Saturday, 28 April 2012

Busy doing something

It's been a strange week for me, orders have really tailed off which worries me as we are a family of hanging in there, freelancers!

 new front page for shortly

When you take your eye off the ball it's quite surprising how even though you think you aren't doing anything that different it seems to make the status quo dip. If that makes sense. There are so many things going on which seem to be draining me financially -  some good things, some really annoying like having to replace all the tyres on the car and TV aerial breaking in the lightning last week!

The good things are my courses and visiting London next week for a conference all about working with agents and licensing. Plus I am really looking forward to getting together for lunch at the forum next week with 6 or 7 other maker friends from Norfolk/Suffolk/ and Cambridge.
I know my work is good but I haven't been promoting myself at all really because I've had my head in surface pattern design course heaven or haven ;. The course has reminded me of what I love to do - design!!

 © Gabriella Buckingham - elements for card/wrap

And of course I start thinking about my illustration career which - before I had children - was  going really rather well. I know there are people out there routing for me that possibly are disappointed that I haven't expanded Moobaacluck more. Something always holds me back and I know it is my other ambitions. Anyone that knows me knows that I live and breathe my work - it has to be the best it can be - I have to be - I seem to be spending years juggling to find what that is. My friendships suffer as I don't give them the attention I should.. I'm the sort of person quietly in the background just hoping that real friends understand that. I'll be sending lots of cards when my new range is put together:)

I think the answer is to be very very strict with myself. 

I shall have to write out a timetable of what needs doing and allocate days to different aspects of my businesses. People say you can't do everything - at least not well - and I can see why. Clearly if you have one business and stick to developing more of the same it is going to work - assuming you have a customer base already which  I do.

On the other hand if you have a little voice inside you saying .. is this it?  If you have a vision of yourself designing for all sort of products, having exhibitions, maybe having a shop or running different web businesses... are they all supposed to remain dreams? Some of them perhaps. I had to end one of my ideas this year- Help-a-Creative is something I would have done if I'd had the money behind me to employ others to set it up. But I realised after a couple of months working on it that I needed to turn my attention back to my business or I wouldn't have an income! I am very enthusiastic about new projects and need a little dose of realism possibly :)

 © Gabriella Buckingham - Star Dream

For lack of money I try to do everything myself but deep down I know that isn't the way to make a business a success - it does depend on the sort of business of course but at some point you need help - whether financial or advisory. It's not being sure of your plans or yourself that scuppers you from the start. Writing this it is so obvious that I need a plan,  a goal and a set of instructions. Something I have never done, however listening to Tim Minchin on Radio 4 I feel in good company :)). I've always been one to just do it and see what happens. There comes a point where you have to direct what has happened. That's what I'm doing.

  part of something I am working on with my handwriting

I love Moobaacluck and will be developing it further refining what I offer on wood and introducing a lot more childrens art and greeting cards. The wooden decorations are unlikely to be mass produced (unless someone tips up with a licensing deal? anyone!?). I very recently acknowledged to myself that I don't want to do a large wooden trade range myself in the future because that would divert me away from designing and painting, I may keep that aspect very small and concentrate on personal orders.

Apart from needing extra help painting backgrounds at busy times I will be the one doing the painting, by hand with a brush. So many people say "spray paint!!" I fully understand why but that feels like cheating to me and I just won't go there. The action of painting is part of what I love. Some customers really get that - I know from all the lovely emails I get from them. So Moobaacluck will remain a hand painted personalised gift business - direct from me to the customer. My things are on a few select websites and I am very happy about that and grateful for all the orders that come through.

(Note: May 10th:  realised this week that the flower I drew on this card looks very like the Spoonflower logo so I am glad that as yet I haven't printed these!)

What do you think of this as a potential business card ? just the first draft  - spent far too long designing logos and web headers one day this week. Only to conclude it is much too soon to create a new site! Update: stationery designs coming on well and I am ordering paper stock and getting in quotes :)

Working with other people in some way for some of the time would be great. When my new lines are a success I will need  someone to pack with me;) and I may even get an accountant!

I love to design and paint and I love supporting other people where I can (hence the help a creative thing). Plenty to keep me busy. I am getting there - if I can stop myself fiddling with potential websites!

Do any of you identify with what I have said?

