Friday, 17 December 2010

The Challenge Ahead

It's only 3 months until I am doing the Country Living Show in London and just a week later the BCTF - British Craft Trade Fair. Due to painting endless horse door plaques in the last two months as well as a fair amount of personalised xmas decorations. But at last I have finished the Christmas horse orders and posted 20 off today - yippee

I haven't actually made any stock yet, so guess what I will be doing on the quiet after 7 or so days off. On top of this I do of course have to plan my stands for both shows and design a definitive trade range. I don't mind saying that I am mildly terrified at the hill I have to climb in what is now such a short time. My entire website needs a rethink too and I need to find all my receipts so as to do my accounts by the January 1st deadline. I remember so clearly sitting here last year at around this time saying how 2010 was going to be about getting organised and getting systems in place..bit ambitious.

But I will do it and can't wait to get started; Christmas is slightly in the way and I must take at least a week off to see the family. My little girl says she misses me and I know exactly what she means. I see her everyday but unless Tony is away I rarely have the time to spend just mucking about with the children and I am so looking forward to family time, even if only for a week.  Something tells me I will have to really work at finding time for friends in 2011, definitely missed people this year which is why Twitter has been a sanity saver at times. I'm very grateful to people who have stuck with me through the horse months.

I've been filling notebooks with plans and have my accomodation sorted out, but so much is undone. The logistics worry me as far as Country Living goes mainly where to park my car so that its not miles away from the venue and yet doesn't cost me another small fortune. Anyone reading this have any suggestions? Perhaps CL send us more details about this.

That's if for now. So many plans so little time X Happy Christmas to all. I'll be back - Gabs

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Day off at last

It seems an age since I last had a day of no working.. you can't really count this. Equally I see that it has been well over a month since I blogged. Enevitably as an artist I can't expect to be a prolific writer what I seem to be is my own sweat shop! Tony and I were giggling over that as we both sat painting horsehead bases last week one afternoon. I giggled, he chortled I suppose. " I am my own gang master!" I cried.

Anyway today I escaped with the family to Holkham Hall for a scarey trip around the museum counting ghosts; and did see some rather gruesome sights as we went around:

after that I ate the most enormous chocolate biscuit cake slab you have ever seen (as well as something more healthy beforehand) in the voluminous cafe. I think that word is more apt for material, but the ceiling was at least 30-40ft high I would have guessed: probably where they used to house the coaches for the house 200 years ago. Loved the old toys I saw in the glass cabinets there and a Welsh Lovespoon... I've never thought before how these are actually used. Anyone know?

We walked a quarter of a mile or so through the grounds to the largest walled garden I have ever seen but sadly much of it was closed off to visitors and the ancient green houses were in a very dilapidated state. 

A fairy took this photo of her view of one of the only flourishing plants in the garden:

And here are some more sights of Autumn and the deer in the surrounding park land owned by Viscount Coke. Great name. Can you spot a grim reaper?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

It's six years since a live wire arrived in my life

This is my gorgeous girl who was 6 today. She was born in this kitchen, in a birthing pool, just me and her.

My husband was on the phone requesting that the midwife come now please! I had thought he had called her earlier when in fact he had not.

It was an unusual start to life and this is the only home she's known. Despite the intermittent rain during her party the bouncy castle in the garden was well used - at one point I think possibly all the children were stumbling about on the large red hills which were noisily swaying under the pressure of 11 screaming girls and 2 boys.

My husband had bought the ingredients for the party bags and on impulse I decided 24hrs before the party to hand paint 13 tags for them. ( For some reason we make party bags for our own children ..)

24hrs sounds like a lot, but when you paint the gesso in say half an hour - go crystal healing for the evening, get back, string bunting, make up bags (as far as possible), do the 13 red base coats, prepare the birthday breakfast, decorate the kitchen with balloons, sweep the floor, arrange the presents...get to bed at 12.30 am.. get up at 5.30am to an excited daughter (who you convince that it is the middle of the night, but not for long)....You get the picture...When both children are dispatched to school continue painting shapes in the shed and do a third coat on the tags, hair dry them a little for speed.. then do a 4th coat - of pale pink, ditto, (do a butterfly doorhanger for a client) then distress the tags, then paint names on all before threading them with narrow red gingham*.... all before 2pm... it doesn't leave much time.

