Welcome to the blog for Ali's Craft Studio by Alison Lloyd. I am a crafter of peelable stained glass designs & handpainted keyrings and I look forward to sharing with you my news direct from Kent (the Garden of England)

Make sure you visit the shop at www.studiocrafts.net to purchase your own handmade decorations to bring fun and colour into every corner of your home

Monday, 25 April 2011

Handmade Monday #13

I cannot believe that it is Monday again!   This means two things: 1.  I have one helluva lot to do before my next fair at the weekend (and no time to do it in!) and 2.  It is Handmade Monday time over at Wendy's blog.

The past week has been all over the place - with Bank Holidays aplenty and a three day show to attend which was a 2-hour drive each way, there and back.  Oh and look... more Bank Holidays are looming!  Jeez, I struggle to keep up with what day it is at the best of times but with extra holiday days thrown in here there and everywhere, my head is about to explode!!

We were at Fort Purbrook in Portsmouth - a venue which boasts some of the most stunning views on our craft fair circuit.   Whilst visitors were down on previous years - blame the hottest/sunniest Easter of all time - the weekend was actually pretty good in the end.  

We were positioned (as requested) next to a window which showed the peelable suncatchers (the clue is in the name folks...) off really well and certainly attracted lots of attention.   Especially the sunset cat which positively glowed in the sunlight...

Sunset Cat Suncatcher
A sunny window showed this off perfectly!

One of my brand new designs which got lots of attention (and a new home) was my large owl frame.  Owls are one of those things which seem very popular and I am always on the lookout for new ideas and patterns to try.   This one certainly seemed to do the trick so I am planning to make another before next weekend to see if the trend continues!

If you fancy your own owl to watch over you, it is of course available in my online shop (or at least it will be when I get five minutes spare to upload it to there - told you it was new!)

I have also added two of the most popular colour ranges to the new small individual butterfly sets - pink/purple/blue and blue/green/turquoise (both seen below)
Peelable Window Clings

Peelable Window Clings

Again, both of these designs sold well this weekend so more are in the pipeline for next weekend (hope I can work out how to double the number of hours in a day and days in the week to be able to fit everything in!)

There will, I am sure, be many crafters this weekend who have been disappointed with turnouts and sales at shows up and down the country - this weather has been a killer for most events as beaches and outdoor lazy days were calling louder and louder as the days went on (even I thought I was starting to hear the calls!)  

However I am naturally a positive 'glass-half-full' kind of girl and as the saying goes - when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.   There are positives to being able to give lots of time and attention to the few customers you may have as well as networking with other crafters - this is how many of us hear about other fairs which may be worth giving a go.   I am sure that I am not alone in having seen at busy shows many a good potential customer/sale lost to their feeling pressured into moving along before making a purchase simply by the feel of people 'breathing down their necks' and pushing to get to the stalls.   Having time to have  a proper look at your wares and ask questions can often turn a browser into a buyer.

Easter Basket

So, Happy Easter to you all, I do still hope that this lovely weather continues at weekends (happy to have rain during the week as this helps Hubby in his work) and I hope you have all had a great weekend be it working at a fair, in the garden (which we also had a go at - thats a whole other story but I did consider making up a sign explaining why we both spent the weekend looking like we had been self-harming!) or relaxing at the beach.   

Wonder how many lobster-people we will be seeing tentatively moving around in the next few weeks?

So, thats it - another Handmade Monday post done and dusted! I actually feel quite proud of myself that I could think of anything to write about and managed to string two words together at all - three day shows are enough to drain the energy out of anyone (especially when you have a two-hour drive each way added on top of the opening times)! 

I have a number of orders to complete ready to be posted out when all the bank holidays are out of the way, a major show at the end of this week to prepare more stock for, more gardening (see also self-harming) to do and one day less than normal to do it all in!   Suggestions on the back of a postcard please....
Hammock 1  Phew!!  Stop.... breathe.... and relax....

Monday, 18 April 2011

Handmade Monday and Happy Birthday to me...

I have just a quick post today as it is my birthday so a trip to the seaside is in order!

However, it is Monday and I didn't want to miss out on joining in with Handmade Monday over at Wendy's blog - lots of crafting talent taking part and some fab blogs to visit so do go along and check it out.  (I'll be spending some time visiting all the blogs later...)

Yesterday was a day of feeling like an emerging seedling in a greenhouse - we were in an indoor shopping centre with glass roof and frankly inadequate air conditioning for the outside temperature and all day sunshine! Boy, was it hot!
Unfortunately, despite the previous comments regarding customers coming out in the sunny weather, the prospect of standing too long in greenhouse-like conditions were not the most appealing and the vast majority of visitors could be seen wheeling their supermarket trolleys out to waiting car boots laden down with the obligitory beer and barbecue essentials.

