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, 30 May 2011

Another Bank Holiday Weekend...

What day is it today??  It is confusing due to all these Bank Holidays - I never know what day it is anymore... OK, so maybe it has nothing to do with Bank Holidays at all and I am just stupid!  Anyway, thank God for Wendy for her Handmade Monday blogs which tells me it must be Monday again as it is Handmade Monday Number 18 today.   Do go along as see what everyone has been up to this week.

If I am perfectly honest, I am not really thinking straight at the moment - I am knackered!!  Hubby and I have just come back from three days at a Spring Fayre which takes place on a 10-acre site and has just about everything you can imagine from heavy horses to classic cars, crafts to tractors, fairground rides to a personal appearance by Spongebob Squarepants for the young and young at heart.   This is such a huge show that it is actually one of only a couple where we arrive to set up our stall the day before so it has been non-stop since Friday getting everything ready for a (hopefully) busy weekend.

Shopping spreeThis is a well attended event and we always look forward to seeing people in shopping mood here, clutching their purses in anticipation of picking up a little something on one (or more) of the many stalls on display selling everything you ever thought you might want (plus a few you perhaps didn't!)   We commented that if it wasn't for sale at this show somewhere, the item just didn't exist!!

WindyWhat we hadn't planned for was the howling wind!  On Saturday and Sunday we felt like we were in the path of a hurricane and despite being inside a permanent marquee-like structure attached to a building, the noise of the wind lifting the roof and rattling the sides and supports was horrendous. 

Mind you, we were the lucky ones, those traders in outdoor gazebos had a devils-own job keeping their stalls standing and many actually gave up on Sunday evening - not wanting to suffer a third day of high winds and really very cold temperatures.   (The stall selling hats and gloves was making a small fortune just supplying other stallholders!)

Smiley SunglassesToday was much better with calm wind and even the sunshine made a nice, but sadly brief, appearance!  Overall, we have had a really good weekend, met some great customers (both existing ones and new ones) and seen some wonderful exhibits.  

I have to be honest however that I am glad not to have to set the alarm for silly o'clock again tomorrow morning and am looking forward to my (albeit short) lie-in.   I have a lot of customer orders to fulfil as well as having to rebuild my stock levels in preparation for next weekend's show and, thanks to the Bank Holiday, one day less to do it all in!   (See, told you it was the Bank Holiday causing all the trouble!)

And, the winner in the 'best seller' race for the weekend was....

Diddy Designs - Tiny Bumblebee
Closely followed by a new member of the Ali's Craft Studio peelable window decorations family - a set of three Rainbow Bugs - who are so new they haven't even made it onto the website yet and the photo still lives on my camera, waiting downloading to my PC for addition to my database and site.  Ooh, I'm such a tease - I promise a photo will appear on a blog sometime soon....   Rainbow colours are definitely popular and I will be adding a 'Rainbow Theme' section to the site soon where they can all be viewed together so if you love rainbows, keep an eye out for this coming soon on the Ali's Craft Studio site

Hope you have had a great weekend yourselves and I hope to have some actual creations to share with you next week...
 Good Night
Ooh, nearly forgot to say that today I had a fish manicure...   You may have seen the pedicures recently with the little fish that nibble at all your dry skin - well, this was the same but on your hands (no-one wants to see strangers feet in a tank of water at a show so Bev from Sole Karma just brought a tank for hands to the show)  If you are in the Eastbourne area, she is opening a new spa at the end of Eastbourne Pier in a few weeks - it is worth looking into booking an appointment as it was a surprisingly pleasant feeling and very relaxing!  She wants me to do some peelable window decorations of the spa logo so I have already tried suggesting to hubby that we hand deliver them and I can have a foot treatment overlooking the sea! (Not convinced that he is sold on the idea of that yet!)

Monday, 23 May 2011

Hindu Gods & Handmade Monday

Well, its Monday again and the weekly jaunt over to Wendy's blog to see what all the really talented crafters who are taking part have been up to.

Its only going to be a quick post from me but I did promise last week to share the two Hindu Gods I made as a bespoke order.  Well I am pleased to say that they were delivered to the customer on Saturday and he loves them (thank God for that - they took forever to do!!)  My next task for the same customer is two Buddhas - one the traditional seated one and a couple of sizes of the same laughing Buddha (with the big belly).  These aren't quite as detailed so should be a breeze after the last two!

