Bunny Sitting next to me while I type....
The week has flown by at lightning speed…lots of custom orders were shipped off to their new homes and the November fibre, batt and yarn clubs are hopping to the club members last Monday and there are lots of other exciting things on the horizon that need lots of time and nurture.
There have been ups and downs for me lately both in business and in people; it was becoming increasingly tough for me mentally to cope with some stuff (people, bureaucracy etc etc.) so I did some reflection and started writing this blog. There are certain “events” that have triggered this post and other things that have been on my mind for quite some time and I just need to get it off my chest.
The first thing that ignited this post was a commercial marketing tactic: Sales….
In this case it was the so called " Black Friday Sale". It’s a sale day in the USA after the Thursday Thanksgiving which was yesterday.:-) Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends in the States and overseas.However....why Australian businesses (Super big businesses AND very small Australian craft businesses) are doing a so called "Black Friday Sale" is really baffling to me. especially since the black friday in Australia brings back memories from a huge devastating fire in Victoria in the 1930s with so many lives lost. Not something you want to have "remembered" by a "Sale"....
There is something else that has been brewing in my head so to speak….and that is what this blog is dealing with as well. I have tried to explain things in a positive and informative way and I am not aiming criticism at anybody or anything. We are all on this planet to learn and interpret the world each in their own way. I am just trying to make sense of everything like everybody else. I do feel that there are more and more people wanting to start their own fibre or yarn business, because I think there are so many people so passionate about crafting and they want to take it a step further.
This is going to be a looooooooong story but I feel I have to! See it as advice and take from it what you like. I am not trying to be harsh or mean or have a dig at anyone. I am just talking about what I have been experiencing, especially in the last two years, which have almost felt like every day was a full moon with people acting out of character or becoming more and more angry every day that passes…if you know what I mean. I have seen so many people despair and or act out , it is starting to weigh heavily on me and so I felt the need to write this. So, again, what prompted me to write this?
Well, first of all, I am being asked to do talks, workshops and teach lots of times. However, when it comes to payment for all of these work engagements to share what I have learnt over my lifetime working with fibres, yarns, pigments and animals, that there is little or nothing that organisers want to part with in the way of reimbursement, as if I can survive on air and what I do is a hobby not running a business. I am always up front about my views and talk about it, but still see no change in the way fibre artists in general are treated. I am asked to write articles and stories for free as well…… somehow this is not right in my view. There is no such thing as “being paid for exposure” , exposure does not pay the bills….At the same time the magazines get advertisement money and are sold over the counter and they get paid for editing, for lay outs, printing, etc etc. People working at the magazines get paid a wage. Being an editor is a job, being a printer is a job, being a publisher is a job; they get paid…writers should get paid as well. I have written articles for a number of magazines for free, promised it's exposure and have realized the extra sales I got from it were zero to the awesome number of 2. Like I said, exposure does not pay the bills. Advertising may work for big companies but you have to invest a great deal of money on a continual basis to make it worthwhile.
Next: The thing that is REALLY starting to get under my skin, especially in 2017, is that a LOT of people on social media are bluntly asking me all kinds of questions I personally would never have dreamt about asking anybody in the same business or field!
Some examples of questions I get every day:
How much do you buy your fibre for?
How many kilos do you buy?
Where do you get your fibres from?
How do you dye them? Can I use your recipes for dyeing?
Can you tell me how to dye yarn the way that you do it? Can you tell my step by step what colours you use to dye this yarn?
And the absolute winner : can I have a list of all your suppliers?
Yes, I have even been asked if I could possibly buy stock for others at wholesale prices because they could not afford it themselves.
At the same time, ever since I started my own fibre business back in 2003, I have been subjected to some appalling behaviour by others due to my own gullibility: “Sure I will help you” I say, I have even giving in depth advice about processes and even my supplier details. I thought that was what friends were for: to share and be there for help and support each other. Some of those friends have never been heard from again or even started backstabbing. My bad. I was too gullible. I am a very sharing person, but I found thru necessity , I have to learn to have boundaries to save myself. However, in the last two years I have come to realise that the amount of people asking me these in depth questions are planning/wanting to start their own businesses , even though they have had no experience with fibre , animals or in some cases even knew what fibre processing meant, has sky rocketed.
I am being contacted on a daily basis with these type of queries as if I am Google or Siri and they can ask anything that is on their mind and get an answer that solves everything in 5 seconds flat. I started wondering about this: if you were starting out as a café owner, would you go to another café and ask them where they get their ingredients from? Who their suppliers are? How many tables they serve per day and if they can give you their recipe for their prize winning cheesecake? My guess is no.
You ask yourself, you do the hard yards yourself, you do your own research. Ask yourself continuously is this the right thing to do?
