Monday, 30 April 2012

BCTF - what worked for me - Part 5

So happy Monday everyone, I do hope you all had a good weekend. This is Part 5  of my post-trade-fair-analysis. I didn't think there would end up being as many parts as this but there are a few other things I wanted to share with you regarding my stand design and the process we went through from ideas to decisions.

Designing your stand - part 2

So yes, I do admit, I was lucky enough to have my v talented graphic designer sister on board helping me with my preparation for BCTF, and for that I will be eternally grateful. She was a star! But, as she said, when I kept saying how bad I felt that she was spending so much time helping me, she has lived with us twice over the years, so we could call it payback!!

So I brought some of my ideas to the table along the lines of what I was thinking I would like the stand to look like and Heather produced the following visuals so I could try to get an idea of how it would look.

Version 1: We went for a very linear approach here with large prints  and cards displayed. At this point I was thinking about taking a range of ceramic mugs with me so we need somewhere to display them, hence the large cupboard. I liked this simple design. We wanted to clad the walls in MDF so we could just attach them to the backing frame and everything would be ready to hang.

Version 2: below, a variation on 1, with storage and display area for mugs. Lots of white space on RHS wall, which really should be utilsed better... possible with tea towel display??

Version 3: Now this is starting to shape up nicely. We introduced a black wall and an illustartive element around the bottom of the stand, two touches I think worked really well, and made it a bit more interesting and eye-catching. Here the storage area is taking up a lot less space and I really liked the tea towel display idea, so you can see the full image of one and also get an idea of the quality and feel of the fabric.

Version 4: below, we have a variation on three, keeping the elements I loved and also adding a different storage area with sloping top, so we could put my portfolio on here and buyers could see the full range of images. At this point we were still thinking we would be cladding the walls with MDF, so the fixtures and fittings and shelving for mugs could be pre-attached, meaning we had less DIY to do on the day. With only one print I was concerned that I needed to be displaying more of my images, as they were a higher value item which I wanted my buyers to see. I was also having major concerns about MDF panels, having tried to carry one. Logistics of transporting our panels also proved to be a bit of nightmare, they wouldn't fit in the car or caravan...

Version 5: At this point I had decided not to take the mugs with me, due to costing issues, and was concentrating on my prints as being the major feature of the stand. I had seen lots of lovely images on Pinterest of 'higgledy-piggledy' displays or maybe a better word would be 'montage' of framed work, placed centrally on a wall and wanted to incorporate this into the design. Cards would be placed together on the RHS wall, with tea towels underneath. Our MDF idea, had now been completely binned and we had decided on fabric. Storage, was a lot smaller and less invasive, painted white this would blend into the background, so no -one would notice it, and an ideal place to store our bits and pieces. I love the idea of the painted birds on the walls with speech bubbles and wording. Quirky and a bit fun!!

As you can see from the last image, we plumped for Version 5 in the end, or as near as we could. We had to give up on the idea of painted birds on the walls due to changing our wall covering to wall-paper and fabric but managed to keep the rest pretty much to plan, thanks to my husbands amazing card shelving, which we painted with black board paint.

This series of images just goes to show how you work through your ideas and develop ideas, obviously this kind of stand design isn't right for everyone, but it goes to show what you can achieve with abit of research a few ideas and determination. (and a graphic designer sister!!)

Friday, 27 April 2012

BCTF - what worked for me - Part 4

So another blog post about what worked well for me this year at my first trade fair. I've written these last few blog posts, in the hope that they may be of some practical use for other designers and makers who find themselves in the same position as I did 6 months ago, having applied for a large fair, and having never done anything like this before, and quite frankly, feeling a little bit overwhelmed by it all!!

Designing and decorating your stand:

I think I'm going to have to break this one down into a couple of posts otherwise it might go on for ever!!

Luckily I had the help of the a very talented designer, but there is lots of help and inspiration out there to enable you to gain an idea of how you want to display your wares. When you apply to the show you and your application is approved you will need to find out the exact size and specification of your space. You'll need a plan of the venue if possible so you know where you will be placed and then you need to maximise your potential and plan your space well. I downloaded a copy of the shell scheme from the company who supply to BCTF so I could get an idea of size/layout and also optional extras you could order.