So here we go (hope they were worth waiting for!):

1. Ganesh 

2. Hanuman
This was really detailed work and had to be done over a few days to be able to add the small detail once the rest was dry (and to give my eyes a break every now and then). I am so pleased with the finished results though.  I haven't added these to the website as yet but I will do at some stage - if you want more details in the meantime, please contact me.I have a couple more large orders to complete this week - both for large glass doors - they are some of my oval designs done in bigger sizes than I normally do so I am having to adapt my normal working area to fit everything in.   I will try to take a photo of them on my own door before they are sent off so that you can see them in a future post.    I still have to work out what the best way is going to be to mail these out to the customer without risk of damage but usually rolling them does the trick and it doesn't mean you have a massive envelope/parcel to deal with.


Wisteria & Birds
One of the designs is a half metre high version of the Wisteria and Birds design which I love but the small detail and combination of multiple colours in the wisteria does tend to make your eyes go a little skewiff after a while (I am hoping that the larger version may not be quite so fiddly).

This handmade design is perfect as a special gift and ideal for a door or window or to frame as a feature wall hanging and is available online now at the Ali's Craft Studio online shop.
 
Have a good week everyone - I think I am going to be busy this week with orders and preparing for the three day show over the Bank Holiday so I will probably have to do my Handmade Monday blog crawl over a few days when I give myself a break.

Friday, 20 May 2011

On to the next!

Time, I think, to put last week's debarcle* behind us and get on with looking forward to the next batch of fairs and market dates...

* For those who are wondering, I sent a very long (but hopefully constructive) e-mail to the organisers of last weekend's show (and you thought the blog post was long - it was nothing compared to what I sent to them!!) and have had a response back from them. I am pleased that they have actually bothered to acknowledge all the negative comments they received (not all organisers do) and taken the time to address what they felt were the most common complaints from exhibitors. For obvious reasons, I will not go into details what their specific response to me was but I now consider the whole subject to be dealt with and finished, hopefully never to be repeated again!

So, moving on, what is next on the agenda? Tomorrow I am back at Bromley Market and the weather is forecast to be sunny and, most importantly for this market, the wind is due to be light! Hopefully people will be out in force, newly paid and ready to enjoy more of the sunshine rather than disappear into the indoor shopping mall, never to be seen again!

Bromley Market - great when the wind isn't too strong!!
Next weekend is another Bank Holiday weekend (bet you've missed those after not having an extra day off for ooh, all of two weeks!) which means a three-dayer for us at the Cuckoo Fayre in Laughton, near Battle, East Sussex. Taking place on Saturday 28th right through to Monday 30th May, this is a great show - it is huge and I still haven't seen all of it! - with lots for all the family to do and see. I believe that we may even see Spongebob Squarepants and his friends there!!

We are located in the 'Craft Marquee' which is located near the funfair and is actually attached to a building so has hard standing floors - great if you have a buggy to push around.

It will be great to see you there, beit at Bromley, Laughton (or both!) and full details of of the fairs I have booked are available on my website if you can't make it to these.
Still shining, still smiling!
Ref. 335 - Sunshine

If you have a fair this weekend yourself (as I know lots of you are crafters...) I hope you have a great time, sunny weather and lots of customers.

I will be delivering my two Hindu God designs this weekend so watch out for photos here next week.

Oh, and don't be surprised if you read about another monster/Godzilla Moth encounter soon - they are starting to gather - lots of little soldier moths have been sent in to suss the place out in advance of an attack and a mahousive Godzilla moth tried to smash the glass in our kitchen door yesterday to get in the house. Hubby keeps telling me that they can't break glass or pick locks but I am not so sure - it looked big enough! (think its gone off to get a sledgehammer!!) If you don't know what I am talking about, I have a pathalogical fear/hatred of moths (don't even like typing that word!) and have had some serious run ins with them in the past as detailed here and here

Watch this space....This nice weather is continuing longer than any of us must have expected and here in Kent we have had no rain whatsoever (apart from a couple of pathetic attempt last week which lasted all of about 30 seconds!) The gardens are suffering but I love it! (sorry garden...)

