Hello, I'm Megan. An Australian designer, maker and creative. I tell stories with thread and sometimes share those stories here on my blog. I also design and make beautiful heirloom dolls, create illustrations for fabric and dabble in crochet. If you would like to stay in touch with my work, you can sign up to the mailing list. Thank you for stopping by!


Sunday, 21 October 2018

Creative Business: Why I Left Etsy Feeling Confused

As difficult it was at first, taking a step back from my creative business ambitions has been one of the best decisions I could have made. Just over a month in, I am already feeling creatively rejuvenated, and my perspective has had a major shift. I have committed to taking the remainder of 2018 very slowly, including not having an online shop open.

In the meantime, I have been looking at ways I could offer my products online, and how I could best get my work in front of the people that need to see it. I was wondering about hopping back onto Etsy, as I used to really enjoy selling my handmade pieces in that way, it was effective and fairly simple.

Cup of tea in hand, I jumped onto Etsy this morning and looked at the site through a customer's eye. The whole point of being on there and paying the many listing, commission and payment fees, is in the hope of tapping into a wider audience. I typed one of my products into the search - a good way to see what common search terms are and check out what else was available to the buyer. I wasn't disappointed, I was met with a staggering 73,000+ listings for toddler dress alone.

Drop in the ocean moment here? Definitely.

One of my illustrations...I do these for fun but sometimes they make their way into fabric designs or spark my imagination for a new doll or character...

 After a bit of scrolling and noticing that the price on a lot of the handmade pieces seemed to be quite a lot lower than I would have imagined, I clicked on an attractive listing from a shop here in Australia. I went through, looking at all the pretty pieces they had on offer and it slowly began to occur to me that many of these pieces were not actually handmade.

Let me explain; when you design and make clothing or anything really, it is very easy to identify items that are possibly manufactured off-shore. I know that Etsy does allow this now, so this wasn't a shock at all. True enough, I went to the info section, which you do have to scroll a little bit to find, and the products are being manufactured in China. Okay.

I went back to the initial listing I had clicked on, and if I had been a 'normal' buyer, I wouldn't have actually known right away that I wasn't purchasing a handmade item. The description was lengthy, and at the bottom, it stated that the item was manufactured with their partners overseas. However, the first half of the description sounded exactly the same any other listing on Etsy, so I doubt many customers would be aware that the pieces were not handmade in Australia.

I am not writing this because I have a big issue with manufactured items being on Etsy or because I have a problem with small businesses who sell their products on Etsy that don't actually make them. That's been the case for some time, and I do think it is good in a way, that if you need to scale up production and get some assistance, you can do so now and stay selling on Etsy.

If I was to instead play the devil's advocate for a moment, I would question why once you can afford to produce pieces offshore, why you can't shift your business to your own website and why can't Etsy be content with hosting only handmade shops? I know the answer to that, but I still had to ask!

This little exercise this morning simply proved to me that Etsy might not be the place for me to sell my things. You see, there is something different and something special about handmade. It isn't the same as just 'designed in Australia" or even "manufactured in Australia" or "made with our partners over the big blue" It's different! And I couldn't help thinking, that if I was a busy Mother wanting to purchase a handmade dress for my daughter, I wouldn't even think to check out the finer details of the offerings on Etsy.

I actually personally didn't realize until this morning that it's not as transparent as I had thought. I thought everything was pretty much handmade and Etsy is where you go to find handmade, with the odd import thrown in here and there. That isn't what I found. I found it quite confusing and a bit overwhelming. I found it hard to tell what shop was selling handmade pieces and what shop wasn't.

A little playsuit I designed, stitched and made. I also illusrated and designed the fabric...

And if anything, it's made it harder in a search to sort apples from oranges. From a pricing perspective, it's impossible to compare a well-made handmade piece to an item that has been mass produced. Of course, a factory made item is cheaper, but the thing is, it wasn't easy for me to know what was handmade and what wasn't in my search. Not without clicking on a listing and going through to a shop's information. Which is not something I think of having to do on Etsy, my mindset is prepped and primed to think I am on a website famous for selling handmade artsy products. Which it is and it still has many wonderful makers. It's just a lot harder to find them now, and it's harder for the handmade stores to stand out.

It has also made it harder for me, as a customer, to trust what I am buying is made by the store owner.

