New Designers

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to spend the day visiting the New Designers exhibition in Islington, London. New Designers  show-cases the work of recent university graduates from a variety of creative disciplines. Week 1 focusses on textiles, fashion, jewellery, glass and ceramics and textiles were extremely well represented, especially printed textiles. I was a little disappointed to only find one fellow felt-maker, a lovely artist from Rotterdam who has recently moved to Dublin, Marleen Haaften. She makes beautifully sheer hangings by needle-punching different fibres into an almost translucent backing fabric.

Marleen Haaften

There were far too many individual artists for me to share them all here so these are a small selection of my favourites.

Andrew Sutherland’s textile monsters were derived from drawings he made as a child.

 

 

I was fascinated by Laura Ukstina’s modular approach to fashion, these pieces were inspired by Lego and she sees them as sections of a garment that can mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits depending on your mood.

 

Linda Anderson’s knitted pieces reminded my of sea anemone tentacles, I desperately wanted to run my fingers through them but thought better of it 😉

 

Lucy Turner’s knitted pieces also reminded me of the underwater world, coral formations this time, although it turned out they were inspired by Tuberculosis!

 

While this piece by Heather Ratliffe reminded me of days spent looking at fluorescing cells down a microscope in my student days. There was a UV lamp on the left that made sequins sewn along the edge of the fur fluoresce. A fascinating interpretation of some fairly standard dress-making materials.

If you can make the time, this show is worth a visit, granted there are a few pieces that I thought looked like they had been crafted by teenagers, but given that most of the work was produced by young people I was enormously impressed by the very high standard of the work.

 

Open Studio

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur, the end of May was spent preparing for my inaugral participation in this event and the the first two weeks of June were the open studio event itself. It has been hard work but a lot of fun, meeting new people and sharing the magic of felt-making with them.

I confess, I have been thinking of hosting an open studio for several years but had plenty of excuses not to, the main one being that I usually work in my kitchen and dining room, not very practical spaces for hanging / displaying work and not really fair on Mr TB to have strangers milling about while he is trying to relax after a busy week at work.

I did consider using the garage but it isn’t a very pretty space (breeze-block walls) and where would I put all the stuff currently stored in there? Although if I am honest I think most of it should go on Freecycle or to the municipal dump. This year I had a bit of a brainwave, we live in a bungalow and have a guest bedroom at the front of the house, what if I put the guest bed in the garage for a couple of weeks?

The space worked better than I had dared to imagine, the mirrored doors on the wardrobes made the room feel large and airy and there was just enough wall space for most of my ready-to-hang pieces.

It was just large enough to demonstrate felt-making but I was rather ambitious to think I could squeeze up to four students in there for workshops, as it turned out I managed to arrange it so I never had more than one student at a time. As always seems to be the way, in the excitement of completing each case I completely forgot to take photos of their work but since I was teaching 1 to 1, I ended up making a case of my own alongside them, these are what I produced…

I made a short video tour of my “studio”, please come in….

What did I learn from this event?

  • Allow yourself at least couple of weeks to prepare the studio, price your work, tidy the front garden / drive and redecorate / move furniture if necessary.
  • Have a visitor’s book to collect emails so you can stay in touch with your new contacts. The open studio event is an excellent way to meet new people with a shared interest. I was surprised by the number of people who returned with a friend a few days later to show them what they had found.
  • It took me a good hour to put out the signs, blow up balloons etc each morning, don’t under-estimate how long it will take. At least half of my visitors said they were just passing and saw the signs, they are really important!
  • Most people paid by cash (and even had the right change) but I would have lost a couple of sales if I didn’t have a card reader.
  • A friend told me she sells a lot of greeting cards at these events – that was a good tip, I had some professionally printed and it offered visitors the opportunity to support my work even if they did not have a lot of money to spare.

What will I do differently next time?

  • I will bake some of my world famous chocolate brownies as little treats for my guests (if that isn’t incentive to get on a plane to visit me, I don’t know what is! 🙂 ).
  • Be patient, most of my sales came in the last 2 days of the event.
  • If I wasn’t running the event from my home, I would not open on a Wednesday, the footfall on Wednesdays was very low.
  • I will allow longer for the teaching sessions, it always takes longer than you expect doesn’t it?

I hope I have inspired you to take the plunge and participate in your local open studio event, I have met so many wonderful people, from other artists participating in the event, to new and potential clients and some potential teaching opportunities.

I had better get on with moving the bed back into the bedroom, Mr TB is already eyeing the room suspiciously, thinking I have commandeered yet another “wool room”, what he doesn’t realise is that I have felting / textile paraphernalia stashed in EVERY room, but we will keep that to ourselves 😉

Adventurous Drawing and Colour with Mark Cazalet

I feel blessed to have spent the bank holiday weekend drawing in the beautiful landscapes around West Dean in  glorious sunshine. Mark Cazalet was an excellent tutor, I signed up for this course hoping to come away using colour in a more considered way and he did not disappoint. He set us a number of exercises over the 3 days including using cool colours on warm grounds (papers) and vice versa, exploring the effects of black versus cream grounds and seeing the colours around us in a much less literal way.

The first drawing was made in the gardens, Mark suggested I redraw it from my original drawing without looking at the source.

 

It is interesting how the colours are so much more vibrant…

 

This one was a 10 minute sketch, playing with different colours to give and impression of depth, light and shade:

 

This drawing was exploring the combination of warm and cool colours together on a neutral ground:

 

I had 10 minutes before we were expected to pack up and return to the studio so I did this one just for fun:

We were asked to create some sketches of abstract forms  from what we saw in the gardens, from those I repeated the same design several times on different coloured grounds, it is curious how the colour of the paper has such a an impact on the feel and tone of the drawing.

