2013 - how did it go then ?

i usually do a monthly round up but as we're about to move into 2014 i thought it would be good to look back on the past year. it really has been amazing and so much has happened, i can't begin to thank you all enough for your support - you're all AMAZING!! i learnt so much this year and the business has grown...still a long way to go but every little step is a step closer to getting to do this full time...oh, the dream!

so here are my highlights of the year...


...i visited Top Drawer and although i was sure i would now apply to the show i decided to postpone from my original plan of September 2013 to January 2014. there was A LOT of research going on for printers and manufacturers of my products - starting with cushions...


...a wee family trip to Edinburgh (for my mum's 50th) and my first wedding invite project was completed with the invites being sent out. i finalised my cushion designs...


...another wee trip to Edinburgh (this time for a hen do), and then i finalised my lampshade designs...


...i took a little trip to Amsterdam to see the tulips. there were no tulips. oh well, great city anyways! my fabric samples came back from the printers final order was placed for my cushions and lampshades, and it was my best friends wedding...

MAY fabric was printed and sent to my chosen manufacturers, and so work started on my notebook collection...

JUNE new logo came into play, simple but effective. i completed the Ultimate Guide To Repeats e-course by Michelle Fifis. my designs were released as iPad and Kindle cases with Keka, and i finalised my notebook designs...


...the month it was confirmed that i would indeed be taking part in Top Drawer January 2014! it was a month of finalising designs for my tea towel collection - the last time i actually designed this year - after this it's all marketing and promo work!...


...photoshoot time!  i reached 200 likes on facebook, and my kickstarter notebook project was successfully funded. i finalised my tea towels designs and sent them off for printing just before setting off on my travels to vietnam and laos for 3 weeks...


...i returned from my fantastic holiday to find my finished tea towels waiting for me - how nice! - and once again i was very happy with the quality from my printers again.  i had a very exciting meeting which has led to a fantastic project - still secret for the time being but watch this space!...


...i set up my products in the Carnaby Streets Things British store and was also invited to sell on brand new online store Le Crib, meanwhile i was still very busy working on my marketing for Top Drawer...


...i completed Monica Lee's e-course Smart Creative Women...

DECEMBER new website was launched which i am very pleased with - the shop will soon be opened! i sent out invites to the show and i reached 600 followers on twitter. i planned my Top Drawer stand with Liz from Elle Jane Designs so we are all ready to go for the real thing, and i was featured in the Moyo Christmas Gift Guide...
and then i had a wonderful relaxing holiday at home with my feet up for a little festive break :) it wasn't all feet up up though - i had to complete my press packs for the show and get my business cards sorted and printing for printing before it's too late...never a dull moment!

i'd like to thank everyone for their support this year - friends & family for listening to me constantly talking about 'the big plan', and for everyone who has followed, and liked and're all awesome and i couldn't do it without you...i hope you'll all still be with me next year to see 'the big plan' through and share all my new projects's to an even more successful 2014!!

christmas delights

i was very lucky this christmas and was spoilt by my friends and family. i got lots of lovely things - some crafty items, some designer maker goodies and i even found some vintage treats for myself. i thoughts i'd share some with you...

...a couple of days before christmas i discovered a vintage shop and OMGoodness what a lot of finds! some fabric, a nice new blankie, belts, and a special war time edition of monopoly complete with cardboard counters and wooden pieces...awesome!...

...a lovely Charley Harper calendar to see me through 2014... new Orla Kiely folder, my new Ellen Giggenbach cushion, and my secret santa gift - a bird whistle in a house to hold my keys which also doubles as a whistle!...

...but i think my favourite present must be my two Holly Sharpe prints...just need to get some lovely frames to put them in now...

...i also got the Orla Kiely 'Home' book, a tribal print scarf, and some flowery PJs from it all, so lucky - thank you everyone!!