I am fully aware the above must be an English teacher's "how not to construct a sentence" but language is ever evolving ;

The parents loved the tags and I have definitely found another product line :)))
* not pictured - this was a photo I took on route from studio to kitchen; when I develop these in the future they will have all sorts of colour possibilties and the wooden tags will be 4mm thich birch. These were very lightwieght ply that were bought in stock for me to play with. I do love this wire platter, it will possibly feature in more photos in the future.

Sunday, 29 August 2010


This is a fun way to spend 5 or 10 minutes! Go to and chose whether to upload some text from the front page of your website or any site you run with an rss feed and see what Wordle extracts from what you paste.
I liked this one based on the front page of my website (which needs an overhaul by next Spring!)
and I also did one for this blog which is rather different! Something tells me I am keen to know things..


Friday, 27 August 2010

Being a lazy lump

I am currently being so lazy.. not really like me. I'm just worn out after being back at work for only 3.5 days, not sleeping well for the last two nights and having pmt. There always seems to be one day where my energy deserts me almost completely and my eyes feel heavy. Sitting here I can see so much that needs doing and looking at blogs and magazines only makes me brim with desire to move furniture and open trunks, reorganise and decorate. But that is a comment for my other blog about my home and garden that isn't really off the ground yet...

I bought Country Living (Feb issue) for the first time in ages today. I say "bought" because usually it arrives automatically on subscription as a Christmas present from my mother. She'd asked me if I wanted to have it continued and at the time I said no - not that I don't like it , it's just that I found myself simply flicking through it every month- enjoying the pictures but rarely reading much of it. Until the Kitchen Table awards started at the end of last year - loved reading about those and wish they'd been around a few years ago when i was starting Moobaacluck. Wonder if I can get away with entering to become an established painter? Somehow I doubt it as I have earned my living on and off through my paintbrush for couple of decades.

Anyway it is really lovely to read about other makers just starting out and the more established ones too from all walks of life. There's a chocolate maker in the February issue of CL, something else I've always fancied trying but only on a small scale and a silversmith jeweller too called Rauni Higson.

It's always fascinating to learn more about the working processes of small businesses.

I bought Country Homes and Interiors last month purely because of an article about a Derbyshire female blacksmith and the way she runs her business.  That's not a skill I will ever learn by the way but it was fantastic to see it shown as a contemporary business - particularly one run by a woman : Hayley Powell

I took the photos on my mobile phone - clearly I had to get out of bed to do it. Luckily for me my husband is about ferrying our daughter to a party this afternoon and making some soup while my son plays with his Moshlings infront of the fire. I managed to paint an order this morning, glitter and post two packs of postcards and do the weekly shop before a lazy couple of hours in bed so actually today has turned out quite well. Tomorrow I am going to do some real drawing for the first time in months.

Will I be brave enough to post any of them? I wonder... I suggested that we all sit down and draw each other around the table for half an hour - but you have to be fluid with a family don't you?!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Supplying retailers

Moobaacluck is a relatively young business, not quite 2 years old and have made my fair share of mistakes.

A large part of my business is personalised artworks and wooden decorations; but I am developing a trade range for launch next April in Harrogate, which will still be handmade but each individual item should take less time to produce as I will be able to make them in batches. I will also be launching a small range of paper products.


The point is - each of these lines will I  need a different pricing structure. I  need to start somewhere and necessarily have to start costing and defining margins at the high end rather than the low because that is what came first.

Twitter is fabulous for firing off questions.  I'm very grateful to the people who RT ( retweeted) my question and of course to those that DM (direct messaged)

©Amanda Farren
Ella Announcements have a commendable approach; I really like the way Amanda clearly states what her terms are for supplying retailers. It is a confident message and everyone knows where they stand from the start. Thank you so much Amanda for permission to use your image and post a link to your site. You can follow "AmandaFarren" on Twitter too  Ella Announcements Trade terms  
And many thanks to retailer Angela Emery - MyFunkyParty for alerting me to Amanda 

I began my career on where 25-27% on top of all packing and delivery costs is the norm. From what I can tell this is a normal commission for web only site.

