Make a Little, Every Day

My creativity is such a barometer to my mood. When I make, I feel good. There was once a time when you would never see me without a pair of knitting needles in my hand. I started learning to sew clothes for my daughter and a few months ago, got a loom. I have hand embroidery half finished, shoved on a shelf somewhere and there's a book about screen printing I keep meaning to find time to read. The fact these projects have been pushed aside to gather dust over the last month or two is a little troubling.

#MakegoodFeelGood - something I return to whenever I can

#MakegoodFeelGood- something I return to whenever I can

The news over the past few days has left me feeling lost and confused. Normally, withdrawing into a little making would be the best way to help me find my feet again. A little time reflecting, thinking about how I can greet hate with love and what this means for me and my community seems much easier when my hands are busy. My hands have not been busy though. In fact, they've been worryingly empty of tools for making and creating. 

It's safe to say I've been busy. A quick check in my dairy confirmed that I have stumbled my way through 19 deadlines in the last 3 weeks alone. I've been preparing to move (t minus 10 days) and there's boxes everywhere. None of them are filled yet. 


So I just did a little stock check. Have I really created nothing?

The APD Seasonal Monthly Recipe- part of the  Patreon  rewards for the podcast. 

The APD Seasonal Monthly Recipe- part of the Patreon rewards for the podcast. 

Well it's not technically true. I've developed a few new recipes thanks to the monthly recipe I share with Patreon subscribers. I've always maintained that in order to cook, you need to be pretty creative and prepared to experiment. I'm enjoying this monthly challenge for myself. It's good to be creating recipes again. 

Project Calm Magazine, for Mindful Living

Project Calm Magazine, for Mindful Living


Then there's some of the work I've been completing for those deadlines. One project was a little story chasing and photography for a new magazine launch. Project Calm is the new sister magazine to Mollie Makes and I was lucky enough to curate some of their pages. I spoke to some amazing people and spent a couple of weeks balancing stories and images of mindful travel, craft projects and a slower living focus each day. You can find out more about the magazine on the Mollie Makes site, here


I also spent a few days creating video and studio images for a beautiful new knitwear collection designed by Renée Callahan for The Fibre Co. The collection is called The Zen Variations and features beautiful sweaters that really showcase Renee's trademark attention to detail. I love Renée's work and had the pleasure of working with items from The Future Kept too when creating supporting images for this inspiring collection. I spent a day shooting, humming happily to myself and thinking about light, mood and tone. I patted skeins happily and indulged in some imaginary knitting in my head as I worked. 

So perhaps the making has been a little on the periphery but it's there if I let myself look at little closer. Sometimes life just doesn't let you indulge it in quite the way you're used to. I'll get right on that. After I move.....

Renée has very kindly offered readers of A Playful Day a discount code if you need to indulge in some knitting time. You can purchase The Zen Variations at 20% off through her Ravelry store by using the code, playfulELK. Offer ends 27th June 2016. 

Elsewhere

It would appear I fell off the blog. 

I didn't intend to get so distracted. My attitude ever since writing about Slow Blogging a few weeks ago was to embrace the idea of story telling and go with the inspiration as and when I found it. There's been plenty inspiring me but I've been stretched a little thin creatively so I just wanted to pop in, wave and let you know what's happening elsewhere. 

Obviously, I've been wandering with my camera. A lot. 

Gorse Flowers

There's been the slow plod towards a podcast relaunch. If you've been waiting, the sidebar just switched from zero news to 'relaunches March 2016'. The side bar is possibly more optimisitic than I am but I've got a whole season almost ready to go. It's just the perfectionism kicked in so now I'm tweaking and fussing. I fuss. It's a thing I do. 

There's been some blogging on other online spaces in the form of Tips for Taking Beautiful Photos. If you like the idea of improving your Photography to capture your craft projects and tell your story online, you'll be pleased to hear I'm back in Makelight Studios with Emily Quinton on 12th March 2016. You can find out more and grab tickets here

It appears March is going to be an explosion of creativity and I'm ok with this. 

