Living a frightened life

Today seems appropriate to write a post that I never thought I would write, I may delete it 30 seconds after I’ve published or I maybe not, we shall see!

Most people won’t know that I’ve suffered from depression for most of my adult life, I never talk about this, I never have done really, you probably think I’m just weird or kooky, maybe eccentric, stand-offish, moody or just quiet and awkwardly shy. Some people just don’t like me, I think they think I’m a twat, but they just don’t know me, I guess they may start to see me now.

I hide it well, only the people who’ve been on the frontline would know and that’s not very many. I can normally function by keeping people mostly at a safe distance because it’s easier to let people not understand me, than have to expose what I really am hiding. I exist in the perimeters of most people’s lives, never fully there, not always available, distant, I’m probably very frustrating to most of my friends. I’m not gregarious, I’m awkward and uncomfortable in almost all social situations that involve more than a handful of people I don’t know. I crave routine, despite finding the discipline to stick to it almost impossible. I need to feel secure and acknowledged to be able to function normally but by being so awkward I tend to push people away. When Robin Williams died and everyone “started talking about mental health” it was the worst thing ever for me. I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to wear it as a badge of pride, I’m so sorry for myself that this has been my adult life. I’m well at the moment but am always wondering when is it coming back, it will do and I’m constantly aware of that. It truly is a dark shadow hanging over the happy times as well as the sad.

I had my first breakdown when I was 17, my last around 5 years ago, I have attempted to end it, disappeared (mostly only for hours before my return) but I have plotted and planned many escapes to far off places of seeming escape. My parents have never really wanted to talk about it ever since I first attempted “something stupid”, they suggested therapy they didn’t want to medicate me, I guess they just wanted it to go away, they watched me and checked I was OK and slowly I came out the other side, not unscathed but alive. I’ve been mostly well for the past 2.5 years, sometimes drinking can make me sink, I try to drink beer and not wine for this very reason but mostly I’ve been good, a few wobbles but currently life feels great and I feel positive.

I find it difficult to live in a world that is just so horrible whilst being so sensitive myself. I can’t stand to see people being so cruel to one another. The thought that I can never make the world change is unbearable, the fact that it will probably get worse throughout my lifetime is unspeakable. It makes me anxious and anxiety is one of my problems. As I’ve grown older I’m learning to live with the fact that I can’t do or change everything, it’s just not possible. I have to realise that the small things I do, do make a difference. My brain is ticking over all the time, presenting me with images of who I really wish I was, but of course you will never live up to these self imposed, perceived expectations of yourself, you have to be you, there’s no escape.

Thankfully most people will never understand my ill world, a world where you start to look at things differently, to see all the beautiful things around you as a temptation – a river, the view from a window, a cascading waterfall, the seaside, just crossing the road can be a challenge to make it to the other side. To give you an insight, today I’m off to a amazing friends wedding, it’s on the banks of a Loch and I’m going by myself , which triggers my first red warning light. I also don’t know too many people there, but really it should be a great day seeing my friend marry her love. Even though I’m well, I’ve taken precautions. I will be careful with what I drink, some beers, nothing that could push me over the edge. I have made a list for myself and saved as the wallpaper on my phone of reasons to carry on – the fact that I owe my best friend J a curry next week, my daughter and new baby nephew need me for cuddles, I haven’t given Lynne her birthday present yet, work is exciting and I’m enjoying my projects, I haven’t baked a cake in my new oven yet and my school kid mentee is expecting me at 3.10 on the dot to be waiting for him in reception for our weekly meet. Hopefully this will help to keep any silly thoughts at bay, I tend not to do so well at these kind of occasions. I may have to ask someone to babysit me so that I don’t break away from the crowd, and this is me in a period of wellness.

My midlife crisis wasn’t about buying a sports car, it was about what my life could have been if I hadn’t ever had this, hadn’t fucked up nearly every relationship (and some friendships), hadn’t sat at my desk for most of my 20’s (and a lot of my 30’s) using work as an emotional crutch, had taken care of my appearance and my health, hadn’t been so reckless with money and just generally cared for and about myself. I’ve been so negligent of me (and therefore those close to me).

I truly feel sad about what has happened to Scott, he was playing in work the other day, I stopped to watch. I never knew then that he would inspire me to write this piece, to be honest about myself, to do the thing I don’t like to do, to talk about “it”. Although I understand full well was has happened to him, it has scared me. I’m content at the moment, I truly don’t want to die. Sometimes when someone does what he did, it can seem quite inspiring if you are in the wrong place. Robin Williams’ death was quite an accelerant for me, I don’t feel that now, I just feel so dreadfully sad for Scott and his family and friends, the fact that I’ve nearly done the same to mine on many occasions seems distant.