The complication comes when you are supplying a shop that has a web site: what then?

Then the next stage: retailers, no website sales...

Retailers normally expect to double the price you charge them and then add vat; some actually make their retail price x 2.5 what you charge them and then add vat on top!! I found this to my cost when I was asked (before I had barely begun trading) to supply a major chain store in Norwich. My items were too expensive, not as well conceived as they are now and didn't sell. It was a strange situation whereby they made the order without even seeing some of the products and even asked me to come up with prints unseen. One day when I am more prepared I will go and see them again! These items were not personalised, although handmade so ought to have been a mid range product in terms of price.

The consensus with galleries seems to be a  50% +vat margin ; a jewellery designer tells me that she is in the wonderful position of supplying an independent shop specialising in local crafts who only take 20% and their website sales 25%.  (That partly answers my own earlier question) This same designer receives 50 % in a shop in the nearest city centre.

Another fellow Twitterer supplies samples of personalised high quality items to retailers at a discount for them to generate orders from. She tends to achieve 30% margins  but finds that there are shops that will not go that low, in which case she cannot supply them. 50% margins are just not worthwhile for an artisan personalised product.

It would be interesting to hear from any makers and suppliers to retail whether they achieve a 40% margin ( i.e making 60 % themselves). No one has mentioned that half way point -YES they have!! completely forgot! Nic - sorry. Nic always gets 60% - so retailer gets 40%. Just flung that in so)) :
which to me personally makes sense for hand crafted products that are not personalised but that are of very high quality in small quantities. I like things to be complicated.

As a top accountant I know said "Decide what you want and stand your ground - if they don't want you, you will find others who do" - thanks Mel. Really important to remember that.

Do you know any different? or would you be prepared to share your own experiences - whether seller or retailer?  I hope this "article" will help some one. Thanks :)

Saturday, 31 July 2010

General Waffle - family illness and coping with guilt!

This isn't likely to be a coherent post. Although perhaps a theme will emerge.

I have been ill this week as those who follow me on Twitter and Facebook will know. Nothing severe - just a sore throat, queasiness and general exhaustion picked up from one of the children. Both have been on holiday from School and its amazing how the days either speed by or drag if you aren't feeling well.
I designed a green star version of my bumble bee for a customer from Illustrate My Name;  I really like it. It seems to have quite a retro look.

Managed to get through all the urgent orders this week and actually am a little ahead of myself, so much so that I spent all day today (Sat 31st July) designing illustrative cards for my greeting card illustration agent and Phoenix Trading. All are speculative which means there is no guarantee that anything will come of doing them. That said I get much from doing it. It's very easy to get rusty and out of practice with illustration and I wouldn't say that I found work just flows because I always - even today- feel the time pressure. A roundabout way of saying, I am trying my best and hoping that I will make a breakthrough and move on with my illustration style(s). Will post pictures of those another time...

I have about 20 outstanding Moobaacluck orders and because of my husbands work ( only Mondays are regular) I always have the feeling that I just might not have enough time to do everything.
Managed to paint all these on Friday - finish them at least but this little lot probably took 2 - 3 days to do. Something tells me I need to develop a printed product line!!


Yet again Tony looked after the children all day on his own. They have a lovely time with him so its not as if they are suffering without me there, its more that they have grown up feeling that I am not usually "there when we go on trips". This isn't strictly true but I suppose for 70 % of the time they do anything exciting it probably is. I feel very happy creating but its always tinged with regret. Something I will just have to get used to. How do you all cope?

Here they are on their quiet Monday with me at home; you can't see them but there was a swarm of beautiful dragon flies swooping about.

This was also the day that I decided to take part in the Notonthehighstreet Christmas brochure. I may be setting myself up for a very tricky time but I am determined to make the best of it. Its as though i have to make life difficult in order to change what is wrong. Im my case the disorganisation of my work spaces and lack of money. Perhaps this will sort out the latter enough for me to buy things to sort out the former.

