A Crafty Parent Interview – Humming Bird Gems

I have always wondered how established crafters manage to juggle their crafts with their children, and vice versa.

I have been scouring several social media sites recently, on the lookout for a fellow parent crafter to interview, and I was fortunate enough to find Melissa.

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Melissa Stuart lives in Aberdeen City, Scotland, and she is the owner of Humming Bird Gems.  Approaching its’ third birthday, Melissa has been crafting since her teens.  She was never able to find items that suited her taste, style and mood, so she decided to start making her own jewellery pieces so she could always have exactly what she wanted.

Melissa has two children – Brae, who is 4, and Lizzy, aged 3; and is a stay-at-home mummy.

Me:  “What made you get in to selling your crafting?”

Melissa:  “I had some friends ask where I bought one of my bracelets, and I told them that I made it myself.  I would make things for family and friends, but it really wasn’t until my other half went in to college full-time that I thought about selling my work.  It was a way to help make ends meet.”

Me:  “So what made you choose your specific craft?”

Melissa:  “Since it (jewellery) was something that I had done before, it was easy.  With the crocheting, it was because I wanted to learn how to make teeny, tiny, little animals to put in to resin, and use with the jewellery making.  I haven’t gotten the skill up enough to make them, but people seem to be loving the bigger, cuddly versions just as well.”

Me:  “Did you try any different style of crafting before the one you do now?”

Melissa:  “Yes, I’m a very creative person!  I get a lot of enjoyment out of making things.  I’ve done origami, I’ve tried drawing (I’m horrible at it, by the way), and I had knitted in the past, when I was a young teen, but I can’t remember any of that now.”

Me:  “So tell me.  What has been your favourite make, and can you tell me why?”

Melissa:  “Oooh!  Now that’s a hard one!  I think it would be my resin make with dandelions and iridescent glitter.  It really looks like it’s dancing!”

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Me:  “Now I’m interested in your children.  What do Brae and Lizzy think of your crafting?”

Melissa:  “Brae doesn’t seem to have much interest in it truthfully.  Lizzy, on the other hand, is right in there.  She loves watching me, and asking questions of what I am doing.”

Me:  “Do they try to help you?”

Melissa:  “They do.  I’ll let Lizzy pick out colours or beads, and even let her string some of the beads on to wire.  I would let Brae also, but unless I’m working with something he has an interest in, he normally just ignores what I’m doing.”

Me:  “Do you do any other forms of crafting with Brae and Lizzy?”

Melissa:  “Lots of colouring, playing with PlayDoh, those kinds of things…  Crafts more suited for the younger ones.”

Me:  “So how do you juggle your crafting around Brae and Lizzy?  Do you have a set routine?”

Melissa:  “It’s a routine base.  Both of them are in nursery, so I have my morning to myself.  I try to get some networking done, but I often use that time to try and get things done that I can’t do with them around me.  Like resin work.  Whilst they’re at home, after lunch I will network, or bead, do some image template work…  Things I can often involve them in, or I can easily just drop in case one of them wants to play, or go outside.  The kids come first when they’re up and at home.”

Me:  “Do you think children taking part in (any type of) crafting is important?”

Melissa:  “I really do.  Kids are naturally curious about everything, and as the parents and adults, we really should be feeding that.  Nurturing it, so when the kids become teens, and indeed adults, they will still have that with them.  It can help them in life, with work, or even just play.  It can help them to relax, and it’s great for bonding and keeping that bond going!”

Me:  “Thank you Melissa.  Let’s move on to something ‘just for fun’.  You’re hosting a dinner party for a few celebrities.  You can invite 3 celebs.  Who would you pick, and why them?”

Melissa:  “Firstly, Robert Downy Jr. because…  Well, it’s RDJ!  He’s funny, and hot, and down to earth, and HOT!  (laughs)  Second on my list would be Jennifer Lawrence.  I hear she’s another down to earth celeb, and doesn’t stomp on the little people.  She’s still in the newly found “shell shocked” stage.  The last would be Dakota Fanning.  She’s been a brilliant actress since she was very young, and one of the few child starts that didn’t go in to drink or drugs.”

