Saturday, 31 December 2011

Walking backwards - on the brink of 2012.

Hello hello, I hope you all had a lovely festive period, whatever you celebrate.

A year in which some things happened ...and failed to happen sometimes about to end. I'm writing this post in the last hours of 2011, fireworks going off outside (a little prematurely?) and the occasional sound of a 'merry' person shouting in the street. I'm about to change into my pyjamas and watch a film, after a long 3 days in the Day Job, rather than partying tonight (I'm too tired, too shy, too broke...)

It's that funny looking-forward / looking-back time of year, isn't it? I heard somewhere recently (probably on QI) that a different culture to mine considers the future to be 'behind' you, because it cannot be seen (whereas the western metaphor tends to be the past being behind you because you've already moved through it) I think about this; the future behind me, the past stretching out before me with its landscape of memories, successes, failures, disappointments and joys. As I step both forwards and backwards into 2012...I get a little dizzy!

I'm approaching 2012 with a strange blend of optimism, pessimism, hopefulness, worriedness and thoughtfulness. 2012 has been hanging around in my mind as a year for Big Things, not least because it's the year my age will get a big round zero at the end of it. I want to get back on track with my career, figure out what to do, where to live, how to survive. I'm thinking I might get back into painting more. I have some ideas for the Etsy and Folksy shops (see links on the right) that I mean to try out. But the financial situation puts pressure on these things, and I think 2012 may be make-or-break time for my self employment. To be totally honest, I'm pretty nervous.

So, kind blog readers, I have decided to make a special offer for you (and also for my followers on Twitter). If you would like to buy from me and so help give me a good boost into 2012, (boosting funds for the business as well as helping me move towards paying myself a modest pay packet before the end of the tax year in April, and perhaps more importantly boosting my confidence for the coming year of work) then here is a little code you can enter into checkout on Etsy from either JumpUp or scatterboxoriginals, which will give you free shipping on any order - I will keep this valid until the end of Twelfth Night (EDIT due to some variation in how people figure these things out, I'm going to make that Friday afternoon (UK time) that the offer ends) What you do is put what you want into your cart on Etsy from either of my shops (JumpUp or Scatterboxoriginals). Then in your 'cart' page, there's an underlined bit on the right saying 'enter coupon code' - click that and write in capital letters the following word:


And that should make your shipping (or P&P as we Brits like to call it) totally free to anywhere in the world. So please, dear blog readers, dear fans of JumpUp and Scatterbox Originals, dear random people who stumbled across my blog looking for a recipe for treacle toffee*, do feel free to treat yourselves to something I have made, and in turn help to make 2012 my good year.

Oh and here, these are some videos I took on the train journey home from my Christmas visitings. Very aptly, they are of travelling backwards (my seat faced the rear of the train)


*(sorry! I seem to be more google-able for that than for 'nice people who sell their handmade items' so one resolution for next year is to actually try making some treacle toffee and blogging about it)

Friday, 16 December 2011

Feets too big?

My footprints are pretty big for a girl. Well, as I've mentioned, I take a UK size 8 (a 7 in more sensibly cut shoes) which I believe equates to a 10 in the USA or a 41 in Europe. It's not like I'm that tall either, coming in at about 5'5". My sister made Harry and the Hendersons jokes when I was a kid (see title of this post)

As you probably know by now (or not, if you're new to this little blog of mine), I'm trying to be more eco friendly. Have you spotted the corny segue? Ah yes, well done. Carbon footprints.

Firstly, since this is a blog about me and my work and should really be the truth, I'm going to lay my cards right on the table and say I'm no eco-angel. I'm not quite as 'green' as Kermit, and as he himself did say, it's not easy being green.

Things I DO do, to help reduce the proverbial carbon footprint I'm making.

* I don't drive. Not 100% for ecological reasons, mind you - my instructor gave up on me when I was 17. He wasn't the best teacher, and certainly not suited to the nervous driver type, but there you go. Maybe I will gain the confidence to drive again one day (and when I do, it will be something as eco friendly as is viable to have where I live) I walk to the shops, I catch public transport. Occasionally, a friend will give me a lift somewhere. If I get my groceries delivered, I try to go for the slots where they say the driver is going to be in my area anyway.
This is a nice place to be walking everywhere.

* I don't travel a lot. Last time I went on a long-haul flight was 2005 (ah, Manhattan, I loved you, and would have more so if it weren't for being ill and on a stressful Uni trip to tote my illustration portfolio around your many marble-foyer-ed publishing houses) I'd like to see more of our lovely planet while it and myself are still going strong, but so far in my nearly 3 decades of life, I've been abroad something like 12 times, which for a European is actually quite little, really. And I might have counted the 2 hours I spent in Calais one very rainy, dull day (we were on the ferry there and back for more time than we spent in the town. I would have liked Calais better if it weren't for being so taken over by British people making the most of the tax-free booze opportunity. Sorry, Calais.)