While my head is still in a bit of a muddle trying to work all this out, I am not sure yet whether I will be selling my handmade pieces on Etsy just yet... I have noticed a real shift in consumer behaviour since I first started selling my work nearly ten years ago. Handmade was once the cool kid on the block, and now it's become a very every day phrase, people simply do not respond as they used to. There has also been rapid economic and social change in the past ten years, and while ethical clothing is a hot topic, clothes have never been cheaper. I feel there is a really big misunderstanding by most consumers of the resources and time involved in making clothes. We've all been conditioned to sales and $5 t-shirts without realizing how much time and money it takes to make clothing. I think this low price mindset is now starting to have an effect on how people view handmade clothing - they simply can't swallow that a handmade dress using expensive material could be $65-$75.

I wouldn't call this a big problem as such, and I certainly am not complaining about it. Whenever I experience a shift in business or in sales, I ask myself why. What has changed? If I haven't changed then I decide it must be outside influences. By identifying the problem/s, I can at least work to find a resolution. What I have discovered is there is a disconnect between the consumer and manufactured products. The Paddock to Plate movement was implemented to link the consumer with the farmer and his farming practices, I feel the same approach is needed for Handmade products now.

I think we are all really disconnected from how things are made and do expect to be able to buy lots of things for really low prices. While this is great when you are on a budget - and someone who has a handmade business knows all about budget - this does have the side effect in which the process and resources involved in making a handmade item is greatly undervalued and unappreciated.

A doll starting her life as a cute little head...

This morning I went to Etsy, a handmade island among the more commercial websites available to artists and makers...and while there is still so much good there, it's left me feeling quite confused. In the meantime, I will keep plugging away and in an attempt to create more connection between maker and consumer, I think it's time to share a few less glossy product shots and a few more behind the scenes in the studio happenings...after all, how are any of us supposed to gain an understanding of a production process if we are never allowed to see what goes on behind the studio doors? Or in my case...the big table beside the kitchen....

OVER TO YOU: Do you have a handmade shop or ambitions to sell your creative work? Do you like to buy handmade pieces? I would love to know your thoughts on this topic! Please leave a comment below.

Megan x

If you know someone who would find this article useful, please direct them back here, to my blog as I would LOVE for more people to enjoy my work.

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Wednesday, 17 October 2018

A Crafternoon Tea Party in Bellingen NSW | December 15th

I have always dreamed of a delightful afternoon, like a tea party, but with creativity thrown in for good measure! Since I have never come across one such event, I decided something must be done and on this premise, I am co-hosting a Crafternoon with Sarah from Say! Little Hen.

It seems like a jolly fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, at the end of the year. We are holding our event at Cedar Bar and Kitchen, in Bellingen. 

Which is just the cutest cafe/restaurant you have ever seen! See?

Adorable! Anyway, apart from having the cutest venue ever and the need to indulge our creative whims, there are actually two really good reasons for our crafternoon tea party!

The first is to bring together and connect creative people and crafters in our local area (or further afield, we don't mind!) The wonderful thing about craft is that it is a bridge for building new relationships and experiences with other people, who you might not even share anything else in common with! I find it amazing that something as simple as knitting or stitching or weaving can build communities among women, where there are sometimes significant cultural or religious differences.

I have met so many people and built so many friendships through my creativity. It is a conversation starter and there is nothing better than being able to share your love of a particular craft with someone else and to learn from each other. Craft is also incredibly therapeutic - it is a healthy escape from the stresses of life. There is so much more to it than just making something!

The second reason is to also give a little back to our Australian farmers, who are experiencing a pretty severe drought just now. As makers, so many of our craft supplies have their origins on the land - whether it's the wool you knit with or the cotton you sew with. Sarah and I have both spent most of our lives in rural, farming areas and a lot of our friends are farming in one way or another. We decided that along with holding a lovely crafternoon for our local community, that we would also donate a portion of the ticket price to Aussie Helpers, a drought relief charity.

It's been such an intense, crazy year for so many of us and I just know personally how much being able to create something with my own hands helps me cope with difficult situations. We really hope that this event will give everyone a little creative therapy. 

We thought hard about what kind of creative project that would be accessible to all skill levels, regardless of what craft you practice. It's important that the Crafternoon is inspiring too, so that whether you knit, sew, weave, stitch, paint or scrapbook, you can still come along and have a great time. The project we chose is a gorgeous stitchable sweater ornament and something ANYONE can have fun doing!

There are also going to be a couple of creative demonstrations by some lovely local ladies - showcasing their skills. It's a surprise for now, but we will share closer to the event! 