Me:  “Great choice there.  But let’s get to the real nitty-gritty…  You’re also doing the cooking for said dinner party.  You’re prepping a 3-course meal, so what’s on your menu?”

Melissa:  “Starts would be some kind of finger foods.  Three cheese mini pizzas, or popcorn chicken…  Something small that they could munch on whilst chatting.  Main course would be steaks with my homemade sauce, mashed potato and veg (corn or broccoli, or both).  Dessert would be lemon cake with a light lemon drizzle sauce.  Maybe some custard too.  Custard is yummy…  I’m hungry now.”

Me:  “Ha ha, ok, finally, let’s be serious just once more.  What’s your top tips for anyone who wants to start their own crafting business?”

Melissa:  “Firstly, come up with a name that’s catchy, then Google it.  Make sure that it is not popping up with anything.  The only thing that came up with mine (Humming Bird Gems) where pictures of humming birds.  Make a facebook page and email address with the same name, but don’t publish the facebook page yet!  Secondly, know what you’re doing.  Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, do what YOU want to do.  Know what supplies you need, keep records of what you spend – you’ll need that for the tax man, make a few things, samples, starters, get some good photo’s of your things, and once you have a few photos and posts on your page, then publish it.  That way it doesn’t look barren.  Make sure that it’s (your craft) is something you love to do, and that even on your darkest days, you don’t give in.  Every crafter out there has wanted to throw in the towel at some point in the game.  The difference between the winners and the losers are those who give up.  As long as you love what you are doing, keep doing it.”

You can visit Humming Bird Gems here:  https://www.facebook.com/hummingbirdgems

30 Day Writing Challenge – DAY 4

Write about someone who inspires you

My eldest son, Gning.

He’s may only be 3 years old, but he is the reason I have done any form of crafting over the past 4 years.

Everything I have ever done (craft wise) has been for, and because of him.  It all started when Gning was in my tummy, and I had just left for maternity leave.  I had thought I would try making fashion jewellery and accessories to sell for a little bit of “pocket money” for my upcoming bairn (baby).

It all started off well, but soon faded out as interest from potential customers was lost.

Trying to find a new hobby

I’ve been on the lookout for a new hobby to make my mind busy, but every time I think that I have come up with something, I either say it’s a bad idea, or I bottle out.

Take last week for instance…  I found a new dance class that was on the search for new class members, so I thought I’d give it a go.  It was on Tuesday evening.  It was a Burlesque (ha ha) class, but by the time Monday evening came, I was already thinking of reasons why I shouldn’t go.  I blinked, and Tuesday had already been and gone, and I never bothered to go.

It was the same a few months ago, when I found a belly dance class…  However, I did attend.

Getting back in to dance after so many years was amazing.  The class was brilliant.  Wiggling, and dancing; swaying to the music…  Really getting my shimmy on…  But the teacher was hopeless.  She didn’t ‘teach’.  She just demonstrated the move, then expected everyone else to follow suit.  She didn’t correct anyone when they performed a technique wrong.

I love to dance.  I’d love to get back in to dancing, and I would love to be able to find a belly dance class that actually ‘teaches’ you, rather than just expects you to know what you’re doing.

Alternatively, I enjoy crafts.  As I’m sure you all know by my previous crafting posts…  Ha ha.

I’m still in to making my jewellery and fashion accessories, my notepads and books, and now I’m moving on to woollen crafts (mainly personalised friendship bracelets), however it’s not enough.  They’re just not holding my attention like a hobby should.  I mean, when you have a hobby, it should be something that you love to do for you, and not to sell on (which I think my problem is).  You should be able to focus on that, and nothing else…  Basically, you should get lost in time with it.

There are lots of things out there that I would love to do / try, but they either seem to cost too much to start, or I just think that I am not physically fit enough to try.  Oh, and with the Burlesque dancing; that was because I felt too embarrassed.

On another note, I have tried blogging as a hobby, but as always, I struggle with what to write about.  That’s why there are some posts with nothing but a video..!

Speaking of videos, here’s a mix of old and new clips that I made for the Shi’hing School of Kung Fu recently.  If you don’t blink, you can see me perform a monkey toss on one of the students at approximately 1 minute in…

I wonder what else there is out there…  I suppose that’s why I’m struggling to find something.  Every time I adapt to a new hobby or interest, I always start looking for something else.

