Subscription Craft Box from Crafty Creatives

A Subscription Craft Box from Crafty Creatives? What’s this all about then? I’ll start from the beginning….

Whilst on Twitter (my biggest addiction), I came across the fab newly formed Crafty Creatives, run by sisters,  Claire and Isobel. They offer something no one else in the UK does – a craft box sent to your door every month, full of surprise craft supply items. Only a tenner and a bit for P&P!

I’d seen a few beauty box subscriptions out there, but I’d been waiting for a craft version to become available, as it combines my love of craft supplies and receiving post. Perfect! Judging by the quality of the first box I received (#CCBox1), Claire and Isobel have done a fantastic job of sourcing high quality suppliers and developing a strong brand.

So what was in it?! I’m sure there will be a few of these posts out there, but I wanted to share the box straight away. DO NOT READ AHEAD IF YOU DON’T WANT A SPOILER!! In future, I plan to blog about what I have made from the supplies.

Crafty Creatives on claireabellemakes

Crafty Creatives on claireabellemakes

Crafty Creatives on claireabellemakes

The box has a floral theme throughout and includes buttons, beads, gift tag, floral pegs, tissue paper, a glass pendant, embroidery thread, fabric-tac (full size bottle), cotton ribbon, a fat quarter of William Morris fabric and 2 smiley flower beads. Sadly I wasn’t the lucky recipient of the surprise ladybird, but here’s hoping for next time!

Crafty Creatives on claireabellemakes

Also included was a kit to make an item, this time it is a fabric brooch.

Crafty Creatives on claireabellemakes

My favourite item was the floral pegs – sweet!

Crafty Creatives on claireabellemakes

It feels as though your box is lovingly put together with care, attention and a handmade touch. Fantastic value and a real treat if your postman obeys your note directing him to your secret hiding place for parcels!

Crafty Creatives boxes are only available in the UK at the moment, but I believe they have plans to expand into the EU eventually. For my US readers, Whimsey Box offers a similar service.

I’m already looking forward to Box 2!

Claire x

Branding For Creative Businesses

Branding for Creative Businesses

On the blog today, Clare from Indie Retail Academy discusses branding. As I’m gearing up to open my Etsy shop shortly, her advice is going to be invaluable! Even if you are already an established business, she has some great tips and strategies to share, and her humorous  approach puts a fun spin on marketing.

What the heck is branding, anyway?

Branding, huh? It used to be something unpleasant involving red hot metal and the hindquarters of a steer,  now it’s taken over the world.

Branding is a word that’s been thrown around so much that it’s started to lose all meaning. You know, like when you say sausage fifteen times in a row and suddenly start to question whether such a thing even exists.

Want more customers? Sort out your branding. No-one’s signing up to your mailing list? It’ll be your branding. Wondering why that shop doesn’t want to stock your work? Let me give you a clue: it begins with “B” and ends with “randing.”

Not helpful.

So let’s get down to brass tacks here.

What the hell IS branding? Why does your creative business need it? How do you actually, you know, BRAND STUFF?

Let’s have a think about this. Once you’re finished staring at that sausage.

The first thing we’re going to do is throw “branding” out of the window. It’s too vague. Branding is no more.

Look, it’s been eaten by a seagull.

Bye, branding.

Instead, let’s talk about your business.

More specifically, let’s talk about the lovely thing you make. Maybe you create screen prints, papercuts, ceramics, greetings cards or sculptures.

Whatever it is, get a clear picture of your product in your mind.

Now think about your customers. Not just any old customers – your ideal customers. People who adore what you make and are willing to pay for it. People who, when they look at your lovely thing, understand and appreciate it right away.

People who just naturally get it. Who get you.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any ideal customers yet, or any customers at all. Just get a picture in your head of what they might look like.

Now take a snapshot of them all. Maybe you want to put it on Instagram or something. Take out your imaginary phone, move back till you’ve got every imaginary person in shot, then click the imaginary button. Got it?

Now, tell me this.

When you look at that picture of your ideal customers, do you see everybody in the entire world?

Have another look at them. Is every person in the entire world squeezed onto your screen?
No?

That’s brilliant! No business can make a product that appeals equally to everyone on the planet. It can’t be done, but when someone asks you who your target customer is, it’s very easy to answer “Umm, everyone?”

That’s no use because it’s so general. Believe me, if it were possible to make a widget that appeals to every single person in the world, Apple would have done it by now. It’s not gonna happen.

What you can do, however, is make widgets that appeal to large groups of people.

That’s extremely do-able. So let’s take another look at your particular group. At the moment we know one major thing about them: they think you ROCK. Let’s see what else we can find out. Have a look at the crowd in front of you. Are there more women than
men or vice versa? Roughly how old are your ideal customers? How many of them are there?

