Hiromi Asai and the Future of Kimono

Hiromi Asai's 'Mode and Classic' SS12 Collection 'FUSION' on the runway at BK Fashion  Week(end), New York

This month I’ve been getting really excited about an ambitious Kickstarter project by kimono stylist Hiromi Asai, to take authentic kimono to New York Fashion Week 2016. I’ve been trying to promote it as much as possible, by backing it and by sharing the story behind it because its wider aim is to preserve artisan kimono crafts in the face of a declining kimono trade. Authentic artisan kimono differ from mass produced or vintage kimono because they are produced by hand by highly skilled craftspeople, so it is a living practice based in traditional craft skills.

To combat a downward trend in the kimono industry the Ministry of Trade and Economy in Japan has established a study group to investigate the decline in kimono wear and production. Some of the issues faced seem to be that kimono is difficult to put on correctly without a good deal of knowledge; there are not many events to wear kimono to; artisan kimono production techniques are incredibly highly skilled and laborious, which makes kimono expensive.

Some of the solutions offered to these problems have been to invent easy to wear kimono, which come in two pieces and also METI are considering instigating a ‘wear a kimono to work day‘.

There is a renewal of interest in kimono amongst a younger generation, perhaps as a result of a rise in kimono subcultures like Kimono Hime , which has revived interest in vintage kimono, worn in a way that subverts traditional conventions of kitsuke (kimono dressing). But the focus of this renewed interest has been more on vintage kimonos, and machine made designs, perhaps because of the price tag of handmade artisan pieces.

For this reason Asai’s project is particularly important because so far there has not been a project or enterprise which tackles the issue of how to keep the craft of artisan kimono making alive. She has teamed up with Kimono Artisan Kyoto (a group of professional kimono artisans) to take their hand crafted kimono to NYFW16, where she will style their creations. By financing this project via crowdfunding on an international platform, she aims to create a new model for funding this highly skilled and time consuming art. Thus giving kimono artists an opportunity to display their work at the forefront of the fashion world.

To give you an idea of the intricacy of some of the artisan crafts involved in kimono making, here are some clips of some different techniques used

Nijishin-Ori – woven textiles from the Nijishin district, often  used for making obi: 

Shibori – an intricate type of ‘tie dye’ used to decorate kimono, obi and most commonly, obiage (a silk scarf worn at the top of the obi)

Yuzen dying – a resist dye technique – 

The real crisis in kimono lies with these artisan crafts, many of which are practiced only by an ageing population of highly skilled craftspeople. The wider purpose of Asai’s Kickstarter is to ensure that these beautiful crafts are passed on to another generation of artisans. If she can find enough backers to raise the $50,000 dollars needed to take a handcrafted collection to NYFW she hopes that this will revive kimono production at an artisan level in two ways. Firstly that it will create a a new route to funding and income for craftspeople, who may be able to crowdfund future projects if the profile of kimono can be raised enough. Secondly, she hopes that kimono will be recognised as a universal formalwear.

The Kickstarter campaign is now 90% funded, with only 8 days left to raise the final $5000 needed. This means that any donations made now will really decide whether or not the project happens. I urge everyone to support Hiromi’s project and raise the profile of kimono worldwide, bringing much needed revenue to the artisan kimono industry! 

* NB Hiromi’s project has, interestingly, coincided with a protest at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Protesters wanted to raise awareness of the West’s history of appropriation and stereotyping of kimono wearers. This article gives some responses by those trying to promote the kimono industry from within Japan. I don’t aim to intervene in this debate other than to point out that in funding Hiromi you are funding Japanese artists to promote and make a livelihood from their craft.

Creative Kickstart – Looking back over June

I seem to have got a bit behind with my creative kickstart this month! It’s been a tricky time, with my parent’s being away on holiday for 2 weeks, as I usually rely on them for two days of childcare a week. Squidlet naturally decided that this would be a good time to drop her nap, so I have been struggling to fit much in.

So, what  inspiring me during June?

This was a very pen and pencil inspired month!

Pen drawing/drawing inspiring women – I’m still using my Promarkers.  I wanted to do some portraits of women that inspire me, after reading a quote that starts ‘You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.’ The quote is widely misattributed to Diana Vreeland, but actually written by lexicographer Erin McKean. The quote really spoke to me, as I’ve never felt like I fitted in looks wise, or was conventionally pretty. I often feel that people have not really ‘seen’ me because with my wonky face and barrel shaped body I don’t fit neatly into the way we expect women to look. It made me want to celebrate women who don’t fit in, who transcend the focus that the media puts on women’s bodies and on their looks.  At this point I still thought the original quote was from Diana Vreeland, and I drew her, alongside a different quote (that I think really is from her this time!). I’m hoping I will get a chance to expand on my portraits. Something I would like to do in the future is profile women who I find inspirational, in how they allow their experiences to change the world – I am thinking I might do a piece on Camila Batmanghelidjh soon. I would like to use my own illustrations for these pieces, but I really need to work on my drawing skills for this.