I was lucky enough to be allocated a corner stand. My first reaction to this was 'Oh no, I only have two walls'. I felt that the majority of my work was wall based so I was losing out... BUT (how wrong could I be?) once I thought about this more logically I realised I could really make this work for me. The fact that I had a corner stand could be turned to my advantage as it was more open and I think people felt they could enter the stand more easily and not feel uncomfortable about this. It was just more accessible, being open on two sides rather than just one!

I think where you place yourself needs every careful consideration, and I placed myself just off to the left side so I wasn't blocking the view of my stock. I known I'll not always be lucky enough to have this enviable position but it really did work well for me this time, leaving the stand open and allowing potential buyers to explore without feeling hemmed in.

I would defiitely advise attending the venue beforehand if you can so you can get a practical idea of how it is put together. I really struggled with visualising how everything would work. If you can't do this, another option is to set out the space in a room in your house so you get an idea of how big it is. You can then try different options for layout. I do tend to think, less is more, and tried a minimalise uncrowded approach to my stand design. Also, you could speak to other makers who have attended the venue before, most people are happy to help and give advice to newbies I have found!

As I wanted to make a really good impression on my first time at BCTF I tried to think of low-bugdet ways we could just add something a little different. We decided on a skirting board idea for around the base of the stand and bought wood and painted it with my design. This was then cut down to the correct size on site and it fitted a treat.

There are many ways you can clad your walls, MDF panels, tesxtiles, printed vinyls, hanging panels, made-to-measure panels, or you can even just leave the walls as they are and display your work on furniture or on plinths. This just needs research and an idea of how much money you have to spend.

Furniture: as you cannot store any items behind your stand you need some idea of how you are going to store spare paperwork, business cards, drinks, snacks, mobile phones and keys. I picked up a small bedside table from Argos and painted it white and put one of my designs on the front. Other exhibitors used drawers, boxes, old crates, antique items. The possibilities are endless... again dependent on how much money you have to spend. I think it's amazing what a bit of lateral thinking and imagination can do!

For the next instalment I'll be showing you the different layout options we came up and how we decided on the one we went with in the end.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

BCTF - what worked for me - part 3

This is the third part of my post-BCTF analysis, looking at the things that worked really well for me and sharing some of the little nuggets of new-found knowledge I've picked up along the way. Today I'm looking at promotional literature and information for your buyers.

Promotional Info

Ok, you definitely need business cards, I think that goes without saying, something small and compact with your basic contact info and web address that people can easily pick up and take. You can find business card deals really easily and can even design your own online, and also a lot of the national companies do great offers (but watch out for hidden extras). Personally I sought the help of the designers at The Design Engine, just to help me out with basic design, they gave me advice on card weight, finish, layout etc as I wanted to have be consistent with all of my promotional material.

I also ordered postcards in four designs and had them printed in a similar style to my business cards. The four designs I chose were also the designs of my tea towel range, so I could also use them as gift tags, or sell them later in packs of 4.

I think you need to tell your buyers a little bit about yourself in your promotional info. They may not have time to stop and listen to your life story, and may be on a whistle stop tour of the show, gathering info to take away and digest at their leisure. An easy to handle pack with contact details on every form is an ideal way for them to take with them. I included a product specification sheet with images and descriptions of my products, terms of business, order form, SOR agreement, a small bio on the inside page and I also popped my postage costs and a postcard and business cards inside. They seemed to go down very well indeed, and I even got a comment from one buyer saying it was the easiest order form she had ever had to fill in!! I suppose when you are thinking about what kind of information to give them, you really need to put yourself in their shoes, and think about what you would want to know about someone if you were buying from them.

As a Newcomer, I had been warned that buyers may not want to buy from me straight away, and would prefer to see me there a few years before placing orders. I decided to have easy access to a list of my current stockists, to try to demonstrate the kind of galleries and outlets I currently work with. You need buyers to have confidence that you are 'for real' and not just a 'flash in the pan' new business who will have folded by next year. I also have a list of current stockists on my blog.

