The Year Of Claire – Mid Year Update

It’s been a minute since I sat down to write a blog post. In fact, it’s almost 3 months! After closing the shop at the end of March, I took some time out to switch off from business life and to focus on the Year of Claire.

2019 has been a great year so far. I’ve been taking time for new hobbies and challenges and generally having a lot of fun.  Here’s a recap of the first 5 months.

January

I announced my shop closure and began making plans to sell off stock. It was a scary announcement to make after 7 years!

I got promoted in my day job, started elevator notes and went for loads of lunchtime walks, 14 in total. I did yoga every single day at home, 12 hours across the month. I also knitted a scarf – first creative project in a long while that was just for me.

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February

I sent out over 100 glitter heart pins in February, which confirmed they were a best seller. What a cheery product to mark the end of all my orders!

I also started paddle boarding lessons which was a challenge in the winter weather, but it was so satisfying to get the hang of it.

My insomnia was getting me down so I did a sleep therapy course, started reading before bedtime and finished a book.

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March

At the beginning of the month I went on a fun first date at a local bar where we ended up playing unplanned Bingo. I won the Jackpot and it’s been going well ever since…..

I signed up for a Fun Colour Rush run and began training using the Couch to 5K running app. I carried on reading to finish another book and also taught a crochet class at a local haberdashery.

March was pretty busy because it was also the month I closed my shop! I packed up tons of pink boxes and received some lovely messages from customers. It was definitely bittersweet, but it felt right and the start of a new chapter.

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A few days after the shop closed, I went on holiday to Amsterdam with Jo and some of my housemates. We stayed in an amazing Air bnb near Vondelpark and explored for 4 days. I love visiting Amsterdam in the Spring time and even more so with people who love food and drink as much as I do.  I slept so well and had a ton of fun.

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April

I reignited my love for spin classes in April and cycled a lot of ‘static’ miles. I also tried out a tandem bike with Jack which had me cry laughing. I carried on with the 5K running training and we went to the driving range.

I went to my first ever football match (Cambridge United), watched Jack play Baseball in the sun and visited family over Easter weekend.

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May

May was more time with family as my sister came to visit with her family and we went punting on the river.

I took 5 days off work and did more paddle boarding, once for Jo’s birthday and then again in a bigger social group which I was nervous about! We had a great time and the weather was just perfect to paddle up to Grantchester.

My workmates and I went to the Beer Festival and I may have had a sore head the next day…..

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Jack and I went to the outdoor cinema hosted by Enchanted Cinema (gifted visit) and I tried not to cry watching A Star Is Born.

Jo and I hosted an In Colourful Company colour walk in Cambridge and also completed our 5K Fun Colour Rush run in about 30 minutes.

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So life is a little different now! Working 9-5 and having my evenings and weekend again has been SO GOOD.  I had definitely forgotten what it was like to have time just for myself and to explore new hobbies without feeling guilty that I should be spending time on the business.

I have had some tricky days with migraine, insomnia and anxiety so it hasn’t all been cheery.  Sometimes I forget that I can’t do everything and I need a reminder to pace myself from time to time.

This time has also allowed me think about where I want to take my blog going forward. I plan to use this space as a personal journal to share more Year Of Claire posts and all the things I’m interested in. If there is anything you’d like to hear about, just shout! I’m always open to ideas and to hear what you want to see from my relaunched blog.

 

 

 

 

Last Chance – Claireabellemakes Shop Closing Sunday

After 7 years and my post announcing my shop closure, the time has finally come! The studio doors will close on Claireabellemakes on Sunday 24 March. It’s been a busy month filled with pink postal boxes and sacks of orders and I couldn’t be more grateful! Thank you for all your support – keep reading to see what’s left in the shop.

Closing Down Claireabellemakesf you fancy a little slice of Claireabellemakes positivity from the last of the stock, you can opt for a surprise bundle of goodies for just £10 or £20.

Each bundle will definitely contain a pin and a bicycle decoration, but the rest is a total surprise! Grab your bundle here before Sunday!Surprise Boxes for Claireabellemakes Closing SaleThe Enamel Bicycle pins are still in stock and just £4 each (includes free UK shipping). They have been one of the best sellers since they launched a few years back. Grab one here.

