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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Now Or Never - How I almost Gave up, and The Little Black Bag

2015 was the year of The Ultimatum.

Business hadn't been great. I'd been making a sale maybe once every six months or so. I couldn't really make more stuff, and enjoy it, if they were just going to sit in a pile with everything else. Mr Frog had even gone as far as to say "Nobody wants what you're selling".

I know.

But I wondered if he was right. Briefly.

No. He wasn't. I knew it in my bones. But what I was doing, or not doing, wasn't working and it was time to get serious or let it go.

I gave myself until Christmas to improve business. Six months and if nothing changed, well then Madame Clochette as we know it would be taking a break... to perhaps re-emerge in another form, or not.

I met with a woman named Sandy from the City Council Mentor program and after discussing the current situation my business was in, Sandy deemed Madame Clochette to be a Hobby, not a business, and therefore not eligible for a mentor. I was devastated. But she was right. She suggested a range of things to try in order to change that fact and said she hoped to see me in the near future. To my chagrin, all her suggestions were things I already knew had to be done.

Firstly, I knew I needed a product I could replicate, that could be my "bread and butter" as they say in the biz. Looking at my range, all one of a kind, I realised I didn't have what every woman needs; a Little Black Bag.

Presenting...


This bag is the perfect start to your Madame Clochette collection. The fabric will take you from day to night, and the handles will match whatever you're wearing. And because it's not one of a kind, it's a little cheaper for you, and faster to make for me. Everyone wins!

Meanwhile I decided I needed to actually start marketing my product, rather than just list it on Etsy and hope for the best, which had been my "strategy" up until now. So, with inspiration at hand in the form of a magazine tear sheet,(thank you Dior and Natalie Portman) I prettied myself up and spent a toddler free day pretending to be a model..It was pretty crazy; setting the timer, posing and running back to check the results over and over. Some day I'll miss being the model.










I even started playing around with  Pic Monkey. It's a little bit addictive.






 The L.B.B is now available in store at a reasonable $30... and that now includes your choice of simple gold or silver handles. Just F.Y.I....


When I wander around Spotlight, I marvel at all the pretty vintage inspired fabrics and choose the fabrics I love. That's called shopping for your hobby. Shopping for the business needs to incorporate my own sense of style AND what customers might actually want to spend their hard earned cash on.   I came across the Leatherette collection on the racks at Spotlight. Behold! I originally had designs on the white Pleather, ( I know, mental, but Oh My!) yet quickly came to my senses and grabbed the Pewter, because after a Little Black Bag, a lady needs a little Silver bag. I loved the fabric so much that I made some in Black too... including one just for me. I use it everyday.

Instagram shot of my bag in action, pushing the pram to the park.


I was starting to think like a busniess woman. Like a Boss. I started paying attention to my accounts, recording what went out, and what came in. Meanwhile I'd started making a sale a month. Some were  to friends who like my work and can't resist Snakeskin, others to friends of friends or strangers online. One sale a month, instead of one every six. Things were looking up, but I still had until xmas.




Markets for me have always been pretty hit or miss... mostly miss. I just couldn't get a feel for the one that suited me. In December 2014 I tried out the Kingston Arts Makers Market, held at twilight a few weeks before xmas. It was my best market yet and so I was excited to see how things would go in 2015.

I couldn't have been more surprised. I was BUSY. I sold Book covers, Bags and coin purses.

It was so thrilling. And validating. And a relief.

Mr Frog was, as you can imagine, beyond shocked. And very happy for me.
Me at the market, looking pretty bloody pleased with myself.

 So Christmas came and the verdict is in. Madame Clochette is gearing up for a fabulous year. I've got an actual craft room now (a studio if you will) and I'm all set to start re-stocking Cocktail bags, Book covers and Coin purses.

Isn't it amazing what happens when you actually put your mind to something?

What will 2016 be the year of?

Who knows. But I've got a good feeling.

Did you reflect on last year? What did you come up with?

MC 




Thursday, October 15, 2015

The "No Gifts" Rule

Let's get things straight. I hate the "No Gifts" rule given by well meaning friends and family. I know it's given as a means of controlling the intake of crap, it's often a heartfelt "please don't spend your hard earned money on us" plea, and I don't know, is there another reason?

Well, I have a loop hole. Homemade gifts.

It can't just be Handmade, like you can't pay someone else to make it, that's cheating and and not covered by the Loophole. The aim is to give a gift that you made. That's the loophole.

The buying of supplies doesn't count, so shop away.

Unfortunately, or fortunately (we are trying to save for a house now. Remember my dream house?) I had all I needed for this little project.

First, I checked with the hostess on the colour scheme for her home. This is when the "No Gifts" rule was proclaimed and I hit back with my loophole (while also promising that I would only make something if I had the time. Pfft! I make time for crafts baby!)

Next I grabbed an inherited-from-a-friend, mini square canvas.

I covered it in a grey/white scrapbooking paper, using double sided tape to stick it down.

Add another strip to that thing and it's covered!


