Instagram

There are so many social media platforms out there and all have their own merits, however, I am very guilty of trying to maintain a presence on everything available. I have even tried periscope but I’m not sure if it works in the miniature embroidery world.
image

Facebook is great for keeping friends and family up to date with my work but trying to increase my audience has proved difficult. Twitter has a great craft community but I have no idea how someone who follows 13k people ever works out which posts to read. Tumblr, Flickr, Google+, YouTube, snapchat, swarm, Blogger, Pinterest, WordPress……arrgghh! If I try and work all platforms my brain will truly be frazzled, and I have been guilty of prioritising social media over actual work.
image

Lately I have been spending a lot of time on Instagram, I have had an account for a couple of years but never really paid it any attention. But there is something about it that just fits. I am not the greatest writer or mathematician, my brain works in pictures, if I have to do sums I picture dice or dominoes (at the risk of sounding like a primary school student!)
image

I am still getting the hang of picture composition and all of the available tools (although I will only use filters on non embroidery related photos, if I am trying to show my work I will mostly just adjust the brightness). But what I love is the interaction. It doesn’t take long to catch up with your feed and pictures will just jump out at you, inspiring, encouraging and brightening your day.

And the people, oh, they are lovely! Like @modernbotanics @celiahartartist and @leighannanewell to name a few. Fellow crafters on Instagram are encouraging when you are having a wobble, they are full of knowledge and advice and the range of skills is just mind blowing. There are collaborations and art swaps in the pipeline, and enquiries regarding commissions. You can join in on hashtags like #dailysketchbookgroup and #tfispring and all of this creates a friendly, online community.

Unfortunately Instagram has recently changed it’s policy and apparently will no longer show your feed by most recent. We all have fears that this could affect continuity and disjoint the sense of community but we will have to wait and see.
image

So, I have this here little blog (although I know I am not a frequent blogger), and I have instagram, and for the time being that is where I am planning on focusing my social media attempts. Please come and join me at @vkmatthewson

Advertisements

Update

This blog is long overdue, I know, but here is a quick update.

12556036_547454222099565_1396289905_n

As you may remember, back in January I was off up to Liberty’s to show my work at their 2016 open call. I won’t bore you with too many details as the day was long, very long. After about five or six hours of queuing I sat down in front of two lovely representatives from Liberty’s jewellery department (I know I should have taken their names but I was so flustered my brain went to mush). With all of my drama training you would think I would be good a presenting but this was different, it was very personal to me. I found myself gabbling through my prepared presentation and almost hurling my pieces at them. (I had been told before that they were keeping very strictly to the four minute time slot). Still, They were very positive about my work and said they could see the craftsmanship that had gone into them but, as I could have predicted, it all came down to my old enemy: pricing.

I had set out my cost prices being completely honest to the formula: materials + Labour + 5% overheads + 20% profit. But then of course with their markup (Something like x 2.75) we were looking at selling each piece for over £200 and for that they said they would expect solid gold or silver frames. It is a fair point. They did go on to suggest trying another well respected shop to approach so I believe they thought there was something in my work that could fit in given the right audience.

So, where do I go from here? I have looked at sterling silver frames and found a good supplier, but as they are really designed for semi-precious stones I found it difficult to insert the embroidery. I had to adapt the designs as I couldn’t find exact shapes:

12627828_1638675466394917_1407870933_n

This is one way forward. Another way is to look at how I can reduce that cost price. I won’t pretend that each piece can be done in an hour, it can’t, on average I spend between 4-6 hours on each piece. I don’t want to simplify the embroidery as this is my Unique Selling Point. So, I am working on some smaller pieces again.

A simpler image in a smaller frame was where I started and would always draw the most interest at craft fairs. I am still making the larger pieces, in the bigger frames, as sometimes I need to think outside the tiny box.

In my next blog I will talk about Instagram and the amazing community of craft people I am getting to know there. I have already drawn inspiration from joining in with the #dailysketchbookgroup which has led to these new designs:

There is such a warm craft community out there, even my six hours queuing at Liberty’s was made enjoyable by my queue buddies Claire Gaudion and Half Cut Candles

 

2016

I am trying to put on a harder business hat this year. I have been told by many people, from other small business owners to actual customers who have just purchased my work, that I am not charging enough. I have struggled with this a lot, the urge to start paying off some of my initial outlay has led me to put prices so low that I end up paying myself less than minimum wage and not making any profit.

It is very easy to become scared of pricing. After doing a basic Etsy search for ’embroidered pendant’, the average price seems to be between £20-£25. I am at a loss as to how anyone can make a profit at this price.

To start this year I am working on five new designs after being introduced by Mother Eagle to embroidered jewellery frames by Kailea on Etsy.

2016 designs

The designs are inspired by my love of autumn but looking forward to the hope of spring and summer. I am also using a more stylized design, after doing some sketches inspired by Celtic artwork I am employing a much more free technique, I am loving the swirl.  I start with a curl to fit the jewellery shape and then see where it takes me.

Here is what I have done so far:

I had started on the field bindweed design but I wasn’t satisfied with it so I have gone back to the sketch.

