Thursday, 4 September 2014

The Return

So much for that 'one post a month' plan! My only excuse is that life happened. I would not advise having a slipped disc - it is not a fun experience, and can leave you laid up in bed for weeks. Follow that up with a slow and cautious house move and two whole months can sneak past without you looking.

As for July and August, I honestly haven't a clue. How is it September already?!

Last time I wrote, I mentioned that I was going to be looking for a job whilst putting The Silver Hide on the back burner. This is still the case, although the bad back and the house move proved a significant delaying tactic to actually getting on with any of it. Aggravatingly the slipped disc kicked in around the same time I downloaded the trial versions of Photoshop and Illustrator, which meant that I couldn't actually sit at the computer to practice like I'd planned!

Happily Adobe sent out a refresher of the trial offers to boost awareness of the 2014 changes in both programs, so I got a second chance. This time I remembered to activate the trials one at a time, just in case anything else decided to blow up in my face in the near future.

Alongside the art practice, I also decided to pick up some HTML and CSS skills since I'd been seeing these listed quite often in the internship ads I was looking at. I've been using the tutorials on Codecademy to get started, and then picking up useful snippets from various sources in the process of building myself a new site (yes, another one).
My design/artwork portfolio can now be found over at Giddy Minnow Designs. The site still feels fairly basic, and could do with a few improvements like enlarged versions of the gallery images on clicking, and some more small images dotted through the text sections. The important thing for now is that it exists.
Edit: sadly the site is still having some issues if viewed in Safari, which apparently doesn't like .svg images and adds lots of excess height to them - making for some rather odd layout alterations!

In other news, the Etsy shop had some leather pouches added a little while back. I have plans to add some more things soon, but the way my plans seem to have gone of late I'd rather not promise a date for those updates :/

That's all for now. Still alive, still looking to move forward. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Life, the universe and everything

First off - sorry for the radio silence over the last few weeks. I've been doing some serious thinking that I wasn't yet ready to discuss, but which was also distracting enough that I had no idea what else to write instead.

Big Decision Time
I've decided to get on with job hunting. I'm not shutting down The Silver Hide - I'm not quite ready to give up on it yet! - but I am going to be focussing on finding a regular source of income for a while. As part of that, I'm going to stop trying for weekly updates here on the blog, probably settling to monthly updates unless it turns out I can find something relevant to write about more often!

Now, this has come about due to a combination of things which I feel like explaining, so here goes:

Back when I started the business in April last year, I told my partner that if I hadn't achieved a regular monthly income by the end of a year then he'd have every right to tell me it was time to reconsider things and get a job. Now, as I've mentioned in previous posts it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing this last year - largely due to unforeseen mental storms and pirates and krakens (to stick to the 'smooth sailing' theme). We've talked about the business and my options a few times since the start of the year, and it's generally been me starting those conversations.

House Hunting
In addition to the above, we've started house hunting. We both feel it's about time we had a place of our own, and the idea certainly has support from both sets of parents who seem to share the 'housing market? Get into it as soon as you can afford to' attitude.
Now this is all well and good, but Brighton is by no means a cheap area to live in, and due to me being in my first year of self employment I am unable to contribute financially to a mortgage (as far as I can find out, you need a minimum of two years records to present, of which they take an average net profits value to assess your contribution to the mortgage calculations). So that means it's all on Dom's shoulders. This... does not sit well with me. I really don't like the idea of not being able to help out with the business of paying for the house I'm going to be living in. I can cope with not necessarily being on the actual mortgage paperwork, but if I can't even help with the monthly bills and things like buying furnishings... well then it's not really my house at all.

Put 'em Together:
So. It's been nearly a full year since I started up The Silver Hide, and the business is not yet providing any significant or stable monthly income at a time when that is exactly what I need. Add to that the fact I'm really not confident of my chances to achieve any significant immediate change to the situation with my current range of stock and designs... and finding a job just makes sense.

It's scary, and a little disheartening, but also pretty logical. The thought of hunting a job in Brighton with what I see as a rather weak skill set (quite possibly the old anti-self-confidence demons talking) amidst all the potential competition out there is... horrifically daunting. Especially since I have no intention of just grabbing the first shelf stacking job that comes along (because I always have been, and probably always will be something of a stubborn old goat regarding job preferences). I want to get into something solid that uses my brain and has good potential for advancement. Preferably also something transferable, just in case we eventually lose hope of ever finding a house we can actually afford in the surrounding area and have to move to Scotland or something.

This probably means trying to get some sort of junior position or an internship, as I really don't know that I currently have the skills for anything that's available and ticks all the boxes. On the one hand this has me thinking 'oh good gods what have I gotten myself into now?!' and on the other hand I'm thinking something more along the lines of 'wheeee! Adventure time!'. At least the latter option feels positive.