Monday, 16 May 2011

Making the most of a bad job...

Morning everyone.   Today, being Monday, is of course Handmade Monday over at Wendy's blog.   You might want to visit the lovely blogs taking part to view some nice pretty things after what follows here....

I'm mad as hellI would love to be here today writing a really glowing review of this weekend's event and start the week on a positive note but unfortunately that is not going to happen!  Be warned, this blog is what can only be described as a long rant and moan so read on at your peril!
  
The concept of the show was in theory a good one and what could and should have been a great event was badly executed and compounded by very low footfall and definitely by the illogical layout and grouping of the stalls.  The 'themed' areas were simply ignored by the organisers and their sales staff who were obviously just desperate to get anyone to buy a stall and would locate them anywhere they wanted rather than in the section relevant to their style/product.  As an exhibition organiser for close to 20 years in my previous job, the mistakes were infuriating, obvious and astounding to me as many were real 'no brainers' and would have cost the organisers nothing, zero, nada, zilch to put right had they been done correctly in the first place! (so forget using the 'it costs money to do that and we would have had to cut the budget in our advertising to do that' excuse!)

Now advertising is always a contentious issue, particularly when the visitors just don't come and I can't and won't give any opinion as to whether this was done right and whether adverts appeared in the right places - after all, I know that the best advertising campaign in the world won't guarantee footfall - you just cannot force people to come if they don't want to.

OK, so just to give a brief idea of some of the many many problems with this show.... Split between two halls, there was no signage to direct visitors into the second hall (which could easily be missed as the small doorway was between two very colourful stands).    I found it so frustrating that despite being shattered after a very long and tiring day (how come you are more tired when you aren't doing anything all day??) I actually made up my own signage late in the evening when I got home on Saturday and put it up on the Sunday morning.   It wasn't rocket science and consisted of two things - the words MORE STANDS THIS WAY and a large arrow!!  Doesn't really take a genius - its not exactly difficult is it?!
Right from the time of booking (should've listened to my inner voice then telling me it wasn't going to be a good wekend!), I pointed out the major mistakes being made in the layout - the food stalls had been put at the front of the second hall with other smaller stands behind.   Food should ALWAYS be located at the back - visitors will keep walking to find  food and a cuppa, sit down and rest their feet before setting off to visit more stalls.   A coffee cart or similar in a second location is fine in large fairs so that there is an extra 'pit stop' for weary visitors to encourage them to stay longer and make a full day of it.    To add to the horror of the planning, there were NO tables or chairs for people to sit and eat their bought food, other than a couple (and I mean two) placed by a couple of vendors in front of their coffee/food stalls.    Many of the food stalls had actually been put outside the entrance to the venue - anyone who went outside at lunchtime to get a bite then just went home!   At least if they had to walk through all the stalls again to get out, they may have made a few last minute purchases on the way.  The area where I would have located them had in the area access to water, high power outlets and a large shuttered door for easy access and to let any excess steam/smoke leave the building without getting uncomfortable for everyone around.    The area in front just cried out for small bistro-style tables and chairs (a few hundred quid to hire about 100 sets).  I will tell you about what was actually in this area shortly...

Lightbulb IdeaI should have sold indigestion tablets for 50p a pop - I could have made my pitch fee back in no time!   People were either sitting on the very grubby floor (what a great look that gives to a show!) or walking around whilst shovelling food into their mouths as quickly as possible from plastic trays.  I saw people starting to look very uncomfortable indeed.  Oh and when you have finished - there were no bins for your empty containers, plastic forks and general rubbish.

A walk through the whole show just after opening revealed a good 20 or so empty stalls where the traders hadn't turned up yet the stalls were left with the large name tag on the wall added to help you locate your space during set up.  Even the stupiest of stupid people would know that this space should have someone on it. I am guessing these people were being allowed to pay on arrival - a real no-no for all but the simplest of events.  Perhaps someone should have at least taken the name signs down and encouraged the surrounding stallholders to spread into the spaces (after all, we all like extra space to display on) or slung a couple of colourful posters up there.   Stallholders from hall 2 moved into some of the spaces leaving even more gaps around our already very sparse area.   