...oh and pre-xmas i sent off lots of lovely cards from a selection of designers - Elle Jane Designs, Jessica Hogarth, Jo Clarke, and Hello Paper Moon...

i hope you all had a WONDERFUL christmas whatever you may have done and now looking forward to celebrating everything good from 2013 and are ready to welcome lots of exciting new things in 2014...see you there!

the ultimate planning weekend . . .

last weekend was The Ultimate Planning Weekend. sounds hard core. lots to be done. and lots was indeed done. the ever so wonderful Liz of Elle Jane Designs spent some time with me, and between all the giggling we did actually achieve something!

more than something actually. we mocked up the whole Top Drawer stand in my living room, and (much to my relief) everything looked exactly as i'd hoped. phew. 

a quick-ish trip to town and good old Wilkinsons to buy some hooks, wire, sticky stuff, paint, nails and all important hair dye and we were back in full swing. Well kind of...the internet went down but we had vital research to do. Only one thing for to Starbucks for a hazelnut hot chocolate and free wifi. 

we'd decided one crucial part to the stands display was a table. but it had to be quite fall, long and narrow. it seems no one caters for these requirements. but that's fine. i kept some bed slats from my old bed for this exact reason...we shall make our own. we're girls, we can do this.

cue friends with DIY tips and saws to borrow, a dad with a drill and some paints...sorted! et voila...we have one perfect table that meets my exact needs!!

now to tidy up and let my flat mates back into the lounge...

so all in all I would say it was a very successful Ultimate Planning Weekend. 

november - round up

only 23 days until christmas! i said i wouldn't get excited this year because of all the work i have to do - no time for christmas! -but turns out my such a big kid i just can't not get excited about it! i went to John Lewis this weekend and they totally won me over...more on that in another post...

so what happened in november then...

* i guess the biggest thing was the building of the new website. i was expecting it to take me absolutely ages, but my decision to go with wordpress as a new platform was a fantastic decision. it's so easy to use...the hardest thing was picking a theme from the hundreds available - rather overwhelming! i'll be ready to go live by the end of this week...keep your eyes peeled! for now i'll tease you with the menu bar. ha! ;)

* this past weekend saw me design my invites for that all important Top Drawer show. again i completely surprisingly quickly...i know i work better under pressure but i think with the show being oh-so-very close i'm stepping up another gear...only 43 days. eek. so these have been sent off to the printers and should be back next week for me to post get my address list together!

* i set up my Things British shop at the end of last month and have seen sales coming through on my weekly report which is very promising. interest through my etsy shop has also increased dramatically and it's great to know my products are going to a new home, and possibly being sent as christmas gifts this season :)

* the first deadline for my top secret 'exciting news part 2' (that i still can't reveal - sorry!) has been met, now onto the next stages...can't wait to be able to share it with you all and see it all come this space!

 * i set up a 'christmas gift list' on pinterest to showcase all the lovely things i have been discovering on Etsy. you can vie wit here and perhaps get some inspiration for some christmas gifts yourself!

right, now it's off to december...month of the portfolio!

it's super duper official now!

well, it was before but now it REALLY feels like it's happening!!

i'm talking about Top Drawer January 2014. i've just got my e-signature through...i feel all professional ;)

i'm also working on my marketing and getting my stand set up, it's all paid off so all that's left now is to invite lots of people! you're all MORE than welcome to pop by and say hi...would be lovely to meet all the people that have supported me this past year - you've been awesome!!

setting up shop!