You might also want to display your prices somewhere on your stand , as not everyone will want to ask, or may not feel comfortable asking or may not have time. A lot of my customers were on a whistle-stop tour of the fair so the more accessiable information was the better. I had a small list on mountbaord which I velcro-ed to the wall just above my prints, so it was at eye level and easy for buyers to see. There was also a price list on my order form and product spec list.

I hope this has been of some help, these blog posts do seem to be going down well. If anyone has any questions about anything to do with my first trade fair and how it went, please feel free to get in touch via email or leave a comment on here and I'll try my best to answer.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

BCTF - what worked for me - part 2

So it's Part 2 of what worked for me at BCTF and today I'm concentrating on product range and I'll tell you a little bit about how I decided on which products to take with me to my first trade fair.

Deciding on your range

Anyone who has been following me for a while will know that I have dabbled in a quite a few different media since completing my Foundation Course in Art and Design. I had decided not to go on to do a degree in Illustration/Decorative Arts/Fine Art  as I didn't know what I wanted to do and also I didn't really see the point in getting into lots of debt. I wanted to spend the next few years developing my work at my own pace and explore lots of different media in the process. As a result, I would describe myself as 'self-taught'.

Long story short, it took a while to find what I liked but I still didn't really know what to concentrate on. One day I would be free-machine embroidering, the next textiles, watercolour, print, sketching... enjoying it all but still struggling to find 'my thing'.

The Creative Business Course I found myself taking part in 2010 really gave me a more clear direction. I was advised as to which was my stronger work, (the ink illustrations), advice which I also received from some well-respected and lovely people I have met through my creative ventures. I invested more time into developing the ink drawings, growing my body of work as well as exploring themes and ideas. I then looked at ways to extend my product range, started to produce cards, tea towels and also looking into getting my designs onto other products.

For the trade fair I had to decided what to take with me to show to the buyers, Should I take all of my designs (about 40!) or narrow my choice down to the most popular? I decided on the second option and to keep it as simple as I could. I didn't want to limit myself but at the same time, didn't want to over complicate things and overwhelm my customers with a huge selection of images. Then there was the decision to make about products. I had been exploring decals onto glass and ceramic, mugs, note-books etc. I wanted to do it all but was finding costings were too high and time to develop ideas was running out.

I selected 20 designs, four formats (cards, A3 and A4 prints and tea towels). Once the decision was made I felt happier and feel that the range was strong and product variety small but well-thought out with a good range of price points. So far I have recieved more order for my cards, but think this could be an ideal way for new stockists to test the market and if they sell well, they may want to buy prints in the future.

Another thing I want to mention is the range of your pricing. As with all selling it's good to have a broad range of prices, from lower cost items (for me this would be my cards, postcards and badges), medium range (my prints) and then higher cost items, or signature pieces, such as original artworks and commissions. Then your range is accessible for a wider audience.

Hope that's been helpful. I'd love to hear your comments...

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

BCTF - What worked for me - Part 1

I've had time to think about my whole experience at BCTF and have had time to think about the things that worked and the things that didn't. Trade fairs aren't right for everyone but if you have been thinking that maybe they might be right for you, I've decided to write a few blog posts about the things that I found worked really well for me in the hope that my little nuggets of new-found knowledge might be of help to others starting out with their creative business. Once again though I will say, I'm not claiming to be an expert, after all I have only done ONE trade fair, I'm just passing along things I've picked up on the way.

Developing a brand

When I first decided that I wanted to take my business a step further and venture into the trade fair territory it was about this time last year. I had just made the decision, after taking part in a brilliant Creative Business Course run by Nottinghamshire County Council, to start to concentrate more on my business and I knew I wanted to pursue a creative career, albeit in my spare time, as I work three days a week in a completely different sector.

One of the issues that had arisen during my time on the Nottinghamshire Creative Course was my branding. I had previously been making work under 'sooziebee', a name which had come about as a combination of a nickname from years ago and a company name my sister and I were thinking about, way back when we wanted to make hand-bags! 'sooziebee' meant something to me but feedback from colleagues and mentors on the course led me to think that it might not be as clear to others coming across my brand for the first time. A few people commented on the 'sooziebee' name, saying they didn't really know what it meant, and that it didn't really sound as professional as it should. One person even said it sounded like branding for a range of childrens hair accessories!

