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I have long been meaning to write a blog about my new studio.  Not about how wonderful and warm and light it is (although it is all of those things), but the rather more subtle issue of a maker and their ‘space’.

My old studio was very cold and I shared it with a rather surprising number of large spiders. When I say cold, I mean the same temperature as it was outside, so during winter it was often only 1 or 2 degrees.  And, when I say large spiders, I mean large!

But, it was my space and for about 8 years it was where I made everything.  Hence, all my tools and materials had worked their way into exactly the right place – I could just reach out my hand and they were there. The view, as it changed through the seasons, was my view and it inspired countless designs. 

I hadn’t realised how important these things are until moving into the new studio, in mid December last year. It is a glorious building; warm, light, huge in comparison to my old studio.  It has great lights, a heater, lots of plug sockets, a flat wooden floor (goodbye cold concrete).  I moved everything with great excitement and marvelled at how lucky I was.

I didn’t actually make anything though.

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As you may be aware, Google made some big changes, on 21 April, to the way it responds to search terms. The very significant rise in the number of web-searches being made from mobile devices like phones and tablets meant that Google had decided to make them king of the algorithm and only websites which are ‘responsive’ to mobile devices would have a chance of coming top-of-the-search.

If you follow me on Facebook you will have seen mention of some inept diary management on my part, which lead to me agreeing to do 3 craft fairs in the same day. It has been a long time since I posted a blog but I thought you might be interested in how it all worked out.

Over the past year an increasingly large share of my income has come through orders I’ve got from people I have met networking.

The recession has been tough and non-essential items have been cut out from a lot of budgets.  As a maker I have felt this as a steady reduction in online orders and takings at craft fairs.  However, one area of my marketing activity has continued to be buoyant and has accounted for an ever-growing proportion of my takings – that area is networking.

As a maker and solo business owner, it is easy to feel that I am a victim of the stresses and strains that affect my business. Whether that is the economic downturn or customers not appreciating the differences between something which is locally handmade and something which is imported from a factory overseas!

I asked Tony Brooks from the Leadership Training Workshop to look into this issue and suggest ways that creative makers could feel more in control of their businesses (and lives). 

923445 397269803751447 1688302993 nThis month I have had a wonderful opportunity to work in a creative collaboration with a fantastically talented maker and I’m using this blog to tell you how it happened and what it has meant to me.

Deborah Ballinger is an illustrator, creating wonderfully detailed, hand-drawn illustrations. She recently moved back to Nottingham, from Brighton, and we got the chance to meet in person rather than just via social media.  

confetti bowlLike many makers, I use Facebook to generate interest in, and sales of, my work. But . . . Facebook seems to change the way it does things on a regular basis so for this blog I'm sharing some tips on how to make sure your Facebook posts, about your gorgeous products, actually get seen.

When you have attracted someone enough for them you like your Facebook page, it is logical to assume that they will get to see the things you post on it. Alas, this is often not the case.

1170732 10151837034214111 1706235764 nNow that I'm fully into the swing of Christmas craft fairs, I get to meet loads of lovely new people.  Customers are fascinating and my blog this week identifies 4 types of craft fair customers, that I've noticed.

  1. The ultra decisive customer – these always take me by surprise, they haven't been loitering on the periphery having a look from a 'safe distance', they boldly stride up to the table, pick something up and say "I'd like this please" simple as that!

Naomi-Low-Resolution-3I often suffer from both lower and upper back pain (thankfully not usually at the same time) but rather than reach for the pills I regularly see a chiropractor, Dr Naomi McKay, to keep me mobile.  As a maker you probably spend a lot of your time sitting down whether at a workbench, sewing machine or infront of your computer, so for this blog I've asked Naomi to give us some tips to avoid creativity-dampening pain and keep us smiling.

sparkling tree 2It may be only the end of September but I and most other makers are well into the swing of Christmas production, so for this blog post I thought I’d talk a bit about A Maker’s Christmas.

Timing – as a maker, my Christmas isn’t in late December, more like mid August! That is when I start to plan which designs I'm doing and how many of them I should be making. I would like to say this is my 'Christmas collection' but it is not that cohesive yet - hopefully next year!

faye 1This week I'm looking at another maker whose work is really impressive. Artist Faye Baines, of Creative Mum At Home. I bought a hand-painted card from Faye and was so impressed with the quality and creativity of her work that I asked her to say a few words about what inspires her.

