Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Community :: Craft Swaps

Craft Swaps are a great way to get to know other handmade businesses and to be part of a community.
Some of the divine creations made as part of the {CHA} 2012 Craft Swap. From Left to Right:
[Row 1] SummerSkye, Beccasauras
[Row 2] Pretty Pickings Designs, Little Toot Creations, Ladybugs and Daisychains

The {CHA} hosted its annual Craft Swap in the middle back in July/August this year.  Our annual craft swap is all about gathering together the Australian handmade community so they can get their "warm and fuzzy handmade love on!".

This year we had 43 businesses signed up to our craft swap and from the responses I received many new friendships were formed.  My craft swap partner, Skye from SummerSkye, made me a lovely crochet hook holder in my favourite colour.  I've now filled it with my ornate bamboo crochet hooks and I've displayed it in my lounge room.

My Crochet Hook Hoop by SummerSkye

On Facebook the other day I asked if anyone has been part of a swap and what they got out of it.

Bree mentioned that she had been part of a few fabric swaps and was part of Once Upon a Quilt  mini quilt swaps.
"I like getting fabric that I wouldn't perhaps buy for myself. I did make some lasting connections. It is a good way I found when just starting out to connect with others"

Christine Cohrs from Once Upon a Quilt also mentioned that she
"too have made lasting connections all over world and love it"

and Christina Lowry mentioned that she too has been part in a few swaps now.
"Doll quilt, brooch, apron, cushion. It's fun, especially when it is all kept secret and you get to blog-stalk you partner and come up with something they would like. It's lovely getting a surprise in the mail box. But very disappointing if your partner doesn't put much effort in or gets it entirely wrong!

We would love to hear if you have been part of an organised craft swap.  Was it a good experience?  Were you able to make some great connections by being part of one? 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

{Cheeky Pickle} Supporting each other in the handmade community


My story... 

When I first started my business it was out of necessity rather than love. When our second child was born, we couldn’t afford childcare (still can’t!!), my husband worked long hours and being from the U.K, we had zero family support. So me going out and getting a “normal” job was not a good move. Going back to my Textile Design roots seemed like a great plan, I could work from home and be there for my children.   I had a general idea as to what I wanted to do, but had nobody to bounce ideas off. I was a bit nervous about announcing to the world that I was starting a business for fear of failure, which at that point in time was rather huge. So I plodded on. I had no idea about the business side, so tended to hide my head in the sand with regards to that side of things and carried on creating pretty little pictures that I thought might sell and help us make some much needed extra income. It was a very lonely, frustrating and rather unconstructive period.  

Support from markets stallholders... 

My initial dream at that time was to sell at markets, which I eventually did. The first few markets I did were horrendous on all sorts of levels, but the general feel I got from the other stallholders was one of suspicion. I certainly didn’t come across many friendly and supportive faces back then.  The turning point for me was when I did a market featuring children’s, handmade goods. All of a sudden I was surrounded by gorgeous, lovely, kind and very supportive ladies. All wanting to give me advice, answer my burning, business questions, pass on their e mail addresses and then the biggie......introduce me to the land of social media and networking. Somewhere I could share my ideas with like minded people and get some much needed advice!! It was all there, in one place, everything I’d been dreaming of.....facebook!  

Hello Facebook...  

Once on Facebook, everything changed, but it took a very long time. When I first stepped nervously in to the land of FB, I felt awkward and very much like the new girl. Everyone seemed more confident and knowledgeable than I. Their businesses looked sleek, well branded, had fabulous photography and wonderful products. They all seemed to know each other and I must admit, it seemed a little bit, dare I say it, “cliquey” back then.   The big pages with the big numbers stuck together and didn’t seem to acknowledge the newbie’s in town. But I suppose this is normal. You have to gain the respect of others and this encourages you to up your game.   

Gaining self confidence and making friends on FB... 

As the months went on, I gradually moved away from stalking the bigger pages, trying to nudge my way into their clique and accepted it was never meant to be. I slowly started to get to know some of the other page owners.  I was making my own friends who were likeminded, struggling with the first steps of running a handmade businesses. We were chatting more, supporting and encouraging each other. It felt great to finally meet people like me! I, personally think it is really important to form strong bonds/friendships in business. At the end of the day it’s just another aspect of networking, which can only be a positive thing.  

Moving on... 

I think the Facebook of then has moved on. Facebook within the handmade community is now a vibrant, friendly place. We welcome new pages with open arms and are there to help out and answer questions. But mainly we are there to support and encourage each other. I know that my business, for sure, would not have lasted as long as it has if it were not for my handmade friends, especially my pals on Facebook.