Life drawing – I think this must have been around the beginning of June that I went to another DRAW Brighton life drawing session, as the details seem slightly lost to me amongst sleepless nights and hectic days. This one was about the face and how it connects to the body. I haven’t been life drawing for ages, but had been drawing at home, and it felt like something clicked in this session. I also felt like there were noticeable improvements in my drawing this time. I really regret abandoning my drawing skills after leaving art school, and I feel like drawing is something that sustains me, whether or not the results are good, but it is always quite pleasing when you do feel that you’ve captured a likeness with an image.

Hand lettering – This is something I was doing alongside my pen portraits, having got into looking at handlettered fonts for my logo redesign. I’m a little bit torn between whether I love or hate handlettered quotes. Sometimes I think it is very useful and enlivening to see little inspirational bursts of text, that you can relate to. Other times I feel like they have over saturated the internet and the instant-read, instant-click, instant reblog nature of these out of context multitude of quotes replaces reading more in depth layered and nuanced writing. But I love the contemplative process of actually doing the hand lettering, and the balance between care and letting go that is needed to write beautifully. I am still not very good yet!

Mandalas or wreaths in flowers and petals – I have many photos of these on my camera, ready to process and upload to Instagram. I love making these, in some ways, but again I wonder if I am trying to imitate these ‘flower wreathed inspirational text’  memes that are so ubiquitous to Instagram now. I read a piece by Georgie St Clair (who I think deals with flowers in a highly original way) about how she has felt pressured to please people in what she creates in order to make sales. I feel the same thing about making images to be popular on Instagram. I can see what type of images get a lot of love, and it is tempting to make those kind of images (which definitely please me on a visual level) rather than ones that fulfill me on many different levels. I am trying to explore ways that I can illustrate my blog that will be visually appealing, but also be ‘me’ not ‘what everyone else is doing’.

Reading – having said I didn’t have much time for anything this month, here is one thing I did find time for! This is partly because Squidlet doesn’t seem to mind if I sit and read a book while she plays, whereas if I pick up the tablet to do some work, I get told off! I haven’t felt like I have had the concentration power to read many books since having a child. Okay, I have read most of the Game of Thrones series, but nothing much else to speak of. This month I read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee for the first time (I know , I can’t believe I have never read it before either), and ‘American Gods’ by Neil Gaiman. Both books are absolutely incredible. Both really explore the American experience. To Kill a Mockingbird made me think on the ways in which racial oppression are still playing out in America, and how important, yet painful, it is to listen to the voice inside that tells us ‘this is wrong’ when we see injustice. If I have the time to write them, I would like to include book reviews on here, but I wonder if this will become one of the ‘if I had enough time’s that don’t get managed in the end!

Writing – I didn’t do as much writing as I wanted to do this month, just two pieces, one for  Emily Loves Japan and one for The Collative on how I create. I started seeing opportunities for writing everywhere. Doing more writing for this blog has made me realise how intrinsic to my creative process writing is for me (I loved this article on how transformative the process of writing can be), and how maybe this is something I would like to do more of, as guest posts on other people’s blogs and maybe even one day as paid articles. If you woould like me to guest post on your blog, please get in touch!

Amanda Palmer – Bigger on the Inside – I actually forgot to include this in the image – oops! There was going to be some more handlettering saying ‘Bigger On The Inside’ but everything was a rush and I forgot it! I want to include this even though it’s not really in the image because this month I’ve been following Amanda Palmer’s updates about her friend Anthony dying, which are so honest and raw and vulnerable, alongside her pregnancy. It has been harrowing, and moving. She is actually a huge influence on how I try to approach life, and approach writing a blog. To put yourself out there, keep creative, to find a way to make a living being creative, to stay honest, stay vulnerable, to fuck up, to be flawed. I really hope she finds a way to balance her huge creative drive with motherhood when her child arrives.

That’s all!

Please keep posting your #creativekickstart images using the hashtag! I am so thrilled that people are really joining in with it! I will probably be looking for images to feature over the next week so as not to get too behind with things, so if you have an idea of what you want to share, get making your image!

Swapping Gifts with Oh Comely’s Perfect Strangers Project

I recently signed up to Oh Comely’s Perfect Strangers Project. I’ve been a fan of Oh Comely for a while, as their magazine seems to be a very non-image focused publication, intent on telling stories that get to the heart of people’s lives or mindsets. The Perfect Strangers Project is all about giving someone you’ve never met a wonderful little gift. I first found out about it last year, but was too crazy busy with being a mum of a one year old to sign up for it. When I saw it this year, I was in! I really like the idea behind the project of giving without expectation. It was incredibly easy to sign up for and manage, you can leave a little message for your swap partner too. I loved the message which my swap partner left me- it made it really easy to make them up a little box, and it gave me some ideas for the kind of message I might leave next time, to really help out my swap partner. This was the message they left me: “My main aspiration in life is to one day live in a treehouse in a tropical jungle, where I can draw lots of pictures of elephants and maybe monkeys could bring me big bowls of fruit salad too.”

