Friday, 29 June 2012

Blog Love: Why do I Blog?

I am coming to the end of my time with Holly Becker on her 'Blogging Your Way' e-course and I think I owe it to her to talk about what I have learnt. I was a little dubious when I signed up and my other half was certainly not impressed I'd spent so much money on an e-course! I also wasn't sure it would teach me anything I didn't already know. Boy was I wrong there. Well I have to say, I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever, in fact, I'm really sad it's almost over. The course has made me see blogging in a whole new light. Before it was just a way of me documenting my finds (often regurgitating what I've seen on other blogs) and showcasing my work but now it's become a whole new medium for me to express my creative passions and write about my what inspires me from heart. When you lead a busy working life with back to back projects for clients, it's easy to forget what makes you tick and why you are doing what you do. Writing my blog is my way of escape, to refresh my mind and get excited about what is going on out there beyond my office! 

The course has been a lot more than how to write a blog (anyone can do that anyway!). It's focus has been on finding out who you are as person, why you are unique, what you want to achieve and how to do it. I'm quite quiet and shy 'in real life' but it has given me a new found confidence.  Holly and her team (Jeanette Lund of By Fryd, Nicole Balch of 'Making it Lovely' & Katrina Tan of 'Pugly Pixel' ) have taught me the importance of my online voice, how communicating with others via the web can grow my business and develop my 'brand' making new friendships and building relationships along the way. At this point I also have to mention the number of friends I have made along the journey of the class. The support and encouragement from my classmates has been fantastic. 

BYW has given me a vision. It's left me brimming with ideas for creative posts, e-magazines, projects and even the possibility of launching into day! It's opened my eyes to the world around me and how to see inspiration in my everyday life. I know as a designer I should be doing these things anyway, but as I said, it's easy to forget. It has encouraged me to go out and do things and try new things (see my post on my introduction to sewing class). As Holly said in one of her lessons, 'do your thing and keep moving forwards'.  I'm excited about the 'moving forwards' and my new found direction,  and I can't wait to share my onward creative journey here.

This post has been illustrated with these words of wisdom from VOL25. The prints are available to buy here.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Mischief meets...Wit & Whistle

Some of you may know that I am currently taking Holly 'Decor8' Becker's e-class 'Blogging Your Way'. As part of my homework this week I am starting a new regular column here on MFP&Me 'Mischief meets....' (name to be confirmed, any thoughts?) where I will interview creatives, designers and artists who have caught my eye. I'll be finding out how they got to where they are now, what inspires them to be the creative, and all about their design processes and working environment.

First up is one of my fellow BYW students, Amanda Wright of Wit & Whistle. I first came across Amanda's work whilst doing my 'homework' and getting to know my classmates. I loved her style as soon as I landed on her home page and I knew she was a girl after my own heart. With my plan to set up an online stationery shop one day, Amanda has inspired me so much. She is 'a self-proclaimed design nerd' as she states on her website and the designer and illustrator behind a range of witty and fun stationery. Here's what she had to say about what makes her tick.....

• What is the essence of your business? 
Stylishly, quirky paper products -witty and whistle worthy (and soon home goods too)! 

• How did you start doing what you do? What made you decide to start up on your own?
I studied graphic design at the NC State College of Design. After graduating and working at a design firm for a few years, I felt like I was squandering my creative juices on clients with limited imaginations. My husband loves his job in the video game industry, so he repeatedly told me to quit and find a career I love too. Finally I took him up on it, and I launched Wit & Whistle in 2009.

 • Where do you work? 
My studio is in the basement of our home. (A picture is worth a thousand words, so I'm including one!)

• Do you do everything yourself or do you have a team?
The first few years I printed, folded, and cut each and every Wit & Whistle product by hand. This year I've started having many of my products printed at a local printing company. Now I can spend less time manufacturing and more time designing new products. I'm working on a line of tea towels right now, and I'm excited that my mom will be joining Wit & Whistle as my seamstress!

