Space to Think

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I lied, the last post wasn’t the last post of me rambling about spring cleaning and purging everything to make space because it has become apparent that this clear out may just be an ongoing project as it spreads to various other parts of my life and work. I mentioned in my last post that I need actual physical space to be creative, not just so that I can actually do stuff but also so I can think and see clearly. Sometimes envisioning space is not enough you actually need that physical space, maybe this is why people go out into the desert to go and find themselves!

I like blogging even if I’m not too fond of the direction that blogging seems to have gone in over the last few years and the overtly snobbish and competitive nature it appears to have adopted by some. It’s turned into a numbers game and the stream of impersonal sponsored posts means I have lost interest in seeking out new blogs. And I know this is one of the many reasons my blog doesn’t get any traction. It is weighed down with clutter and rambling nonsense, it’s a place to clear my chaotic head, being authentic with no direction is no better/worse than regurgitated sponsored crap, if it’s boring. In a world of experts and how to win at social media the rebel in me says I’ll do whatever I like, however the persnickety perfectionist in me also means I am never happy with the way my work or posts looks! And the competitive side of me is even worse! At the end of the day we should be able to post to Instagram and our blogs what we feel like without fear of being judged as not good enough but the algorithm usually reminds us that it’s not about being good it’s about numbers.

I have a vague gist of what direction I want to take my work and writing. The urge to wipe everything clean and start again is overwhelming but that is not the answer. To wipe everything clean is social media suicide, to try to build everything from scratch takes three times as long and it’s so much harder to juggle more than one account these days, I say hard what I probably mean is tiresome and time-consuming. So I’m stripping everything back to the bare bones and taking it from there. With work I am going back to one shop, the vintage side was great but I am one person and there are just not enough hours in the day to everything I would like so I choose. I choose to get rid of the vintage side of things because I like creating more. Blogging is a little different, I want this site to represent me in the now and the way I am heading but the clutter is attracting the wrong audience, people are not sticking around to read because let’s be honest there is much worth reading or it gets lost in the clutter or random posts.

So I cleared them out, all the non related posts in regards to what I want to write about and that is making my own clothes, style and slow fashion/living. I won’t pretend to be an expert or authoritative figure on anything because I’m not but I don’t want anyone being pulled to my blog under false pretences either. So I stripped it back to the bare bones. I’ve been blogging since 2009, some of the very early work was lost long ago but it’s no big deal. Some people like having a backlog to show how they’ve improved or how long they’ve been doing something but these are minor in the grand scheme of things, well to me anyway. Yes people change, our styles develop but hanging onto irrelevant posts can be baggage that weighs you down and the more I post the worse my blog seems to do, so yes I downloaded first and then I discarded the unneeded layers. Sounds harsh but I feel better and can start writing again with focus and direction.

I’m still fine tuning and reorganising things on here. I might even move some of the posts that no longer fit in here over to Medium, not sure yet, there are more important things to do first. I constantly have to remind myself that it’s okay to be 40 and still figuring shit out, rarely does anyone get it right first try, everything requires practice, practice practice, I may trailing behind but I won’t give up the race just yet!

Creating Space

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There is a proverb

‘A rolling stone gathers no moss’

which basically means a person who does not settle in one place will not accumulate wealth, status, responsibilities or commitments. They also won’t end up a likely candidate for hoarders anonymous! I may not have wealth or status but I do have commitments and responsibilities, and although this is not our permanent home I do appear to have accumulated a lot of stuff.

When I started clearing out stuff last year I thought it would be a quick and easy job and in the beginning it was but as the months progressed I began questioning why things weren’t looking any less cluttered. Storing your work stuff at home doesn’t help, nor does a lack of decent storage space, there is only so much you can do in a rented property as well. The thought of moving (which we will have to do at some point) has me thinking from time to time how much stuff do we really need right now? Having moved quite a few times in my life, I’m no longer at the point where I can fit my life into the back of a little van, one driver turned up and said that my stuff wouldn’t fit in the back of the van. I told him not too worry, filled the van with room to spare. I was always pretty good at Tetris! Having lived in small spaces, I’ve become accustomed to being inventive with packing and storing but it gets to the point when you can’t be bothered to keep rifling through boxes to find things you need and ultimately forget that you have them.