Thursday, 13 March 2014


Last time I wrote we (being me & Dom) were about to head off towards Bude for the weekend. A bit of a pick & mix weekend of businessy bits, family visits, mini holiday and celebrations with friends. Today I'd like to just talk about that trip - quite off topic, but hey, maybe you'd really like to know about Bude?

On the business side of things, I had a brief meeting with a potential retailer, and then went on to restock my selection of gloveweight leathers. There are now some lovely blues and blue-greens, and several reds waiting to be turned into pouches or notebooks or who knows what.

The mini holiday bit was quite delightful. We'd gone to Bude to celebrate a birthday and a wedding, but were there for a little while to either side of the party so had a chance to walk around in the sunshine and just... relax. Admittedly, there doesn't seem to be much to do in Bude other than just relax, so it wasn't too difficult to do.

We watched a flock (or possibly a raft) of new surfers splashing about just off the beach, as well as some of their more experienced counterparts a little further out.

I found it interesting to see that a lot of the people in what appeared to be the beginner group had quite bright colours on their suits, whereas the ones further out generally seemed to be wearing just black. Not sure if this is just down to newbie enthusiasm, or if beginners get given bright colours to make them easier to find if they get washed out to sea...

We'd found a relatively sheltered picnic bench halfway up a hill from which to watch, and I had fun just being a happy snapper with the camera for a while. Managed to catch a couple of people who actually made it upright, although looking through all the pictures once I got home it also seems I gradually accumulated fluff on the camera lens! I have a series of shots with increasing numbers of fuzzy grey smudges all over the place, but never mind.

Finding dinner was interesting when we arrived on Friday night - it seems Bude does not have much of a restaurant selection, which was unfortunate since we were in the mood for restaurant food as opposed to pub grub. We found one Indian restaurant (fancy a curry? No, not really...), one chinese restaurant (hmm, maybe... ), and then eventually ran across Olive Tree (not to be confused with The Olive Tree, which is apparently completely different).

We went in, sat down, umm-ed and ahh-ed over the menu for a bit, and then upon being told the daily special was a seafood risotto with pan fried pollock both promptly ordered that (Hurrah - we wanted fish!). The starters were lovely - I had wild mushrooms on toast, with a poached egg, and it was a proper runny-in-the-middle poached egg too - and the risotto was delicious. My only possible complaint was that I almost couldn't finish it, because the portion size was quite generous! Not that I would ever claim to be a reliable food critic or anything. I liked it, Dom liked his, we'd definitely eat there again.

Ok, so that's probably enough about Bude. What about the rest of this week? Well, I got back feeling very much refreshed and ready to get going on a bunch of new ideas. So far I've written a lot of things down, started on a felt project, continued the scroll prototype, been sidetracked by some long-ignored tidying, and then been wiped out for an entire day by a headache that felt like someone had inserted a bar of hot lead behind both eyeballs. It was the kind of headache that goes BOOM every time you move, and leaves you feeling kind of sick as well. Not a happy Wednesday for me. There's a bit of it still lurking, but I do seem to be over the utterly horrible part and hopefully this last lingering ache will be gone tomorrow.

So! I have vague plans for the next week, which involve updating the gallery with some more things, and probably also adding another listing or two to the shop. I'm still keeping my plans vague though, as I seem to get much more done that way than if I tell myself I absolutely have to do things in a particular order.

Tara for now, and may the sunshine we're currently experiencing not go away too soon!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Etsy School Summary

It's Thursday! Which now appears to be Blog Day in my internal calendar, something I shall try to stick to from now on.

Last time I said I would write up a summary of my February Etsy School experiences once I'd worked out what to write. I'm still not entirely sure what I want to write, but since the final week has been about marketing - and one element of that is making sure to blog regularly - it would be remiss of me not to give this a go.

So. As I said before, I kind of fell off the Etsy School wagon (or should that be the school bus?) somewhere between weeks 2 & 3 due to various reasons. In line with that, I have to admit I don't think I've managed more than running along behind said wagon (...bus) vaguely trying to pay attention for the last week. Mind you, the last week has been about marketing, and from reading through the guide I feel like the school project was aimed further down the Twisty Turny Path of Mystery that is marketing than I currently feel comfortable going. Some might well argue that I should plunge forward regardless - but I've never been very good at that, so I shall keep going at my own pace for now!

One thing I do appear to have achieved, despite not initially thinking of it as part of the marketing week's work, is to keep this blog updated once a week through the month. I still don't know if I'm writing well, or if anyone ever reads more than the first paragraph for that matter, but I have at least kept writing. I was worried I wouldn't be able to think of enough to write (believe it or not) however if anything I've actually caught myself wondering about doing an extra post once or twice. I'm going to take this as a good sign, and try to keep posting at least once a week for now - probably on Thursdays!

I'd really like to put a picture here, because I worry that my blogs are very heavy on text. Except I don't really have any relevant pictures for what I'm talking about, and saying 'here's a picture of a random thing!' feels a bit...artificial? Oh! I know, here's something I started on this week, a leather scroll case prototype:

Complete with assorted stamping tools, a piece that will cover the seam down the length of the case, two possible end pieces, and my trusty rolling pin covered in cling film which is doing duty as a mould.

