Sunday, August 29, 2010

We have a winner!

Saffron Craig bundle

Congratulations to Michelle of Wing By Sea! You’re the winner of the Saffron Craig FQ pack.  Please check your email for redemption information.

Thanks to everyone who entered.  If you would like to learn more about or purchase Saffron’s products, please visit her online store.

Cheers, Chicken

CHA - going on 12 month hiatus

Profile Pic 2 picnik It is with much thought and consideration that I have taken the decision to shut down operations of the CHA for the next 12 months or so, while I have a baby. 

It has become apparent over the last few weeks that the challenges of being pregnant, working, running a household and looking after a boisterous toddler is more than this little chicken can do without some areas suffering; and it pains me to see the CHA struggling and not being all that it can be. I have such big ideas and plans for this project, but not ones that I can implement fully at this point in my life. Hopefully after the baby is born and settled, I can get back to it bigger and better than ever.  In the mean time, I will keep my finger on the pulse of the industry and will be keenly watching you all.

I will be leaving the blog open so that the resources (the Craft Business Tool Kit and Handmade Markets and Stores Directory) remain available to people who may wish to access them; but the Facebook page will be suspended.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank some key people who helped made the CHA what it is:

Linda of Lulu froufrou and Beckie of little wise owl; (just some of) my buddies who become real friends and who have always been supportive of my ideas and dreams. Thanks ladies for your blog contributions, ideas and support along the way.

Jemma of Handmade Kids: a savvy, key figure in the Aussie Handmade Industry who was kind enough to regularly share her valuable knowledge and insights through her contributions on the Discussion Board and with the provision of articles for the blog. If you don’t follow Handmade Kids, you should!

Sharon of the Robin Street Market who spend much time putting together some fantastic and really useful tax and small business information for our blog.  Thanks so much Sharon!

My wonderful sponsors: most notably The Oz Material Girls and Funky Fabrix who have been with us since the beginning and offered our CHA members benefits of real value; plus 2 new editions Fairy Floss Markets and Hide & Seek Market. Thanks for coming on board, and we wish you all the very best for your businesses.

My family (especially my wonderful husband and gorgeous daughter) for putting up with me being on the computer…. a lot.

And finally and most importantly, to everyone to who followed, commented, asked a question, shared knowledge & experience, and promoted the CHA. We experienced considerable growth and a wonderful following of interesting, talented and knowledgeable people in such a short amount of time. We couldn’t have done it without you. There is a lot to be said for strength in numbers; and the way you all helped each other out freely and with a sense of community via our Facebook page is both astounding and encouraging. Please don’t stop.

I strongly urge you to follow both Meylah (USA) and Made’n’found (AUS) to continue to connect with the handmade industry and access high quality information, knowledge and support. 

I look forward to reconnecting with you all again in the future, and I will still be hanging out round the traps!  So until we meet again,

Cheers, Chicken

Saturday, August 21, 2010

An interview – With Aussie Fabric Designer Saffron Craig

Saffron Craig picture Australian designer Saffron Craig produces vibrant, whimsical and contemporary fabrics for quilting, crafting, interiors and clothing. Already widely known for her Owls and Fairies ranges, Saffron introduces us to her newest designs in the Bird Tree Range; and offers CHA members the change to WIN a Fat Quarter pack (see below)! But first, Saffron shares with CHA members her wisdom about being an Australian designer, business partner and parent.

I understand that you have a background in fashion design, but that you were dissatisfied with the fabrics available on the market. When did the light go on in your head that you could do it yourself? How exciting was it? What happened?
I suppose I have a mindset of “I can do that!” which is what it took to print fabrics. I was creating hand painted silk dresses at the time, the paint was going everywhere and it took hours to paint one metre; I laugh because now I could have it digitally printed.

I wanted to create fabrics with my illustrations on them, fun fabrics with clean neat lines using my sense of colour. I suppose it helped that I had the studio space and the ideas to start. I do love to challenge myself.

In one of my first projects I hand printed fabric for an entire day and turned that fabric into one quilt. The paint was so thick in places I could not put the sewing machine needle through the three layers of the quilt without snapping the thread. As much as I love the process of screen-printing I knew I could not print fabrics by myself, as it is too limiting and very time consuming. I loved the end result, which was the fabric with my illustrations on it. It made me so happy so I focused on that.

