28 Feb 2014

Update on The Stormy Teacup Crowdfunding Campaign

I thought I would do an update and let you know how my crowdfunding campaign is going for my new business venture with my friend Martins. Last time I checked in, in this blog post, we were just 5 days into our campaign to open the crafty cafe The Stormy Teacup. As of today we have 9 days left and are coming into the finishing stretch. We've managed to raise just under €5,000 and now have to make €1,000 to reach our goal, but if we don't get over the last hurdle we get €0, eek!

Neither myself and Martins are very good at asking for help, both of us are doggedly stubborn, and prefer to work all the hours under the sun rather than admit we need someone's help (something I'm working on!!). So it was quite surreal to so publicly ask for help and money. But we had a business idea that we knew would work, we just needed help getting it off the ground. We all know that banks are not lending to small businesses at the moment, so we needed to think outside the box if we were ever going to get this started.

It's been a really crazy and emotional process, we've both been amazed at how generous people have been. We knew that our friends and family would show their support, however much they could afford, but we were really amazed at the amount of strangers that donated to the campaign. It totally renewed our faith in humanity and also showed that there is a real desire for something like this to open in Limerick. We've been really touched by the outpouring of positivity and goodwill towards our project. Even if people haven't been able to afford to donate money they have been enthusiastically sharing and liking our pitch.

If any of you are sitting there at your desk daydreaming of the amazing boutique/cafe/barber/bookshop that you could open, maybe think about really doing it. Crowdfunding is a way for communities to help themselves, taking out the middleman of the bank. It gives people with the drive, energy, and ideas the power, rather than those who tick the right boxes for getting a loan. Over the years we've all seen small businesses dwindle in our towns and cities. I really believe that crowdfunding is a way for people to invest in a small way in the businesses/project that they want to see in their community.

If you would like to read about our experience over the past month with this campaign head over to Write on Track to and interview I did with social media guru Lorna Sixsmith. Also if you would like to donate to our teashop head over to our campaign, the clock is ticking!
Wish us luck!

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11 Feb 2014

I'm opening a Cafe in Limerick-The Stormy Teacup

It's been quite a while since I updated this blog, 2013 was a pretty strange year so I took a break from blogging. Part of this strangeness was re-evaluating my life and what I wanted, in the latter half this involved looking at what I want to do professionally. Having Nice Day Designs has been amazing but it hasn't been enough to live on, the balance of trying to make money out of crafts can sometimes feel creatively suffocating, I've realised after lots of soul searching that something needed to change.

As some of you may know I have run a craft pop-up shop Limerick Craft and Design for the past two years, and I was also heavily involved with Limerick City of Culture over the past several months. These two project taught me that I wanted to move more into retail, but do it for myself. The Creative Limerick projects, as great as they are, are not sustainable in the long term(because of the tenancy agreements), so it looked like I was gonna have to do something privately. All of these ideas about change, and my frustrations with craft were mulling around for a long time. About a year ago I became really good friends with fellow craftsperson Martins Punculis, we spent endless hours talking about how we could set up something really interesting, and eventually in the new year we decided to go for it.

Myself and Martins are opening a craft shop with an artisan tea and coffee shop upstairs, and we're calling it The Stormy Teacup. I am so excited by this new venture, I feel like it's the accumulation of all of my professional experiences; weaving together my experience in sales, hospitality, craft and books. That mixed with Martins unending enthusiasm and fanatical logic means that we make a really good team. We've already found a venue for this exciting new space and are currently in the process of raising funds for it on the crowd funding site Indiegogo. We've set a target of €6000 (but are actually aiming for €10,000), and we've managed to raised over €1,800 in 5 days. We have been amazed by the fantastic response, and only hope that this means we will reach our target in time.

Putting together an really good pitch for Indiegogo was a lot of work but we felt that it was worth it for the amount of money that we are asking for. We spent over a week working on the above stop motion animation, working lots of late nights and very longs days; from research we knew that the video is an integral part of the success of the campaign. If you want to read more about our dream cafe then head over to our campaign, if you have any money to spare we have rewards like this set of badges from as little as €7, every donation counts. 

