After a lot of thought (maybe a bit too much), an unwarranted amount of procrastination, and too much time, the Creatively Belle blog is coming back to life.
In a nutshell I found the back end of a Word Press blog uncomfortable to work with, a technical gremlin moved into the website with the product images display function (makes the image display for some and disappear for others and no amount of hunting around reveals the bad code), I started making new one off designs in porcelain that presented their own challenges to sell online and I got busy with string of pop ups and time just got away from me.
Creatively Belle has been my main business since 2001 and remains so with weekly markets at The Rocks on Saturday and Sunday. I make my designs and that soaks up time, in a most enjoyable way. As a writer by trade I’ve always needed to be around words and my online magazine She Inspires has consistently grown over the years and nurtured the need to write.
I see myself as an artisan, a writer and a small business owner – inseparable I think for all makers who make their living from what they create.
The challenge comes with fitting everything in during a week and still managing to have an afternoon or a day off each week. But any business owner will tell you they never really stop. That’s because once the brain slows down and relaxes a whole bundle of really interesting ideas come to you! That’s the joy of doing what you love.
I remember the days when I was working in uni holidays at jobs that I found as boring as bat poo and it was such a relief to finish for the day. I wouldn’t think about work activities until I had to. When I was at work I would count hours down and wish my life away.
Things are certainly different when you are doing what you love but there are very challenging hours and days. There are times when you’re sucking it up and taking a teaspoon of concrete, thinking there has to be easier ways. There are easier ways but you come to realise everything has a cost.
So it is too with an artisan lifestyle and income.
With a bit of reorganisation this year I can slowly and methodically bring this website and blog back to a vibrant life. I did find it much easier working with Dreamweaver as the back end tool and while I accepted a few years ago that technology had moved on and I had to as well! I didn’t do such a good job of adjusting to the backend usability of a Word Press site. I think now that has more to do with attitude than anything else.
I’ve decided to start with the blog first because it is the easiest place to begin and then sort out the products as that’s where the technical gremlins are living. I want to move over to a new Word Press theme and that will take time and effort. Starting with the low hanging fruit is going to keep this all moving and me motivated with progress. At least, that’s the plan!
So I’m taking a teaspoon of concrete and getting on with it. I don’t have to like the backend of the website. I don’t like house cleaning either. But I do it and I like the results.
And the budget and time considerations I’m working with means I need to keep with this cheap solution for the time being. Simple as that.
What’s coming up for the Creatively Belle Blog
While She Inspires has always been about interesting stories for interesting women, it has never really been about me. It has ended up being a reflection of me in many ways it isn’t such a personal voice as I’m thinking of making the Creatively Belle Blog.
I’ve spoken with thousands of women at markets and fairs over the years and have always been surprised by the questions about what’s involved in escaping the corporate world and making a life as an artisan.
It wasn’t so scary for me to do. Admittedly I don’t think I thought through the consequences too deeply. I figured that if I couldn’t make it work I had two backstops, I could go contracting in IT again or at worst, I could go temping with a range of office work jobs. And with that I took my flying leap. I was just in my thirties and I was over the stultifying four walls and politics of a corporate office.
So here I am, thinking that sharing my experiences, thoughts and influences could be of service and interest to others.
Getting to see the realities of what is involved in being a maker will hopefully demystify it.
As a painter and drawer I love seeing artist studios and kits. When my favourite art magazines show photos of an artist’s space I look intently at how they have it set up. I work out of a small sunroom that doubles as a painting studio, a writing hub, a pottery studio, a readers room and a business brainstorming space with my ever present flip chart.
I try to bring order to it but it is in a constant state of use. Right now, I’m sitting on my street reclaimed vintage chair writing this blog on my iPad, surrounded by water colour paintings of sea horses that I’m working on to find the ideal image for my upcoming new range of porcelain brooches and pendants featuring my own drawings and paintings. Now that is a challenge! Coming up with a select number of drawings and paintings that I’m happy with! It will cost hundreds of dollars to experiment with the tissue transfer and what if they bomb? Or at least I don’t make the right choices and they only partially sell. But that’s the risk involved and that’s the sort of thing that you need to know about when making the decision to be an artisan or not.
I know I’m much better at sitting down to write on my iPad than I am at the computer where the backend work of the blog will need to be done. So I’ll need to change some routines and spend more time at the trusty old PC. That thought scares me, what if I stuff up? I don’t want to upset or frustrate others.
