Friday, 3 August 2012

Tea and a Chat with Karen from Beads by Design

Come on in for tea - Karen from Beads by Design is here today!

Hello Karen!  Good to see you, the kettle’s just boiled – what would you like to drink?
I would love a cup of tea thanks.  Tea fuels my creativity and I’ve already had several cups today.

So, tell us a bit about yourself and your business.
I’m based in East Yorkshire in a beautiful  village nestled into the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds.  I’m a mum of three, married and have a workroom in our family home.  I describe my self as a creative designer as I am involved in many creative processes including painting, jewellery and tiara design, card making, fabric creations including memory quilts, sock monkeys and rag rug making.

I am a public speaker and demonstrate for the local interest groups such as the WI and British Sugar Craft Guild.  I also write projects for UK beads and jewellery publications and teach crafts and jewellery making from my workshop and also to groups at their chosen venues.

What inspired you to start your creative business? How did it all begin? 
I’ve got a background in nursing and childminding, but when we moved back to East Yorkshire from London, I wanted a new challenge that I could do from home and work around my children.  I took a course in Professional Interior Design.   I decided that one way of publicising my business was to get a stall at the local farmers market.  I applied, but was turned down on the grounds that “they don’t do that sort of thing”.  So ever one to rise to the challenge, I got a copy of their rules and set about making things that fit their criteria.  I gathered driftwood from the river and made lamps and frames, pinecones, berries and dried flowers became potpourri and I had a few handmade cards and bits of jewellery.  The jewellery all sold and I was asked for more and that was the start of a new direction for me.   

It was further confirmed that interior design was not the right path when one day I had been working and left some elevation drawings  for a client on my drawing board, I left the room and when I returned a few minutes later, my two year old was colouring them in.  I put the interior design on hold and moved with gusto into making jewellery.

How has your business changed and developed since it started?
I have been very lucky that clients have dictated the path of my business.  I started out purely in jewellery, but one of my stockists asked me to make her some tiaras for a wedding fair she was attending.  It seemed like a huge challenge and with little under a week to create them it was either say no or say yes and jump in both feet together.  I did the latter and the orders started coming in.

Public speaking, children’s parties, demonstrating and writing magazine craft projects all developed because clients asked me to.

What are the main ways you promote your business?  Which methods have been the most successful for you?
I am a prolific blogger.  I really enjoy the blogging and have 4 regular blogs (3 of mine and a guest writer of the fourth). Blogging allows me to showcase my creations and explain something of the thought behind each piece.  I can also link the blog posts to the online store.

I do two three public speaking events a month and really enjoy these as it’s an hour where you are paid to stand and promote yourself to a captive audience.  I make sure that I have plenty of things to show the audience and always give each one a leaflet detailing my work and services.

I do one market a month and have very regular clients, so much so that I can make something directed straight at them and when they come to my stall, nine times out of ten they will go for it.

I also use Craft Juice which is a great free to use resource for getting all your handmade items seen and admired and I have had some great leads come through it.

I’m a tweet about everything too.

What’s your workspace like?  Can we have a sneak peek?  And do you have any workspace organisation tips for the rest of us?
My work room doubles up as a family room.  It’s a large room with floor to ceiling shelving and cupboards giving me display and storage space.  I would describe it as creative clutter.  I see potential in the humblest of objects and save them for the day they come in useful.

The shelves support thousands of beads stored in large Tupperware containers, polymer clay and all the equipment I use for that and also fabrics, card, newspapers, brushes, paints, drawing boards and sewing machines.

I also have my computer and desk in there as it is a great resource for my crafting and promotion.  I am very lucky that my family and friends ignore the creative clutter that covers the room.

What are the best and worst bits of running your business?
The best bit of running a creative business is the joy of creating.  I also enjoy doing the village farmers market in South Cave.  It’s great meeting people and getting feedback on my latest projects. 

I’ve “met” people from all over the world through my crafting on the internet.  The crafting community are  a great friendly bunch.

The worst bit has to be the paperwork, but even that comes with a sense of satisfaction once it’s done!

What other small (or not-so-small) creative businesses do you admire? 
Just down the road from me is a creative business that started off as a shed and a field and through the work of a few people grew into a wonderful creative business.  Mires Beck Nursery  is a social enterprise working with those with learning /physical disabilities. It provides a learning and working environment for over 70 people and produces wildflowers and their ethos is  

 to provide a pleasant enjoyable environment where people who have a learning difficulty or disability can develop their skills, increase their self esteem and confidence.”

Having led a community art project there, I can tell you what a wonderfully inspiring a happy place it is to be.

What tips can you give to others who run (or hope to run) a small creative business?
Look into the legalities, make sure you are registered with Inland Revenue and get public liability insurance.  Don’t hem yourself in to one thing.  Allow for flexibility for the future.  I’ve made time consuming mistakes in the past with things like my website where I didn’t allow for other arm of my business to develop, leading to frustrating destruction prior to rebuilding.

Be open to criticism and ask for it.  Without knowing where your weaknesses are, you can’t develop your strengths.

I have always stayed away from fashion.  I don’t look what everyone else is doing; I just develop my own style and keep on trying new things that are uniquely me.

What are your hopes, plans or ambitions for the future? 
World domination of course, but failing that I want to stay true to the handmade ethics, to continue to enjoy all that I do and to be able to stay afloat inspiring other people to have a go too.

Finally, where are the places we can find you online if we want to partake in a little friendly cyber stalking?
Well, you can sign up for one of my teaching packages
My main store is which subdivides into three stores:
  • Beads By Design : Beads and findings
  • RaRaBazaar: gifts, jewellery and fabric goods
  • Crystal Velvet Weddings: tiaras, flowers, stationery
I am at South Cave Farmers Market on the second Saturday of the month from 9am until 1pm (HU15 2EP)

Thanks for taking the time out for tea and a chat today Karen - it's been lovely to sit here and talk!  I can't tell you how much I love that pebble necklace - it really is just gorgeous! 


Ra Ra Bazaar said...

Thank you for featuring me on your blog. I am very grateful.
The link to Mires Beck is not working and should be

Wendy said...

You're very welcome and link is hopefully fixed now - thanks for pointing it out.

Ali said...

Hi Karen and Wendy,
I really enjoyed reading this post. It was interesting to see how you went from one career to another and how things developed but not always how you expected. I like how you've continued to be true to yourself and not followed fashions. I think originality wins over everytime, who wants something that looks like it comes from the highstreet. Good luck with world domination, it would be such a colourful happy place if we all crafted.
Thanks Wendy for introducing us to four new blogs, how does she do all that.

Ali x

Annie Cholewa said...

Another fascinating insight into how someone else 'does it'. Thank you Karen and Wendy :D

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's one super organised lady!
I can certainly see why you have been so successful.
Thanks for a really interesting peek into your way of doing things :)