CREATIVITY

Growing your creative business

With so much noise on the internet these days, it's often hard to track down the genuinely great content that will be worth spending your precious time on. We often find ourselves endlessly scrolling Instagram or reading memes on Facebook that, let's face it, aren't really going to benefit our lives in any way. If you've found yourself craving an online haven, a place to learn, socialise and get inspired without all the distraction, then let me introduce you to Sisterhood Camp. Lou Archell launched her 'IRL' Sisterhood retreats back in 2015, but this summer she has created an online retreat - perfect for those who can't make the real life events but want the benefit of the creative community and learning they offer. 

It is a private member community, which runs for three months each season. Once enrolled, you'll have access to all of the content - e-courses, blog posts and forums. It encompasses a range of topics - career development, creativity, wellness and travel. Summer Camp is already in progress so enrolment for that is now closed, but we have a little snippet from one of the e-courses to whet your appetite. If it floats your boat, then do hop over to the website for more blog content (many of the posts are public, although some are for members only) and register your interest in Autumn Camp which will open for enrolment on 20th August. (Pricing: £200 for 3 months. or instalments of £67 per month.) Autumn Camp starts on 1st September through to 30th November.

Growing your own creative business

Growing your own creative business - with Camilla Westgaard of Folksy

OVERVIEW:

Is there a secret to building a successful creative business? Scroll through Instagram and it feels like there are some creatives who have just got it down. Their feed is full of beautifully wrapped parcels ready to be shipped, their workshops are sold out in seconds and their inboxes are overflowing with DMs asking when the next shop update is happening. But how did they get there? Probably with a lot of hard work. Growing a business takes time and dedication, and stories of overnight success are rare or not quite what they seem.

Over the last decade, I’ve been there, put in those hours, had the successes and the failures, watched, learned from, listened to and guided other indie businesses as they’ve grown and thrived. It’s these creatives who keep the world interesting, so in this series I’m going to share the lessons learned to help you take your idea and grow it into a fully-fledged business or a nice little side-hustle that nurtures your soul, depending on what you want and need from it.

LESSON 1: LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS: 

Growing your own creative business
  • DESIGN A BUSINESS THAT FITS AROUND YOU

Consider what kind of business you really want – and be honest here. Do you want something you can do from your sofa while listening to podcasts, that will bring in a little extra money to subsidise adventures away? Or do you aspire to having your own design studio with a team of people working for you so you can focus on ideas? Maybe enjoying the physical process of making is more important? Or maybe you want to travel the world passing on your wisdom and meeting interesting people?

If your business takes off, you may end up making the same products a hundred times or running the same workshops over and over again. How good are you at repetitive tasks? Think about which parts of the business you enjoy, what you would like to do more of and equally what you’d like to do less of. Then design a business around that – one that suits you. We all have to start somewhere but if you know where you’d like it to go and how you’d like it to look, it’s easier to get there… and also to make sure you don’t end up in a place you never meant to be.

How: Write down what your ideal business looks like in terms of the number of hours you are working on it, the number of people you have working with you, the scale of your output, where you work and what that work consists of. This will help you create a business that you can sustain and nurture.

  • DO ONE THING WELL

When people start a new business, they often assume that by offering a vast variety of products and choice, they’ll be able to appeal to more people and sell more products. In most cases, the opposite is true: occupy a niche, limit your product range and you’ll have a stronger business. You don’t need loads of product lines and variations to be successful; you just need to do one thing really well. Imagine you’re a restaurant (bear with me)… don’t be the one with the stressed chef serving hundreds of items on the menu, buying in tons of ingredients and juggling hundreds of pans. It’s not cost-effective and it’s not the way to go if you value reputation or quality. Instead be the one where the chef has a limited board serving the best ingredients, combined to create interesting and original dishes, cooked well, and where people queue for tables.

Focusing on one thing also makes it easier to define your customers, target your marketing, hone your skills and stand out as the go-to person for that product, style or content.

How: Think about what you want to sell. Are there lots of other people doing something similar? Good, that means there’s a market for it. But how can you get a slice? Who are the established businesses people look to? Is there something they are not doing that you could? What can you offer that isn’t currently out there, or what can you specialise in? Is there a community you can serve?

Growing your own creative business
  • GO AT YOUR OWN SPEED

Don’t expect to be able to leave your 9-to-5 straight away. If you do want to make your business full time, be realistic about when that’s possible. It’s true that if you leave your job you’ll be able to focus all your time and attention on your new venture, and it may well flourish more quickly. Some people thrive on this and feel they are more likely to succeed when all the safety nets have gone and the only option is to make it work. But being completely dependent on your own business for your income is risky, which is why having fallbacks in place and designing several revenue streams makes sense.

This isn’t just about how reliant you are on your new business to pay your bills, it also relates to where you focus your business and the channels you rely on for your marketing and sales. Think about Instagram: if you only ever focus on reaching customers through IG, what happens if a new platform comes along and people leave Instagram in droves, or the algorithms change the network so significantly (as happened on Facebook) that it no longer works for indie businesses who don’t want to pay to advertise their posts? You might be able to move your business across but you could have a period when your revenue plummets and your business might not survive the dip.

How: Being absolutely reliant on your business, or turning what you love into a profession, can change how you feel about it, and leaving financial stability for a new business venture is also a risk that not everyone can afford to take. You know your situation, so take everything at a pace that works for you.


*Extracted from Camilla Westgaard's e-course on growing your own creative business - part of Sisterhood Summer Camp.* - Camilla Westergaard has been immersed in the world of creative indie businesses for almost a decade, first as a designer & maker stocked in Liberty’s and then as Content Lead at Folksy, the home of British craft, where she interviews makers, writes advice for other sellers, commissions articles and designs social media content and campaigns. She is genuinely passionate about supporting makers and believes there are simple, practical steps everyone can take that will help their creative business become successful. If you want to see pictures of hedgehogs, cats and cushions, you can follow her on Instagram at @bbutterscotch
www.folksy.com

91 loves... Marta Abad Blay

We've had so many questions about the artwork that appeared on the cover of our current issue, which is hanging in the home of Ilona Zieltjens (@mamoesjka_nl). The print, entitled 'Girl 1' is the work of Spanish artist Marta Abad Blay, and we have fallen a little bit in love with her distinctive style. We caught up with Marta to find out a little more about her work....

 Image:  @mamoesjka_nl
 Image:  @mamoesjka_nl

91: What is the inspiration behind your series of Girl illustrations? 

Marta: I cannot stop drawing girls right now. It is like I cannot stop it. :) My work is very organic and I try not to think about it too much. When I think too much then I don't produce something I really like. With this series, I was very inspired by children's drawings; I see my daughter Mia painting and I really admire her process - without thinking, without judging. So I have tried to do the same when I am painting these girls. :) 

 Image:  @martabadblay
 Image:  @martabadblay
Marta Abad Blay and her work

91: What is your working process? How do you come up with your gorgeous colour combinations? 

My working process is completely organic. The colour combinations came about without any planning or preparation. This was actually intentional - I tried not to plan it, plus I don’t follow any trends. I just paint what I like to do.

91: How does it make you feel to see your work featured in lots of beautiful homes on Instagram? Does this help with selling your work? 

It is an honour for me to receive such a great response to my work.  And, yes, it has really helped to sell my work. It is a way to see my products in different places and atmospheres. 

 Image:  @magdalenad
 Image:  @teamtonkin

91: How can people get hold of one of your original artworks? Do you take commissions? 

