Hello everyone, how are you doing? Enjoying the sunshine, I hope?
So firstly, apologies for the radio silence, it wasn’t intentional, I just got crazy busy with lots of new opportunities, and then once you’ve not been in the saddle for a while, it becomes a little unnerving to get back in it. So today I’ve told myself enough is enough and to just get on with it and practice what I preach to many others!
It was also prompted by a friend of mine who was also having the same issue, and she wrote a great blog about it here, if you fancy a read of that too.
In essence the last few months have been a bit ‘off plan’ in that the part of my work that I see less as a constant income stream and more of a hobby that sells sometimes, suddenly gained some momentum and as someone who always says ‘yes’ to good opportunities, and worries about the practicalities later, I found myself in a mad creative ‘making’ phase.
To be honest this felt really good, as I hadn’t created new pieces of artwork for some time. It was a bit like the days gone by where art exhibitions actually happened, and you prepared for them! Added to this and some insider knowledge from Nigel, one of the artist members of our WOW Accountability Group, and hey presto I’m suddenly selling my work in not 1 but 4 local businesses!
It wasn’t quite as simple as that of course, but as soon as Nigel had shared about these venues, I paid them a visit, because when it comes to retailers on the hunt for new artists, you need to work fast and sell yourself, and the work. Remember people buy from people, it’s all about building those lasting positive relationships.
And I do enjoy this part because it has to feel right for me to partner with my kind of people. When it comes to small independent businesses, they all work differently; some like to be organised and you may have an informal contract that states what you are both offering, some are much more laid back and like to build personal trust instead. Either way, I always recommend putting down on paper / email what you’ve both agreed and then there’s no room for error on pricing, stock replenishing or whether you can offer bespoke pieces to their customers. It just makes things a lot easier for all parties to have something to refer back to.
But more importantly than that, it’s about finding a good connection with the owner, liking, and believing in their businesses, their ethos, and their own personable approach. For example, the first business was Joys Coffee House, in Kirkburton, where we’d already agreed to host our WOW Wednesday face to face meetings, once we were allowed after covid restrictions.
Ryan and his brother took over the café from Miriam, where we originally hosted WOW, and so it felt good to return to this magical place where it all began, and thankfully they had a similar approach to Miriam, in that not only is it a café, but also a place that supports other local businesses by selling their wares.
So, they were happy to take a selection of needlefelts and my cards, to add to their other stockists. It’s an all-round win-win, we support their business by bringing in a big group on a Wednesday, who definitely like good coffee and brunch, and we have a lovely space to hold our meetings in and sell our creations.
Next up was the new business, Unity Yard, located just outside Holmfirth’s Centre. Holmfirth has an increasingly arty vibe for anyone who doesn’t know it, it’s not all Nora Batty memorabilia! And Unity Yard has taken up a large space that used to be a fabric mill. The owner, Julia, is as mad as box of frogs (in a good way) and we hit it off immediately!
She’s now collected artwork from over 70 local artists, added in a living wall of plants for sale and gorgeous bunches of flowers, lots of crafty gifts and squishy sofas and a relaxed corner at one end where you can relax with a coffee and cake and pick up one of the many books to read in her cute make-shift library.
The whole place is just amazing, and I’m so glad that I am a small part of it! In-fact I could easily set up a part-time office there or some creative workshops (watch this space, I’m working on that!). Currently I sell my cards, framed needlefelts and brand-new framed grasses editions and prints too.
As well as Julia, there are the young helpers, volunteers (one of which is a neighbour from 16 years ago, who I hadn’t seen since then, what are the chances?!) and local artists who pop in with new pieces or for a coffee, so there is always someone to chat to. I know that making this connection will have a big impact on me and where the CCC goes!
And then there is the Eco Hub at Emley, whose owners Charlotte and Lou are now also members of WOW and once again it’s another treasure discovered! As it suggests, the Eco Hub is all about supporting sustainable living, encouraging us to re-use, re-cycle, re-love items and use eco-friendly products, such as cleaning materials etc.
