I have always been notoriously bad at planning, much preferring to take each day or week as it comes, a more spontaneous approach, feeling my way forward organically. Conforming to office life in London during my twenties was really hard, and it turned out, impossible for me, so here I am. I thought there was something wrong with me but I now cherish and embrace my ability to be flexible as well as my sense of autonomy that has helped me grow my own creative business into something I truly love.
Running your own business does require some planning though. I have found it easier over the last 5 years or so, to structure the seasons of my business by learning through experience, from mistakes I made along the way (another blog post in the writing). The small business I have created organically, from my heart fits the particular shape of my life. I like to learn by doing and find it better to make my own plan rather than follow someone else's methods that don't ever seem to fit.
In this post I am sharing three things that has helped me balance growing my business through, lets face it, 'winging it' but with purpose and direction, and a tiny bit of thinking ahead and looking back to take away the stress.
1. Acknowledge your Seasons
In the UK we are heading straight into Autumn from one of our hottest ever summers so its hard not to notice and feel the seasonal shift (even though its very sunny and warm as I write!). I always feel a change at this time as the pace of my business steps up, as of course I sell a good deal more at Christmas time than at any other. I am ready-ish so I'm not in the craziest Tiz of my life in the 4 weeks before Christmas (this time), because I am working more seasonally and preparing ahead, and the temptations of summer are gone. It is cooler so I feel good snuggled up in either my workshop beavering away with the radio on, making stock for more time than through the rest of the year, or at my desk with a cup of coffee working away on my website and listening to a podcast or two.
So although I make and send pieces out to my nature loving customers almost daily, autumn and early winter is my busy, most productive season. Now is my harvest time as my thoughts, ideas, experiments and some making come to fruition after cooking through the year. I feel like a buzzing bee or when the flowers are in bloom (note to self, finish the new bee design!). I loved listening to Jen Carrington's podcast where she talks about working seasonally. In January I hibernate, spring I wake up and start to blossom and reach out, summer kind of disappears in a haze and I rest and play, and now I make, harvest and distribute the fruit in all the directions I created the rest of the year.
Your year might run through a different seasonal rhythm than mine. Spare yourself unnecessary guilt of trying to bear fruit when you are at the sowing stage, or you should be hibernating, or hibernating when the conditions are better suited to reaping because your energy is higher. If you know what's important in each of your seasons, and what they are, it will make life a whole lot simpler. Leaving more space for tea and cake/gin and tonic.
2. Have Faith
Its taken me a while to realise the seasonal nature of my business, that I do different tasks at different times, and even sell different pieces at different times of year (daffodils more in spring, acorns more in autumn, holly in December) - so I respond to this. By 'having faith' I mean that I have needed to look back at what I've achieved so far, which helps me plan a little for the future. I need to have confidence that my customers will come back, that new ones will arrive, and that my business will steadily grow as it has done for the past 5 years, there's not any good reason why it wouldn't and I can use the past as my template. Being a few years in is useful as there is more to look back on for sure. The number of pieces I sold last year gives me an indicator of how many I need to make and sell this year (hopefully a few more each year, and I set a goal to grow every year). Counting. I combat the self doubt that this will actually continue to happen, which can be such an inhibitor, by absorbing the concrete facts, statistics, and feedback. Then I can actually take a risk to prepare pieces, trusting rather than doubting they will be wanted, not waiting and responding more haphazardly and in a stress as orders came in thick and fast when I wasn't prepared or expecting. If you have any self doubt (of course you have some, you're human!) but if it is really getting in the way you can listen to Sas Petherick who is a self-doubt coach with lots of great advice. I recommend looking back, seeing what your output is (order numbers, writing, contracts, or even through financial takings) and having confident expectations of the same again, hopefully plus a little bit more.
