Claireabellemakes 2016 Review

We all know that 2016 wasn’t the best for the world. At one point I had to stop watching the news because it genuinely upset me too much. I even considered whether writing a review/celebration of achievements post was insensitive and indulgent, but it is something I feel I need to do for my business and life as a moment of reflection. I guess what I am trying to say, is I write these posts as a diary for my business, rather than to shout about what I managed to get done.

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2016 was a year where change happened. My words for the year were Learn and Grow and I felt as though I really embraced them. I made things happen, I did things that scared me and I took financial risks.

So here’s 2016 in review for Claireabellemakes. Grab a cuppa and a biscuit, lots happened!

In January I started putting my words into practice and learnt how to use a saw, hammer, router and chisel at a Mackay’s woodworking class. I built a wonky birdhouse and carved a wooden spoon.

I also took some time out with family for a short break and began to make plans for quitting the day job.

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In February I planned my dream life at a kikki.K goals workshop, started working with Jenny Hyde on her new business venture and re-launched the Glitter Heart Pins in the month of love.

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March was a month of collaboration when I was featured in Caboodle Magazine and contributed to the Lucky Dip Club box. I also started working with We Make Collective as their social media manager and worked with Rustoleum and Thornton’s for the blog. CHOCOLATE AND BLOGGING = two favourite things!

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We also took a trip to Edinburgh – our first time in Scotland. We walked a ton, ate a deep fried Mars bar and soaked up the scenery and culture.

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In April, Claireabellemakes turned 4 and the Glitter Heart Pins were featured in Mollie Makes magazine. I worked with John Lewis, Neal’s Yard and Purl Alpaca for the blog and launched the Motivational Pencils.

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May was really exciting as I appeared on TV with Crafty Beggars! It was definitely a scary moment for me, but I’m glad I said yes as it helped me grow. I was thrilled to be featured in Handmade Magazine this month and also to attend a fantastic event at local business Catesby’s.

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June was a month where I didn’t take my foot off the pedal much. I launched a collaborative print collection with Kate and a print collection for Sew Crafty. I designed prints for the Blogtacular goody bag and attended for the second year (it was a blast!). I sold at the Cambridge Made market and took 3 days off to go glamping at the beach with G.

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In July I embraced the Cambridge summer and punted the river with some of my favourite creative pals. I took a photography workshop with Me and Orla and hosted some craft parties in Cambridge.

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In August I sold at the Craftacular summer market and attended the first ever Happiness Planner Event in London. I worked with George at Asda for the blog and pushed myself to pose for an outfit post which was totally out of my comfort zone.

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September was the month I quit my job as a PA! By far the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but it was so freeing and I don’t miss it at all. It was a busy month attending the Handmade Fair, taking a brush lettering class and planning the Cambridge Creatives Photowalk with Jo. A fun and exciting month indeed!

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In October, I officially started working with Copper Boom Studio as In-house Creative lead. I style photoshoots for clients like me who run their own small businesses. The team are amazing and it’s so inspiring to be part of a start-up that nurtures our industry.

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November was a month for Christmas prep for the shop. I launched the new card collections and the Wheelie Festive Bikes. I attended Renegade market and got my head down in the studio. I also celebrated my birthday with a mini break to Bristol and Bath with G. We shopped handmade markets, ate lots and enjoyed the festive spirit. Once we returned, I sold at the Christmas Craftacular market and packed tons of orders.

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December went by in a flash with the busiest month ever for the Etsy store (passing 1000 sales and making the most income)! I sold at the Cambridge Etsy Made Local market and was featured on the Just A Card blog. One of my highlights of the year, was the final event of 2016. I ran a craft workshop for Disney UK in London. It was a scary moment (I don’t usually host workshops for children!) and an exhausting day, but I loved it. I hope it is a brand I can work with again. I shared a DIY for this Christmas decoration afterwards as it was inspired by our makes.

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PHEW. Writing all that down makes me realise why I ended the year with a few too many PJ days. I knew that 2016 had to be a year of hustle to really change my business life to work solely on creative projects.

My word for 2017 is balance. I mean work-life balance. I still have a lot to learn on this subject, so perhaps I’ll take my 2016 words forward too 😉

Thanks for sticking around to the end! What was your biggest achievement of 2016? I’d love to know!

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Just A Card Interview

It’s been full steam ahead here with Christmas orders and I’m looking forward to a break really soon. But today I wanted to check in and see how you all are and also share a little update on a few exciting things that have been happening.merry-and-bright-scrabble-christmas-card

Last week I was interviewed on the Just A Card blog which you can read in full here. This is my first interview since quitting my day job and working creatively full-time, so it was great to share some of my experience with a portfolio career. It definitely got me thinking about what I call myself now – creative entrepreneur?! just-a-card

For those of you that don’t know, the “JUST A CARD campaign aims to encourage people to buy from Designer/Makers and Independent Galleries and Shops by reinforcing the message that all purchases, however small, even ‘just a card’ are so vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses.” It definitely means alot to me to have smaller sales too – they all add up!