There is nothing wrong with having nice things, as long as you can enjoy those nice things. Recently I’ve made some business decisions and that is to concentrate back on being more creative but I realise that I really don’t have the time to manage two businesses. One always ultimately ends up taking over and the other gets neglected, and when I’m not able to give my full attention to something I feel bad when it ultimately struggles and becomes a burden through no fault of its own. But being a one person operation has its limitations, you can do anything just not everything! So I’ve decided to let the vintage side things wind down and run its course. As much as I’ve had problems on eBay, it’s still a good way to get rid of things and I’m being way stricter with postage and less tolerant of daft questions and requests. I miss making things and when I’m not creating it does get to me and get frustrated that I don’t have time to create, so I’m making time by letting things go and also claiming back physical space so I have room to create. Physical space is quite important to me when it comes to creating! My creative space became so cluttered I literally got sick of not being able to find things or knocking stuff over, it actually just stifles your creativity.

I recently cleared out my work room and had the rule that if it did not fit on a shelf or in a box that sat on the top of the shelves, it had to go. It worked, so I’m sort of applying that whole ethic to the rest of the flat. I can get overly sentimental about things and hold onto them for the smallest of reasons but I also like things to have a purpose and sitting in a box forgotten means they are no longer serving a purpose, and I feel they should go to a home where they will. So this is the last time I will bore you with my eternal clear out updates. It’s always going to be a work in progress and when we do finally find a place to settle and take root, I will be taking an approach to invest more in what I/we buy for home but until then on with the purge!

Still Life Sunday

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I don’t have a definitive set of resolutions or goals this year but I definitely decided that there should be less saying I’m going to do something and actually just do it instead. So last weekend I decided to stop whining about having no space to do anything and purged my workroom of stock and other stuff. The rule was if it doesn’t fit on any of the shelves it goes. I moved the furniture around a bit, decided what stayed and what went and by Sunday afternoon I have my creative space back to sew and do other creative stuff.

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On Tuesday I met up with a twitter friend in real life, something else I promised myself I would do and that is to get over my awkward self and try to be a bit more social, especially with other creatives that work from home or are freelance. It was a lovely day, we wandered through Borough market and I can across a not so cheap tray of mushroom that were very Instagram worthy, which most people were doing. I decided to think about it but we ended up passing it again, so I bought them because I thought of a photo still life I wanted to do, so i bought the tray of fancy fungi.

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One thing I keep saying I’m going to do every year is to paint but with the vintage side business taking over last year because it was just easier with the way things happened to be last year, things started to creep out and take over the flat, so I purged most of it on eBay and if it doesn’t fit into the designated box then no more buying until it can. But who know how the year will pan out, this year is already very different from last year but that could also be because I’m in a very different mindset.

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Lack of space can stifle creativity. Always moving things around, can’t find what you need, not only did the purge clear out space, it cleared out my mind and finally let the creativity start to flow again. I’ll be talking about my sewing plans in my next post but today art. So I have a lot to learn in regards to photography, how to use my camera properly and also level up my editing skills from basic to I actually know what I’m doing! As much as i love photography I don’t want to be a photographer per say but I need to be able to take better photos for my work and stuff but I also have decided to use it as a starting point for my painting which after a several years of not doing any is going to require a lot of practice. I’ve been following a few accounts on Instagram for inspiration and also how tos when setting up still life studies, so on Wednesday I used my fancy fungi to create a still life scene and use the shots for a painting at some point (like I said i really need some practice first!)

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So here is my first attempt at a building a still life, to be honest I did it rather quickly because it was so grey and rainy in the morning I wasn’t sure there would be enough light but then the sun came out in the afternoon but as it’s still January days are still short, so I just went with it. Halfway through I decided to go and forage in the garden and add a few extra bits which I preferred, i think these will make a good starting point for a painted still life.

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Please do not reproduce or reuse these pictures without permission, thank you.

Is It Really Too Expensive Or Are You Just Cheap?

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I have been in one sort of customer based job or another for the last 25 years and whilst currently 98% of my customers are lovely people, the Christmas period tends to bring the worst out in customers. Over the years I have just had about heard everything, had every threat and insult thrown at me and the one thing it has taught me that when a customer is being rude, aggressive and/or intimidating is that they are rarely in the right and they know it! But I’m not easily intimidated.  Then there are the ones with the fantastical stories about how the universe has done them a great injustice because a parcel was lost in the post, like I’m too stupid to see when I’m scammed and can’t do anything about it!  Or the ones who give an over the top sob story to obtain a discount. Or the persistent customer who wants you to do something at your cost for no reason other than they cannot take no for an answer, something they would never try with a massive corp because they’d be laughed out-of-town or ignored. Or the customers who asks a specific question and you give them an answer and they still ask again expecting a different answer! And yet we’re all supposed to do this whilst remaining calm with a cheery smile on our faces and well no. I constantly have to remind myself that no money is better than losing money because even if you have zero in the bank your still in the black!

