Friday, 27 December 2013

A look back at 2013

Time to have a look back at the past year and everything I have achieved! It has been a fantastic first year of business, I started designing under Emma Frances in September 2012 but didn't register Emma Frances until March 2013, so it isn't quite one year old just yet.

First of all a huge thank you to my mum who has been wonderful, she has been promoting me anywhere and everywhere she possibly can.  She helps me push myself to go further and try things that throw me out of my comfort zone.  It can be easy to sit and design away but half of this job is interacting with customers and clients, which my mum has given me the confidence to do.  I can see how proud I make her and it just makes me want to try ten times harder.

It has been a whirlwind of a year but such a fantastic one that it has fired me up to make next year even better than I have been planning.  I've seen my designs go from strength to strength and it's all down to a lot of hard work, listening to what my customers are saying and taking it on board and having the most incredible group of friends who are designers from all over the world.  Who have to be one of the best things I have gained from being in this industry, we are all there to support one another, to celebrate in the wins and to pick you up after you've had a let down.  We are all growing as designers and it is lovely to see each of them get their work out into the world and to see their businesses grow.  So I'd also like to say a huge thank you to each and everyone of them for helping me this past year as I really don't think I would have made it this far without them all.

Here are some of my biggest achievements from the past year:

  • Top of my list is seeing my own greetings cards in the shops, which signifies the start of my own brand getting known.  I'm going to be contacting stockists in the New Year to try and get my cards and products out across the country.  I also have a lot of plans for new products from more cards to chunky notebooks to children's t-shirts!  Who knows where this will lead me!
  • I had the lovely surprise of winning the Quincy Lampshade design competition in the summer, it is always a wonderful feeling when you get an exciting email that fills you with determination to keep going and to aim high.

  • I have also gained two licensing deals this year with Kekacase and Kess inHouse, both have some beautiful products and it was a big step in getting the Emma Frances brand into the world.

  • The at the end of the year came some of my biggest news, being a guest designer for Believe Creative Studio and having the chance to send some of my designs to one of the biggest design shows in Paris!

As for my plans for next year, well I'm just in the process of writing them out! So I'll keep you posted =) Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and here's to next year being even better.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Emma Frances is off to Paris!

Well I have some fantastic news that I can finally announce today after sitting on it for about a week.  It's always so exciting having a huge secret for a while that your bursting to tell everyone, this is probably one of the reasons I love this industry so much!

I have been picked by Believe Creative Studio to be one of their guest designers for the upcoming Indigo-Premiere Vision show in Paris.  As soon as I saw Rosie's call for designers for Childrenswear I knew it was exactly what I needed.  A chance to get stuck in and focus on a big project with set deadlines and plenty of designing time aswell as working on children's themes which are my favourites!  I had a good feeling about the whole thing and I was right!  After getting Rosie's email saying she'd love me to be one of her guest designers I couldn't sit still and honestly felt like jumping around the room a little.

This is such a huge opportunity for me and I feel ready for it now, a few months ago I think it would have been very daunting but I have achieved such a lot since September that I'm ready for the next leap. 

I have the chance to work with some very talented ladies aswell as the wonderful Believe Creative Studio on some amazing projects.  I believe this will help my designing even more and it has been so much fun working on the first design brief that I think I would quite happily sit and work all day everyday!  I have learnt a lot about my style and different ways of putting a collection together aswell as practicing my drawing skills so I am well prepared.

The only down side to all of this is I won't be able to share my work with all of you, as it must be kept a secret.  I will keep up my blogging though and let you know how everything is going as I have plans for lots of new products in the New Year!

This time last year I don't think I would have believed this would be happening!  I wonder what next year will bring =)

Saturday, 14 December 2013

More Craft Fair Experiences!

I've had such an amazing response to the posts I did about my craft fair experiences that I wanted to share some more with you.  I'll eventually compile a list of websites I found to be really helpful aswell as a list of things to take with you if you are going to be doing your first craft fair.  I find it helpful to do a lot of research, I'm one of these people who reads up on everything before I go ahead and do it.  I like to be extra prepared so if anything does go wrong I know how to fix it!