So this is the parcel I put together for my perfect stranger!

It includes:

an orangutan in a jungle notebook from Meiying

watermelon washi tape from PasoKuma

A kanzashi hair flower and brooch (in jungley colours) handmade by me

A treehouse mini card from Scout Editions

some palm frond punches from AbsolutelyForYou (so that opening the package would feel a little bit like going through a jungle!)

a fruit salad necklace handmade by me (yes I am quite proud of it!)

I really really loved putting together my box. I want to put together unique personalised boxes for people for a living, it was SO much fun! I am really pleased with what I put together for my swap partner and I hope they love it. I realised as I was packing it up that I didn’t manage to get elephants in there, damn!

Did you take part in Perfect Strangers this year? Have you taken part in it before? I would love to hear what you sent, or what you received as part of it!

Tarot Reading with Jude from Jessie Jumbles

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I’ve recently added tarot readings to my regular blog post features. Last month I did a reading for Emma from Harper and Finch, this month I am doing a reading for Jude from Jessie Jumbles.

This ended up being a highly personal and quite emotionally charged reading, so I just really want to thank Jude for agreeing to share it today. I have a rule which is, if I do a reading ‘for the blog’ then there is no obligation to have it featured. This is to ensure that people don’t feel pressured to share intimate details that they are not comfortable with.

Jude’s business Jessie Jumbles is all about beautiful button jewelry made from fabrics with classic retro patterns.

Jude is totally into retro and vintage and her home is filled with beautiful objects and vintage furniture she has collected. She is mum to Arf, who is five and train-crazy. He has also recently been diagnosed with autism.

I asked Jude for a rough topic area for the reading to be about she said ‘how I’m feeling right now’.

Here is Jude’s reading, which I have, as usual, written as though it is addressed to her. For some reason I can’t write them in the third person, it feels too weird!

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Jude’s tarot layout

Card 1: The Issue – The Outsider (5 of Rainbows) – Rainbows is a suit linked to the earth, and to mundane things. Yet it is also about finding miracles in the mundane. In this card the boy is looking through the gate feeling like he can never be a part of what he is looking at. The lesson of the card is that although the boy thinks the gate is locked, it isn’t. He is only ‘locked out’ in his mind. We talked about what this card might mean for you and several things came up – you said you’d recently been diagnosed with depression, and this card really seemed to relate to both the way that depression can make you feel very disconnected from everybody else, and your feelings about Arf’s autism. You felt that Arf was perceived as an outsider by other children. This, by extension made you an outsider as your worries, stresses and whole day to day experience of child rearing were so different to those of other mothers. We talked about how the imagery of the card not only looked very much like Arf, but was also reminiscent of the school gate and school playground. You shared some stories of how playground relationships are so confusing to Arf, and how you really feel his pain when unthinking children reject him. There was also a sense of grieving, of looking ‘through the gate’ at what life might be like without having to struggle with constant meltdowns and obsessions. I really had the impression that all of these different feelings of being shut out were making you feel unable to access any sense of magic or joy in the everyday.

Card 2: The Unconscious Influences – Patience (7 of Rainbows). Another rainbow suit, this card is about a mundane (but magical) power. The power of time, of waiting. The message of this card is ‘sometimes all you can do is wait.’. You have just been through a grueling process of diagnosis for Arf, have just recognised and sought help about your own feelings of depression, all while managing a busy online shop which also supplies numerous bricks and mortars stockists. Day to day, life can be difficult, and on top of what is going on on a wider scale this is leaving you feeling unhappy. My sense is that this card is telling you to accept your feelings right now, and not beat yourself up about them. Things might not be great, but you can add to that suffering by getting angry with yourself for feeling bad. I experience this myself with anxiety. I feel disconnected from everybody else and what everybody else seems to be experiencing at social events, then I get angry with myself for not being able to relax and enjoy myself, then I feel guilty for getting angry with myself! It’s a vicious cycle! If you can’t accept the root emotion (in my case anxiety), try trying to accept one of the ’emerging’ ones (e.g. the anger or guilt felt at the anxiety), or even just accepting that you can’t accept your feelings right now. It is also saying that these feelings are temporary (albeit very real right now), and we talked about how they may be part of a grieving process for an expected idea of what parenthood would be that has not been met. Give yourself some time to experience this process and be kind with yourself.

Card 3: The Conscious Influences – Friendship ( 2 of Water) This card belongs to the suit of water and as such is linked to emotions. It represents two people who have grown to support each other, are interconnected, but also separate individuals. We talked about a dual meaning for this card, one side being the amazing emotional support of your husband, which I think is definitely a huge part of the meaning of this card. The card is saying, use this support, share with him your feelings and allow your partnership to continue to grow. The other side to this card seemed to be a desire for a wider sense of support  from people who understand that your emotional resources are already stretched and to be offered truly supportive friendships where nobody asks you to be anything other than what you are. You felt that friendships were harder to cultivate due to being at your limit of what you could deal with, and due to this struggle to find common ground with other parents when your experience of parenting was often so much more extreme than theirs.