Then I printed out An Irish Blessing, using grey and yellow ink.

I stuck it on my covered canvas with tape.

It looks like it's coming off, but I assure you I fixed it!


Then wrapped a yellow ribbon around it, taping it all around.

Cute enough to display and small enough to stash in the cupboard if they hate it.


Voila!

Wrapped it with some inherited-from-a-friend wrapping paper, tied a bow with a strip of scrap fabric, and That's it!

I love this green paper... but I only have a little bit left *sob*

Gratuitous bow shot.

I did fail to make a card, but I wrote on the back of the canvas. That'll work.


What do you think of the No Gifts rule? Do you bend it, or smash that sucker?




Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Creative Life and Writers Block




I have some serious writers block.

I'm sitting here staring at the blinking cursor in front of me trying to put together a witty sentence about making Compote, or even a vaguely amusing anecdote about any kind of creative endeavor I've pursued over the last little while.

It's not even a little while. This is some serious blockage.

While it's true that I've always got something creative on the go, writing about those things doesn't always come easy. Maybe it's because I don't always feel that my crafty shenanigans are all that interesting. Certainly not quite interesting enough to use the term shenanigans. Perhaps I've overdosed on Social media and actually don't have anything left to say...

Pfft. Nah... that can't be it.

For now, I'm going to do what any blocked blogger would do and hit you with a bunch of photos that never made it into a proper blog post.


Chopping like a crazy lady because the French in the family like to eat compote... a lot.
 


Fruit plus water, plus a little cinnamon. Simmer till soft. Puree. Voila. I'm SURE I had a picture of massive batch all jar'd up, but who knows where it is.

I drink tea the way I'd like to drink wine. All. The. Time.
I made fancy tags for when I do markets. These are the new and old. HUGE difference!
All my Bridal bags (and custom made bags) come with their own dust cover... blatantly branded of course.
 
Playing with my market set-up. Again. I'm never entirely happy. This time I added some fairy lights and I think I'll try and incorporate light in some way in the future.

Marketing, Pub Style


The Evelyn Pub, Fitzroy, Melbourne. The site of my last market.

There really has been more going on. I swear. I'm sure. I think.

Check my Instagram feed... I'm sure I'm managing to at least post on there, where words are optional.  

*sigh*

I'll be back just as soon as I get clear.

Do you get writers block? Do you have any tricks to get rid of it? Share you greedy bugger!


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Motherhood, Creativity and Drudgery

Now that I have the Tadpole in day care one day a week, I have time to do my stuff.
MY stuff.
Not the cleaning, the cooking , the groceries or what have you. (Although let's be honest, the dishes have to at least get done! Does it ever stop?!) I have from about 8:30am until 4:45pm and it's mine to do what I like with. Lately, I'm all business. And although my time is finite, I generally get a lot done in those hours. In Rachel Power's "Motherhood and Creativity - The Divided Heart" many of the women interviewed say that having less time actually made the time they did have, even if it's half an hour, more productive, not less. Now that I've put my business hat on my creative little head, I find the same is true for me.

However, sometimes motherhood, creativity and flu germs collide.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have had a pox on our house. The Lurgy has been hanging around for what seems like forever.
It started slowly.
We barely registered runny noses or phlegmy throats. But it built and even I have succumbed. I'm always the last to go down, and being Mum means no sick days. Poor Tadpole missed two days at Child care (over two weeks), which means I have missed  two of MY days of what I am trying to call "Work", without using quotation marks.

Whats a creative gal to do with a sick family and itchy fingers?
Create, any way she can.

Behold!

I made Lemon Cordial, again.

I made Lemon Salt (a new thing I quite like the idea of)
I decorated and labelled my Preserved Lemons
There are days when even my never ending supply of lemons gets shafted. Some days the only creative thing I get to do is mend.


Mr Frogs jeans, now definitely not for public consumption.
Once in a while, the lemon creations give way to the creation of a birthday hamper.
Because let's share the craziness.

  Often though, motherhood and creativity collide in the sweetest of ways.

Tadpole and our collaborative effort on a floor collage.

Now, we're back into the swing of things.

Tadpole is back at Daycare making Fathers day cards.

Mr Frog is back to work for the end of term.

And I'm starting a new, very exciting, and important project that's a little out there.

Stay tuned.

How do you merge Motherhood and Creativity?









Friday, July 31, 2015

Christmas in July

Christmas came early this year.

It started with a gift for my mum, who is basically Christmas crazy. She has all manner of decorations and even has her own shed to store them in. What she didn't have was an Advent Calendar.

I'm not sure where I found the idea. Probably Pinterest. Or maybe I morphed a couple of ideas together. Anyhoo, I'm sure Pinterest is the reason I held onto my old baking trays when Mr Frog bought me new ones from Aldi. It can't just be because I'm a bit of a hoarder. Right?

Here's what I came up with.


It's one of the simplest crafts I've done in ages.

