Welcome to the blog for Embroidered Originals, where I'll keep you up-to-date with all the goings on at our little cottage industry. You can also view our website and shop online at embroideredoriginals.co.uk Marion x

Saturday, 30 January 2010

February's Nearly Here

A short month, sandwiched between Winter and Spring.
For us, it's about production - forcing ourselves to crank up the pace in readiness for the busy times of Summer and Autumn.
We've got the Trade Show orders in the bag, the stock drawers are full, and we are fighting this sense that we are up to date  - with nothing to do.
Silly and short sighted. One juicy order and the stock is halved.
So we've cleared out more stock space and started to fill that too. Bob is in charge of stock control. (That makes it sound important!).
He is forging ahead with his workload - I'm faffing around with the many and various other tasks, as usual getting nowhere fast.
I'm focussing my attention on the website at the moment. So much needs updating, and it all takes time.
But this is the ideal time, start of a new season, to springclean and freshen it up.
February is also about Valentine's of course, and as card makers we can't ignore that.
We've gone through thousands of red envelopes this past month, and most of our shop orders are out.
February 14th will see the two of us at the O2 in London in the company of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. Great Valentine's weekend to look forward to.Talking of Valentine's Day........

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

In The Bag

We're just home from Glasgow after three days at Scotland's Trade Show. I don't have time or energy to say much tonight, just a few snippets of the weekend
*  Our new stand display did the job admirably - a worthwhile investment ( photo soon)
*  I made tartan bunting ( finished at 3am on Saturday morning) to add some colour to the stand. It was special "Embroidered Originals no-sew" bunting - bondaweb and staples were the main ingredients. I will get the sewing machine out and go over it properly - some day.
*  We took a satisfying number of orders, with a good percentage of new customers. So look out Banff, Galashiels, Stewarton and Toronto - our cards will be in your shops soon!
*  I met old friends and made new ones, chatted and gossiped in the quiet times of the show.
*  Answered some strange questions from visitors to the stand - like - "If I was to buy 35,000 of these cards, what would you charge me?" Answer - 35000 times the cost of one card! No discounts for bulk buying when each card is made by hand! ( I don't think I'll hear from that potential buyer again)
*  Came home with very sore dry eyes - I think the dry atmosphere of the SECC was to blame.
*  Spent 3 nights on my own in a good little hotel just a few minutes' walk from the SECC, which is as good as a holiday. I could please myself with the remote control ( rare treat!), read mags, eat naughty things and catch up on lost sleep. Bliss.
Talking of sleep....

Friday, 22 January 2010

The Unveiling

Well, there's only a couple of days left before the Trade Show in Glasgow - our shop window for trade customers, old and hopefully new. This is our first chance of the year to reach buyers for gift shops, galleries and the like throughout Scotland and beyond, and we have to get it right.
This year, we've pushed hard since the New Year to produce a larger than normal collection of new designs, and as I'm putting all the new images in the Brochure tonight ( a long and tedious job) I thought I'd share them here too.
There's quite a lot, so here goes.....

A bit of a mixed bag really, some of them you have to be Scottish to get!
I've got two more I want to finish before Saturday, and that will be it. So, Trade Show here we come.
I'll be off the radar until Tuesday, as I don't have a laptop (yet), but hopefully I'll find some time to take a few pics of other inspiring stands and post them here next week.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

January Update

Well I did say I was going to be busy being creative and forging paths in new directions...... and I have been making some progress.
I don't have anything photographed unfortunately because the light has been so bad the past few days. So dark that the sensor has been putting on the outside security lights at midday. It's quite depressing after the lightness of the snowy weather, but I'm still glad the snow has gone.
I'm not someone who is affected by the short dark days, thankfully. It's an excuse to shut out the world and get absorbed in work under my bright anglepoise lamp.
Firstly the textile designs from the last post - they've been tweaked and shunted around on the computer, cropped, repeated, colour changed, faded, blurred....printed on various sizes of card, embellished and painted. Much of it has been trashed, but that's OK as it's a process of elimination or distillation, until I get a result I'm happy with.
OK I've just taken a photo of a pile of little cards ( gift card size) that I made up mainly as colour samples.