Hang on, it looks like they’re getting restless so let’s shake things up a bit. Don’t worry, it won’t be scary. They think you’re amazing, remember?

I’m setting up a little table and a chair at the front here. Go ahead and sit down. Here’s a black marker and a very large stack of glossy photographs of you.

You’re so pretty. You know that, right?

You’re going to sit here and your ideal customers are going to come up one by one and tell you something about themselves in return for a signed picture. You can ask them questions too. Ask them what their favourite book is, their opinion on wind farms or how
come they hate synchronised swimming. Ask them why they love your work so much.
Ask anything you like, starting now.

Gosh, that was fast. You don’t mess about, do you?

You now have a really clear understanding of who your ideal customer is. You know loads of stuff about them. You’ve got to know them as a group and as individuals. You know how they tick.

Now, it’s getting kind of stuffy in here. Let’s thank everyone for coming and let them go home now. Then we can talk about what all this means for your business. While drinking margaritas.

Here’s the important bit.

Your job as a business owner is to get your ideal customers and your lovely thing together.

Get them in the same room and magic happens. The problem is that your ideal customers are scattered all over the place. They don’t hang around in a mob. It’s probably just as well. The queue for the bathroom would be horrendous.

You now have a pretty good idea, however, of stuff your ideal customers like. You know what kind of colours they dig. You know their style, their taste, their outlook, what makes them laugh and what turns them off. You know why they like your lovely thing so much.

Here’s an idea.

Why not use all this information to help your ideal customers find you?

They’re stumbling around out there in the fog, looking for you to light up their life as only you can. I’m not joking. They might not know it, but your right people are looking for you at this very moment. So why not send up a flare to show them where you are?

  • Choose colours for your packaging, website and logo that you know they’ll be attracted to.
  • When you’re writing your About page, use the tone of voice they’ll respond to best.
  • Design a mail signature that will pique their interest and make them want to know more.
  • When you’re hanging out on twitter or facebook, post stuff you know your ideal customers will get a kick out of.

Branding (don’t say it too loud, there are seagulls EVERYWHERE) is simply about making yourself visible to your ideal customers.

It works in two ways. First it attracts their attention, then it gives them a reason to take a closer look.

Branding is like saying, in as many different ways as you can, “Hey guys, I’m over here! And guess what, I’ve got ENCHILADAS”.

If I was one of your ideal customers, that would certainly make me beat a path to your door. Our daily lives are a cacophony of brands shouting “I’m over here!” You can hardly turn over in bed without seeing an advert or getting an email from some company you bought a hoover from back in 2003. We tune most of this stuff out.

This is why any old branding won’t cut it. If you want a thriving business, the messages you send out into the world must be designed to attract people who love what you do and who are willing to pay for it. The more specific and tailored your messages are, the better they’ll work.

That’s branding. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some hungry seagulls to run away from.

Clare Yuille is an indie retailer and writer. She founded Indie Retail Academy, a site designed to help artists and makers sell their work to shops. She aims to take away the eeeek! and replace it with aaaah.

Check out her free Indie Retail starter kit here:
(www.indieretailacademy.com/indieretailstarterkit/)

Claire x

3 Washi Tape DIYs

3 Washi Tape DIYs

Washi tape is a must have craft item in my opinion. Even if you don’t indulge in papercraft, scrapbooking or card making, it’s a useful and pretty way to wrap packages or decorate a letter. Some of you may know already that I’m a massive stationery geek and not afraid to admit it.

So what is Washi Tape? Washi tape originates from Japan and is usually handmade from natural fibres such as bark, bamboo, rice, hemp and wheat. Usually it is made from the bark of the mulberry shrub. Wa means Japanese and shi means paper.

There are several types of washi and masking tape, with many craft stores stocking coloured and patterned tapes made from different materials.

I promised you a DIY here didn’t I? Here are some ways you can make your own tapes – not strictly ‘washi’, but hopefully fun.

For the first washi style tape I gathered together my favourite papers. The one on the right is Cath Kidston wrapping 🙂

Paper assortment: claireabellemakes

For all three of these DIYs, you will need double-sided tape and a craft knife.

  • Cut a strip of tissue paper – this will give a translucent effect like washi paper, but you can also use craft papers as shown above.
  • Cut a strip of sticky tape at your desired length and place onto the tissue paper.

Tissue paper & tape: claireabellemakes

  • Use the craft knife and a ruler to score down the side of the sticky tape on both sides.

Tissue paper:claireabellemakes

  • I then cut little chevrons at the end of the tape, but you can cut straight, diagonal or with pinking shears, it’s up to you!