So I have read around a lot of different websites about doing a craft fair and compiled my own list of helpful tips and things you wouldn't ordinarily think of taking with you.  I'll share all of this with you in the future.  For now I have Sarah Fleming who has done quite a lot of craft fairs this year, and I'm pleased to say hers went very well so it isn't all miserable news!

Lets hear about Sarah's craft fair experience:

"Over October and November, I have exhibited at 6 different craft fairs. These have all been Christmas fairs so my patterned products were competing against the usual novelty festive things found at fairs - lots of hand made decorations, hand made Christmas cards and other bits'n'bobs which immediately made me nervous.

 I was already anxious as to whether or not people would like my products/designs without having to compete with other stalls that may be seen as more relevant to the time of year. So, I decided to test the waters and do my first fair at home. I opened my (parents') house to family and friends to come over and see what stocking fillers I had. I post on facebook about new designs, illustrations and products quite a lot, and so the people invited had an idea of what I had to offer but I wanted to give them a sort of 'try before you buy' opportunity. Mum and I set everything up and between 2-8pm that day we had endless amounts of people through the door! It was amazing!"

What a fantastic idea to set up your own small craft fair to see how the public responds to your products, you can ask them for honest feedback on your designs, products and pricing before flying in to one of the bigger fairs where you will be paying for a stall.  This will also give you an opportunity to see what questions customers may have and you have time to practice how to answer certain ones and what may need to be made clearer on your packaging or with your stall set up.

"I couldn't believe the response, feedback I received about my work and products, and how successfully the whole day was. I had lots of sales, with people buying across all of the products I have - tote bags, pocket mirrors, notebooks, greetings cards and Christmas card sets. This definitely built my confidence up for the public fairs that I had to come! So, that would be my first bit of advice - if you can, have a few people over to test the waters with your products. It's your family and friends who are going to be your biggest fans and tell their family and friends about what you're doing so it's definitely worth trying. I even had people show an interest in buying wallpapers as I had my design portfolio on display and lots of people flicked through and loved my designs! So even if you don't get many sales on the day, it could bring in business from other avenues!"

Again a really useful bit of advice, having your other work on hand or on the table will let other people see the range of work you can do.  You never know who may need something designing, someone may be getting married and need wedding stationary, another may need a logo designing.  Having your portfolio which shows the different types of design you can do may bring in some work you didn't expect!

"Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd November, I had my first two public fairs. These were very slow and I only had a few sales - most of which were from other stallholders. I tend to be quite shy around people that I don't know and sometimes struggle to explain how I'm a surface pattern designer as some people can't quite grasp it. However, I pushed myself to talk to people and explain that everything had been drawn by hand and put into patterns on the computer, by me! So this would be my 2nd piece of advice - TALK TO EVERYONE! If someone comes by your stall, don't be afraid... just stand up and smile, say hi and explain a little about yourself. It makes them feel welcome, makes them see that what you're offering is exclusive to you and a lot of time and effort has gone into it! Also, talk to other stallholders. As I said, I had a few sales from people on other stalls and also found out about other fairs that may be of interest to me and the type of products I have. I even had invitations to exhibit at fairs from stallholders organising their own. So even if the sales aren't coming in thick and fast, use your time to network and make contacts!"

This echo's what I said in my previous post about talking to other stall holders, it is really important to network with other creatives!  Another thing Sarah has brought up is letting people know you have drawn all of these designs.  People didn't seem to grasp this with my stalls either, they were surprised when I explained I had hand drawn all of the designs and it made them take a closer look!  So if you can make it really clear that you are the one drawing and putting all of the illustrations together and the time and effort that goes into it.  People don't tend to think of all of the time behind a design and the hours of struggling with a colour palette that won't work or the time you've lost your work as Illustrator decides to go to sleep and delete your work so you've had to do it again!  Help them understand all of the work behind your designs.
"I set myself a limit of £15 a stall when booking fairs to ensure that if it was quiet and sales weren't great, I would at least (hopefully) make back my stall money. 
The next 3 fairs that I did were in association with different charities - MacMillan Cancer Support, Kickstart (a local charity in memory of Emily, school friend of mine) and Teenage Cancer Trust. These were very well advertised locally and brought in a lot of people and sales. I like to support charities where I can, so these fairs were great! 

