Tag Archives: Self Employment

“Relax and Formulate a Plan”

This  beautiful, wiggly wall over Lingmoor Fell is an allegory of the way my week – and emotional state – has been fluctuating since we walked that way on Monday. At one point on I was surrounded by botched printed vases, newly created landfill to prick my conscience, a mountain of useless greyscale printouts after my printer forgot how to do colour, no lights downstairs after all the fuses went (I looked in the fusebox but it seemed to be very windy and cold in there which is odd) and the DPD delivery driver stuck up to his axels in the mud outside. It has felt at times like I’m living in a kind of Krypton Factor game show for dummies, where every task has involved a massive hassle and steep learning curve; still, it’s much more satisfying when something goes right at last if it has driven you to tears for hours beforehand. Walking in the brittle spring sunshine, arms pinkening and prickling with unaccustomed exposure to sunlight and tummy rumbling with too much coffee and not enough cake, we climbed to the summit of Lingmoor and learned some lessons from the survival bag we used as a picnic blanket. These lessons, and the continuing sunshine, probably helped prevent meltdown and/or murder later on- and besides, what reason do I have to complain? Imagine building that wall… it was immaculate, with each header stone at the same angle despite the terrain.

I love the idea that you would ever be able to “relax and formulate a plan” should you ever find yourself actually needing to get inside an orange plastic bag for survival. Further down it suggested something to do with dried leaves, I can’t remember exactly what. I think this winter there have been a few cases of people whose lives have been saved by these bags though so I shouldn’t joke.

So as Friday night turns into Saturday, I’m sitting by the stove, with the cat dangerously close to my feet, feeling a little bit of the same sense of achievement I get on reaching the top of a hill. I’ve rebuilt my evil website, after many tears and it even has a shop. It’s a big improvement on the previous one so even though it’s more expensive and drove me nuts, I’m actually really glad that Flavors.me closed down and forced me to do it. I’m playing shops and it seems so much more exciting than Etsy because it’s my very own. The first two sales made me feel like a tycoon and I could never take for granted the magic of being able to do that without leaving my nest, from home, in the middle of nowhere.

Most things seem to be slowly coming together in preparation for BCTF but it’s frightening how much money you can spend on services and materials without even leaving the house; and how you think you’ve worked out the costs of things but then remember you need to factor in the sellotape, Paypal fees, tissue paper or sticky labels. Its fair to say I have felt huge ups and downs of mood and confidence this week and have been trying to be more careful about dealing with the downs. Sometimes it really is important just to relax and formulate a plan, to go for a walk or take time to read a book and not feel guilty; because the upside of being self employed, to balance out having no money, is that I have that freedom at the moment and I’ve noticed I work best in the evenings anyway. I’m like that annoying hamster you probably once had that slept all day, got vicious if you tried to wake it up and then suddenly started rushing about on it’s treadmill at bedtime- making a sound like squeaking bedsprings (the rushing about is me, not the squeaking).

And sometimes it’s tempting to sew up the scraps and offcuts to make something new, because, at the risk of sounding like an infuriating meme, failure is often just a state of mind or a view from a certain angle, it just depends how you frame it. Well, it’s time I let you go, thank you for reading and also for all the survey responses. I need to look at the results properly and apply my amazing analytical skills, before finalising my master plan, so for now it’s back to relaxing and dreaming of more days like these. Dipping toes into achingly cold water till the blood fizzes like champagne, winter dimmed eyes blinking in the light and you can almost feel the vitamin D soaking through your skin.

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” John Muir

 

Honesty, Owls and the value of things.