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2 Aug 2013

Cooking on a Budget; Beetroot Pasta

I'm probably not meant to moan about how broke I am on this blog, I really should pretend that I am super successful, and that I sleep in blankets made of money. This sadly is not the case, I'm broke at the moment, I know I'll get through it, I always do, but for the next while I'm living on a very strict budget. 

It frustrates me when the media talk about people eating badly because they are poor. The times in my life that I have eaten the healthiest food is when I'm really stuck for cash. There is no option to buy processed food as it's way too expensive. Years ago when I suddenly lost my job was the first time that I realised that you can eat really well on very little money, you just have to put in some extra effort in the kitchen. If you build up a good larder over time it makes cooking flavoursome meals affordable. If you get into the habit of buying one or two things for your cupboard every week you will quickly build up a good arsenal of spices, herbs, oils, and grains.  

I had the misfortune of only having a few euro to get the makings of a dinner for two days. I got  the above ingredients for the grand total of only €4.13! Keep an eye on the veg section that is just about to go out of date, this means shopping more often during the week, but that suits me fine since I live in the city centre. I also went for the own brand feta, which was 1/3 the price of the one beside it.
Cooked beetroot
Feta cheese
Green Pepper
Red Onions
Baby leaves

This is where the well stocked cupboard comes into play for making a delicious dinner on a budget!
Veg stock cube
Tomato puree
Black Pepper
Tinned tomato
Soy Sauce
Leftover garlic bread
Mixed Seeds

-Chop the red onion and cook with a little olive oil on a low heat in a pot with a lit, at this point add you crushed garlic.
-While the onion is cooking cook up your pasta with a veg stock cube, it really adds flavour.
-Add lots of black pepper and a teaspoon of marjoram to the onions.
-After your onions and garlic have sweated nicely add in your chopped green pepper, turn up to a higher heat.
-To make sure your garlic bread is cooked on time pop it into to the oven at this stage.
-Put in your tinned tomatoes, 2 teaspoons of tomato puree, and a splash of soy sauce.
-Chop your beetroot into large chunks and add to the tomato sauce, leave to simmer until your pasta and bread is finished cooking.
-While you are waiting on the pasta make the dressing from the below instructions and mix in with baby leaves, crumbled feta, and beetroot chunks.
-Sieve your pasta and add to the tomato sauce, add crumbled feta on top of the dish.

I never buy salad dressing, I make it as I need it and it tastes 100 times nicer. Just use
1 teaspoon  honey
1 teaspoon mustard
loads of black pepper
Half a lemon
Good splash of nice vinegar
Mixed Seeds

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28 Jul 2013

Hosting a House Sale

A couple of months back after my break-up I had a double fold problem, I had way too much stuff and way too little money. The logical solution was to sell my stuff and try to make some cash. Easier said than done sometimes! A friend of mine said they had organised their own house party clothes sale to much success and I decided to give it a shot. I had lots of really good vintage clothes in varios sizes and styles from when I used to do clothes upcycling. I knew it would be a fair bit of work but what else did I have to lose, the rent had to be paid.

At the time I had an empty second bedroom downstairs beside my living room, so this was a perfect location for the shopping room. I borrowed some clothes rails, a changing room screen, and a full scale mirror to help with this transformation. I also used a large bookcase to display the shoes and bags in a boutique style manner. Just the day before I decided to put out some of my craft stuff in the living room in case anyone took a fancy to my own handmade pieces. I used some of my market shelving and suitcases to make the display look more appealing. I also had some bunting left over from my birthday to add a festive atmosphere to the evening. My friend Dee even painted a large paper dress to hang on the front door to with some cute balloons to make the house stand out on my street. 