But the customer I’ve had to deal a lot with lately is the one who expects something for nothing and as a self-employed creative, we all know that our work is really not valued by some, hence the clickbait title of this post. I ranted recently on Twitter about a customer who tried to get more discount on an already heavily discounted item and to also reduce the postage effectively leaving me out-of-pocket! A few months ago someone sent me a one lined messaged me to say that ‘the postage is too expensive ;)’ I explained that I don’t make profit on postage and that is how much it is. The item was also on discount. She then told me that she wanted the item because it reminded her of her childhood and other sellers were more accommodating, no please, no thank you, just a thinly veiled attempt at emotional bribery. When I refused to back down she bought it anyway, got me to send it to a friend, then got her friend to send it to her and then left me poor feedback saying the item was lovely but the customer service was borderline aggressive!! Would you write to some big chain corp asking for a discount because an item you loved reminded you of your childhood using poor grammar and emojis and expect them to give you a discount? No!

I hear similar stories from other sellers where people try to squeeze as much as possible out of them for as a little as possible. Artists who are expected to work for free because all they did was write a few words or drew a few lines is but somehow can’t managed to do it themselves, and despite being given more than polite service are reduced to responding in abusive ways, like they are owed something. Or the real kicker, I’ll share it with my followers so you’ll get exposure and therefore the possibility of more work. Look, I see people with 40 thousand followers still not making ends meet, exposure doesn’t guarantee work especially if your followers are anything like you. We are not massive corporations making massive profits and therefore cannot afford to accommodate your ridiculous demands, some of us are living on the bread line if we’re lucky. We barely make profits on what we do to keep up with the competition, many artists have their work stolen by chain brands who then get cheap knock off items produced in China and then sell it for cheaper knowing that most artists can’t afford the legal fees, and yet we’re all supposed to do with a smile because the customer is right!

Something I’ve heard at craft markets/fairs a lots (and I think we’re all probably guilty of this one even if we’ve just thought it) is ‘I can make that for less!’ or they closely inspect your goods with screwed up noses like you can’t see them, or the slightly loud mutter of that’s way to expensive! And in all these areas you are entitled to your opinion but invalidating someone’s work with an off-hand comment is basically inconsiderate and just plain rude.  But ask yourself this is it really too expensive or are you just cheap? Is it expensive because you financially can’t afford it or because you don’t actually think it’s worth the time and effort that someone put in to it?

Yes Brenda you might be able to make that item that you so casually picked up and flung back on the table like a worthless piece of tat but how well could you make it? And are you willing to sit down and learn the techniques required to make that item to the standard that this item has? Are you willing to fork out the money for the supplies? Let me tell you craft supplies are not cheap especially if you want quality products. Do you also take into cost factors other that materials, such as the labour cost, electricity, heating, transport, etc. There is a reason an item is a pound in the pound shop! You’ve basically told that person that you don’t value their work, which yes again you don’t have to and even if their work is not a great as standard as someone elses, well we all have to start somewhere, no one is born amazing at what they do it takes time, effort and practice.

There isn’t a week that goes by where there isn’t some sort of blogger drama. Some think that blogging is not a real profession, that bloggers are just after freebies. This is mostly bullshit! As always there are some blaggers out there wanting to score a freebie but to be honest it appears that the people who mostly want something for free are the reps of the  brands or companies who never seem to have any money in their budget to cover the cost of the work. Oh and my favourite, do it for the exposure! If I want exposure I’ll run down the bloody street naked! Exposure does not pay the rent! Exposure does not feed us. So if you don’t have a budget, then I suggest you do it yourself. I’ve seen fellow bloggers who think new bloggers should work for free and earn their way up the ladder like they did but I disagree.

Blogging has changed a lot through the years, yes anyone can do it but as the means of communication change and the we work has changed, to tout our services a lot of us are reliant on social media. We can create our own exposure but many bloggers are providing what basically is a service and you should be paid according to how well you provide that service, not how long you’ve been in the business. I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years who were paid three times what I was and couldn’t tell the difference between their arse and their elbow. People should be paid for their worth but then how do we define that?