Source: The Writing Bureau
Jo from The Writing Bureau wholeheartedly agrees with me “Since leaving Art College I've always said the biggest thing I've missed is the lack of conversation with other creative’s. Yet, just reading your post I've just realised that I don't say that anymore! It's not because I'm suddenly surrounded by artists and designers in my real world (I assure you I'm not...I'm a stay at home mum who only moved to this area a couple of years ago) it's because over the past 12 months I've made lots of online friends through twitter and facebook who I go to for advice and to bounce ideas off and I've never had a real life conversation with any of them. Yet I do feel really supported through these social networking sites” 
Source: roslyn mitchell desings

Rosolyn Mitchell designs adds this “The support I've had is fantastic, whether it has been other designers sending people to my page or being there when I've needed advice. I've made lots of new friends, some of whom I've met & don't live too far away & others who are 'down south'” 

Nicola from Enoch and Plonk agrees “It's the spirit of community I love, which is so lacking in other areas of our lives.” 

So why is it so important to support each other? 

Look, we are all pretty much in the same boat aren’t we? Most of us are young mums, trying to juggle being creative and running a business from home. Our daily task list can involve creating/designing/making, thinking up fabulous, new ideas, marketing, promoting, tax, visual merchandising, blogging, photographing products, websites, e mailing customers, markets, orders, deadlines, children, housework and walking the bloody dog!!! Phew...I would also say that the majority of us (who haven’t given up) do it alone, without any support and that can be extremely lonely and frustrating, if not downright depressing.  

Nipping (o.k. it’s never truly a nip is it? Usually more like a lengthy browse) on to FB for me, seeing how others are running their business, chatting, exchanging ideas and resources is a massive part of my day. When I make “virtual” contact with my business FB friends, it’s like having a shoulder to lean on and after chatting with them, I feel so much more confident in the business decisions I make. 

Finally, an idea for you... 

After starting the Cheeky Chats earlier this year (FB forum, open to anyone, where we held discussions about handmade and all things business) I realised just how much I and other businesses needed that daily support. Rather selfishly, I decided to create my own small group and invited a few of the most dedicated “Cheeky Chatters” to join me. The ones who came to every Cheeky Chat session, showed the most interest in what I was trying to achieve and chatted the loudest basically!  

Not knowing how it would work, but having a gut feeling that it WOULD work, I put together a group of seven ladies, including myself.  At first we chatted via e mail, but then one of them suggested setting up a closed FB group. This is a secret group that you can set up very easily and it is totally up to you who you invite along to join you. 

Life saver... 

All I can say is that for me this little group of women have been a huge boost to my business and my sanity. I have also met seven of the most lovely, supportive ladies I know. We have gotten to know each other very well and if we have an idea that we are unsure of, or a question that we want to ask, we just ask the group. Someone usually knows the answer and if they don’t, they are there with kind words of encouragement. Our only rule from the start was to be 100% honest with each other. It works and it’s brilliant. 

Why don’t you do the same? I love the idea of these little support groups popping up all over the place. Think of a few pages you admire and who you have become friendly with recently and then form a group, it’s really very, very easy.  

An elephant never forgets... 

 And now that my business has grown and I am a bit bigger than I once was? Well, I am a bit like an elephant and I will never forget those rather unsupportive people I met in the early days. “Think on” as my Gran always used to say. 

About the Contributor: 
Owner of Cheeky Pickle, Ali is a Textile Designer, originally from the U.K. She comes with a BA (hons) in Mixed Media Textile Design and has an established background in the Textile industry. She loves mixing simple, bold designs with an eclectic mix of mediums, creating unique and texturally exciting Art pieces. Ali finds her inspiration from simple, natural and organic shapes and textures, that can be seen in nature. To find out more about Ali go to her blog or follow her on Facebook.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Community and why do you need to be in one

1. A group of people living together in one place, esp. one practicing common ownership: "a community of nuns".
2. All the people living in a particular area or place: "local communities".

Okay so let me start off with a confession, I'm a community junky.  I like to be and feel involved in something.  I get energised by interacting with people, be it online or in the real world.  Sure I like my alone time, like Greta Garbo in the movie Grand Hotel "I want to be alone", but I find not being part of something isolating and depressing.

On the other hand my darling husband is perfectly happy being on his own.  He enjoys his own company and does not get his batteries recharged by communicating or interacting with others.  This doesn't mean that he doesn't see the benefits of being in a community or that he's not part of any, he just chooses not to be in as many me.  Where I will be helping out at school or volunteering at the local museum or  chatting with friends on Facebook, my husband finds community within Nerd forums and Coco heads gatherings in Sydney.

So why do I think community is important?

Apart from the fact that I get energised by them, I think being part of a community is important because in the right community you can get Support, Affirmation  Feedback, you can bounce ideas, have a vent tap into the brains trust and network.