I thought a lot about a new name or brand and decided on something really original and really 'me', something which couldn't be misunderstood, something which was clear and 'did what it said on the tin'.... Ha, lightbulb moment.... my own name. It's me, it's mine and it couldn't be anything else. So that is what I decided on. With the help of a graphic designer, I developed the look I wanted, something hand drawn, with a strong line. And I'm happy with the outcome.

One thing I will say, using your own name for your company has both pros and cons and it is something you need to put a lot of thought into and make your own decision. In my humble opinion, your name doesn't really tell the public what you do/make/sell, but once your name has become more well-known I think people will remember the name and remember the person.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Sketchbook Peeks - Helen Hallows

Before we start, tell us a little about yourself/how did you get into art/craft/design career and how it all started and where you are now.

I can't remember a time when I didn't make and draw. I grew up sewing, drawing, colouring and my best ever birthday present was a gingham portfolio handmade by my Mum and Step Dad and filled with paper and pens and crayons. I was seven. I grew up near London and Sundays were often spent at museums and art galleries. I loved the gift shops!
In spite of some effort to send me down the academic route, I knew myself well enough to know that I lived for the things I made, and for how I felt when I made them. When I was revising for my A levels I found a book on making bread and started baking. It didn't matter what I made I loved making. I knew it wasn't an easy route to take in life but I was prepared for the challenge. I went to foundation college at St.Albans Art College and then studied Woven Textiles at Loughborough College of Art and Design. I had an amazing education, very much based on the principles of the Bauhaus Art School, before courses went modular and still grounded in traditional elements of colour theory and drawing.
Just before my third year I found the confidence to draw in a way that was true to me; simple line drawings, with references to naive and folk art. After graduation I had a freelance career designing embroidered and appliqued designs for stationery, home and fashion. It allowed me great scope for experimenting and working on a wide range of briefs for commercial clients across the world. Working with applique meant my work was strongly about shape and colour. I moved in to working with papers when design became computer biased and my designs could be scanned and manipulated. I now create original one off framed pieces and limited edition prints. My originals are created in ink, collage with vintage papers and stitch. My creative journey from the first marks I ever made is there in each piece and gives the work it's integrity and uniqueness.

How long have you been using sketchbooks?

Since A-level days. As a teenager though I kept a diary which often had visual elements. As I developed at art college, I always kept a visual journal, a combination of notes, images and colour swatches.

How often do you sketch?

Unfortunately it is a luxury now. I'm challenging myself to do more and to establish sketching days. I've just been on holiday in East Yorkshire and loved sketching the landscape. After having my children I just couldn't find the time for regular sketching. I hate working from photos though as they never record the landscape as I saw it and are too crowded with information. I would often see an inspiring landscape when out with my family and put it to memory and sketch the vital components of shape and colour when I got home and then try to recreate it in the studio. This gave the pieces a simplicity of shape, colour and mood.

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?
I love a new sketchbook! All those virgin white pages. I love choosing a new sketchbook too and get quite emotional about it! It has to feel right. Starting it is another thing though. I usually throw myself in knowing that I'll not be content with the first few.

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?

I don't really look to others for inspiration for sketchbooks. I think they are such a personal thing you have to trust your own style. That said I have been really inspired by Hockney's Yorkshire Sketchbook and as an ode to Hockney decided to create my own version. I set off on this trip with watercolours to emulate Hockney's sketchbook but quickly reverted to pencil. I didn't have time for the paint to dry! Once I get going I sketch in a bit of a frenzied way and wanted to get on!

How would you describe your creative process?

It's a mix of art and design. I still create colour swatches as I did as a designer. I do need to sketch, either from memory or into a sketchbook as I have to simplify from the reality of the place. I use mixed media of ink and collage and need the sketch as the bones of the piece.

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?

I'm far more confident about my visual language now but the sketchbooks remain quite similar to those I did in my third year at art college. I still keep visual journals but I'm less disciplined with that these days, I suppose because blogging has taken over and I see my blog as an online visual journal.

What is your favourite medium to work with?