My final fair was 1st December at Driffield High School, with over 85 stalls it is the biggest fair in East Yorkshire so I couldn't wait to get set up and see what the day brought. There was a wide variety of products on offer. Once I had set up I went for a walk around while my mum manned the stall and I could see that my stall was very different from everything else, as it had been at the previous fairs. This still, 5 fairs later, made me a little apprehensive but things went really well! I gained more great feedback and thoughts on other products I could maybe have on offer next year which was lovely. 

Overall, I have had a very positive experience with the fairs I have taken part in. I have made great contacts both with customers and other stallholders, got my name out into the local area more (and over to South Africa where one of my customers was taking her pocket mirrors to family!), gained confidence as a person and in my abilities as a designer, and been given that much needed boost to carry on doing what I'm doing and developing my Sarah Fleming Designs brand!"

It's wonderful to hear Sarah has had some very positive experiences with her craft fairs and fills me with hope for the future!  The very best of luck with developing her brand and I'm sure I'll interview Sarah again in the future to see how she is doing.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

My Craft Fair Experience No.2

My experience of craft fairs so far should be enough to put me off for a long time! You can read about the first two here and this post is about my third one which was on the first of December and it was another flop.  I only sold two items this time so didn't even cover my stall, but it wasn't the quality of the stalls, it was just there were no buyers to buy!  It was situated in a hotel and there was plenty of parking, the stalls were all lovely and I bought several Christmas presents myself, it just didn't attract the footfall we had all intended.

All in all it was a pretty good day though, I had my sister over for the weekend so she came along and made herself (not so) useful by knocking over items on my stall more than a few times.  She was brilliant to have along though, Sophie is bubbly and chatty whereas I can be quiet and shy so she was exactly what I needed.  She had us chatting to the lady on the next stall within minutes (who sold the most delicious cupcakes I've ever had!), and we literally talked for the whole day.  So it wasn't as long a day as it felt it was going to be in the beginning.

The lovely lady on this stall bought one of my hand sewn totebags and she even wants to get together to plan to make some for her business!  So something good can come out of any bad experience.  The best bit of advice I have gleaned from this fair is if you are shy or find it daunting talking to the public then take someone like my Sophie along, they will help you relax and feel more comfortable getting to know the other stall holders.

That's the second thing, get to know the other stallholders! They are businesses too and who knows what collaborations may arise from having a little chat.  They will often exchange business tips with you or other fairs worth looking into so it is definitely a good idea to go around and introduce yourself or just as them how it's gone for them near the end of the day.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

My Blog and Buy Sale Picks!

I can't believe I haven't mentioned this yet, I've been so caught up with craft fairs and getting my wares into shops!  I have been included in this years Blog and Buy Sale wish list!  There are some wonderful products, all from independent small businesses and all truly unique.  I've had a look through and picked out some of my favourites, but they're all works of art so go and have a flick through yourself!

My Christmas card collection and Lighthouse Family print were the ones that were picked! For now though have a look at these beauties!!

First up a seriously cute little embroidered brooch by Hand Stitched With Love, they have loads on their online shop, the perfect little accessory!

I thought these coasters were so different and love the way they fit together to make a bigger picture.  The bright red and black and white drawings really jump out at you against the wooden background.  Just beautiful! These are by Caleigh-ill.

Some giftwrap from Nat Maks, based on an Alice in Wonderland theme they feature magenta sketches of saucers and plates.  I love the drawing style!  You can also see in the background her Dorothy and Zhivago prints too!
Emma Hutton has some beautifully intricate jewellery on the Blog and Buy Sale, here is her leaf bangle but all of her work is amazing!

Another set of unique coasters, named 'The Chase' these are by Caleigh-ill too! featuring two foxes chasing each other they're such a cute illustration!
 This little bracelet is by Claireabellemakes, I love the little love hearts in the wheels! and at £5 it's ideal for little girls!

Holly Benton from Death by Tea is a wonderful illustrator! Her style is so playful, fun and childish, really 'innocent' drawings but with little details too which make them so charming.  

Bunnybosworths makes super cute necklaces and bracelets from Liberty fabric, the perfectly tied knots matched with the busy Liberty prints make irresistible jewellery.

There are loads of wonderful products over on the Blog and Buy Sale Wish List so do take a look!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Emma Frances Designs Black Friday Deals!

I thought I'd make it a bit easier for you all so have put all of my Black Friday deals on one page!

