Happy New Year my friends!
I hope you are sliding back into the swing of things a little more successfully than me. Before Christmas I was real excited for the New Year, but now I'm kind of terrified by the clean slate. I'm taking this month as some time to reflect on my first year in business, and to plan for the year ahead.
Want to have a look back through 2018 with me? It's amazing how easy it is to forget how far you've come and all that you've achieved. Let's start at the beginning...
January 2018 I moved to Saltaire after 6 months spent exploring and making in my campervan.
My house has a spare bedroom which I instantly claimed as my 'studio' to continue making jewellery in, not just as a hobby. 'Properly'.
I got a second hand 'workbench' (it's a kitchen table...Sssssh) from Facebook Marketplace, put my handful of tools on it along with some sophisticated desk top storage (forward facing cardboard boxes), and my business was now 'proper'.
I got my boyfriend Liam to take some photos of me sat by my new work station. I might not look it here (why so serious?), but I was happy as a pig in muck to have my own space, no matter how low-fi.
At this stage I was still trading under my own name (Searlait McCrea). Do you remember that?
I knew I wanted to get out and about and trade in person at events throughout the year, so I quickly set about designing a display. I wanted something simple, flexible and easily transported/stored. I LOVED designing this as my Furniture Making background could come into play.
I didn't have the room or tools to make up the structures at home, so I designed a CNC cutting list and my creative pals Three Create cut and assembled the components for me, ready to be finished (filled, sanded, painted) on my kitchen table.
Is it OK if I outright say how pleased I was with how the display turned out?
At the time my branding was more playful and included these three coloured shapes which I included as alternative display plinths.
In need of some help designing your own display? *puts hand up to offer assistance*
New Options New Problems
Early in the year I introduced the Plane Collection.
A shift from using only Recycled Silver wire in my work, to now also using Silver in sheet form, AND adding Brass & Copper options, as a way of introducing a lower price point into my offerings with the lower materials costs.
Introducing new metals into the mix brought some new production and finishing problems for me to solve, and I struck what I would say was my first 'oh shit' moment in business.
I had to work through a small wave of exchanges because the clear lacquer I initially was coating Brass and Copper pieces in failed, meaning some peoples pieces were tarnishing underneath the lacquer, and because they were lacquered people couldn't then clean the tarnish back...Opps. Lesson learnt.
Launched a Best Seller
The great thing about working exclusively in Recycled Silver wire up until the launch of the Plane Collection was that waste was extremely low.
If you imagine making a design from wire, you only cut off what you need. Now sheet metal was in the mix, I had an icky feeling when I noticed larger sized scraps building up, so I had a play with cutting some teeny tiny shapes from them to put to use what I could.
Say hello to the Off-Cut Earrings (shown in the right of this box) which instantly became bestsellers.
You love these small studs for their comfort, cuteness, and eco-credentials.
This year I need to put my thinking cap on and figure out how best to address the simple fact that these little guys are getting more popular than my scrap pile is high.
Debuted My Display
It's so strange to see how colourful and playful my display was at this point before my re-brand.
Looking at this photo I've realised that my product range now is the same as it was then, back last May!
Although I do have plans for a new collaborative range to hopefully launch this Spring, I'm actually more than happy to let product launches happen slowly and organically rather than forcibly designing new collections to sell sell sell every season.
Shop owners want to sell MY designs?
At the beginning of last year I set myself a goal of gaining one new stockist every month, so effectively I should be stocked in 12 stores right now...I'm not.
Over the course of the year I was stocked in a total of 9 shops although I'm currently only still in 7. Not too far off!
I want to continue with my original goal of a new stockist every month, so in my review of 2019 (oh god so far away) I expect to be typing that I am stocked in 24 shops. Someone hold me accountable to that please...
If you're a shop owner and would like to stock Today in your store, head over here to find out how.
Expanding out of Yorkshire
I put the displays transportability to the test when I packed it up and carted it to London and back in a day on the train to trade at Crafty Fox.