It’s a tough choice – the thought of living in this crazy, mad cruel world under these dark shadows for many years to come, never being normal, alone in a crowded room or divine peace, never to cry again but also never to achieve your potential, which may actually one day include some happiness, acceptance and joy. It’s a tough choice when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, when the world is too much, when you’ve given up on everything including your future. It’s a sad choice and I wish no-one ever had to make that decision between their own life and death in this way, it’s so unfair to have to battle your way through your time on this earth. For now I chose life, I hope I will remember that I’ve made that choice and it indeed continues to be true for many years to come, I really hope you all do too, try to remember the world’s a much better place with you all in it.

Footnote

I’ve never done this myself but I’m going to leave this here as it seems like the responsible thing to do.

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14.

Climate Change

Hopefully we all do as much as we can at home to preserve the environment – multiple kinds of recycling, donating things we’ve outgrown to the charity shop and repairing things instead of just binning them. This year I’ve started to think more about these issues and how they relate to my responsibility as a seller. Before I ramped up my Etsy this time last year, I always reused branded boxes for my orders as I didn’t need too many, but as demand became higher and I felt like I needed to up my game I bought some nice plain white ones for my shop, and as has as always been my business philosophy (until now) the cheaper the better – maximum profit is my goal otherwise what’s the point of having a business.

I closed my Illustration shop straight after EML for a wee while to rethink my overall strategy. Improving my shops environmental footprint and ethics is one of the key elements I want to address. My greetings cards have always been printed on white inkjet card bought in bulk cheaply, with non sustainable inks because vegetable ones are expensive, envelopes are not made of recycled paper and then they are put in non-biodegradable cellos and a board back envelope. That’s a huge amount of non-ethical things all going into the production of one tiny card. I have been toying about how to make my products more responsible and my timing couldn’t be better.

My studio buddy Lynne has started a Social Enterprise called Re:Craft. Re:Craft is an arts and crafts materials reuse and recycling shop based in our studio. Lynne accepts donations of second hand, part used arts and crafts materials. Re:Craft also takes dry recycling items such as wine corks, cardboard tubes, tin cans etc. they are then resold at reasonable prices. It’s a brilliant iniative that’s going so well and guess what Re:Craft also stocks? – used packaging materials. Re:Craft has made me think about my business, not only products which I’m working on but also how I wrap and present my orders.

It’s important that things from my vintage shop arrive unscathed but why can’t the packaging be reused. Can my customers begin to understand why things may not look so pretty, it’s not because I don’t care, it’s because I REALLY CARE. Surely I just have to let people know why I’m doing it and then they’ll understand. With that in mind I’ve designed some simple stickers to pop on my boxes letting people know why they are receiving an order in a reused box. Hopefully there will not be any reduction of satisfaction in the experience of buying from my shop and customers still feel their order is special and considered.

I’m not going to be able to totally ditch the packaging yet, we have a physical shop and things need some protection when displayed on the shelves but this year I’m going to work on not only order packing but also my actual products. I guess that’s happens when you grow up in business, money is not the sole thing that matters, being true to yourself is much more important. The caring aspect is a key thing that makes you different from all the big boys. Do things have to be more expensive, well yes unfortunately that is probably going to be true, but hopefully my customers will understand why and will support me in this transition.

Reusing old box rules

Find all old address labels, bar Codes etc on the box and use a permanent dark coloured marker to completely black out all bar codes and labels.

Check that the box is still solid and not torn or crumpled, check the packing tape is strong enough to hold.

Pack your items well and secure the box properly. Place your new shipping label over the old, blacked-out address.

Download the printable sticker sheet here to use on your own reused packages to let people know you are saving the earth by reusing a box.

Download to print sticker sheet here

And follow Re:Craft here to keep up to date 

My International Women’s Day Inspiration

My International Women’s Day Inspiration are the Dagenham Women. I was born in Dagenham and my Mum worked at the Ford Motor Plant before I was born. She was there around the time of the passing of the Equal Pay Act 1970 which came into force in 1975, which aimed to prohibit inequality of treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment. My Mum and subsequent generations of women have benefited from the tireless campaigning of Rose Boland, Eileen Pullen, Vera Sime, Gwen Davis, and Sheila Douglass. I now find myself working in a very male dominated industry so I appreciate even more and personally benefit from what they fought for – A law makes it illegal to have separate pay scales for men and women based on their sex. I would not be where I am today without them paving the way for my generation of women to be able to go out and work under the same conditions as men.