This project is coming along, albeit somewhat slowly. I decided to experiment with the dyeing stage, which has led to me repeatedly adding dye and then leaving it to dry. I think I've reached a finish I'm happy with now though, so I'll move on to assembling bits soon.

Right, slightly random interval tangent dealt with, now for an overall summary of my Etsy School experience!

Despite not really managing to keep up with the weekly projects I'm actually fairly happy with how the last month has gone. Yes, I would have liked to stay on top of absolutely everything, but given the somewhat fragile state I was in at the start of the year I'm not really surprised that I didn't. Juggling communication with various people, the need to blog, update the Etsy store, photograph stock despite the British Weather's best efforts, make more stock for what was my first fair whilst also trying to design some new leather work things for both fairs and future Larp events... well that does still feel like a lot to me.

I'm hoping that this time next year I shall be looking back and wondering how I filled the days, because I'll have gotten that much stronger in my own mind and thus be getting soooo much more done. For now though, I'm pretty pleased to have gone through the critiquing stage, come up with a new photography layout (and photos are gradually being taken), edited the titles, tags and descriptions for most of the items currently in the store, and kept up the blog throughout.

Also, I'm still feeling pretty calm, in control and reasonably positive. I'm calling that progress, and shall end on that note I believe!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Post-fair fizz

Ok, so I'd meant to do another Etsy school blog earlier in the week, but then couldn't work out what to write, then realised I could've written about the craft fair I did at the weekend, but then that would interrupt the flow of Etsy school blogs....and now it's Thursday again o.0
I shall do a final Etsy school blog next week, when I've worked out what to say about it, honest guv!

Right. Decision made, moving on...

On Saturday I attended what felt like my first 'proper' craft fair in Brighton (the previous one being the internal work do at Kineo before Christmas). This was the Brighton Craft Fair, held at the Friends Meeting House in the South Lanes.

I went in wondering what the day would be like, given the time of year and recent weather and all that sort of stuff - would there be lots of people? Or would it be nought but inexplicable tumbleweeds blowing through the hall?

We had an hour to set up, which seemed like a lot given my relatively simple table layout but actually proved to be about right - unpacking all the jewellery is surprisingly time consuming!

Here's how my table ended up (and no, there wasn't an earthquake or anything, I just managed to take a horribly blurry photo and not realise -.- )

I was pretty happy with how this worked out, given I failed to organise decent stands to support the jewellery boards. I definitely need to work on getting more height in the display though - there were some individual earring stands at the back that got a bit lost for having no real base or back drop.

Here's a considerably less blurry look at the left side of the table. Having that one open pouch at the front seems to have been a good idea - a lot of people reached to feel the leather of that one first, like it was an 'open sample' or something.

I think I might need to find a tidier way of showing price tags - they looked ok on the necklaces, but the earring & charm clusters look sort of messy. Not sure how to improve that yet... or do you think it actually looks ok?

Here's the right side of the table. I used that little dish for my Moo mini business cards - I think it's handy to have something people can 'safely' interact with near the front of the table.

The notebook covers got a fair bit of interest, although other than a couple of people who said they liked them it may have just been people looking to see what they were!

I think the jewellery board on this side looks a bit busier at the necklace end, but spreading the earrings out more seems to have worked.

One thing I definitely need to sort out for next time are some prominent labels declaring what things are, like 'Sterling Silver' by the jewellery, and 'Genuine Leather' by the leather items. Possibly also 'Notebook Covers' would be handy! It might seem obvious, but actually when you're in a room with a mix of jewellers, it's worth making it clear what your stuff actually is.

So how did the day go? Well, I was pleasantly surprised by the footfall through the hall - as I said I wasn't actually sure we'd get much traffic at the tail end of February - although as with any fair I've ever been to people seem to arrive in small swarms, with quiet periods in between when all the stall holders go in search of tea, or just end up smiling nervously at each other in that 'let's hope that wasn't the last swarm' sort of way.

I had a reassuring amount of interest in the table, though I shall confess I had but one sale... still, I'm actually kinda happy with that - First Fair, First Sale. I'd be far less relaxed if I'd sold nothing at all (also, I only need to make a second sale next time for things to feel like they're improving!). Meanwhile, I ended up chatting away quite happily with the seller behind me, Liz of 'Like Never Before', who makes up-cycled denim jewellery (here's her Etsy shop if you're interested!). I believe it was Liz's first fair, and unfortunately she was suffering from the February-casual-browser effect more than me. Hopefully that hasn't put you off Liz!

If you'd like to see more pictures of the fair then you can check out the Brighton Craft Fair Facebook page - there's even one of me in there, failing to look at the camera!

In summary then: February Fair = kinda quiet, but not all bad, and I'm looking forward with a bit more confidence to the next one on Saturday 29th March.