Admittedly my boyfriend helped with the carrying (as he has done at almost every fair in fairness to him) but even so, it passed the test and continues to be a doddle to transport!
I have to admit, when I look around at the set up and breakdown some other people go through when trading at fairs and markets, I'm always relieved to travel so light. The joys of selling small sparkly items!
Selling In The Sun
My next fair I worked up a sweat in a different sense, as I set up shop out in the sun at Chow Down food festival in Halifax.
I could get used to selling in the sun! Thankfully I had my suncream, but unfortunately the organisers decided not to put on the 'Crafts' section of the festival the following month.
First Time In Print
I was thrilled when ace stylish Taff Williamson called upon me to send some pieces her way for a last minute editorial submission she was working on with amazing photographer Ester Keate. I learnt that it's always good to keep one of everything aside for such times!
I was even more thrilled to flick through the pages of Dreaminless magazine and see MY DESIGNS in print for the first time!
Oh and it was extra special to share the excitement of the shoot and feature with fellow Yorkshire jewellery making lass, Alice Chandler whose gorgeous wiggle earrings made the front cover!
The power of the internet provided me with some STUNNING product shots. Me and Rosa Mol (model in photo) struck up a conversation on Instagram, and she suggested we work on a collaborative set of photos.
I was already in love with all the photos she's modelled in, but was particularly drawn to those shot by Sonia Perdeck, so we invited Sonia in on the action and I was so pleased she wanted to be involved.
I have to admit I had little part to play in the creation of the images. I provided the jewellery, and Rosa and Sonia worked their magic and I was blown away when I received them back!
Stunning, simple and natural.
Big Studio Expansion
BIG workspace developments in the form of a new desk.
It's the little things folks. This beauty meant I could store my tools away in a drawer at the end of the day. I'm moving on up!
Maybe this time next year I'll be writing about how I moved into my own studio space somewhere...
Re-Name & Re-Brand
Up until August I was still trading under my own name 'Searlait McCrea'.
Considering my name is both Irish (obviously) AND a strange kind of made up pronunciation for the spelling (thanks Mum), this basically meant my trading name was extremely unique. Great!
So unique that no-one would ever be able to remember or recommend my work to anyone? Hmmm. Maybe not so great.
'Today' was a name I had saved in the back of my head for 'the dream' organisational objects and homewares business I had been dreaming of when I finished my Furniture Making degree. The good thing about dreams is that they are fluid, fanciful, and ever changing, so when I was trying to think of something I'd like to trade as, this little bit of daily affirmation felt just right.
A daily reminder to myself that everyday is a chance to do more of what makes you happy.
With the re-brand I took the opportunity to re-evaluate my packaging.
Before the re-brand every piece was simply packaged in a small glassine envelope with a business card. The bare essentials to get your piece to you in tip top condition, and 100% recyclable/compostable.
I loved this super simple packaging, but what if you were giving your order as a gift? Was it 'special' enough? I want people to think of my pieces as an investment they or the recipient will cherish forever long past any season cycle, and I wanted people to FEEL that.
Boxes are special. I remember getting my first pair of 'good' earrings to wear after my piercings had healed over when I was little, and I still remember the box. Black plastic with a thin silver stripe offset on the lid. In fact if I have a hunt in the attic back at Dad's house I'm pretty sure I'd find them somewhere, still in that box.
It felt special. And I kept them in their box forever. And if I hadn't kept them, that little box would still exist forever, in a landfill somewhere.
So I opted for boxes made from FSC certified recycled paper. I hope that if people don't want to keep their jewellery in the box, then at least they can recycled it, or put it on their compost pile.
First Time Trading As Today
Armed with my fresh new boxes and excited to share my re-brand, I traded as Today for the first time at The Hepworth Wakefield Summer Fair, taking up a full stall rather than a half stall for the first time.