Yes I do take commissions,  just write to me at martabadblay@gmail.com. I have also original pieces for sale in my online shop

Favourite independent shop: Stockholm store Beton - also online at Betonstudios.com 

Favourite Instagram account: Melissa Tonkin - @teamtonkin and Ilona Zieltjens - @mamoesjka_nl

Favourite designer/maker: Japanese artist Mogu Takahashi @mogutakahashi

Favourite city: Amsterdam

Favourite book or magazine: Apartamento

 Image:  @mamoesjka_nl

Thanks so much Marta! So there you have it, the artist behind that eye-catching print on our S/S 18 cover! You can order direct from Marta on her website, or UK online store Grey September have recently started stocking some of her work. 

Making terrazzo coasters with Olivia Aspinall & Pelican Story

We are always looking out for the most exciting and on-trend events that are happening across the country, and anything that combines shopping, making and great interiors has definitely got us intrigued! We sent 91 contributors Nancy Straughan and Jemma Watts along to a recent event at Kreativ House in London, to shop the pelican story pop-up and make terrazzo coasters with Olivia Aspinall...  

Terrazzo coaster making with Olivia Aspinall

Terrazzo burst onto the interior scene a few years ago and since I first discovered it via Pinterest I have been dying to know more about it and how it's made. Like me, you’ve probably noticed it being used recently by some of the coolest interiors and homeware brands and in modern kitchen design, but in fact terrazzo dates back as far as the 15th century, and traditionally utilised chips of marble or granite. I spied a lot of terrazzo flooring while in Greece recently, thanks to the country's history in producing beautiful marble. 

These days, contemporary terrazzo features bold colours and shapes and is being used in lots of unusual ways. I would never have considered being able to craft something from it myself, so I was thrilled to be invited to workshop recently to learn how to make terrazzo coasters.

Kreativ House Hackney, London
Kreativ House, Hackney, London
Kreativ House, Hackney, London
Pelican Story pop up at Kreativ House London

The class was a collaboration between three creative businesses, Olivia Aspinall, pelican story and Kreativ House. The workshop was run by Olivia Aspinall alongside pelican story who were running a special pop-up shop on the ground floor of Kreativ House. Kreativ House is a beautiful private workspace that helps support small businesses in East London, the perfect place for both the pop up and workshops.

Pelican Story pop up at Kreativ House London
Pelican Story pop up at Kreativ House London
Pelican Story pop up at Kreativ House London
Pelican Story pop up at Kreativ House London

Before beginning the workshop, I had a browse of the beautiful pelican story pop up. This relatively new brand stocks a great selection of contemporary and hard to find homeware, furniture and gifts, many which are mid-century and Scandinavian inspired. Some are also locally made and the range felt a little bit different from your average homeware collection.

Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop
Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop

Moving on to the workshop, our host and teacher Olivia was exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable and she carefully explained each stage of the making process before we got started. The main material for our home-made terrazzo was jesmonite. This is a composite material that combines plaster, cement and a water-based plastic resin. Bright pots of saturated pigment were laid out, which we would use to colour our jesmonite chips as well as the base of our coasters.

Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop
Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop
Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop

The first stage was to carefully mix two batches of coloured jesmonite to make our chips for the coasters. I opted for a pale peach and a navy blue to match my living room at home. Measuring out the ingredients, we all made two separate batches of jesmonite resin, which would then be spread thinly onto sheets of plastic and left to dry. A quick cup of tea later and our coloured jesmonite was dry and ready to be broken up into chips.

Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop
Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop

After placing these pieces into cups, it was time to decide on the base colour for our coasters. My living space is relatively neutral and features hints of peach, blue and green, so I decided an off-white colour would work best. I added a touch of white and a little bit of mustard to the base to create a very pale cream colour. 

Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop

Next, we weighed out our jesmonite chips and Olivia provided us with some complimentary colours for us to add to our existing mix. Along with my peach and navy blue chips I added some mustard, pale pink and beige. These were then added into the base mixture of jesmonite and the entire lot was poured into two coaster moulds. The last stage was to tap the silicone moulds to ensure that all air bubbles would escape, then they were left to dry out completely.

Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop
Olivia Aspinall terrazzo coaster workshop

Olivia explained to us that she would take our coasters to her studio where she would sand and polish them to reveal the layers of our coloured chips. A few days later my coasters arrived in the post from Olivia and I absolutely love them - they complement my living room perfectly!

My expectations of making terrazzo was that it would be extremely complicated, but in reality it's simply a bit of colour theory, measuring and stirring! The trickiest part was choosing colours, but thankfully Olivia’s guidance was really helpful. Not only was it amazing to create something that seems so complicated by hand, but I so enjoyed learning about a new and exciting material – I’m positive that jesmonite will be making a firm impression on the interiors market very soon!

Check out pelican story online - their mailing list or Instagram will keep you posted on future events - the next one is happening in June (15th, 16th & 17th).  Olivia Aspinall will also list more workshops dates on her website and Instagram

Words: Nancy Straughan

Photography: Jemma Watts

Six indie shops hosting creative workshops

We love indie shops here at 91, and often wish we could spend more time in them. Luckily for us, the trend for indie store owners collaborating with creatives to host workshops means we can do exactly that. It really is a match made in heaven. Michelle Evans talks to six shopkeepers to find out more about why they do it and how it benefits both their shop and the creatives they work with. 

 Image courtesy of Botany

Image courtesy of Botany

We all like to feel like we are part of something meaningful. We look towards things that speak about the kind of life we want to lead and hold values that resonate with us. That counts for the purchases we make too, and unlike the consumerism of the late 20th century, the modern shopper is much more mindful, ethical and considered about the choices they make in the things they buy.

Independent shopkeepers with a bricks and mortar residence, know that they offer one golden thing that no online store can replicate: a real life store experience. It's the chance to connect with customers in a more meaningful way, giving them a more personalised and memorable experience. With this, retailers are finding ways to bring their shop to life by inviting creatives to join them with workshop experiences. It gives a unique way for a customer to participate with the shop, where they can feel part of the brand and learn something, or even make friends. For shopkeepers, it's also the opportunity to collaborate with like minded creatives, inviting them to set up a mini studio in store, and help show customers what the shop is all about.

 Life Story, Edinburgh, Scotland / Photo courtesy of  @wearetrouva

Life Story, Edinburgh, Scotland / Photo courtesy of @wearetrouva

 Squid Ink workshop at Life Story

Squid Ink workshop at Life Story

At Life Story in Edinburgh, owner Susan Doherty works with artists or makers who are associated with her business. ‘For example, when Squid Ink hosts workshops, they are using Sarah's (the creative behind Squid Ink) branded mini looms, that we also sell in the store. Participants often come back to buy one for a friend having fully understood themselves how they work and what the benefits of the product are, having attending a workshop.’

Not only does this enhance the story of the product and maker, it also shows that the shop has a love for craftsmanship, and encourages the customer to try craft themselves. The workshops create a buzz, make people curious and want to come in and find out more. This helps to raise awareness of the shop and collaborators alike.

Future workshops include macrame and leather purse making. Life Story @lifestoryedin

 Caro, Bruton, Somerset

Caro, Bruton, Somerset

 workshops at Caro

workshops at Caro

Having workshops in store is also a great way to build community. Natalie Jones has created an events calendar at Caro in Somerset to encourage collaboration. ‘Caro is situated in a very creative and convivial town. We are surrounded by a pool of people with a hugely varied arm of interests which I wanted to embrace at Caro. Having a space to encourage people to get together and learn a new skill or spend a few hours sharing ideas is a lovely thing to be a part of.’