Women sewing machinists at the Ford Motor Company plant in Dagenham took strike action on 7 June, 1968 in support of a claim for regrading, parity with their male colleagues in the C pay grade and recognition of their skills. After 3 weeks on strike they settled for 92% of the C grade rate. Although not an equal pay strike, the strike was given a high profile when the whole plant was closed and Barbara Castle, the Employment Minister, was brought in to help negotiate a settlement.The women left to right: Olive, Ann, Chris, Joyce, Vi, shop steward Rose Boland, Joan and MadgeJuly 1968

MCR Pathways journey begins

Last week I completed my training as a MCR pathways mentor and tomorrow I go to my school in Shettleston to meet my teenage mentee for the first time. We will be meeting for an hour every week, for at least the next 2 years. It’s my chance to give something back. I have spent most of my life sitting in a chair making shapes move and although I’m incredibly proud of my job and still feel so excited when I see something I’ve done or my name on television, at the end of the day it’s not going to change the world.

During the summer K and I helped Marnie with a wee stall at the 25th anniversary of her Afterschool Club where she sold badges she had designed to raise money for WWF. The pitch next to us was an MCR pathways information table. K and I got talking to the lovely lady and we both expressed interest. After the fete I just got back into the normal routine of the week, but with it always in the back of my mind that I really wanted to take part in the scheme. I asked my boss who was OK with me shifting my hours a little to accommodate the weekly visit to school, but with Etsy Made Local looming, I didn’t feel it was right to take anything else on.
Unfortunately EML this year left me with an empty feeling. We did a survey, some people still weren’t happy, it’s too cold, the venue isn’t big enough, they didn’t think we should have a stall despite the months of unpaid work it takes to put it on ( yes it’s time to start again next month “IF” we are doing it again this year, boo hoo! ). I was so tired, broken physically and disillusioned, there is no real feeling of pride, just relief it’s all over without much incidence for another year and I can sit and watch a telly programme without having to make endless lists or answer emails at the same time.
This lack of any feeling, apart from the fact that I had wasted a huge chunk of my year, prompted me to fast track my pathways training, get my PVG and do something that really helps me to focus on the positive things I achieve, not let myself be dragged down by the couple of negative comments and the best bit is that I get to help someone else along the way. Being oversensitive is truly one of my worst traits, I don’t take criticism well but hopefully being a mentor will let me see life from another perspective, help myself rise up from the fire, start getting on with things and stop moping about.

A wee bit about MCR pathways

In Glasgow, our most disadvantaged young people are five times more likely to leave school aged 16 or earlier and less than half progress to a job, college or university place. It is a shocking situation but one that we can and will change across the city and across the country. It is no surprise that while care experienced young people have great potential, they struggle to thrive due to instability in their personal lives. They often don’t have positive adult role models to build aspirations or access to social networks that can introduce them to the workplace.

At MCR, we know that there is amazing potential and talent in our young people. Varied, unique and inspiring in every single one. But for many, that potential has yet to be discovered. Life experience has knocked the confidence out of some, firmly locking away those seeds of flair and hope. It is our aim to uncover, nurture, develop and help to realise the skills and capabilities in looked after young people. We know that each person has a specific set of abilities and passions and we want to see them flourish. We support looked after young people practically. Guiding them on pathways to education, employment and fulfilling lives.

I’m so looking forward to starting tomorrow and to meet my child. I know it’s not going to be an easy journey, but it’s something I’m ready for and am excited to take part in. Hopefully it will help me put stuff into perspective and push me into getting on with the challenges of the year ahead.

 

To find out more about being a mentor yourself visit  MCR pathways website here>>  MCR mentors come from every walk of life, age group and type of organisation. Over 40% are male helping young people who lack a male role model. There are as many under 35 years of age as over 65, with the majority at the peak of their careers. Every profession and job is represented.

A post for my childhood friends

Yesterday my old school friend Karen died and we are all gutted. I hadn’t seen her in years but we all reconnected a few years back on Facebook and had a reunion over the holidays. Sadly she didn’t come to this one. She would always be the first to virtually congratulate, commiserate or send love to any of us if needed, she was a truly caring and lovely person. This is not going to be a sad post, although this post is obviously inspired by the saddest of events and I offer my deepest sorrow to her husband and three beloved children. This post is to celebrate childhood friendships and how lucky I was to recently catch up with my oldest ( in years known and not their actual age) buddy’s again.

Over Christmas we caught up over a drink at the local pub, for some of us it’s 30 years since we’ve seen each other. It’s weird how the friendship bond between us all is still there, never broken, just dormant for a few years. It was great to laugh together, complete stories and memories that have had missing pieces for years, make plans for the future and generally enjoy being adults together.