(c) Emily Quinton

(c) Emily Quinton

I also had my first go at a Periscope broadcast. For those of you who've not discovered Periscope, it's a way of live broadcasting to an audience. I offered a little walk behind scenes on a photography shoot at Deans Court which was my location for a day. Those shots mean more exciting work ahead as I pull together more stories for amazing companies I am so lucky to work with, creating images and content for their communities. Periscope broadcasts are thankfully short lived, disappearing after 24 hours because talking to an audience that could see me was.... intense. 3 things I learned from Periscoping? Learn where your exits are if you're walking, try not to hold the camera if you're shaking with nerves and maybe hide the explosion of props you create when you work. Pro tips right there folks. 

I've just spent some time noodling around with the static pages on my website and sort of regret starting the job that feels like there will never be an end. I now have a Press page which makes me feel all kinds of self conscious but there it is, all the lovely people who have featured me and my work lately. I did then realise that I needed a new media pack once I sat back and looked at all the features. So if you've been thinking of interviewing me, now is a great time as I have material ready to go for the first time in about 3 years. I thought I was done until I frowned at the About Me page and before I knew it I had committed myself to getting a portfolio of my professional work up and a sponsorship pack too. 

Yes, sponsorship will make a return and I'm agonising over the decision as always. 

Image captured at Dean's Court during that fated Periscope broadcast

Image captured at Dean's Court during that fated Periscope broadcast

So there's things happening, just not here on my lovely blog or podcast. Which I miss terribly. 

I'll be right back. In the meantime feel free to roam around the new spaces on my website and let me know what you think?

How I Saw Burn Out Coming or How I Learned to Say 'No'.

I had planned a knitty story for this Wednesday's blog post- I'd even lined up the pictures and thought about what I'd say. I hold a sort of editorial calendar these days that helps me keep an eye on what's coming up, opportunities to collaborate and talk about topical things. I like to share inspiration and the thing about creativity that really hit me last week is that it can't be scheduled. 

When you're a freelancer or small business owner, particularly in the creative/ crafty industries, it's easy to get swept into DOING MORE. More is pretty much the answer to everything. Worried about paying bills if you get sick? Work more this weekend. Worried someone else might move into the niche you're currently occupying in your industry? Work on firming up your networks a little more. Feeling in danger of running out of ideas? Look around for more inspiration, quick!

The thing is, you can burn out. Just type 'freelance burn out' into Google and see the number of articles you'll find. There's even a wikihow titled ' How to Avoid Burn out Working Freelance at Home'! A few weeks ago I joined one of the regularly scheduled #Blogtacular chats where they discussed a much publicised and debated article in the New Yorks Times 'When Blogging Becomes a Slog'. The reason that particular chat rang true for me is because I'd felt is several times- maybe I should just STOP? The theme here is that there are a lot of people who freelance and work online who are feeling like it's all just going a bit to fast and maybe jumping ship is the only solution.

You're not alone. 

Last week, I took the Tot on one of our daily outdoor adventures because toddlers are not creatures that should be inside for too long. Left to her own devices, the Tot will slowly meltdown into an angst filled creature who communicates in wails and climbs walls if left inside for too long. She needs to be out, seeing the world and learning. It's how she functions best. 

getting outdoors

Then I thought about that and felt like an idiot. My toddler just reminded me of what I need in order to function best. I started snapping pictures to remind me and that's when it really hit me: I just don't get out of the house enough on work days. In fact, I sometimes only leave for the nursery run. So this week, each work day, I've gone to find something that makes me smile and you know what? It's been such a more pleasant week. 

outdoor inspiration

At first I found it hard to let go. What about that email I was waiting for or that copy I know I need to start writing the minute the file hits my inbox? I would start walking, promising myself just 5 minutes and then I could dash back home but as I started to relax into my stride, I could feel the anxiety drift away. I actually found that when I returned to my desk 20 minutes later, I was fresher and had thought of a fix for that little thing that had been niggling at me all day. My emails have been less scattered and I've started using a timer to focus short bursts of work then rewarding myself with another walk around the block or doing something like throwing a soup together for a delicious lunch- something else I was getting worse at remembering to actually have time for. 