Here’s hoping I’ll be able to work easily in the backend of Word Press on the iPad! Ah, the experiments!
So I’m hoping to publish at least one blog per week, preferably two, but that will be an experiment.
Pop Ups and Collaborations
I’ve really enjoyed the pop ups and collaborations with others over the last few years. While the pop ups themselves involved working with other business owners and bloggers for events and workshops, the network partnerships around content promotions and marketing have been more with She Inspires.
I love the two way street aspects of these relationships – helping all involved to grow and meet goals. I think the shared audiences and readers have also benefited and enjoyed the sharing – getting involved and rewarded.
So this is something I want to continue with Creatively Belle, admittedly more online now rather than predominately at events and pop ups; more of a mix. I hope readers of the blog will enjoy this as much as the She Inspires readers have.
Influencing Designs and Creativity
When I first submitted my application for the inaugural Rocks Pop Up Project I was nervous, excited and eager to get involved. When Cathy, the Pop Up manager said to me “Belle, this opportunity is going to have so many different effects on you, your designs and creativity, you can’t tell right now how this will happen,” I didn’t quite believe her.
But she was so right. It resulted in me opening my eyes up to seeing new possibilities. Getting to see how other artists and artisans made their work was wonderful. I would watch up close or from a distance how the other women (and one guy) was making. It fascinated me.
So when later that year I discovered Southern Ice porcelain I knew straight away I wanted to make with it.
I designed a range of pendants and brooches in my head within hours of touching Southern Ice porcelain. I came up with price points for both selling at market and for wholesale orders within a day. I dreamt about it for three nights running and nearly exhausted myself, seeing designs and colours in my head in the wee hours.
Within the first ten days of falling suddenly in love I was experimenting and making my first batch of Southern Ice Porcelain. Then reality hit with a bump with how long the making process is! I now accept with much more grace that it takes on average a seven week turn around from clay in a bag to jewellery on the market table.
But if it wasn’t for taking that leap into the unknown with the first Rocks Pop Up then I wouldn’t be having this love affair with porcelain and my designs wouldn’t have taken such a different direction.
So I’m ready to bring them online. I’m taking off the online store the artisan glass jewellery and putting up the porcelain pieces when I start working on the product side of the redesign.
I don’t know what influences this new approach online will have on my creativity and designs. But the next six to twelve months will start showing what they are. And to be frank, it is this that is inspiring and motivating me to make this change online.
Planning for this change in the previous six months has already influenced my thinking about designs. I went to my God daughter’s wedding last year and the country drive, as always, was great for my head space. I got thinking about what’s involved in organising a wedding, asking myself how I would like my work to be part of a joyous occasion that gives so much pleasure within a family?
These thoughts have stayed with me and have mingled with those of the website and evolved into the new wedding favour range of pieces for artisan weddings.
How to Order Designs
I’ve spent way too much time thinking about where to started this rejuvenation of the Creatively Belle website – should it be getting new products up and all the time consuming challenges of fixing those back end problems or what about starting the conversation again with the blog?
As you can tell from here, the blog won out . But that’s because I made a very simple decision, if you want a piece show cased here then let me know! We can figure out an order online via email or the phone. Let’s keep it simple to start with and get everything moving.
So if you love a piece or want to find out more, let me know. I can accept credit card or PayPal and I’m at market every weekend at The Rocks in the heritage heart of Sydney.
I’ve decided to start experimenting with Australia Post Express Post envelopes. And I’ll confess that my concerns about the cost of postage have been reasons for me to hold back from pushing forward with freshening up the product selection.
But I’ve been investigating the postage side of things, and while Australia Post does constantly increase parcel costs every six to eight months it is a reality we are all facing. I have always wanted to keep postage costs to a minimum but I can’t control Australia Post and their pricing decisions. I do believe that the Express Post option offers tracking and delivery standards.
As for international orders I think insurance will be the best option and I’ll go and get quotes for parcels. I know the USA charges another $9 or so for parcels to cover their costs for inspections so I’ll figure that one out too.
I completely welcome international orders, but to be frank, I think any orders that come through to start with will be local. Time will tell. I’m often wrong about many things anyway! (Oh, to be that teenager again who knew everything!)
Upcoming Blog Posts
I promise that this blog will be one of the longest posts that make it onto the blog! Who knew I had so much to say?
When I was trying to figure what I would share on a blog I came up with some ideas so they will form the next few blogs.