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I’m back in my box room nest with a mug of freshly brewed coffee, while the autumn wind shakes the Sycamore tree outside the window. I’ve been in that edgy, change of seasons mood lately; not sleeping well, writing whole novels in my head in the small hours, only to forget that perfect opening sentence and the motivation to capture it,  as soon as I’m properly awake. An owl has been calling in the branch right outside the bedroom and I imagine that it could look in through the arrow slit windows and see me, sleepless and lost in a world of memories, half baked plans and good intentions. I hear it screeching “terrrr-wit” and wait for the answering whispery “hoooo” that sounds as if it could be coming from right next to me, perched on the headboard like in Mr Magnolia by Quentin Blake.

mug by Witchmountain

The fells seemed to turn burnt umber overnight, the air is spicy with autumn scents and my favourite time of year in the Lake District has begun. The only thing I’m missing is the long days that meant there was time to swim after work; as it is we are wondering how long we will be brave enough to brave the cold water (or more importantly the cold wind on the shore as you try to struggle out of your wetsuit in a polite but speedy manner, stumbling about, bent double,often hobbled at the ankles by skin tight neoprene.) It’s ok once you’re in though and I’ve become a big fan of swimming in the rain when the water becomes spiky and textured like sparkling Artex and the raindrops momentarily stay on the surface like little pearls.  I want to be able to paint it, or film it or capture it somehow so I can show you.

Honesty

Back in the “studio”  I’ve been busy getting things ready for a couple of exhibitions. Unsold work has been returned safely and sold work has been invoiced, allowing me to realise that I have made the basic error of royally ripping myself off by paying too much for framing and not charging enough to allow for gallery commission – which in some cases is over 50%. One piece which sold for £175 actually earned me £6 after all expenses!  I am not a businesswoman obsessed with making a fortune but I’m learning the hard way and after discussing this over and over again with other artists and makers the conclusion is always the same… just because we can’t afford the art/craft we love, it doesn’t mean we should devalue our own. A good friend of mine makes beautiful mosaic birds…she cuts the wooden bird silhouette, uses hand picked and cut fragments (often rare glass with precious metals), grouts, seals and adds hanging hooks. Each bird is beautiful, unique and  takes at least a day and a half to make… what is a fair price? We are so used to things being “affordable” by which we usually mean mass produced by low paid workers in other countries, that even in the gift shop where I work I regularly hear people muttering that something is too expensive when it is really a very fairly priced item, mass produced in England! We seem to have lost sight of “value” in anything other than monetary terms. I’m not sure what the answer is.

hand embroidery on paper

Well I do apologise for getting on my soap box as usual, I could tie myself in knots and, being over sensitive and ridiculously passionate I’m likely to slip on the soap and fall flat on my face.  Better to keep stitching and muddling through.

cyanotype and embroidery

Well, its almost time to go hunting in the kitchen for supper and in the hope that Rupert has decided to bake something fabulous to fatten us up for winter. The oven fused all the house electrics last week so we spent last night on the floor with our heads in the oven, fitting a new element and feeling pretty smug about being able to mend stuff. It took two people though, not like the instruction video on Youtube and I felt as though I was channeling Sylvia Plath at one point but honestly, how did people ever know how to do anything before the internet?

velvet owl cushion by Kim Tillyer

I’ve just found out about an exhibition inspired by Alan Garner’s “the Owl Service” book and had just listed this cushion called “She wants to be flowers” in my Etsy shop. It is definitely one of my very favourite books, written in the year I was born, so I’ll be making every effort to visit the exhibition as well as Blackden House. Thanks to Natalie for the information.

Until next time, a belated happy autumn equinox to you all where ever you may be. x

Buttermere sunset

“September’s coming soon, pining for the moon…”

Towaards Blencathra and Skiddaw

“Nourish yourself with grand and austere ideas of beauty that feed the soul… Seek solitude,”  Delacroix.                                                                                          I’ve been wondering what exactly is keeping me from writing more frequently….or making new work for that matter and I can only assume it must be that I now have company in my rural idyll. Solitude is important to many creative people and even though I still have loads of time to myself, only work part time in the day job and have my own small space to retreat to, the balance has shifted now that Rupert is also living and working here. I’m spending less time wandering lonely as a cloud and more time going on mini adventures together after work; more importantly for the writing of this blog, I’m not sitting up all night drinking shed loads of coffee alone with the radio (actually its never been the same since Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour got moved to daytime; I blame the BBC). I must find a new routine and the discipline to go with it because the reality of  living in a draughty barn is that it’s much nicer when there’s company.