Most of the guys I’ve know since I was 5, some before. It’s amazing to meet up with people you haven’t seen in decades and realise we can still enjoy hanging out. We have all most definitely had a lot happened in our lives since our school days, there’s huge chunks of time to catch up on – which we did, but we also enjoyed the comfort of remembering being small together. There’s only a very select amount of people in this world you can share memories of fish paste sandwiches, Princess Diana’s wedding, a strange man in the woods, arguing over who will be George Michael’s wife, British bulldog injuries and the “Order of the Desk” whilst having a beer.

That’s what makes school friends special, you get to know them as children when life is so much simpler, when you think that you’re going to make a fortune with your rose petal perfume company and marry Phillip Schofield and live in the country. You try your best to beat them in races at sportsday, win first prize in the drawing competition, cheat at pass the parcel so you get the prize, ruthlessly push each other out the way vying for the attention of the school heart throb, but at the end of the day none of that matters, you’re never going to fall out over it. Instead of talking about what’s wrong with the world you talk about Star Wars, Aha, Strawberry Shortcake and Garfield, and your favourite restaurant is the Happy Eater.

Seeing my friends again has made me remember that having crazy hopes and dreams for this world is good for the soul and Karen’s death has reminded me that life is so short. At the beginning of the year Karen was taking part in a pass it forward scheme to bring even more kindness to the world than she already did. I hope my friends and I can take on that legacy and complete the challenge for her.

Despite our bad news  I look forward to our future now we are back in touch- Sara and I may not be developing that rose petal perfume company we started when we were little (but to be honest it was pretty hmmm) but my friend Sarah and I have vowed to open a pub at home together, we are determined. We’re still dreaming together but maybe this time we’ll make it come true, there’ll most definitely be space for everyone at the bar and Karen will always be remembered as the girl in the red shoes.

PROFIT vs SANITY a lesson (hopefully) learned

 

These past couple of weeks have been extra arrgh in the world of my Etsy shop. There have been bad delays caused by a backlog of USPS postage over the Christmas period, I was pretty good at getting all my orders done daily so the majority of my December orders went out on the day they were purchased, which is no mean feat when you work fuller than full time. I went to the studio every day after work, worked late when all I really wanted to do was go to bed. Went to the post office on my lunchbreak or asked the men in our work mail room very nicely if they could pop my parcels into the outgoing mailbag. Everything seemed to be OK, a few grumbles about delays but orders seemed to arrive in time. As a seller you feel a great sense of relief when the last Xmas parcel is out of your hands and after a year where I fulfilled nearly 400 orders on top of everything else, I felt pretty proud of myself. There’s been one lost order, a couple of returns, one broken cat and one case opened against me by a lady that didn’t speak English and had put the wrong postal address on Etsy. I refunded and received the parcel back via “return to sender” – case closed within an hour, so no real harm done. That is until the last week where everything seems to have gone wrong and I’m wondering how (or if I want to) swing it back.

I think the problem lies in the fact that this year I never put my shop into vacation mode for the festivities. I just increased the shipping times, so I never really afforded myself a proper break. I had someone buy a huge order the night before my drive back to Kent for a week with my family and instead of taking the lead, cancelling and letting myself enjoy my holidays, I informed them that I would be away and could either refund or post on my return. They chose post on return but seemed to never remember this. This is my next lesson if my Etsy shop is to survive, that is how I deal with convo’s. I have to be stricter about not answering them at all hours, weekends and during holidays. I was answering convos to this person about their order on Boxing Day, New Years Eve (15 mins before the bells), during a posh meal for Kevin’s birthday and generally all throughout my week off. Sometimes money just isn’t worth the hassle and this is something I need to really learn if I am to carry on. This one order meant I had to go back into the studio earlier than I had wanted and has been nothing but stress ever since.

A case has been opened against me and this has made me really think “Can I do this and do I want to do this”? How do I get over this, the case will be hanging over me for at least the next few days, as the parcel can’t possibly physically be delivered before then, so my shop is essentially in lockdown anyway, no orders until I either cave in and refund or I can stick it out until the parcel arrives sometime later this week. I have provided my evidence, it has clearly been shipped, what more can I do but wait and worry. Do I put myself first and end the stress, my asthma is bad and I’m not sleeping properly, do I just get this off my plate and chalk it down to ( a very expensive) lesson learned. Sometimes I guess the worst experiences are the ones that make you review, change and grow.