I designed these horses specifically for a local customer, she loved them so I thought I'd try them out on Noths never thinking for a minute that this would be the product they wanted to feature.

We ( the children and I ) also made two cakes that twitter friends will know I polished off pretty smartly. Here's a photo of them, believe me they tasted wonderful, better than they look here anyway.

Friday, 23 July 2010


Apparently I write like James Joyce having had my last post analysed  via a Facebook Application!
I have never read anything by him but I do know that Ulysses is incomprehensible to all but the most determined scholars. Ha.. so funny.

I write like
James Joyce
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Part 2 - Preparation for the Country Living Show next Spring

 pile of presents   

First I need to book accomodation. I do know people in London but I think it would be a bit much to ask of them to put me up for a week. Besides - I have a feeling I will just need to go to bed early every night or try and do a spot of yoga (haha) in my hotel room to unwind. Have just booked to stay at Earl's Court Easy hotel - it cost £295 - yikes. But for 7 nights in London that's not bad. Of course I will have to pay for my food... me thinks I may lose weight that week. If anyone fancies putting me up do let me know - I will only lose a fraction of that money by cancelling!
After speaking to Penny Lindop a couple of weeks ago I now know that you are allowed 2 days to set up before the fair opens. Some people take 1 day - clearly very experienced exhibitors but someone like me will need more time. Especially as you are allowed to decorate your stand - by that I don't mean simply hanging things up, you are allowed to paint on the boards.

With Moobaacluck being a handpainted business (primarily for the moment) I would be mad not to take advantage of   this.. possibly mad to do so some might say. The only snag is  that you have to paint it all back to the neutral greyish white  afterwards. I think it would be a good idea to visit the Christmas fair with some swatches in my paws to make sure I get a good enough idea of the colour  paint I need to buy to do that.

Apply here for a stand yourself

Another thing Penny told me to be aware of is that there is little time to unload. Book a slot when the big book of instructions appears in the post 2 months before the show and accept that it may not go smoothly! If people booked earlier than you haven't finished you will be asked to move off  or park up and come back; not easy in Islington. Must say I am not looking forward to that bit. And you should only allow 30 -60 mins to unload, deposit everything and return to your car before moving off and trying to find somewhere to park.

Penny suggested that I book some of the lighting offered (for which you pay extra) as I haven't got my own. This way I can be sure of the most appropriate lighting and that it will work... 

A curious thing that you wouldn't know unless you had exhibited there before is that the WiRE area has a weak mobile signal; something to do metal surrounding walls.. this means that when it comes to
automated payments one is better off using a telephone line. Never having accepted cards before I was anxious about how to go about this. If you join the Federation of Small Businesses apparently among the benefits are the discounted rental of Streamline machines. You have to rent a line from Country Living - again bookable a couple of months before the show; at about £30 for the duration.

Think carefully too about how you will store stock, plan your display  as much as possible before hand; you bring everything: table, any shelving, drill, tape, posters, framed pictures, display racks.. Plan, plan, plan. Apparently there is a limited amount of storage space if you can find out about it so that you don't have to have ALL your stock on your stand. However you wouldn't have access to this when the show is open to the public.

I was offerred a stand for the Christmas event last week and decided knowing what I do now that I would be better off visiting the show then instead!

If you know differently or have anything to add to this post please comment. I will amend and add wherever necessary :)

Time management or not in my case

One of the hardest things is juggling time consuming art work with family life; all too often I have 6 day weeks and there is rarely a day when I am not fiddling with something. However this weekend I gave myself an entire Saturday and most of Sunday off, apart from 2 hours finishing 30 of these stars - they have to be posted tomorrow!

                                ©Gabriella Buckingham - Moobaacluck 2010

In fact as I finish this post it is the following weekend; there isn't enough time to be perfect. All creative types have to accept this..don't we? I would be very interested in hearing how you all organise yourselves!