I was so unbelievably proud to have been selected to take part as the line-up at their fairs is always crazy good, and as always with trading in person I made loads of new friends in both customers and other traders.
It sounds silly to say, but I found a new confidence having a new trading as name that wasn't my own name, and I found it much easier to be passionate about my products being one step removed from them. If you know what I mean?
Baby Steps Into Video
With my new found confidence trading as Today (I know, it's silly but it's true) I was coming to realise that my favourite bit about my business was the community I was growing.
Customers, stockists, fellow creatives, I LOVE connecting with them. I'd go as far as to say I'd rather be chatting with my community than actually making jewellery which is a strange and slightly unsettling revelation.
I'm not talking about a one way conversation though. I went through a patch of feeling deflated when I came to thinking about posting anything on social media as I felt I was just shouting out into a void rather than having a conversation, and shouting is NOT my style.
So I decided to put myself WAY out of my comfort zone and begin talking, not shouting, to my audience on Instagram in the only way I could think of, by creating 'how it's made' style videos talking people through my process like I was just talking to them one to one.
Once I got over the initial cringe factor of talking to my phone, and then watching myself talking to my phone over and over again while I captioned them before posting, it felt really empowering!
People wanted to talk. They asked questions. I answered. We talked. I posted more videos. More people asked more questions or shared their tips and tricks for the process I was working through. We talked more. Even now when I trade in person people still say 'oh I loved your videos!' and we talk and I relay how cringey it felt to make them, and we laugh.
In the run up to Christmas I couldn't find the time to continue the videos, but one of my goals for this year is to re-visit that, so I can continue to just be myself.
Featured In Caboodle Magazine
Yay! Some of my pieces were featured in Caboodle Magazine Issue 8!
I'll never forget the Saturday morning spent in bed with a coffee after my copy dropped through my letter box. I read it cover to cover and almost cried when I reached my spread.
The styling was SPOT ON and as I write this now and look at the images again I'm getting a little gushy thinking of what my younger self who lived for art lessons at school would think to my pieces being styled as the go to everyday wear for a fabulous painter lady. My soul searching inner self is weeping at the simple beauty of the symbolism.
Marathon Of Markets
I became well rehearsed in the rhythms of trading in person at fairs at this marathon of markets in the second half of the year in the run up to Christmas and I loved every single minute of them all.
Oh apart from the never ending stress saga of my rust bucket of a van breaking down every time I need to get somewhere.
Thank god for Enterprise Car Club.
Can't wait to get out and about at fairs again in 2019.
Open House Arts Market at Headrow House, Leeds
The Hepworth Wakefield Christmas Market at The Hepworth, Wakefield
Go Out With A Bang
Last but by no means least...
On Black Friday, the biggest spending day of the year, I held a charity sale in the hope of raising £500 to donate to Crisis the homelessness charity to help the homeless over the Christmas period.
I put a load of seconds, samples and one off pieces up on my Instagram Stories at sale prices, and pledged to put 50% of every order in the pot.
With your help I absolutely smashed my target and raised a whopping £632 in 24 hours.
I thought maybe by Monday I'd be somewhere near my £500 target if I was lucky, so I was completely overwhelmed to have far exceeded my expectations so quickly! If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen my ridiculously overwhelmed and unprofessional celebrations that basically involved me swearing loads and singing and dancing. I was in absolute disbelief.
This was the cherry on top of my year, because I did it together with my community, and it COULD NOT have happened otherwise.
I feel extremely lucky to be pursuing my dream as a creative business owner, and it's surreal to think that there are people who I've never even met who believe in my dream, my vision and my values, and I wanted to show my appreciation of that in some way.
Phew! That's alot to look back on!
It's so easy for everything to blur into one and seem like not much has happened in a year, but we don't have to be hurtling through huge life changing events at full throttle like we often feel pressured to.
I've enjoying taking things slow, and not putting too much on my plate, because after all that's why you'd want to be your own boss right?!
Here's to 2019!
Thanks for being by my side.