I have also been thinking of demonstrating something, the trouble is, I still can't think of what. Whenever someone asks me a question, I am always happy to help but trying to think of what I know that someone else might not know and also find interesting to learn about, is tricky. When you are so used to what you do, it's hard to think of it from the view of someone who doesn't know what you do.

 I don't know if that makes sense or not! 

Anyway, I just wanted to share a little bit about this lovely afternoon, and extend the invitation to you if you are in the area or in driving distance. You can find all the details and book your place here on Sarah's website, but here is the gist of it below!

A Crafternoon Tea Party
Cedar Bar and Kitchen, Bellingen NSW
December 15th - 1:30pm - 4:30pm

Come along for a fun afternoon of creativity and raise money for a good cause. Whether you stitch, knit, crochet or sew, you are invited to a fabulous afternoon of crafty indulgence. Dress up in your favourite frock, bring a friend & a craft project for a fun tea party featuring demonstrations and craft stalls, to celebrate all things creative and aid in drought relief for Aussie farmers.

I hope to see you there! 
Megan x

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Friday, 12 October 2018

Here and Now | October 2018

Can we just all take a deep breath and acknowledge that it is in fact OCTOBER and that clearly some unscrupulous person has stolen 2018 without anyone noticing because last time I looked it was only March!

Right, now we have gotten that out of the way, I am convinced the proper authorities will be notified and we can all start looking forward to 2019 at a much more leisurely pace.

In an attempt to put the breaks on, I am pausing for a minute to enjoy a little mindfulness and meditation in the form of Here and Now, the monthly link-up by the lovely Say! Little Hen blog.

So what is my here and now for October 2018?

Loving // The rain, I appreciate it topping up our tank no end. I can stop worrying for a little while that showering every day is a little risky to the household water supply! Thank you rain!!!

Eating //  Peanut Butter Cookies that are so delicious, I think they might have inspired the Cookie Monster himself!

Feeling // A little out of whack. My Queensland system is not yet used to Daylight Saving and in spite of the many good arguments for it, I am yet to be convinced. I do not like it and I may just well spend my later years being the crazy-hates-daylight-saving-lady that lives on the hill and makes the neighborhood children knock on the door and run away screaming...just saying.

Making //  A little doll who has blonde curly hair and is so far for suggestions!

Thinking // That if you have never met me or my blog you might possibly think my feelings on Daylight Saving are a bit cuckoo...also that my autocorrect makes so many adjustments these days, I look illiterate in my messages and my spelling of anything "our" is confused...
(it's colour not color for the last time!)

Dreaming // Of the Crafternoon Tea Party I am co-hosting with Sarah from Say! Little Hen - it's in December which seems far off but it really isn't...especially if the aforementioned time thief isn't caught. It's going to be lovely, fun and crafty - if you live in Bellingen or anywhere within a couple of hours drive, please do come! I'll pop the link here for the details...

What has been happening in your Here and Now?

Megan x


Sunday, 7 October 2018

The Outdoor Quilt Exhibition in Dorrigo

After what has been a very hectic couple of weeks, we escaped domesticity this Sunday and trundled up the hill to see the 'Hanging Out in Dorrigo' Outdoor Quilt Exhibition - a collection of beautiful old world quilts adorning the buildings in Dorrigo. 

It was such a lovely, clear Spring day and the perfect way to spend a Sunday. 

Daylight Saving time kicked in overnight, and unfortunately, we forgot to adjust the car clock and spent the whole day unwittingly on the old time! (We didn't look at our phones once - the quilts and scenery were very distracting!)

So it was quite strange when we returned home to find it was, in fact, an hour later than we had supposed it was... Having moved from Queensland at the beginning of the year, I am still adjusting to Daylight Saving...albeit not terribly well!

I greatly enjoyed the outdoor quilt exhibition, which trailed inside where the Misty Mountain Getaway workshops were happening. I thought the quilts looked so cheerful, attracting attention to the shops, cafes, and galleries they hung beside. I love how the quilts seemed to match the colours or theme of the building they hung around, and as many of you will know I looooove pink so there are several photos of a gorgeous pink building adorned with some pretty quilts that I may have gotten a little snap happy with!

Beautiful country of many on the Dorrigo Plateau

It's something I absolutely love about craft - it has the ability to draw people and communities together, whether they have a hobby in common, or simply like to admire the beautiful things other people make. 