This Saturday I am off to Libertys to attend their open call. I am not really going with the idea of getting my work stocked, I think it will be a great opportunity to get some professional advice. Can I really charge the amount I need to (probably nearer the £80-£90 mark) or do I need to completely rethink my work. I am extremely nervous, I can’t completely get the thought of being laughed out of the room out of my head. Ah well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Wish me luck!

She Shed

Now we are right in the middle of the busy Christmas period, with two very excited children, I find that work has come to a grinding halt. I keep on looking out of my window, through the fourth consecutive day of torrential rain, at my little office.
During the summer I decided that my sewing was taking over the house and needed a home of its own. So, with hammer and drill in hand, and the best neighbour you could ask for, we started building the summerhouse I had bought.

image

Having never put up a structure bigger than a pop up sun tent I was grateful for my neighbours experience and assistance.

image

After a few days of work my office was complete, next I treated the wood and set about painting.

image

I was so excited to move my work in. We had an old rug under the stairs that I cleaned up and put down to add some insulation, an old garden table was revarnished and fits perfectly and other charity shop finds have made it quite cosy.

image

I love working out here, I actually feel like I’m leaving home to go to work. I am a little concerned about damp and I would like to get electricity linked up (at the moment I am limited to trailing an extension lead from the house.) I don’t keep anything of value out there as security is difficult.

image

It can be chilly but once I get my heater going it is very cosy. Next year I am aiming for curtains and insulation.

Honeysuckle

So, I have been dipping in and out of embroidering my small tortoiseshell butterfly, however, whilst waiting for my daughter at a swimming party I decided to re-read the book ‘Long and short stitch embroidery’ by Trish Bur, a book I have read many times but not picked up for awhile. It dawned on me that I had got lazy, I had skipped several steps that are there to help me as well as improve the final look of the piece.

Small tortoiseshell rs

If you look closely you can probably see that I forgot to split stitch the edge of the wing before starting, this has meant that I haven’t got a sharp image. I also didn’t bother to mark stitch direction lines so moving from one colour to the next has got a bit confused.

This has been a good exercise in keeping my mind sewing and seeing how taking the time to do these extra little bits of process can improve the image.

Right, I am going to start from the beginning and try not to skip steps.

I am going to use this honeysuckle photo as a start for a new piece, the focal point is a bit confused but i can work with it:

Honeysuckle rs

I started with the drawing, improvising the rest of the picture with some leaf and berry photos:

Honeysuckle sketch rs

I haven’t got my paints out for many, many years but I found this great fun. Acrylics:

Honeysuckle painting rs

I am using a silk/cotton blend of fabric and backing the piece with cotton. To transfer the image onto the silk I use a lightpad, I love this pad, before I had this I would be rushing to the patio doors every time the sun came out:

Honeysuckle trace rs

Then, finally, I have wrapped a wooden hoop with cotton to protect the fabric and stretched the image drum tight:

Honeysuckle frames rs

Deep breath, what to do now, direction lines….

Right back to the sketch

As I mentioned in my last post, if I want to create embroidered art I need to go right back to the sketch. But where to start, I have so many books on drawing and wild flowers in art, many I inherited from my Grandma others I have bought in charity shops. If you have always thought that ‘Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady’ by Edith Holden was a book that only lived in charity shops then think again, it is amazing example of botanical sketches through a year in the British countryside (and it is interesting to compare weather patterns, so British!)
However, reading books is a long way from actually putting pencil to paper, where do i start? I can copy photos but I’m not sure I can compose a piece of art. However, my fear of making a start was eased a little when my 8 year old asked about making some victorian costumes for her toys so I had a hunt through my books to see if I could give her some ideas, I have two period costume books and in one I found a sketch I had done when I had planned to make my own wedding dress. I finally bought my dress as my dressmaking skills are not great but the sketch and the idea still appeal to me:
image

I know it is not perfect, the twist at the bottom doesn’t work but the idea and the shaping is ok. So, if I could do it then I should be able to play with some ideas now. Hmm,

New beginnings

It was with slight trepidation that I picked up my needle the other day, the first time in about six months. I had lost my way with embroidery a little, starting lots of different projects and never finishing one, too many moments of inspiration that spread me too thin.

Having moved house last September I have also been distracted by decorating and getting settled, however, new year, new start. I returned to an old project, a small tortoishell butterfly as there is a lot of opportunity to practice the basic stitching again, not too much colour grading. I still love it, I am a little rusty but loving the repetitive, meditative split, pull, jab, motion. I am not saying it is perfect, far from it, but enjoyment is the start.

image

I am going back to the start, right back to the initial sketch, how should I compose a piece of work? What is the best material to use? What equipment should I be using?

At this point in in time my website and blog is purely selfish (I am even working under my own name instead of Love in Idleness). I am not making pendants anymore, I am sewing for my own enjoyment, if something comes of it one day in the future that is great but for now I am indulging in my hobby. I will try and be honest, I will show my complete disasters as well as the peices that I am reasonably happy with (this could get messy).

Let’s see what happens…