Do I make a new resolution with myself and trust my gut, if don’t feel an order is right then I just cancel, no matter how profitable it may be. Ultimately if it’s going to kill me like this one is, it’s not really worth it. I had a bad feeling from the start and I really should have acted on it. Do I insist all large orders are sent tracked or put a limit on the number of items sent in a single order. I had a few very big orders last year and they always make you extra nervous, but customers are generally nice and understanding. Most people realise the items are coming from the UK and allow the time necessary for it to arrive.

This is traditionally a really busy time for me in my shop and today I would usually be getting back into serious work mode. It’s my first payday of the year so I budget and I knuckle down hard and start work on listing stuff. My boyfriends birthday is the 12th Jan, so for us, this is our New Year, it’s when we start our resolutions, go back to the gym, stop drinking, eat healthily. Normally for me this is a super exciting and optimistic time. This week I have to have a real hard think about my strategy for the future. I think the biggest lesson learnt will be to give myself a break from the shop. I’m constantly trying to get stuff posted, every day I have parcels on me, an ikea bag is always in my possession and I very rarely have a clear order list. I need to be stricter, post all orders on certain days, no inbetweens. Still being professional but not bend over backwards, work hard at my shop but not let it become all consuming, post orders on time but not be continuously carrying them around with me in the hope of filtering off a few here and there.

I’m going to take a wee break from the shop until this case is all sorted and to rethink how I make everything work for 2018. All open orders will be processed today and then I shall deactivate my listings for a while. Hopefully very soon I’ll feel ready to reactivate them again – confidence rebuilt, new attitude, reviewed policies and raring to go in 2018.

Catch you soon

 

 

 

Our Tenement Flat

My boyfriend and I are very lucky live in a pretty huge old tenement flat, just off Byres Road in Dalcross Street (formally Buchanan Street. It’s in Glasgow’s West End if you’re an estate agent, or Partick if you’re not. At the end of our road is the pub Sparkle Horse which used to be the Dowanhill Bar (Billy Connolly’s favourite apparently and some of my more seasoned neighbours have told me you could sometimes you could see him collapsed in the close after a few too many juices).

Our flat is an ex housing association flat, in a half private, half Partick Housing Association block, which is the only way we could afford such a property, sadly all the original features have been ripped out years ago. The kitchen, carpets and fittings are the cheapest possible and it’s covered in wood chip (it’s everywhere, even on the ceilings). Everything needs addressing, there are no sockets in some rooms due to the weird way it has been made up from 2 flats, literally everything has to be rethought! Despite all this I love this place, it’s beautifully light, has huge cupboards and rooms and the location is amazing. It’s so exciting to think about restoring it to it’s former glory by putting the things back in that were probably ripped out in the 1960’s when it’s purpose was changed.

We’ve done some of the boring things like new fuse boxes, a new boiler and had some lovely new windows put in a few weeks ago that are sympathetic to the style and look like old sash windows. So we’re on our way but I thought I’d write a series of posts to share our journey as we slowly restore the “tenementness” back to our flat. You could say this is the before post – one of many, because to be honest, due to time and finances it’s going to be quite a lengthy project.

The first thing to do is very simple, it’s a new front door. Our door as it stands is a council fire door, painted bright blue, as is the close, (I’m guessing a job lot was acquired by the housing association), and it’s not very attractive. After a crappy and scary interaction with our eternally drunk neighbour last week (most of our neighbours are amazing, a real mixture of people from all backgrounds, this man however, although thankfully hardly there, is an absolute liability!), we decided a new solid door would be a good start to the restoration. We went to Glasgow Salvage Yard and picked out a new (but old) wooden door. The Glasgow Salvage Yard is stacked full of old fixtures and fittings and also some very weird stuff. It’s amazing and they will definitely have what you’re looking for hiding away somewhere.

Anyway back to the door, it’s just an old door, nothing fancy about it but I like it, with some new fittings it’s going to be perfect. Our flat wouldn’t have been grand back in the day, just a normal workers house, Partick was boomtown for mills, shipyards and engineering works, so there is no need for some of the grand fittings you would maybe see in some tenements further west. We’re thinking of maybe some stained glass at some point for the window above the door, but that is years down the list in priority. For now it’s going to feel like a major milestone to have this new door and start making this sad, unloved old flat our happy home.

 

Organising Etsy Made Local

This is the third year of our Etsy Made Local event at the Briggait which brings together two sets of sellers of 70 for a weekend market in December. This year I thought I’d write a post about how we do it (and how much it takes out of us).