* I use recycled materials quite a lot. In JumpUp, this is the whole idea of the shop. Scatterbox Originals doesn't have so much eco-friendly materials yet, but I use recycled card for the note cards (I found the loveliest UK supplier for those) and the paper from the writing sets I used to sell was made with pulp from ethically managed forests. For the new ideas for Scatterbox (which sadly I've had to put on hold until after my xmas break) I'm looking at using some nice organic, fairtrade cotton. This is one of the first things I bought to salvage for JumpUp, a luxurious, but sadly boil-washed-and-partially-shrunk-by-accident (by whoever owned it before me) scarf.

This scarf became a couple of purses, Bert the plush doll and more recently, some Mountain brooches.

* I use recycled and eco friendly packaging as much as possible. In Scatterbox, I tend to still use jiffy mailers that I've bought, because I'm a bit tentative about how people will feel about the recycled packaging and because the shop isn't so overtly "I Am Eco Friendly" as JumpUp is, I'm not as confident doing that yet. I think I will shift over to using the same packaging for both though, especially since the lady in the post office yesterday was full of praise for my homemade eco friendly envelopes. I do try to make them pretty - they're pages saved from old books (usually ones with damaged covers that charities find harder to sell), taped at the edges with decorative gum tape and sewn on my sewing machine to form an envelope.

* I use energy saving bulbs at home wherever possible (my living room is fitted with halogen bulbs set into the ceiling, but I can't change that. I tend to use my lamp in the evenings anyway, which does take an energy saving bulb)

I think this is a pretty good start. There are things to build on; using eco friendly washing powder etc more consistently, avoiding those occasional times of 'what the heck, the clothes are filthy so I'll do them on a hot wash just to be sanitary', and reducing my use of the tumble dryer at the laundrette (I don't have a garden here or an airing cupboard, and not a lot of space for airing clothes, so in the cold and wet months it is tricky). I've also got plans to try to reduce my electricity consumption (partly for money reasons) somehow.

Anyway, so that's how I try to make my (metaphorical) footprints smaller. It's not easy being green...but then, in many ways it doesn't take that much effort, really.

Oh by the way...I have decided that instead of going into invisibility mode during my Christmas break, I'm going to keep the shops open and do a special offer to compensate for delayed dispatch times (I'll be back from visiting family a bit after Christmas but I have to work in the day job, so orders after Sunday won't be mailed until 3rd January) That special arrangement will start on Monday, so if you want to browse and shop while this Cat's away, and don't mind receiving your order in January, go ahead and play next week! Up until then I'm still taking orders to send within two working days (today being the last day that I feel orders posted are likely to arrive in time for Christmas) Any orders over the weekend are going to come with me on the train to see my family, and be posted from there on Tuesday (possibly time to arrive for Christmas but it would be pushing it)

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Glamorous Life of a Crafter

Today featured:
* Rain and coldness
* Photographing another El Bandido cat burglar purse for Scatterbox Originals
* Photographing another recycled wool purse for JumpUp
* Editing the photos
* Listing the purses
* Realising the colours were a bit off. Editing again. And again.

 * Procrastinating over my Etsy shop stats. I like how the graphs make patterns like a little landscape. (this screenshot is from a while ago, as you can see...)

Or in some cases, a little gnome...oh, please tell me you can see a gnome here...maybe it's just me...he's peeking up...(there's little green eyes from the markers Etsy puts when you've listed or renewed an item in your shop or shared a link on Twitter)

 * A trip to the post office to mail a couple of sales from the weekend (poor post office workers, the computer system had gone offline repeatedly - a national thing apparently - for some reason, and it was a busy day for them with so many people rushing to get their Christmas cards and gifts mailed off...the assistant was still pleasant to me though. Generally, the staff at Falmouth post office are nice)
* A trip to the shops to buy myself some warm socks and clothes, as it appears I didn't quite have enough yet.
* A trip to the metro supermarket to buy food to last me until my Christmas break.
* A trip back to the clothes shop because they'd forgotten to give me back my reloadable gift card (I could write a whole rant of a post on here about how shops have all gone onto these plastic cards which are meant to be reusable but which most people seem to throw away, or not get back from the shop once they've used their balance...grmph!)

And then...walking home in the rain, my arms laden down with shopping, feeling soggy, putting my fan heater on (because the central heating is only on here for an hour in the evening...brr...) and then a cup of tea, my satchel unceremoniously flung on the floor...the new socks put on over my tights...slippers on...and a dvd (All Dogs Go To Heaven...classic!) and some sewing. This is how glam I am, are you ready for it?

So on my very glamorous lap you can see a new type of cotton pouch I'm trying out for JumpUp, and by my side you can see some little fabric embroidered badges that are another new idea. I hope you will all like them when they are complete!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Oh, Make Me Over...

On the advice of a kind critique giver on the Etsy forums, I have had a really good go at re-doing all my photos for JumpUp with the lighter backdrop. It took some courage to go onto the Etsy forums and ask for help, (even though it wasn't the first time I've done so) but I think I've taken on board what was said and I'm pretty happy with the new pictures.