Homemade Hell

I’m sure I’ve mentioned, in previous posts, about my hand made jewellery and accessories ‘mini-business’, Treasures and Trinkets.  This post is about the little highs, and the oh-so-many lows that I have suffered since starting crafting.

I was trawling through various pages on facebook one day, when I saw a page that a lady had made, showing off her creations ready to sell to the users of facebook.  Although the items were impressive, I told myself that I could do that; I could make that; I’m sure I can make items better than that…  And that is how I started.

I bought some beads, wire, fixing and findings, and then I made a page on facebook.  I chose the name of the site immediately.  Treasures would be the earrings, bracelets, anklets and necklaces; and the Trinkets would be any accessories that I would make, such as keyrings, bookmarks, mobile phone charms, etc.

The items that I had bought came through fairly quickly, although I was missing a few vital tools to handle the fiddly bits.  I rushed out to our local DIY store, and bought a set of pliers!  The set had three different types of pliers.  One was a wire cutter, one was a flat-headed pair, and the other was a needle-nose pair.  Just what I needed, and they were only £2.99!

I began with the basics.  I made a pair of earrings, with parrot charms.  The next pair I created had beads and a charm…  The more I made, the more ideas I had.  I then stretched out to created bracelets with wire, but I could never tie the knots to strength, so I tried my hand at using earring findings instead.  All of my items were beautiful, and my husband, mum, and other family members agreed.  However, the test was now to come.

I found a neutral coloured background, and I photographed all of my creations to put on facebook.  Uploading, typing descriptions, sizes, working out costs, etc. for each item was painfully long and dull.  It was wonderful to think that a pair of earrings that I had made, could be sold for £1.50.  I thought I worked out the prices beautifully…

I joined several networking pages, and I started to promote my page.  ‘Likes’ and fans started dotting here and there…  Eventually, I had over 800 likes!

Then all of a sudden, I received a message…  “I came on your page to wish you luck with your new venture, but I’ve seen that all you’ve done is copy my items…”  Several messages, threats and nasty comments started appearing on my page over the next few weeks…

I had done nothing wrong.  I hadn’t copied a single item of the questioning competitor.  I had checked all of my items against all of hers, and what I saw astonished me.  I had uploaded a photo of a pair of earrings two weeks before the messages started; on the page of my competitor was exactly the same pair of earrings (her own work), with a date stamp of just four days after I had uploaded mine.  She had copied me!

I did not rise to the insult.  I simply deleted all of her comments and messages, and I blocked her, and her page, from accessing me and my Treasures and Trinkets.

Right now, I’ve had my page open 20 months.  How do I know it to be such an unusual amount of time?  Well, I started it when my little man was a tiny tot.

Anyway, besides the torment of an envious person, how’s the business?

Two words.  A nightmare.

I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say that, over the past 20 months, I have made two sales.  One pair of earrings, and a ‘wish bottle’.  The two came to a total of £3.50.

How much have I spent on my ‘mini-business’?  Probably about £150 over the 20 months.

Personally, I think that it all depends on what you’re selling as to whether you will get your sales on facebook.  I’ve seen other jewellery and accessory pages have less than a hundred fans, and yet there are comments after comments on their pictures, asking to buy their items…  It’s not that their jewellery is any better than what I make, or that they’re selling it for cheaper than I am, it’s that their jewellery is so different to mine.  They do ‘wire work’, fiddly beading, etc.  And their prices are so much higher than mine!

So let’s stray away from the dreaded FB.  I have been to three craft fairs with my items.  Two fairs were a complete and utter flop, and one was highly successful.  The two fairs that were a disaster were professionally organised by a craft / produce fete company.  The successful fair was a church tabletop sale!

It really make me wonder why I bother.  I’m feeling really let down that I have so many ‘likes’, yet so little sales…  I know it’s quality, not quantity, and I know that out of the quantity of people who like my page, there are probably only one or two that are quality.  It’s really sad to say.

Anyway, that’s Treasures and Trinkets.  Or, that ‘was’ Treasures and Trinkets.  I’m contemplating shutting the page down, but I have a few people tell me not too because my work is beautiful…  If that were true, where are my buyers? *sigh*