WHAT IS ETSY MADE LOCAL

Etsy Made Locals are organised all over the UK on the same weekend in December to bring together the wider Etsy community and encourage people to shop small and locally. I am part of a team of volunteers who have organised the Glasgow event for the past 3 years , the others being Lynne from Squinty Stuff, Mairi from Maram Jewellery and Katherine from The Canny Squirrel (and also thanks to Lynsey from Stitchcraftblog for her help with the first 2 years). We volunteer our time to not only running the Glasgow Etsy Team day to day, but also to arranging the market. It’s a huge amount of work and a mammoth commitment on top of our own shops, full time jobs, children, washing mountains and pets.

WHEN DO WE START WORKING ON IT

We start the process in June, when we open the applications window. This year we had over 6 times the applicants to places available, so we extended the event by a day to meet demand. It is very tricky whittling down the list, You are forced to turn down some good people in order to make the lineup balanced. It’s difficult to objectively curate the fair as you really have to forget your personal tastes and look at everything with fresh eyes. It’s a huge amount of shuffling around sellers on paper, moving from list to list and making very hard decisions to get it right. We then have to split the sellers into potential Saturday and Sunday lineups and then make them balance, which adds an extra trickiness to the process. We then start a final discussion between the four of us, a bit like the X Factor judges where we argue our final cases for moving people in and out the lineup. This year the process was really hard, I can reassure you that none of the decisions are taken lightly, there were so many great applicants and some really tough resolutions were taken, I really hope that everyone who applied understands it’s not a personal attack on their talents and products if they don’t get a space. It’s just how you successfully curate a fair that people of all ages, tastes and backgrounds will want to come to, and more importantly will want to buy things. We are starting after a couple of years to understand what products will sell and what may potentially struggle, and we have to take this into account. These items however may well be perfect for future ventures. We hope that one day we will have the opportunity to work and include everyone in the team in one of our events. All in all this selection process takes about 2 weeks of hard work.

After the selection is made comes my most hated job of the process, the admin. Extracting all the emails, making up millions of lists with various details, double checking the lists, crapping yourself when you send out the emails to the people on the list in case sent it to the wrong list, the lists really do go on, This is truly the worst bit of the WHOLE process and by the time we have collected the table fees, finalised the lineup and paid all the bills it’s around the third week in August, then it’s time to take a week to calm down before the next phase.

 

SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER

It’s September and we’re now in the hard sell period when we have to get our event out there and let people know about it. We strive to get our stall holders sales before and after the event, so we share their work daily, make up a huge monster reference blog post with links to all their shops, publicity pics get sent out to all kinds of organisations, flyering is done and endless rounds of copy are written for various publications and purposes. We work really hard during this period and I hope that shows. By now we are all starting to panic about our own Christmas strategies for our shops. For the past 2 years I have really failed with my own Christmas stock due to Etsy Made Local and the self imposed torture I put through, worrying that no buyers will turn up, vendors won’t sell anything and people will be angry with me. This year I’m determined not to miss out on my own sales, so have started planning ridiculously early to make sure that I indeed can make a good show at the fair for once.

 

 NOVEMBER

November last year was, I think we would all agree a bit too much. On top of everything, we held a Press and PR night, with very tasty signature Tunnocks cocktails, goodie bags full of vendors stuff, a photo booth and workshops which took a huge amount of organising and put so much pressure on us.

On top of that we also decorated two huge windows of our venue with displays. Come the close of the event, all of us pretty much felt like we were dying and consequently we took a huge several month long break at the beginning of the year which seemed in hindsight to be relatively counterproductive.

 

This year we have decided not to do so many things that are specific to EML and rather concentrate on a more longterm strategy. We have set up a committee of volunteers to help us with our tasks, we are so lucky that 40 amazing team members are willing to give up some of their free time to help us out . I’m really hoping that without the energy drain of last years Etsy Made Local lead up and with our new amazing helpers alongside us, we will have time in November to be able to forward plan for 2018, but of course still have the most successful EML to date.

 

DECEMBER

It’s Etsy Made Local, and it’s time to put up the tables and let the people in. Last year we extended our event to 2 days, opening times extended by several hours and also our amount of sellers grew by 10 per day from the previous year. It really helped even out the frenzy of the first year which was quite frankly terrifying and make for a much nicer shopping experience. In the first year I had gone from having sleepless nights about no-one turning up to realising there was a queue of people right round the block who desperately wanted to get in. It was a very strange experience to stand on the Briggait balcony and realise everything was alright after months of winding yourself up. I will always remember this feeling and although I will try to not have quite so many nightmares this year, I can reassure there will never be complacency. The hard work always has to be put in to make it a success, people have to know where it is, when it is and also very importantly why they want to be there, that is always going to be our job.