Aside from your existing design background, did you have to learn any new skills to enable you to get the design from your head onto the fabric? Did you try different processes and techniques?
I have a degree in designs so I built on that. I use skills that I have learnt, like sketching, drawing, colour, design. Getting my illustrations onto fabrics has seen me learn a lot of new skills; becoming competent on the computer to start with.

The designs often grow as I take them from my imagination and put them on paper, I change the scale and the colours. My drawing skill is what makes most of my designs. I know that the design will look better on fabric than on paper.

Four years ago I taught myself to make my first quilt. Quilting is very addictive for me. After years of fitting dresses, it’s pure heaven to make a square and use limitless blocks, colours, patterns, so I am addicted. A couple of years ago I started to design quilts in my own fabrics and then I had to learn to write the patterns, photograph the quilts then and blog about them.

Now that you have refined your process, how long does it typically take to create a new range; from concept to the fabrics arriving in shops?
My new range is called Bird Tree. The design of the Bird Tree was sketched in spring 2009. I started to put the designs into a range in February 2010. I sent the files to the printer in March and received the strike off in April. I made changes to the colour and received new strike-offs two weeks after that. I approved the new colours and we started to take orders for the fabrics. When we knew people liked the designs and would support us by placing pre-orders we placed an order with the printer. We usually see the first few metres arrive within 20-30 days. In this case, for an idea to be a fabric for sale on the shelves, it has taken over twelve months. So I really am excited when I get to create with new ranges.

What program do you use to create your fabric designs? Have you always used it?
I work lot in Illustrator and I have had to learn to be very technical and accurate on the computer. I have to push myself to totally finish each design, as I am far from being a perfectionist. I would say two years ago I had no clue how to use Illustrator.

With the support around you including your business partners who take care of production and distribution, do you need to partake in any the business side of the operations?
I am very hands-on in all stages of the business. I oversee every stage of the production of my fabrics. I approve everything and there is often a lot of too-ing and fro-ing. I am also involved in the business. I come up with new ideas for products, and advertising.

Though the website is managed by my Husband Patrick I do run the online shop which requires me to manage orders, post orders, answer emails, write blogs, photograph everything. I also design and make quilts as well as the children clothing; I just finished my first children’s pattern.

We do help with the wholesaling; I recently went to the trade show and was very involved in all aspects. We have another trade show booked for Melbourne in November.

I am a mother on Thursdays, Fridays and the weekends so I spend three days a week on the business. With nights and early mornings for emailing and now social media is taking up hours every day.

Usually my creative time is spent designing fabrics. Most creatives who also run a business will attribute long nights and many hours to be conducive to running a business. They will also attest to not spending much time actually designing but time is spent thinking, planning, communicating, managing and organising my business. In my case my daughter gets a lot of my time as well.

I have a creative project I am doing, writing a children’s book, which is 4 illustrations away from being finished.

What are your top tips for the Aussie small business entrepreneur?

  • Keep the focus on what is your big picture.
  • Stay true to yourself.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Indeed be a positive person. (One negative comment will need 9 positives to be counteracted.)
  • I think you are the creator of your own life so make it beautiful.
  • Oh yes. Manifestations boards really do work! Really truly they do. They help you decide what you like.

...and finally: Which creative mind do you most admire and why?
I admire any one with focus and determination. I admire oh so many creative minds and spend a lot of time reading books, blogs, magazines and being inspired by all kind of visionaries and philosophers.

Follow Saffron:
Buy her fabric on her website.
Read her blog.
Follow her on Facebook.

Saffron Craig bundle

WIN a Bird Tree FQ Pack!
To enter, simply tell us in 25 words or less:

What's your favourite bird and why?

Competition Details:
To enter, write your answer in the comments below this blog post.
Competition closes Saturday 28th August at 9pm EST.
1 winner will be selected, and notification made by 9pm Sunday 29th August via email and on the blog.
This competition is open to Australian residents only.

Cheers, Chicken

Monday, August 9, 2010

We have our winners!

Mixtape Giveaway

Congratulations to our 5 winners of the mixtape magaZINE
prize pack give-away!

The following entries were selected by the creators of mixtape, and each receives a prize pack with issues 9,10,11,12 & The Kids Issue - that’s $45 value in each pack!

cate said...
living a creative lifestyle means shaking off the "you can't do thats" and welcoming the "I can have a go at that" and introducing my children to the wonders of "I made that" in as many areas of life as they want.