Quilts make such a gorgeous addition to shop-fronts, I am convinced they should become a permanent feature. For some reason, it reminds me of a chapter in one of the books from the Anne of Green Gables series - beautiful handmade quilts airing on sunny verandahs.

I think I read on the Misty Mountain Getaway facebook page that they had over 150 quilts delivered or posted for the event! It's always so interesting to see how other people interpret a craft or skill and really make it their own, in their own style and with their own fabric combinations.

I love this pink building!

The softness of these quilts contrasted beautifully with the rough,
worn texture of the bricks on this building...
A beautiful hedge of lavender growing on the side of the was up to my hips
and about 3-4 meters long! The scent was heavenly.
And again... let's make a quilt of the building..hmmm?

I've long admired pictures of crumbling old pink houses from over the pond, so this is the closest I have gotten to something of that nature in real life...seriously, why are more buildings or houses not pink??? The quilts on the front are optional but in my opinion, they make this old girl even more adorable!

A picture says a thousand words, so I am just letting these quick snaps I took today do the talking. We enjoyed walking around in the sunshine, browsing the local stores and chatting with the owner of the gallery. We grabbed a coffee just after lunchtime, though I now have a sneaking suspicion it was very much the afternoon as we were functioning on our 'own time'.... we sipped our cappuccinos on the wooden bench beside the garden at Components Cafe, in dappled sunlight to the scent of the Star Jasmine that was growing it's way up the tree above us, listening to an auction going on across the road - what we guessed with strained ears was a meat tray going for a good price!

Once we had finished our coffee, eavesdropping and quilt admiration, we set off for a meander of Dorrigo's beautiful roads - winding through gorgeous farmland and the surrounding countryside, stopping at leisure to photograph anything that caught my eye.

This little wooden gate and ruin were two such things. In particular, the tumbling brick ruin which looks to me like an old fire or wood stove had a tree growing out the top of it and there was something so charming about it that I had to stop and take a couple of photos. There's always a story to these things, and I wondered while I hopped along the fenceline in highly unsuitable heeled boots whether the one pertaining to the little ruin was a sad one, or if it was simply a result of the ravages of time...

Today was such a lovely reminder that getting out and about in your local area is a really nice way to relax and absorb the natural beauty (and talent!) of the place you live in! If you, like me, don't always make time to do this, put it in your diary this month. Take your camera and you'll start to notice the many wonders on your doorstep!

Megan x

If you know someone who would find this article useful, please direct them back here, to my blog as I would LOVE for more people to enjoy my work.

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Saturday, 6 October 2018

What Dollmaking Taught Me About Perfectionism

I spent many years staring at beautiful Waldorf style dolls before I finally decided to learn to make them too. There are so many different interpretations of these sort of dolls, with the only thing in common between doll artists being the techniques and materials used in this form of dollmaking.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks I overcame was oddly enough, not in the making process but in my mind when it came to adopting this style of dollmaking. I quickly realized I could easily suffer comparison syndrome and nipped it in the bud before it could take hold.

There are so many dollmakers working in the Waldorf/Steiner category. This type of doll is traditionally made using all natural materials (such as wool and cotton) with techniques drawn from European dollmaking. However, once the doll is made using materials (such as polyester filling or acrylic yarn) or in a style outside of those described in Steiner philosophies, they are usually given the term "inspired" rather than being a strictly traditional "Waldorf/Steiner' Doll.

This title is a great way to make it easy to describe the sort of doll you are creating to others, and also helps you find information in online searches, whether you wish to buy a doll or make one yourself. It is much easier to have keywords that can direct your search so you can find precisely what you need to. The term 'handmade doll' on its own is simply not specific enough, the sheer volume of different techniques used to make cloth dolls is overwhelming. Techniques which produce vastly different doll styles.

 So while 'Waldorf/Steiner Inspired' helps you in a search, I struggled with suddenly being put under a label, because even though there is a definite 'style' to these dolls, each dollmaker is unique and their creations aren't some stock standard item that can be compared or assessed.

With so many amazing, amazing dolls out there, I was pretty daunted when I set out to make my own. I was worried about what 'the masters' of the craft would think, or if people would compare my dolls to someone else's. Were my dolls any good? Did I make them properly? What is right and what is wrong?

None of these thoughts ever sprung to mind when I was making my cloth dolls, a style that has just as many variations in construction techniques and methods. I decided to stop worrying and focus on my dollmaking, my creative expression and my interpretation of this style.

