Saturday, 27 November 2010

A snowy Saturday - working by the fire

So the promised snow finally made it our way, but only a sprinkling.  This is the back garden this morning; I love the way that next door's conifers (to the right) are looking really Scandinavian today.  Incidentally, that large lump just right of centre in the foreground is my one and only attempt at topiary; a box made of box (yes, I'm sad like that).  

It was definitely a day for snuggling inside, so I felt really sorry for OH when he was scraping the car off at 10am, ready to spend the day working outside.  Brrrrrh!  Despite lots of layers, he still reckoned it was the coldest he'd ever been.  So I made sure there was a roaring fire ready for his return home; there's nothing quite like the smell of a wood fire filling the house, and the ability to stand in front of it warming your very cold nethers.  

While I was toasting my toes, I decided it was time to catch up on recording the projects I worked on for the craft fair.  I set up this book, as I'm pretty sure that I won't remember all the details of what to do and more importantly what not to do on the individual projects.  Incidentally, the locks and other embellishments are rub ons, and I will definitely use them on some storage boxes; they go on like a dream.  (The A4 book  - squared paper - is a bargainous Asda buy.)

So I've remembered to add things like:

  • time taken to melt candle wax over a low heat (20 minutes)
  • number of teacup candles that will fill (5 scant, 4 generous)
  • don't use a black melt pan, as all the colours will look more sludgy than you envisage
It's a bit of an anorak book, but I hope it will remind me of all the things that will otherwise fall out of my tiny brain when it comes to repeating any projects.  

Friday, 26 November 2010

Selling: Ebay, Etsy, Folksy and elsewhere

Following on from the posts about my first craft fair experience, I've been musing on comments about where to sell my makes.  This has been bubbling around in the back of my mind for a while, and I think that the sensible answer is probably going to be a mixture of every venue I can think of and a few that you might suggest to me? (Hint, Hint)

First up, eBay.  I've been registered for a number of years now and selling (mostly clothes from my over-inflated wardrobes) for two.  I think that I have got my selling routine down to a reasonable level of efficiency:

  • take photos
  • check prices for similar items
  • use Turbo Lister to create listings
  • upload on Sunday (still seems to be the best day of the week for 7 day clothes sales)
  • check for and answer any questions
  • pack, post and relist as needed, keeping a postage book for the inevitable lost in the post occasions (two so far, one eventually limped home, and the other was lost for good)
So eBay sounds a reasonable option, although I have some reservations.  I would need a business account so as not to muddy the water with my own personal stuff.  And that would have no feedback status, although I could link it to my personal account.  My other concern is the category for hand crafted items.  It's often full of items to make handcrafted items, rather than the makes themselves (excuse the hoof beats of my hobby horse here...).  And the makes never seem to achieve many bids.  I have bought some lovely items for pennies, which I think should sell for much more.  I know that sellers are choosing their start price, but...

Then there's Etsy.  Now I could (and do) spend hours on Etsy.  The treasuries, the colour-based searches, the lovely, lovely makes and ingredients.  I have bought some art and toiletries from the USA, and have been delighted with everything.  I have to confess that Etsy makes me feel just a teeny bit inadequate.  There are so many beautiful things, and I am not sure if mine are beautiful enough.  Plus I have a practical issue in that my items are quite heavy, and most of the buyers are in the USA...not an ideal combination for cheap postage costs.  

Folksy is the UK based version of Etsy, which was set up more recently.  The number of listings is increasing well; I have just looked at homeware, which now runs close to 600 pages.  Definitely worth consideration. No significant postage issues, and we know some reliable couriers for furniture.    

I really enjoyed my first craft fair, and will definitely do more.  I am lucky to live in a large conurbation, which makes it easy to drive to fairs across a wide geographical area.  In addition, I think I will start looking for fairs other than craft; I know that there are some specialist fairs that my makes might be suited for, and I would be interested in pitching my gazebo at events that aren't necessarily fairs.  (I think that might be another comedy accident waiting to happen - watch this space come Spring for the first unveiling of the gazebo.)  

So - do you sell your makes?  If so where?  Any recommendations, or advice?  

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Talking to the Tax Man

I promised I'd update on business issues as well as crafting, so those of a nervous disposition when it comes to matters of self-employment and tax should probably look away now.

For those of you with strong stomachs who are still with me, I registered as self employed with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs today.  And it took...wait for it...less than 5 minutes.  Yay me, and more importantly, yay to the nice tax man.