Talking of cards, I was recently asked to go on Sky News to talk about Christmas Cards and whether they are still popular. Unfortunately I couldn’t make the last minute request, but was thrilled my cards had been noticed!

Here’s a little reminder of the last posting dates for any orders before Christmas in case you are still shopping or looking for cards. Get your shop on here!

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Tell me what’s new with you!

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All The Feelings (and some news)

This month has been quite overwhelming. I’ve felt so many things. I’ve been scared, excited, anxious, doubtful and much more. Making big decisions is never easy.

If you follow along on social media, you will have seen me share that I have quit my day job at the University of Cambridge to work on my creative career. When I first started there 5.5 years ago, I was still dancing (that’s another career change I’ve yet to share!) and I was also studying for my masters in London whilst working full-time. So I have always been someone with multiple things on the go at once.

Having a steady and well paid job enabled me to explore my passions. I started Claireabellemakes with this blog in April 2012. A hobby which has grown into much more than I originally envisaged. In doing so, I have been able to really find my passion and for the first time in my life I knew who I was and what I wanted. For so long and as I approached my 30s, I wondered if I would ever realise what I wanted to do. It bothered me, and I was always a little envious of G who has known since he was a child what his career would be (and he’s bloody good at it too).
University of Cambridge

We all have the ‘big dream’. Something in the distance that would be great to achieve one day. Until last week, mine still felt like that, even though I had been taking clear steps to move towards it.  Nothing felt real until I actually handed in my notice and began to tell people about the change. It’s been pretty surreal and 100% scary. My anxiety levels have been high, but I needed to take a risk.

Many people are telling me that I will be able to achieve so much more now. That isn’t my goal. As much as being highly productive and working really f**king hard are big goals in running my business, some personal goals are now a priority. I want a better work life balance (one job instead of two!) and to take care of my health. I want to learn new things and be creatively challenged, whilst keeping self care a priority. I also want to make things just because.

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So, I am taking a big deep breath right now. You may have noticed that things are a bit slower here on the blog lately and it might be that while for a little longer. I hope you can bear with me whilst I plan for the change ahead. A friend recently text me to ask “Are you OK? You haven’t blogged for 10 days?”……it made me chuckle, but it also made me realise that my output has been so high for so long It’s OK to rest and to absorb what is happening. I don’t want to look back on this period and realise that I was overwhelmed with anything other than the anticipated feelings of a career change in my 30s.

So what can you expect in the future? From the beginning of October, I’ll be continuing to blog, release products for the shop and to work with my creative friends at We Make Collective, Homedit and Simple Stylish Makes. I’m also going to be styling shoots for Copper Boom Studio clients which I’m pretty excited for.

Thanks for always being here. I’m so grateful I finally get to do what I love. Don’t forget to give me a little vote for the Interior Blog Awards below if you have enjoyed my posts. GOTTA END ON THE SELF PROMO BEFORE I GET EMOSH!

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Claireabellemakes Has Been Nominated!

Wow there has been a lot happening here lately! Lots of clearing out in the studio, product development days and working on some new projects which I will reveal more about soon. I’ve also been trying really hard to get some balance back in my life with evenings and days off to work on my health. Besides my loved ones and friends, the constant in my life is always this blog. It’s a place for me to share my thoughts, passions and projects and somewhere to connect with you all.

I’m pretty proud of this space. It’s been quite the journey over 4 years but I still get excited when someone comments. I still feel nervous about publishing certain posts. I love that some of you have been here reading since day one and I love that new people are finding me here each day.
Amara Blog Awards 2016

It’s funny how an online journal can develop into something so important in ones life. I can’t imagine my life without blogging now. It led me to find my passion after I felt lost for so long.

So when I can tell you the blog has been nominated for an award I feel proud. And thankful that you guys appreciate this space enough to think it worthy of a nomination!

Voting for the Amara Interior Awards opened this week with Claireabellemakes included in the Best DIY and Crafts Blog category. Some of my best blogging friends are also nominated so do cast your votes for as many as you love to read!

Vote for Claireabellemakes here!

Thank you for all your support. And if you write a blog – leave your link in the comments below so I can check it out 🙂

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Claireabellemakes At Blogtacular 2016 (and how it was different to 2015)

After the UK news of Brexit, I haven’t felt like I wanted to write a cheery or excitable blog post. I feel pretty disappointed with the outcome and had some hope that our country would be less divided, especially as I hadn’t interacted with many people that wanted to leave. My city of Cambridge voted 73% remain and I’m proud of that. I guess only time will tell for what’s to come, but I have shared thoughts on social media if you want to see more of my views.

Blogtacular 2016 Programme

Anyway, back to the real reason for today’s blog post and for a bit of positivity. Last weekend I attended Blogtacular which is the biggest UK conference for bloggers. I was my second time attending and I had SO.MUCH.FUN. As we were on a mini holiday in the days before, I missed the photowalk and pre-event crafting party at West Elm, but got over my FOMO pretty quickly knowing that the day of the conference itself would be packed full of inspiration and creativity.