In the lead up to the sale I photographed all 200 and odd outfits on a mannequin and uploaded them to Facebook with all the prices and sizes. This way I drummed up lots of excitement about the evening and also made about €150 in pre-sales. This took tonnes of work between taking pictures, coordinating outfits, and also writing the descriptions, but it was really worth it. I also invested in beer and wine for the evening, trust me, people shop more when they are a little tipsy and they have some tasty food to nibble on. It cost me about €70 to provide this, but it was worth the extra outlay. If you are thinking of doing something similar I would recommend that you undertake this with a friend, both so you can divide the labour but also so you have a greater variety of clothes on offer, most people would not have the type of collection that I had.

All in all it was a successful evening, I didn't sell everything but I got rid of a lot of unwanted clothes that went to better and happier homes. It was a really fun night, and it's something, space permitting, that I would do again. If it was something you wanted to do yourself, maybe look into using your local bar or community centre and a group of you do it together.

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26 Jul 2013

Anton Chekhov for Limerick Youth Service

I was commissioned by a friend working with Limerick Youth Theatre on a production of The Three Sisters by Chekhov to make canvas bags for all of the cast involved. Normally I don't do a whole new painting for a commission but I was happy to do it because I know I can sell the Chekhov bags in my Etsy shop after as he would be a popular writer. Here are some in progress photos that I took of the painting as I was working on it.

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24 Jul 2013

Watercolour Painting in the People's Park

 During the good weather my studio was like a sweat shop, it was impossible to work in, but leading up to the RDS show I didn't really have much choice but to literally sweat it out. Since the pressure to make a million bags has slackened off since the show I've been able to take my time making work. Last week I packed up my brushes, pencils, and paints and headed to the People's Park with my picnic blanket. It was obviously still sweltering, but at least it was nice to be out in the sunshine. I was really surprised with how much work I got done, and how pleasant it was. I'm definitely going to turn it into a regular habit, but sadly it's reliant on good weather.

I attracted a few people's attention, with one or two people coming over to look at what I was working on, one couple even took my details for a commission, but I think most were a little disappointed that I wasn't painting the park itself.
Germaine Greer

I went home that evening and finished off the pieces when it started to get dark. I'm waiting to order some transfer paper so I won't have that in my Etsy shop and at my stall for another couple of weeks, but I'll list the original paintings later in the week in my shop.

I have to say that I'm really loving doing my portrait work, if I could make all my money from it I would be pretty happy to work on them alone and take a break from sewing. I think I would need to make quite a few more online sales though before I make that step!

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22 Jul 2013

Robot Tattoo by Tommy Ryan

I got my robot tattoo finished a couple of weeks ago, and for once I had the patience to let it heal before I posted photos online. You may have seen the original post where I showed you the robot when he had no background. Pretty much the morning after I got him done I decided he needed some kind of sketchbook style background on him, to make him look like he was ripped out of a notebook of drawings. Since he is a little guy that I've been doodling for years it seemed a far more fitting tattoo for me rather than just a plain robot.

I'm delighted with how it turned out, with the contrast of the messiness of the doodles, and the straightness of the copybook lines. I had a bit of a fight with Tommy Ryan about putting the lines through the robot, but it wouldn't have looked like a paper drawing if they stopped at the edge, I'm glad I won the fight in the end. I plan to get a matching robot on my other arm in the same style, and I'll definitely go back to Tommy again. For more info on booking Tommy for a piece please go to Bullman's Tattoo Studio facebook page.

This is the mock up I did on photoshop before taking the plunge, it was a good way to gauge how to balance the doodle aspect of the piece with the existing tattoo. As I've said before I really like to plan my tattoos a lot, it is there forever after all. 

On a bit of a shameful side note I chickened out of showing my parents when I was visiting during the really hot weather recently. I sat there in 30 degree heat wearing a long sleeved cardigan. I realise the ridiculousness of of my cowardice, but I just didn't want to face the hissy fit from my mother (yes I am 31 years of age!).