This post has been edited  - I am so grateful to you all for your comments , glad I posted but think doing this has been a lesson itself. It was cathartic but probably too open. Somethings should probably be written on paper and left to read the next day. The way I blog can sometimes be a bit too close to doing just that for comfort!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Building a collection of giftwrap designs

I've been getting stuck into experimenting with new designs for placement print gift wrap inspired by the brief given on the surface pattern course a couple of days ago. Here are sections of the designs I've done so far; there will be a set of six eventually :

Bubble and Swirl collection - © Gabriella Buckingham

I looked back at the sketches I did very early on in the course and re drew elements of many of those sketches.

Wonder if I can squeeze in some design time over the weekend?  

I have promised I won't work tomorrow so may be a few hours on Sunday ;) 
It's so addictive.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Pattern love

 Little update on the plate:
The plate is back! Love the colours. Surprisingly the blue has remained the same blue throughout so that's really good. The painting of the red is a bit messy - too many little brush strokes but it really seems to sit happily with my other random china - particularly my orange teapot pictured here. The bear seems to like it too!

I'm starting to realise the sort of imagery that appeals to me most. For example I love the chunky geometric 1970s prints like the ones on my studio curtains, and the huge scale florals in my living room but know that the delicacy of the 1950s line work appeals to me more- if it comes to me designing something. Orla Keily has pretty much cornered the market in those simple graphic shapes - they are gorgeous but certainly not what I was born to design! I love the print work of Angie Lewin with its variety and delicacy among the strong lines too...but of course I want to find my way and the last thing you want as a designer is for someone to say "Oh that's just like X's work!" Which it wouldn't be!! I'm not suggesting for a minute that I could do anything like Ms Lewin.

I did do lithography and etching at art college. Both approaches resulted in illustrative work if I look back - my lithographs were full of squiggles and patches of coloured background with figures dancing - A1 scale. And the etchings were quite detailed and tiny! It should be - no it will be, quite an adventure to get a few days solid designing. That may be ambitious but I am going to set aside at least one whole day and a couple of half days this week just to concentrate on the surfacepatternecourse the 3rd part of which starts tomorrow.

It's tricky for me to really find my way, or a style, right from the off as I have been a painterly illustrator for years -one who that loves line drawing on the side... when I can face challenging myself to do it. There's enevitably this horrible stage where what you draw disappoints you, if you were once good at drawing and haven't done much for a LONG time.

I painted this plate in a ceramic cafe today. I wanted a 1950s inspired look incorporating some of the motifs that I find myself scribbling most often.

I sat with the plate in front of me staring at its white surface. All I had in mind were Alliums and squiggles... after about 3 mins scribbling thunb nail size plates in my sketch book I just aimed for the centre and did my favourite spiral shape and worked outwards without thinking too much what the end result would be. As I was just drawing it out with felt tip that burns off completely when it is fired I didn't worry too much. I was there to have fun after all!! the plate should end up red, beige, brown,blue and quite probably purple where the blue is over the red... that bit is the bit I am doubtful about!!

But I did really like the effect and feel that as a piece of pattern work - rather than illustration, this is very me.

I just hope it turns out to be a strong red - not too wishy washy - although I do like the dry glaze colours. So it is very hard to be sure which I am going to prefer. I should get it back by next weekend so I'll post a picture even if I don't much like it.

I hope you all had a good weekend. x Gabs

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Curtains for me

I've been sewing - if you can call it that!! My studio is now looking a lot more inviting. Still more to do - I think the ceiling would look lovely painted a light colour but that is a huge job.

A couple of months ago I found some brown floral 70s material in a charity shop in Cromer - two enormous curtains which I snapped up immediately. At last I found some time to cut out some panels and use my Janome sewing machine for the first time in probably a year! Was also happy to find that I was perfectly capable of taking the machine apart and cleaning and fixing it when it jammed, thanks to a great short film on line :)

I borrowed Tony Buckingham's camera again and went a little trigger happy...

a newish star design that I keep meaning to get onto Noths/own site!!

One of my paintings that was made into a card and a notelet by Clare Maddicott cards

My daughter

This one is a bit fuzzy - not sure why.. but shows both my children in my summerhouse.

Little snapper .... F set free with my camera while I used Tonys!

I have quite a few unfinished paintings around my shed/studio/summerhouse.

  A favourite bear on a tray that I found in a very unusual cafe shop in Sheringham.

My tulips came up!

Part of the cherry tree we planted a few years ago - lovely to see it flourishing in the sun.