Certainly, I deeply admire many other doll artists and derive great joy and inspiration from seeing their work. However, comparing my little dears to theirs is as silly as comparing children. Dollmaking is like painting, if you are brave, you can create organically from the heart and produce dolls that are representative of your own individuality - dolls that tell the story you intended.

Simply imitating or comparing is akin to painting by numbers - why produce a mediocre copy of a masterpiece when so much joy can be derived by bravely painting from your soul?

The joy I receive in making little cloth characters can be unsettled if I worry about silly little details - a result of my comparison to another's work. Whereas, when I remove the pressure of 'rules' or the opinions of others, I create authentically and produce a doll that is unique to me and my creative expression.

So much can be learned from this process. If my dolls nose is slightly off center, if her thighs are a little 'lumpy' or her torso longer than usual, I have learned to accept these 'flaws' as part of the dolls unique character and design. I use almost no pattern pieces or machine sewing when I make dolls this way. They are formed and shaped in my hands, and small errors, if that's what you want to call them, are part of that process.

For me, the doll shaped by human hands is conveying that very essence. Humans are by nature, imperfect. It's humbling and gratifying to know that even as we all have our own faults and physical shortcomings, so do the dolls we make.

They are little characters of cloth and thread. Made nearly entirely by hand, they mimic the human quality that we are all different - warts, lumpy thighs and all. That difference makes us the same, and the diversity and inconsistency among us is so very beautiful when we accept it, rather than feeling bad by comparing ourselves or our work to others.

Dollmaking has shown me so much and it's about more than fabric and stuffing. It's taught me to tell stories using needle and thread, to express my creative soul through tiny characters and that loving the imperfect is necessary to letting go and experiencing real joy.

Megan x

If you know someone who would find this article useful, please direct them back here, to my blog as I would LOVE for more people to enjoy my work.

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Want more info on Waldorf Dolls? See my Resources page for more.


Friday, 5 October 2018

A little break...

A little while ago, I quietly packed up shop and put Hazel and her friends on the train for a much-needed break. They were tired, and I was tired and as we sat pondering our exhaustion, we all realized what a big year it had been. It was time for a rest and some quiet reflection.

So as I waved them off, I sighed with a sense of relief as the bundle slipped off my shoulders onto the ground. My creativity had gone on holiday too, though long before I or even Hazel noticed.

According to an article I once read in some magazine, creativity needs rest to flourish. I had no such expectations, I just wanted the rest. In my case, it turns out that it is true. The minute I decided to take a moment, the pressure that had engulfed me resided and the ebb became flow once again.

Hazel and Brandy, all ready for a break!

It was a relief to have bright sparks of inspiration running through my dreams again. However, I knew rest was paramount so I let my ideas play while I sipped tea and pondered knitting a row on my scarf.

I may or may not have indulged in chocolate while I closed my online shops, and deleted my social media profiles. I needed the courage and feel good stuff that chocolate is apparently said to produce.

All I know is that chocolate tastes GOOD.

What at first was an odd feeling, to be free to simply rest, became a sense of peace while my mind traveled up and down the creative highways, discovering forgotten joys and pursuits. The pressure generating an income by constantly producing new work can be enormous, and under the load, my creativity buckled.

Offline, I noticed the little things again - the birdsong and first blush of Spring on the trees. I breathed deeply and felt myself expand with the beauty and wonder surrounding me. Maybe it is wishful thinking, or a desire to believe in the magical, but ideas and aspirations flow best for me when the moon is full.

With less time spent on Instagram, my head had more space and in the stillness that being mostly unplugged can bring, I realized I was learning and observing new things each day. Life is still very busy, but the small amount of space I took back from social media, in particular, helped me find clarity and renewed purpose. To realize the creative process needs this space and time, to reflect, to grow and to learn.

For the first time in quite a while, I feel inspired and grateful to creativity. It is a mystical, winged creature that chooses when and how it will deliver new ideas and inspiration. It is fluid and intangible, sometimes ebb, sometimes flow. And I have learned you can anticipate it's arrival much more easily when you allow yourself some space and learn to embrace the silence.

It seems it isn't really creative block after all, more a gentle beckoning to sit and just listen for a time.

They say change is as good as a holiday - do you find this sentiment to be true? What is your favourite way to take a break?

Megan x

If you know someone who would find this article useful, please direct them back here, to my blog as I would LOVE for more people to enjoy my work.

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