4th november was an exciting day for mel smith designs - i was booked to start selling my products in London store Things British. The location was Carnaby street, a trendy little area of the capital with lots of boutiques and stylish stores.

i was also spending the day researching shops and trends, and having just a good old catch up with fellow Smith, Liz (of ellejane designs) ... so a full on day!

preparation started a couple of days before packaging up the goods. i was taking my new notebooks and tea towels. i will be renting for 2 months and rotating stock every 2 weeks to show off a design design. 

first up - fat birdie and co! my feathers and birdie designs have received fantastic feedback so what better way to kick off the shop experience than to put them out there!

so off to london we went, a beautiful fresh autumns morning certainly was a lovely start. carnaby street is full of lovely shops, all too easy to get distracted and go shopping...but we had to focus on the mission!
the shop is situated on the first floor of Kingley Court amongst 30 other boutiques and numerous cafes and restaurants ... the perfect location to sell designer maker goods!                                                                                                                                                                                 
inside was a treasure trove of handmade and unique items - lots of jewellery, art prints, pin boards, greetings cards,  i might even have bought a christmas there...but for which friend... ;)

set up didn't actually take too long - things british need to check all your stock is labelled up correctly with your unique designer/item code and everything is priced clearly for the customers. after that its left up to you to arrange the shelf as you please! 

i treated myself and rented a spot in the window as well to get a little extra now let's see what happens sales-wise! exciting and a little nerve-wracking at the same time...eek!

a quick stop for breakfast and then it was off to covent garden and leicester square for some shopping, uh, i mean research ;) ah, doesn't it look christmassy already?!

october - round up

now september was a rather fabulous month, prancing around Vietnam for 3 weeks...but october has been pretty damn kick ass i have to say! one week came with 3 new often does that happen?! i can't believe how much has happened in the past couple of weeks alone, i feel so lucky to have these opportunities and have gone even more into full work mode. if that's actually possible!

* it all kicked off with the Smart Creative Style e-course the last week of september. it has been a truly amazing course, studying branding, marketing, finding my true style and voice, tricks to utilising social  media to the best of my ability,, so much has been covered and i still have a week left!

* exciting news part 1 - i applied and was accepted to trade in london shop Things British. i am renting space from monday 4th november until monday 30th december at the carnaby street branch so pop along if you fancy a mooch around! i'll be posting lots of photos when i'm all set up - can't wait to see my items in a shop...eeek!

* exciting news part 2 - my exciting news from the end of last month has progressed. it's still top secret at the moment so unfortunately i can't share details (sorry!) but what i caaaaan say is that it is amazing project and you'll love it when you see it!

* exciting news part 3 - i was invited to sell on brand spanking new online store Le Crib. very exciting because designers are hand picked to share their products. launch date is 1st november - tomorrow! ...see you there!

 * apart from all of that fantastic news i have been continuing to work on my marketing for my show with some press releases and researching all the mags and blogs to send to.

so what's planned for next month? well, it's all about the new website and the portfolios...wish me luck!

september - round up

my my, it's been a while hasn't it?! time for my summary of events that have taken place in september. it won't be as bust as others months as i was gallivanting around vietnam and laos for 2 weeks (blog posts yet to be completed on this trip...stay tuned!)

i returned from my travels on tuesday 17th at 9am and was straight into my full time job by noon that same day. i then had social events all week plus a wedding at the weekend (i need to share pics of that as well - it was beautiful and creative!). that being the case after my visit to Tent with the always giggly Liz i suddenly felt very scared and was, how shall i say politely...shitting myself over everything i needed to do for the trade show. yup. absolute mess i was.

so, i took a few deep breaths and made a list.

works every time.

* i sent out kickstarter rewards and received many lovely comments from the supporters in return. thank you so much guys!

* my tea towels arrived and they look fabulous...if i do say so myself! ;) i'll share some pics very soon i promise. so i now found myself with a stock of notebooks and tea towels and this got me thinking ...

* ... i need to start selling these bad boys, don't i? but in order to do this i needed to put together a brochure and a price list. slightly panic-y over this and expected it to take me a week or 2. but i did in 5 hours. well done me. that felt like a huge weight was lifted.

* but then came the scary part. actually giving them out. i live in teddington, a lovely south west london town (although it's more like a village) and it has a few boutique shops that i think may suit my products. i've dropped the brochures in and will follow up in the next week or two. fingers crossed i have some interest as i would LOVE to sell in a local shop!