The shop becomes a place of destination and discovery, where people not only build a more personal connection with the store, but also with each other. At Caro, Natalie has collaborated with creatives from jewellery designers to calligraphers to oscar winning photographers and says, ‘It has brought a fascinating mix of people to Caro which is fantastic.’

Upcoming workshop: Branding, Trends, Social Media & Blogging Workshop. Details here.

Caro / @carosomerset

 Sarah and Bendrix, Cheam, Surrey

Sarah and Bendrix, Cheam, Surrey

 Floral workshop hosted by Inspired Collective at Sarah and Bendrix

Floral workshop hosted by Inspired Collective at Sarah and Bendrix

Veronika Pollard and Petrica Harmsworth had a similar philosophy when they began running creative workshops at Sarah & Bendrix in Cheam, Surrey. ‘We started running the creative workshops (called Inspired Collective) because we wanted to give something a little different to the local community than just a gift store. Our aim was to create a space where people can come together to learn new skills, explore their creativity and make new friends at the same time.’

Workshops are a way for Veronika and Petrica to know their customers more, and develop their relationship with the creative community. 'We’re really keen on collaborating with local small businesses that focus on handmade, small-scale production, whether that’s through running workshops, stocking their product, and hopefully longer term, helping them to develop their business expertise.'

Fundamentally, the workshops have allowed us to be creative in different ways, brought new ideas and a closer connection to the local community. ‘Quite unexpectedly, we’re now working with a local creative crafting business, in hosting an event for a mental health charity, something we would never have envisaged a year ago!’

Find upcoming workshops here. Look out for a 91 Magazine workshop coming soon! Inspired Collective / @inspired.collective

 Home byKirsty, Roath, Wales

Home byKirsty, Roath, Wales

 floral workshops with Forbesfield flower school

floral workshops with Forbesfield flower school

Building on shared interests is a very natural way for shops to collaborate with creatives. Kirsty Patrick runs floristry workshops via her shop Home ByKirsty, along with Beth at Forbesfield flower school. Their story began as shop neighbours in Cardiff, and after a few successful classes together at Kirsty's new shop location in Roath, they decided to make the classes a regular event. With a combination of business savvy and floral artistry they have built a series of workshops across Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.

‘We work so well together, not only in our creative style, but we also balance each out - Beth teaching with her incredible knowledge of all things green, while I do the hidden organising and businessy bits. Having a business partner that virtually reads your mind is priceless, as running a business is tough.’ Their work together has become a partnership, where unique qualities of one business and owner, helps the other. Kirsty's bricks and mortar shop is the business base, while the workshops are in varied locations, helping to find new creative, engaged customers and spread the word about Home ByKirsty.

New workshops will be posted here. Home byKirsty / @homebykirsty

 Botany, Hackney, London

Botany, Hackney, London

 wildflower workshops at Botany / Photo:   Anna Jacobsen

wildflower workshops at Botany / Photo: Anna Jacobsen

Hosting workshops or classes can build a closer connection between shops and their customers. It also helps show a deeper message or ethos behind the shop, that people can connect with. At Botany in East London, Angela Maynard has curated a series of events that encourage people to step away from the digital world and make something with their hands.

‘So many of us are stuck behind a computer during the working day or using social media instead of pursuing hobbies like we may have done in the past. So to be able to take a few hours to explore our individuality – either through a wildflower walk used to inspire bouquet making, pinch pot making with a mediative approach, botanical drawing using the shops plant life as the subject matter, or learning about essential oils and how to make your own natural skincare, helps us (I think) to explore aspects of our personality, using our brains in a slower, more relaxed and focused way, that we may have forgotten about or not used for a long time.’ There is something very grounding about doing simple things with our hands, and focussing in a gentle way. The workshops become a form of relaxation, the chance to slow down, learn and be creative.

Workshop listings are here. Botany / @botanyshope5

 Bears Ice Cream Co, West London

Bears Ice Cream Co, West London

 Watercolour workshop at Bears Ice Cream

Watercolour workshop at Bears Ice Cream

At Bears Ice Cream company, imagination is their raison d'être: ‘Our mission has always been to give our customers the chance to experience creativity in some way. This is reflected in our unusual Signature Cone menu, the “make it yourself” Glacier or when they sit down and get drawing on our chalk table. Therefore it was a very natural step for us to start collaborating with Michelle Evans of Roxwell Press, on our watercolour x ice cream experience. For us food and art are two different mediums of expressing your passion.’

The class creates a unique atmosphere, and lets people 'live the brand', by learning to paint ice creams in watercolour, then creating a real one to eat. ‘Michelle brings her wonderful mix of bright colours into our shop and her relaxed way of teaching is a great start to our Saturday mornings. Collaborating with an artist brings in a great energy and seeing people leave after a painting class with a relaxed smile on their face and ice cream in hand makes our day.’ It has also opened up new avenues of collaboration, with gift and greeting cards designed by Michelle for the shop.

Michelle concludes: 'As an artist and designer, collaborating with shops on workshops has been a fantastic way to' step out of the studio and meet a new audience. It's inspiring to be creative with a group of people, in unusual places, and for all of us it feels like a fresh, liberating experience. We all learn from one another, I get to know a group of people who frequent a shop I feel akin to, and they learn some new watercolour techniques. Everyone comes away with something that helps them develop, something meaningful.'

Workshops at Bears can be found here, or for other watercolour workshops by Michelle, head here. Bears Ice Cream / @bearsicecream

The Importance of Purpose For Creative Projects

Today we have an in-depth, practical post for any of you pursuing a creative career or even a personal project or hobby, but need some focus and guidance. Marketing coach Kayte Ferris delves into the importance of purpose in your work, how to discover that purpose and then how to use it to your advantage. Pour yourself a cuppa and let's get started....

Tea on a pile of notebooks - finding purpose in your creative projects

In my work as a marketing coach for small creative businesses, one of the very first things I tackle with clients is their purpose – the reason their business exists and why they get up and work on it every day. Think about the brands you love or the last few non-necessities you bought. I’m willing to bet that you love those businesses because you buy into what they believe, and that their own views on life match up with yours. That’s the power of having a strong purpose at the core of your business; you build an audience of advocates who believe what you believe, and will support you through transitions and pivots in your products.

But I’m not just here to talk about business, because purpose is exceptionally important for our passion projects too. Whether you’re starting a new business, side hustling, or have a creative project you’re doing just for you, having a strong purpose is vital for keeping you on track, motivating you, and overcoming those guilty feelings of doing something just for you. It’s similar to how it’s easier to lose weight when you have an event coming up that you want to feel confident for – when you’re clear on why you’re doing something, everything else just flows.

In this post, I’m going to talk about why that purpose is so important and how it can help you in your creative project, as well as give you my tips for finding your purpose, the very same ones I talk through with my client’s at the beginning of their journeys.

Planning on a big piece of paper

Why is purpose important?

  • It’s an anchor - As creatives, we have a tendency to be pretty magpie-ish when it comes to opportunities and ideas. While this leads us to exciting, and at times life-changing things, it can also cause us to stray off our path and into something that isn’t particularly on brand or right for us as people. Whether it’s a sponsored brand collaboration that leaves you feeling icky, or coverage in a publication that doesn’t sit well, we all know the feeling when we’ve done something that didn’t feel right.

