Thursday, 28 March 2013

Blog Feature Call Out - spreading the blog love

Hi all, I'm on the hunt for more talented creative people to feature on the blog and thought I'd post about what I'm looking for. I've hinted at a few new series on  twitter and have had few enquiries so thought I'd spill the beans and see who's interested..

Sketchbook Peeks:

I'm always keen to nose into other peoples' sketchbooks as I'm fascinated by how different creative practitioners/artists/designer-makers use sketchbooks within their practice and how work develops and grows into the final piece. If you use sketchbooks as part of your practice and would like your pages to be featured and shown to the world, then all you need to do is answer the questions below and send your responses along with 5 to 10 pictures of your sketchbook pages with links to online sites and I will let you know whether you have been chosen to feature: (my email address can be found on my website contact page here)

  • 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
  • How long have you been using sketchbooks?
  • How often do you sketch?
  • How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?
  • When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages? How would you describe your creative process?
  • Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?
  • What is your favourite medium to work with?
  • Do you have a favourite sketchbook?
  • If you had to pick one favourite page which would it be and why?

Inspired by:

This is a new series which was inspired by a recent blog post I read about how different things inspire us to form new ideas and new work. I love learning about different creative processes and how we draw our initial inspiration from ideas/concepts/sights/sounds/smells/experiences/people we come across in our day-to-day lives. If you would like to be featured as part of this series then drop me an email telling me about the your source of inspiration and how it helped you to develop, for example:
  • a new collection
  • single piece of work
  • a collaboration
  • branding
  • recent project
If you can send me images, a small introduction about you and your work, as well as text describing your inspiration and it helped inform and shape your work, as well as links to online websites etc.

If you have any other ideas or suggestions for features you would like to see on the blog please feel free to get in touch and let me know.

Have a great Easter weekend

Monday, 25 March 2013

A work in progress

This video recording was made by the lovely Lesley Elliott and was part of my exhibition work for the Nottingham Festival of Words. I wanted to demonstrate how an original piece is made and would like to say a BIG thanks to Lesley for coming out to my studio to record the process.

Friday, 22 March 2013

SOCK 2013 - Loughborough Town Hall

This is where I will be this weekend from 10-4 Saturday and Sunday, taking part in the fantastic SOCK Arts Market along with 35 other designer-makers, many of whose work I know and admire! If you're in the area come along and say hi and have a browse.

It's been a busy year so far at the SB studio. What with Artist in Residence post at the Nottingham Festival of Words last month and then getting prepared for this weekend. Also BCTF is looming ever closer on the the horizon. I have an exciting new range which I will be launching to trade so I'm just dotting the 'i's and crossing all the 't's and slowly getting everything in order. I've also been working extra at my other job which has meant that studio time has been scarce lately and I'm looking forward to redressing that balance over the coming months and getting some new work made. I also have some new ideas for possible collaborations and a screen printing course in June so I'll be spreading my wings a bit and exploring pastures new I hope. For now though I just need to get myself organised and get some early nights, extra hours are taking their toll and I have another cold threatening... time to reach for the berocca and get some more early nights!!

I've also had some new ideas for the blog and am looking for participants. I'll blog about that next week with more details. So for now, hope you all have a great weekend and the snow doesn't hinder your plans too much!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Pinterest - what's the big deal?

I like Social Media and I love using it for my creative business, building links and seeing how it affects my business growth. I love Twitter, I get on well with Facebook and I probably could use LinkedIn more effectively. I like the look of Pinterest, but I'm not really sure how it works, what it does and how it can benefit my business. I know you may think I'm a bit late to the game as Pinterest has been around now for about two or three years but I thought I'd try to find a bit more out about it because I want to use it more and I want a bit of the Pinterest action!!

On my quest for pinning knowledge I asked Heather Maloney from creative design studio,The Design Engine if she could explain it to me in a way I could understand it a bit better.... This is what she had to say....


There is a real buzz about Pinterest at the moment and especially how it can benefit businesses, so I get asked about it a lot at the moment. In fact to say that there is a ‘real buzz’ about it is a massive understatement, I read only this week that Pinterest had 11million unique visitors in January alone, so it’s no wonder people are looking at how it can work for them.

What is Pinterest?

Basically, Pinterest is like a giant online pinboard. For pinboard addicts like me, it’s a dream come true as it’s an awesome place to organise all of your inspiration all in one place. The basic premise is that once you have joined the site, you can set up a pin board and ‘pin’ images to it. And, you don’t have to stop at one board either, you can easily organise you pins into labelled pinboards so it’s quick and easy to reference them whenever you like. You are able to put a small description with each ‘pin’ and each ‘pin’ is linked to a relevant webpage of it’s own where people can visit if they want to.