 

 

These last two drawings are my least favourite but it was an interesting exercise, the first was warm colours on a cool ground:

And cool colours on a warm ground:

 

Now it is back to work for me! Enrolment for the new online felted bag class closes on the 22nd and the class starts in earnest on the 25th, I am still doing the final edits on the tutorials while trying to prepare for the Surrey Open Studios event beginning on June 2nd it is going to be a busy few weeks but both are projects I am really excited to be taking part in, if you would like to join in the fun please follow these links:

Felted bags online class: link

Surrey Open Studios: link

 

Design Trust Workshop

This post is not directly textile related but I hope it will be useful for anyone wanting to market and sell their hand-made work.

Last week I attended a workshop with Patricia van den Akker from the Design Trust. The main focus was on marketing and was a godsend for me, I have read all the articles and often thought, “yes, makes sense, I should do that” but never actually did it! I am a terrible procrastinator and really need someone standing over me to make sure I do the difficult / less fun stuff like writing a business plan (not as boring as it sounds), working out what my brand is and who my customers are.

While I can’t cover the whole workshop in one blog post I hope you will find the following highlights a useful place to start… As Patricia said at the start of her workshop, “this is a workshop, and you will be doing the work!” 🙂

Have you got pen and paper ready? Try to answer each question before you move onto the next. Let’s get started….

What is your business dream?

What does success look like for you? Holidays in the sun every year, time to spend with your children/family, earning a specific salary, winning a design award, having a team of employees etc.

Think about why you chose your craft. Who are your role models? Why do you look up to them, what have they achieved?

What do you want to be known for? What would you like to be said in your eulogy? What is most important to you?

Marketing

This is communicating the value of your product for the purpose of selling. Try not to think of it as advertising, more as a conversation with potential customers and clients.

Marketing has 3 inter-related purposes:

  • increase your profile
  • increase your credibility (trust)
  • brings you clients

Why do you do what you do? Is it just art therapy for you or do you have a wider philosophy you want to share with the world?

Effective marketing requires that you understand your client’s needs when designing your products, what problem are you solving / need are you satisfying for them? What makes you different from your competition?

Who is your ideal client? There may be several different people and it can help to write a profile for each, think about:

  • their age
  • gender
  • who lives with them
  • do they work?
  • hobbies and interests
  • where do they go on holiday?
  • why do they buy your product?

Brand Identity

Have you ever looked at a piece of work and though, “that was made by so-n-so”? Or described something as being “very Warhol”, you have unwittingly absorbed brand identities. If you want your work to be recognisable it helps to think about what make your work look or feel different to other crafts(wo)men in your field. Take a look at the photos in your online shop or create a gallery of your work and try to come up with 5 words to describe your collection. It helps to ask friends an family for their input on this, if you are selling face to face you could even ask your customers which words they would pick.

You might end up with a description like, “Bright, flowery and floaty scarves” or, “calming and expansive textile landscapes”, this is your brand identity.

Try to be consistent with the brand image you present, use the same image and text on website banners, business cards, stationery. Is your website banner / business card image and text consistent the 5 words you came up with from looking at your gallery?

Make a Plan!

What business (and personal) goals do your want to achieve this year? Try to be specific, if it is a salary – how much and by when? What sales would you need to make to take that salary? If it is a holiday, where? how long for? when? If it is to make sales, how many and by when?

Then break your goal down into monthly targets, what needs to happen each month to achieve your goal by the date you set?

Review your targets/goals at least once a month and look for alternative courses of action if you are not on target.

If you have an Etsy shop, read the Etsy Handbook, Patricia recommended 2 hours of reading and 2 hours of action per week, personally I am finding I need to take action as I read each suggestion, and I am spending 2 min reading then 2 hours updating my listings!

Patricia also offered a reality check about how much time we should expect to spend on making vs marketing. As a new designer-maker you should expect your time to be spent:

40% on marketing

40% on making

10% research and professional development

10% admin

Design Trust

There is a ton of really useful information on the Design Trust web site (start in the “free resources” section), I can thoroughly recommend it, but be prepared to stop and answer each question posed, taking notes as you go, before moving onto the next paragraph, you will get much more out of the site if you really engage with it and stop to think about what each question means for you and your business.

These are just my highlights from the workshop, if you get the chance to work with Patricia, take it, she manages to make marketing fun and the face to face interaction makes it less easy to gloss over the harder the questions and only focus on what you are already good at!

Do you have any tips on marketing or selling your work?

 

I feel very conscious that this post is all words and no pictures so here is the finished “Michael” wall hanging, finally framed and ready for sale this week 🙂

Metamorphosis

Just as a tadpole metamorphoses into a frog these screen prints have been evolving over the last two weeks to reveal a little Costa Rican, Red-eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas).

I made a bit of a boob with this first set of prints, can you guess what it was?

This next series of prints should make my error a bit more obvious…

The orange is nowhere near as fluorescent in real life, the iphone doesn’t have a white balance function and seems to struggle with some colours.

Have you spotted the difference?

I used the negative instead of the positive stencil on the first layer of the first print, this made all the areas that should have been white a pale green. I cursed my stupidity at the time, even after I had written a note to myself about which stencil to use, but looking at them now I rather like the more subtle balance of colours in the first print, what do you think?

1 3 4 5 6 7 48