There are actually about 30 of them in different colours.
The larger ones are still works in progress and won't be photographed until finished.
The other project this week has been to prepare a batch of new designs for the Trade Show coming up next week.
Usually we introduce half a dozen or so new card designs, but this year I felt we should freshen up a lot of the ranges, so we've been busy.
Again, it's still under wraps. Not intentionally secretive, just waiting until they are finalised.
We've invested in new display equipment for the show too, which was long overdue, and I'm really quite excited about setting it up next Saturday. For so many years we've made do with homemade shelving systems which are getting pretty tatty now and do nothing to enhance the visual display.
I think all that is part and parcel of the new direction idea.
Anyway, it's back to work now. Bob is making the meal tonight - something from his Italian cook book that involves potatoes, bacon, onion, cheese and by the smell from the kitchen, lots of butter! Not good for the dieter, but who cares? Dark days need comfort food.
I'll leave you with an image from this wonderful blog of the most amazing photos of Scotland taken at dawn or dusk.

The link to the blog is always on the right hand side here, and is well worth a regular visit. This image was taken by ruairidhsollas and I hope he doesn't mind my posting it here.
Till next time.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Retro style

Following on from last night's outpouring, I've made a start.
I am increasingly drawn to the very retro 60's and 70's styles which are current favourites in textile design. I'd never have thought they would have returned, but they have in a big way.
A quick rummage under the bed unearthed a portfolio of textile designs - you guessed it, from the 1970's.
I've scanned some and put them up here  - not sure what I'm going to do with them yet, if anything, but I may play around with them as backgrounds for cards. No copyright issues as they are my own designs, and they are truly antiques.

These are colourways of one design, each of which was laboriously handpainted in gouache. I've just been playing around with these scanned images in Photoshop and produced another 2 dozen or so colourways in 5 minutes. What I would have given for a glimpse into the future in 1975!

Next job is to decide how to use them. I'll get back to you on that one. Wish me luck.

New directions

This is a bit of a ramble, but it is that time of year to reflect and make plans, come to some conclusions and hopefully start to act on them.
Maybe it's because we've popped out of the other side of a busy period and I can look up and see what's happening around me, what I've missed over the past few months, that I'm feeling like this. And maybe as I said, it's that time of year.
Anyway, the idea came to me today while I was tidying up and sorting out the workshop - the annual clear up. There was the usual pile of out of date catalogues, things kept because they might come in handy one day ( and didn't), odds and ends of half completed projects which will never be completed - you know, the usual.
And lots of spiders, dust and neglected corners. After all, the workshop has now been in existence for 18 years. Can you believe it?
So, the idea. As craft businesses go, this one of ours is pretty successful, I have to say. We aren't well off particularly, and it hasn't come easy, but we have reached a point where the business rumbles along on its own. We are cogs in the wheel - making up the orders as they come in and adding new designs every so often to the core, which has been the mainstay for so long. I found a sketchbook of designs for cards which goes back 20 years, and some of them are still in production!
Where am I going with this? Oh yes, if there's one thing that keeps me awake at night it's the fact that I am totally responsible for the success or failure of this business and therefore our livelihood and future comfort in old age. Each decision made could either propel us into super stardom or rack and ruin. So far, things have worked out. But could they have worked out better? Maybe I haven't taken enough chances? Haven't worked enough at aspects of the business where I feel least comfortable - like marketing and promotion for example.
Been content to spend the time making up multiples of cards when I should have been delegating and using the time to be more creative and try out new directions.
2009 has been our most successful year to date, successful enough for our bank manager's jaw to drop when he realised what our turnover was. ( I don't think he has much respect for craft businesses.)
So why should I rock the boat? Well, because every self employed person, crafts or otherwise probably wonders when the bubble's going to burst.
So far, a mixture of intuition and luck has kept us ahead of the game - when things got sticky in the craft fair side, we had already gone down the road of wholesale, for example.
But going back to what I said at the start of this rant, I've raised my head and had a look around me - there are so many talented designers out there - and it's so easy to find them now, on the internet and blogland. So much fresh exciting work, and I find myself thinking - I could do that! Before I miss the boat completely.
OK - so what? What do I do about it? Drag myself out of the rut probably. Waken up.
Get inspired.
Last year I thought I wanted to find an outlet for my creative yearnings through going back to my embroidery and textile roots. This year I've realised that my creative home is the business itself.
So, (big intake of breath)  the time has come to do something about it.
2010 could quite easily be a carbon copy of 2009, and there would be nothing wrong with that in monetary terms, but today in the workshop I wanted to scoop everything up and chuck it out. To start afresh.
Don't worry friends, it won't be so drastic, But with a bit of luck and perseverance you may see changes begin to appear among the familiar Embroidered Originals products. Little ones to start with, but with hope for more to follow.
I usually end my blog posts on a high note, with a bit of whimsy. But not tonight, I'm not going to be flippant.
If you've had the staying power to get this far in this post I thank you for listening. I almost don't expect anyone to have bothered, but that's OK.
There's something about seeing it in print that makes it more tangible. So maybe I'm more likely to stick with it.
I should stop now, but there are a couple of things bothering me - one is that it might seem arrogant to be ranting on about me, me, me. Not intended and please don't take offence.
The other is that I know there are ideas swirling around in my head and I need to get them sorted and act on them. That is a lot more difficult than writing about it.
Tomorrow I have to do something about it before we start getting busy again and the year flies away.