This one, for instance:

I think it captures the colours so much better and also the texture of my embroidery. I'd really liked the blackboard backdrop because it meant I could doodle something for each item and keep a consistent look but a bit of variety as well. But I discovered that the blackboard was the reason why my photos kept coming out overexposed on the light coloured areas - something to do with how camera light metering works.

I've got around the loss of my doodle-able background by sticking cut-outs onto the board here - I'm starting with clouds, though I think I might try out some other shapes in future. A little house, some stars or little paper hearts maybe?

Please do click on the images if you'd like to see the listings pages!

Just to let you know, I'm going to be putting my shop onto vacation mode for the Christmas period - starting on the 17th December I think. This means my listings won't be viewable on Etsy during that time via my shop homepage, but if you click on a direct link (eg in a treasury or in your favourites list - or indeed the pictures in this blog which I usually link directly to their listing pages) then you will still be able to look at that item and have a browse.

Oh, and a note on last posting dates...the official last Christmas posting date for the USA, Canada and Eastern Europe is today* (Friday December the 9th 2011) - I'll be happy to continue sending orders to those destinations after today, but please note that I can't assure you of delivery in time for Christmas after today. If there are any extreme weather conditions where you live (for example my lovely kins-people of Scotland) then I recommend allowing as much time as possible for your order to arrive, in case transport links are effected.

I have more details on my last delivery dates in my shop homepage announcement.

*(this of course means it is a little too late now to order in time for the first days of Hannukah, if you celebrate that holiday and live in north America or eastern Europe)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

How Things Look From Here

I've been working on re-doing some of my photos for JumpUp and Scatterbox Originals, because I know how important it is for online sellers to have good photography and for Etsy especially since a huge part of getting your work seen is having your items featured in treasuries that make the front page of Etsy and also getting chosen for the hallowed Etsy Finds emails. (I was once! I made a sale from it and got lots of views, it was lovely - I wish I'd had more listed at the time...that's something I'm still working on)

I love photography, and I considered it as a career when I was growing up although I didn't have a 'proper' camera but a basic old thing from my mum. I don't think my photos are to a professional standard, but I think my new digital camera is helping and I'm slowly learning new techniques. A lot of it seems to be in the 'staging' of photos - good use of props and backdrops.

For JumpUp, I had been using this blackboard as a backdrop:

(taken with my old camera, before it lost the ability to focus)

I really like the effect and the versatility. But then one day recently, I foolishly stood on my blackboard, which was lying on the floor after a photo shoot, me absent mindedly stepping across the room to get a pair of scissors. I put too much weight on it, and felt it buckle beneath my body. So it now has a dent the size of my foot (that would be a UK ladies size 7 to 8, USA size 10, European 41 - so a pretty big ungainly foot-sized dent!) at the side. It's still usable, but I decided to unscrew the two sides (it's an A-frame style / easel blackboard) and try to make use of the other side. The other side has a whiteboard for writing on with wipable pen, but the underside of *that* has this unusual mottled metal. I was going to try and get some blackboard paint and paint this non-dented half of the easel. But then I thought better of it...

I got the blackboard/whiteboard from my charity shop. Whoever owned it before me did a little doodle on the underside - I quite like it, so I've kept it in shot here. I think the mottled grey background works well for the photos - it gives a more natural colour and feels lighter. I still like the blackboard though, so I want to keep a mixture of the two backdrops.

It's very versatile to have the easel blackboard because I can doodle on it with chalk, use the mottled grey side for darker items that need a lighter background to show them off, and because of the height being right for setting up my little foldaway table in front, I can create little 'scenes' with various props, like the vintage skipping rope.
EDIT: it has been pointed out to me that the blackboard backdrop is a little dark and effects the exposure on my camera, causing pictures to be overexposed. I'm sad to say goodbye to the blackboard but I think I will try changing all my photos to the new approach now...what do you think? 

I think it's great that I can create these little scenes for my items even in my very unglamorous flat. Would you know the pictures above were taken in my bathroom? I suppose it helps living in an attic with a skylight in every room - I can chase the daylight!

I used the same board for a couple of new photos for Scatterbox Originals too, this time blu-tacking a sheet of graph paper to the board:

As you can see, I used that same spool of thread to show scale in the photo, and this time also my Pentel mechanical pencil which I use for some of my drawings.

I'm working hard on some new products for both shops. The new designs I mentioned for Scatterbox may have to partially go on hold for a while as I'm collaborating with a good friend who has kindly offered to do some screenprinting of my designs onto fabric for me, but she is swamped with work (quite understandably, she's a fab illustrator and crafty lady) so some of that new stuff is going on hold.

Anyway, I'm enjoying my new camera which was an early Christmas gift. Here's a few photos I took with it the evening after it had arrived, out of two of my skylight windows (closed and open)

There is still time for posting sales out in time for Christmas (just about time even to get things to the USA) so I am still hoping for sales to pick up. I have some new ideas for JumpUp which I hope to share with you soon, involving cotton versions of my wool purses and some variations on the theme of chunky embroidered stitched designs...

I'd love to hear your comments on my new photo set-up!