Firstly, I can’t commend the organisers enough. Kat, Kelly and her team of volunteers gave us all an amazing welcome and made sure the day ran incredibly smoothly. We were greeted with a delicious breakfast and a spacious venue alleviating my anxiety about crowded spaces the previous year.

Blogtacular 2016

Blogtacular 2015 was about making connections for me. 2016 was about revisiting those connections. Nothing beats seeing your creative pals in real life, nodding along to inspiring talks together and being with people that you can be 100% yourself with. Regardless of where you are in your blogging or creative journey, it’s the place to build each other up without judgement or status attached. Precisely the reason it is my highlight event each year.

Lisa Congdon was a well chosen keynote speaker (Kat nails the speaker list every year!). She talked about imposter syndrome, authenticity and being real and vulnerable in a creative world. I asked the first question of the conference after putting my hand in the air before realising what I had done. Lisa seemed so self aware and wise, I wanted to know if this was something she had uncovered with age or if she had trained herself to reflect so well. Turns out, it was a bit of both. Her talk was an amazing start to the day and her words resonated with every person regardless of which point in their career they were at. I’ve since started a daily journal for my thoughts, after being inspired to self reflect and be kinder to myself.

Blogtacular 2016 Lisa Congdon

The break out time between sessions was spent shopping in the market place, taking on the Mollie Makes two minute styling challenge, crafting and taking snaps with pretty backdrops. We tucked into a delicious lunch, swapped pins and cards with fellow creatives and generally got excited about meeting our blogging heroes and friends. A big thanks to Zoe for making some awesome name badges!

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Kate O’Sullivan‘s talk on community brought me back to the heart of blogging and the reasons we all share in the first place (read my thoughts on why we blog here). We do it to make a connection and tell our story. Suffice to say Kate hit the nail on the head for many of us who struggle with the pressures of being real or sometimes negative whilst running a business and taking on sponsored posts and opportunities. This heartfelt session actually gave me chills at one point, after others began to share their difficult experiences and Kate encouraged our story telling from the heart. Community is what makes us feel whole and successful in our journeys and Kate echoed Lisa’s idea that the “route of happiness is connection”.

Blogtacular 2016 A Playful Day The next session I attended was on Pinterest Ads. I was curious to see how the platform are now monetising and what opportunities that might bring for us small business owners and bloggers. It was a lot to absorb in the short time we had, so I feel I could probably do with researching the ads a little more to see if they would be right for Claireabellemakes. One question most of us had, is how the small businesses will get seen amongst the giants using advertising, as their budgets are much bigger and they will be able to win the ‘bid’ system Pinterest offers for ads.

Blogtacular 2016 Pinterest Ads

Queen of film Xanthe Berkeley showed us how to make a mini film using just our phones and the Adobe Clip app. Xanthe encouraged us to just try, even if we weren’t confident film makers and shared that even she had been nervous for her session before it began. You can see a snippet of my efforts embedded in the vlog below.

Blogtacular 2016 Making Films

The closing keynote was from Enid Hwang who was employee number 6 at Pinterest and their Community Manager. Enid shared a talk filled with humour, authenticity and aspiration, as she told stories of Pinterest’s humble beginnings and how the start up faced rejection on many occasions. She reminded us that we should have a process in place for periods of change which resonated with me in a big way. This year I am planning to make some big changes that will impact how the business goes forward and her words of encouragement really helped. I promise I will share more on this with you soon.

Blogtacular 2016 Enid Hwang

Somehow Blogtacular 2016 was way less overwhelming than 2015. Perhaps I was more prepared as I knew what to expect, but I certainly felt more relaxed (apart from my goody bag nerves which I wrote about here). When I think about where I am in my business in comparison to last year, I feel more established, confident and strategic. I know that most of that is because I attended in 2015. It felt like a pivotal moment in my creative career because all those connections I had online were solidified and strengthened. For me, the creative community is what drives my business to grow and having a place where I can foster that and absorb inspiration is so invaluable and one of the best investments I make each year.

Blogtacular 2016 Goody Bag

Everyone I interacted with was so positive and the whole day just felt like one huge Allison Sadler hug (if you’ve experienced one, you will know what I mean). The vibe at Blogtacular is unlike any other event and I’m so happy I get to be part of it.

Blogtacular 2016 Allison Sadler

I think the biggest take away of the day for me was Lisa Congdon’s quote for dealing with work overwhelm – “If the answer isn’t HELL YES, say No”. I also learnt that you shouldn’t share donuts from the garage shop with your friends on the train ride there as they will most likely be rock solid and completely gross.

I’ll leave you with my vlog of the day – a few minutes captured the fun we had!

See you next year!

Blogtacular 2016 Group Shot

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*All images in this post are courtesty of Will Ireland for Mollie Makes.