22 - I was ill and now I'm not so much. So, hello again.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Its been a while. A long while actually but I haven't forgotten about the blog. On my last post I was on the verge of a horrid cold which completely knocked me sideways. I've had about three colds since then, one on top of the other but getting there slowly. Fingers crossed I won't be ill this Christmas (it seems to have become tradition for me to be ill or pregnant over the last 5 Christmases, sometimes both) and get to enjoy the children opening their presents and good food and wine. The panic is starting to ease a little and I'm starting to look forward to Christmas. I've had a ban put on working which sounds crazy and like a no brainer but I love it and I'm so excited about next year I just want to get on now!

I have so much that I want to post about and will try to gather my thoughts and make a better go of keeping up in the new year. I'm so excited for this new year, I can't wait to get my teeth in to some new projects and get back in to a work routine. Its tough with being a full time mama too but I love work too much to stop. I need to find my balance though as some times lately I've felt on the verge of falling down with everything and not being a great mama or getting very far with work. I'm determined to find my stride and make it work. Are any of you in a similar situation? Any strategies you'd like to share?

21 - Exhausted.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Its been a while since I last wrote. Truth is its been a case of working until two am most mornings to try to get things done for online sales and coming Christmas markets and daytime seem to have been fraught with lots of tantrums (Dominic's not mine). I finally have some cards in at Eden Flowers in Uppermill. It really is beautiful in there and they had Calla Lilies when I dropped the cards off, I nearly swapped the cards for the tub of those, I digress. Cards are done. I think my lesson learned is to not go so crazy on feeling like I had to put a range out that matched. I have four sets out at the moment, the smallest consisting of two cards and the largest of five. Really I should have stopped at five cards in total and saved some ideas for next year but once I got going I couldn't stop myself. Must try harder to listen to the little voice in my head and sleep more rather than going design crazy I think.

All that having said, I am really proud of what I have achieved. Exhausted, but proud. I'm already looking forward to Valentines and Mothers Day and next years seasons greetings (literally) and I'm looking forward to getting to work with brands who are just starting out and wanting styling from scratch or brands that are established but like what I do and want design that feels a bit more personal. What I really love is helping people to reach their full potential and create something really great that they can share (and look like pro's even if they've just started out as they do it) and I'm excited that doing the greetings cards seems to have opened a few doors in that area.

I feel like I want to stop for Christmas already but there's still so much to do! As it was thanksgiving last week I will say; I am thankful for the person in my life that makes all of this possible. Between parenting and keeping house after he gets home from work whilst I do my "job" I know he is pretty tired too but I hope that all of this will one day lead to us having more freedom in our lives to live where we want to, holiday more (and not necessarily exotic locations, just more time out of the house as a family) and have more adventures in general.

20 - Next

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I am working on a few notebook designs for a Christmas market that I am doing in a couple of weeks. I came up with a mantra to help me when I start a new project (and to justify sitting for hours with a bunch of magazines, books and blogs). Inspiration is the pathway to creation.

Take a sneaky look at my inspiration below. I'm also happy to be pinning this as a guest pinner at randomlyhappytoday's pin board: Live More, Create More here. Thanks Elena for the opportunity and I look forward to being involved.

WARNING: My desk is not one of those beautiful and preened specimens that would win awards for best in show, it is organic, free and at times - mountainous. I look forward to a time I have two desks, one to spread ideas on to keep coming back to and one to create on.

Inspiration is the pathway to creation - a look at current objects and pieces of inspiration at Alfies Studio.
Type, colour, simplicity, the Fifties, vintage, I love it all at the moment...

I've been working on lots of different things lately. From greetings cards to promoting them to helping a couple of start-ups.

I've loved doing the greetings cards and its the first time in ages I've created anything with a totally blank canvas rather than a clients brief or needs. I feel I may have fallen prey to the dreaded comparison trap however and expect to suddenly feature in blogs all over and have people cooing over my work in vast numbers. I need to remember that it takes time for word to get around, to be patient and even if it means continuing to be up to around two every night trying to make it all real (and then up early with the babies the next day) to
continue to create, to believe and to love what I am doing and to share it.

19 - Announcing...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Announcing a few things actually...

Stockists: Alfies Studio are proud to announce that Eden Flowers are now a stockist of Alfies Studio goods. I am working on getting items out to them soon and really excited that they will be displaying some custom wedding invitation work too. I'm most excited because their flowers were part of the inspiration behind the botanical range of cards here.