Card 4: What is needed for resolution – Courage (Major Arcana 8) – When this card came up it seemed to make so much sense in terms of the rest of your reading. This card is somewhat self explanatory, it is about finding the courage within yourself to face difficult situations and grow. The message is that courage is needed to soften the barriers you put up and that allowing yourself to be vulnerable is the key to finding your way. It also tells you that right now you can’t know the ways in which your life will one day be flourishing, but that part of this sense of finding courage, is to understand that the leap of faith you need to take is one of faith in yourself: That you can do this, even though it is very difficult. And that one day life will be better, in ways you can’t yet imagine. We talked about how everyday is a fight for a mum of a child with autism, to get your child’s needs heard, to make it to all the appointments, to deal with endless meltdowns and to carve out some time and space for work and for yourself amongst all this. This card is telling you that this fight will be the making of you. The struggle is to keep going, despite not knowing what the future holds.

Card 5: Resolution, the understanding – Guidance (3 of Rainbows) The message of this card is to tune in to your inner guide. We talked about the way that your depression seems to prevent you from hearing your inner voice and how disorientating this is for you. I also feel that there is a dual meaning here in that this card points the way a future you might flourish, by guiding others through this difficult journey. When I said this you immediately mentioned that you were now involved in coordinating a support group for women with endometriosis. I wondered if this could be a place where your difficult journey becomes a source of strength.

This card, adds yet another Rainbow suit to the reading, suggesting again that this search for beauty and joy in the mundane is a key part of the issue for you.  The reading of this ‘rainbow thread’ for me is that your feelings of being an outsider, as well as the lack of mental quiet due to coping with Arf’s frequent distress and repetitive questioning (which perhaps mean you are short on patience) are a part of what is blocking you experiencing small moments of joy, and this ‘magic in the mundane’. The Patience card here is about not trying to force or expect magical moments, or moments of joy and happiness but perhaps just recognising them, however briefly they appear, and giving them space. It is about giving yourself time and space. I think it is also about having patience with your inner guide, which may be being drowned out by all the well meaning advice, information overload, and background noise in your life right now. You told me how, with an incredible sense of guilt, you just zoned out and watched Netflix when you got home from taking Arf to school. I think sometimes your inner voice functions not by speaking but by just making us do what we need to do – and maybe giving yourself a break, to switch off and have no demands made of you was what you needed right then. It’s okay to need a break, and to take one.

To draw the cards together a little, this reading points to you giving yourself time and love both to rest your mind and to face difficult feelings; To you letting tiny moments of joy in and letting them breathe; To you seeking out places and people that make you feel that you and Arf are not outsiders, but people who belong; Letting go of friendships or associations where you don’t feel supported, in favour of friendships that are based on a shared understanding of parenting; To you beginning to find that your experience can help others, and that realisation taking you to place that is beyond what you are able to imagine right now; To where you are able to see that your inner courage and strength has always been there.

Many thanks for sharing your experiences Jude.

I really hope you guys are enjoying my tarot reading series.  Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about having a reading. I now have enough volunteers for blog posts to take me up until December!  I can’t believe the response! If you have already talked to me about having a free reading, then stay in touch, you are on my list and I am looking forward to doing a reading with you soon. If you haven’t got in touch yet and would like a reading all my free spaces are now booked up for the year, but I am now accepting paying customers. If you would like to find out more please get in touch.

Creative Kickstart with The Forest Mermaid

creative kickstart by The Forest Mermaid

Every month I am featuring an image representing what has been inspiring me. Then later in the month I pick an image from the hashtag #creativekickstart (use it on Facebook Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr) which you guys have been joining in with, posting your own images of what motifs, materials and experiences have been inspiring you. Thank you to everybody who took part this month! Any posts made after today will be potentially up for inclusion in next months blog post which I will pick mid July. If you haven’t joined in yet, please do! I am finding it really interesting tracking how my inspirations are changing month by month, and reflecting on these inspirations every month seem to really feed into my creative process.

This months featured image on #creativekickstart is by one of my favourite bloggers, Polly, The Forest Mermaid. I love her unique style which is influenced by woodland themes, the mori girl look and underwater, mermaidy motifs. She is an avid crafter of outfits and jewelry which she uses to style herself in fantastical and magical ways.

This month she made this beautiful image, which features a miniature tea set, leaves and acorns (to represent inspiration from nature), watercolours, crystals and deer/deer antlers.