So what do you think of the transformation? I'm pleased... and the children clearly like it as they parked themselves in here to draw.. which is why I did this rather than get on with my orders... better rectify that now!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Postage rise - how will I handle that ?

Virtually all my products go through the postal system, specifically Royal Mail at some point in their journey to their owners and like many small businesses who sell on line or even to retailers, postage is a considerable cost to the business.

Anything I say here is from the perspective of someone who pays counter prices. I don't have a franking machine or a business account. As yet. So I'd love to have comments from those of you that do as to how you see things.

Most of my orders come through on which I do charge postage but once the commission has been taken on top it doesn't actually cover the cost of postage, oh and the packing materials too, (if you consider the time spent packing each item then forget it)!

When I started my own shop I did have postage in line with the actual weight of each item but of course it is hard to tell whether having postage charges separate to the item price has ever resulted in lost sales.

For the last month or so I have had free postage on my site and I have had more orders. Now whether this is simply the result of more people finding me or the free postage I will never know.

I was chatting to someone who is very successful on Noths about this on Twitter and she doesn't charge postage on Noths or her own site. Interestingly both she and Noths say that sellers without postal charges are preferred by buyers - that its the biggest reason for basket abandonment. I am so slow to catch on sometimes.. I've tried to make the price of the actual item as cheap as I can without having no profit at all and then a small amount of postage.

The way I am thinking now is that it might be better to charge more for the work I do and give free postage across the board. This would make it a lot more simple creating prices for third party websites too. At the moment I add on postage that is more of a contribution, knowing full well that these websites usually have fixed price delivery charges to their customers. It seems daft to me that I am charging - for example, £14rrp + free postage for a fairy star when another site charges £20.95 for my work once postage is added. And they do sell well. Which says a lot. It's a big job to comb through all my costs again but it should be doable by the end of April.

You can see some of the new postal rates on the Royal Mail site  and lots of waffle. More detailed downloads can be found on the Royal Mail site too. I printed out my own prices chart last night to refer to.

Most of my items are in the 50 - 150g weight - nearly all large letter but occasionally I have packets - probably 20 % of the time - particularly if someone orders more than one thing at a time. This is where it seems to get silly. The price of a 101g parcel is the same to post as a 750g one. Clearly if your parcels are 750g usually this is going to be a bit better for you - but not if they are at the lower end.

There are various things you could do:

  • build costs firmly into your prices + offer free postage
  • offer free postage for second class speed/postage and more expensive optional 1st class - effectively fast tracking someones order - which may or may not be practical depending on whether you hand make items to order
  • have a fixed price like many successful websites do of £4.95 per order. This is less attractive if you have low priced items however  - certainly doesn't appeal if you sell greeting cards!
  • have free postage except for heavy or bulky items that need very careful packing
  • increase your postage per item according to the price rise
  • absorb the cost and do nothing. Not something many of us could do I would imagine. It may happen with apathy of course!
  • find an alternative postal service - if your business is large enough to justify that maybe its worth investigating?

I know which appeals to me. What about you?  What appeals to you? What is a no-no for your business? Have I missed something obvious?

Orders posted today in the run up to Easter

I started to write about the postal prices increase and I still will - in another post - as I think it would be so interesting to compare how many of us will deal with it. It's a huge consideration for small businesses.

I posted all these off today in the hope they will reach their owners by Thursday... don't think that there is any post on Friday! I worked very hard in my shed on Monday and Tuesday and this morning to finish them all off.

These are going to a bakery - I wonder what the owner intends to do with them?

Incidentally when we were small my brothers and I weren't allowed to watch television on Good Friday which seems so unfair as that's when all the good films are on!! That certainly wouldn't go down well in our house!

We are very much an agnostic - me /aetheist - dh family ( I was brought up a catholic and went to an all girls school until the age of 18 - explains a lot) which I feel sad about on one hand and glad about on the other. Catholicism is so founded on guilt. Bit serious - apologies ;) But the morality of christianity is ingrained in me I suppose - much of it good. 

When I was working today my husband made gingerbread and Easter biscuits with the children. I hope you agree that they are - in some cases were - spectacularly lovely to look at :)

And tasted even better ! Happy Easter to you all x Gabs

P.S. If you have made any radical decisions about how you are going to run your business in light of the postal increases I'd love to hear about it below and will credit your thoughts and ideas in my postage blog v soon.