rainbow over Crummock Water

Daily routine and self motivation when you’re self employed is a subject that fascinates me because to the outside world it can look like you’re doing nothing and achieving even less… the idea of “working from home” often being a euphemism for laziness or sitting around in your pyjamas. I enjoyed the series of essays in the Guardian called “My Writing Day” which gave an insight into how successful writers actually get stuff done. In contrast my writing “day” means I uploaded the pictures for this post last week, started writing it, got distracted, had to go to work, had house guests and now a week later I have spent most of today looking at the rain, sorting old clothes for the charity shop, half starting an order for a gallery and suddenly deciding to spring clean the bathroom while my computer sits forlorn and resentful next to a pile of neatly cut out prints and calico squares for covering notebooks ( I am dressed though). I assume I’m not alone in behaving like this but it’s hard to tell when you’re halfway up a mountain and only have social media to compare notes with.

Home in the Woods Kim Tillyer

The summer seems to be flying by and some of the exhibitions I’ve been showing work in are almost over before I’ve had a chance to tell you about them. Despite all that  I lost when I was forced to move I have to admit that this year has opened up so many opportunities for me. Until early September you can find these two pieces (and more) in the Byard Gallery, opposite Kings College in Cambridge!  (when I was small I once accompanied my dad on a day trip to Cambridge where he was showing work at the Hobson Gallery; I remember telling him I planned to go to Cambridge, meaning the University of course but this almost makes up for my turning out to be more of a drop out than a high flyer!). There are also prints and jewellery in the Leeds Craft and Design Centre, cards and notebooks in the Leaping Hare Gallery, Easingwold and of course Cherrydidi in Keswick who have a small selection of eveything.

Lakeland Garden Kim Tillyer

A couple of weeks ago I ran my second cyanotype workshop at the Greystoke Cycle Cafe. I have to admit I was dreading it as the forecast was for horrible weather and the forecast was right, it was dark and wet. In the end though, and looking back, I really enjoyed it- and so did they I hope. We managed to make loads of really lovely prints even in low light and with only a very small exposure unit between eight people; braving the weather to rinse prints under a gazebo with a hosepipe. Sometimes it feels a bit mad to be telling people how you make your work but it’s been so satisfying to have students get in touch with images of things they’ve made since the course and know that they were inspired and excited by what they learnt. One of my students was an artist called Tracey Escolme who makes paper cuts, she is part of next month’s C-Art if you are in Cumbria during September. A few people have asked if I’m doing any more courses and I’m hoping Annie will ask me back next summer; I’m also thinking about maybe doing some small half days here (mostly as an excuse to make coffee and cake) so do get in touch if you’d like to be added to a possible list of participants.

witchmountain window

Have you noticed how I’ve been really good and not mentioned swimming? Well I have to just a little because I was pretty brave the other day and swam with Rupert to a little island on Derwent Water called Otterbield Island. Its not far and I won’t be qualifying for the Olympics but it was a small breakthrough in distance and conquering fear- the vertigo of swimming in bottomless dark water. I felt a bit tired and slightly panicky at one point and had to rest on my tow float (I got it for this reason because it allows me a moment to pause and have a word with myself as well as making sure the launch doesn’t run us down) but the water was mirror smooth and the evening was perfect, sunset and moonrise and “Nightswimming” by REM in my head. I also had a fun swim in the River Avon at Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, with my daughter recently… very different to Lake swimming and one of the best days I’ve had for ages.; a miniature holiday that felt very special.

Wistful in the mountains!

Anyway, the day today is not conducive to swimming today and it’s almost time for tea so I’m going to do a spot of baking and build some extra layers of insulating blubber for my next outing! Here is a rare self portrait of me pondering solitude and creativity by the water a few weeks ago.