What a strong purpose does is anchor you in these situations. It gives you a standard to hold all opportunities and ideas up to and see if they directly serve that purpose. In this way, it helps you to be more objectively yes/no about new ideas, but it also ensures that every single thing you do is on brand and purposeful.

  • It’s a motivator - We all have days where we sit at our desk or walk into our studio and are just not feeling it. When the deadline is fast approaching but you’d rather walk across hot coals than tackle the thing that needs doing. Our motivation and energy naturally ebbs and flows, and we need to accept and work with that rather than fight against it.

A strong purpose, however, will make sure that you spend more time in flow than in ebb. Particularly with passion projects, when life more easily gets in the way and it becomes harder to justify the time and energy you’re spending, having a core purpose you can continue to come back to is a way of giving yourself accountability and justifying the project to yourself.

Let’s say, for example, you’ve started a blog whose purpose is to make you practice your writing so you can take on more fulfilling tasks at work. Having that purpose statement on a post-it stuck to your laptop, or simply remembering it every time you dread sitting at a desk will put the fire in your belly to carry on.

  • It builds community - This one is particularly important if you are working on your business, but community can also be extremely powerful for your creative projects too. Your purpose is a big neon sign to your target customers and other like-minded souls that you are for them, and it gives them a reason to jump on board with you.

With all the noise on the internet we are all in a constant state of sifting for what’s relevant to us. It’s like we’re panning for gold, and the internet is constantly pouring a deluge of silt into our sieves, so we have to continually shake through the dirt keeping a beady eye out for the nuggets that are useful to us. What we have to do as businesses, or the gold in this analogy, is make sure that we are so shiny and bright that our people can see us clearly in the mud.

Now everyone is looking for slightly different gold – some people want great big chunks, others want smaller pieces that are just perfect for what they need. What our purpose does is highlight to our people that we are the nugget they’re looking for. It’s not about standing out to everyone; it’s about making sure your people see you and recognise you.

Purpose statement for creative business planning

How do you find your purpose?

Ok, so hopefully by now I’ve convinced you, but now you have a bigger nagging worry of ‘what even is my purpose?’. The first thing to do is not panic: the vast majority of people I work with haven’t got as far as thinking about their purpose, sometimes even years into their business. It also takes time to think about your purpose – this is a meaningful mantra and not something you’ll come up with in five minutes. It’s a good idea to sit with these exercises, go for some mulling-over-walks and let your purpose develop organically.

One thing to be aware of is that people will often fall into the trap of confusing their ‘what’ or their ‘how’ with their ‘why’. For example, you may think “I love making homewares” – that’s your ‘what’. Building on that you may say “I’m passionate about using recycled materials” – great, that’s your ‘how’. “I am working to make the smallest footprint I can on the planet, and want to provide others with ways to lessen their impact too” – now that’s your why. Do you see how much of a difference that last statement will have move on anchoring and motivating you, but also helping others to get on board with that purpose and form a community around it?

So how do we start to draw out your why? Below are a few of my favourite exercises.

  • What do you want to be known for?

Two friends are having a conversation. One says, “I really need X”, and the other friend excitedly recommends you as the guru for all things X. In this situation, what is X? What do you want your name to be synonymous with? What do you want to be known for?

Using this as a nucleus, you can begin to build your purpose out of and around it. Is the answer you came up with more of a ‘what’ or a ‘how’? If so, track backwards to the ‘why’. If it’s already closer to a ‘why’, flesh that out – what about your story inspired that ‘why’? Make it real and tangible in order for it to be truly meaningful.

Exercises to find purpose in your creative projects
  • Ask why five times

This exercise can be difficult and frustrating, but in spite of that it’s annoyingly effective. If you’re struggling to get to the nub of your purpose, this exercise is about challenging your statements and deepening your thinking by continually asking you to go one step further.

Here’s an example of what this exercise might look like:

·      “I make homewares” – Why?

·      …”because I couldn’t find anything I wanted for my home on the market” – Why was that?

·      “…because it tended to be mass-produced and poorly made” – Why is that important?

·      “…because I wanted a home that felt cosy and organic, unique to me” – Why?

·      “…because we moved a lot when I was a kid and nowhere ever felt comforting like that” – Why is that important?

·      “…because I believe that your home should be the place you feel most comforted, safe and at peace”

By challenging each answer you get closer to what is actually driving you, and what will therefore inspire others to join you.

  • What good do you do in the world?

This is an especially good exercise for those who struggle to see the value in their project, or who can’t put a finger on why it’s important they continue doing what they do. It’s also great for thinking about those passion projects and continuing to be inspired by them.

I’ve worked with graphic designers who feel like they provide ‘just a logo’, or shop owners who say ‘it’s only a cushion’. That is not a very motivating or inspiring way of thinking! While none of us creating online are quite at the ‘solving world hunger’ end of spectrum, we are still doing good in the world. By creating a logo that graphic designer has given their client the confidence to hand out their business card without shame and grow their business – so perhaps that can be their why. The shop owner is selling cushions by young designers just starting out and giving them a chance to pursue their creative dreams – maybe that’s what motivates them.

Even if your passion project means that you are calmer and shout at the kids less often, that’s still doing good in the world. Thinking about the value that comes from your work from a different viewpoint is a great way of pinpointing what is motivating you.

Like I said earlier, your purpose won’t necessarily come to you in five minutes, or even five hours. Even if it feels weird thinking so deeply like this, at the other end you have a totally invaluable guiding light to help you out on ebb days and inspire you to ever greater things in the future. With a purpose, everything else becomes easier – everything that you talk about in your marketing will flow from here, what you post on social media, even which channels your on in the first place come from that purpose. As you and your business change over time, so too will your purpose flex and adapt – treat it as a living thing you continue to nurture and work on and you’ll have a very happy creative life together.

Kayte is running Out Of The Woods workshops in Bristol and London exploring business purpose and using it to grow this April - Find out more here. She blogs about growing a soulful business and has lots of free resources you can download and work through to explore this concept further. Thank you Kayte for this insightful post! 

The Importance of Purpose For Creative Projects

Discover new talent at UAL shop

We love discovering new designers and makers through our research for 91 Magazine, and it's always exciting to see the talent that is emerging from our younger generation, whether that is from self taught artisans or those graduating from colleges and universities around the UK and beyond. University of Arts London (UAL) have recently set up shop in London's Holborn area to promote and sell the work of their alumni, calling the outlet 'not just a shop.' 

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UAL Not Just A Shop 1 by Damian Griffths_1200.jpg

The six colleges that make up UAL, which includes Central St Martins and London College of Fashion, has educated many high achieving creatives from London Fashion Week designers to Turner Prize winners, so the calibre of the work stocked in the shop is sure to be high. The launch collection included  By AlexChatty FeetCrispin FinnJacqueline ColleyKangan AroraTatty DevineThe London RefineryWrap and Yuta Segawa.

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not just a shop_Products by UAL Alumni_photography by Yeshen Veneema_03_1200.jpg

The range showcases of mix of products from fashion and homeware to stationery and artwork - definitely worth a look if you are still in search of Christmas gifts! Any sales directly benefit the designers as they are wholesaling their products, and any profits made by the shop go back into funding the University's enterprise programme which supports the students with embarking on their professional career. 

UAL Not Just A Shop 2 by Damian Griffths_1200.jpg

If you are in London do try and pop in - let's continue to support the value of independent business, nurture the creative community and help Britain's talent to thrive. 

