Mini milk bottles and copper snail tape

A couple of photos of scrappy weeds from my mantlepiece, a week or so worse for wear. I went to look for more this morning but they’re all gone.

I decorated a mini milk bottle with copper slug tape, it wasn’t easy to get a smooth finish {it’s similar to aluminium foil} so next time I will use glitter tape, but l like it anyway. Be warned, I have many ideas for how to use mini milk bottles – you’ll see a lot more of them soon.

Is anyone reading blogs today? The news is just so dreadful that it all seems so irrelevant. Thanks for all the encouraging comments on my last post.

Five years and some things I’ve learned

This month I celebrated my 5 year anniversary at Papermash, so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the last five years.

Pink honeycombs

{Photo: Natalie Dinham / Stylist: Charlotte Love – 4 year anniversary!}

  • It’s very difficult to grow a business unless you have someone else paying your domestic bills – when I’ve seen other businesses grow quickly, I’m sure there is a partner who is paying the mortgage. You need to reinvest all the time. For years.
  • I think it’s hard to make much money unless you’re selling higher-priced items – I met someone who just started a male clothing brand a few months ago and he told me it’s doing really well. Everything costs over £100, but then the start-up costs are huge. I spent around £1,500 to launch my shop.
  • It’s hard to get people to part with their cash in general and it’s hard to succeed in retail unless you’re selling things people are looking for. Social media is really important, but not as important as SEO {in my opinion at least, if you’re an independent designer it might be different.} Sometimes when I meet people who tell me they really love my shop, I’ll have a sneaky look and they won’t ever have bought anything from me.
  • I think consumers are more likely to spend money on clothes and beauty than homeware and it has a higher perceived value. I’ve worked with lots of high-earners with disposable income and they wouldn’t dream of spending £65 on a cushion or a fancy basket, but £65 on shoes – no problem.
  • Getting press for your brand isn’t that difficult if you have nice things and good photographs. Making actual sales from the press you get is more difficult. There really are only a few magazines which will make a difference.

 {Photos by Michelle Young / from various crafternoons}

  • I love working for myself. For me, I have a skillset which works well with a small business and have lots of ideas {I love doing the finances, marketing and styling, for example}, but ultimately I’m running this business for lifestyle reasons. I’m not at all hard on myself if I make mistakes.

  • Entrepreneurship can be overrated. The opportunities, stimulation and security of a full-time, permanent, professional job can be just as rewarding as working for yourself. I’ve had various contract jobs as well as running my business over the years and having a routine and an interesting job with reliable, intelligent and kind colleagues has been invaluable. I just finished a 9 month role and our 20 year old intern was so good for my emotional health because she made me laugh so hard every single day. This is a great podcast I listened to recently at Jess Lively on Loving a 9-5 job. The lack of professionalism with people I have dealt with outside of a corporate environment has sometimes been surprising. You can almost work on a business, work full-time, and achieve a lot, as the old adage of asking a busy person to do something is totally true. I will probably go back to work full-time again {or if you have a part-time job for me, let me know!}
  • If you’re me, you can’t run a business, work full-time, have a social life, do any exercise, have food in the fridge, generally look after yourself and your property, and grow the business all at the same time. {If you come to my sample sale this Friday, you will see my flat is sort of falling apart.}
  • Customers sometimes pull stunts you know they wouldn’t try at John Lewis.
  • It’s much harder now than when I started 5 years ago, because there is so much competition. I meet someone at least once a month who is opening an online shop. A friend told me she met someone recently who has lost £250,000 over the last 5 years with her online children’s clothing shop. I wouldn’t start an online shop if I was setting up a business now.
  • Not all of these businesses can be making money {and I look up their accounts to check}. One of my French suppliers told me that in France, retailers respect the price, and don’t discount their prices beyond the standard retail mark-up. I prefer to work with suppliers who set a minimum retail price. I’ve discontinued some items because there are shops who are selling the same item at only 40 pence more than the cost price {and I know they use the same supplier.} Although I’m aware of the concept of a loss leader, this is ridiculous.

  • Collaboration is a good thing if the brands fit. Soon, I’m hoping to go and work a few days a week at a shared workspace, not so much for the social interaction, but for the exchange of ideas. If you have any ideas for an event or collaboration, feel free to get in touch!

If you have persevered to the end of this post {sorry, got on a roll} and have anything to add to any of the points above, I’d love to hear it in the comments! There was also an interesting episode of You and Yours today on being self-employed.

A plant family

I’ve just returned from a relaxing, reviving and inspiring week away at Camber Sands, with early morning walks on the beach, spectacular sunsets, multitudes of stars in the clear skies, and a final finale of a midnight bonfire. Summer in England.

I’m glad to see my little plant family are still alive and well. A mid-afternoon slump often results in a visit to a garden centre. Some of these are from a particularly wild Friday night at Homebase recently. I added some glitter to the mix and it really was crazy.

Last week I received a surprise in the post, a copy of The Plant from my brother. This issue is full of essays from around the world, about plants such as the spider plant, plant-based art, the gardens of Versailles, vegetation in Mexico City, biodynamic growing in Hereford – and lots more. It has a grainy, slightly 1970s feel, and I’m enjoying it very much.

Five minute fix: egg chapatis

For quite a while, on my things-I’d-like-to-try list have been egg chapatis – I had the tastiest egg naan at Dishoom on this photo walk, and it seemed so simple. Then, more recently, I’ve been intrigued by the two young lads and their mum making a small fortune at my local train station selling bacon and egg chapatis – chapati / bacon / fried egg / ketchup – that’s it, but it seems to be working.