* my e-course with monica lee (Smart Creative Style) started...full steam ahead! so far so's getting me to look at things a bit differently, although i'm not quite sure how's all going to come together later on apparently! but i'm excited what i'm going to learn about my style that will help me with my launch

* i signed up to 2 skillshare tutorials on how to build the perfect websites. well, maybe not perfect, that wasn't promised in the advert but that's what i'm aiming for! i have a 2 month deadline for my new website. possibly a bit of a stretch but you must have realised by now that i like to set my self a challenge!

* i also received a potentially very exciting email. no details just yet as i don't want to jinx anything. i'll share if/when i know more...

over and out for september folks. this year is speeding by. seems like only yesterday i was researching cushion manufacturers. but that was back in february time according to my all-important-schedule. crikey.

oh and fyi - it's only 86 days until christmas. if you need notebooks or tea towels you know where to come ;)

august - round up

it's that time of the, erm, month again... it's MONTHLY REVIEW time ;)

so what has been achieved in the month of augustus? well...

* the first weekend was a no-go as i had to attend the beautiful wedding of Mark and Lucy. i know, i know...such a chore.  ;) 

* my kickstarter project was more than successful, going far beyond it's target. a total of 39 backers and £509 pledged. i would like to thank EVERYBODY who donated towards this - it means so much that you have supported me and i can't wait to send you your notebooks! some quite interesting statistics - of the 39 backers 10 were close friends, 10 were design buddies from uni or the courses i have taken part in, and 20 were complete strangers! the average pledge was £13.05 with the biggest being a whopping £61...crikey!!

* i have submitted to the new Print & Pattern Geometrics book. fingers crossed my designs are accepted - it would be great to be published in one of Bowie's book again!

* i had my first product photo shoot. i can't give away the shots just yet but here are some close up shots as a bit of a sneak peak...

* i hit the magic 200 likes on facebook!

* the last product i have budgeted for the show are some tea towels. i have finalised my designs and sent them to the printer. should take about 4-6 weeks so early october i hope. then i can get selling for xmas! yes, i said it. C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S. 

* and on that note i have started researching places to sell my items, both online and offline. might even do a couple more markets this winter...

* i signed up to Monica Lee's Smart Creative Style e-course which starts 6 days after my return. i will be learning more about suitable branding and marketing techniques for my launch.

not the most satisfying month in terms of getting things done but there was a lot to prepare and i wanted to fit in a weekend at home with the 'rents.

so with that i bid you farewell for 3 weeks. 3 whole weeks on holiday. can. not. wait!!! very excited to a certain miss ruth canty who has now been travelling for, oooh, 10 months it must be, and join in her adventures. 

lights, camera . . . action!

so you may have read that last weekend i had my first ever product photo shoot. and here's a little behind the scenes of how it all went...

i guess it all starts with a few weeks before the shoot actually. i had been thinking about ideas for the shoot and whilst discussing with Monica during one of the Clarity Coaching sessions we cam up with and outside theme, cushions lined up on chairs with lampshades hanging above from a tree branch...fantastic!

first thing was to source a location. Emily (my old housemate) has a ground floor flat with garden. with a fence and grass and tree. now that may sound like obvious garden material but in London it's not all that easy. trust me. and to add to that Emily also had a tree branch going spare. as you do.

so next i needed chairs. onto good old ebay. i bagged 6 for £15. now they had to be collected. that's where best pal Alice and my lovely Mum came into play to collect them for a various locations in Kent (parents location). so now i had a lovely selection of mismatched chairs. but they were a bit dark so Dad painted them for me in white, blue and purple to match the colours of my palette. now i just needed to get them to London. Caroline (HI CAROLINE!!) collected them to drop off on the day of the shoot. her fiance, Mr Sam Nesbitt, is the photographer who will be shooting my products on the saturday so they will bring them up with them then.

so a week before the shoot i started looking at the weather. hmmm. not great. mild panic but the english weather can change at the drop of a hat so no need to panic just yet. let's wait until 3 days before.

