch on and off. I am so impressed with the lamp I kind of don’t know how I worked of an evening before it arrived! I would definitely recommend their lamps for creative studios.Ottlite-Lamps-For-CraftingIn other news, I’ve been chomping away on all the leftover Halloween sweets in the studio….as well as fruit and tea of course!
Glitter-PumpkinI had a thorough declutter and changed the stock storage to open shelving which has been so great – makes such a difference to workflow when you have lots of different products. There is still a way to go with organisation, but it’s getting there. The shelving is from IKEA and is next to my desk along with a new white board for restock reminders and money tracking.

Claireabellemakes-Studio-Stock-StorageIt has these great hooks on the end too where I can display my pin collection banners!Pin-CollectionAnd of course, Tammy is always keeping me company in the studio. She’s been a bit poorly lately (we had a severe allergic reaction scare) but after some medicine and rest she’s much better. Just lots of blood tests and vet bills to come!Persian-Cat-Tammy

I couldn’t be without her on the chillier days though – she’s my personal hot water bottle in the studio!Sleeping-Tammy-CatThanks for letting me share today, it’s been a busy few months and I’ve just had to get my head down and keep making making making!

I’ll be back soon with a round up of my favourite Etsy Christmas decorations and some planner reviews you won’t want to miss.

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*The OttLite lamp was sent to me for review purposes and as always, all opinons are my own. This site may contain links to outside sites, including paid affiliates.

The Summer I Did All The Things

We are well and truly into Autumn with my seasonal allergies in full swing, but I’ve been meaning to share all the fun things I’ve been up to since the summer! It has been pretty busy working most weekends and I have had a blast. Since I’m now squirreling away preparing for Christmas in the studio, I wanted to document everything that has passed!

Back in August, G and I took a mini break to Margate for a weekend of beach walks, fish and chips and some Dreamland fun. We lucked out with the weather and found a gorgeous apartment which looked out onto the sea (picture below shows the view!). G had been working so hard on his latest game release at work so my goal was to get him to relax and enjoy the break!

Margate-Beach Turner-Contemporary-Margate Bike-Spotting-Margate

We visited the Turner Contemporary, Dreamland, The Old Town and took some time to paddle in the sea and take photos of beach huts. I also met up with the In Colourful Company and Lucky Dip Club gang for a day of rides and fun at Dreamland. Not gonna lie, I went on too many spinny rides and ate A LOT of sugar, but I survived the roller disco and had an absolute blast. Oh and I went on the world’s biggest bouncy castle because WHY NOT?!

Dreamland-Margate DreamlandxLuckyDipClub-Margate Margate-Roller-Disco

Also in August was one of the most fun days I had all summer. Viktorija (who you probably all know as And Smile) came to visit Jo and I for a day of bike rides and exploring Cambridge. We ate cheese toasties by the riverside and talked about life as small business owners. We cycled all around the city, went punting and shot silly boomerangs. I honestly felt SO happy at the end of that day, we laughed so much, especially after a run in with a hammock! I made a little video here if you want to see what we got up to.

In mid September I had the chance to be involved in The Handmade Fair with Pinterest. Crafting with Kirstie Allsopp was one of the highlights of my year and I have visited the fair every year since it began, so I knew I would have fun. I wrote an entire blog post about the day here (which includes a vlog) so check that out if you want to know more!

Claireabellemakes-Kirstie-Allsopp-Handmade-Fair-2017

Right at the end of September, Jo and I packed up our balloons and bikes for another Cambridge Creatives Photowalk. There was confetti, tandems, five dogs (including a pug puppy in a hoodie!) and so many lovely people to chat to. Sharing our city with new friends and creative pals is always a fun day – especially when you are introducing 50+ people to Jacks Gelato! We took a different route to last time and ended with a Food Park night market trip to stuff our faces with burgers and churros. You can see all the pictures from the day on the hashtag and here are a few of my favourites.

Cambridge-Creatives-Photowalk-Autumn-2017 Thanks to Tom for capturing this one in accidental rainbow order!Cambridge-Creatives-Photowalk-Organisers

Confetti shot by Diana

Michelle and Elle also blogged about their experiences at the photowalk, which made my heart so happy! We also had support from The Cambridge Satchel Company who have kindly loaned us their beautiful collections for each walk since we started in September 2016! This yellow backpack satchel was the star of the show with everyone lusting over it.

Cambridge-Satchel-Company-Yellow-Satchel

I also had a great day out with G to Friends Fest which was held in Clissold Park in East London. It’s an amazing fan event with set tours and photo opportunities. We even got to learn ‘the routine’. The weather was amazing and we had such a great time. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the show!

Friends-Fest-London Friends-Fest-Apartment-Tour

You might remember me doing a workshop for Disney last year – well this year I got to work with the same PR company to run a workshop for Wicked The Musical. Kids workshops are always nerve wracking for me (I’m used to adults!), but I loved seeing them all get creative and chatting to them at the show afterwards. We made witches hats, broomstick candy bags and sparkly wands. I had the best day (even though my anxiety was pretty high due to leaving our poorly kitty at home!). Getting to watch the show for the second time was just as magical.

Wicked The Musical

Finally, this month I had the pleasure of running my Etsy Educators class for a small group in Cambridge. We talked about how to set up a shop and how to get found in search, as well as marketing, photography and even packaging and shipping. Each attendee had a great product which was well developed and we are keeping in touch via a Facebook group. One person has already made her first Etsy sale which I’m so pleased about. It was fantastic to have the opportunity to work with Etsy on the class and to meet the other Educators too! I’ll share their shops on my social channels over the coming months if you are interested in finding some new work.

Etsy-Educators-Cambridge-Class

So it was a busy summer filled with some exciting projects and fun days! I’m so grateful for all the opportunities that came my way. People ask me how I end up doing all these projects and I always say that it comes back to the blog. Of course I keep my eyes open and apply for things that I see (Etsy Educators for example), but sharing my work and interests here has led to so many things that I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

Now I need to get my head down and get making for the Christmas season! I’m working on new decorations which I am SO EXCITED about, so keep an eye on the shop and sign up to the newsletter to be the first to hear about new collections!

How was your summer?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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