In my sketchbooks it's a pencil or graphite stick. On my large pieces I love to paint with ink. It's fluid and intense.

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?

Yes, the sketchbook I created at the start of my third year at Loughborough. It was done on a research trip to St.Ives in Cornwall and I discovered the confidence to draw in my own style and that I loved image making (I'd opted for woven textiles because I was inspired by colour and structure). I loved the whole trip and discovering St.Ives and the liberation of exploring the world with a sketchbook in your hand.

I'd love to say thanks to Helen for taking part in my Sketchbook Peeks Series. I love her work and had to share it with you all, hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you want to find out a bit more about Helen and her work you can visit her website here, where you can find links to her blog, shop and also find details of workshops as well.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

BCTF 2012

So hello again. I'm back from Harrogate, where I have been taking part in the British Craft Trade Fair 2012 at the Great Yorkshire Showground. I survived, nothing horrible happened, and all of my wildest nightmare did not come true! In fact, quite the opposite, it was brilliant....

We set off on Saturday morning, caravan in tow, packed to the rafters with my products and to say I was feeling nervous has to be the understatement of the year. In fact, my first thoughts as I woke up were 'Let's just not bother, I'd much rather stay at home, in my all time 'Comfort Zone' in front of the fire with a cup of tea and piece of cake!'

But we did set off on time and we arrived at the grounds by about 10am and I went off to register and get my passes, feeling slightly sick and very stressed. As you know this was the first trade fair I had ever done, and I was filled with self-doubt, feeling I shouldn't really have been there, I didn't know enough to do it, and all the rest of those negative little voices in my head... you know what I mean?

Setting up the stand was a feat of engineering, the shell scheme was quite light weight, the panels very thin, all held together by aluminium posts as you can see from the photos. Our aim was to cover the inside of the booth with wall-paper and thick black material I had found a few weeks earlier. As you can't drill into the shell, double-sided sticky velcro was the order of the day and we managed to get it all done within a few hours. We had a planned to hang all of the framed pieces with fishing wire, but this snapped on the first attempt and a very friendly lady gave me some white cord, which did save the day. The kindness of strangers eh? Once the print browser was in place I was beginning to feel a wee bit better, until the black material started to fall down and I had images in my head of it all going hideously wrong!

These pictures just go to show what you can achieve with a bit of will, determination and miles of double sided velcro!! I was pleased enough by the end of set-up day to be able to pop into Harrogate with my sister for a meal and a glass of wine and felt a tiny bit more relaxed.

All of my feelings of anxiety and nerves seemed to disappear on Day 1 as the buyers flooded through the doors. I don't quite know what happened but I suddenly seemed to get a grip of myself, realising that all of the Newcomers were feeling the same as me and that it was quite normal. The morning got off to a flying start with three orders from Galleries in the first hour. We had hit the ground running, my sis and I made the perfect team.

The show has been a fantastic experience. I have met so many friendly people, new stockists, and new friends. The atmosphere was buzzing, and I loved every minute of it. My confidence has grown and I now know I can take myself seriously as a designer-maker, I can sell my work and sell myself and I feel so much more positive about the future of my creative business. I'll post about some of the great and talented makers I met over the next few weeks but I'll just sign off now by saying what an enjoyable experience my first trade fair has been, I hope there will be many more. I didn't ever realise that I could find it so comfortable OUTSIDE of my comfort zone.

Thanks to all who stopped by a Stand N63, thanks for those who placed orders and those who expressed an interest in my work and thanks to all of my lovely neighbours for making BCTF 2012 such an enjoyable experience, you know who you are, and I'll be in touch with you all soon.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

BCTF Day 1

Well, day 1 of my first ever trade fair, what a fantastic day!! I have been running in adrenaline for most of the day, after a pretty terrible nights sleep where I dreamt of everything that could possibly go wrong, from it all having fallen down during the night to getting completely dumbstruck when my first customer arrived, luckily none of which actually happened!! I got to meet lots of online contacts I've been in touch with over the past few weeks and also put lots of faces to names and make lots of new contacts too. It has been a long day and i'm winding down in the caravan now with a glass of vino and early to bed. Will blog more tomorrow.