When you ‘pin’ images, others can see them in the ‘pinfeed’ on the main Pinterest page, and if they like them, they pin them to their boards too. You can browse other peoples boards, follow, repin, like or leave comments on their ‘pins’.

Why it’s so good and how can it benefit my business?

The main reason I started using Pinterest was for interior inspiration for my home. (The link to my personal board is right here.) However, it quickly became apparent to me that there were so many opportunities for businesses through this medium too and I immediately set up my business board too

  • Number of visitors: From a business point of view, Pinterest can be an extremely powerful tool to help you get your products or services noticed, worldwide and to a phenomenal amount of people. Infact, in February 2013, Reuters and ComScore stated that Pinterest had 48.7 million users!!! 

  • Speedy results: Whereas older forms of marketing and advertising took time to get your products / services out to potential clients, the effects of Pinterest can be practically immediate. For example, if you pinned one of the images from your new range Sue, it would instantly be shown in the main Pinterest ‘pinfeed’ board and to your followers on their ‘followers’ board. Then, the magic begins. Each time your image is ‘repinned’ it’s shown again in the general ‘pinfeed’ AND to all of the followers of the person who just pinned it. Talk about a knock on effect!

  • Raising your profile and product recognition: With more pins of your product, the higher the potential for your business / product to be seen. As each pin is connected to your website, the potential for people to visit your site (and possibly buy your product) goes through the roof.

  • Variety of content: As a worldwide social media site, the content available is mind blowing. The way Pinterest is set up allows you to easily browse pins from a number of categories. Currently the categories that you can search include: • popular • everything • animals • architecture • art • cars and motorcycles • celebrities • diy & crafts • design • education • film, music and books • food& drink • gardening (one of my personal faves) • Geek • Hair and beauty • History • Holidays & Events • Home d├ęcor • Humour • Illustrations & posters • Kids • Mens’ Fashion • Outdoors • Photography • Products • Quotes • Science and Nature • Sports • Tattoos • Technology • Travel • Weddings • Womens Fashion. Not only is Pinterest a great tool to get your business / product seen in the above market places, but it also provides a unique tool for inspiration, market research and trend spotting, to name but a few.

  • Connection: From a business point of view another big benefit is the potential for new connections. Pinterest provides you with the opportunity to follow other peoples boards, ‘repin’ other pins, leave comments and likes. Used strategically, this can again help you get noticed but can also help to build a solid foundation with complementary businesses.

A word of caution... As with all social media for business I always recommend approaching it with some caution and careful planning, and Pinterest is no different. The same rules for building your brand identity/tone still apply, the same professional approach should be adhered too and the same quality of content should be carefully considered. Like me, you would be forgiven for being tempted to set up a board on ‘dream shoes’ for example. But if you’re business is in catering for example having a board about ‘dream shoes’ isn’t exactly going to look professional or be what your followers want to read about.

Thanks for that Heather, it has given me a great insight into Pinterest but I'd love to find out more so I'm off to find out how to add the PInterest Pin It button to my favourites bar and I'm going to start pinning!! I may be some time!!

Monday, 18 March 2013

How to Approach Galleries - Top Tips

So my blog series on Approaching Galleries has gone down a storm so it seems. It has been great to get the opinions of some of my lovely stockists about what they expect from artists and designers and also to hear from you about how you have put all of this into practice...

So I've compiled the following list of things you need to think about when you are approaching new galleries:

  • Make sure your work is of the required standard before you set off. Get the advice of someone impartial who will give you an honest critique of your work before you start to approach stockists. You may think your work cuts the mustard but it's often a good idea to show it to others first and get valued and impartial opinions. I got the help and advice of someone when I first started out and I took a selection of my work along to show them. It appeared the work I thought was my strongest was in fact the weakest. I took the advice offered and have now stopped making the other work whilst concentrating on my ink illustrations.

  • Do your homework - research the galleries you intend to approach. Do you think your work will fit in there? Is the pricing of the items on sale there comparable? You're wasting your time blanket emailing galleries, like Tracey said, not everyones' work fits with what the gallery are looking for. Check out the gallery website too, some have really helpful tips about how they prefer artist enquiries and even have online forms to fill in.

  • DON'T COLD CALL, all of my guest bloggers have said this is a huge turn off for them. 