I can easily get overwhelmed with all the different things I need to do. Like many I know I am a Mum, I have my business, and I also work a day a week as a therapist (it was 2 days until recently and I made the change because of shifting priorities). I have a blind dog, a home and mortgage to pay, I did a Masters I didn't need (big mistake!) and I have been doing it all alone for 8 years. I live in a city I didnt grow up in which has taken a long time for me to get used to. When I speak to other therapists they say its a hell of a lot, but I know that in this world at this time it is quite normal for women in particular to be expected to/expect themselves to juggle enormous amounts. And the result is a big head full of jumble, juggle, switching and, on occasion overwhelm and burn out. I do not recommend this - instead, prioritise - and let go of the things that don't matter, in particular ideas of how you think things 'should' be. My daughter comes first, my health, paying the bills. Our home environment is 'okay' - a lovely enough place (naturally full of inspiration from nature!) but I leave non urgent jobs that need doing for the down seasons when I have less work. I wish my blog didn't get pushed down the list sometimes but in truth it has to. And guess what, no one dies! I get my orders out, I don't like to disappoint my customers and want to be a speedy, high quality service. You get the picture. And yes, I do find time to curl up on the sofa with a book and respond to my body when it tells me this is what I need to restore.
Speaking of which I am currently reading a book called 'Finding your Element' by Ken Robinson. Although I have found my element (I'm not giving up silver smithing any time soon) he really helps you focus in on what matters and what you are good at - and leaving everything else out. I like reading anything that supports my chosen lifestyle as a creative business owner. Thank you Georgie Sinclair for your recommendation.
How do you deal with your seasons? Do you have faith in the future of your project or business, do you acknowledge your achievements and use them as a template, both short and long term? Are you good at prioritising according to your needs at that time, or the time of year, to achieve the life or goals you want to maintain? I'd love to hear your stories, tips, suggestions, experiences and comments below, or come and find me on instagram. Enjoy your season whichever you are in, and have faith! Xx
After attending the Hill View Farm Creativity festival from Natasha @takingamomentintime in 2017 I was delighted to be asked back again this year, this time to teach a jewellery making workshop. I was also happy to be seeing some old friends and make new ones, taste Natasha's beautiful home grown and home cooked food, under the light of the stars and the moon.
There is nothing like a big throng of creative people gathered in one place (I think around 50 people). One woman remarked 'I thought I was weird until I came here!' We all laughed as it was so easy to relate to being the person often making things while the rest of our friends and family are giving us strange looks. It almost felt like a support group in that sense!
After a pleasant evening of chatting and mindful activity with Gabrielle Treanor, a night in a luxurious tent (with beds and rugs etc so there was no scrimping), we had breakfast and I prepared for my first ever jewellery making workshop. There was something about the calm, fun, and creative atmosphere and fresh air that meant I didn't feel nervous, just so happy to be able to share some of the knowledge I've gained over the last few years with a captive audience. There were 12 in my group who all made some exquisite pieces of jewellery, a necklace, bracelet and earrings each (you can see some more on my instagram highlights). They worked really hard for 3 hours - I was so pleased with how much they enjoyed it especially - it was one of the most rewarding mornings I've ever spent!
After a tasty lunch with Natashas' magical cabbage and noodle salad (which is now almost famous for its unbelievable tastiness!) I headed over with friends to what must be one of the farm stores to learn macrame with Sam @prettylittleknots. I was surprised that it didn't come so naturally to me as I'm used to making things but it definitely worked a different muscle in my brain to jewellery making or painting. I did it though and you can see the results here. its hanging proudly in my hallway and I'm looking forward to making the plant pot hanger from the kit I bought from Sam in the Festival Market.
After a fun evening chatting, eating and looking for shooting stars by the bonfire I headed for bed at around midnight, groups of people still up making things while they chatted. My friend Marisa attached a light to her deckchair so she could keep crocheting long after dark! There was a market where all the tutors could sell their work which was a wonderful bonus, such a lot of beautiful things. It brings me so much joy to buy direct from other makers.
The next morning I learned how to make pinch pots and spoons out of porcelain with my friend Katie @ceramicmagpie. Again, I think I need more practice, my spoons were kind of wobbly, as were the pots though I'm pretending its deliberate.
Thanks so much for reading, what do you think, does it sound appealing to you too? I am planning to go again next summer as a tutor. If you would like to find out more about the retreats and the farm you can visit Hill View Farm for more information. If you're interested in workshops with me I am planning to start some in the London/Surrey area soon - it was just so much fun! Find out more by signing up for my newsletter on the homepage, coming to visit me at The Handmade Fair soon or checking out my workshops page. You probably know you can find me on Instagram most days too. Happy making!
I took this recipe directly from Sara Taskers blog here, I trust most things she says so this one was no different. You could use any kind of gin, I chose Hortus as it’s award winning and they sell it in Lidl (yes, Lidl!) nearby, not to mention the lovely label. I halved the recipe so I could save the rest for other experiments! If you’d like to see my other post with an elderflower cordial recipe click here.