Friday, 13 April 2012

last day of prep...

ok, its the last day of prep before we leave to go and set up our stand for BCTF and I've  been busy finalising my logo on the paper that will be lining my walls, fiddly and nerve-wracking in case of smudges!! But it's all done now. Just a few little tweaks now and then packing up to leave tomorrow morning....

Thanks to everyone who has been following me on here, during my preparation, I hope it hasn't been too monotonous. Thanks also for comments left on here and also on twitter and facebook. They have all been very much appreciated and I have found them really encouraging. My family also deserve medals for all the help and support they have given me in my venture, with special thanks going to my sister, you know who you are!!

So for now, after my little thank you speech, I've just got to go and walk the dog, pack my bags and get off to Harrogate, meet lots of lovely people who I have connected with via tinternet, and hopefully gain some new stockists and lots of new contacts. Even if if I come back with no orders, I've learned loads over the past few months and I have a much clearer idea of where I want my business to be heading. I'll try to post over the course of the show and let you know how it's going. Watch this space... Oh and if you are heading up there I'm on N63 in the Newcomers Section, please come and say hi!

Wish me luck!!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

by the skin of my teeth....

I was starting to worry that my third tea towel design sample wouldn't be with me in time for BCTF, but thanks to the help from the lovely people at Countryside Arts, it is now in my possessions and I'll be taking it to the British Craft Trade Fair with me on Saturday to show with my other designs! I'm so pleased with the results I could do a little dance!

Whilst I've been busy printing and packing in my studio I've been listening to some really inspiring business and development podcasts to feed the mind while I'm working. I usually listen to them in the car while driving to work, and think that there are some great resources out there to help inspire us. I have realised I get particulalry fired up and enhused listening to the success stories of others, and I have found the following podcasts in particular to be great to listen to:

Anne Marie Cross: a female entrepreneur who talks about branding, online marketing, social media strategies, and having the right mindset for success

Michael Hyatt: of the podcast This is Your Life. he talks about productivity, leadership, publishing and managing your time and creating a life plan.

Pat Flynn: from the podcast Smart Passive Income, who talks about building businesses online, marketing, social media, building your blog. Loads of down to earth, open, honest advice.

Craig White: whose motto is 'Live Life with Love, Passion and Purpose'. very inspiring, especially the interview with his mum!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Featuring - Julia Dely from Zuppa Atelier

This week |I'm featuring the striking hand painted ceramics of Julie Dely of ZuppaAtelier in Brazil. They are just beautiful and I'd love to have some in my kitchen but I think I'd be more tempted to put them on the walls as art rather than use them to put food onto!!

Julia definitely adds something colourful, quirky and fun to her white porcelain pieces, each one is unique, hand drawn and painted, using a combination of techniques of free hand, pen and ink and brushes. Julie says this is a very slow process that requires a lot patience, dedication and love for her work. I just think that in an age of mass production, they really offer something a bit different. And the designs, the clean lines and simple shapes just lend themselves to the white background.

Julia alos offers discounts if you would like to buy several pieces at once, it's an offer that's too good to miss.

If you would like to browse the shop of ZuppaAtelier please check it out here. If you like espresso then you should check out these charming cups and saucers. You can find them in here shop here


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

BCTF preparation - 4 days to go...

I trust you all had a lovely Easter weekend and didn't stuff yourselves with too much chocolate!! It's been a really lovely but very busy one for me... I won't bore you with the details but needless to say it involved lots of to-ing and fro-ing and it wasn't very restful. But hey, you're a long time dead in my opinion so why not just grab life by the balls while you are here and enjoy it!

This evening, after a really busy post-bank-holiday day at work, I'm now in the studio, printing off my product info sheets, and I'm liking what I see. I now only have my order forms to print so I'll do that tomorrow night. I think I'm ready for an early-ish night. My poor dog must think he's in the dog house tonight and I've hardly even spoken to him!! Ok, signing off for now. Will keep you posted with all the BCTF news as it happens!!