  • Contact the gallery beforehand. Try to find out the name of the proprietor, maybe even ring them to ask for a point of contact. Drop them an email, ask them if they are looking for new makers/work to stock. Tell them a bit about you and your work, include some images (good ones) with dimensions and prices and make sure your prices are clear (trade/RRP/SOR). Dont' forget to mention your Unique Selling Point, what makes your work so special. You could also include a brief bio and CV as well as links to your online presence (website, blog, facebook page, twitter etc)

  • If you don't want to email them you could always send something about yourself through the post. I have some lovely little folders which I pop price lists, product info, business card and maybe even a sample of my work. In the age of digital communication, you never know, this could really stand out. It's always nice to get real mail.

  • Don't be disheartened if you don't hear anything back immediately. Some galleries have certain times throughout the year when they go through applications. Others may just be busy. Also some may not like your work, don't take this personally, just move onto the next one. If you don't hear from someone within a few months it could always be a good idea to follow up. Drop them another line perhaps or give them a call.

  • If the gallery does contact you expressing an interest in your work, this is only half of the battle! You now need to go and meet them. Be prepared, give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination so you don't arrive flustered. Ask them whether they are interested in a particular line/range so you know what to take with you. Take along your price list as well so you have all prices on hand. I always take a notebook with me so I can take a few notes and also if they take any work I can record what I have left with them. Make sure you come across professionally, show that you are prepared and make sure you ask questions too. Do you know what their rate of commision is? How long would they like to keep your work? Take a copy of your Sale or Return agreement to leave with the gallery. You may be aware of their terms and conditions bu are they aware of yours?

  • Once you have made contact with a gallery and embarked on a professional working relationship with them, nurture it, keep in contact with them, enquire as to what is selling and what isn't. Show you are willing to let them know when you have new work available. Pop them onto a stockists newsletter so they can keep up with what you are up to. Send them invitations to your trade fairs and let them know where to find you. All in all, treat them well. These collaborations can lead to many new opportunities and are mutually beneficial to both parties. It's always great to make new contacts within the creative business.\
So I think that's about it for this blog post. I'd love to hear from you about how you go about approaching galleries and what works for you. Once again, everything I have mentioned here are the things that work for me, there may be lots of other things i haven't mentioned so feel free to add comments if you think I've missed anything out

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Approaching Galleries - Part 4

Welcome to Part 4of the 'Approaching Galleries' series and I do hope you are finding it useful. This week we have the wise words and advice of Alison Bartram, owner of the successful and award-winning Heart Gallery in Hebden Bridge. Alison has been at Heart Gallery since 2006 and has gained a reputation for top quality, contemporary and innovative craft and design. I got to meet Alison for the first time at BCTF last year and I'm looking forward to working with her later this year for an exhibition in the wedding season. I was recently featured on the Heart Gallery 'Meet the Maker' spot. You can read it here...

Anyway enough of me, lets hear what Alison had to say when I asked her about being approached by new artists and designers

Do you prefer to find new artists/designers yourself or do you like them to contact you?

I'm happy with both and thoroughly enjoy visiting workshops and small shows such as BCTF and GNCCF. Now in my 7th year however I do have more artists contacting the gallery for representation. However, I quite often get info from artists who clearly have not done their homework and that's frustrating and time consuming responding. We have a certain look (as all galleries do) and work that blatantly doesn't fit in Heart Gallery would not be picked to showcase. I get slightly annoyed by those artists that send out group emails to many galleries in the hope that a few 'bite' and take their work. An artist must know their customer and therefore where that customer shops - once they know that they know which galleries to approach - simple!

How do you prefer to be approached by new designers?

I prefer an introductory email in the first instance, attaching images of work and a brief biog. A link to a website if they have one is always a good idea. Artists are always turned away if they 'cold call' at the gallery expecting to be seen without an appointment...this is unprofessional and can damage the possibility of us showcasing their work. We do get this more often than I would like and what also damages their possibility is there reaction when told they have to contact us via email initially. Those that show a bit of an 'attitude' only means that there is absolutely no way we would like to work with them; even if their work is amazing ... there has to be a relationship!

What kind of information would you hope to gain when considering stocking new work?

Initial biogs should be brief allowing us to make an informed decision without the 'frilly' bits but once a maker is chosen we would need a full artist statement, images, mughsot for publicity within the gallery and on our website and social media. It is a two way street and so artist and gallery should work together.

What kind of factors would influence your decision about whether to stock new work?

