Friday 23 November 2018

Celebrate Handmade this Black Friday!

Whilst some of you will no doubt be sitting hunched over your computers and phones in a frenzy of Black Friday shopping today, I know that there are many more of us out there that have started to side step around the madness of the day. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate a bargain as much as the next person – and if I was in the market for buying a new TV or washing machine I’d probably be doing the exact same thing. The problem is, does this bargain hunting spill over into places that aren’t quite the right ‘fit’? Big buys like white goods, furniture, phones and gadgets are the perfect candidates for price slashing: they’ve got huge margins, they’re mass produced, and more often than not they’re priced at a point that is actually designed to be reduced. (I mean, when doesn’t that sofa shop have a sale on?!)

So, I thought I’d take a moment to explain why I’m not slashing prices but instead joining in with Folksy’s ‘Celebrate Handmade’ day today – and to give you a glimpse of what it takes to bring something handmade from conception all the way through to the point of sale. 

You, dear reader, I know can appreciate the value of buying handmade: you know and understand the amount of care and attention that goes into the item you’re buying, and you know that buying direct from the artist, designer or maker gives you a fabulous sense of having got it right. You’ve found the perfect gift for your home or a loved one, you’ve bought it ethically (no sweatshops involved), you’ve supported the British economy, and you’ve done your bit for the environment too (it hasn’t been shipped from China).

But, have you ever stopped to think about what happens to the person you’ve bought from? That tiny business or cottage industry, that artisan who sits in their studio every day – what do they think when you place an order? Here’s a clue!:

As one of those tiny businesses, I can tell you that this is absolutely spot on. I may have been running PhotoFairytales for over 9 years now, but I never (ever) fail to get a rush of joy when an order comes in. It doesn’t matter how busy I am, I never take for granted the fact that someone has looked at my work and thought: “I’ll buy that.” It truly is an amazing feeling. Every Christmas Day I take a moment to think about all the customers I’ve had over the recent weeks who are giving gifts to their loved ones that I’ve made. It’s an AMAZING feeling.

So, what does it take to get a new item from inside my imagination to a state of being a physical item wrapped in a parcel and flying through the post? Let me give you a glimpse:

  • The spark of the idea pings into my head – I’ll mull it over for days/weeks/months, scribbling down ideas, thinking about whether it fits with my existing work, thinking about what it will look like and how I would do it.
    Approximate ‘mulling’ time taken on average: 6 weeks
  • I’ll then start working out the design and often prototypes too: thinking about colours, images, design and materials, working on sample designs to see if I can make my idea translate into an actual item.
    Approximate working out time on average: 6 weeks
  • Next step is to work out how much it will cost to make, and find out where I can get materials. Then I need to work out what I would sell it for and what the profit margin will be vs the time taken to make it. (Very often items never make it past this point – I’ve had so many ideas over the years that I’ve had to let go simply because I couldn’t make it work financially.)
    Approximate time taken to cost a project and source materials on average: 3 weeks
  • So, now I know I can go ahead with my new item I need to hone the design. It might be something that is a one-off or a whole new range – so often this will involve coming up with not just one design but maybe as many as 10 or more. This is the bit that can really take time (but it's the bit I love!).
    Approximate time taken on finalising design: 6 weeks
  • Now I need to get some photos of the new product to add to my shop. Depending on how many items the new product is made up of, this can take between 2 days and a month.
    Approximate average time for product images: 2 weeks
  • Next I need to add it the PhotoFairytales site and my other online shops (eg, Folksy, Wow Thank You) – this involves designing new pages, writing copy about the new product and uploading product images.
    Approximate time taken to add the new product and put it on sale: 1 week
  • Now I need to tell the world about the new item – so, blogging, social media, mailing list, promotions, marketing. 
    This is hard to put a timescale on as it’s always ongoing, but the initial promotion will take on average about 4 weeks.

So, from the basic idea to the point of having an actual item on sale takes (very roughly) about 28 weeks. Or over 6 months. And that’s not 6 months of working just on this new project, that’s 6 months working around all the usual day to day work. So bringing a new item to fruition can often take closer to a year.

That means that before anyone has even bought my item it’s often been in production for 6 months to a year! It sounds like a long time (it is), but it’s an indication of the amount of thought and consideration that goes into my work – and I know I’m not alone with that. This is what ALL designer-makers do.

And when you, lovely person, place an order and I sell the very first of my new items: wow, just wow! I’m not sure how I can actually get across the feeling of euphoria that brings!! Truly. 

Because everything I make is personalised and made to order I need to then make the item you’ve bought. That takes anything from a day or two up to a week. Then I need to package it and get it posted to you. Sending you an email to let you know your order is on its way, perhaps a follow up email afterwards, then a bit of brief admin and the job is done. That item you’ve just bought may have taken me a few days to make and send to you, but the love and work that’s gone into it up until that point has been going on for months and months.

And that is why you know handmade is so special. That’s how you know that you’ve just bought something truly unique. You've just bought something that has had time poured into it, but also creativity, artistry, skill, experience and talent too. 

And that’s why designer-makers, artisans and crafters put their hand on their heart when you click that ‘buy now’ button.

So, can I just take this opportunity to thank you for A) reading this massive waffley post all the way to the end, and B) for supporting and celebrating handmade. If it weren’t for you we wouldn’t exist. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Sarah x

PS: Search for the hashtag #celebrate_handmade on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to discover fabulous people running tiny businesses and creating fabulous things. Shop handmade this Christmas!

Friday 16 November 2018

It's #folksyfriday Day!

There's no denying that Black Friday has become a 'thing' in this country - imported from the US, it's now an annual date on the UK calendar too.