And finally, another local village that I love is Denby Dale, famous for the largest pies, the viaduct and all-round lovely country village. Here, there is a unique shop called Utterly Yorkshire that Carole and her family took over last year. If you have Yorkshire loving folk in your family or friends, then this is the shop for you! There are lots of unique county gifts on offer, including a selection of my needlefelts too, which of course depict Yorkshire landscapes and felt like another great fit for this work!
What is also really lovely about all these new connections, is that it followed on from a wonderful day out with Charlotte (another WOW Member – check out her gorgeous guest house – The Norfolk House Scarlet Hen) to see my small business hero – Holly Tucker.
She and her team went on a UK tour a few weeks back, to go and see 100 small businesses up and down the country and one of her stops was at Hebden Bridge, not too far from where I live. So, I was absolutely determined to finally meet her, after narrowly missing this chance at the conversations of inspiration live event in Manchester (the queue was a mile long and we had to get the train back!).
Thankfully, Charlotte was an equally big fan, and we had THE BEST DAY out ever! Not only did we get to meet her, but we were on the Insta live she did on her big stripey bus, she signed her book for us (Do what you love, love what you do), and we had a lovely chat and plenty of photos with her. She was every bit as lovely and inspirational as I knew she would be, with that boundless ‘Holly Hurricane’ energy, that’s she’s famous for! Her team were bloody brilliant too.
What came across though was her absolute passion and determination to support small businesses and champion all that they do, which she did in spades that week and beyond. Her energy is infectious and has made me all the more determined to continue my support too, as well as keep pushing with the CCC, moving forwards and making the most of these opportunities.
So, if you are ever in doubt whether to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to something, go with your heart and gut, if it feels good, do it and don’t worry if it was not part of your original plan.
As small creative businesses we have the ability to be flexible and act fast on these opportunities. Not only does it feel good, but from experience it always leads to more or other connections and that is how you build your business community, little by little.
Plus, building that community, in turn sparks more creative conversation and therefore more inspiration. Last year I began working with grasses for my art pieces and this year on my walks, watching them blowing in the breeze, it sparked new ideas for colour combinations, resulting in the pictures further up this post, imprinted on black and giving a way more modern feel. My new retailers love them, and I feel like I’m finally finding a little niche idea as an artist, which feels like a huge step forwards on this creative journey.
After visiting Holly in Hebden Bridge, we were also lucky enough to see designer Hannah Nunn’s studio, she has a big passion for nature too and we totally geeked out on grasses, I think she termed it a being a ‘meadow-geek’ afterwards and I’ll happily be called that any day!
I hope this has inspired you to grasp those opportunities, whether that be something external or simply an internal spark of an idea of something you fancy trying. I love the idea that I can take something as simple as a beautiful flowering grass stem and turn it into something unique for customer’s walls, bringing a little nature inside to appreciate when they walk by.
Until next time, which hopefully won’t be as long, enjoy the craziness of the UK Summer holidays, parents I am with you, and I hope you get some creative, restful time to yourself in-between the entertaining, feeding and taxi-driving!
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
P.s Don’t forget, I’m always posting tips and tricks on Instagram, so head on over there and follow to keep up to date with all the CCC news.
Also, here’s what has been entertaining me recently;
Clarkson’s Farm – so entertaining and absolutely hilarious! This is such a great watch, with many other characters than Jeremy and even has some poignant and emotional moments too.
The Hostage – Clare Mackintosh’s long-awaited new thriller – diving into this one!
Still so many podcasts but in particular ‘Conversations of Inspiration’ mentioned earlier – it cannot fail to make you feel more motivated and ‘Postcards from Midlife’ – funny and fascinating in equal measures!
I also signed up for Martha Beck’s FREE masterclass on ‘5 paths to your purpose’ which was an inspirational listen on the early morning swim run today! Well worth signing up for.