Creative Kickstart image by The Forest Mermaid, copyright Polly Noble
Creative Kickstart image by The Forest Mermaid, copyright Polly Noble

My favourite thing in the image is the miniature tea seat which reminds me of a book I read when I was little, and which I read to Etta now called ‘Sally’s Secret’ which is about a little girl who finds a secret garden under a bush and has a tea party there with her best friend. To me they are very evocative of the magic of childhood and of the magical worlds which children create. I feel that The Forest Mermaid is about bringing a glimpse of the fantastical worlds of our imagination into everyday life, through craft and fashion, so I guess this part of the image seems to epitomise Polly to me.

She says about her image “I went for a lot of walks in the woods in May so my photo reflects themes of nature. I saw deer tracks which brought deer back to the forefront of my mind as a motif, and I bought some plastic antlers to use in craft projects. I also started thinking about more fantasy-like themes, with miniature objects which could be used by fairies, and beautiful crystals.” . She has written a more in depth blog post exploring her inspirations and reflecting on the in more detail here.

Bloggers, if you are thinking of joining in with #creativekickstart writing a blog post about your image is a great way to do it, just remember to share the link to the blog post on Twitter with the #creativekickstart hashtag so I can find it. I am loving having the full story behind the image this month!

You can find The Forest Mermaid elsewhere on the web here:

The Forest Mermaid Blog

The Forest Mermaid on Twitter

The Forest Mermaid on Facebook

The Forest Mermaid on Tumblr

Check out the #creativekickstart hashtag on Instagram to see what others have been posting, and come and join in!

Top Five Tips for setting up an Etsy shop

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I’ve had loads of questions recently about tips on setting up your own Etsy shop. I thought because of this I’d make a little resource with some of my advice. I want to make them super simple because I think it’s really easy to get bogged down and overloaded with information when you are just setting up a shop. Here are my five top tips for setting up and Etsy shop!

1. Plan for coherency

This is something I did not do when starting out, and I wish I had done. I think this is worth doing before you do anything else as it will prevent you getting in a huge muddle. I am still trying to get to grips with coherency now, as I have so many listings in my shop it is hard to manage. Get coherency before you get huge numbers of listings.

This means think about what kind of products your shop is going to stock and things like what your shop sections are going to be called. Have a coherent brand thought out, even if only very simply. You will need to have a banner and a profile image, so if you’ve had a little think about what your products, shop and brand are going to be about, this will help you get a look for these and for the photos you take for your shop.

Have a look at some successful shops selling similar products to you. What draws you to their shop?

Plan some simple lines, so that if people like one of your designs they know they will be able to get that design in e.g. a print, a t shirt, a card and a coffee mug.

Plan to launch your shop with (e.g) around 12 items in and then launch everything else line by line. You can do this using the new Etsy Listings manager which now allows you to save drafts of listings rather than upload as you go. This means that when people first find your shop there is already some choice available (which makes people more likely to make a purchase)

2. Take AMAZING photos!

This seems obvious but I see a lot of dingy, blurry, busy photos out there on new shops.

Find a plain, preferably white back ground to photograph on. Hey, just paint up a bit of board if you can’t find some space – the advantage of this is it’s portable and you can move it to places of good lighting.

Shoot your photos in good lighting – Use a room with lots of windows, or shoot outside if you don’t have a well lit indoor space. I like to take my product photos on a bright but clouded over day. It means everything is evenly lit and there are no strong shadows.

Use a decent camera. This might just be your phone, if you have a good one (I don’t). My preference is for a digital SLR, but I happened to have one when I was setting up. I think it is worth borrowing one if you don’t have a decent point and shoot digital or camera phone.

Your photos should be bright, in focus, well framed and show the product from a couple of different angles and close up.

If you want to get advanced, you could style your photos with objects that tell a customer what your brand is about.

Here are a couple of photos. One is what to do and one is what NOT to do, can you guess which is which?

3. Learn about the importance of tags, titles and descriptions in getting found

Tags, titles and descriptions are the way that people using searches find your shop. Think about the words or phrases that people might actually use when looking for the kinds of things that you sell.

Use single words as well as phrases, but make sure they are really relevant to your item. ‘necklace’, ‘flower necklace’ and ‘pink necklace’ are all relevant terms for this item but although ‘cotton necklace’ describes it but is probably not something anyone is searching for.

Try to think of relevant tags for your product that link to styles or trends.

Repeat your tag phrases in the title and description for your product.

Imagine that nobody can see the photos of your product when you write the descriptions – this will help you include all the useful info that your customers will need, like measurements etc.

If you are good at this writing lark, try and think of fun ways to write your descriptions to keep them interesting and readable.

Also, fill in your shop policies – it is boring but you need to use these to establish trust with your customers. If I’m buying from an un-established shop with no feedback yet, I want to have some reassurance that I will be dealt with politely and offered a refund if the product is faulty.

4. Get connected

Do you already use any social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram etc? Can you put these to work in ways that showcase your products, connect you with other makers AND people who love what you make? Do you write a blog? Would you like to?