Friday, 6 April 2012

BCTF prep - 8 days to go

Happy Friday everyone. I woke up at the crazy time of 5.30am this morning, which in itself is unheard of, but on a bank holiday friday for goodness sake?? What's all that about? Once I decided I wasn't going to fall back to sleep I decided to get up, make a cuppa and finish my book 'The Understudy' by David Nicholls in bed, good read and funny btw!! I now feel as though I've been up for hours, and am feeling a bit sleepy!!

BUT, the traumas of such an early rise aside, I've had such a productive weekend so far, so here are some pics of what I've been up to. My gorgeous card display frame (made by my lovely, and very patient husband) is painted black. It has warped slightly so I may just have to lie on it for the next week to flatten it out again! I finally decided on the framed pictures to take with me for my feature wall so they are all signed, mounted and framed ready for hanging. After much deliberation about wall covering (first it was MDF with fixtures and fittings ready fitted which was far too large and heavy to be logistically possible to transport, then it was fabric but I didn't feel confident that it would look right and now it's fabric and wallpaper) I've chosen an off-white linen effect wallpaper which should sort the walls perfectly. The skirting board has been painted with my signature 'grass' effect I use in my illustrations. It was great to get a paint brush in my hand again, maybe that is telling me something? So, skirting boards are all done, they just need cutting down.

I also got loads of printing done yesterday and I'm off to pick up my info pack outers tomorrow. It's all go, but I can finally say (without wanting to tempt fate) that it feels as though it is all coming together.... famous last words heh? Very very exciting!!

Have a great Bank Holiday weekend everyone! Lets hope for a few rays of sunshine!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

BCTF preparation - 9 days to go

This is how the studio looks today, I'm busy painting skirting and my card display frame. Last night I discovered that the underfloor heating in the studio had fused so today I'm basking in the warmth of an electric heater, and it's just as toasty! I'm also busy printing pages for my information packs, kindly designed by The Design Engine. I'm really happy with how things are progressing. I said at the beginning I wanted everything to be ready a month before BCTF (ha, how naive, that so hasn't happened!) but I think I secretly knew that I'd change my mind several times and things always take longer than you think anyway, such is life!! Things are cranking up a gear now and I'm hoping to get lots done today so I can have a relaxing easter weekend! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Featuring - Earth Lab

This week I just have to tell you about this gorgeous work I have found on Etsy. I DO LOVE my soft furnishings and these eco friendly decorative throw pillows and cushions really caught my eye as they are both handmade and unique. If you check out the Etsy shop of EarthLab you will definitely find a modern eclectic and playful mix of leaves, starfish, jellyfish, hedgehogs and more, which will bring a smile to your face and something unique to your home. Owner of EarthLab, Kate, who is based in Rome, say that most of her designs use organic cotton or linen and she also works with recycled eco felt made from plastic bottles, which is a great innovative slant on recycling!

After many years of creating on her computer screen only, Kate rediscovered the thrill of making something she could touch with her own hands. She says 'I was hooked, and looked about for a way to combine my interest in interiors with a sustainable and ethical aproach to business. I discovered eco felt made from recycled plastic bottles, a really cool way of converting what was once waste into beautiful things. Recently I have begun using organic cotton in most of my designs, as well as linen, which requires a lot less water, energy and pesticides in it's production, making it more eco friendly'.

Kate gets her inspiration from natural forms, science, colour and the materials themselves. She also has two young children and likes to make things she thinks they or their friends would like. In fact she is hoping to expand her children's range soon, just as soon as she has time to knuckle down and get it done! I know how that feels!!

So enjoy the bright colours, wonderful shapes and textures of Kate's work by visiting her Etsy Shop here or follow here on her blog here

Please note all photos are the property of EarthLabDesign

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

BCTF preparation, 12 days to go

So, it's nearly here. As much as I hoped the time would not arrive as quickly as it has, my first trade fair is nearly upon me and nearly everything is done.