Now, remember that space I mentioned earlier where I would have placed the food/seating area?   It was used for.... nothing!   It meant that an empty space of at least 25-30 metres deep and full width of the hall was all visitors had to look forward to after our stall.  Still, there we were - located at the back in 'no mans land' which had been advertised on the floor plan as the 'Craft Section' even though in reality all the craft stalls were intermixed with everything from furniture to paintballing, pole dancing - yes you did read that right - and loft ladders!

But hey, if the people came flocking in in their thousands ready to spend the day to get great advice and buy some fun, practical and unique items, our stall location and the poor layout would have quickly be forgotten and (maybe) forgiven...

Day one was bad (an understatement) but somehow we actually managed to sell some items - infact we sold to four, yes FOUR whole customers.   I nearly kissed the last one who at 4.31 (half an hour before the purgatory show ended) actually doubled my days takings in one sale - thank God I take credit cards as she had no cash left at all at that point.   We were one of the lucky ones and there were many others who would have loved to have sold to anyone.

Day two started off with us arriving to find ourself now almost completely alone in the back half of the hall - everyone had moved or left in frustration - except for us, the Scampi food van and Simon with his large bamboo gazebo.  Was it something we said??  Basically, you would walk in through the food section, past at least four now empty spaces to the beautiful garden/conservatory furniture.   Some 30 or so metres later (after nothing but empty grey walls were stands once stood) was our stall and the gazebo - two little Billy no Mates at the back!!   I would post a photo but don't want the miserable sight that greeted us to be out there in the ether where I might see it again!!


Different layout but same set up...
Our stall is complicated to set up and moving to a different location did not seem like a viable option at all - it would have taken hours and if I were to pack it all up to move, the only place it would be relocated to would be in the back of the car! 

However, a plea from the lovely Debbie at the Demelza charity stall to please, please, please move to the large empty stall next to her was made possible by her recruiting the help of three or four other lovely exhibitors who were literally picking up fully loaded tables and carrying them through from one hall to the other (which was some distance I can tell you!).  It took some time to get set up again and we were knackered at the end of it but at least there was a bit of atmosphere there.

Was it worth it??   Well, by 3pm we still hadn't broken into double figures of sales!!   A couple of customers just after made the day more reasonable and we did actually finish on a slightly better figure than the day before but still didn't make back the pitch money.   Well, you win some, you lose some but it did validate staying for the second day as I have three or four people who I am now contacting to discuss bespoke designs and once this is sorted out, I am sure they are strong possibilities for further sales which may just rescue the losses.   I also met some wonderful people both in front of and behind their stalls and have some more shows which hopefully I can attend that they are organising themselves.

I could go on and on and on about what could and should have been done differently but it won't get any of us anywhere so I think you have suffered enough!!

You will see that I haven't mentioned names of the organisers or the show here.  This isn't an error - I have done this deliberately.   Followers of my blog will probably already know what  show it was from previous posts but I am not going to give the organisers a namecheck on my blog.   I do other events with them in where the footfall is more guaranteed because of the type and location so I don't have a gripe with them (or their staff) per se.   But, I know I won't be attending one of their 'stand alone' events again any time soon - I think this opinion will be shared with all the people who paid money to take a stall this weekend.   That is a lot of lost revenue and they will lose much more than any single stallholder has so I suppose that is small comfort to all us small businesses struggling to get by in hard times.

Still, you never know until you try and if it had been a well organised and well attended event, I would have been raving about it and the organisers here.  I have been to shows before where I have made a loss or very little profit and I am sure there are more to come in the future years but this one was different as it would have been so easy to have made it great had things been done properly from the start.

But this is another week so lets all just take a deep breath and relax...
 
Noah's Ark - saviour for the animals
and for me this weekend!
You see we're all calm again now...  

Regular visitors may not be surprised that the most popular item this weekend was, as suspected, the Noah's Ark.   Perfect for nurseries and children's rooms as well as for those who are simply young at heart, it is colourful and fun (with a bit of sparkle thrown in for good measure!)

Of course, this and all my designs are available on my website at http://www.studiocrafts.net/ so if you fancy helping out a struggling crafter, please head over to my online shop.

There, I've had my rant and stopped being negative and all 'woe is me' now - I am a positive person and believe that everything happens for a reason (although what that is can be a little confusing at the time!)