 • What is a typical day for you?
I wake up and lay in bed while checking my email on my phone (which I occasionally drop on my face). Once I'm dressed and ready to go, I make my morning commute down the steps to the basement. One of my dogs, Mabel, accompanies me and spends the day supervising from her pillow on the corner of my desk. I spend my mornings shipping orders and replying to emails, and I reserve the afternoons for drawing/designing/blogging—all the fun creative stuff! I don't follow a very strict routine, because a little variety keeps me on my toes.

 • Which materials couldn’t you live without?
My sketchbook, a Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball pen, and Adobe Illustrator.

 • What is your design process?
It involves a lot of trial and error. I sketch and re-sketch things over and over until I come up with something good. It takes tons of experimenting and tweaking before I get to the final design, and I sure wish I knew a shortcut! :)

• Are there any designers/artists you particularly admire? 
Lately I've been crushing on Molly Jacques and Rifle Paper Co.—what stationery designer isn't insanely jealous of Rifle?!

• Which are your favourite blogs?

Thanks so much for sharing Amanda! One more question, is your studio always that immaculate?!! I'm so impressed.

You can see more of her work on the website and check out Amanda's blog too where she talks about her life behind the scenes. Stationery isn't her only skill, she is a pretty awesome photographer too!

All photos are courtesy of Wit & Whistle

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Branding Love: Sew Over It!

If you've read my 'About' page you will know that this blog is dedicated to my dear Mum. She would be really impressed to know I went on a sewing course this weekend. Yes, me, a sewing course!

When I was younger my Mum was always trying to encourage me to sew, she was a complete whizz with the sewing machine and made so many great things, curtains, cushions, fancy dress costumes, our clothes (which at the time I never wanted to wear because my Mum made it, now I feel so ashamed I had that view!) but sadly I was never really interested. Sewing was for Mum's and old ladies! Anyway, I don't know what happened but I woke up one morning recently and decided that I wanted to sew. I think its started when I reluctantly dragged out Mum's old sewing machine because I needed to shorten some jeans and to my surprise, found I actually really enjoyed it. I found it therapeutic, and I was so impressed that I had managed to sew in a straight line. Wow! I decided immediately I wanted a new sewing machine and for my Birthday I was so lucky, my boyfriend bought me one. I opened it with great excitement and sat in front of it and realised I had no idea what to do with it, or even how to use it properly. What did I do next? Signed up for a sewing class.....

I came across a class local to me, 'An Intro to Sewing' at Sew Over It in south west London. Sew Over It is a shop, come cafe, come workshop set in a residential street in Clapham North. A hidden paradise for sewing enthusiasts. It is such a great concept. The class was for complete beginners which was certainly what I needed. It was taken by the owner Lisa Comfort, and her colleague Dominique, both very lovely ladies and fantastic teachers. They very patiently taught us all the basics we needed to know about a sewing machine and sewing, including making a cushion, a tote bag and a little cosmetic purse (with zip) all in the space of one weekend, and there was still time to make more at the end. Plus, they plied us with Yorkshire tea and cupcakes, if that isn't an incentive, I don't know what is! I had so much fun, just like an afternoon gossiping with the girls! I must also thank my trusty machine 'Bernard', they have given all the sewing machines a name, so cute, and adds to the lovely experience.

Here is a peep at what I achieved, I'm secretly very proud of myself.....

The thing that struck me most about Sew Over It was the striking branding and how all aspects of the design and space were so well thought out and put together creating a cool, calm, friendly but confident personality. The workshop/cafe space is so bright and airy and compliments the branding perfectly and vice versa. It is such a happy, fresh and relaxing place.

I was interested to know about the design process and the background behind the brand, so I asked Lisa to answer a few questions. I feel so inspired by her motivation and passion that I wanted to share it here with you:

• Can you tell me a bit about your background?
I have been sewing since the age of 9. It started off as a hobby then it became my career. I trained with Bruce Oldfield, a British couture designer, then I went on to work for Phillipa Lepley - a bridal couture designer. I have always made my own clothes and then started making clothes for other people and then wedding dresses.