PS My best friend and business helper who has been with us for almost the whole journey, has had her own battles over the past few months. I've missed our weekly sessions in the workshop, when the tongues worked as hard as the hands. Maybe because she hasn't been my sounding board, I'm writing this now.
But as I say, she has had a lot more to contend with lately, and I have nothing to grumble about in comparison. To my friend - I sincerely hope that you have left it all behind in 2009 - finished, over - and look forward to a bright New Year that's peaceful, healthy, happy and above all, normal.

PPS Where does my husband and business partner figure in all of this, you might be wondering? Doesn't he have a say in the decision making? Well, yes of course. But he's not the ideas man - he listens, agrees or disagrees, but ultimately lets me get on with it. He knows what's good for him. (And I wasn't going to be flippant!)

Sunday, 3 January 2010

The machine is cranking up again

Well, as I've already said, this Christmas break has been all about doing nothing ( apart from eating). But all good things must come to an end ( the fridge is now empty ), and it's time to heave the expanding waistline off the settee and get back to work.
Still, after a couple of weeks of over indulgence, the prospect is quite appealing, I must say. I need a bit of structure back in my life.
So, tonight I tackled one of my least favourite New Year chores - filling out application forms for Craft fairs in 2010.
Some organisers make the form filling easy, others are just sadistic. Like making you print your name,address, phone number, fax number, email address, website address blah blah blah on EVERY page of the application form, which in one particular case stretches to TEN pages.
But anyway, that's two major fairs applied for at least.
On the subject of Craft Fairs, we recently found a list of the fairs we did in one year, way back in 1995, and believe it or not there were 47 of them, some of them over 2 or 3 days as well! That meant we had to pack up for a fair just about every weekend of the year, sometimes even packing two vehicles as we were doubled up at two events on the one day.
Those were crazy times, but the wholesale side and of course the website were non existent, so we had to go out on the road to reach our customers.
Over the years, we've cut back drastically to just some major events each year - the Royal Highland Show, Edinburgh Festival and Country Living are the main ones. But I'm not averse to adding in the odd little one, especially near Christmas as they can sometimes be wee goldmines.
 I certainly don't miss the old Friday night ritual of packing boxes and stressing out about what to take and what we've forgotten. Then setting out before dawn on a cold snowy winter's morning and driving as much as 120 miles when everyone else in the world was tucked up in their cosy beds, and don't get me started on the number of times the car broke down when I was by myself in the middle of nowhere.
No, checking the website for the orders coming in, and taking calls from our shops while in the comfort of our own home is much the better option.
OK, enough rambling. Today's picture shows that I haven't just been a couch potato over the past few days. Oh no - I have been doing the JIGSAW FROM HELL, or La Paz, Bolivia to be exact.
This was Laura's inspired idea for her Dad's birthday - a photo from their South America travels turned into a 1000 piece jigsaw. Great idea, but  the one she chose....