So thank you to all the lovely crafters and stallholders who made this weekend fun instead of completely negative.  I think that sometimes we all need to find ways of making the best of a bad job and who knows, my future best customer ever could have found me at this event!

Hope you have all had a great weekend - I'm off now to make lots of nice goodies and get started on two orders taken at the show.   At least I won't be tearing my hair out trying to restock for the busier shows which are hopefully on the horizon....  (see, you should look for the silver lining - its always in there somewhere...)


Oh, and for those of you who have actually made it to the end of this long diatribe...
Clapping Hands
Give yourself a round of applause - you deserve a medal!!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Handmade Monday Again

Morning blog family!  I cannot believe that it is Monday again already!!  As you know by now, this means a trip over to Wendy's blog for Handmade Monday and a trip around the blogs of some really wonderful crafters.

So, what have I been up to this week?  Well, apart from sorting out my computer issues I have been completing orders from last week and building up stock for a new 2-day show coming up this weekend at the Kent County Showground, Detling called Tots '2' Teens.   Planned as a show for all parents and soon-to-be parents, the show boasts a real mix of stalls and activities from crafts to financial advice to family-friendly vehicles.

Noah's Ark
Available at
www.studiocrafts.net
I am hoping that my peelable decorations will sell well - they are so ideal for nurseries and children's rooms as they can be removed as the child gets older and tastes change. 

What is difficult is knowing whether to focus on the range of children's designs such as the really popular Noah's Ark or whether visitors are just as likely to purchase classic floral and animal desigs. 

Hmm... Anyone got a crystal ball I can borrow for a week or so?

New shows are always pretty scary ventures for a few simple reasons:
  • Will the organisers do their job and promote, advertise and market the event?  (So far, the answer does seem to be yes on this one)
  • Will the people come out and visit?  (Will let you know...)
  • Will we cover our costs and make enough sales to make it a worthwhile weekend? (Again, will let you know...)
Not having a previous experience to refer to makes it really hard to plan - one thing I do know is that with a good hours drive ahead of us, we have a 'bonkers o'clock' start on Saturday to get there and set up by the 9.30am deadline (the show opens at 10 but I am sure we will still be fiddling around with setting up for a while afterwards!)   I have done one show at this venue before (a couple of years ago) with a different organiser which whilst not packed out all weekend was very successful for us so I am hoping for more of the same. (Insert prayer to a deity of your choice here!!)

If you or anyone you know fancy a trip to what is set to be a really great show, please do come along and say hello.  I am located in the Craft Section in the John Hendry Pavilion.

More details on the show can be found here  Admission is free and there is plenty of free parking.  Oh, and don't worry if the weather decides to take a turn - it is fully indoors!

Back to what I have been up to this week - I have three special orders which I am completing - none of which are straightforward!  

The first is a second dog portrait for a customer (I did another portrait of the same dog a couple of weeks ago) which fortunately is now almost complete and ready to be posted.

However, my major challenge has been two large designs of Hindu Gods - Ganesh and Hanuman.  In some ways, these are easier than the portraits as the lines are simpler and more in line with my normal work but the colouring of them is a different matter!  These are really colourful and sooooo detailed with all their jewels and elaborate decorations.  I will post a pic of them next week once they are finished and you will see what I mean!

I have Ganesh complete so far (apart from a little touching up here and there) and am really pleased with how it has come out.  Hanuman is next and is likely to prove to be a little more complicated as I have to work out the colours from a set of different images and each one seems to be different!!   I can see a bit of Artistic Licence coming into play here...  I also need to come up with designs for two Buddhas for the same person ready for when I deliver the completed items and I can't believe how many different images there are out there.  

Who said this was going to be easy???  Have a great week - I'm off to start stage one of colouring jewels on a Monkey-God...

Birthday Banner
As a short footnote, today would have been my Dad's 81st Birthday so Happy Birthday Dad we miss you and are all thinking of you today (and every day) xxx

Friday, 6 May 2011

The Wonders of Technology...


PoutyI have just had another one of those weeks! I seem to get a few of them these days and I know what to blame it all on... technology!