My business cards and postcards have gone off to the printers, my information packs have been designed (see above for sneaky peek), my stand design (after many changes of mind by me!!!) has now been finalised and I'm feeling a lot calmer than I did this time last week! At the weekend we (well, my fab husband) made my card display unit which I have undercoated and now need to paint, I bought some thick black fabric for one of my walls, I met with the lovely folk at The Design Engine to finalise product shots, ordered some lovely wooden clipboards for my orders (hopefully!), ordered my dinky little storage cupboard and printed up some of the prints I will be taking with me to the fair. It seems that for the past three months this trade fair and all it has entailed has never been far from my thoughts. At some points I have felt a bit over-whelmed and panicky that I've forgotten something, and other times, my feet have been a bit more firmly on the ground, and I feel smugly organised! Although that bit doesn't last long before something else pops into my head and I race to add something else to my list of things to do!

It hasn't been easy, and I'm sure that my family and friends are sick to death of me talking about it, but whoever said that getting out of your comfort zone and doing something you have never done before would be easy. Let's just hope that it's a roaring success. I have learned so much in the past few months, and have even made contacts with other designers who will be exhibiting. I now just can't wait to get the show on the road, meet some of my new cyber-buddies and of course, make lots of new contacts and sales!!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Sketchbook Peeks - Charlotte Hupfield Ceramics

Before we start, tell us a little about yourself/how did you get into art/craft/design career and how it all started and where you are now.

I am a ceramic designer/maker based in the heart of Northamptonshire, UK, creating my handmade one-off ceramic pieces from my workshop at home. It is here that I enjoy spending time on new natural designs while listening to music and drinking tea!

My journey began when I found myself fascinated with the qualities of clay as a material while at college. I loved art and being creative at school, which is why I studied a broad range of art at A Level, including Fine Art, 3D Design, and Art & Design. My A Levels were like a foundation course, as I was able to get involved and experience every material to know which media I wanted to specialise in.

I had always enjoyed surface pattern and design, which led me to go on to University in Coventry where I studied a 3 year BA Hons degree in Surface Decoration, and specialised in ceramics. I graduated in 2008 and have since been continuing to develop and broaden my work from my workshop at home. I am so proud of how far I have come during the past few years, and am so pleased with all of the amazing things that have happened. I can’t wait to find out what lies ahead of me in the future!

How long have you been using sketchbooks?

Ever since my college days, they have broadened and evolved.

How often do you sketch?

Whenever an idea pops into my head, which could often be late at night while in bed! Some days I set a couple of hours aside just for sketchbook work which gives my hands a break from making and refreshes my mind and ideas.

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?

I still find it a bit daunting starting a new sketchbook - the pages are so bright and white! I find that sticking in a few images or magazine clippings helps to start things off, then I just work around them.

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?

I love the book 'Sources of Inspiration' by Carolyn Genders. Her sketchbook pages inspire me and I usually have a flick through the book if I'm feeling uninspired.

I don't really draw many forms unless I am designing a specific item. My sketchbook pages are usually used for surface pattern ideas.

How would you describe your creative process?

I don’t really have an exact way of doing things; in fact I would say the process of my sketchbooks is very random. Sometimes I will open a sketchbook at a page right in the middle and start there, rather than following on from the last page. Some days I spend time painting coloured backgrounds on different pages ready to be drawn on, and others I will spend sticking things in. The great thing about drawing in a sketchbook is that there is no right or wrong way about doing things.

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?

I would say that my drawings have become a lot more loose and free.

What is your favourite medium to work with?

I use all kinds of different medium as I love layering and overlapping drawings in different materials to create abstract surface designs. My favourite medium would be oil pastels, I like the smooth feel when in contact with the page.

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?

I love my chunkiest sketchbooks, those that can hardly close because there is so much packed inside them. They look as if they are bursting with inspiration and ideas waiting to get out.

If you had to pick one favourite page which would it be and why?

This raised surface design is my favourite page - it was a mixed media design I created from an initial drawing of a close up tree trunk. I later developed this design into a large raised printing block which I now use for rolling into clay before constructing forms. So this initial rough design is the key to how I produce a lot of my work today!

I'd like to say a BIG thank you to Charlotte for taking part in our Sketchbook Peeks Series. If you would like to find out more about Charlotte and her work you can can check out her website here, her blog here, you can foolow her on her facebook page here, you can follow her on Twitter @CHCeramics or see her lovely Pinterest boards here.

There won't be any sketchbook peeks next week due to Easter Monday Bank Holiday but they will be back before you know it!!

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