Reading:- “The Gap of Time” Jeanette Winterson  Listening To:- Nightswimming REM

British Craft Trade Fair 2016

Newlands Valley blossom

I feel as though I’ve been caught in a time warp, it doesn’t seem possible that just a week ago I was setting off across the country, full of nerves and excitement, my poor old car packed to the roof with work and stand props. The British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate has been a background preoccupation and worry for the past 2 years  (ever since I had to postpone taking part due to the house trauma) and it seems unreal that it’s now over and actually the real work is only just beginning. I imagine I’m feeling a little bit like a couple returning from their expensive wedding and honeymoon; so much planning and heaps of money just for one special event but it’s what happens next that really matters. I had a fantastic time pretending to be Agatha Christie in the Old Swan but it feels so good to be back on the mountain after an emotional return to North Yorkshire. We are a little behind with the seasons, Hawthorne and Sycamore buds are still only just emerging, Daffodils are at their Wordsworthian peak with Bluebell spears poised to take their place. It all has the air of something about to burst… a little sunny nudge and the whole thing will be freewheeling towards summer abundance.

setting up at British Craft Trade Fair

There is so much I want to say about the experience of BCTF, I haven’t yet worked out exactly how much it cost but I will let you know in a future post because I think might be really useful if anyone was thinking of doing a trade show. I really wish I had done it sooner… within a year or two of graduating, mostly because it has been a really useful lesson in planning, pricing, logistics and PR. It was a massive relief that the calico panels fitted the space (after a tiny adjustment to the wooden rods with a borrowed hacksaw) and everything looked almost as I had imagined it. I was envious of some of the more minimalist stands, they looked so slick and professional but overall I was very happy and relieved. It took 3 hours to set up and one to break it all down again!

Kim Tillyer stand N27 British Trade Craft Fair 2016

My glamorous and wonderful assistant Sara was totally invaluable. I really couldn’t have done it without her (partly because my hips kept seizing up so I could hardly move after 7 hours of standing with a clip board). Sara kept me straight when I drifted in to typical artist “down talk”, reminding me that the work was was unique and perfectionist not experimental and “hit and miss”; she also correctly predicted the winner of the “Wow Factor” award, another CCAD graduate Joanna Coupland .We met so many interesting people and agreed that being a buyer or a trend forecaster must be a great job.

Sara Tillyer Smith at British Trade Craft Fair

The list of artists and makers that we met and whose work we fell in love with is too long to mention, I’ll list a few at the end, but the whole event reinforced my passionate belief that the skills and talents of these people should be celebrated and nurtured. Many artists and makers rely on the sale of cards for example, while they wait for the bigger pieces to sell, galleries too, which is why the Just a Card campaign is such a good idea. We don’t need a world full of mass produced cheap crap, we need fewer but more beautifully made things and an education system that values the arts and the contribution art and craft makes to society.

greetings card display

The wall I was most pleased with was my card wall with embroidered details and a quote from Haruki Murakami. I love receiving real handwritten letters (nice ones not upsetting ones) and it seems that the greetings card is not dead; people still spend money on lovely cards to keep or send.  I was hoping the show would push me in one direction or another but in the end there was interest in ALL the products from original framed pieces to mugs and velvet cushions so after this I’m off to continue following up the contacts I made, evaluating all the feedback and making a start on some new cyanotypes and drawings.

witchmountain stand N27

Thank you so much to everyone who visited the stand or sent good wishes from afar. It’s been wonderful to meet so many people and talk non stop for 4 days – a complete contrast to where I sit now, listening to the buzzards circling above the valley… and an owl just then… oh and the sun is just breaking through.

Some of my my lovely stand neighbours :

Melissa Yarlett– gorgeous jewellery inspired by mosses and lichens             Stephanie Hopkins – copper bowls and jewellery ( award winner at the show)  Holly Argyll – Bright, quirky illustrations on textiles and giftware                       Katie Edwards – Fellow member of Cumbria Printmakers