Monday, 27 January 2014

Weekend productivity

My weekends are most often started off with all the good intentions - do that bit of housework that I've been diligently ignoring, do some work on some Larp kit, maybe experiment with some possible leatherwork designs, finally finish going through some boxes of Stuff from the move last year...

My weekends usually devolve rapidly into lounging around, eating yummy things, playing around on the computer, and eventually remembering that I had meant to do other stuff.

This weekend was one of the rarer ones where I actually got some stuff done.

The main thing was having a clothing clear out, which resulted in three bags (little shopping bags, not bin bags!) of clothes being sent off down to a charity shop. Remarkably cathartic actually. Open drawer, try on various pairs of trousers I'd forgotten I even owned, then stuff them all in a bag because they don't fit any more. Open another drawer, apply same treatment to a surprisingly large stack of polo neck tops that I'd accumulated, then go through the stack of 'nice' tops and pack away all the stuff I just don't wear. There was at least one thing I'd clearly never worn - still had a tag on it!

I've actually been through this process a few times in the last year or so - filled at least one black bag before moving to Brighton, and I think then half filled another when I got here and unpacked what I'd thought I was keeping. Right now I'm mostly just wondering where on earth I managed to store it all before o.0

On a business related note, I also did a lot of thinking about photography (for the Etsy page mostly). I'd been reading lots of advice about it last week, having realised that my current standard still isn't quite right. Not that I really expect to end up as good as if I got a professional to do it, but I could certainly improve on what I've been doing myself.

The problem I have is that silver photos quite nicely against a pale background (just comes out really shiny/white against darker backgrounds), however I often end up losing the beads in a piece against the pale background. Mother of pearl for instance pretty much disappears against the nice white sheepskin I'd been using as a background. So! I needed something that both the silver and the beads would photo well against, but I also wanted to keep the sheepskin involved since I use that for the leather work photos and consistency throughout all your product photos is supposedly a good thing (which sounds like a valid point to me).

Here's an example.

You can see how the pale green beads get lost against the sheepskin on the left, but are once again visible on the right, while the grey-blue suede still doesn't cause the silver to come out too bright.

I'm pretty happy with this solution... for now at least!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Learning to walk, round two

In a few months it will have been a year since I once again declared myself self employed, and I'm in the mood to talk about it. This may be very long winded.

Honest moment: I really haven't impressed myself much at all so far. Granted, I got wiped about by a 6-week bout of depression a few months in, but I recovered from that far too slowly. Ok, so mental health-wise maybe I was expecting more of myself than I should... it's hard to tell when you've only got your own experience to go by and have a strong tendency to be self deprecating and, y'know, generally assume you're being rubbish about it compared to 'everyone else'. Also, I call it a 6-week bout, but I think I may only just be finally clearly the last cobweb-like remnants from my mind. There've been some definite ups and downs along the way, but those 6 weeks were the worst 'why bother getting out of bed, the world will keep turning regardless (...not that that matters anyway...)' bit.

Still. Not impressed. Yes, I received some nice leather work commissions early on - but they all took longer to finish than anticipated, and after the first batch I've not really had any more.
I have definitely benefited from the practice, but if anything I'm at that stage where my confidence hasn't grown at all - rather my awareness of my lack of experience has grown. So yay experience, but oh bother still not much confidence.

The knock on effect is that I sort of slowly stumbled to a halt with the leather side of things. Now, in itself, choosing to put the leather stuff into the mental back burner slot where I can simply practice rather than deliberately make to sell was not necessarily a bad thing. Combining a perfectionist attitude with a lack of confidence in your own work and a self imposed pressure to Make Sellable Stuff Now... just doesn't work well. Not for me anyway. However, remove the pressure by saying 'it's fine, I'm just practising' and suddenly I get along just fine. Maybe not that fast, but at least I no longer stutter and stall every time I start thinking 'now which bit of suede would go well as the gusset on this bag...'.

The problem was that I took too long to make the mental switch from 'focus on leather' (where I started) to 'focus on jewellery'. My jewellery I have at least some confidence in. I've sold it before, to individuals and shops both. So really as soon as I got that nervous about the leather I should have gone full steam ahead with the jewellery, built up a good box of stock to run with over Christmas, and then I could've relaxed a bit and played around with some leather until I got some confidence with it.

However, what I did was slowly trickle to a halt, get panicky because I wasn't getting stuff done, freak out a bit because things were Not Going To Plan, and then eventually made the mental switch in time to realise I'd basically missed Christmas. I don't mean I was in a panic attack for the entirety of December or anything, it's just that a lot of shops and craft fairs/similar events start preparing for Christmas around August. They order in stock, book artists etc all well ahead of time. So there was me getting back to my feet sometime in October, and I wasn't anywhere near ready for Christmas. Which sort of felt like a slap in the face. The run up to Christmas basically felt like some sort of race where every time I turned a corner I could just make out the main group already turning the next corner ahead of me... rather than catching up I was mostly just trying not to fall down, curl up and give in altogether.