SunDoll said...
Living a creative lifestyle means... finding new ways to express yourself each day and discovering things about yourself and others you never expected. It is dancing to a tune that no one else can hear but that you want to share.

TJC said…
Living the creative lifestyle means no limits, it is about flexibility and enjoyment. It is stretching your creative boundaries to new levels. Using inspiration from around you to create the perfect handmade piece to share with others.
That sense of achievement that you get when you are finished and can say 'I made that'.
The middle of the night ideas that you just have to get up and start on or at least make notes/sketches of.
Most of all it means living in a happy place while doing a job that I enjoy most.

Row Row Row said...
Living a creative lifestyle has opened my heart more fully to my family and community. Has allowed me to share some of the whisperings my soul has said to me. To enjoy the offerings of other people and to explore all sorts of 'crazy' ideas. is but a dream. x

Tas said…
Living a creative lifestyle is baking with my kids for their lunches instead of buying commercial foods, sewing and crafting everything I can for the family (and for my sanity) and exploring the world as a family in walking boots on a hiking trail, not from the back seat of a four wheel drive on a sealed highway.

Thanks to our friends at mixtape for the wonderful prizes. We’re sad that you only have 3 issues left before you shut down operations; you will be missed!

Cheers, Chicken

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Top Tips with seller Rabbit & the Duck

Rabbit and the duck 4 square

Its Market Week at the CHA!

So... you’re a super motivated crafter and micro business owner, and you’re looking to really connect with your audience, broaden your exposure and gain more sales. Going to market sound attractive, but don’t know where to start? The CHA are here to help!

This week is ‘Market Week’ where we share the combined knowledge, experience and expertise of many people connect with the CHA; from members contributing their thoughts on the Discussion Thread, to sellers who are known for their outstanding visual merchandising and other friends of the CHA who have more than 2 cents worth to add.

Top Tips with seller Rabbit & the Duck

Give your stall height
Different levels keep the eye moving and provide lots of visual interest for customers. Use open boxes you can stack on top of each other to create mini shelves. I also use cardboard storage boxes along the back of my table to create an extra level. If you have products that would benefit from being hung, see if you can rig up a piece of rope across the back of your stall to peg them off. Maybe an old ladder could sit behind your table with products hanging from the rungs.

Keep a look out
Always be on the lookout for interesting items you can use to display your products. I found an old set of scales in a second hand store and had them for months before I realised they would be perfect for holding loose buttons! I love to visit antique stores, op shops and garage sales to source my display pieces. I also slow down every time I drive past a collection of things on the side of the road! It's also a good idea to have a look around your own house, as there are probably items you already have that could be given a new use.

Price it
Make sure your products are priced! Pricing should be kept simple and in keeping with the look of your stall. Your products are the main focus and while it should be easy for a customer to see the price of something, it's not the first thing you want them to see. Make them fall in love with your product and the price won't be an issue! I use simple cardboard luggage tags pegged to my products that show the price. You could also use a frame with a price list.

Have fun!
Above all, have fun! Don't be afraid to try new things. If something is not working, move it around. Look at other stalls and see which displays attract your eye. The beauty of having your own business is that it can grow and change with you. When I look at pictures of my first ever market stall I am surprised by how different it was to my current display! Every day and every market teaches us something new!

Rabbit and the Duck collage

See the full collection of their photos on their Flickr page HERE.
See their shop on HERE.
Follow their blog HERE.

Thank you Rabbit & the Duck for sharing your thoughts with us!

Market Week Wrap Up
This is the last article in the Market Week series (which turned into a 3 week marathon of posts)!
Thank you so much for all your wonderful feedback about this topic. These articles couldn’t have been brought to you without the collective knowledge, experience and contributions of many members and people associated with the CHA. A sincere thanks to everyone who provided input.

Cheers, Chicken

Was this article useful? Have more to add? Please leave a comment.... we really want to hear from you! Yes you!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Market Week Part 6: Market Checklist

Craft Market Post 6Use this checklist to ensure you are ready to go, the night before the market. Tick off the items and away you go!

Not everyone will need all these items, and there will be more items for you to add, but we have tried to capture all the ideas discussed through the Market Week blog series.

Print it easily!
Yup! To make it really easy for you, we have saved it as .PDF file for you to print and use as many times as you like!  You can access it HERE!