We do have a certain look so we always bear that in mind followed by craftmanship, quality and uniqueness. We also expect exclusivity as Hebden Bridge is a small town and has a reputation for being a great town full of independent and individual shops so there is no point us all selling the same things.

What is the most novel kind of way someone has got you to notice them or their work?

I've not been approached ever in a novel way but looking forward to the day someone breaks the mould and tries something new!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Approaching Galleries - Part 3

As part of the blog series about approaching galleries, I have been asking some of my stockists what their views are on the best ways we can approach them and also the things they are looking out for in a 'pitch'. Deidre Gage, owner of Created Gallery in Chesterfield has very kindly agreed to give us her views and opinions of what works for her and how we, as makers, can improve our chances of getting snapped up!!

Do you prefer to find new artists/designers yourself or do you like them to contact you?

We don't mind but if they contact us but we prefer an email with images and trade prices so that we can make a decision about taking it further. We don't like folks turning up in the shop with their work as we don't have time to see them. Also it's annoying to have people who are not really ready to approach businesses. There is so much help out there, so I would advise people to be properly prepared before contacting galleries.

What kind of information would you hope to gain when considering stocking new work?

Trade price, and whether or not the maker supplies work on a Sale or Return (SOR) basis.

What kind of factors would influence your decision about whether to stock new work?

We have to consider whether it will sell in our shop. It might be fabulous work but not right for our customers or the price might be too high. We are also very passionate at Created about UK-made work so we would definitely base our decision on whether the work is made in the UK.

What is the most novel kind of way someone has got you to notice them or their work?

To be honest, being professional and business like is so novel that this always grabs my attention.

Big Thanks to Deirdre and the team at Created for giving us some more top tips about approaching galleries. I hope you have found this series helpful. In the next instalment I'll be telling you about what worked for me and how I went about approaching some of my galleries.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Market research - colour selection help needed

Colour palette 1

Colour palette 2

Colour palette 3

Colour palette 4
Ok you kind and lovely people I need your help.... I've been trying to choose colour palettes for my new range of cards and I'm wanting to go for something bright (to contrast really nicely with the Black and White work) and I'm struggling to make my mind up. There are 20 cards so will be two of each colour.The coour will be single colour per card and a block of colour for the whole image.... does that sound like it makes sense??

So far I have most occasions covered thanks to all of the helpful comments the other week on Facebook (ranging from deepest sympathy, boy/girl birth cards, sending love, birthday, i'm sorry, engagement, wedding, anniversary etc etc)

Please can you have a look at the selection above and let me know which one you like the best, just leave me a comment with anything constructive and the number of the colour selection yhou prefer from 1-4. I will enter all comments into a draw to win a pack of my greetings cards, just to make it worth your while....

Thanks in advance

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Approaching Galleries - Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my new series of blog posts looking at the nerve-wracking topic of 'approaching new galleries and stockists' I say nerve-wracking, that's what I thought a couple of years ago when I had never done it before and I knew this was something I needed to do to expand my list of stockists. But really, if you do it the right way, there's nothing to be scared of at all. All of the gallery owners I have had the pleasure to work with have been really friendly and helpful. Hopefully this interview with Jane Needham, Gallery Manager at the Craft Centre and Design Gallery in Leeds will help you out.

Do you prefer to find new artists/designers yourself or do you like them to contact you?

It’s nice to do abit of both although we don’t always have the time to research designers ourselves and we have a lot of designers approaching us anyway so that keeps us nice and busy. We also attend important trade shows like BCTF in Harrogate (one of our favourites) and New Designers in London.

How do you prefer to be approached by new designers?

Because we’re such a small team and a busy gallery we always prefer designers to submit their work to us via email or through the post. That way when we get the time we can discuss the work properly with other members of the Craft Centre team and consider the best time to invite the designer in for; taking into consideration if the work would be suited for general display or for a main exhibition. Our website has a helpful process for designers to follow should they wish to submit their work here for consideration. And this is found in the About section – Information for designers.

What kind of information would you hope to gain when considering stocking new work?

We need to see good quality images of the range of work available, a wholesale pricelist and also a CV and artists statement from the designer.

What kind of factors would influence your decision about whether to stock new work?

We know our target audience well and are always aiming to encourage and develop new customers and visitors through an exciting and varied exhibition programme. We have built up a strong following of loyal customers and we know what they like. Bearing this in mind we have to consider prices, quality and craftsmanship and whether the work is suited to a main exhibition (running along a specific theme) or if it should be taken for general display (supporting the work in the main exhibitions). Seasons also come into play whereby we know what our busier time of year are (Christmas especially) and therefore we can judge when the work may be best appreciated.