So yeah... not such a good time really. Don't get me wrong, this isn't supposed to be me saying 'oh woe is me, see how cruel the world has been to me!', it's pretty much been self inflicted, and now I'm just trying to get all of this out of my head. I know somewhere out there someone is in the middle of going through the same things - lack of self confidence sucks. Depression sucks (when you can summon enough energy to have that much emotional commitment to the thought, anyway). Trying to get a business up and running as a solo endeavour when you've little self confidence and suffer from depression... well, it kinda sucks. But I knew it wouldn't be easy. I knew (still know) that if I were to look up some sort of psychological profile of your average successful entrepreneur, my own profile would not share many similarities.

And yet!
Today, on this grey, wet, miserable Wednesday halfway into the first month of 2014, I am feeling positive.
I actually reached panic/anxiety attack stage by the start of the year - not due to any one thing or person, just due to the build up of self doubt (and possibly also a bit of a social overdose over the last month after being something of a hermit for the months before).
So, at the start of January, when I felt myself sleeping in just to avoid being awake and having to think about stuff, I gave myself a day off. Not just an 'oh I don't think I'll do any work today' day, this was a full on self centred day of utterly ignoring everything I didn't feel like doing. I played computer games. I started reading that book I'd been meaning to read. I had a nap.
At the end of the day, I was feeling a little bit calmer, a little bit more...grounded I guess. Then I had a very brief anxiety attack, although I can't now remember why.
I decided to apply the me-time plan to the next day as well. I had an anime marathon. It was awesome. End of me-time day two: feeling so much better! No major panic moments during the day, and when I felt myself starting to panic I'd managed to overcome it and stay calm, so hurrah, progress!

Now, the really awesome thing is that over what turned into a week of me-time, I actually got a load of useful work done. I'd play or read or watch or whatever, then reach a point where I'd sit back and think 'ah, that was good, now I fancy a cup of tea. Oh hey, I might take those product photos I need since the suns out...'. Apparently, when I'm not telling myself that something MUST be done, I'll often quite happily just get on and do it. I think it's the pressure + perfectionism thing again. When I apply pressure by telling myself it HAS to be done, somehow I always seem to get caught up in the fear that I'm doing it wrong/badly/not well enough. Then I stall, and whatever it is doesn't get done, and then I panic because omg, that-was-supposed-to-be-done-by-now-and-it-isn't-and-now-the-world-will-collapse-on-my-head-aaaargh. Which is stupid.

Wanna know what I got done but not telling myself it had to be done? I got a bunch of stuff uploaded to Etsy. I put up several posts on Facebook. I sorted out the remaining post-holiday mess so I could actually use the workroom again. I got back in touch with a shop I'd contacted before Christmas, and although they felt my work style wasn't in keeping with the shop's currently styling they were ever so nice to me and kinda made my day by just being pleasant and complimentary. Also, they expressed interest in some of my leather stuff - which I hadn't expected at all when I asked about selling jewellery there!

All of this was stuff that needed doing... but whenever I thought of it that way I'd find ways to procrastinate, or I'd worry myself half to death over some insignificant detail and thus get nothing done at all.

Today, I've applied for a spot at the Brighton Craft Fair, for both their February and March fairs. This week I've also managed to put new stuff on Etsy making use of their variables system to make customisable orders, and even set up a valentines promotion (go check the facebook page if you want to know more).
So yeah, suddenly I'm feeling positive. I seem to have achieved more so far in January then I feel like I managed to do in all of the last months of 2013. Fingers crossed I can keep going, and this will be the year that I really get to grips with this crazy self employment thing.

P.S If you read all the way through this, have an A. I think you deserve it. It might also be a relief to know that even after relating all that negativity I'm still in a really good mood :)

Thursday, 2 January 2014


Whoops, haven't written in a while... so here's a rundown of the Christmas period...

I made a giant squid!

He's 6ft long, made of purple felt and patterned fabric, and has been named Sid. I used this guide, but reduced all the measurements by 1/4 and only used 1kg of stuffing in the end. I may end up opening up a seam to add some more stuffing at some point, because Dom keeps hugging him so much he's going to get flattened...

I've also had the needle felting kit out over the holidays, making little round animal things like this frog on a lily pad:

The holiday was spent travelling around the countryside to visit family. Other than taking an hour to travel 6 miles along the M25 on the first day of travelling, we seem to have avoided the year's road issues. We did however eventually get home to a defrosted freezer - the weather the day we left appears to have caused a power cut -.- Still, could've been worse. We didn't get flooded or experience any damage to the house, and the kitchen floor is tiled so survived being wet for a few days. The only significant loss was the gammon joint we'd had in the freezer, along with a few sausages and some beef mince. Really not the end of the world, but better to throw them out than risk food poisoning!

Business wise, this Christmas was actually a bit of a flop sadly. Very few sales, due in no small part I imagine to only making it to one little Christmas fair. General organisation fail and lack of prior awareness of what fairs were available certainly didn't help either. However! At least now I have some idea what to work towards for next time, and despite reaching a bit of a low point mentally again, I seem to have come through the holidays with a seed of fresh enthusiasm tucked away in my head - hopefully if I'm careful with it and encourage it gently into the light the year will get off to a good start!