Market Checklist

  • Insurance
  • Food handler’s licence
  • Float (money) and bum-bag and/or lockable money box
  • Stock
  • Trestle tables
  • Fold up chairs
  • Marquee/market umbrella
  • Power cables/lighting
  • Radio/CD player and music
  • Signage including banner, pricing and other business info
  • Table cloths (and clips to hold it down if windy)
  • Clothes racks and hangers
  • Spare price stickers and marking pens
  • Mailing list sign-up sheet on clip board with pen attached
  • Business cards
  • Fliers
  • Bags for customers to use, such as brown paper bags
  • Set dressing items such as shelving, basket ware, mannequin, mirror
  • Fresh flowers and a vase/plants
  • Lollies/food treats
  • Extra stock packaging such as bags, cards
  • Notebook to take custom orders and other useful information, and a few pens
  • Measuring tape (to measure for custom orders)
  • Water bottle
  • Food
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Jacket/scarf
  • Mobile phone

Cheers, Chicken

Next post: Top Tips with seller Rabbit & The Duck

Was this article useful? Have more to add? Please leave a comment.... we really want to hear from you! Yes you!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

{Giveaway Time} by mixtape magaZINE

Mixtape Giveaway Our lovely friends at
mixtape magaZINE
are offering 5 prize packs to WIN!

Each pack contains issues 9,10,11,12 & The Kids Issue - that’s $45 value in each pack!

To enter: Expand upon the following thought:

‘Living a creative lifestyle means....’

There is no limit on the number of words, but your answer should encapsulate your ideas on this topic quickly and easily.

Competition Details: To enter, write your answer in the comments below this blog post. Competition closes Sunday 8th August at 9pm EST.  5 winners will then be selected and notifications made by COB Monday 9th August.  This competition is open to Australian residents only. 1 entry per person; 1 prize pack per winner. Please note that your entry may be selected to be published in a fourth coming edition of mixtape.

Why we love mixtape and why you should check it out:

  • It’s about nice stuff: mixtape is a craft maga(ZINE) about making time for the small things!
  • And cool stuff: mixtape is a collision of craft, eco-cool and pop culture kitsch.
  • It gets your mind flowing: mixtape is a collection of creativity.
  • It’s Aussie and independent: Independently published FIVE times a year out of Melbourne, Australia

You can check out mixtape on their Facebook page and Website too!

Market Week Part 5: Visual Merchandising

Rabbit and the duck 2 So... you’re a super motivated crafter and micro business owner, and you’re looking to really connect with your audience, broaden your exposure and gain more sales. Going to market sound attractive, but don’t know where to start? The CHA are here to help!

This week is ‘Market Week’ where we share the combined knowledge, experience and expertise of many people connect with the CHA; from members contributing their thoughts on the Discussion Thread, to sellers who are known for their outstanding visual merchandising and other friends of the CHA who have more than 2 cents worth to add.

Visual Merchandising

The thoughtful presentation of stock on your market stand, with consideration given to layout, colours, theme, lighting, product/business information and sensory stimulation, is fundamental to creating an attractive and engaging display - with the ultimate goal of making sales!

Your market stand and displays should represent the story of your business and your stock. That is, you need to give though to developing an overall image which is in line with the types of products you make and sell, your business identity and the principles which underpin your business ideas and ideals.

Consider what products you are selling and what message you aim to send. Then, it is important to think about who you target market is, and what they might find attractive.

  • How does your image relate to what the customer wants?
  • Is the customer looking just for value? Or is the customer more interested in style and quality?
  • What theme or styling will support your message?

This process should naturally lead you to a design and look which makes sense for your product.

Example You make children’s items from organic fabric using good environmental practices. It would be wise then to represent these ideals with a display which echoes these principles; such as using calico to cover your table, using recycled basket-ware to hold stock, wooden frames to display price information, and perhaps have some living plants on the table. All these visual cues contribute toward the message you want to send. (And don’t forget signage explaining your principals which support the environment!)

Your theme can change too for many reasons; for example with the change in seasons, with the introduction of a new range or with a change in direction for your business. So remain flexible and always be thinking about how your stand design is supporting your aims and business direction.

No matter what theme you choose though, there are some basic ideas that hold true for all stands:

Go neutral:
Especially if you can’t decide on a theme, then going neutral will always be a winner. The use of neutral colours on the table will allow the stock to standout and present a fresh and clean image which is always desirable. Having said that, you may wish to break with this rule if you have a strong theme idea which deviates from a natural style. If so, take care to remember that the table design should never be louder or stand out more than the stock itself.