3 days before came along and...still rain. crap.

back up plans needed, and quick! now this is something i hadn't thought about which is very much unlike me. i am very organised and like to plan for every outcome when taking on a project like this. so why hadn't i this time? goodness knows, but i won't let it happen again that's for sure!

so options were moving the shoot inside Emily's flat. but there was no wall big enough to take the set up. OUT.

do the whole shoot in the studio. now it wouldn't have anywhere near the texture that i wanted but it would be clean and fresh and have the lighting that would be important. POSSIBLE.

or i could postpone, but due to restrictions on time by both me (3 week holiday) and the photographer (wedding) this would mean it would not take place until at the earliest the first week of october. not an option because at this point i'll be starting my Smart Creative Style e-course and doing my new website portfolios, marketing and brochures for Top Drawer. OUT.

my flat. last minute panic where i was laying out all the accessories i could use i realised i have a nice long wall, but manky walls. could they pass? i was very hopeful (just desperate at that point i think is more likely!) that there could be some amazing camera that could make wood chip walls appear nice and smooth. no such luck. OUT.

so i contacted a good fried, Eric, husband of Kim who i work with. they have just moved house but were very accommodating and offered their place. it was perfect! they had a garden (in case the weather did perk up) and they had 3 rooms to pick from. SOLD!

right. panic aside. i could sleep again! a last minute shop for some frames, accessories, and wrapping paper.  who knew it could be so hard to find some plain colour wrapping paper these days? goodness me what a task. Kim had a watering can, and Mark helped me collect a palette from work as a bit of a quirky option to go in the shots. didn't have a clue how i might use it but better to have too much than not enough, right?

anyhoo, saturday morning came and cars were loaded with products and props. first stop was Touchwood Studios in Kingston. Oscar met us and helped set up the studio for my white background shots. in and out within 3 hours. success!

onto the house of Eric! where he and Tennison greeted us in excitement. we took a look around and selection the room of choice - the garage. great brick work there would make a great backdrop. and hello there mr sunshine. well, kind of. it wasn't exactly sunny but it wasn't raining either. we decided to chance it and take some outside shots so we set up the chairs along the fence and took cushion shots. it was a bit windy and so the lampshades-hanging-from-a-branch set up wasn't going to work. oh well. you win some you lose some.

lunch. much needed.

back to work. and into the garage. lampshades were strung up and some group shots taken. the wind was messing with us so we had to wait until the lampshades were still but we got the shots we were after. before you knew it the day was over. doesn't time fly!

i realised at the end of the day i hadn't used the watering can, the palette, any of the house-y accessories or the plants i'd brought along. doh! but to be fair the set ups we had were enough by themselves so no biggie. Sam took some great shots and i'm so pleased the weather held out for us to get a few outside snaps. shame the tree branch idea didn't come to life but what with the wind and risk of rain i think it wouldn't have been possible. about 15 minutes after we packed up outside it started to rain!

home time. well, Sam & Caroline travelled home and i went to Emily's where she cooked me a lovely dinner and we chatted about the day and started to organise her hen-do. for next May. yes, that's right, the hen do is booked for 9 months time. told you i was organised ;)

now i bet you want to see some of the photos don't you? after reading all that you wouldn't want to get this far and be disappointed with no shots from the day now would you? well, i'm afraid i might just have to disappoint. i know, i know, i'm mean, i'm sorry! but it'll be worth the wait. i want to get them as i want them before showing them off so you'll have to be patient just a tad longer.

oh alright then, here's a little teaser of some chair shots (pre-edit) ...

and i'd like to thank all the people involved in this project...aren't they a smiley bunch :)

Alice & Mum (chair collectors), Dad (chair painter)

Mark & Emily (prop movers, tree branch supplier), Caroline (assistant)

Oscar (Touchwood Studios), Sam (photographer), Eric (location supplier)

Liz, Rachel & Sarah (bouncing ideas around)

and Tenny (just 'cos he's cute)