Opening hours: Monday-Friday 11:00-15.00
Location: 272 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EY
Closest tubes: Holborn/Chancery Lane
For more information visit: notjustashop.arts.ac.uk / @notjustashopual

Creative women in the north

Traditionally, London has been the go-to location for creatives in the UK. After all, there is an endless supply of inspiration found on the walls of the world-class galleries or echoing across the many music venues – not to mention the connections, buyers, journalists and influential folk that swarm the streets on a daily basis. However, with house prices booming and the cost of rent reaching eye-watering heights, makers are heading further north. Hannah Clugston chats to five business women taking their creativity that little bit closer to the North Pole.

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Karen Mabon, illustrator, Edinburgh

How did you find yourself living up north? I grew up in the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands and gradually moved south (I did my undergraduate degree in Edinburgh and then my masters in London). When I was in London I always felt a bit homesick and missed the space and time I felt were more readily available in the north. After a few years in London, I moved up to York and now I live in Edinburgh.

What are the advantages of running a creative business in the north of the country? I found anxiety over paying my bills in London was getting in the way of my creativity. My work is quite playful and fun and I find it hard to design anything when I feel stressed. I also feel more able to develop a personal aesthetic in Edinburgh. In London, I always felt very aware of trends and what was fashionable, but it's different in the north because trends take a little longer to reach us, so it's possible to be more selective in your inspiration and reference material. Of course London has so many wonderful and obvious advantages, but for me personally, access to the countryside and quality of life are more important.

Is there a strong creative community? It's definitely growing as people realise it is possible to live in the north and build a business here. I think you have to put a bit more effort into finding like-minded individuals, but when you do, they are brilliant. The community is so supportive here; there is a sense of comradery as opposed to competition. I met a few amazing designers last year through the design curator Dr Stacey Hunter who is doing a lot to promote contemporary design in Scotland and we have remained in touch, sharing tips and contacts and generally helping each other muddle through the creative industry, which can be a bit of a minefield.

Name one thing you love about living in the north... Summer nights stay light for longer!

www.karenmabon.com

 Image: Kirsten Johnson Photography

Image: Kirsten Johnson Photography

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Nat Bond, skincare creator at Nathalie Bond Organics, Sheffield

How did you find yourself living up north? I ended up moving to Sheffield when I met my husband Andy. We dated and had our engagement long-distance for a year and then got married, at which point London or Sheffield were the options. Sheffield won. 

What are the advantages of running a creative business in the north of the country? The first thing that comes to mind is cost. In the north the overheads of running a business are smaller. But above all, I would say there is a growing hub of innovation and creativity bubbling up in the north and it's exciting to be a part of that.

Is there a strong creative community? There definitely is. We don't get the chance to network much because we have young kids, but I love meeting lots of interesting and creative people at trade shows. One of my best friends runs the Sheffield Creative Guild which is an amazing community representing all creative fields. It's nice to see vibrant new businesses springing up, but also see old businesses like scissor manufacturer Ernest Wright thriving because people appreciate the wonderful craftsmanship of their products.

Name one thing you love about living in the north... Nature. Sheffield is full of trees and we live minutes away from the Peak District National Park, which is stunning.

www.nathaliebond.com

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Sophie Lee, plant curator at Geo-Fleur, York

How did you find yourself living up north? My parents are from the north and I grew up here. I went to university in London, but it felt like the right thing to move back up here again.

What are the advantages of running a creative business in the north of the country? Everything! I ran my business in London for two years, but the main benefit to the north is cost; rent is 75% cheaper and the cost of living is 60% cheaper. The thing that really wins me over though, is that everyone is much friendlier. I'm currently searching for more craft markets and events. The London market scene is totally saturated, but there are only a select few up north, which my friend Sean Mort is changing with his Northern Craft Market - @northerncraft.

Is there a strong creative community? There is. Sean set up some community meet-ups for northern craft makers, which is great! As I live in a rural village on the edge of York, it is difficult to meet like-minded makers, but the more northern events I participate in, the more people I meet!

Name one thing you love about living in the North... Everything, the countryside, the space and the fresh air!

www.geo-fleur.com

Idaho Manchester
Idaho shop in Manchester

Amy Bartlett, shopkeeper and buyer at IDAHO, Manchester

How did you find yourself living up north? I grew up in Staffordshire but came to university in Manchester nine years ago to study Textiles. I studied Interior Styling on a summer course at Central St Martins and even though I really enjoyed my time in London, I remember feeling that people were too busy to acknowledge you. In Manchester, life tends to be a bit more relaxed and I’ve found it easy to be able to make contacts to develop my business.

What are the advantages of running a creative business in the north of the country? Despite the fact Manchester has always been a bustling, busy city, it is such a privilege to be part of a movement in the north where there are new start-ups emerging across the region. Altrincham is the perfect example of growth in the north and I’m very happy to be part of it.

Is there a strong creative community? With us being located next to Altrincham Market, it’s difficult to not feel inspired by our creative neighbourhood. We’ve had the chance to meet creatives in a variety of forms such as the skilled boys from Sugo Pasta Kitchen who never fail to deliver, the artists in the studios around the corner, the best coffee from our new neighbours at Common Ground and our other fellow indies such as Edit & Oak and Rose & Grey.

Name one thing you love about living in the north... Probably the accessibility of visiting neighbouring towns and cities. I love how we’re never too far from an exhibition or gig in Manchester or Liverpool, or from a walk in the Cheshire countryside. We’ve truly got it all on our doorstep!

www.idahoshop.co.uk

 Image: Ohladedah Ltd

Image: Ohladedah Ltd

 Image: Sian Hallam-Davies

Image: Sian Hallam-Davies

Marianne Slater, florist at Frances & Rose, Derbyshire

How did you find yourself living up north? I was born in Derbyshire in a little village outside of Bakewell. I also studied at Leeds College of Art – I’ve been a northerner through thick and thin!

What are the advantages of running a creative business in the north of the country? One advantage is the amazing community I have found here. I also find the incredible beauty of the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales gives my business some stunning backdrops and venues to work with. We are so lucky to live with so much green space and breathing in the fresh air of the Peak District hills means so much for my mind and soul. I work best here, I feel at home.

Is there a strong creative community? I find the community in the north so supportive. The network of like-minded creatives is amazing, not to mention the incredible female community that is booming right now. I have been lucky to be part of a number of different groups based in Sheffield, Derby and Chesterfield, as well as co-working and collaborating with some of the best in my industry. I know a lot of other creative business owners and feel lucky to be part of this network of talented individuals. I have made friends for life, all through my business!

Name one thing you love about living in the north... How friendly everyone is! I also love the countryside and the beauty all around me. As I source my flowers locally, the northern countryside offers opportunities for my business that I might not get in a built-up city. It’s also great for my wellbeing, I feel I can escape and find peace and quiet so easily!

www.francesandrose.co.uk

Thanks for the insight ladies and to Hannah for conducting the interviews. It's truly wonderful to see creativity and independent businesses thriving in all areas of our country and that we can all connect through the wonderful world wide web!

How to shoot flowers & plants like a pro

If you are wanting to up your photography game, then shooting flowers, plants and nature are one of the easiest and most accessible subjects to hone your skills. Plus, lets face it, they are enjoyable to photograph and great for filling your Instagram feed! I can't even begin to imagine the number of floral images that have been posted on the app since it began... gazillions surely! To get you started on the road to better images, photographer Eva Nemeth is sharing her top tips for shooting great botanical imagery, whether it's in your garden, the local park or even in your kitchen.... 