Avoid clutter:
Don’t overwhelm your stand with so much stock that no one can actually see what you have! Seek to achieve a good balance of looking bountiful and offering the customer choice without it getting over crowded. You can always hold stock back and add it to the table as sales are made; you don’t have to put out everything at once.

Stock layout:
Put some real thought into the placement of your stock. Group like with like; perhaps you can place all the items for girls on one end, and all the items for boys on the other? Or if you have been wise to create matching items (such as a necklace with matching earrings and bracelet) place them together, to encourage people to buy the set and not just a single item.

If you can show your items in action, do it! You might acquire a mannequin, a hat block or other way of showing off your items in action. But importantly, avoid using ugly displays that don’t fit your style and look.

Give it height:
People are unlikely to see your stock if it is all lying down flat on your table. So get creative and always keep a look out for some unique ways to add height and dimension! Some ideas on how this can be achieved include:

  • Creating a step effect with different height boxes, and then covering the boxes with the same fabric as the table covering. You can do this for the whole length of your table, or just in sections.
  • Using small 2 and 3 tier book shelves (in white) often found at discount stores; placed on the table or on the ground next to it.
  • Using old packing crates and other recycled wooden boxes.
  • Stack matching basket-ware upon each other, with the mouth of the basket facing forwards (just make sure it is stable)
  • Hanging items from your marquee (you can string up a line of twine and hang items using wooden pegs).

Set dressing:
To avoid spending large amounts when you are first getting started, start by looking around your house to see what you already have which is in line with your image. For example, if you want to do a tea party theme for your range of cupcakes, then you are likely to already have tea cups, saucers, cake plates and stands and other relevant equipment already in your kitchen (as long as it suits the colour and styling of your look).

Then, you can find items to ‘set dress’ your table in the most unlikely of places; op-shops, florist suppliers, discount stores like The Reject Shop as well as retailers such as Target, Kmart and Big W.

Aim to remain consistence in the look and style of your set dressing items. If you are using bowls to hold different hair clips, use lots of the same bowls; if you are using lots of coat hangers, make sure they are all in good condition, and the same size and design.

And while you are out and about, visit some of your favourite stores and have a look at their shop displays. Retail stores have professional Visual Merchandisers who have studied the field working on their displays! What do you like about their displays? What ideas can you borrow for your own table?

Finishing touches:
Lighting can be very effective in spotlighting key products, pricing sheets or other things that you want to draw attention to. Power is sometimes available at indoor events for an additional fee. If it is available at your market, think about how adding lamps or spotlights could enhance your stand and attract people walking by.

Fresh flowers or plants add a beautiful, fresh and natural element to your table; their use and style will depend very much on your overall theme and message.

Music can attract people to your stand before they even see you! If you know your target market and understand what music they like, then you can peak their interest as they are approaching your stand. How many times have you lingered in a department store just a little longer to hear the end of a favourite song? But as mentioned in our last blog post, make sure you gain permission from your event organiser to have music at your stand, and always make sure the music is appropriate and unobtrusive.

Food offers a different element again, which can attract people of all ages. Again, as mentioned in our last blog post, make sure you are following any applicable food handling regulations for your council and rules set by the market organisers, and be considerate of ingredients that people may be allergic to.

Personal presentation is the all important final piece to this puzzle.  Your personal look should also compliment the look of the business, and great hygiene and personal presentation is a must.

Final Tips:

  • Practice your stand set up at home before going to market. You can ask friends, family and neighbours for their feedback.
  • Always iron your table clothes and other fabrics and pack them carefully to avoid creasing.
  • On the big day, make sure you take photos of your stand for review and to remember your layout.
  • Be sure to keep your ears peeled for comments made by people passing by; and watch what they pick up and what they don’t react to.
  • Professional packaging and signage really add a great finishing touch.
  • Remember to add a mirror to your table if people will want to see how items will look on them.

Thanks to some of our wonderful CHA members for sharing their photos on the CHA Flickr Photo Pool.  Here is just a selection of some great examples which show some of the ideas shared today!

PArt 5 Collage














You can see more photos from our Flickr Group HERE!

Cheers, Chicken

Next post: Market Checklist

Was this article useful? Have more to add? Please leave a comment.... we really want to hear from you! Yes you!