We have 25% off when you spend £5 or more in my Etsy store, just use the code MISTLETOE13 There are notebooks, greetings and Christmas cards and loads more!

My Kess inHouse collections have a huge 40% off this weekend! You can have a look at the products below and grab a bargain!  They would make really unique Christmas presents!

And finally my Kekacase collection also have a huge 40% this weekend.  The quality is beautiful by the way as I have one of their tough snap on cases on my own phone!  Use the code BLK40 to get this.  Kekacase also have their November deal which is if you buy any two cases you get a free snap on case.  Use the code FREESNAP for this, you could get 3 presents for the price of 2!

Designer Feature: Mooselane Design

I have some wonderful work from Marika of Mooselane Designs today, she has such a lovely style, quite simple but so effective with clean and crisp motifs.  Marika has done a lot of design courses from art to graphics to textiles.  Eventually she decided to study product design at the Glasgow School of Art.  She says Glasgow is such a creative and inspirational city to be in and loved her time there but after graduating she felt she needed a break from design.  She ended up working in branding for a couple of years before she began drawing again and came back to surface pattern.  From this Mooseland design began!

So why do you want to be a designer and what do you like about patterns?

I believe in making things that have a function or purpose.  I chose product design because I wanted to use that skill to improve peoples lives through design.  However, for as long as I can remember I have also loved the playfulness of patterns and the use of colour in general.  It fascinates me how images, colours and patterns can create the perfect balance (in the space it's in) if done well.  This is important especially when I do freelance branding work for businesses, and I enjoy that combination of strategic and creative thinking.  I've discovered the #365 patterns challenge (design a pattern a day) and I've decided to do this for the remaining months of 2013, seems like a fun challenge!

How would you describe your style and what is your favourite medium to work with?

Colourful designs with a Scandinavian feel to them.  I enjoy the initial stage when I create lots and lots of drawings, the build up to the end result.  I wish I has my own ceramic workshop and a printing studio where I could get my hands dirty more!

I'd love a huge workshop where I could make as much mess as I wanted!  What inspires you and where do you find your inspiration from?

As a mother to a 2 year old I'm surrounded by colourful illustrations and books and this has definitely had a big influence on my designs.  Although, inspiration could come from anything I see really, a colour combination, a composition (that created a pattern in my mind) or just an interesting texture.  For example my Autumn/Winter 2013 designs were inspired by things I saw on a footpath in my neighborhood!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

My Craft Fair Experience

This weekend I had two craft fairs, my first ever! So it was a huge deal, I had fretted for weeks over my stall, how it will look, what I'll be selling, I invested a LOT of money in getting products printed and making sure I had everything I needed.  There are an insane amount of costs when you start thinking about it.  You need labels, bags of different sizes for people to take their purchases away in.  Then I needed to get different packaging to post items that were bought online, all of different sizes to keep the weight down!  The table, cloths, boxes and stands, smaller items to sell to cover the cost of the table.

I must have got through at least two full notebooks with all of my lists!  I hand made little paper items to decorate presents, I got my sewing machine out and made some totebags, my mum even helped me out with knitting some really cute stripy dishcloths and corsages!  It was a lot more work than I ever thought it would be, but I enjoyed every minute so I suppose it wasn't that bad.

After all of that work I felt very prepared, packed the car and set off to the first one on Saturday.  I can't have come crashing down to earth harder than I did that afternoon!  The first fair was in a pub (This should have screamed not worth the risk really), it was free so I thought why not.  I got all set up and was really excited to finally get my work out there and for people to see it, well that would have happened if people had actually come to the fair.  There can only have been 10 people that actually came and looked around in the 3 hours we were there.  To top it off the landlord didn't put the heating on so I was absolutely frozen! We left early and I made a loss with petrol and the raffle prize I gave towards it.

So after a HUGE glass of wine that night I pulled myself back up and told myself tomorrow would be better.  Thankfully it was, for one thing it was warm inside the hall!  I only made enough to cover my stall but the atmosphere was really good and I met some lovely stall holders aswell as the ladies that ran the event, they were all so supportive and quite happy to chat about business tips.