It’s first light, and my morning rituals are quite the same every day: I make coffee and go in the garden to see what’s blooming - keen to see if anything new has appeared since the day before. Or, I make coffee and check Instagram - to see what’s blooming and if anything new appeared since the day before. These are two areas of my life that inspire me immensely, so I’m going to share a little bit about how to combine the two successfully.

Nature and flowers are everywhere - there for us to enjoy and be inspired by. Just step out into your own garden, head down to your local florists, along a country lane or to a city garden, and there is an abundance of opportunities to practice your botanical photography. Even if you prefer to shoot indoors at home, there’s so much you can bring out of the flowers or plants that you bring in. 

The creativity we see on Instagram every day is endless and forever inspiring, and you don’t need fancy props to be creative. I’m lucky enough to be getting paid for photographing flowers and gardens, so below I’ve compiled a few of my top tips to help you improve your own images, perfect for prettifying your feed.

Plant, flower or vegetable?

When we visit a garden, most of us are drawn in by the flowers - beautiful climbing roses, blooming borders and wildflower meadows. But a garden is so much more than just flowers. It’s also vegetables, trees, textures, tools, pots and seeds. These are the details that I think give a garden its own personality, so look around and take advantage of all aspects of the space.

Time of day

Try to shoot in the morning or late in the day to avoid harsh sunshine. It’s absolutely ok to play with contrast in the bigger picture but when you get close, you’ll notice how white flowers for example lose their detail in the bright light. Golden hour (sunrise and sunset) is a great time, or take advantage of a misty morning for great atmospheric shots.  

Give me light

I never use anything other than natural light. Nature wouldn’t want it any other way, I’m sure! Bear this in mind when indoors too – try to place your plants or flowers near a window and turn off any artificial light sources.

The angle

Try shooting from an unusual angle. This often means you capture something that people wouldn’t normally see. I absolutely love lying in a summer meadow or at ground level with snowdrops (very carefully, of course!). 

Playing with colour

When it comes to colour, I always try to avoid anything too bold and have realised my preference is for softer colours. But this is totally personal. Nature is pretty good at the whole colour thing, but great creative with it – try using similar shades to make an ombre spectrum of blooms, or match your flowers to other props in your image, like beautiful old books, or a painted chair for example.

Props

I don’t use too many props, but if I do, I like to choose from my collection of terracotta pots (my addiction) and I love to collect packets of seeds and garden tools - especially old ones - anything that says garden. Oh yes, and garden books - you can find beautiful botanical books at flea markets, car boot sales and good old-fashioned book shops. Experiment with materials and tools such as linen, brown paper, twine and scissors – particularly when shooting cut flowers. My other favourite props are pretty doors and windows!

Floral flat lays

I don’t have a styling background but I believe my own style has developed over time. Flowers are perfect for styling any images whether it’s a shot of the book you’re currently reading, or alongside your morning cuppa. Flat lays are hugely popular on Instagram, plus they are lots of fun to style and shoot and can be done even in the smallest of spaces - all you need are a few different background options. I like using old wooden boards - rustic or painted white - stone and fabrics. You can gather a collection together or you even buy photo backgrounds these days from Capture by Lucy – vinyl backdrops of different surfaces – anything from 'peeling paint door' to 'scratched metal' to 'pink plaster'. Try lots of different compositions for your flat lays, and again remember natural light is best.

Playing with aperture

If you are shooting with an DSLR, then try to get the best lens you can afford. The great advantage of shooting with a prime lens is that it lets you work in low light conditions (ie. early morning/late evening when the light is best). If you shoot with a large aperture, for example f1.4, the lens will allow your subject to stand out nicely, while the rest of the image will have that nice soft, blurred background (shallow depth of field). You can achieve this on your camera phone by holding your finger on the screen where you want the main focus to be, although results from a DSLR are usually best. If you'd prefer to have all of your subject in focus, for example, in a landscape image, then use a bigger f-stop (ie. f32) and a tripod is essential here.

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Any rules?

One common photography “rule” is the ‘rule of thirds’. It’s a great rule to follow but it can be broken. Often when I shoot a floral portrait, I centre the flower for more impact. And of course stepping outside the norm lends itself to creativity and unusual compositions so feel free to bend the rules!

No matter what camera or lens you use, what flowers or plants you photograph, the most important thing is to enjoy it, love what you do. Share your photos with the world and you’ll find a wonderful community of people who love the same things as you do.  Below are ten of our favourite hashtags to find botanical inspiration over on Instagram, and of course use on your own floral photography: 

#moodforfloral / #justbefloral / #inspirewithblooms / #aflowerenthusiast / #myfloralmonth / #petalsandprops / #simplenaturefinds / #slowfloralstyle / #underthefloralspell / #thefloralseasons

Images and words by Eva Nemeth - find Eva on Instagram

Summer creative retreats & workshops

A few years back your only option to take a creative course outside of formal education would have been taking a night class at your local college. (I remember taking one myself in Quark Express many moons ago!) These days, the opportunities to feed your creative soul alongside like-minded people are abundant, with all crafts and skills being catered for. Some are much more comprehensive than just a few hours after work, and in fact whisk you away for a few days in a beautiful location, to fully immerse yourself in the lifestyle and connect more deeply with your 'tribe'. We've rounded up a few workshops and retreats that we think you should definitely consider for this summer.... 

SISTERHOOD - Thursday 22nd June – Sunday 25th June 2017 / Fforest Camp, Cardigan, Wales

Hosted by Lou Archell of Little Green Shed, Sisterhood is a biannual retreat for women, allowing you to disconnect from the digital world and connect with your creativity, experience a slice of 'slow living', while spending time with other women you are guaranteed to gel with over delicious suppers and candlelight. 

This year's event, held in a beautiful setting on the Welsh coast, will allow you to truly escape the rat race, while simultaeously inspiring you for when you do return to daily life. Sessions include: Morning Yoga with Melanie Barnes, Wild Swimming with Flora Jamieson, Kokedama with Emma Rice and Fire side book club with 91's very own deputy editor Laura Pashby.

Pricing starts at £560, and includes 3 nights accommodation, all meals plus tea and coffee on tap, all workshops & sessions. To book visit: Sisterhood Camp

MODERN CRAFT / BOTANICAL WORKSHOPS FROM KIN - Sunday 16th July 2017 - 11:00am-5:00pm / The Forge, Bristol

Kin Workshops were conceived by two creatives from different vocations - Grace May, a florist and Rosie Harbottle, an illustrator - whose talents and skills compliment and combine perfectly to host workshops which explore more than one creative pursuit. The day, split into two halves focuses firstly on floral techniques, where Grace teaches how to construct a beautiful crown of flowers. In the afternoon, Rosie leads a painting workshop inspired by your botanical creation.   

Grace and Rosie also hosted a retreat in Marrakesh just last week, so this workshop is a chance to get a taster of what you might find at future retreats they might have in the pipeline. We imagine it will be a day full of Instagram photo ops! 

The day workshop costs £145 and includes a seasonal lunch served by The Forge, and all materials are included. To book visit: Kin Workshops

WOMEN WHO CREATE - CREATIVE BUSINESS WEEKENDFriday 9th June 2017 at 6:30pm - Sunday 11th June 2017 at 10:00pm / The Forge, Bristol

It appears fab Bristol venue The Forge has all the best events this summer! In June they will host a full weekend, run by Women Who Create - a community and platform for creative women.  The two days will be packed with creative inspiration, relaxation, confidence building, slow crafting and business/career motivation, and is aimed at women at any stage in their creative career. 