SHOP_ Claireabellemakes closing Sale bike pinsAnd don’t forget, you can stay subscribed to my blog and social channels to see what I get up to from now on!

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Claireabellemakes Is Closing!

Where to start?! This blog post has been swirling around in my head for a couple of months now, so I really hope I’m able to articulate everything I want to say. Here goes.

I have decided to close my shop after 7 years.

It’s a good change. Kaizen if you will. 

Good-ChangeWhat is Kaizen?

Yup, it’s a big, scary decision and it feels so weird to finally say it out loud. If you’re interested, I’m going to share a bit more about this good change and how it came to be.

Back in January 2018 I was feeling off. I would probably say the most accurate word to describe my feelings was “meh”. I felt unmotivated, low from experiencing seasonal effective disorder all winter, and I was in a serious creative slump. I actually wrote about it here on the blog and figured that a creative slump was something most designers experienced at some point. I considered myself lucky that I had only first experienced it after 6 years. Not bad going eh?!

But, the slump never went away and had a lot of change and pain in my personal life in the months shortly after. After G and I broke up, I packed up my studio and moved house and began to think about how I could make my business work in a much smaller space that was also my living space.

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Once I got back on my feet emotionally, I began to feel happier in myself and continued to pack orders and create in my new space. It worked fine and our postie at work always commented on how many pink parcel boxes I was sending out and that it all seemed to be going ‘really well’ for my business!

However, creating new products didn’t feel good any more. I released only one new collection in 2018 and it didn’t sell well at all (the mini greetings card series). It demotivated me further combined with the fact sales were down year on year too. Freelance work was also much quieter.

That’s the thing about small businesses and side hustles. Hardly anyone talks about money and I guess that’s fine. We all want to appear successful so our customers will believe in our products after all! Even though I had stockists and online sales and occasional freelance work – I struggled with the irregularity of sales and actually felt myself pining for the security of a full-time day job again. I just wanted to do something that I enjoyed without the pressure of HAVING to earn money. I wanted to work on something that wasn’t about promotion, being online all the time, crunching the numbers, or dealing with lost post and customers. It was exhausting and my brain capacity had reached its limit.

My personal situation had also led me back to the option of full-time work (even house shares are ridiculously expensive in Cambridge!) and in August my employer supported me in making that happen. I had worked part-time in an amazing tech firm for about 18 months and I knew that they would allow me to grow there if I wanted to. In January this year I was promoted (yay!) and I’m really enjoying being back in the swing of a 9-5 with new challenges and amazing colleagues. We have a super social group too which has been a real positive aspect of it all.

Since then, I’ve taken my foot off the business pedal a little and generally just kept everything going whilst I thought about how I felt for a while. After the creative slump cleared a little, I still had this feeling that my passion for the business had gone and that maybe it had run it’s course. Someone asked me if I was closing because it had gotten too stressful, but it’s really just that my heart is not in it anymore and it’s time for a change.

These last 6 months have been a chance for me to regain my social life, to start dating again (eek!) and to reflect a lot on who I am and what I want for myself. I am already making 2019 a self development year and have made lots of goals to work on personal projects. It has felt good to put myself before the business and it has highlighted that I need to follow my heart for a while.

It does make me wonder if our personality types lead us to such decisions. I have always craved structure and routine and perhaps the fluidity and uncertainty of a small business really wasn’t for me in the end? That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed it and learnt a lot, but maybe this next chapter of me is one that has a ‘normal’ job and has time to do her hobbies for a bit. Only time will tell I guess.

One of the things I am pleased about is how many people have enjoyed my products and that they have shared with me their joy in wearing a pin, or sending a card to a loved one. There’s something pretty special about that and I’m glad to have experienced it. I certainly have no regrets! Even if I did cry a bit about letting go of this part of the brand. It’s entirely bittersweet and emotional, but I’m happy with the decision. Honestly.

So. What’s next?