We rely so much on technology these days - everything from running our businesses to paying bills and keeping in touch with the world at large (important for us self-employed crafters who spend so much time in our little creative studios and spaces with only bad daytime TV and the cats/dogs/goldfish* (*delete as applicable) for company.

Last weekend was a biggy for me - we had a stall (well two actually if I am being pedantic!) the Spring Garden and Leisure Show at the South of England Showground, Ardingly - a wonderful event with lots of visitors and a plethora of things to see from the wonderful Llamas and Alpacas, Ducks, Cows and all kinds of animals to Home and Garden exhibits and a roadshow with expert advice from people 'in the know' in the world of gardening and horticulture.  

Due to the sheer size of it all and the number of exhibitors trying to get access at 'stupid o'clock' (yes it is that time of year again) this is one of the few shows we actually go to set up our stall the day before it opens to the public.  So on Saturday morning, hubby and I got everything set up and ready for our start on Sunday.   An afternoon of watching footie on the telly was planned and all was panning out nicely.  Well that was until we got home...

I decided that I ought to check my e-mails and see what was going on in the world before finishing off my final packaging of some new designs completed in readiness for the show and all seemed fine, until the computer froze.   Not a major problem - these things happen - so a quick restart later and the black clouds were forming!   The computer just wasn't playing at all!  I could almost hear the funeral march as it struggled to battle back into life but (black armbands at the ready please) it was all to no avail.  Every time it started back up, just the slightest request to open anything (I said please and everything!) scared it into complete meltdown again.   Slowly, the realisation dawned that it wasn't well.
Sickly
Now, this should be a warning to you all - I am constantly telling hubby to make sure he backs up any work on the computer he has so his 'Have you done a back up recently?' question was painful when I realised that the only solution was going to be to get a new laptop to replace 'Icky-Sicky'  Ouch! The answer was 'NO!' and the words 'Practice what you Preach' were ringing in my ears!!

Throw Computer
Damn you technology!
It was now 5 o'clock in the evening and the nearest shop which sells computer equipment was hardly local - infact it was close to where we had been setting up all morning!!!

Now how's this for quick decisions.... 

We ran (literally) into PC World at 5.40pm (they close at 6!) after a mad dash down there in the car, I marched up to the laptops and after looking at the full range - very quickly to find the most financially appealing one - purchased a new one at 5.54pm!!

Then the fun started....  

All my business data is on my laptop - from my database of products, fairs, sales and customers to all my business and family photos, e-mails and EVERYTHING.   Somehow I had to get it off the old PC and onto the shiny new one.    One thing I had done right was create a recovery disk on my old laptop (if you haven't done this yourself - do it now, it saves a lot of pain if you have the same problem!)    I won't go through details but as I couldn't sleep without knowing that my database was safe, I sat up until early into the morning getting the key information transferred - all made possible by the recovery disk using the 'rescue data' option.

Its amazing how many files and programs you use that you forget about until you don't have them!   I have spent all week rescuing bits and pieces from the old machine and transferring it them across to the new one but fortunately, I think I am finally done.  All my e-mails were rescued (phew!) so I can refer back to my old messages and contacts which is pretty important.

All this fun and games has meant that my planned market stall in Bromley this coming Saturday has had to be postponed until 21st May.   The fair last weekend was quieter than normal (I think the weather had much to do with this along with all the extra time people had had off with bank holidays galore) but still very successful and I really need to spend some time this weekend making up new stock and completing customer orders.  Adding a market into the mix just made my head hurt!

Yesterday, my SKY+ box decided to turn itself off, just for fun.   If you have been following my blog for a while, you will know of my rocky relationship with SKY+ boxes.   Anyway, two hours later, I managed to get it started up again but after the week I have had with technology, nothing surprises me anymore!!

Oh, and to top all of the above the monsters aka moths (shudder) are out and about and giving me nightmares.   They divebomb my studio window when I am in there at night.  No giant, godzilla, mothy intruders as yet (they have sent in a couple of small soldiers to check the place out in advance) but we all know that they can pry open doors and hold you hostage in the night!!  (OK, so maybe that is just me who thinks that...) 

So my message to all monsters moths out there, don't mess with me at the moment - I have a number of swatting implements, two stealth killer cats and my Knight in Shining Pants husband and I'm not afraid to use them!!
Scared 2  So, how has your week been??It's Friday