Arrow ends: claireabellemakes

  • Then peel the backing of the double-sided tape and apply to whatever you wish to embelish. Simple as that!

DIY tape number two uses lace trim. Of course this is not strictly washi tape, but it produces a really pretty result.

Lace Trim: claireabellemakes

  • Use the same principle as the tissue paper DIY above, applying lace tape (or fabric) to the sticky tape.
  • As my lace has a scalloped edge, I used fabric scissors rather than a craft knife to trim the edges.

Lace tape washi: claireabellemakes

  • Peel the backing off the tape and you are done. I love this one as it gives a textured look.
In my opinion, every crafter needs glitter. This DIY tape is the messiest of all, but produces really fun results.

Glitter: claireabellemakes

  • Find the item you wish to apply your tape to first
  • Cut the tape into the desire size, peel one side off the sticky tape and place on your item. In my case, this was a gift tag
  • Then peel the other backing off the tape and you will be left with the clear tape on your item
  • Sprinkle your glitter on – liberally
  • Tap the excess glitter off

Glitter tape washi: claireabellemakes

Glitter tape washi: claireabellemakes

Here are my simple DIY tapes finished! I stamped lettering on the tissue paper one, which worked really well. You could even do this with fabric if you used versacraft ink or similar.

3 Washi Tape DIYs: claireabellemakes

I used my finished DIY tapes and washi collection to decorate some items including one of my notebooks (also covered in the Cath Kidston wrapping) and clothes pegs.

Washi tape Notebook & Pegs: claireabellemakes

Some of you may have seen this one before in my previous posts, but I also used a floral tape to decorate my kitchen chalkboard. What do you think?

Washi Tape Chalkboard: claireabellemakes

I’d love to hear your ideas of how to use washi tapes!

Claire x

 

Bicycle Love

You cannot turn a corner in Cambridge without a cyclist whizzing by. There are rows and rows of bicycles at the train station and around the market place. There’s something about cycling in this city – it provides escapism and heritage on every street.

Dutch Bike

I love my dutch bike. It’s the perfect way for me to travel around Cambridge and remain eco-friendly, whilst saving a pretty penny on transport costs. All things bicycle themed make me smile. If it includes a pretty basket, then all the better.

I kept seeing great bicycle themed items on Etsy, so I decided to create my first treasury. Have a look and let me know what you think. I think most of these will be making their way onto my wish list!

Bicycle Treasury by claireabellemakes

Do you cycle or have any bicycle themed items to share?

Claire x

Easy Marshmallow Cheesecake

Easy Marshmallow Cheesecake by claireabellemakes

This is my favourite cheesecake ever. Although it is indulgent, it is so quick and easy to make!

Ingredients:

  • Pack of digestive biscuits
  • 30z Butter
  • 80z Smooth Cream Cheese
  • Lemon Juice
  • 2 tbsp Caster Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Essence
  • Mini Marsmallows
  • 1/2 pint Double Cream
  • Chocolate flake bar (topping)
Let’s start with the base. Slowly melt the butter on a  low heat. Whizz the biscuits in a food processor, or if you have some anger to let out, put them in a bag and whack with a rolling pin. Use the whole pack for a deep base or 3/4 for a normal base. Mix together once the butter has melted.

Easy Marshmallow Cheesecake by claireabellemakes

I find that a springform cake tin is the best to use. You can buy them in most cooking shops and online here. Press the mixture into the tin with a wooden spoon. Refrigerate for 15 minutes until cool.

Easy Marshmallow Cheesecake by claireabellemakes

Depending on how much you like marshmallows, you can use a whole pack of these….

Easy Marshmallow Cheesecake by claireabellemakes

The topping is easy. Mix together the soft cheese, double cream, caster sugar, vanilla essence & mini marshmallows.

Easy Marshmallow Cheesecake by claireabellemakes

This is where you might start licking spoons and cracking into the chocolate. Bear with me and wait for the end result, it’s worth it! I bought a 4 pack of flakes but you only need around 2.

Easy Marshmallow Cheesecake by claireabellemakes

Whisk the flakes in the food processor or crumble with your fingers.

Easy Marshmallow Cheesecake by claireabellemakes

Spread the cheesecake mixture onto the chilled base and smooth over. Sprinkle the chocolate flake.

Easy Marshmallow Cheesecake by claireabellemakes

I resisted and popped the finished cheesecake back into the fridge for 30 mins. Spring it out of the tin & admire! My base was slightly crumbly in places, but it tasted yummy.

Easy Marshmallow Cheesecake by claireabellemakes

Easy Marshmallow Cheesecake by claireabellemakes

Claire x