I've been hooked on their shop for a good while now and I think Friday was the first time I've walked out without buying a random bunch of beautiful and exotic flowers to put all over the house (broke the car wheel on the way with a low bit of dry-stone walling so it seemed like a good idea not to and offset the cost). I joked on parting that I'd end up trading profit from sales for store credit, I was half warning myself not to. You can visit their site here.

Shipping to the US and Canada now available with free shipping on all UK orders!
http://shop.alfies-studio.com now with shipping available to the US and Canada

As you can see from the picture I've sorted free shipping for ALL UK ORDERS! I hate ordering something that isn't very expensive to then be whacked for postage that is the same amount or more than an order so that's my second announcement. I thought long and hard about pricing and I think that this is the fairest way to do it. I am sorry that I can't extend this to other countries at this time but I will try to figure out a pinch point that it becomes reasonable to offer it on orders over a certain value. One thing at a time though...

Third thing... I did an online class with Alt the other day that was all about using social media to gain following on your blog. I found that some stuff was kind of common sense but others I had a real "aha" moment over. I realise that I talk about myself/products far too much and I guess that's really coming from previously owning a website that would publicise my services and really be all about me, as well as a lack of time for much else right now. I've come over to blogging to give a view of myself and what I do to potential clients, that and to start to give a little back. I've spent years reading blogs, following peoples lives (and in a way, forming relationships with them) and felt it was time to sit on the other side of the fence.
So far things have been so crazy trying to get the shop up and running, and this new side of business off the ground, that I've had little time to devote to the things I wanted to talk about such as brand, home decor, travel, fashion, children, life. I am certainly going to try to change that going forward and to try to keep to a regular pattern that might not be every day but will be regular (say Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays for example). Don't expect miracles over night mind, I think "try" was the operative word for a while yet until the dust starts to settle on the shop a little.

Hope you've had a great weekend. I'm already looking forward to see what kinds of crazy next week brings.

18 - Tiring but productive few weeks

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Well it's certainly been a tiring week or two. Satisfying as I'm getting lots done, meetings lined up and contact made about stockists, but that whole process is a lot slower than the "want it in shops now" monster in me that sees piles of printed goods all dressed up with nowhere to go...yet. I'm working on that part.

In my head I know that getting recognised will take a long time and it will all be worth it in the end when I can just go through the year holiday by holiday, season by season with a pile of stockists expecting their next batch of goodies without me having to spend a huge amount of time and heart on marketing and having lots of time to just create (that's what I love best). I'm also looking forward to getting back to some more client side work in the New Year when wedding season hits in.

For now, here are a few more things I've been working on. They aren't in the shop yet as in truth I'm trying to figure out pricing and what is fair vs. what is profitable and that vs. what people will (and these days, can afford to) actually pay. I create because I want to make people happy and yes, I do need to make a living too, but as long as I can keep my kids in shoes and clothes (and we can eventually get some foreign sun too) then I'm happy. I don't want to charge vast sums of money because I can or should and am growing to despise a culture that is charging ever increasing sums for what may be a quality product but is mostly a name or brand. I do not believe that quality products should cost the earth, I believe they should cost what they need to. I want to charge relative to what its worth, in terms of time to create as well as material value. I find it all very difficult, really I'd just love to be a donations only getup and people could give me what they felt the product was worth and I'd be rid of the guilt of charging at all (Jamie, you have the best idea I think...). I digress anyway...

The latest:

Christmas greetings aimed at the small people in our lives
Children's Christmas cards
Thank you cards to match the range of greetings
Thank you cards to go with each collection of greetings this season.
I'm especially proud of the thank you cards that match the rest of the greetings line. I'm a sucker for brand, even when it comes down to personal goods (we all present our own personal brand, every day, but that's for another post I think...) so these make me very happy. I'm also happy about the fact that I always want to send cards after Christmas (mostly from the children to gift givers but sometimes from us too) and always let it slip through being busy and wind up at Easter just remembering about the cards and thinking its a little late. Christmas, I am ready for you... especially now that Dominic is learning to write. My children will be brought up to send real cards and letters (my new range is mostly on recycled and post consumer stock) and always remember to be thankful for what they are given.

17 - Busy night

Friday, November 02, 2012

It has been a busy night.

I have managed to update the shop with the seasonal botanical cards and sort the postage so that I am now accepting orders from the United States (YAY) and free postage for all UK orders (sorry US). There are no hidden costs tagged on, I just don't think its fair that because I don't have a physical shop that you guys get stuck with the postage. I may be feeling less generous after Christmas (read bankruptcy here) but will see how it goes, for now think of it as an introductory offer to get you hooked on Alfies Studio paper goods!