I went to see Chef last night (which I really enjoyed) so inspired by all things culinary, this morning I whipped up an egg chapati – and then another…

Ingredients:

  • chilli jam (real chillis would probably taste very good, too)
  • cream cheese
  • eggs
  • coriander (you could skip this) and
  • chapatis – I bought them ready made. Life’s too short for many things. (On the other hand, have never understood why people buy crumble mix.)

These literally take less than five minutes to make – just dry-fry your chapatti in a saucepan for around thirty seconds each side (too much longer and they’re difficult to fold, this one was a little bit crispy), and smear on your ingredients.

Fry an egg (you want it to be at least a little runny, I *may* never have fried an egg before, don’t judge me for my over-runniness), add salt and pepper and you’re done!

Roll them up in some kind of cloth or napkin (yellow striped napkins and triangle napkins here) as they are a little messy. Yum! I’ll definitely make these again.

Win a £50 Papermash voucher

Hello! Our envelope makers have been out and about this month – featuring in Mollie Makes and over at Lobster and Swan. Did you see these pretty envelopes Jeska created for us? You can find all her beautiful creations using washi tape and watercolours, ballet magazine pages and vintage wallpaper over on her blog.

I’m not bored of looking at envelopes yet, so I’m running a little competition for customers. If you’ve bought an envelope template from us, I’d love to see your creations, and am offering a £50 voucher to the winner.

How to enter (any of these ways)

- Email your photo to info@papermash.co.uk
- Instagram your entry to @lynneatpapermash #papermashenvelopecompetition
- Pin an image to Pinterest + link to our envelope template
- Share a link on our Facebook page

Competition closes 30th June so there’s still a chance to buy yours here. International entrants welcome. Voucher to be used by end of September 2014. One entry only per person. We’ve sold quite a few of these so we’re restricting it to people who’ve bought this from us.

A few new washi wrapping ideas

Last weekend I spent an afternoon working on a few wrapping ideas using scrap ends of washi tape.

Firstly, a little patchwork box (saw it on Pinterest). I swore I wouldn’t be cutting out tiny triangles from washi tape again (at least for a while) but not sure why I didn’t also ban tiny squares.

I started like this, measuring out the lid of the box in washi tape to have an outline and then added strips of tape to make squares from.

I scrapped that idea, as I just couldn’t get them all to line up accurately on the box (I’m sure a more precision-focused crafter could pull it off) so instead I started over by just adding full strips on the box, marking lines with my scalpel and then just lifting up occasional squares and swapping them over to get the patchwork effect. It turned out well but was a painful experience. #killercrafting

Secondly, for ages I’ve had the idea to washify a little pencil (this one is an Ikea freebie) and add it to a writing-themed gift. I thought it was perfect for this Rifle Paper Co journal gift.

Pretty pleased with that one too. You can find more ideas on my washi tape Pinterest board. There are only a few left in stock of these washi tape designs (the range was mostly discontinued but I will have some new patterns soon.)

Five minute fix: wired fabric tape

A quick little arrangement from a few weeks ago – taking advantage of some pretty lilac and wisteria in the back garden. I just about managed to prop up that droopy sprig of wisteria.

I found some jewellery wire in a cupboard, and just folded it into some sticky fabric tape to give it some extra strength for tying this bow (probably a heavier weight would have worked better, but it helped a bit.)

I liked the result, but wish I had cut armfuls full of lilac this spring instead of this one little sprig. Must add that to my cutting calendar for next year!

On display: mini milk bottles / mini pastel doilies / floral fabric tape.

New: wooden envelope template

I’ve recently stocked this wooden envelope template for making your own handmade envelopes. I have been going crazy making envelopes from all kinds of materials, as it’s just the kind of craft I like; quick and very satisfying. One favourite thing to use are the pretty papers from this gift wrapping book, which has lots of botanical and animal designs, and is the perfect texture for making envelopes.

Of course I had to add a little washi tape edging, and I’ve got quite the stash of pretty envelopes now, as it’s quite addictive when you start – time to write some letters so I can put them to use. I’ll be sharing more examples soon. I need to discover develop some calligraphy skills – just the thing for an extra special envelope. Have a lovely weekend!

Happy weekend + links

Hello Friday! This weekend I’m going on a bluebell walk in Wimbledon, and prepping for a photo shoot next week. Hope you have a lovely weekend, here are a few links to enjoy: 

Inside a psychoanalyst’s office

I really want to visit the astronomy photographer of the year exhibition (great video stories behind the photos.)

Love this converted pub

And how these flowers have been displayed

Joy, kindness and gentleness

A lovely advert (for Thai life insurance!)

Business questions: on business cards

How often do you give out business cards? I’ve always had a very slapdash approach to carrying them around (ie I don’t) and so never have one when am asked. But recently in quick succession I missed two good opportunities to share my details and my brand with complete strangers, once in a bar and once on a plane. So I just printed a new batch and have had them in my wallet for the last two weeks (in which time there have been no business card opportunities.) As most of my networking is online, and most of my non-virtual life focuses on priorities and interests not particularly related to my shop, I don’t end up giving out cards very often at all.

If you’re part of a small operation, what do you call yourself on your card? In this book, Blake Mycoskie suggests giving yourself a title which makes your business seem bigger, so people will take you more seriously. So, although there’s no way I’d call myself ‘Vice President of xx’ (his very American suggestion), I’ve been trying to think of something more imaginative than my current description of ‘owner’. I quite fancy creative director, but then I think of the years and years I slogged to become an accountant, and so don’t want my title to sound so creative (since I look at spreadsheets every single day.) I can’t possibly be CEO of a one-person operation, and so I’m a bit stumped! Any ideas?

(Spotted tray is part of this desk set, and I used a photo from this shoot for my most recent cards.)