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Great show!

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I had reluctantly accepted that our family calendar was just too rammed full for me to indulge myself with a visit to the Hobbycraft Show at the NEC, despite reeeeeeaally wanting to go.  And then as if a crafty-fairy God mother was granting me a wish a lady at my work had some spare tickets going cheap decided to sod the to-do-list and go and join the fun.

Anyone who’s been to an exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham will know how exciting…and tiring…that long walk is.  From the train station to the exhibition hall takes about 15 minutes to walk, anticipation building all the way.  You see others speeding ahead of you, eager feet propelling them towards the joys that lie ahead.  The mutual understanding with complete strangers, a kind of geeky obsessive urge to get right in the thick of it.  Just the joy of feeling that atmosphere of being among like minded people, creatives, crafters, addicts.

There was so much to see, so much to get sucked into, card making demos, sculpturing and painting, cross stitch (which I had to try and stay away from for fear of being wooed!)……but most importantly of all, jewellery making and polymer clay.  The main draw for me was visiting the British Polymer Clay Guild stand.  I’d already checked out their website, already knew I wanted to join their website members list but I wondered what kind of people they were, are they welcoming to new members? would they snigger at my feeble attempts at clay work compared to their professional looking pieces of art?

The Guild members I met were lovely.  Friendly and open, willing to share their techniques and tips and most inspiring of all….they had that same geeky excitement about polymer clay that I have.  So that settled that, I’m definitely going to become a member of the British Polymer Clay Guild………..can I get a whoop whoop!?!?

The rest of the Hobbycrafts show was good too, I visited two other clay related stands.  Which gave us two very different experiences.  The first were the new and only UK distributors of a make of polymer clay called Cernit.  The ‘Guild’ ladies had said that since Cernit changed their formula they have started to  recommend the Cernit brand for the type of ‘cane work’ I do, so I was intrigued.  I had a really long chat with the lovely couple and bought some Cernit clay to try out and I treated myself to a new pasta machine for my clay work as the one they were selling had extra wide rollers, something I’ve been looking for for a long time!

The other polymer clay stand we visited was run by a couple of clay artists who sold their jewellery and ran demos and workshops on various clay techniques.  Some of their work was lovely, I was interested in the high gloss resin finish they were using on their pendants.  But I found myself in a very strange situation standing at their table.  Some of their work didn’t seem to be as good as my own.  I couldn’t quite believe it, and looked very carefully at their work.  How can they be at this huge exhibition, visited by thousands of craft enthusiasts yet some of their pieces were, in my humble opinion, of fairly low quality.  The cane work was not very sophisticated, there didn’t seem to be much thought put into the design of the canes themselves, and the finish of some of the jewellery wasn’t as ‘fine’ as I would have expected.  Perhaps I am a perfectionist in my clay and jewellery work, perhaps that’s why I sometimes feel frustration and disappointing.  But having seen the fantastic quality if the work on display at the British Polymer Clay Guild, compared to the other pieces displayed….I know where I would rather be heading.

I’ve gone international.

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I’ve seen a bit of a flurry on sales through my etsy shop recently, the last few weeks have been pretty busy with new customers from all over the UK but most exciting of all, my first overseas customer.  A fabulous pair of purple cufflinks is currently flying over to Canada.  I’m keen to know how long it will take for them to arrive with their new owner and I really hope I get some positive feedback from them.

Handmade polymer clay cufflinks

I’m pretty sure the advertising coupons I used on Facebook and Google are the reason why traffic on both my sites has increased so much so I really need to think carefully about my marketing budget once my freebies have run out!!

 

Writing my Christmas list

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  • Get brain in gear…….find a pen.
  • Look at craft fair opportunities in Birmingham
  • Plan other sale events e.g. my workplace, jewellery party with friends, online sales
  • Check through existing stock, allocate to market/sales/online stock
  • Complete all jewellery projects already in progress
  • Work on new jewellery designs for Christmas
  • Think about new products
  • Order supplies and materials early
  • Look at diary and schedule workbench sessions
  • All systems go!

My July workbench

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my workbench covered in clay

looks like chaos, but it’s not

So I have 5 different clay canes on the go at once, all destined for a set of very special commission pieces for one customer.  I quite like the messy look.  I like that I can still lay my fingertips on exactly what I need, I can see beautiful colours and glimmers of ideas jumping out at me from amongst the piles of scrap clay and failed attempts.  At least if I’ve caused this much mess I must have been doing something!

At this point in the project I can say 4 our of 4 of the pieces have had to be started all over again due to some reason so while I’ve probably worked nearly 20 hours, I’d say about a third of that time has been put down to ‘a learning exercise’.

On to the next lesson…..

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I was so impressed with myself, pretty proud of what I’d achieved, it had been 2 and half hours sitting at the table, following all the design sketched I’d done over the previous days and the ens result was fab.  I was bouncing round the kitchen with glee at what I’d produced.  A commissioned pair of cufflinks with a very special personal touch.

I went to bed happy.

But when I took another look at my creation the next morning…………………I realised I’d made a technical error in the design.  I debated for a while if it really mattered, was it really worth wasting all that time and effort for something that most people probably wouldn’t even notice.  But I had noticed and that was all that mattered, I couldn’t live with it, I couldn’t give these cufflinks knowing I wasnt 100% happy with them.

So I started again.

“do you do commission pieces?”…..ermmm??

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I’ve always said “no, sorry” in the past.

But this time I said “yeah, sure”.

Aaaaaagggghhhhh!

I’m honoured to be asked, proud that I was brave enough to say say yes and excited at the prospect of delivering something amazing to an eagerly waiting customer.

But I’m also terrified I’ve taken on too much, its not an easy job, 4 individual pieces for a wedding and only 4 weeks notice.  I can’t bring my self to charge as it’s for family but if I pull it off I’ll get quite a lot of exposure from it which is exactly what I need right now.  The thing is, I’ve always said no in th epast to commission work for a very good reason.  I prefer to work on a random, “let’s see what today brings” kind of free spiritted way, and never produce my best work when under pressure of trying too hard to conform to a pre destined design.

But never the less, I have done lots of sketching and plans for this and am ready to go it a go.  But the knot in the pit of my stomach tells me I am nervous that I won’t deliver the high standard of design and craftmanship that everyone, including myself, is expecting.  I can’t afford to mess this up, the opportunity is great and I don’t think my confidence could take a bashing like failing to deliver for a family wedding.

Everything to lose so got to go for it 100%.

Lovely Jubilee!!

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Me on my craft stall

Ready to welcome my first customer to Celebrate Creativity Craft Fair at The Waterhall in Birmingham

It took a lot of preparation to get ready for this fabulous Jubilee event, it was such a big opportunity I really felt the pressure to perform.  But all that stress really paid off, my stall looked great, we had a fabulous day, the crowds were friendly, good footfall at the stall and a fair few sales. There were busy times which fill you with excitement and slow times which made us doubt the whole thing, but I’ve found that’s always the way with craft fairs.  I struggle to be organised enough to keep track of sales on the day so counting up the pennies afterwards is always fun.  I took over £100 so I’m really happy with that.  I’ll be donating some of my profit as usual to my chosen charity.  And spurred on by this successful happy day…..I’ve booked another stall at an upcoming event.

 

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