I've managed to integrate my Big Cartel store in to the Facebook page which is pretty cool and I've managed to set out all the places you can find Alfies Studio as you can see:

Blog/lookbook - That's where you are right now
Facebook - facebook.com/AlfiesStudio
Pinterest - pinterest.com/AlfiesStudio
Instagram - alfies_studio

Read, like, pin, stalk... ENJOY!

16 - The Holly and the... Mistletoe.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Finally I've managed to get a photo or two of the Holly and Mistletoe additions to my Christmas collection. They'll be added over at the shop tomorrow.

Mistletoe and Holly

Mistletoe and Holly

I created the botanical inspired set (the 8 card set as well as these seasonal beauties) with my Nanna in mind.  She had beautiful writing and kept in touch with her family the good old fashioned way. I remember one of the last things that she said to me was how sad she was that her hands had fully given over to the arthritis and she could no longer write to her sister. She always loved her garden and so I guess I made these with her in mind. I get a little choked up sometimes (and full on burst in to tears the other day) that I can't pop round to visit with whatever I'm working on and set it down on the pine table (my Granddad varnished it while she was on a long stay in hospital once and he never heard the end of it and neither did we) for her to "ooooooh" over and give me her straight out opinion (she was always pretty good at that). I'm pretty sure had she been alive still she'd have wanted a few of these to send, so Nan, these are for you. You are missed.

N x

15 - Botanical cards coming a little later than I said...

I said in my post yesterday that today I would be posting the new Christmas botanical themed cards...

I got caught up making these little beauties for Halloween instead...

Ghoul red velvet cupcakes and jammy eyeball red velvet cupcakes for halloween
Ghouls and eyeballs, yum...

You can see more on instagram at alfies_studio.

14 - Coming soon...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Stay tuned. Today (and the past few days) have been a little crazy with starting to secure stockists and deal with a 3 year old that clearly doesn't get the whole daylight savings thing (if it's light, he's up). I'll be posting botanical Christmas card images (Holly and Mistletoe, I love them!) tomorrow with news of a special promotion I'll be running over at the shop until Christmas.

13 - Typographic Christmas cards...

Friday, October 26, 2012

A sneaky look at the typographic Christmas cards I've been working on...

Alfies Studio Typographic Christmas cards.
Typographic Christmas cards...
I'm pretty excited about these as quite often I just want to send something un-fussy that will stand out on a mantel-piece. I think these are it.

I had a lot of fun photographing them too and would quite like to put the tree up already now I've had the decorations out. I think the whole decorations thing is going to be more hassle than its worth this year with Eve though, she has her eyes on anything shiny, I think she's going to be worse than a cat for having it all in pieces. 

Christmas decorations for photographing the card project
Decorations. Oh so pretty...
It's been pretty strange having Christmas songs in my head in October while I've worked on these but its put me in the mood for some crisp cold weather. Please snow soon....

12 - Work in progress

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Well it has been a busy couple of weeks.

I've completed a new talent package for a sweet cake company ("cakes" made of sweets rather than an overly sweet cake) and I am feeling a lot of love for it. For a while I've wanted to do a project like this one, something a little bit girly but still with an edge to it. I like the strength of the type but the randomness of the polka dots. I like the colour pops on the page. Theres not actually much I don't like about it to be honest and I rarely say that about my own work (a designer is always their biggest critic).

Yours Sweetly - New talent package including letterhead, invoice, business card and visual identity
Yours Sweetly new talent package
I'd like to work more on projects like this. Working with emerging talent to recognise their product or service and put a face and an ethos on it. I find that a business tends to function a lot better when they themselves know who they are and what they do. Having a positioning and an image helps them to carve a path in to their chosen field and feel confident about the whole thing. I get a lot from helping people in that way because in a 1-5 person company, business is always personal. I like designing for people when it matters to them which is why I guess I'm drawn like a moth to wedding stationery and birth announcements in particular.

I've also been putting the finishing touches to Christmas card designs and printing them up, a sneaky peek of which you can see below.

Photographing products
Photography studio in progress...
As you can see my photography studio is not much (a self painted chalk board on a work bench in front of a large window and a set of steps for me to get above the shot), but it will do for now...

Christmas cards are available over at the shop (here) and I'll be adding more throughout the week (and a post showing them off soon). Theres currently 10% off for existing and previous clients and because I'm so excited about the new range I'll pass that code on to you too (HELLOAGAIN10) -it runs out at the end of November so head on over soon. 