"As the name suggests I'm a mum at home being creative – I've dabbled with my artwork for several years in between full time jobs before my family and latterly in evenings and any spare hours whilst being a mum.

pink and purple earringsI have blogged before about commissioning a bespoke piece from a maker, but for this week's blog I want to look some of the small changes my customers request, to make something perfect for them.

You my not realise it, but I, like most makers, am more than happy to adapt or change a piece so that it meets your specific requirements. Here are some examples of the changes I've made for my customers:

bloody mary stirrersNetworking is a great way to meet potential customers and there are probably several networking meetings taking place near you – but as a creative maker, how do you get the most out of them?

My blog this week covers 4 tips to help ensure networking works for you.

sunflowercufflinksIf you have a hobby you love, producing things your friends say are great, can you turn it into a business? This week my blog is about the 4 tips I wish someone had given me when I started www.number8glass.co.uk

 

daisycat 1This week on the blog I'm finding out a bit more about another maker whose work I admire.

When I first saw Daisycat cards in a Locally Produced For You facebook fair. I absolutely loved them and bought one straight away. Made by the very talented Tori, they have a clean, simple, feel and a quirky style that cannot fail to make you smile!

daisy orangeI was at a craft fair recently and next to a person who was attending their first ever fair. Her work was beautiful, appealing, well made and (I thought) reasonably priced. However as the day went on and sales were lacklustre (see my blog post on what to do at a dead craft fair!) she started to question whether her pricing was wrong. I suspect we have all been there.

debra bag squareThis is the first blog is a series where I will highlight the work of makers I admire. Today it is the fabulously talented Debra from Bees Make Honey. Debra elevates selection of pattern to an artform as she effortlessly mixes 1970s inspired colours and fabric textures and turns them into beautifully made bags and purses.

gin stirrersLike many makers, as well as online, I sell my work via some shops and galleries across the country. The benefits of this do not always outweigh the drawbacks, so for my blog this week I'm looking at some of the advantages and disadvantages.

black light pullI have just finished a set of jewellery commissioned as a present for a recently married couple, so my blog this week aims to debunk some of the myths around commissioning. 1) I won't be able to afford it – customers often assume that if they want something specific making, they have to have a big budget.

gin bottleWhilst doing some competitor research recently, I came across a website using my images of flattened bottles. Now, there is nothing unique about flattening a gin bottle, lots of warm glass makers do it, but the way I present my flattened bottles is a bit different.

andys cufflinksThe expectation placed on couples getting married to have a lavish, perfectly colour co-ordinated and utterly memorable wedding, is almost unbearable these days. Thankfully there are a lot of sensible people out there who choose to interpret this pressure as an opportunity to investigate unique and handmade things which will make their wedding truly different.

beach hut blueI am sure that all makers have had the experience at some time or another – a craft fair where no-one is buying your stuff. One (very normal) reaction to this is to sit stoically with an inner despair, feeling less and less confident of the value of your work as the hours tick by.

student made pieces

Everyone can create beautiful things, including people who vehemently describe themselves as ‘not creative’; it is just a matter of finding what inspires you and then being given the right information and support. 

This blog is about the creative making sessions you can book in my studio and what it will be like when you book one.

The pictures shown are of pieces made by Kirsten in her creative session.

Bumpy dish bluePeople often ask where my inspiration comes from.  It is really nice to be asked and I often wonder what inspires the makers I admire, as well. For me, there is no single source, it comes from all around, but there are a few specific things that get my creativity flowing.

Colour – the colour of glass is often a starting point.  I can stand and look at the sheets of glass in my workshop and a particular colour or combination of colours will jump out at me. There are certain colours I come back to again and again – turquoise blue is a particular favourite.    

gin bottleI had assumed (wrongly) that most customers knew how I turn old gin bottles into chopping boards and serving platters but when one recently asked me if I have to get fairies to suck all the air out, I thought it was time to set the record straight!

Just about any empty bottle can be heated in a kiln until it flattens. The shape of the bottle will have some impact on how successful the finished article e.g. square bottles don't work as well as round or oval ones, is but you can have a go at anything.