What one person deems worthy another will see it as worthless, it partly down to experience, how many times have you muttered to yourself through a job that it’s not worth your time or effort? It’s also partly down to what we as a society are taught what and who is worthy which is why some job sectors are revered more highly than others but a service is a service and if you want someone to do something because you either don’t want to do it or don’t have the skills to do it yourself, then you should either pay for it or sit down and be quiet!

But having spent 25 years in customer service based jobs I have learned one thing and that is my worth. To quote Marvel’s Agent Carter ‘I know my value!’  and I always tell myself this when a customer is being difficult, trying to wear me down, or I think that by standing my ground or telling the truth that I might come across as unprofessional but I will not be taken advantage of. I chose to become self-employed because I believe that I can do it. Being self-employed creative means I have to work twice as hard to convince people I have a ‘proper job’, nearly four years in and some people still think I can drop things at whim and swan off to do their bidding! Um no! I still work in the same professional capacity as everyone else, in fact even longer hours sometimes but just because I enjoy what ~I do doesn’t mean that I should do it for free or that it’s not a proper job! Case in point my husband is a freelance programmer, no one really ever questions whether he has a proper job or not or how much he should be paid because IT is seen as a profession but creative work is pretty much seen as a hobby!

So next time to you go to engage a service and you baulk at the cost, is it because you can’t afford it or are you just cheap? Because let me tell you straight up, we are not expensive but we will certainly never be cheap regardless of how you value our work.

 

 

 

The Purge

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After started writing my last post I sat down and thought a little more about the kind of clothes I like wearing as opposed to the kind of clothes I want to be wearing. You know from other previous posts that I’m also looking towards leading a scaled back and simpler life. Last year I started on an epic clear out, what started off with clearing out a store cupboard of abandoned and broken electrical goods soon escalated to a flat wide project!

My biggest bone of contention is my work, I work from home, ergo my stuff is stored at home and it can make everything feel a little cluttered at time. It also doesn’t help that we’re renting and are limited to what we can do with storage solutions etc. I long for the day I can afford a studio but you know things change and so do business goals and I’m working towards a more streamlined and sustainable work ethic and obviously to start making and saving more money. The first new rule is not to buy any supplies unless I need them for a specific project, no more I’ve had an idea let me get prepared and then let it sit on a shelf for the next two years because I got distracted by something else and we all know how easily I get distracted. The second rule is not to take on any second-hand supplies from family, friends etc no matter how offended they get when I say no. people need to start owning their craft failures and I need to get better at saying no to things. I’m all for recycle and reusing but I also want to go into my craft room without fear of being trapped in a craftalanche!! I have enough supplies to keep me going for now and hopefully as they dwindle down maybe it well help me focus more.

This clear our isn’t a challenge to be minimalist, it’s a challenge to be more mindful about purchases and probably more truthfully to make space for more books and vinyl records! It’s about buying things that will be used instead of intended to use. I’ve bought so many nice clothes, that I like and intended to wear but for a myriad of reasons didn’t and they’re just taking up space, this is probably the last phase of my clear out. Last year I sent loads of DVDs, CDs and books to places like Ziffit and Music Magpie  and earned a few pennies in the process. There is a certain level of guilt that comes with dumping everything in the charity shop and making it someone’s problem especially when you see of the crap donated especially at this time of year, I am definitely guilty of this. You think just because you like something it’s worth something but sometimes it’s just crap!

Anyway back to the case in point, I have decent wardrobe clear out every so often but this time I’m going to try to sell a few bits first to try to earn some funds for new fabric, maybe some new clothes and definitely some new books and records. My wardrobe seems to be heading back to a basic collection of black items with a few pops of colours, outlandish prints seem to be on the wane, though I do still love a fabulous outlandish print now and then. I need to let go of handmade clothes that I’m hanging onto for sentimental reasons, let go of things because I’m convinced I will find a use for them at some point and stop trying to convince myself that at some point I will lose that Christmas weight from five years and fit back into that item again!! So I’m purging my closet and vanity drawers. I sent 18 bras (yes 18) that have been sitting in a suitcase, decent pretty bras that I was convinced would fit again once I lost some weight to Oxfam for their bra programme. I’ve cleared out old socks, underwear and overstretched pyjamas for recycling, I’ve sorted out clothes and accessories to be sold, it’s probably the wrong time of year to try to sell things because everyone is having a new year, new me clear out. Also everyone is broke! But I’m going to try instead of defaulting to me defeatist mode of why would anyone want my stuff. I won’t be listing of eBay just yet as I’ve had to many problems on there, I will on the other hand try insta first, then Depop.