Sunday, 20 January 2013

Day 20 - Thanks to Kev and David......

Sunday 20th January

I am, of course, a very happy bunny rabbit today as we have now moved beyond the 1000 page views mark. I waited up last night as we were sitting at 999 but my eyes were closing. I went to bed confident that my lovely American readers would help me out. They did and it was a lovely treat to wake up to. I read somewhere that good bloggers don't watch their analytics so I am clearly not a good blogger! But then, I am not a typical blogger either. I am not doing this to earn money. For me is a writing assignment that interests me and I can see the discipline that comes with it already working its magic. My mind is now a blogging mind as I see things through the day and think 'that will be good for my blog'. So I am happy to be my own type of blogger and I am quite sure you are equally happy to be your own type of reader. A huge thank you goes out to each and every one of you. This is a really enjoyable journey and I am glad to be sharing it with you.

As I look out of my window I can almost touch the snow clouds but I fear hope is fading on Arran. It is however, biting cold so I have declared today an inside day. I have been busy promoting my blog by networking with some interesting projects. I have a number of options pending so keep an eye on the links in the sidebar. I am quite picky about this as I don't want to join a network for the sake of it so I hope you will find the links interesting. Because of this project I now read more blogs and I always come away learning something new. I call it my R&R and I recommend it.

Thank you to all of you so far who have agreed to do a guest blog. My plan is to adopt a theme per month starting in February. Roughly once a week I will feature a guest blog and those four blogs a month will have something in common. The guest blogs in February are dedicated to the little people out there. Four wonderful craftworkers based on Arran are going to tell their story. As you might imagine craft is a thriving market on a small island and lots of us are at it. I may be biased but I believe we punch way above our weight in terms of the quality of the products produced. I am so looking forward to sharing these inspirational stories with you. I hope that if there are any readers who have thought of turning a hobby into a micro-business this might persuade you to give it a go.

I have other themes for my guest blogging in the pipeline. As previously mentioned I want to feature some of the local shops. Running a sucessful retail outlet on a seasonal island such as Arran is by no means easy and I do so want to pay tribute to the great people behind these ventures. I hope that, over time, you will get to know these people as it is always the human dimension that makes a good story and we are not short of good stories on Arran. Following the inspirational theme someone emailed me last week with lovely feeback on my blog. She said I was her 'inspiration'. That was very kind of her but I do not see myself that way at all. I am just an ordinary person who blogs about her life and hopes that some of it is interesting. But it got me thinking; always dangerous. I now have 3 out of 4 of my inspirational women signed up to do a guest blog. Throughout life different people inspire us in different ways. I have chosen four women who have inspired me along the way and asked that they might share their stories. You will have worked out that one lady has not yet been approached but I know she reads this blog.....I wonder who that will be. Time will reveal all.

I have a theme emerging for every month and I do hope the once weekly guest blog will touch as many people as possible and that our little virtual community continues to thrive.

This blog has already served an important purpose and that is making sure I stick to my monthly challenges. A rushed phone call to my long suffering mother this morning was to book myself in for another spinning lesson as January is nearly over and I did say I would learn this skill this month! I have some doubts going in as I liken it to reversing a car. I have done that once successfully when I passed my driving test but the remainder of the efforts should not even feature in this discussion. Of late I just don't do it because it is easier. My poor children have witnessed the endless trip around the supermarket car park while I attempt to loate a space I can get into. Just an island note - there is no car park charges on Arran (another little bonus).

I thinking spinning has been put in the same category as reversing a car. It requires several things to happen at the same time. Not sure my brain works like that but I will keep you updated on any progress.

I am, however, a huge fan of self-teaching. With a few exceptions all the crafts I have engaged with have been self taught. It might take me a bit longer but I do so love the learning process. In the past few years we developed a craft based company called Nature's Larder. From the off it was a success and one that I am very proud of. The entire family pitched in and we were soon taking our products to trade show to sell to retailers. We went on very well for a while until the recession started to bite and our retailers started to cut back on orders with a terrifying number going out of business. My dad taught me to be flexible in my thinking so we responded as fast as possible and cut the business back, believing that a smaller business would have a chance of survival even in the gift trade industry.

As our time on Arran has been consolidated we have changed the name of the business to 'With love from Arran' and that has allowed us to broaden our product base. This is now a small business selling mainly on Arran and through places such as etsy. It is a far cry from the peak of Nature's Larder where our products were in over 100 retail outlets nationwide. I am, not in the least, sorry about that as it was the right thing to do given the economic climate. We are spreading the risk by supporting the boys in their new venture Whimsical Wreaths and that will feature heavily in this blog later in the year as they prepare to launch.

The reason all this came into my mind today was that I was having a tidy of my studio as I have some bits and pieces to give away to a couple of fellow island crafters. In doing that task I realised that the size of my studio has not changed much throughout this journey. We used to laugh when buyers would phone up to place an order and ask to speak to someone in sales! That same person was probably working in packing and marketing as well. Our competitors may have had their factories and teams of people but we had a family unit to be incredibly proud of. I just must tell you.....we went to several trade shows in Harrogate which attracted literally thousands of trade stands from all over the world. In our very first show with a stand of 3x1 metres (compared with the average of about 8x6m) we won best in show, beating the pants off all the big boys! Just had to share because it was a family effort of which I am very proud.

Picture shows the scale of my studio which is made up of old wooden fruit boxes stacked high to make useful shelving. I have a small desk in front of these boxes that faces the sea and a larger table at the other end as a cutting surface. So now you see what can be done from a small, but perfectly formed, factory!

Over the year I hope to share some of our creative projects with you but I thought you might like to see some photographs. I do hope this isn't self indulgent and I rely on you all to tell me if it is. The next few photographs should give you some idea of the range we offer and I have just set up a facebook page for With love from Arran in case you are interested.

A little section of one of our wreaths.
A range of lavender scented products awaiting labels.

Soy candle melts with beach fragments - one of our biggest sellers.

And finally, from our vintage range, a lavender scented pinushion in a vintage tea cup. We once had an order for over £1000 worth of vintage pieces. Just as well one of my best friends ran a charity shop!

Perhaps a little long this post but maybe fitting given our milestone achievement. I am off to get my wheelbarrow cos my dear school friends Kev and David said I could have some of their snow. Look out for mad woman with snow filled wheelbarrow on the M6. Speak tomorrow. xx