Support and Affirmation
A community is a great way to find the support from like minded people is fantastic.  We all need a cheer squad and we all need to be part of someone else's cheer squad.  There are many benefits to receiving supporting and supporting others.

Feedback is vital to the growth of your business.  Honest feedback from your community can turn your new creation from just another pretty dress to a "OMG I have to have it" dress!  As a community member it is also important to give honest constructive feedback.  Nanny use to say "If you have nothing nice to say, then don't say it" but if someone has asked for your advice and you see something that needs improving than say it but say it nicely.

Bounce ideas
Have you ever had an idea and part of your brains said "thats fantastic" and the other half says "thats crap"?  By having a place to safely bounce your ideas off one or more people you can turn an idea into product.  By bouncing ideas off others you can receive their feedback, consider their advice, which could lead to an affirmation of your idea or you could take on board what has been said and tweak your initial concept.

Lets face it we all need to vent at times, even if its just about Australia Post raising their prices again. The importance of being part of a supportive community becomes very apparent when you work by yourself and things aren't going so well or those thought gremlins won't shut the hell up!  The ability to simply vent about an issue that is bothering you can help you get things into perspective, nut though the real issues and enable you to move forward.  We all know that old saying about a problem shared is a problem halved.

Brians Trust
In my experience the communities I have found myself in have been full of brilliant, funny and wise people.  I've been able to ask questions, seek advice, learn something new, receive a great tip etc.  By being part of a community of creative peeps like yourself you can find the answers to questions that Google can't provide.

Communities are also great for networking.  Some people may think this is a dirty word but networking isn't just for wankers in suits who hand out business cards. Its about making connections, forming relationships with complementary businesses.  Networking can open doors to new stockists, invitations to other communities, new suppliers, potential buyers and the list goes on.

Are you in a supportive community?  What do you get out of being in it? We would love to hear your answer, leave a comment below.

About the Contributor: 
Christine is a Wife and a Mum of 3.  She is the owner of C Percy Designs and the Editor of The Contemporary Handmade Alliance.  She is also the Editor of the Handmade Cooperative - Australian Handmade 4 Kids and is a little obsessed with all things crochet. 

To find out more about Christine go to her blog or follow her on Facebook.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Handmade Community: Help the Smiths Auction

The Handmade Community is one of the nicest communities I've ever been part of.  This year the {CHA} has supported a number of handmade initiatives that have raised money to benefit others.  Recently I became aware of yet another amazing act of kindness, this time in the form of a special Auction - HELP the Smiths.  

Nic and Sam from Sugar Plum Tree are hosting this AUCTION next month to help their friend and a very special WAHM Katie and her young family.  Katie is a Professional Photographer and and one half of the Multiplied magazine team.  

Katie's husband Michael has been diagnosed with a debilitating condition called Essential Tremor and a related syndrome, Cervical Dystonia, which causes his entire right side of his body including his head and hand to constantly tremor- affecting his speech, ability to drive and work.

I asked Nic and Sam this week why they are hosting this auction 

"The past 6 months Michael hasn't been able to work, and with no known cure and no success so far in receiving disability payments, the financial burden on the family is enormous and the future remains uncertain for them.   
Katie is just a beautiful, selfless person- one of those people who always do nice things for others without expecting anything back in return- so now it's her turn for some good karma to return her way"
If you would like donate an item to this auction please send an email to 

NB: The {CHA} will be taking part in this wonderful auction.  We have donated a Sponsorship Package with includes the sponsorship of this blog for a month, a Promotional blog post and inclusion in our weekly newsletter (RRP $50).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bum dance time! I'm going to ProBlogger Virtually

Call me sad but I'm totally excited about attending the ProBlogger Conference Virtually.

Could I possibly be a bigger nerd than I thought? 

I must admit I was a little bummed that I couldn't join my gal pal Jeanie from Inspired Wish as well as new friend Elle from The Creative Business Co at the ProBlogger Event in Melbourne.

I really wanted to go but with a young family this wasn't in my budget nor did I think it fair to get on a plane and leave hubby to wrangle the kids by himself for the second month in a row.

Afternoon tea at the Artful Biz Con
Admittedly I've seen people discuss "virtually" attending a conference and I felt it would be a waste of time but after being part of the Artful Business Conference last month and seeing the attention placed on the Virtual Members (though they did miss out on the macaroons at afternoon tea) I have put my hesitations aside and this morning I purchased my Virtual Pass.

I'm so excited about being part of this event from the comfort of my own home and to have the pleasure of hearing all the amazing speakers pass on their wisdom.

You can purchase your Virtual Pass from here.

Leave a comment below to let me know if you are attending this event too.