I don’t think that you have to be on every single social media platform (though I am an addict and sign up to everything), especially when you start out. It is possible to spread yourself too thinly, so only use platforms that you enjoy using and feel comfortable with. Use them to connect with people and have fun, rather than hard selling or constantly posting hundreds of links to your products. I think it is fine to link to your products, but when I go to a Twitter feed that is purely made up of automated tweets of product links, I don’t follow because I’d just be subscribing to an advertising stream.

Connect with people you are interested in and use those connections as a spark for creativity rather than as a way to push products.

Connect with people you are interested

5. Just DO it!

I know my first tip was to plan, but I think there is also a lot to be said for just jumping right in there and learning as you go. If you think you are getting held up on the planning, or perhaps you’re using planning as a procrastination tactic because you are scared about launching your shop – STOP! Just go for it! Launch with less stuff in than you planned, get feedback on your semi-ok banner once it’s up using the Etsy Forums.

A really great place to get help advice and feedback is your local Etsy Team – mine is the awesome Brighton Etsy Team. If you are thinking of setting up an Etsy shop, or have just set up a shop then pop along to a meeting, it’s a really good place to connect with other Etsy sellers and get some first hand advice about what works. There are usually fun exercises or discussions going on at the meet ups that will help you plan (or jump in with!) your new venture.

I really hope these were useful tips for you! Have you recently opened an Etsy shop? What have you struggled to get to grips with?

I’m thinking about adding some instant download Etsy tutorials to my own Etsy shop, expanding on some of the stuff I’ve talked about here. I also want to add some listings offering SEO help where I tackle a certain number of listing for people and offer suggested tags, titles and descriptions for their products. Do you think this is a useful service and would you use it?

Creative Kickstart – Looking back over May

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So, #creativekickstart is my monthly challenge (to myself and you guys!) to post an image of all the things that have been keeping you creative, sparking your engine and fueling your inspiration this month.

This month I was surprised by how few things were in my image- and lets be honest the (majorly) competitive part of me felt a little bit bad! I am trying to convince the crazy part of my brain that ‘less is more-and that’s okay!’ right now.

So…in the photo are: bubbles, mics, pinwheels, floral collages, colouring pens.

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Creative Kickstart May – Pinwheels, bubbles, pens, singing and flowers

Floral collages: If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you have probably seen I have become extremely into  posting pictures of wildflowers. I am super into the idea of celebrating your extremely specific local flora and fauna – I feel that’s something that I’ve come to appreciate after getting into kimono dressing, which is all about choosing your outfit to chime with or celebrate the local flowers currently in bloom (or about to bloom). I am constantly surprised by the beauty and variety of the little wildflowers that I find growing on the verges near me, and also (the probably slightly less wild environment of) my back garden.  I am thinking of doing some more collagey type things with colourful paper, and also maybe trying to incorporate some handlettered inspirational words into my floral photos. Oh and I keep thinking it would be cool to turn the flower pictures into repeating patterns, maybe for some Spoonflower fabric, but I’ve got to get my head round doing that in Photoshop first!

Singing: I don’t actually usually use a mic when I do this, these are my karaoke mics and the mics are just meant to help represent singing in the image! This month I sang in the St Ann’s Wells Garden Festival with my choir, Howl. I am SO loving being a part of my choir, it is my favourite part of the week. I recently decided to move from the ‘middles’ to the ‘highs’ and I’m enjoying the extra challenge. One of my lifetime ambitions is to be able work out how to sing harmonies, and I feel like doing the high parts is really tuning my ear to being able to listen for what a harmony should sound like. I’ve also been singing to Etta as I put her to bed (or rather, wait for her to fall asleep), and not just children’s songs (though I am very partial to ‘Feed the Birds’ from Mary Poppins), but the songs that I love to sing. Some are probably not very suitable for children. I do wonder at what point she’ll stop thinking Henry Lee is a lovely soothing lullaby and whether I’ll have to stop singing it at that point. I’ve also been recording myself singing on Soundcloud and even persuaded Rob to record with me, over on his Soundcloud account. Partly so I can hear what I sound like and get used to the idea of making a recording or performance that I am happy with. Partly in the spirit of putting myself out there and trying not to let my beliefs about me not being a musical person stop me from doing and sharing something that I love. I still find that i am not really able to share the individual uploads of songs on Twitter or Facebook in the way that I would do with something visual that I had created. Maybe that is something to work on! :)

Pinwheels: Etta has a collection of about 4 or 5 different pinwheels. To me they represent pure fun. They have real no purpose, but there is something so joyful about watching the breeze spin them. After obsessing over a particular pinwheel of Etta’s for a while, and having some glitter fabric that I had to abandon some plans for, I had a sudden spark of inspiration and glittery pinwheels were born! I’m really pleased with the idea as I want Cuttlefishlove to be about joyfulness and enjoyment of small pleasures, and these somehow encapsulate that, AND have a sort of origami/Japanese link with the folding. These are going to become brooches, lapel pins, necklaces and earrings.