All in all in 2016, we had around the same amount of customers on each of the 2 days as we had had on the first year, but obviously having 2 more hours open time it was a lot calmer and better for everyone. This year despite us starting off with planning a one day event (mainly because we were all spent), we are to follow the same formula and run a 2 day event with the same amount of sellers, hopefully everyone will enjoy it as much as the previous years. It’s amazing to see all your hard work pay off and result in happy people all round, both buyers and sellers alike coming together to make small businesses prosper.

 

We really hope to see you all there. Here are the event details .If you are a Etsy seller based in Scotland and would like to keep up with our plans for 2018 please join our team here and also make sure to follow our facebook page for updates here.

 

 

 

 

2017 Etsy Shop Ramp Up

I’ve had an Etsy shop since 2010, I set it up when I was on maternity leave, but I had to go back to work when Marnie was only a few months old so never really did anything much with it. I’d get sales and occasionally add more stuff, it was a nice surprise to sell something but I never really considered that it could make a huge difference financially, as I didn’t have the time to dedicate to it properly.

This year I was threatened with potential redundancy (which btw never happened) and decided that I had to start really making my small business work, just incase. It’s been such a hard task and all consuming but I think I can say I’ve managed to turn things around, so I thought I’d just write a quick blog post on what I’ve ramped up in my store in 2017.

(Fingers crossed) next week, I shall hopefully reach in my Etsy shop, double the TOTAL amount of sales that I made in the whole of 2016, which is very exciting.

Obviously I don’t sell on Etsy full time, I don’t rely on the money, I have a monthly wage, so I know this makes my Etsy experience different from others who’s shops as their only source of income. With a full time job, child, house to keep (kind of) in order, Glasgow Etsy Team and then actually packing and sending the things I sell, there isn’t too much spare time left to work on the shop, so I’ve had to be clever and very organised with my time. Due to the unpredictability of my job, all of my work on my shop is done early in the morning or when I get back home, which is hard, it’s really difficult not to just give up when you’re tired and just watch telly instead. I have to be clear with myself about what I’m trying to achieve and setting a financial goal is the easiest way for me to keep focussed.I set myself a target of paying off a loan by the end of the year (which I have already done, hurrah).

So now the Etsy part…

To kickstart the makeover process in January I assessed all the things already in my shop. I retook some pictures, rejigged my shop sections to make more sense and completely started from scratch with my SEO, using Marmalead to help generate keywords, which when you’re selling one off vintage items can sometimes be a bit of a struggle to think of. If you haven’t used Marmalead before I would recommend it, I don’t have a lot of time to research search terms, so the £15 a month Marmalead costs, for me is a total no-brainer. I also removed items I didn’t feel were a good fit for my brand anymore in order to streamline my shop and make it make sense. This whole part of the process took about a month.

In February I set myself a goal of how many items I wanted to have in the shop, it needed to be manageable but enough to get myself noticed. I decided to increase from 200 to 600 items, meaning that I will tend to sell at least a couple of things a day. In the grand scale of things that isn’t a lot of sales, but is the right amount for me to be able to cope with and also continue to make a financial difference. I’ve been closely noting down my goals and “to do’s” and have had to be very organised. I have been working most nights until quite late, either to get parcels wrapped or to replenish the shop stock on Etsy, and by the end of February I had an inventory of 600 items.

I’ve been tracking my accounts this tax year in Quickbooks to make sure that tax return time is quick and painless, and have been fairly good at updating it every day. It’s really user friendly and although it does cost a monthly fee, it was by far the simplest app I stumbled upon and it is easy to update instantly using my phone.

Come March my sales had increased and were becoming quite regular, at least one sale a day and sometimes much more, that was one major goal achieved – being able to count on regular sales.

April, May June and July, my real work was very busy so I just carried on topping up the shop, keeping my items around the 600 mark and my sales remained steady and dependable. This is when I achieved goal one – paying off my loan. A new bigger goal was introduced – saving up for a new kitchen.

August I decided it was time to start thinking about the big Christmas push. I had to plan not only how to make the most of the holiday season but also how I was going to cope with a possible rush of orders on top of everything else. I have been furiously photographing, photoshopping and writing descriptions for items to add for the festive period and they are all sitting in my drafts ready to go, I’ve set myself a target of releasing 10 listings a day, and with any luck that will mean that not only do I surpass last years sales by a mile but that I will have by far my most successful period by a long shot since I joined Etsy. I have tried to be as organised as possible and have made sure all my packaging is bought and logically organised in the studio for Xmas, hopefully I won’t have to worry about stocktaking until well into the new year.