11 - Busy

Monday, October 15, 2012

Today has been a busy day in the studio. Lots and lots of ordering in prep for printing Christmas cards. I try not to get involved in Christmas too early as I find by the time December hits I've already had enough of it. On the flip side I don't want to release a range long after everyone has already got their cards.

I'm pretty excited. After toying with the idea of foil blocking, I've decided to strip it back to the brand's core values. Objects that have soul and process that you'll want to keep. I will be hand stamping and finishing a large part of the range, they might not be perfect but you can bet that a lot of effort went in to making them look as good as. The designs have been sent off for the stamps to be made, metallic ink ordered and 100% post consumer waste/recycled paper stock purchased - can you believe that one of the card stocks is called Hairy Manilla?! Brilliant.

I'll also be doing an A3 hand-me-down print that I'll be sharing in a few weeks time. Stay tuned...

10 - Woo hoo!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I've hit the giddy heights of 50 followers today on Pinterest (click here to take a look)!

I'm quite in love with Pinterest and almost wish they'd release a work stream version where I can set pins to time out when a project has ended or set private pins that you can share with certain groups (making it easier to share work ideas with clients and specific groups or just keep some inspirations for an up and coming line top secret). I love it though, just the way it is.

Twitter doesn't spark with me like Pinterest, I just don't think we're compatible (sorry, its not you Twitter, its me, please don't hate me...). Perhaps that is what comes of being a very visual person? I like to show people what inspires me as well as what I can do and Pinterest is the perfect platform for that. I also just love not having word docs full of cut and paste images that get lost in the depths of my not so good filing system.

Thank you Pinterest, for making life a little bit easier.

9 - Love at first sight...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I've been feeling a bit grim and grumpy of late for one reason and another. I just found something that rocked my world and I'm in love with...

I want all of them... IMMEDIATELY!
Maps, 1950's Mad Men style illustrations (which have been on my mind a lot lately as I'm trying to include this style in my work), a whole bunch of amazing locations, has someone been sneaking at my Christmas list? Herb Lester Associates (they even have a cool name). Also exciting... new releases by subscription! I am having visions of lots of these framed and on the wall (something really different for the children's rooms too maybe) or hopping on and off planes with a bunch of them spilling out of a trusty satchel (read Zatchel here, they are by far the nicest looking I have found so far and were on my wish list for my thirtieth and sadly still on my wish list - 13" chestnut, classic, with handle and slider if anyone is feeling generous).
Oh Zatchel, I want to grow old with you...
(Image from zatchels.com)
A girl can dream right?

8 - What is it worth?

Monday, October 08, 2012

I am today once again faced with the eternal dilemma of pricing a design job.

Do you price to what you and your time and expertise are worth and hope that your potential client gets that you'll more than likely be thinking of them night and day until the job is done? More likely you price to what you think will get you the job and massively undersell yourself and your time and knowledge, not to forget creativity which runs through your veins and occupies your every thought one way or another.

I read something very pertinent (here) by a "Jonathon" on July 8th 2010 (I realise its a little dated but the thread is oh so relevant)...
Designers are useless when it comes to money. Myself included. That’s why we have business and production managers who handle that side of the business to make sure we make money!
We need to stop undervaluing our profession. I’ve always admired how well plumbers and electricians value their skills. Why can’t designers do the same?
The part about plumbers and electricians resonates clearly. In our case both of those guys live down the street from us. They are great guys that help us out when the boiler has packed up because its got dust in after a weekend away, or when A. drilled straight through the middle of a cable in the wall last Christmas. Both also have no trouble asking what they are rightfully worth when it comes to a routine job. As a creative I feel nervous asking for what I think a job is worth. Partly because I worry the potential client will go elsewhere (a little of something is better than all of nothing right?) and partly because at least 50% of my job and the process is done in my head, while I'm cooking the babies dinners or drifting off to sleep, in the shower or doing the school run. Because thinking time isn't tangible until it manifests as a logo or brand or piece of packaging or stationery.

I have to say the business part is not my favourite and I look forward to the day when I earn enough to hire an account manager to do the nasty. I like creating, I love making people happy, I get a kick out of creating something that will last. If only I could make like Shen* and paint everything I needed so I didn't have to charge for my services...

*The Magic Paintbrush by Julia Donaldson, my Son's favourite book a year or so ago.

7 - It's been a while...

Sunday, October 07, 2012

So it's been a while since my last post.