• How/why did you start Sew Over It?
I started teaching sewing on the side when I was working for Bruce to make a bit of extra cash. I then set up a website and started trading under the name Sew Over It but still as a second job. I started to get more and more students and I realised that I was enjoying teaching more than my day job. So I bit the bullet, handed in my notice at Phillipa Lepley's and started focusing on Sew Over It full time. I built up my customer base a little more and then started looking for the shop. Once I found it, I then decided what I would do with the space - use the downstairs to teach classes, and upstairs for the shop and sewing cafe.

• Your branding is so powerful, how did you come up with it?
I knew that my branding had to be really strong. I also didn't want it to be too twee. I asked my friend's boyfriend who is a graphic designer (Richard Marking) and he helped me find a font and then designed the logo. The colours were first cream and teal. Then when I decided to open the shop, I wanted to make the branding even stronger. This time I asked my graphic and web designer Rob of Rogue Four to help with this. We introduced the shocking pink and made the teal more of a cyan. I love this combination of colours. We kept the font and logo the same as this was already strong. I then wanted to make sure that the branding followed through to the website and everything in the shop. I used the pink gingham as a signature Sew Over It fabric and we have that throughout the shop/studio and on the website and flyers.

• What is your typical day like?  No two days are quite the same which is what I love about running your own business. But mostly I am in the shop for 9am, we clean the shop and prep for the lessons that day. Georgie, my assistant and I have a cup of tea and go over anything we need to do that day. I then teach from 10-1. I teach everything from absolute beginner courses, to dressmaking classes like tea dresses and 50s summer dresses. After the class, I spend time answering emails, doing accounts stuff, marketing or coming up with new class ideas. Two days a week I also teach in the evenings so it can be long days. But Sew Over It feels like my second home and I love spending time here so it never really feels like work (except when I am doing the accounts!)

• Is there anything else you love about the shop/cafe and the Sew Over It experience?
I think what makes Sew Over It special is the people who work here - they are all equally passionate about sewing - and also the space itself. We get a lot of lovely compliments about the shop and how inspiring it is. People say it makes them want to sew! And it's filled with all sorts of things that can help you learn how to sew so people are never low on inspiration

• Any other plans in the pipeline? Book, new classes etc.
My first of two books comes out in September - I am so excited! It's a project based book, with 4 chapters: customising clothes, altering vintage clothes, making accessories and a challenge me section at the back which has some 'from scratch' larger projects. We are also launching our own range of sewing related items in the next few months. So that's the plan for this year. Long term? I would of course like another shop that did the same thing but with a twist. I have an idea, I am just waiting until it's the right time :-)

Thanks so much Lisa. You truly are an inspiration. I can't wait to see your first book and a new shop is very exciting. I can't express enough how much I loved my experience at Sew Over It and I hope my recommendations will be sending some more happy customers your way very soon. I will certainly be back, your introduction to sewing has well and truly got me on my way and I've even got a new business this space!

All the images I have used are either my own or are courtesy of the Sew Over It website and Facebook page.

Friday, 1 June 2012

British Love: Jubilee Weekend

The weekend we have all be waiting for is nearly here, whether it be because we are truly British and can't wait to celebrate the Queen's 60th Birthday or we are just looking forward to a 4 day weekend of parties and good cheer. I have to admit, I am proud of being British and my excitement is a bit of both (and the fact I get to eat cream tea without feeling guilty! Scones, Jam and clotted cream, mmmmm......). This tea towel by Victoria Eggs pretty much sums the weekend up for me (I'm not really obsessed with food, honestly!)

We are actually escaping the crowds this weekend and joining some friends on a campsite in the beautiful Cotswolds (you can't get more British than that!). It will be my first ever camping trip so it will be interesting to see how I get on without my home comforts. Fingers crossed that English weather puts it's sun hat on or I might be needing these wellies  Here are a few other items I would like to be taking with me.

Wishing you all a very happy and fun filled Jubilee weekend x
1. Tea Party Tea Towel by Victoria Eggs
2. Harvey Nichols Jubilee Lunch Box (image from CR)
3. Mulberry Union Jack Bayswater Bag
4. Cadbury's Limited Edition Dairy Milk
5. Hunter 'Original Brit' Wellies

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