So I'm challenging you to try it this week: say no, put down the phone, close your laptop and just breath in and out a little. Get yourself outside your door, collect some fresh produce and fuel your body for the marathon you run. Go on. I dare you xx

 

ETA: 15 minutes after I hit publish on this post I was sat browsing my blog reader and this perfect post by Rachel over at 'Do What You Love' popped up. I'm not kidding, it's like Beth, the creator behind the blog and website of general awesomeness, just gets me sometimes and if you haven't discovered it you should. Her team is full of inspiring stories and this was so apt I just had to edit and add it here. The theme of the month is 'Love to play' and it couldn't be more appropriate. Enjoy xx

'Online Marketing for Your Craft Business': A Review

I received some pretty exciting post this week and I wanted to share the book that has eaten all my free time this week as I've hungrily gobbled my way through it. If you are thinking about a career change into the crafting industry, already dabble but want to make the full time jump or already run your own business but have been unsure how best to connect with your audience, then this is most certainly the book for you. 

Hilary Pullen's 'Online Marketing for You Craft Business' is an essential manual for all craft businesses with clear steps laid out of how to get your handmade products discovered, shared and sold on the internet. Hilary knows her stuff- she's been creating communities, managing social media and creating blog content for some time and is well respected in the industry. If you're a craft blogger in the UK, you might know her from her personal website, CraftBlogUK, a directory and one stop shop that brings together the Craft Blogging Community within the UK. 

Picture courtesy of Hilary Pullen (c)

Picture courtesy of Hilary Pullen (c)

It's fair to say I was excited when my preorder of the book finally arrived as I've read several articles Hilary has written about her work and have always felt highly inspired by the possibilities that a strategic approach to online marketing can bring.  The benefits are huge and not just in terms of bigger sales either. A great online strategy will provide you with loyal fans, product feedback, better rankings in search engine results pages, a better awareness of your work and most importantly perhaps, a greater interest in your brand of products. Hilary skilfully outlines this is a way that is supportive and encouraging and the actions you will need to take are neatly laid out in a way that's not overwhelming but achievable. 

I wouldn't need to be massively experienced in the ways of marketing to access this book. Hilary's writing style is friendly and accessible without being too distracting from what I need to know.  Each page is beautifully presented too with plenty of white space and pleasing layout that draws my eye to reinforce key ideas while making things bite size and easy to digest. I love the graphic design and illustrations throughout that stop this being dry and unwieldy. 

Hilary knows a lot of people in the business and she peppers her book with useful tips on how to make online marketing work best for you as well as inspiring quotes from the likes of Tilly and The Buttons, Patricia Van Der Akker (of The Design Trust) and Timothy Adam (of Handmadeology). This isn't just showing off her formidable network of contacts, Hilary is showing you just what it takes to make it work. Making it work has been very much on my mind lately as you'll know if you took part in our #makeitwork Twitter hangout

The book is laid out in a really logical way, building from why you'd use these strategies, to the nuts and bolts of how each element works, through to how to have a cross channel approach. The part I really liked most though was that you can easily navigate to one particular section and start there. The book works as an entire learning journey but also allows you to cherry pick a topic that particularly resonates at that moment for you. Anything she cross references to previous sections is easy to find so it doesn't just become a load of marketing jargon that feels cold and unfathomable. 

I feel that for £14.99, you're getting a lot of useful information that you can come back to and review time and time again when you feel like you're missing something, or are ready to take it up a level. If you're really thinking about getting your hands on a copy, Hilary is currently offering 20% discount on signed copies

I was so impressed with what I was reading that I reached out to Hilary and she will be joining me for a special podcast episode that will go live on the 18th October 2014. Tune in to hear from one of the leading experts on how best to market your online craft business and get an insight into what some of your favourite craft brands are doing behind the scenes to inspire you. 

I bought my copy of 'Online Marketing For Your Craft Business' from Amazon

 

Update: Wow what a response! I need to add a few details for those asking:

1. Yes, there will be a digital version. I will update when I know the release date.

2. US version is likely to be released on 21st November 2014- save the date!

We Made it Work!