I started running my own fibre business from the ground up almost 14 years ago! I did my own research, put in a lot of time, mountains of effort and not to mention money. It was neither easy nor fast. The only reason I am still doing what I do is because I am very stubborn, passionate and I HAVE to make an income for me and my family. There is no other income, no pension or benefits, no lottery win money, no other work income. I work from early morning til late at night to make ends meet AND the only way I keep going is because I cannot see myself doing anything else. It is my passion, my life and my everything. There is no compromise.
I am humbled by so many people who are my customers, who have become my friends and who support not only the products I lovingly sell but also support the farm. I will keep on being humble and filled with gratitude for that. And maybe that sense of humility is also one of the factors why I do not go around self-promoting myself saying “I have been ‘Trailblazing’ the fibre industry since 2003. I do the best I can within my philosophy and my capability. I am still learning each hour of every day. You have to keep learning, keep educating yourself and keep evolving. Nobody can do that for you. Take that colour theory class! Read books about sheep breeds and fibre. There is a huge amount of information out there. Do your own research and take from it what you want to use. Make your own interpretations, learn continuously. How can you possibly make a living when you have no knowledge about the field? You cannot expect to cook French cuisine if you can’t even boil an egg, but you can start by learning how to. It just takes passion and time coupled with an inquisitive mind. Nothing is easy, nothing is instantaneous; there is no speedway to overnight success and riches. If you want Success and Riches and a bank account in the Bahamas, being in the craft business is the wrong career choice…
Something else I have come across since 2016: EGOS. I have no idea why there are so many people out there who believe they have invented something that has been around for ages, taking credit for a colourway or even a colour name. I have seen people copying my handwoven maya wrap for example years ago….or started doing blends of fibres I have put together as well. There will always be people who try to do what others do. Do not be one of those people. Try to do your OWN thing. Change. Make Change happen yourself. Go on an adventure! Have fun. Of course there is competition in this fibre industry! Where there is business there is competition. What is really important is to BE YOURSELF. Make your OWN mark. Build on the ideas of others but add something of your OWN. Make it your baby and be an inspiration to others.
This year I have seen so many who have been ranting and raving and be oh so bitter about everything. I don’t know if it’s social media, the political landscape or the unrelenting pressure of “likes” and “followers” that has anything to do with it, but it certainly does not help. There is so much outside pressure. Do yourself a favour: do not succumb to the falsehood of EGO. It will make you bitter and incapable of creating. Create out of your passion not competition! Creating is hard enough. You cannot create a masterpiece by painting by numbers. You have to add your own magic to it. Also: be compassionate to those who have to make a living from what they create with their art and craft. How would you feel if you were the knitter at a crofters cottage on the Fair Isle islands, knitting fair isle jumpers and scarves for a living and hearing a tourist say “ I could knit that kind of sweater for wayyy cheaper than the $900 they are asking for it!” It takes three months to knit an intricate jumper not counting dyeing or spinning the yarn. Ofcourse you can knit it for cheaper yourself. But could you survive by knitting fair isle jumpers by asking a $100 and selling them? I can assure you that after the tenth jumper you had to knit and seeing you cannot possibly afford to pay rent, buy some decent food or ever going on a holiday, your tenth fair isle jumper will be the last you will ever knit and at the same time you will have made it very tough for the people who have been knitting these FOR A LIVING for ages. This blog is not only aimed at those wanting to start a busniness, the following tips may also be helpful for those wanting to sell their craft “on the side”. The Art and Craft community is slowly but surely succumbing to the rules of big business and compassion is lost on the side lines. I think that is a sad state of affairs and something that really needs to change. I live in Hope and I will keep on fighting for a sustainable world for crafters, farmers and everybody.
Here are some tips you may find helpful:
Tip 1: Learn continuously and do a lot of research: Take classes in whatever you feel you need: from colour theory to working with fibre or yarns, learn the “ropes” so to speak (pardon the pun); take dyeing classes from people who offer them.
Tip 2: Create your own Identity in Craft and Art. Everybody has a different way of working with colour and dyes. Your dyeing or colourways will always be different from others because everybody has a different way of looking at the world and seeing colours. Another reason why not to copy other people’s work: it is much more rewarding to see what you can come up with and create yourself. This is also true for spinning yarns, coming up with new blends of fibres or yarns. Do it your way. Take inspiration from the world around you. Dream and Create!
Tip 3: Do a lot of market research before you start a business. The market is absolutely flooded at the moment in the craft world. That does not mean you cannot start your own craft business. It just means you will have more of a chance to be successful if you create your own niche. Your own brand. Your own play on things. Make it your own. Put your own stamp on it. BE UNIQUE !!!