I went to a seminar organised by the tax office earlier this year, when I first thought of starting up my own business.  The man who ran the seminar was really helpful, explaining how to register, what happens to National Insurance, and how/when you do your tax returns.  He recommended registering on the phone rather than online, and it was so quick and easy that I was ridiculously impressed.  So my papers are on their way, I understand what I need to do and when, and that's a big tick made on my list of things to do.

And a virtual bouquet to HMRC for making it so very easy.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

WOYWW: If you can't comment on the post below...

...please feel free to to talk here...

Dunno what has happened to the earlier post, but it has decided (without consent) not to allow comments.  And I would so miss hearing from you!

WOYWW: After the Craft Fair

Every Wednesday, the lovely Julia at Stamping Ground hosts a tour of crafters' workspaces.  If, like me, you are insatiably curious about how other people work, then pop across to see more at What's On Your Workspace Wednesday.

Today's crafty snoop is what's left in the hall following Saturday's craft fair.  Because the fair was for gifts as well as crafts, I took along the pirate box, which isn't one of my makes.  It attracted a lot of interest, but didn't sell.  You can also see part of two painted mirrors in the bag behind.

To the left are my new stock boxes.  I went with three packed full and came back with two.  I didn't think I had sold that much in volume terms, so perhaps I just packed better on the way home.  I did load up at about 1am on Saturday morning before the fair, so I'm not sure that I was thinking too clearly at the time...  There was a lot of very unnecessary packing material.

Just before I packed I was much less concerned than I should have been about burning my fingers on the heat gun whilst making decoupaged candles with tissue paper.  The brain was very slow in receiving signals from my left hand.  *Calling brain.  Left hand is a bit warm.  Left hand now hot.  Left hand is burning and very pink.  Aarghh!  Move heat gun.*   You can see the culprit candle above looking sweet and innocent and peeping out of its holder.

Above is one of my decoupaged hearts.  It's made with little mosaic pieces of tissue all glued down and varnished.  I have also made some picture frames with the same technique.  The frames are much easier as there are no curved edges to smooth out.   Think I'll have a go at some more of these this week.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

First Craft Fair: What I Learned

1.  It is possible, in 24 hours, to make sufficient stock to cover a 6 x 2 foot table.  It won't be easy.  You won't have much spare to fill in any gaps after sales, but you will have enough.  

2.  It is more than likely that there will be people who sell more than you.  Equally, there will be people selling less or even nothing.  On Saturday, I reckon I fell about in the middle of the sales (having chatted to about half of the stallholders), which was reassuring for a first outing.  But I must remember not to panic on the day when I will, undoubtedly, sell nothing.

3.  The number of people lingering at a stall is no indication of how much is being sold.  I had an interesting time when my stall was quiet watching the balance of lookers and buyers.  For my own stall, I got the impression that people either loved what the saw and spent a long time looking at my makes, or alternatively gave me a wide berth.  A lot of people didn't realise that my decoupage items were handmade, and I clearly need better signs to indicate this.

4.  As per the experienced stallholders, there is no rhyme nor reason as to which craft fairs are quiet and which busy.  Saturday's by general consensus was quiet, which was just as well as it gave me time to look around, ask questions of browsers, and learn in a not-too-hectic environment.

5.  I took along some crafting, as I had heard that people like to see you working.  I came to the conclusion that this is quite tricky when most of your work is "dirty": stamping, painting, glueing and decoupaging are all messy when you need to wrap up someone's purchases.  Also, there wasn't a great deal of room for me to stamp in a little section of the table.  I envied the stallholders happily knitting away (anything involving needles not being my forte).

6.  I was surprised how delighted I was when people liked my work and wanted to buy.  And I could have hugged the lady who bought three of my more expensive items, two for herself and one for a gift.  I just hope I didn't scare her by smiling too much.

7.  There was a real sense of camaraderie and the sharing of knowledge amongst stallholders.  I learned about other fairs, picked up some new skills and had some great laughs when things were quiet.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Pictures from Saturday's Craft Fair

 We were up, packed and on the road by 8am.  OH had kindly offered to come with me to keep me company and to be - as he described it - a horny handed son of toil.  Despite both a very foggy morning and roadworks on the motorway, we arrived exactly on time to set up.  It took about half an hour to get unloaded and set up the stall, then have a quick breakfast of coffee and delicious home made stollen cake before the doors opened.

This is what I had on the stall.