Things have been beyond crazy. From the uphill struggle that is house renovations (really, is it EVER going to be finished?) to Dominic starting nursery school (I'm almost envious of the mama's whose kids scream at their departure, I don't even get a kiss or hug and he's already got his coat off and hung and on his way in to class). We've holidayed in Northumberland and done a lot of film location visiting from Harry Potter at Alnwick Castle to Roslin Chapel of Da Vinci Code fame. And now we are home, with our feet on the ground in our normal sized house (our holiday rental cottage bedroom was the same size as a whole floor of our house) trying to finish at least something. I feel like I've started a lot and can't figure out how to finish anything as well as I want to.

Can a map be found for that kind of lost? Is it something you have to draw up yourself? Do you just find your way organically like a stream flowing to a river? Answers on a postcard please...

N. x


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hey there. Feeling pretty inspired today. For most people Sunday is the day of rest, a day off work. For me its a day of rest from being a Mama and my children and time for me and I spend it doing what I like best. Stereo on (my choice of listening rather than my son's), creating (designing + dreaming), pork roasting in the oven for family dinner later when I get to hear how my kiddos and their Dadda have spent their day.

Today I'm full of ideas and possibilities and I'm so close to e-mailing Vivienne Westwood (one of my favourite designers) about creating a plaid wedding dress or evening gown. Today I feel like I could have one great everything in me. One great dress, one great story, one great piece of furniture (no song - I know my limits...). I feel like I could keep on creating and letting ideas flow until I've done one of everything there is to do. For now tho' I will stick to what I know best and carry on with my "So long, summer" range of card and notelet designs, of which you can see a work-in-progress sneak peek below.

Plaid / check / herringbone detailing from future cards and notelets

Bristol pennant flag and Clifton Suspension Bridge detail from up-and-coming cards and notelets
Bristol, love of my life...

5 - Wiped out.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

View over to Clifton Suspension Bridge, at Bristol Balloon Fiesta
Clifton Suspension Bridge / Bristol Balloon Fiesta
So as the title suggests I'm feeling pretty wiped out today. I am still trying to catch up on a massive sleep deficit from last weekend and the early start to catch the (no-show due to lightning/weather) early mass balloon ascent at Bristol Balloon Fiesta. Up and out at 04.30. That's 4.30AM to be clear!

This week I actually feel a little home sick for Bristol and have started to wonder why we left (a million reasons to do with house size vs affordability / raising kids etc) and if we'll ever manage to get back there to Clifton. I've joked for a while about making a "I left my heart in BS8" poster but think now might be the time to actually do it.

The photo is of *some* of the balloons in the evening mass ascent, we didn't get to see all of them as we had to get off to our dinner reservation. I honestly think that may be one of my favourite views in the whole world and I miss being able to walk over that bridge and look down on to the city. One day Clifton my friend, one day.

4 - Botanical Heritage

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A6 botanical notelet cards from shop.alfies-studio.com
Botanical illustration has been on my mind since spring...
Its been a long time coming and at last the moment has arrived...

I've been wanting to move in to creating for a wider audience (rather than purely client based) for a while but due to commitments to clients (and pregnancy/babies) haven't quite managed it. Until now.

Here is the first part of a new range of readymade cards and prints available to buy online (hop on over to the shop here). I'll be adding more over time and hope to grow the collection into something great that I can be proud of and you can love sending or looking at on your wall.

When I was younger I had a friend who lived a couple of roads away and we used to write to each other almost weekly. I miss real post, post that asks how you are rather than demands payment or tries to sell you something. Here's to real post and true friends. N. x

Floral element inspiration for shop.alfies-studio.com A6 botanical notelet cards

A6 botanical notelet cards at shop.alfies-studio.com A6 botanical illustration cards at shop.alfies-studio.comA4 botanical illustration print at shop.alfies-studio.com Potentilla - floral inspiration for shop.alfies-studio.com cards


Friday, August 10, 2012

Alfies Studio Brand
It's done. Finally.

The re-style wasn't planned but I'm pretty glad I did it now its here and well on it's way to being finished.

Every time I re-brand I love the new version way more than the old and feel it reflects where I'm at right there and then. This is me here and now. A little bit more refined than my old brand (which I'll try to post pictures of soon), a little more classic but somewhat edgier too. The previous version was a quirky dress with pumps, now its cooler and toughened up with a vintage Dior jacket (I'm wearing that with everything at the moment as it goes, that's another post I'm sure) and biker heels. 

New image, new products coming soon, here's to turning thirty on Sunday and hitting the ground running.  

2 - Preening.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

We're just working on our looks and primping and preening. We like to look our best you know..

1 - Howdy

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Howdy. We're new to this but we'll be up and running in no time so please come back soon for design, interior and printed goods loveliness...

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