Tip 4: Stay humble and be there for your customers. Have an open mind and tell yourself “Anything goes!” There are no limits to what you can achieve but start saying to yourself that you are the best only creates an EGO that will make you bitter and see the world in a “ME vs THEM” way, which is a deathblow for creativity. Be passionate and compassionate.
ip 5: OH&S ! You may think that splashing pigments and dyes around in your kitchen or a dedicated dye studio is great fun, but always remember you are working with chemicals…harmful ones if you do not take care they will hurt your health and that of others. Be mindful, protect yourself by wearing masks and gloves at all times. I know that in some cases there are still villages out there that dye indigo and some “taste” the indigo to see if it is ready and cured enough OR they say that the stains on their hands are badges of honour. We live in a world where we know we can be safer because of wearing protective clothing. Use gloves, masks, extractors etc to make your work environment safe. Do not dye in your kitchen using the same pots and utensils you cook with. Read dye companies safety instructions. It is worth it! Exhaust your dyes, think of the environment and don’t flush dyes down the drain. Be mindful.
Tip 6: PROMOTE your business by posting on Instagram, facebook, tumblr, twitter, ravelry. Start your own group. Social media management takes a LOT of time. The old adage that “ Build it and they will come” is not entirely true anymore. There is so much being ‘built’ everyday that lots of people cannot see the forest for the trees…if you know what I mean. Create your own brand, your own look and invest a lot of time in promoting it. Find a good equilibrium so you are not chained to your computer or tablet all the time though because the more time you spend on social media the less time you can spend on creating. Unfortunately time is in short supply when you run your own business.
Tip 7: Create out of Passion not Competition. Love what you do! If you find at any point in time that you say to yourself “ blergh..I don’t want to do this anymore” DON’T do it! The hardest part of starting a craft business is that you are basing it on a hobby or passion for the medium. Very early on you will realise that being “in Business” unfortunately also means that there will be no time or hardly any time to create things for your self or your family. You have to earn a living by selling your craft. Make sure you realise that and are able to let go of the yarns you create or the products you have made with love.
Tip 8: DO NOT UNDERVALUE YOU OR YOUR PRODUCTS!!! I see a gazillion craft businesses doing SALES and DISCOUNTS and PROMOS with 10,20 even 30% off. I admit it’s a great way for your customers to have a good deal, but it also means that you will have less money to pay your bills. You have to price your products correctly so you get paid for the work you have put in and a fair price for the customer to pay. You are not a big retail chain in a Mall who survive because they can sell quantity and therefore can forego margin (or paying their staff a reasonable wage). There is no way that you can create THAT amount of quantity in craft products like yarn and hand dyed tops or garments. If you want to be in business you have to be thinking as one to pay your bills. Also, think about your fellow crafters in business: if you undercut them, they will not sell as much as they need to, so they will start a “sale” as well and so begins a vicious circle. Be original. Have a competition every now and again to get your customers involved. Have a give away to thank them. Have an annual X-mas sale for example but do not overdo it. If you do things right, you will not have to have a “ -30% bye bye margin to ‘put food’ on the table SALE”. Be Unique, Do not over extend yourself by buying a huge amount of stock that you do not know you can handle (comes back to market research etc). If you have to say to your customers “ I have a sale on to make room for new stock” you are sending out the wrong message. Know your limits, do not over invest in product you are not sure of or like I always say “Stay Small and Stay Sustainable”. Grow at your own pace. Hey, but If you want to get bigger and employ people to help you: Go for it! Anything goes! Remember? But with “bigger” comes “bigger costs and bigger risks”.
Please know I have written this with the best intentions and from MY own point of view. I know my views are not everybody’s cup of tea. I just felt the need to write this and offer some tips. I did not want to point the finger at anybody. The tips are just “guidelines” you may find helpful or you may not. Whatever you want to take away from this please do: Stay Passionate, Positive and Creative !
IxCHeL Cashmere Fling Tops
Cashmere, Tencel, Glitz, Bamboo
Spinner’s Control, Yarn Gauge and Ply angle card
a great way to gauge the thickness of your yarn and plying. A nice tool with an info sheet to hang on your spinning wheel or carry wit you anywhere you go.
The New IxCHeL Club sign ups are now OPEN !
Get a monthly fibre and yarn surprise !
Always great blends and colourways
only hand dyed for those who are club members !
January, February and March 2018
IxCHeL Fibre Club January, February and March 2018
The IxCHeL Sock Yarn Clubs January, February and March 2018
IxCHeL Funky Bunny Batt Clubs January, February and March 2018
Numbers are strictly limited ! The January 2018 club is going to be shipped out end of January, the Feb club mid feb and the March club mid March 2018. Payment via direct deposit or credit card or paypal. Just PM or email me
Have a fun weekend !!!
How To Order:
2. Message me on facebook or
3. Message me on www.ravelry.com where I am ixchelbunny.
4. message me on Instagram where I am @ixchelbunny
I will email you right back with all your order details and payment methods.
Any questions? Any custom orders for yarn or dyeing fibre? : Please don’t hesitate to ask! Always happy to enable.