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!