Covering a range of aspects involved in running a creative business, sessions include: stress and anxiety management, business clarity and creative visioning and even plant propagation and garden crafts - for when you just need to unwind. 

The ticket price includes a welcome drink and welcome pack, all sessions, lunch, snacks and tea and coffee. Full price is £260 but 91 readers can take advantage of a special discount to receive £30 off - Simply book here and use code 91VIP.

THE MAKELIGHT RETREAT - Friday 23rd June - Sunday 25th June 2017 / Talton Lodge, Warwickshire

Makelight duo, Emily Quinton and Stef Lewandowski extend their creative and business offering to a weekend spent in the English countryside near Stratford-upon-Avon. Focusing on three key areas, Creativity - Growth - Balance, attendees will learn and gather inspiration through workshops, talks and mentoring sessions.

You'll get to enjoy the great outdoors in the comfort of some cool teepees, yurts and a cosy barn, along with lots of country walks, chat, tasty food and relaxation. The cost for the weekend is £695 but 91 readers can get 20% off with the code 91magazine. Book your place here

We'd love to hear if you attend any of these events! If you do and would like to write about your experience on the 91 blog, please get in touch! 

Homeware with Heart: Makers 4 Refugees

Today sees the launch of Makers 4 Refugees, a wonderful project bringing together a global collective of makers creating work to raise money for refugee charity Help Refugees. Makers 4 Refugees founder Pip Wilcox, tells us about the project - and how we can all contribute...

How did the project come about Pip? 

I should begin by warning you that 2017 might be a tricky year for your bank balance. But for all the right reasons! Let me explain…

During a weekend in late December, an idea which had been percolating in my mind for weeks, finally took shape. I drew up a list of over 50 makers - makers whose work I admire, and I floated an idea to the group - we would each create work, the proceeds of the sales of which would go to the charity Help Refugees. The response was immediate and generous. Within days, I had a list of incredible artists and craftspeople in the UK, Europe, the US and Australia, all of whom wanted to take part. By the end of the week Makers 4 Refugees was born.

 Credit: Sophie Heron

Credit: Sophie Heron

 Credit: Julia Hodgson

Credit: Julia Hodgson

Tell us more...

Makers 4 Refugees is a simple project founded on a desire to make a difference through making. 2016 was a year in which the world witnessed more than its fair share of horror. There were days when I felt powerless and ineffectual, and profoundly aware of my privilege. During these times, making can seem like an insignificant and trivial activity, but it's what we makers can do. This project is a way for over 40 makers from around the globe to come together and give our making extra meaning and purpose, by raising funds to support some of those people currently living through such desperate times.

 Credit: Luke Eastop

Credit: Luke Eastop

How does Makers 4 Refugees work?

Each of the makers involved has been invited to select a week from the 2017 calendar. During their week, each maker is releasing a piece or collection of work which they will be auctioning or selling, and the entire sales proceeds (less shipping and processing fees) will be donated to Help Refugees through the Makers 4 Refugees fundraising page.

To find out who is selling what, where and when, follow @makers4refugees on Instagram, that's where I'll be sharing images and details of the beautiful work up for grabs, as well as updating my own website during the year. If you’d like to check our fundraising progress at any point, the Makers 4 Refugees fundraising page will show a running total throughout the year.

Which makers are involved?

The stellar line-up of makers who have come together from around the world is extraordinary – and some of them rarely release their work directly to the public which adds to the thrill of having them on board! From the UK we have people like Luke Eastop, Sarah JerathTom Kemp, Juliet Macleod and Jono Smart (all ceramics, of course!); Julia Hodgson (textiles), Jo McAllister (jewellery), Luke Hope and Sophie Heron (woodenwares) and Flora Jamieson (contemporary stained glass). I couldn’t be happier to tell you that from Europe, the US and Australia are some of my all-time favourite pottery crushes including Jessica Coates, Diana Fayt, Nicolette Johnson and Maryam Riazi. It really is going to be the most delightful artisan feast! 

You can find the full (and amazing!) line-up on my website.

 Credit: Maryam Riazi

Credit: Maryam Riazi

 Credit: Pip Wilcox

Credit: Pip Wilcox

Is there anything else happening to raise money? 

Thanks to the enthusiasm of the making community, this fundraising project has started expanding in recent weeks to include several workshops run by skilled makers. We're currently finalising workshops on weaving, street photography, indoor photography and ceramics, with other exciting events in the pipeline. Details of each of these will be added to my website and posted on Instagram as and when they are confirmed.

When does it all kick off? 

Makers 4 Refugees starts today. I’m auctioning a collection of my work on Instagram - and I’m both excited and nervous about this! I’ve set myself a goal of raising £500 before passing the fundraising baton on to Lesley Bramwell of Essence + Alchemy (maker of gorgeous small batch botanical scented goods - and recently featured on the 91 blog) who is selling a special collection of beautiful candles during the following week.

It’s an extraordinary act of generosity from each of the makers who have said yes to my Makers 4 Refugees invitation. I know that this generosity will be more than matched by the people who will support this endeavour by buying and bidding on the work that’s donated. Without them we’ll fall at the first hurdle!

 Credit: Pip Wilcox

Credit: Pip Wilcox

So, please do follow the project on Instagram, and take the opportunity to buy beautiful work, from an incredibly talented, and generous collective of makers.

Thank you Pip for sharing this inspiring project, we are so excited to follow along, and know our wallets will definitely be lighter over the coming months! :) 

Follow Makers 4 Refugees on: 

Instagram

 Facebook

and via Pip’s website

Seeking success

Today we have an inspiring guest post compiled by new contributor and photographer Maria Bell. Maria delves into the creative lives of six women, currently running their own businesses, to discover how they define 'success'. Over to you Maria...

There are endless things that motivate us creatives to do what we do but (consciously or not), the desire to ‘be successful’ is one that we undeniably all share.

Yet how much does that desire help to push us to be the best that we can be, and how much does it contribute to feelings of overwhelming pressure and late night spirals of self doubt? When there are so many different career options and ways to get there, what does ‘being successful’ even mean nowadays?

We spoke to six of the most inspiring creatives, small business owners and entrepreneurs to ask them what it means to them to ‘be successful’, how they got to where they are now and a little bit of advice for us to put success into a positive perspective.

…And make you realise we’re all in it together. 

Nik Southern, Florist - Grace and Thorn

What does ‘being successful’ mean to you?

Firstly, happiness in what I am doing. I was considered hugely successful in recruitment for 13 years but didn't feel it. Now that I have found what I love to do and am my own boss, I feel far more content and for me, feeling content and happy is what brings personal success.

How did you get to where you are now and how did you stay motivated?

Through a lot hard work, grit and determination. I want my business to excel in everything we do, to offer something innovative, new and fresh; I am a perfectionist, a control freak and I don't settle for mediocrity. But being a boss is hard, no matter how bad you are feeling or what you have going on, you have to put on your best game face and get on with it and be a good, strong, consistent and emphatic leader. So I make sure I have one day a weekend where I totally relax, walk the dogs and cook, catching up with some life admin which has gone out of the window since I started.

What advice would you give to others?