Despite this, it certainly wasn't a disasterous day and the visitors we had were happy and in summery mood.   It sounds like Easter is going to be fine and dry too so hopefully that will encourage lots of visitors to events up and down the country such as the one we are attending at Fort Purbrook in Portsmouth (Saturday, Sunday and Easter Monday).  
Not too much in the way of new designs this week as I am now on the rollercoaster of replacing and replenishing my best sellers rather than creating new designs.  But here are a small selection designs to whet your appetite and give a nod to spring and outdoor fun...
Stylised Art Nouveau Poppy window decoration

Daffodils - A true sign of Spring

Lets go fly a kite!
All these designs plus hundreds more are, of course, available in my online shop at Ali's Craft Studio.

Have a great day whatever you are up to, enjoy the sun and I'll be back with tales of the seaside soon....

Friday, 15 April 2011

Customer Service

So often we read and hear tales bemoaning the lack of good customer and after-sales services these days, it seems like some companies just don't care anymore once you have parted with your hard earned reddies!
Bad Gift
Well, this week, my faith in good customer service has been restored.   As many of you may already know, I order a lot of my marketing materials from the online printing service VistaPrint and usually am very impressed and happy when the chappy comes a-knocking with parcel in hand.   This week, however, a rather large order arrived looking not so well - the box was (for want of a better term) obliterated...

Opening this particular parcel didn't have the usual thrill (infact I didn't have to open it - it opened itself!!) and I found that items were strewn around with some damaged.   I contacted customer services by e-mail and within the day I was contacted to be told that a complete replacement order (at absolutely no charge to me) was being prepared.

What will have cost relatively little for the company has kept me as a customer and meant that I am happy to continue to recommend VistaPrint as a place to look for your (often free) business cards and other marketing material.

So well, done VP - a simple gesture shows how a negative situation can quickly be turned around to a positive one.  
Thumbs Up 
OK, so I realise that small companies cannot be expected to replace items willy-nilly but good customer service and after sales service is a must and is as important as producing high quality products and I, for one, will continue to try really hard to find ways to offer a positive and happy experience for both new and regular customers both before, during and after making their purchase.    Sometimes it can really test your patience but I think it is worth it.

Do you have any good or bad customer service examples you'd like to share?  I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Tired but Happy - Handmade Monday 11

It is that time again... Handmade Monday, courtesy of Wendy at 1st Unique Gifts - if you haven't been to see what it is all about, do it today - there are some really talented crafters taking part and you can have a fun time looking at their blogs.

So, to my weekly offering...

Well, this week is more of an update on the weekend at our first proper craft fair of the season.   The fair is over, I am pretty tired (partly from the silly o'clock mornings and partly from staying up to watch the Masters Golf!) but happy.  'Why are you so happy?' I hear you cry.   Well I'll tell you (and it isn't all necessarily for reasons you may be thinking!) 

Let me break it down for you:

Good Morning Sunshine...
Smiley Sunglasses
The weather was GORGEOUS - OK, so we were indoors but the sun shone brightly through the windows behind the stall and showed off the peelable clings at their best (they ain't called Suncatchers for nuthin' you know!)

How would Madam like to pay for that?
Shopping spree
The visitor numbers could have been better (I think the beach may have been busy this weekend!) but the buyers did come out, had smiles on their faces and many had longer arms than pockets rather than the other way around (if you know what I mean!)   Sales were up on last year and I can't ask for more than that (well I can, but I don't want to be greedy!)

We saw plenty of eeny weeny ikkle baby baa-lambs out and about in the fields having fun in the sun - YAY!

Dr Doolittle?  Perhaps not...
BirdieCat And Mouse Tail 
Buddy (the blue tit) got the memo about having an extra hour in bed this morning so only started tapping on the window as the alarm was about to go off.   I wish I could say the same for Blinky & Misty (the cats) but one out of three isn't bad as a starter!

New Designs? Tick!
Many of my newest designs sold out which is always something to make you happy as it is scary trying out new things when it is sooo easy just to stick with your best sellers.  Guess I'll be making new ones of these again!

Friends, Romans, Craftymen...
We also got to catch up with many of the wonderful crafters we have come to know and call friends over the last few years - crafting really is one great big family in that we are all in the same boat and like to encourage and support one another.

Pass the After Sun!
Finally, we are home and it is still going to be good weather for a few days so I may still be able to enjoy some of the yellow rays and to top it all I don't have to get up quite so early again until next Sunday!

I mean, come on... what is there not to be happy about???

Hope you have all had a great weekend and managed to spend some time in the sun without ending up looking like the proverbial lobster!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

This weekend - ready... steady... go!

Well, the sun is out, the temperature is up and this weekend sees the start of my craft fair season when I am usually at a fair or market every weekend (I have tried to plan the odd one off to rebuild stock levels) and what better way to start than at one of the most wonderful of venues - Lancing College in Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex.

Lancing College - an impressive and beautiful building
It is one of the things I really love about being at fairs that we get to meet some wonderful people and see some of the fantastic locations in the south east of England.   I have to admit that Lancing is one of my absolute favourites, not only for the venue itself but also because this is a 'maker only' fair so everything on display is hand made by the stallholder.