Holographic rainbow pinwheel of joy!
Holographic rainbow pinwheel of joy!

Bubbles: It’s perfect bubble blowing weather, and I was just sitting watching Squidlet play outside trying to catch bubbles, trying to be mindful and just enjoy the moment, and not stress about the other things I could or should be doing.  It got me thinking – she was loving it until she became obsessed with trying to catch one, and I think that is something that can be applied to life. I have a tendency to set myself a lot of incredibly ambitious goals. I really need something to aim towards, to feel a sense that I am getting somewhere. I think for me a sense of happiness comes from enjoying chasing down those goals, but not getting too hung up on whether I catch them or not. The goals are the bubbles in this slightly stretched metaphor, in case I went down a rather crazy and incomprehensible ramble there.

Colouring pens: I got these because I saw an ASMR video of someone drawing with them and I thought they looked really lovely to use! I’ve been having loads of fun drawing faces and silly sketches with them. I’ve also used them to help redesign my logo. I’d been struggling to do it in Photoshop, because my skills are so minimal its hard for me to achieve what I want. so I went back to basics and did some rough drafts by hand. I went a little overboard and filled seven pages of my sketchbook with designs! I was having fun!

rough logo sketch
rough logo sketch

I excited about my logo redesign, and have now got some roughs done in Photoshop too, based on my sketch. I’m not quite there yet but I can’t wait to finish it and share it with you guys. I have SO appreciated everyone’s feedback on Facebook and Instagram on which of my designs was best!

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Which do you prefer?

I cannot wait to finish off these designs because I will feel super professional when I can get nice branded boxes and stickers and things like that! I find I need a tonne of time to really get into doing Photoshop stuff, so this month it will be a question of whether I can manage to find that time and get my logo completed.

What has been inspiring you this month? Snap a photo and share it using the hashtag #creativekickstart! I In a couple of weeks I will be searching the hashtag for people to feature and write a blog post about. Thank you to everyone else who has already joined in, I have loved seeing your images- they are all so different!

Brighton Etsy Tools and Work Habits

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For those who don’t know already, I am part of the Brighton Etsy Team, which is a really active and involved team.  I highly recommend joining and coming along to their monthly meetings if you are based in Brighton (or nearby) and are thinking about opening or have just opened and Etsy shop.  One of the recent threads on our forum has been about doing another bloghop or monthly challenge where we all follow a theme to blog about. I had so much fun doing the recent ‘Introduce Yourself’ Bloghop that I am definitely joining in with this one – which is Brighton Etsy Tools and Work habits!

Show us a picture of your work station.

OH HAI! This is actually my workstation looking moderately tidy. Fear the truly messy days!
OH HAI! This is actually my workstation looking moderately tidy. Fear the truly messy days!

What are your favourite tools, and how do you use them?

Although I use lots of different tools to make my work, the thing I use most is just my hands. My hands are what fold the silk, arrange the petals into place and position the tiny pieces of origami (Okay, sometimes I use tweezers!). They connect me to the materials that I work with in a physical way. I also think I have an exceptionally cute pair of hands.

I’m not sure if choosing my hands is slightly cheating…if I wasn’t allowed to choose my hands I’d have to go for scissors because I love that satisfying  SNIP as you cut cleanly through silk.

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Tools laying around neatly on a nice neat surface. I just found them like this, honest.

What time of day or night do you do your best creative work?

I actually do most of my work in the mornings whilst my mum looks after Etta, but I think my most creative time of day is around 11pm-1am. I don’t usually stay up that late anymore though  because with a two year old, you just grab all the sleep you can, when you can.

Do you prefer working in silence, with music or with something else as secondary entertainment?

I usually work in silence – I am easily distracted and often get overwhelmed by stimuli if I have music playing as well. But sometimes I sing while I work and Rob plays his guitar. I like those evenings.

Describe how you structure your work

I have two mornings a week where I have childcare, and I try and fit the majority of my work into that time. I collect flowers for Instagram photos and make my flower collages with Squidlet as she quite likes joining in, though sometimes this can be a bit stressful as she likes to have her hands on the background board at all times, including when I want to take a photo! Me and her also walk to the Post Office together to deliver orders, this is where we collect our wildflowers, though again sometimes this ends in all the flowers being squashed or thrown away by her! If she has a nap then I get a bonus hour or two to do work in, but that is not guaranteed at the moment. I get quite invested in her having naps because it adds like potentially an extra 10 hours a week for me to work in, but it is happening less and less recently. I am not sure how I will cope when she drops her nap completely! A bit of time to myself during the day is quite needed! I tend to do blogging, social media, making the main part of any flower-related orders and packing orders during the day and any finishing off of orders in the evening, sometimes accompanied by Rob and his guitar.

Other Brighton Etsy Team members who have joined this challenge are:

Victoria Sol

Let me know if you’ve joined in the challenge and I’ll add you to the list!

Cosleeping

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This month I’ve been contemplating how much longer I want to continue cosleeping with Squidlet, who is now two.