By Me & Orla
Sara suggests serving with mint, I’m going to try it with classic tonic. While you’re enjoying your drink visit this page to learn more about the folklore associated with the elder.
Let me know how you get on!
Watching the plants and trees burst into life in May and June is one of the great pleasures of the whole year. I saw the first elderflowers starting to bloom only a week ago and some are already turning brown so I thought I had better get these simple recipes up straight away. I walk past around fifty elderflower trees on my daily dog walk, which sounds like a lot but they are everywhere in this part of the UK as they are native here. You can find out more about elder folklore here.
Last year was my first time making elderflower cordial and I made too much and had to throw some away as we got sick of it and it started to look a bit dodgy! Sarah Becvar recommended freezing elderflower cordial in ice cube trays which is a genius idea, then add to water, still or sparkling, or to a glass of prosecco for those balmy summer evenings. I took this recipe (different to last years recipe) from the Country Living Magazine and used lemon juice instead of citric acid, and I used a Kilner jar which I sterilised with boiling water. Look out for the separate elderflower gin recipe for added punch!
I had to remove three bugs and a snail, I didn’t think they would add much flavour. I hope you’ll give it a try, or if you know another way of making this let us know in the comments, thanks for reading! See the separate blog post about elderflower gin.
And come and say hello at Instagram!
P.S. that’s the new rose gold dragonfly wing ring, perfect for summer!
Of the many thousands of acorns produced by the mother tree, very few if any will survive to become a sapling, let alone a tree. It takes seventy years for an oak tree to reach full maturity too - these are slow and steady beasts. I am going to draw on the obvious analogy which I don't think can be iterated enough. To acknowledge how well we are all doing: merely existing seems to be a highly improbable outcome for an oak tree but also for a human, and all the eggs that get away, our ones made it! Not to mention that such a small and satisfyingly smooth nut contains within it the blueprint and capacity to grow into something so large and majestic and live for a thousand years. We have the blueprint for our best self too, right there inside! All the acorn needs are the right conditions and perhaps a touch of luck and faith. Don't worry if you've been nibbled a bit, trodden on a little, and if you're on stony ground, roll off it, or let the wind take you. We must give ourselves the best chance against all odds so we can live for a thousand years! Well not actually that but you know what I mean ;) . So let's please give ourselves everything needed to support our inner oak trees, and get rid of all that we don't need.
Feel free to share your oaky / acorn / growth stories and facts below.
For daily reminders or to share the symbolism you can find several acorn and oak pieces in my shop (a shameless plug? Hell yes - I'm growing too!)
A friend introduced me to this healthy natural truffle recipe, which I subsequently lost. A quick explore of google and here is my adapted version. I'm sure you could edit according to what's in your cupboard though this combination works well. These make a good alternative to chocolates if like me, you've over done it before Christmas has even arrived and want a treat! They also happen to be extremely delicious, and make a sweet little gift too.
I am so happy to have been interviewed by Anne at My Giant Strawberry - a Chicago based artist with a fabulous blog. The intro is here though pop over to read the full interview -link at the bottom.
Interview with Kate Harvey
Kate Harvey is the designer behind the jewelry shop Grace and Flora. Her pieces are nature-inspired and feature natural objects cast in metal. As someone who is always attracted to and inspired by nature, her work speaks to me and I'm delighted to have Kate here sharing her story with us today.
ab: Hi, Kate, thanks for being here. I was first attracted to your beautiful, nature-inspired jewelry and your lovely photography on Instagram, but when I read a bit about you, I became even more inspired. Although you made jewelry as a teenager, you studied zoology at University and then later went back to train as a counselor and psychotherapist. What drew you to zoology? And then how did you come to counseling as a profession? Being a therapist is just one aspect of your life today. Having different aspects to your life -- jewelry design, counseling, motherhood -- makes you feel whole. Can you expand on this?
kh: It's interesting looking back to that time - I loved biology at school, I was fascinated by the complexity of the life forms we looked at, evolution and the whole phenomenon of life itself, which still amazes me every day. I was eventually drawn more to animal biology because they had consciousness, interesting behaviour and I found it all so beautiful....
...READ FULL INTERVIEW