The current exhibition is themed Made with Love which is on until 16th March 2013

What is the most novel kind of way someone has got you to notice them or their work?

I can’t think of anything specific and alot of submissions are now made digitally but we used to receive some lovely packs of information i.e. cd of images and CV/Artists statement through the post with a real visually creative content. These always stood out in my mind, even if the work wasn’t chosen for display the effort taken to approach us was appreciated.

Thanks Jane for taking part in the blog. If you want to find out more about the Craft Centre and Design Gallery you can visit the website here to find out what's going on and you can also 'like' their Facebook Page here.

If you missed it you can read Part 1 of the series by clicking here where Tracey Benton from Atelier in Dervon gives us her take on what you should be doing to impress your new galleries....

Monday, 4 March 2013

Book Review - Raw Art Journaling - Quinn McDonald

This is the third in my series of creative book reviews and this month I’m delving into the pages of Raw Art Journaling by Quinn McDonald, a certified creativity coach who creates her own art, writes and teaches. I think this background serves her well and this book is a testament to her experience in guiding people in their own creative ventures.

This book looks at art journaling as a way of recording your life and experiences, it’s all about creating it for yourself and not for others to look at and admire, stressing the importance of leaving your inner critic voice or your ‘gremlin’ behind and going forward embracing your imperfections in your art and creativity.

Initially we are taken back to basics and we look at the range of material and tools and media out there and the author encourages readers to make a start and forget their fears, and to begin feeding and nurturing your creativity.

I really enjoyed the emphasis in the book about ways of using words in your work, having recently produced a whole new body of work which was inspired by words. I especially like the task about creating your own poetry from found words. I also loved reading the section of a box of words, I think I might try this myself. There are many other exercises and projects sprinkled throughout the book for you to try yourself.

I think this book would be perfect for the would-be journaller who doesn’t quite know where and how to start but I also think the tasks, projects and experiments would be perfect for anyone from students to more accomplished creative practitioners to try to incorporate words into their sketchbook or art journal.

For the chance to win a copy of this book please leave me a comment below telling me about one word which you think describes your work or a word you use in your work....

Friday, 1 March 2013

Sketchbook Peeks - John Westwood-Hill

This week we have the milliner, John Westwood-Hill, who is going to give us an insight into his work and sketchbooks.

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 have always wanted to be a fashion designer but my parents didnt think it was a suitable career and convinced me to do catering instead. 10 years later, working in catering and offices, I was being made redundant days before my civil partnership. To cut costs, I decided to make the wedding headwear for the mothers and the bridesmaids. I got many compliments so I decided to enrol on a HNC Millinery course at Leeds College of Art under the tutorship of Sharon Bainbridge. I graduated with a Distinction and have been working part time and running my own millinery business since.

 How long have you been using sketchbooks?
Only for a couple of years, since starting my course.

 How often do you sketch?
 Usually a few times a week. If I am designing a collection which I am now, I sketch more often to play with shapes and ideas.

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?
It can be daunting. All those crisp white pages which are desperate for some colour is a little off putting, but once I have drawn the first head, I'm on a roll.

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?
My sketchbooks are with me in my bag just in case, so if I am inspired I jot down my designs. I could be anywhere. Everything inspires me, which can be frustrating.

How would you describe your creative process?
Just do it. Something may pop into my head, so I'll try to draw it. Sometimes it may be a line, or a curve which then forms the basis of a hat.

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?
They have indeed. My first sketchbooks were neat and tidy, with perfect lines, and all colours within the lines. Now I don't care as much. I used to design one hat per page, now i fill my pages with hats, or trimmings, or pictures, whatever I am drawing inspiration from .

What is your favourite medium to work with?
Without a doubt, a pencil and a set of sharpie pens.

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?
My old college sketchbook which was the basis of my final collection. It was when I finally developed my signature drawing style, and have been using it since.

If you had to pick one favourite page which would it be and why?
That's a tough one. My current work is probably my most favourite. But each work is better than the last. But my most favourite page has to be the one I sent to a comedienne I love asking her if I could work with her. She said yes and I ended up meeting her and making her a headpiece. Sadly, she didn't wear it for her show, but the experience of working with her was amazing.

A bit thanks to John for agreeing to have his sketchbook pages and his gorgeous millinery featured on the blog. It's definitely a first. If you want to find out more about John you can check out his website here. You can also follow him on Facebook here, he is on Twitter here, and you can sign up for his newsletter here

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