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19 Jul 2013

Product Photography; a lesson in staging


Sometimes I can get a little lazy when I taking photos, especially when I'm up to my eyes making work. Over the years I try to make the extra effort and it always pays off, and then I slip back into being lazy again. While looking at the work of Rachel Corcoran I realised that my photos needed more than a little sprucing up. Last week I took some very middle after the road shots of my new writers 5x7" cards and listed a few of them online. Today I did a whole new set up and I think they look far snazzier. Simple props like this large sand timer and some old books really helped enhance the mood of the cards. 

I did the same for the original series of paintings that I did. I had quickly snapped pictures of the mounted pieces while they were still in their plastic (what was I thinking!!). With a few simple props of my paints and this antique skull and books I made this photo much more interesting. I didn't use any fancy camera or lighting, these are all taken on my Samsung Galaxy S3. I know it's a lesson I learn over and over, but it is really worth the extra 20mins or so coming up with a good initial set up, after that it's plain sailing.

I've spent the last couple of days listing all of my new items in my shop, hopefully by the end of the week I will have everything up in my shop. 


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17 Jul 2013

Sky Arts Tv Portrait Festival; Dublin

I just got back from Dublin yesterday, I was selling my portrait work at the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year Festival in the RDS. Much to my surprise I was contacted a while back by Sky Arts to sell my work at this event. The last two weeks was a bit of a mad rush to get everything printed, packaged and prepped, which was especially difficult given how glorious the weather has been. I made a lot of stock expecting a bigger crowd, but the sun was against us as most people stayed outdoors. It was still a lovely event and I got to meet some really amazing artists.

You might recognise a couple of the canvas bags from my Etsy shop or bookstall, but I really expanded my range for this festival. I did loads of new author paintings and also go the images printed onto 5x7" cards. I've started listing the cards already online, but as the week goes on I'll get around to listing everything else. I'm not really happy with the staging of the photos that I did for the cards, so I plan to re-do them this week, and make them more bookish. Also now that I have the original paintings mounted I think I will put them on sale too. Watch this space!

The main part of the event was artists competing on the day for national portrait artist of the year. As far as I could gather they have traveled around four different cities hosting these types of festivals, at each show the artists have four hours to paint a model. At the end of the day a winner is chosen, an overall winner is then chosen, with the prize being £10,000. It was amazing to see the artists work, especially under such a high pressure situation, I know I couldn't do it!

There were lots of events on throughout the day for people to take part in like life drawing classes, sculpture, face painting, and face reading. These graffiti artists were amazing to watch as the day went on.

As I said it was lovely to meet some great artists on the day. I have known Tanya online for a good while now but this was the first time I got to meet her in person, which was great. Tanya has a very successful Etsy shop and a big following on Facebook. Some friends of mine got some of her work at the weekend, and I think my nice would really like a piece for Christmas too.

I also met Shane O'Donoghue, we quite obviously have subject matters in common, but a really different take on them. I really liked the style of his work, it probably appeals to the printmaker in me. All of his designs are cut by hand first and then laser cut afterwards. I'm very tempted by these amazing bookends as a present for myself when I'm feeling a bit more flush. 

From Ruby Robin Boutique I met the lovely Kay and her super nice helper Sarah (??), they were like a beam of friendliness! I fell in love with all of their jewellery, and wanted to buy loads of it, but poor sales stopped me from indulging myself. But through the wonders of the internet I can drool over their lovely things online until I feel the need to spoil myself in the near future.

 I had also seen Jokamin's stuff online before, I think I stumbled across her stuff on Facebook. I love the style of her work, both the paintings and the ceramics. You can see how hard it was for me not to buy all the amazing stuff that was for sale.

How cool is this Zooey Deschanel print??? Again more things that tempted me into spending my rent money! Basically if anyone ever wanted to buy me a present I would have been happy with anything from any of the stall holders. (on a side note I must say I love her product photography, it's a good kick up the arse to step up my game when it comes to product staging).

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