In these tough times, it is so important to support local smaller businesses and by buying at fairs like this, you are doing just that.  

Beautiful architecture at Lancing
The weather is due to be very nice over the weekend and whilst this is an indoor show, there are some lovely outdoor areas to sit and enjoy the sunshine in between your shopping.

The show takes place on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th April from 10.30am to 4.30pm.

Our stall is located in one of the smaller classrooms off the main hall and all the new designs I have been working on will be on display there.

However, if you can't make it this weekend, you can of course shop online at www.studiocrafts.net and get hold of the decorations you desire!

Handmade Peelable Window Decorations - whatever you want from florals to campervans to animals like this great tiger all available at www.studiocrafts.net and at our stall at craft fairs.

And, of course, don't forget your Easter decorations like this really cute bunny with eggs

So I am ready for the rollercoaster of fairs to get into full swing - bring on the stupid o'clock mornings - I'm ready for you!  (not..)

Oh, and for those who are wondering, Buddy the Blue Tit is still visiting me every day.   Fortunately, he must have read my appeal for an adjustment to his previous 6am alarm call and now he comes along at 7am (much more reasonable!).  Yesterday he brought a friend to show off his best window bumping moves (hubby decided that the other poor bird was probably on the worst date ever!) Don't know what I am talking about?  You can read about my new friend here

Hope you all have a great weekend whatever you are doing and I hope to see you soon!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy....

As the title of this post says, it is all go here at chez Ali's Craft Studio!   April is my birthday month, the end of the financial year and the start of the craft fair season proper.   I am so excited to get back into the swing of things with all the fantastic fairs we attend between now and Christmas but have been spoilt so far this year with all the time in between events!

So now, I have to get back into the strict routine of creating new designs within a very short space of time whilst still allowing one day for packaging too!   As each of my decorations has a 3-day creation timeframe, it doesn't leave much leeway for slacking off!!

I had a busy but tiring day at Bromley Market on Saturday - it is wonderful to be on an outdoor stall when the weather is so beautiful!  People are smiling and happy and aren't rushing around so much just to get inside to warm up!  

The joys of Bromley Market
(AKA the wind tunnel!)
Unfortunately, all was not quite so hunky dory all day - my decorated mirror (showcasing the oh-so-popular Beagle, dragonfly and flower corners) had an argument with a gust of wind and now resides in the bottom of a bin in a million glittery shards!  

So, as I didn't break it (the wind did!), I guess the seven years bad luck is due elsewhere....

I was pleased to see that my new designs were creating lots of attention and both the Shih-Tzu and Siamese Cats sold out and so I am in the process of making more of these as well as Glitter Rainbow keyrings along with creating replacements to make up a new mirror (anyone know of a mirror that bounces???)

So, due to time constraints, I have probably come to the end of the brand new patterns for a while as my time will be taken up just replacing sold stock (hopefully!!).   I will try to blog about the upcoming fair as it is one of my favourites (Lancing College) but please forgive me if time runs out on me!

But, as this is Handmade Monday (thanks to Wendy at 1st Unique Gifts), here are a couple of newbies for you to keep you going...

Clown Fish - I want £1 every time I hear
'Ooh look, its Nemo!' at a fair - I'll be rich!

Bird of Paradise Flower - I love this flower as it reminds
me of my many past holidays in the Canary Islands
(oh, those were the days...)
So, in closing, please do visit Wendy's blog to see all the great work done by the wonderfully talented crafters taking part in Handmade Monday...

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention my new alarm clock - a kamikaze Blue Tit!!   This little guy has been flying (gently. I am happy to say) into my window over and over again.   I noticed it for the first time yesterday - it lasted a few hours except for a couple of short breaks - and decided he was (not so subtlely) pointing out that the bird feeders were looking a little sparse so after filling these up again was pleased to see that he had stopped. 

However, fast forward to 6am this morning and my new buddy was back, singing his little head off and saying hello over and over and over again!   Even the cats were sitting on the floor just looking at him and then at me as if to say 'Huh?  Whats that all about?'   Fortunately, the little guy doesn't seem to be hurting himself at all and almost seems to be enjoying this new game - now all I need to do is to find the time setting and sleep button to get a little more of a lie in in a morning (pleeeease birdy, just another hour or so!)  

See you all later (I'm off to paint, paint, paint til I just can't paint no more.....)

Friday, 1 April 2011

We Have A Winner!

My blog giveaway closed yesterday and today I randomly drew a name out of a hat (well, an empty Roses tin from last Christmas if I am being totally truthful!) and the winner is.....

Drum Roll please....

Mick from Shpangle...

Clapping Hands
Congratulations Mick!!
 and the design he selected (which will be winging its way to him shortly) is:

Handmade Peelable Window Decoration Ref: 53 - Rainbow and Cloud
Thank you to everyone who entered - I will be contacting you all shortly with a personal thank you.   And once again, congratulations to Mick, I hope you enjoy your decoration.