Cosleeping is something we’ve been doing since she was a newborn, in many varying forms. When she was tiny she slept in a cosleeper sidecar cot, or more often, on my chest. We (me and my husband Rob) were a bit nervous about the much talked about risks of cosleeping. We read a lot around the subject and decided that planned cosleeping was a decidedly safer option than being so tired we accidentally fell asleep on the sofa together.

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Cosleeping using a cosleeper cot when she was super super tiny

As she got bigger, we tried to get her to sleep in a full size, free standing cot. It didn’t work. AT ALL. I felt like a massive failure for not being able to get Squidlet to sleep in a cot. I thought it was just a given part of parenting. But because of my history of back pain, leaning slowly over to put her sleeping into a cot was very stressful for me. In fact she was such an light sleeper that I only once successfully managed to feed her to sleep and then put her down in the cot still asleep. Every other time I did it she would wake, then take nearly an hour to go back to sleep, and then I’d have to try again. By the second or third try I was usually so frazzled I had to give up. We gave up trying to get her to sleep in the cot when we realised it was making us all miserable, and attached the cot to the bed like a cosleeper.

I found I was torn between people who thought we were mad for cosleeping when we could just do some sleep training and get some much needed sleep and people who thought that cosleeping was awesome and relatively unproblematic. We really really didn’t want to do sleep training, and I do not think it would have worked with Etta, who just screamed if I tried leaving her to settle alone. However I don’t think we really loved many things about cosleeping. For us it was absolutely born out of necessity. I am really glad that we knew about it, as it doubtless saved my sanity. Had I thought that cot sleeping was the only way forward, I do not know how I would have coped! But it was not a panacea. The lack of personal space and feeling of being ‘touched out’ as soon as I got up in the morning was really hard to deal with. I wept with guilt at not being able to enjoy being awake with my beloved child whilst reading twee Facebook poems about how my baby would soon be grown up and I would regret not loving every minute of her kicking me in the face for an hour in the middle of the night. Actually the twee poem did not mention being kicked in the face. Apparently I would be gazing down at my child snuggled calmly in my arms.

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opening some presents on her first birthday - you can see our upgraded cosleeping set up!

Then, around her first birthday we gradually realised that we really wanted our bedroom back. Because I still fed her to sleep at that stage, we decided that the only workable option was putting her in her own room on a floor bed (or rather less glamorous sounding ‘mattress on the floor’!). This would mean I could be comfortable lying next to her to feed her to sleep, but it did have the draw back that she could get out of bed very easily. I was not sure how this would pan out, especially at bedtimes! Luckily, it worked out well and after a short settling in period she was sleeping in there happily.

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Etta pretending to have a nap. I am slightly proud of her bedroom walls!
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More gratuitous bedroom decor...

I was still going in to her many times in the night, or more frequently just spending the whole night from her first wake up in there with her. We finally fully weaned her around her second birthday, which was a huge revelation for me in terms of much needed personal space! Surprisingly it didn’t change much in terms of how often I was going into her room to resettle her. She seems to have been teething with eye teeth or molars pretty much since Christmas and I wonder if this has been a factor in my struggle to get her to settle. Many nights, as soon as I moved my body away from her, she would immediately wake. This was starting to be a problem for me – I realised I have probably not had more than four hours straight sleep since she was born, and at this point in was lucky if I got 2 hours in a row. I’d also developed a nearly permanent eye twitch in both eyes from the lack of sleep!

Then she got chicken pox, and I felt it was not the right time to start making changes to sleep. We had two or three very difficult weeks, where she was really not well, and we were both very tired and grumpy. But now she is finally over the pox and in the last few weeks we have been making some changes AND even more excitingly seeing some results! We started talking to her about trying to go back to sleep by herself. If she wakes in the night, I try saying ‘back to sleep, you’re okay!’, rather than going straight in to her. She has never had a great appetite, especially at dinner time, but we are trying to offer her something we know she will eat plenty of at dinner time. And we are trying to make sure she is active and gets worn out during the day. Well, I hardly dare say this for fear that it will never happen again, but she has been sleeping through the night, not every single night, but roughly 2 or 3 times a week! My crazy eye twitching has finally disappeared!

Getting a decent amount of sleep and reducing Squidlet’s nightly wake ups to a much more manageable level has actually really changed my feelings about the cosleeping. I now love our snuggly mornings because they are a treat rather than the norm. I feel happier now that I am able to appreciate this time in the way that I always thought I was ‘supposed’ to. But now I recognise that if you haven’t had more than two hours sleep in a row for several months, its pretty unrealistic to expect to enjoy being kicked awake at 4am for an in depth chat about belly buttons, no matter how many Facebook memes exhort you to enjoy such treasured times.

*Postscript: In the interim period between finishing writing this post and actually getting round to posting it, Squidlet has started teething her molars and sleep is dire again! Never post online that your child is sleeping well as it will come back and bite you on the ass.