1.Take one old baking tray/cookie sheet (FREE) and go at it with a can of spray paint. I chose white (because I had some. FREE)

2. Measure some xmas coloured scrapbook paper to size (already had because I bought it on sale ages ago. FREE)  and wrap around some matchboxes (ten of which I already had because I had to have them when I first saw them. FREE) from the craft shop. They come in packs of ten, so I bought another pack ( stupidly expensive when you're buying this many!) and then they didn't have any more. Commence swearing like a sailor, then save the day by buying actual matchboxes and turf the contents. (Seriously thought about keeping the matches, because surely I could use them for something, but after two weeks on the dining table they had to go.)

3. Adorn each box with a number from a purpose made sticker sheet. Thank you Kaisercraft for making my life easier.

That's basically it.


But then I realised that mum could display some of her massive magnet collection on the tray during the year, so I found a box to house the little boxes in (also FREE).


I love it when  a gift does double duty.



So, not long after I posted this off, we were invited to Christmas in July. Of course, I'd need a hostess gift and it would need to be homemade. I've got a rep' to protect.

I've been dying to make Mulled wine "teabags" almost as long as I've been obsessed with handmade tea bags. So, I went to Pinterest again, and used this and this as guides. The American measurements annoyed me no end, so there was a little bit of educated guessing going on.



Sadly, there was no time for a tasting so I can only hope they're as delicious as they look!


One "teabag" will do one bottle of wine, so I figure two bags will generally do for the winter. And of course they need to be packaged just so...




The morning of our lovely lunch date, Mr Frog trimmed the herb garden, so they came too.

Properly dressed of course...


And that is how we Christmas'd in July.

 Mr Frog has decided that next year, from Yule (in June...yes, I'm Pagan. The nude dancing is optional.) until Bastille Day on 14th July we will be celebrating Xmas, with decorations and everything.

You've been warned.

Now, it's time to start preparing those xmas crafts... don't leave them till the last minute, you'll just do yourself a damage.

What do you have planned for Xmas? Or is that a dirty word right now...?

MC

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Someday, Soon...

For the last few years, I've had in mind a fabulous scenario....
Something a little like this... (If you own this photo, email me so I can credit you)

I'm working in my studio, a building separate from our gorgeous white weatherboard. I'm working on new designs; I'm on the phone with stores that sell my handmade wares; I'm popping into one of those stores to check on my stock; I'm meeting with a customer about their custom design; I'm home when the kids get home from school; I'm making dinner; enjoying a wine and a laugh with Mr Frog; I'm making a bit of money; and life is good.
Perhaps I'll need a little more room, but could it be any cuter? (Via Pinterest,"Found on Sheerluxe.com)

It's only since the birth of my daughter that that little scenario has been fleshed out in my head, clear enough that I can hear the sounds that go along with it. It's almost a memory.

I thought I had been working hard enough on my little business. I thought I was doing the best I could. And to some degree perhaps I was. The last two years have been hard. I didn't know having a baby and raising that person was going to be so hard. And time consuming. And energy sucking. And did I mention time consuming?
I couldn't possibly know how awesome, and how exhausting, motherhood could be.

A few weeks ago, we put the Tadpole into Family Daycare. It took ages for me to "get around" to arranging it. I kept "forgetting" to check out childcare centres and look into Family Daycare. I felt too guilty. It's not like I'm going back to work. (I'd still feel guilty but that would be different.) It's mostly so I can have a break to do what I want to do. To take some time just for me. Could I BE more selfish?!

It's just one day a week.

Tadpole thinks it's awesome.
She loves it because she gets to do stuff like this all the time!

And I am becoming the business woman I always hoped I really was.

Creative people really struggle with the business side of trying to make a living out of their talents. I really struggle.

But that scene in my head just won't quit.

So neither will I.


What's the scene in your head? What do you want your life to look like?

Tell me!

MC

I made these. And I took the photo, did the editing, made it fancy and even did a photo shoot of the bags in action. I'm the BOSS!


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Love Notes

Here is a little something nice to do for the ones you love.

First, make some biscuits/cookies/slice or similar. Try not to eat them all yourself.

Next, write some lovely things on some tiny post-its or note paper. Hell, you can even write them on scrap. The point here is to be specific. It's great to hear " I love you", it's even better to hear "I love you because...". I made these for Mr Frog, so they were all things I love about him, but you can do this for anyone. I imagine they'd be especially well received by someone going through a tough time (new mums, for example). Use your imagination and write loving thoughts.


Next, cut some baking paper so that you can easily wrap a couple of bikkies, or a piece of slice, without too much overhang. Place your treat on the paper, add your little note and wrap. I simply folded my ends and tucked them underneath, but you can use tape (washi tape would be awesome) if you wish. Then tie them with string, because who doesn't love things tied with string?


Repeat until you've used all the treats or you've run out of things to say.



Voila! You're done and you've just done something lovely for the one you love.


 Sometimes it really is this easy to make someone happy.

MC

P.S Mr Frog has taken to returning home from work and quoting his note of the day to me... he looks very pleased with himself!