Throughout September I have been checking and organising my physical shop items, lugging heavy Ikea bags of stuff to the studio every day and putting them safely away in my storage boxes. This part of the process alone is very time consuming, making sure you have correctly noted which box an item is in so you can find it easily when it sells. I’ve failed at this a couple of times this year and had to search through 15 huge boxes for a tiny miniature china cat that looks pretty much the same as all the others in my shop, obviously I get quite angry with myself when this happens. I am very nearly done with this sorting part and my spare room is almost now back to normal and not an Etsy hellhole, I have an estimated few more days on this and then that’s the back broken on the truly hard work. I can’t wait, it’s been a slog and now it’s time to wait for the orders to come in and to move onto the next massive challenge (which will be the subject of my next blog post) – Etsy Made Local . It’s been a truly busy year but a satisfying one, and one where I can really feel proud of myself.

Have a good month and see you in the next post!

 

My REAL Job

Many of you will know me through Glasgow Etsy or you may be a studio buddy from The Hidden Lane, but yesterday during a conversation on Twitter with another Etsian, I realised that not many people in that part of my life know much about the other big part of my life. It’s why I always look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards with big bags under my eyes, am ALWAYS late for everything and am just generally quite aaargh A LOT of the time.

I thought I’d write a blog post to try and explain my job, I work full time as a broadcast designer for the BBC. I have worked here for 17 years and it is truly the best job ever, and although it is very stressful, unpredictable and seemingly never-ending, I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had such an amazing career, and also blessed to have worked on so many brilliant things, in a department of the best people ( and friends) in the world.

I’m a trained broadcast graphic designer and animator and I work on title sequences, trails, sometimes make props and also now we also do a lot of coding of graphics, as well as print work in large and small format. I mostly work on a computer these days using Adobe After Effects and Maxon Cinema 4d for 3D animation, but occasionally will go back to stop frame, hand drawn or cell animation. Unfortunately budget cuts and time constraints in the industry rarely allow for that approach to television graphics these days.

 I have mostly worked on arts programmes for my time at the BBC including the Culture Show, The Review Show, What Do Artists Do All Day and Artsnight, but also work on network daytime shows like the One Show, CountrySide 999 and Take Me Out, and (just to mix it up) Panorama.

I also worked on Cbeebies show Nina and the Neurons. The dark pink neuron Ollie is based on me (when I was younger and bothered to wear make up) which I did used to as you can see from the picture of us and the Bafta we won for the series.

I have been lucky enough in my career to make some records for Mark Ronson, an animation for Radiohead ( which was pretty tricky to get signed off by the record company) and a poster for Russell Brand’s bedroom (which must have seen some siights!) I have also worked on a Jamie Hewlett drama Phoo Action where I worked under Jamie to make the graphics for the programme, and keyed and tracked them into the live footage, this is also a very important part of my job.

We do a lot of special effects and fixes on programmes like River City, Still Game and Waterloo Road, things you would never know were ever or never there until we had spent hours painstakingly painting out frame by frame or tracking things into the footage like explosions, locusts or a giant shark.

I also do a lot of print work and large format graphics from Subway posters and moving info screens, to brochures and billboard posters. Here is a 20 meter sticker that I photoshopped for the side of the BBC building for the Commonwealth Games, it was was probably one of the most nerve wracking things ever, your photoshopping has to be pretty spot on if it’s going to be that big. I was pretty much wetting myself as they painstakingly put it up sheet by sheet and I stood looking up checking my work for some airbrushing abnormality, luckily there were none!!

BBC Scotland
Branding at the BBC during the Commonwealth Games 2014
photographed by Alan Peebles

And finally I’m going to finish with my favourite piece of work, a hand drawn title sequence that I have scanned in and animated back using Photoshop and After Effects. The yellow paper is from Peter Capaldi’s sketchbook which he very kindly lent me (and more importantly trusted me with). It has such a special place in my heart because It was my last title sequence before I went on maternity leave. On my first night sitting up with my new baby, settling into my new full time role, as I was attempting to feed her, there it was on BBC Four at 3am. I’ve never felt prouder (and more emotional) in my life to see a piece of my work on television.

 

I’ve started to put some of my work on VIMEO and will be adding to it, you can find me on LinkedIn here .This post has served to remind me of how proud I am to work for the BBC and although I have sacrificed a lot of things in my life like partys and dates, brushing my hair and lived on a diet of mostly Real McCoys for much of my 20’s  (and quite a bit in my 30’s). I have truly enjoyed (mostly) every minute and hopefully will continue to do so for many years to come!