I have just bought myself some great wooden filing trays so that I can put all the jobs for a particular day of the week a stack of those. Of course I want to paint them beautifully too but that is going to have to wait!

I had the best weekend I have had in a long while ( last weekend!) taking some time off to splash in the sea with the family and ate outside all weekend, pottering among our weeds and plants with the occasional plunge into our big blow up pool. Heaven, can't want for much more really.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Lovely purchase from DotsandSpots

These arrived last week; ordered on Wednesday morning and they were with me on Thursday morning - all the way from Somerset to North East Norfolk:

and what is more Becky, the founder and chief designer at Dots and Spots included a gift of a set of 4 postcards with my order! Thank you Becky :)) As you can see below the books were appreciated, but I am keeping the postcards.... and the campervan notebook .. and of course the Garden Stuff...

See more of Becky's product range at !

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Some news part 1

As usual have been mostly contained in the summerhouse 6 days a week ( apart from school runs, once to the supermarket and oh joy, a dental specialist in Norwich. Less said about that the better) Oh and the most important day release happened last Thursday. "I worked like Billy Ocean" ( a strange phrase personal to me that I don't remember the origins of) last Wednesday to complete as many orders ahead of time as poss to have lunch with Penny Lindop in St. Benedicts restaurant in Norwich. We spent a fun 2 hours discussing all the potential hazards of setting up at Country Living next year; Penny gave me lots of tips and a big task to do which I will begin next week.. honest Penny!!

Penny designs wonderfully quirky hand finished greeting cards, prints and framed clocks. To see more of her work please look here  If you are visiting the Royal Norfolk Show you can find Penny in the craft tent.

This is one of my favourite pieces of Penny's work. I love the idea of a collection of cards in a lovely box. A great gift for someone or a treat for yourself!

As soon as I find my notebook I will write Part 2 with details of all that I gleaned for those of you who like me have never done a big event before. I have done plenty of craft fairs but never one that necessitated an automated payment system. So that was one of my major concerns.

Yesterday I was delighted to  hear that I've been accepted for the British Craft Trade Fair next Spring. Plenty to do now... not that there wasn't before! :))

Are any of you exhibiting at a big show this or next year? You are welcome to post a link to your site and announce what you are up to in the comments section! Look forward to seeing what you are getting up to. Part 2 to follow soon .... now WHERE is that notebook.....

Friday, 18 June 2010

off to the post office any second...

Felt in the right frame of mind (let's face it, wasn't in a mad rush for a change), to pack up my orders in the way I mean to continue.

Some of you will know that I have been a Phoenix Trader in the past (still am officially) and I have rediscovered these very useful recycled labels that are perfect for sticking over envelopes that as still reasonably serviceable but that I may have made a mistake with the address on!

I think using my flower stamp makes a world of difference and quite honestly I don't always have the time to do this, but am going to try from now on.

I like to reuse packaging wherever possible but at the same time not everyone appreciates that:( There is a fine line for some between sending something that looks like a gift and something that looks scruffy.

So I will recycle padded envelopes if I can remove or cover previous addresses and stickers but not if it risks a customer thinking that I don't really care how Moobaacluck is perceived. So serious:) And yes the photo below is out of focus... I bet there is a spot somewhere that isn't ?

A couple of things...

Two furry and in the case of one, fluffy things have now arrived at the Buckingham household. They seemed very camera shy this morning but I managed to get some shots 5 mins before I whizzed the children to school...
 I am just slightly worried as we were told they are both boys..and the grey one keeps mounting the fluffy one. Hmm any advice?! Perhaps I should get a second opinion sharpsish!

Monday, 14 June 2010

the buzz of another follower

Beehive © Gabriella Buckingham circa 1998

Oh I have 44 followers of my blog - thanks whoever the 44th was! I was beginning to think 43 was my limit ;) I very much appreciate anyone who follows me. There are so many blogs that its quite something  to actually move someone to press that button !

Don't be shy about leaving comments and if I am not following you let me know and I will; relationships are important to me especially as the work I do is so time consuming but predominantly solitary. There isn't a lot of time to see my real life friends so virtual friends do actually mean something. Some may think that is rather sad of me - others will realise it just is what it is. She says in a slightly un- thought through - sort of - the dinner is ready and I have to go - sort of way!!!!!!!

