Thursday, 7 February 2013

Day 38 - Pinch out the middles.

Thursday 7th February

The sky is layered with clouds so we are missing our blue sky that we were blessed with yesterday. The mountains are capped with snow and I am so tempted to put my sledge on my back and go up there. Resisting that tempatation might be wise because I think my children still need me alive. Molly has been offered a further professional placement for the summer taking her total to 8 weeks of work in conservation. That is it now because the girl needs to sleep, eat chocolate and see her family. She is completely driven and I am quite sure she will realise her dreams and we could not be more proud.

Home school was all about catch up today as the boys completed their Richard III narratives. I do wish I could share them with you and I did ask them, but sadly the answer was no! All I will say is that George slid down the continuum towards a fair minded king but then again I don't think George could see bad in anyone. Max did as I anticipated and took his readers into a gruesome battle with Richard. His use of vocabulary was exceptional and thus the mental images strong (perhaps a little too strong). Attention then turned back to completion of EU graphs and the spellings we should probably have done on Monday. Home school all tidied up.

I am squeezing every spare minute to continue getting ready for Mother's Day. This is our traditional launch of the new year as we kind of ignore Valentine's Day. Once Mother's Day is upon us it is flat out until Christmas. I do love January and early February because it is the design phase of the year. As I know I have a lovely group of followers from my 'With Love from Arran' facebook page I thought I might unravel my creative process a little.

I should just say that I don't think I have ever had an original idea in my life. That said, I don't think I have ever directly copied someone else's idea either. I kind of sit in the middle and adapt. I am a firm believer on bringing new products to the market on a very regular basis. That is not to say we don't have our signature products but these are supported by a changing profile of products that usually reflect the seasons. For me the key to my own creativity is research. Clearly you can take the girl out of the university but not the university out of the girl and my previous life has given me fabulous research skills. I am always researching and always building mood boards and designing as a result. I use pinterest as a starting point as it acts as a scrapbook of ideas that are often starting points. Taking Mother's Day as example my board tells its own story. But in most cases I see something I would want to change in every pin. There is no subsitute for cuttings though and I have files full of them. It is vital to keep an eye on your target market. I am very clear on my target market because they all read Country Living magazine. Each month I go through the magazine and cut out any pictures that inspire me, even if I am not sure why.

I use other magazines as well but Country Living is the focus for my customer likes. I keep a journal that starts to make my own interpretations come alive. This will include sketches, paintings and clippings. My journal is particularly important for my bespoke work as that needs revisiting on a regular basis and updating. My previous company, 'Nature's Larder' was all about runs of products but With Love from Arran is much more bespoke led. Gone are the days when I want to be sewing 150 eye soothers and I think that is because my research and design skills are always taking me in new directions.

We work a great deal with reclaimed and recycled materials and that is where some of the more inventive thinking happens. You may have seen vintage tea cups used as candle holders before but I am quite sure I was one of the first to take this on. This was made possible by the fact that we only use soy wax which is 100% natural but also has a much lower melting point that paraffin wax. This makes the wax safe to use in the cup and once the candle has burned away the cup can be washed as normal and put to another, more conventional use! In a little gap in home school this morning I made these two rose geranium candles for an order and the whole house smelt of the essential oil. I love my job!

I don't really do conventional so here is another use for a vintage tea cup...

Bespoke ideas often start from very small beginnings. I am currently working on a covered journal for a client with a seaside theme.

It might just be the dotty ribbon, the starfish or even the text that takes me forward and at this early stage I will not know which it will be. In my previous life I was a planner and I was good at it but I have had to unlearn that skill in my creative work. I have grasped the importance of the creative journey and letting the outcome emerge as it needs to.

Beyond the bespoke work I am a firm believer in producing and testing a proptype and this always takes more time than I would like. I can be stuck on my sewing machine for days until I am happy this embryonic product is as good as it can be. I then test it out with a few people who I know will tell me the truth. Once I am happy it works from a design and an economic point of view we go into production. Our runs are not large now as we mainly sell direct to the public and we don't carry much stock. When a run is finished it is finished and it rarely comes around again unless it is a very big seller. Time has shown I would not be allowed to stop producing vintage tea cup candles, lavender hearts or head and eye soothers even I wanted to!

So now we are approaching the middle of February the early designs are coming togther and we are into production. A strong part of the new season launch is my work with flowers as it sort of signals a new year. There is another use for that vintage tea cup! With Love from Arran is very lucky because it is well supported by both locals and tourists. We pitch up once a week at the local craft market and we sell through a limited number of outlets on the island. Later in the year we launch our online selling through our shop with etsy. I wouldn't want to stop any of that work but for me it is the bespoke work I love over all of it. It is challenging but rewarding as you take the seed of an idea and turn it into something they will treasure. I recently made a bespoke journal for a customer who told me that it was just what she needed to start working up creative ideas of her own. I am not sure it gets better than that. It doesn't matter if it is a simple journal or an entire wedding flower delivery the buzz remains the same. I remember one of my brides was so thrilled when I showed her her bouquet that she asked if she could hold it. She held onto it the whole time the hairdresser did her hair. There lies the reward.

I typed the word seed and, forgive me, but that reminds me if you planted your sweet pea seeds roughly when I did they might well be about 3-4 inches tall by now. Pinch out the middles at the top to encourage them to bush out and make stronger plants. Apologies for the rather random thought process.

I thought it would be nice to end with a recommendation. Other creative people inspire me and I have followed this lady's work for years. She lives near Loch Lomond and she grows cut flowers for her flower business. But she also makes the most wonderful little gifts. Check out her site and if you like her work follow her on facebook and twitter. She often gets me giggling with her latest observation on twitter.

The name of her company is Snapdragon - just click on the link to go to her website.

Until tomorrow. xx

Picture is of a collage I put together several years ago when designing a new collection based on beach fragments.