But, for as many people who love Black Friday, there seems to be a growing band of British shoppers who want to kick back against it, especially during a season when the feeling is that Christmas is becoming too commercial anyway. They're turning their back on the mass produced commercialism and reaching out for something more honest, with more integrity. After all, we all know that many products are deliberately launched with over inflated prices just so that they can have their prices 'slashed' on Black Friday!

Shoppers have become more considerate, more environmentally aware, more discerning: they want quality, customer care, uniqueness, individuality. So if you're one of those that's wising up to the Black Friday fuss, and trying to shop with a little more integrity, I have some great news for you... 

Shop handmade at - see my special Pinterest board now!
The team behind British craft marketplace, Folksy, asked their sellers whether they wanted a Black Friday campaign - and the resounding answer was 'no'. The designers, crafters, makers and creators who sell on the site felt strongly that it didn't fit their own ethos or that of Folksy shoppers. The customers at Folksy are looking for beautiful artisan crafts, not mass produced or imported goods that can be bought anywhere. Folksy customers are much more discerning!

So the concept of Folksy Friday Day was born - a day to celebrate handmade, to bring joy and colour to online retail in the form of beautifully made, designed and crafted gifts and homewares.

If you haven't discovered Folksy yet, it's a British marketplace and the home of modern craft. It's similar to American site, Etsy, with a couple of important differences: everything you see on the site is British, and everything is handmade - you won't find anything mass produced or passed off as being handmade. No fakery, nothing pretending to be what it isn't: just beautiful items made and designed by tiny British businesses, artisans and cottage industries.

So, if you're looking for something utterly unique, something that will be remembered and adored, this Christmas you need to take a look at 

Oh, and if you follow the PhotoFairytales Facebook page I'll be running regular posts inviting other crafters and designers to share their work and shops - so if you're looking for fabulous gift ideas make sure you follow the page to discover some great present ideas for your loved ones this Christmas!

Happy shopping,
Sarah x

Wednesday 7 November 2018

The 2018 Santa Letters & Telegrams have arrived!

More exciting news for you here at PhotoFairytales HQ: the 2018 edition of the personalised Santa Letters & Telegrams are now on sale!

These are really special and magical - as anyone will tell you who has received one in the past. In fact, for many it has become a real tradition and when they arrive on the doormat it's fair to say the excitement of Christmas ratchets up a few notches!

personalised Santa Letters and Telegrams from PhotoFairytales

There are other 'letters' and 'telegrams' out there in the online world, but these are the real deal: each and every one is written especially by the genuine Father Christmas, and he hand-signs every one himself. The letters are so full of detail that your child can't help but understand that Santa Claus is real, and they will be amazed at how much he knows about them, right down to what they're hoping to receive for Christmas this year!

personalised Santa Letters and Telegrams from PhotoFairytales

As in previous years, the personalised Santa Letter Gift Packs also come with sweet little gifts and treats, as well as a personalised certificate. Both the Letters & Telegrams are very high quality and beautifully finished. Really special items that your little boy or girl will want to cherish.

personalised Santa Letters and Telegrams from PhotoFairytales

The personalised Santa Telegrams are available in 3 versions, including a 'Naughty' one for those that haven't yet made it onto the Nice List (perfect for adults!), and a lovely Baby's 1st Christmas Telegram version too.

Every single Santa Letter & Telegram that's sold will also raise funds for a fabulous UK charity, Mind, too. Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem. But hundreds of thousands of people are still struggling. Mind campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. Mind won't give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets support and respect.

Don't forget, the personalised Santa Letter Gift Packs are limited edition - every year they sell out, so if you'd like to reserve one don't leave it too late!

These Santa Letters & Telegrams will become real keepsakes, and are definitely something you'll want to store in their memory box! Make Christmas truly magical this year with one of these beautiful and really special Letters or Telegrams from Father Christmas...

Sarah x

Tuesday 6 November 2018

Brand New: 'Christmas Friends' personalised baby board book

Well, Halloween has been and gone, the fireworks from Bonfire Night are over for another year... and that can only mean CHRISTMAS IS NEXT ON THE CALENDAR!

I know it feels as though Christmas starts earlier and earlier every year, and I always try to keep the festiveness under control at PhotoFairytales until after November 5th. So now that we've reached that point I feel I can finally start to get my Christmas head on properly!

personalised handmade baby board books from PhotoFairytales

With this in mind, I wanted to introduce one of my latest new additions to PhotoFairytales: a new design added to my range of personalised baby board books. 'Christmas Friends' is unashamedly festive, with a lovely Scandi-style winter theme complete with woodland animals and cosy cottages. This means there are now three designs especially for Christmas, including 'Festive Bear' and 'Winter Wonder'.

personalised handmade baby board books from PhotoFairytales personalised handmade baby board books from PhotoFairytales

 These personalised, handmade board books make a really unique stocking filler gift for your child...

Each of the 11 board book designs feature your own photos and text throughout. So whether you want to keep it simple with just names, or if you want to write your own full story, you can create a book that is totally unique for your little boy or girl. Packed full of gorgeous illustrations and your own photos, they will adore snuggling up with you to read their very own special book.

personalised handmade baby board books from PhotoFairytales

Customer feedback: "Just to let you know I received the book today. It is absolutely beautiful and I can’t wait to give it to my grandson... I will definitely be back to buy another one."

personalised handmade baby board books PhotoFairytales

The books are available in standard or laminated finish, and prices start at just £25 including UK delivery. These lovely little keepsake books are a magical gift at any time of year, so if you're looking for something completely different for your toddler this Christmas one of these books will be perfect.

Visit the PhotoFairytales site now to view the full range of book designs available.

Sarah x

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