I had a lot of positive feedback but you have to watch out for some customers though, there was one little old lady that pulled some faces at the price of my totebags (I made sure I got a really nice strong heavy canvas cotton so they were really sturdy and would last.  I neatly lined them inside aswell so there were no stitches on show inside), they were £8 for a large one.  Anyway, she bustled off only to come back with her daughter and husband to mutter about them some more.  All right infront of me!  If something like this happens don't take it to heart, there will always be people who aren't happy with something, I just looked the other way and made sure I couldn't hear what they were saying.  I realise some people are good at sewing and can easily make these things themselves, they're not who I'm aiming at.  It's always going to knock you down when someone does something like this, but just ignore it as it won't be very often and for that one little glitch everyone else loved my products.

My highlight has got to be where a little boy, who reminded me a lot of my little 8 year old brother, kept walking past my stall and smiling at me until eventually he just had to say to me that he really liked my notebooks and would love to buy one but didn't have enough money left.  He really liked my Spaceman design and I was so touched I let him have it for a discounted price.  Sometimes if you don't ask you don't get =)  That little boy honestly made my day.

When your in this industry it all feels very personal as it's your designs from your imagination and drawn with your hands so it feels awful when you hear negative comments.  You really have to focus on the positive ones though, everytime you feel a bit upset by one persons views just think back to a time where someone stood out for you and made you feel good about your work.  I sold a set of my Harvest time prints to a lady in America who bought them for her 2 year old grandson for Christmas.  It's such a special feeling that I can't really describe, but this is why I design, so people like that, who really love what I do, can enjoy them as much as I do.

Have you ever had anything like this happen to you? What do you do to lift yourself back up?

Friday, 22 November 2013

Christmas Card Showcase!

This weekend I have two craft fairs and will be selling my Christmas cards myself for the first time! I'm so nervous but it will hopefully be a great experience and I'll gain some valuable feedback.

So I have gathered together some of my designer friends Christmas cards to showcase to you today, if you haven't bought your Christmas cards yet then have a look at this lovely collection and you may find something that catches your eye!  It's really important that we help support small independent businesses, and yes our prices may be higher than high street retailers but there has been a lot of time and love that has gone into these designs.  You will also have something rather unique as they aren't on the shelves of many shops!  Even if you just buy one or two to send to a few special people it shows your support in what we do.

First up is Rosie Simons, with jazzy christmas colours and beautiful typography!

Ruth Thorp's simple illustrations look wonderful in two colours

Jessica Wilde's doodle style Christmas cards are really unique in lovely bright colours

Applemint Designs's Christmas cards are beautifully designed with such a soft Christmas colour palette

Sam Osbourne's cards feature Christmassy quotes from Winnie the Pooh, Buddy the Elf and The Grinch, together with cute little doodled illustrations!

Gooseberry Moon's cards are so delicate they say exactly what you need to at this time of year, she also has a berry patterned one here

Claire Lordon's Animal Pun Christmas cards have prooved very popular this Christmas and you can see why!

Nika Martinez has teamed up with Mariam Tronchoni to deliver this beautiful Christmas card!

Slumbermonkey Designs hand printed style Christmas cards in wonderfully warm Christmassy colours

Michelle Nilson's Candy Cottage Christmas card is an array of bold and beautiful colours

Liz May's Red Robin card is simple and cute

Faye Brown's beautiful Typographical cards that I featured earlier in the week!

And finally my own collection is available on my Etsy store! So there are plenty of beautiful designs for you to choose from!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Christmas Typography

This Christmas a few designers have decided to have a Christmas card swap.  It's such an easy way of having a variety of unique Christmas cards!  So today I wanted to show you Faye Brown's wonderful cards.  Faye's style is very graphic which is where her background lies.  She is a Typography queen! Faye ran her own online typography course, which I took part in, back in June.  Her 'The art of Typography' course was fantastic, you can read all about it here! I highly recommend it.

Her typography really shines through in these beautiful Christmas cards.  My favourite has to be Frosty the Snowman, with the cute little snowman sat in the corner.

Now why wouldn't you want some Christmas cards designed by individuals, that will really stand out against the mass produced cards, to WOW your family and friends?!  I'll be posting more unique Christmas cards that you won't find on the high street soon.

I'm going to have to be really selective of who to send these lovely cards to....or I could just keep them for myself! =) Get some of your own here!

Here's a little close up of the detail!