well, see what I mean? Just click on the picture to get a better idea.
Bob fell by the wayside very early on - I think he just looked at the box of pieces and decided to get back to work instead.
I thought I should do a mother's duty and make it up for Laura's benefit ( are you reading this, Laura!) It took days, nights and days again. But at exactly 4.30 pm this afternoon the final piece went in! That was after going to bed with stinging eyes and a sore back at 4am this morning, not to mention the heartburn and indigestion caused by being bent over the jigsaw for days on end while scoffing Thorntons chocs.
But my side of the family is known for its tenacity - Mum knows what I mean. We can get quite single minded about getting a job done, usually when it's the time wasting sort rather than anything meaningful. So, Laura, here it is. I'm going to keep it made up to show you when you get home, then I'm going to break it all up and present it to you as a challenge. Have you inherited the Clark gene?

Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy, Healthy, Wealthy 2010

Out with the old and in with the new.
I'm sitting here on New Year's Day ( Ne'er Day in Scotland ), thinking about the year ahead but not too seriously yet, since I'm still full to the brim with Christmas leftovers and with a brain too sluggish to work properly. Not a hangover though, thankfully - just a couple of glasses of wine and a wee dram to welcome in the New Year.
It was just the two of us last night and it was too cold/icy to think about venturing out.
We watched a bit of telly, played a game or two and then hung out of the upstairs window watching the fireworks display in Edinburgh across the water from us.
What a glorious bright night it was, crystal clear and very light with the full moon reflecting off the snow. The fireworks were clearly visible although they must be 30 miles away.
The best bit of  Hogmanay was a three way chat with Laura and Greg in Auckland and Nick in Edinburgh ( he was working over at the Scotsman building). Laura was already 13 hours into 2010 by then.
Then a bit of Jools Hootenany and then bed.
So what will the New Year bring?
- More snow for a start. It's getting boring now.
- A new central heating boiler - can't put it off any longer.
- INSPIRATION from somewhere PLEASE for new designs and ideas to freshen up the business. I have a feeling that this year will see a few quite major changes ( all good) to Embroidered Originals.
- A big birthday for both Bob and Laura, with 30 years apart.
- The usual (yawn) resolutions to lose weight, get fit, be energetic and achieve lots.
- And a plan to give ourselves a little treat to look forward to every couple of months. That's a resloution everyone should make I think. It's too easy to let time slip by and never get out of the rut. Last year it was all work and no play for us mostly. OK we had a few days in France in the Spring and a few days in Italy in the Autumn, which was very good, but we worked seven days a week for months averaging 12 - 15 hours a day.
I daresay we'll continue to do that - it's become a way of life - but we've decided to punctuate it with something no matter how small to liven things up.
To that end, I've been online today booking a long weekend in London for Valentine's with the highlight being a concert at the O2 - Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, two old codgers ( like us) who really can play guitar.
That's our first "look forward to treat".
It's been a good festive break. In previous years I've tried to spend the Christmas holiday getting back to my textile/embroidery roots and do something for myself, bringing it's own sort of stress in a way, as I didn't have enough time to do anything much.
This year I vegetated.
I found ( amazingly) one or two good things to watch on TV and did just that. It was soporific but nice.
We kept the CLOSED sign up on the workshop, and only opened up if requested by a customer. Only a few hardy souls ventured up the farm road, it being a sheet of ice from top to bottom.
The workshop is freezing and I've collected up all my bits and pieces for work and set them up in the house until this cold spell is past.
I did start the Christmas card sale on the website though, and have had quite a brisk response in the past 24 hours - from as far afield as California.

So, that's us into 2010. Bring it on.


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