I've spoken before about creative hangovers: that feeling of so much inspiration following a night with other creatives that you are tired and energised all at once by it. Well last night, Twitter blew up with amazing voices from the fibre industry sharing their thoughts and ideas on how to #makeitwork. To say I have a creative hangover as a result is an understatement. That was intense!

I want to thank our amazing panel and Karie for taking time out of their busy lives to show up and offer insight and tips. I also want to shout out a massive thank you to everyone who came, contributed and lurked (yes, we heard you breathing!)

We storified the process so there's a record for everyone who wants to revisit it or just missed out (isn't tech great?) and are giving serious consideration to the invitation to repeat the process. I loved hearing people's ideas and here's a selection of some of my highlights from last night's chat:

Donna Druchunas@druchunas

@annidomino @aplayfulday Think of a non-creative p/t job as a "dream funder" while you build up your biz. #makeitwork

 

Jojilocat@Jojilocat

Q2: Always looking ahead! No matter the failures in the past, we always have a blank canvas with the next project :) #makeitwork

 

EdinYarnFest@EdinYarnFest

Q2: We treat it like a serious job. It just so happens that it's one we really like doing 

 

meghanaf‏@meghanaf

Q3: If someone inspires you, reach out to them. You'll hopefully be able to do something for someone else further down the road #makeitwork

 

I think last night really confirmed a few things for me: sharing is such an important part of freelance work and also, this industry is full of people very committed to a 'network' that actually resembles more of a community where colleagues are friends and comrades to the creative process. I know I'm going to take that with me today as I work. 

Making It Work: The Panel

Follow on from our Making It Work Chat, Karie and I will be hosting our Twitter hangout this coming week and here's all the details!


The idea:

To share our joint experiences as professionals about making it work with others who are thinking of making the change to freelancer in the fibre industry. We hope to spread good practice and get people thinking about what it takes to 'make it work'. Giving you the chance to ask people who are working in the craft industry just how it all comes together (or not!)

When:

9th September 2014 at 8.30pm (Uk time) for one hour only. 

How:

Log on to Twitter and click on the hashtag #makeitwork to follow the chat. Each tweet should contain this hashtag so that page should (in theory) fill with interaction around the 3 core questions. We'll work through them as Karie and I post them once we think it's time to move on a bit (prob every 20 mins) and answers will have Q1/2/3 in front of them to answer. 

Q1: How do you make the jump from part time freelancer to full time?

Q2: How do you keep it creative & not let it just become a j.o.b?

Q3: How do you build a network around you?


The Panel:

Supporting us is a fine line up of some truly inspirational people from the fibre industry. I'm so excited to be chatting with:

Joji Locatelli- An Argentinian knitwear designer who has an extensive collection of designs and a great reputation in the industry. As well as self publishing, Joji has collaborated with The Uncommon Thread, Veera Valimaki and Brooklyn Tweed amongst others. 

Hilary Pullen- Creator of Craft Blog UK, Hilary is a specialist in blogging, digital marketing and craft. Her upcoming book 'Online Marketing For Your Craft Businesses' is set to become a go to for craft businesses. 

Kate Heppell- Editor of Knit Now and Love Crochet as well as self published designer, Kate is a well known name in the UK fibre scene and supports many freelancers and budding designers. Kate's rich experience in both publishing and self publishing has meant she understands what faces most designers when they submit designs or the work it takes to get them published. 

Kate Metherell- Owner of YAK, the online knitting store with a big reach. Based in Brighton with plans to open her own bricks and mortar store in the near future, Kate has managed to curate a fine collection of internationally recognised brands and is already becoming a firm favourite amongst crafters. 

Meghan Fernandes- Co Founder and Editor of pom pom magazine, the quartlerly magazine that has been a huge success both in the UK and internationally. Meghan is a designer, editor and champion networker who has built an internationally recognised magazine from the ground up. 

Victoria Magnus- Owner, creator and dyer at Eden Cottage Yarns. Victoria has successfully developed a wholesale hand dyed business with a complementary mill dyed range. A regular on the UK events scene, Victoria has built a yarn range with an international reach from her humble beginnings in her kitchen. 


Hope to see you there!