SHOP_ Claireabellemakes closing Sale

I’ll still be blogging for fun, and sharing online under Claireabellemakes, but I just wont be selling products. There is going to be a huge closing down sale starting today with all glitter jewellery! I hope you will want to grab one last item from the shop……after I’ve kept one of everything for myself hehe! More items to follow in the sale, so keep an eye on this blog and my social channels. I will be closed by the end of March for good, so you’ll have a couple of months to snap up any favourites.

As for my personal goals, I’ve started by reading more, doing yoga every day, and I’m going to take up paddleboarding and teach myself ukulele. I’m socialising way more than I have in 10 years and I’m crafting for myself again. I work out at the gym regularly and I’m taking care of my mental health – I’m hoping anxiety will be a thing of the past very soon. I’m journaling and walking and learning how to be comfortable in my own company. I’m brunching and Netflix binging and obsessing over my house plants. I’m spending time with friends and writing letters and listening to podcasts. I’m working on my tinnitus and sleep issues (that one is hard!) and I’m embracing being someone who wakes naturally at 5:55 am every day. It all feels so good. Letting go of one big thing, has allowed so much more to happen in my life.

I adopted the Kaizen or ‘good change’ philosophy for Claireabellemakes – approaching the business with continual improvement in mind and always striving to learn more and to adapt. Having this productivity philosophy in mind for business has enabled me to see how I could apply it my personal life and in my self development goals. Along with Bullet Journaling, I feel as though I am living with intention more than ever now.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. And thank you for all the support for the shop, whether you’ve followed along since 2012 or just now. It’s all been so appreciated. I’ll still be online sharing my life, so if that interests you, I’d love for you to stick around!

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2018 Highlights For Claireabellemakes

I’m feeling all kinds of emotions as I begin to write my yearly review post. 2018 was a bit of a roller coaster and I have had a lot of change in my life! Despite some tricky times, I managed to have a lot of fun so here’s a round up of my 2018 highlights for Claireabellemakes.

I had plans to create some new designs for the shop and gain new stockists. I did a little of both, but life took over at times and sales were down. It was tough at times and I have more to share on this soon as I begin to make decisions for 2019. I had some amazing product photos done by Holly Booth and did some local fairs in Cambridge and Norwich.
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I decided to travel around the UK in 2018 and attended lots of the In Colourful Company meet ups. In April I nipped down to Brighton for some colourful fun and chips on the pier!
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Heart break happened in May after 15 years and if I’m honest I felt so lost and overwhelmed with the thought of starting over. Having lived in Cambridge for 12 years, I knew I wanted to stay here. In July I moved into a house share (still close to the river) and made a new space my own. Our house is a former B&B so it’s huuuge! I’ve gained 8 new housemates who have become great friends and have been just the company I needed to keep me positive.

I went back to full-time work and tried to keep as busy as possible. It’s definitely been a huge transition and so hard at times, but my friends and family have really supported me and I know things will only get easier with time.
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Spring and summer in Cambridge brought lots of local exploring and punting my new housemates along the river.
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On the hottest day in July, I ventured to London for another colour walk. We almost melted but I caught up with pals and didn’t stop smiling all day.
London-In-Colourful-Company-Claireabellemakes I took another trip to Margate for the In Colourful Company x Lucky Dip Club meet up at Dreamland. A day of rollercoasters, laughter, sugar and beach vibes was just what I needed. And the rainbow slide was just as good as I remembered. Dreamland-In-Colourful-Company-Claireabellemakes Freelance projects were exciting this year! I was commissioned by Net-A-Porter to create tons and tons of bicycle streamers for Copenhagen Fashion week, which was such a cool project!