No news is good news?

I have found it difficult to have any time off lately; I am not complaining about having all these lovely orders though, just my ability to handle it. When you are busy it is the time when you really need to be at your healthiest in order to cope and with the type of work I do, involving a huge amount of time sitting down painting this isn't easy. Hence giving up cakes, biscuits, jam and sugary cereals (day 4 and it hasn't been too bad surprisingly) - if I can't find time to move about much something has to give.

Constantly working like that makes you question why you are doing it!! It is essential to love it ; people always say "you must be so patient" when they see what I do and hear how long it takes. That surprises me as I wouldn't say I was a patient person particularly, in fact I am at my calmest quietly working away. I have considered using spray paint and it just wouldn't hold any joy for me. Painting is almost like meditation. Hours pass and it is incredibly satisfying to see the beautiful results. This is part of the view from my summer house this weekend.

Despite working for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday I did manage to see some of the family and hold a chicken for the first time when we all went to visit the local garden centre for what we call "Chicken Day". Certainly lost most of my anxiety as to whether I could handle a bird!

I read part of the paper, ate outside and saw the children happily creating their own floral artworks; my daughter's is pictured here.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Thoughts on the future

Being accepted for the Country Living fair in Spring 2011 is going to help me to focus. Am very excited about it! This is a link to my LIKE page where you can read more. I will be blogging about my progress as I think it would be very helpful for someone like me who hasn't actually done a big retail fair like this to document all the things you have to do to prepare. I've exhibited locally but this is completely different.!/pages/Moobaacluck/108970109141355?ref=sgm

I will let you know if I am accepted for the BCTF too which, as a trade fair, would be totally different but potentially life changing.

Here are pics of my garden a few days ago. After going to Spain and it was lovely to see things bursting up all over the  place.. although of course there are more weeds than anything!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Sunday May 30th - part 2

After a bit of a struggle to find a pub that wasn't full to the brim and a little tantrum from me we found The Old Coach Inn in Thornham where I happily guzzled half a cider and a lamb shank puff pastry pie.

Then only a few hundred yards further along we discovered a fabulous treasure of a shop called
"Vintage Home and Garden" run by the lovely Jo Griffiths who I discovered on Twitter when I began to follow her a couple of months ago. I am keen to follow businesses and people in Norfolk that I feel an affinity with and having met Jo today I know I wasn't wrong. We share the same love of colour and neither of us will wear black! Funnily enough we were both wearing yellow cardigans today :)

 (Jo is on the right - what style! and @tonybonus and my young son on the left)

The shop is absolutely lovely. I realise now on looking at my photos that I did not take in much of what was there and am longing to go back without the children. The shop isn't large but every bit of space is beautifully used and with Jo's styling background it isn't hard to understand why.

If you are searching for a genuine old gardening tools, the handles worn smooth from being handled for years you have come to the right place. Elegant glassware, delicate bird cages, giant rulers and highly fragrant candles all grace the longest old French table I've ever seen. Which is for sale....

There are blankets woven from recyled wool, antique toys that make lovely decorations if you can't bear to have them played with. Near the door a lovely selection of contemporary cards and gift wrap
 (one of my three purchases - a card by Biddy Picard published by

..are available and I spotted two bowls of very appealing hand made Snapdragon badges and mirrors by Scottish designer Jane Lindsey, who is also a twitter favourite of mine.

 (The smell potent smell of marzipan rises when you lift the lid, I couldn't resist buying one of these)

Jo is supremely welcoming and helpful and I would highly recommend a visit, looking forward to going back. Tony and I are hoping to visit the Yurt next door again for more than a drink and will plan it for a day when Vintage Home and Garden is open.

While there today I drank a delicious bottle of Breckland Cloudy Lemonade - yum. Breckland Orchard is another Norfolk business that can be found on Twitter.

Do look at to find out more about Jo and Vintage Home and Garden...there is a link there to Jo's blog .... :) happy reading!