The chest at the back is a pirate toy box, and you can see the teacup candles to the front.  Behind is a hurricane lantern and two wooden candlesticks decorated with red gingham ribbons and berries; these sold early in the day.  The decoupage candle in the hurricane lantern shows up a bit better in the picture below; because of the reflection, you may not be able to see the pattern of pastel birds on branches.

The decoupage frames are made with small pieces of tissue and craft paper.  During the course of the day, I added a note explaining how they were made, as people didn't realise they were handmade.  I also moved the turquoise one on top, as the Rule Britannia version may have been a bit too funky.

Below are some decoupaged hearts (magnets to the left) and a gold painted mirror.

The petal candle holders have more decoupage candles, as does the cherub hurricane lantern on the right; these were popular.  At the bottom right you can see silver plated goblets turned into candles.

There are some bronze foiled goblets in the middle; I bought some battery tea lights to put in these and then forgot them.  Doh!  They would have looked lovely glowing on the stall.  Next time... The silver painted boxes at the front are filled with pot pourri. The cellophane to the right is the stall next door; we were all close neighbours!  This was great because we got to have a chat when it was quiet.

At the bottom are journals covered in silk paper and bound with ribbons.  I wondered whether they needed more decoration, or if they are better as they are, so you can see the texture of the paper.  What do you think?  This is the silk paper I brought back from Gent, and it's a dream to work with.  So glad I spent all that time in the hotel lobby unrolling the paper and bagging it up.

So that's my first fair done.  I sold more than I expected for a first time out, and learned loads - of which more in the next post.

First Craft Fair: After the Party

I did it!

My first craft fair arrived rather unexpectedly.  I had an email late on Thursday afternoon offering me a cancellation spot, and after a couple of very deep breaths, I replied and said yes.  That gave me a paltry 24 hours to ensure I had enough stock to cover a 6 foot by 2 foot table.

So I got cracking.  First up, decoupage: picture frames, magnetic hearts, and more hearts without magnets.


You can see the little pieces of tissue and craft paper all chopped up and ready for sticking with the large gloopy pool of PVA at the bottom.  The decoupage medium is the pot at the bottom left.  This stuff  is brilliant although not exactly cheap; it goes on easily, dries quickly and gives a great finish.  I used a mixture of craft and tissue papers, and they worked together well.

Then on to the candles.

I spent a long time at the stove watching over pots of melting wax to make teacup candles and candles housed in silver plated goblets.  One of my not so bright moments was using a black pan in which to melt the wax, as it's difficult to see the exact colour of the dyes.  Won't be doing that one again.  What looked like a pretty mulberry colour became a bit more sludgy than I intended.

I also made some hurricane lanterns filled with decoupaged candles.  I had read about a technique for embedding tissue paper in wax using a heat gun and greaseproof paper.  

See what you think of the finished makes in the next post.

On Friday morning, I headed out with a very long list to pick up all the things I thought I would need including change from the bank.  I bought 4 60 litre storage boxes which just fit in the car, so that's the amount of stock I can take to any event.  (Plus what I can sneak in the gaps and behind the seats).  I also bought a set of drawers to house all my bits and pieces so I could make some items while I was there.  I thought this would help keep me occupied if there were quiet spells, and had read that visitors like to see you work.  The three drawers swallowed lots - and even had room for lunch and some water to comfort the inner stallholder - and I think they were a good buy,

We already had arrangements to go out with some friends on Friday night.  By the time I had removed the layers of PVA glue and ink from my hands (which were a delicate shade of stagnant pond water) and scrubbed up, I was so ready for a great evening.  Thanks P and J for lots of laughs and a really relaxing time.  It was just what was needed.

Back home to pack everything in trugs with lots of bubble wrap.  And to set the alarm for 7am.

We can now return to our scheduled programming

Firstly, apologies for my lack of blog posts.

What I thought was flu got shared around the house and then turned into bronchitis for me.  And I followed that up with what can only be described as a comedy accident; I was so sound asleep that I rolled over and fell out of bed, managing to cut, bruise and generally mangle my left hand side on my bedside cupboard and a pile of books.   As I took the very fluffy duvet with me, I was also so trussed up like the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland that it took me a few minutes of howling (with laughter rather than pain) to manage to disentangle myself from my fluffy prison, while OH stood by in shock (and minus a duvet) asking how best he could help.  Two weeks later, I'm still showing bruises and other wounds in glorious technicolour.

Lesson of the day: reading in bed can be bad for your health.

Anyway, I've got lots to talk about.  On with the posting.