I taught a Bullet Journaling workshop for We Work in London which was so much fun and a great excuse to indulge my stationery obsession. Claireabellemakes-Projects-2018In September, Jo and I took a trip to Glasgow and hung out with Sally and Keith and their gorgeous kitties. We explored all the colourful murals and art, drank gin and jumped on our hotel room beds, and made a quick pit stop in Edinburgh on the way home. It was the perfect weekend!Glasgow-In-Colourful-Company-Claireabellemakes December was a bit of a blur and filled with orders, markets, social events and vet visits. Jo and I held the Cambridge Creatives Christmas Craft Party where we teamed up with Happy Fabric to create Christmas jumpers. It was ACE and so fun to use Jo’s camper Buddy as our bar and to decorate with all the goodies gifted to us from Flying Tiger. A night of chaos, creativity and maybe one too many mulled wines, but such a super way to end the work year! Cambridge-Creatives-Christmas-Party On a personal note, I got my first tattoo this year! This post explains why I chose to get an illustration of my bike Florence, but it felt so good to finally do it after years of wanting to get one! I suspect there will be more on the cards…

We sadly said goodbye to our beautiful fur baby Tammy in December. Tammy had been our cat for almost 14 years and it was devastating to see her so unwell. We spent a good 2 months going back and forth to vets and specialists and she was a trooper throughout surgeries and lots of medication. I know we gave her so much love over the years, so I will hold onto all the happy memories we had with her.

My last moment of 2018 that I want to document is chopping all my hair off! Having grown my thick hair for 2 years, I cut it to donate to the Little Princess Trust so it can be made into wigs for children going through cancer treatments. 13 inches and over 100g of hair later and I feel much lighter! Claireabellemakes-Personal-Changes-2018So it was a mixed year, but one I definitely couldn’t have made it through without my friends and family. I’m looking forward to 2019 with an open mind and have some personal projects lined up that I’m itching to get started with.

Thanks for all your support and Happy New Year!

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Shop Handmade for Christmas

This post is sponsored by Amazon Handmade

The last couple of weeks have been a blur of Christmas markets, getting online orders out and attempting to do some Christmas gift shopping. This year I have been shopping handmade as much as possible and supporting campaigns such as Just A Card which champions designer makers and small businesses.

I love encouraging you guys to support handmade, so here are some of the ways I’m approaching my Christmas gift shopping!

 

Visit your local craft market

I live in Cambridge which has a great weekly market in the city centre. As well as grabbing fruit and veg, I like to visit on Sundays to see local makers and we even have an additional arts and crafts market which is a treasure trove of goods! If you’re looking for something near you, a great way to search is by using the local events pages on Facebook. I usually click via an event I’ve been to and then it cleverly finds similar markets for me to visit.

Bicycle Christmas Decorations
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Online market places

Market places such as Amazon Handmade are usually on my list for finding unique gifts. If I’m looking for personalised items or something like our table favour bags for Christmas dinner, this is the kind of place I’ll visit.

What is great about the market place sites is that they allow makers to grow their businesses in an affordable way – we usually pay a small fee to host and sell our creations and it gives us a whole audience of shoppers to reach!

Many creatives will be using their takings from the festive season to keep going during the quieter months in businesses. All those Christmas sales will probably be helping them pay their mortgages in January and will give them funds to work on more product development.

Try making your own gifts

This one doesn’t always turn out well for me – hence why I shop online for handmade gifts instead! I went to a gathering with some girl friends this week and we made gifts for each other. Let’s just say my edible gifts weren’t that presentable! We all laughed about it in the end though and was delighted to receive some blackberry gin, cupcakes, a Christmas pudding and a self care kit.

My tips for making your own gifts would be to start early (I may have been rush finishing gifts on Christmas eve in the past) and to be realistic with what you think you can complete. Work out a timescale!

One year I received a handmade goody bag of Christmas treats from a family member and it was so thoughtful. I enjoyed jam, Christmas cake and chutney which was a real treat. They don’t always have to be edible though, a knitted scarf or scrapbook of favourite photos have been on my to make list in the past too.
So there you have it, a few ways I support handmade over the Christmas season! I’m not making many gifts this year, but I have found some fantastic makers to buy from and I’m lucky enough to have customers shopping my makes for their loved ones too. I’m off to work on my new festive cross stitch kit and visit the Lincoln Christmas markets this weekend. I’m definitely in the mood now! How are you getting on with your Christmas shopping? I’d love to hear any tips you have!

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*Some items shown on this page were gifted from Amazon Handmade in addition to sponsorship.