If you believe in yourself enough and work hard enough, you can do anything you want to. Be nice to people and passionate about what you do and never do things by half!

www.graceandthorn.com

 Photo Credit: Tom Doran

Photo Credit: Tom Doran

Sophie Sellu, Designer, Maker, Wood Carver - Grain and Knot

What does ‘being successful’ mean to you?

 I really don’t think that you can measure success, it’s completely subjective but to me, being successful is giving myself the ability to work when I want and make items that are loved by many people. It isn't a measure of how much money that I make, but how many people I can meet and connect with along my journey. I also think that with the age of social media it’s so difficult to judge success. You can see every aspect of everyone’s curated life, the majority of which may not be true…

How did you get there & what were you motivated by?

I was motivated by the need to do something with my hands, to work for myself, to get out of the cycle of routine and I wanted to take creative control. Once I stopped worrying about financial security, I was able to work towards that without it being top of the list, but I have doubts every day. About my work life, creativity, social life. It’s one of those things that I can't get away from! I find that writing lists of my achievements is a way to keep on track and realise how far I have come.

 What advice would you give to others?

Give yourself a timeframe, and work out how much money is needed to give your venture a try.  If after that time you have not managed to get your feet on the ladder, or have spent too much money either move on or change aspects of it to make it work. Try and take time to switch off and don't let your venture take over your life! It’s so tricky to walk away and take time for yourself when you are trying to make something work, but it’s really important to enjoy the little things.

www.grainandknot.com

Victoria Harrison, Shop Owner - Toro Studio

What does ‘being successful’ mean to you?

Success isn't really a word that I feel very motivated by. I view this whole thing as a journey, I try to work my hardest, try to have fun and am continually overwhelmed by the support I receive along the way. I feel like success is so often measured by how much money we make and the pressure to make more, to be able to afford the unaffordable lifestyle, rather than make the most of the successes that come in forms and guises other than money.

How did you get to where you are now and what motivated you to get there?

I had no idea what I wanted to do for years and years, working in many different industries and countries throughout my twenties. Where I am now is made up of all of those experiences and influences. I am so lucky that the place I have chosen to live now is also the home to so many talented, young and creative business owners forming an invaluable support network and sounding platform - we are all doing amazing things and all rooting for each other.

What advice would you give?

Don't expect to know where you want to be. Don't be too hard on yourself and treat it as a journey, if you take another path it isn't a failure, you are growing and changing all the time so be flexible. No-one is judging you. Manage your expectations: don't expect to complete everything on your overflowing to-do list, pick a realistic number of things to achieve and don't spread yourself too thin. 

www.toro-studio.com

 Photo credit: Dunja Opalko

Photo credit: Dunja Opalko

Ariana Ruth, Stylist & Managing Editor - In Clover magazine

What does ‘being successful’ mean to you?

I think that there are lots of different ways to measure success, sometimes people focus purely on money, the number of followers they have or getting a particular job title. Success comes in so many forms. To me success is being happy, loving what you do and by some miracle being able to make a living off of it. I'm not entirely there yet but getting closer all the time!

How did you get to where you are now and what motivated you to get there?

Undoubtedly my parents have been a huge influence on me. They're both such inspiring, creative people and have always encouraged me to do what I want and work in a creative field. I'm also a bit of a workaholic so the freelance lifestyle is perfect for me but I still have doubts about myself! I think because I've never doubted the actual path that I'm on, it's made me a lot more vigilant. I know that the only way forward is just to keep going, take on projects that challenge me and learn from the experience, be open to opportunities and collaborate with others.

What advice would you give?

Write out a list of goals and the steps on how to achieve them with deadlines. Sometimes when you're working on a goal it can be daunting, create mini goals for yourself. This can make a huge task a little less scary! If there is someone that you admire and want to work with - send them an email. I’ve gotten a lot of work from doing this, you’d be surprised how little people actually do this, your email will stand out.

www.readinclovermagazine.com

 Photo credit: Issy Croker

Photo credit: Issy Croker

Alex Hely-Hutchinson, Chef -  Author of 26 Grains

What does ‘being successful’ mean to you?

The measure of success is different for everyone, but success comes in two forms for me. Firstly, I believe it’s doing what you love; for me that's cooking and being able to earn a living from it. Secondly, it's overcoming the challenges, big and small, every day. It's being able to conquer your doubt, doubt by others and recognising the accomplishments achieved alone and together.

What is real is that success is constant, every day you're achieving something. The thing is, the threshold of success moves with every achievement. If I said to myself two years ago that we would have the site, team and book that we do today, I wouldn't have believed you. Then when I'm here, I'm continually asked, where to next. Really, this is all I could have asked for and it's important to recognise that.

How did you get to where you are now and what motivated you to get there?

I think taking it slow, staying true to my goals rather than being influenced by the way the market is developing. And also, the kindness of many whether that be mentors, influencers or my family working on the stall.

 Could you give any advice to others that may be struggling to get to where they want to be?

As good as it is to look forward, it's important to look back and recognise what has been achieved in the past. Don't be proud, my experience of success or what I regard as success, has come from the efforts of many. Ask for help, work with people you admire and achieve something wonderful. Also sleep. Sleep is so important. I didn't sleep at the beginning because I thought that meant failure. Take time for yourself and you'll be a million times more efficient and productive with your working time.

www.26grains.com

Jenny Kiker, Artist - Living Pattern

What does ‘being successful’ mean for you personally?

I feel successful because I have established a comfortable home environment for myself and get to spend my days pursuing art while inspiring others.

How did you get to where you are now and how did you stay motivated?

When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was make art, that never went away, so motivation isn't a problem. Doing all the other things that come with running a business take self discipline but I am most motivated by my customer's reaction when they receive a beautifully packaged piece of art on their doorstep.

What advice would you give to others?

I would say be quick to take an endeavour and quick to exit an endeavour. I explored many, many artistic styles and creative products before Living Pattern came about. For example, I used to make art with metallics paints on lacquered wood before botanical watercolour became my signature style. Just keep exploring the things that interest you and you'll find what you're looking for!

www.livingpattern.net

Creative Business Inspiration for a New Year

 Image by  Laura Pashby

Image by Laura Pashby

Here at 91 we are all creative freelancers, with varied portfolio careers. We understand all too well the challenges (and the thrills) of running a creative business. It can sometimes be hard to stay focussed and energised if you work freelance, or from home, so we thought that we'd start the year with a dose of creative business inspiration. Here are some blog posts, articles and podcasts that have helped us to feel positive about our creative business (and creative life) plans for 2017...

1. Tara Swiger's podcast on The Importance of Planning. This is a great place to start if you're not sure which direction to take your business in 2017. Tara also offers a comprensive Map-Making Guide, which you can download for a small fee.

2. Jen Carrington's thoughts on 10 Ways You Can Live and Work Wholeheartedly in 2017 aims to show you how to make 2017 your most meaningful, focused and wholehearted year yet.

3. If you find this time of year difficult, and feel overwhelmed by comparisons between yourself and those you see around you in life, or on social media, take a moment to read and be comforted by Sas Petherick's piece: read this if you feel like time is running out for you.

4. This piece by Gretchen Rubin in the Guardian talks about how to use the power of habits to change your life for the better in 2017.

5. Following a successful year in 2016, Sara Tasker of Me and Orla shares her thoughts on 5 Ways to Grow Your Creative Business This Year.

Our brilliant columnist Meredith Crawford shares her own thoughts on life with a creative business in each issue of 91. If you haven't already snapped up a copy of this Autumn/ Winter issue of 91, be quick- we're down to the last few boxes and they are selling fast.