Some Changes…

I’ve been thinking about how I run my jewellery and crafting business a lot recently. I mean, I have always thought about it a lot, but this year has been a particularly thinky one, because this year has also been a particularly tricky one. Like a lot of small businesses, mine has suffered recently due to a whole combination of factors. The recession has meant people have less to spend on non-essentials such as jewellery. It has also meant that a lot of people have lost their jobs, and many have turned to crafting as form of self-employment in order to pay the bills, or as a way to save money by making their own rather than buying mine – so there’s both a smaller market and more competition out there.

Another aspect of it all is that Google has recently made some changes to how it works, which have knocked all my websites down the search results and put a great big dent in my traffic. I’m not alone in this – loads of people with smaller websites are in the same boat, and search results are generally dominated by the big sites: eBay, Amazon, Etsy, and even Not on the High Street, who may not be as huge as the others but have clearly put a lot of money and effort into their search engine marketing.

It used to be that I just put things onto my website, they came up in Google search, and people found them. That’s not so easy any more. Making it happen takes a lot of time and effort.

What else has happened? Google Shopping, which used to be free for merchants, started making us pay to have our products included (not to mention jumping through a mass of not-quite-functional hoops in order to do so). Facebook has stopped showing posts from Pages to 95% of the people who have “liked” them, unless the Page owner pays to have their posts promoted. Obviously Facebook and Google are businesses, and their primary objectives are to make money, so offering small businesses something for free was never going to last very long – they were always going to do this, and it was just a question of when.

What this has made me think, amongst other things, is that there is no point in me having a Facebook page any more: I can’t afford to promote my posts, and I don’t want to mislead people into liking the page and expecting to get the promised news, special offers and all that stuff which they’re not going to see. So from now on, the news about my jewellery will only be on my blogs and my mailing list. I’m even going to combine the mailing lists for Button Jewellery and Unexpected Boutique into one big list, given that everything on them is so closely related anyway, and then I get to spend less time making newsletters that are almost the same as each other, and more time making jewellery.

Because that’s the thing: the more time I have to spend wrangling marketing and social media, the less time I have to actually make the jewellery, take nice photographs, and write blog posts. Making jewellery and blogging are what I’m good at, and what I enjoy. Social media and advertising just aren’t.

I know many people say you can’t run a business without doing these things, but I’m going to give it a go. This probably sounds completely counter-intuitive after all I’ve just written about having lower traffic and sales, but: many other people say that you really need a blog and a mailing list to run a business, and I don’t have time to do all of the things, so I’m going to stick with what I actually like doing. It’s not just about Facebook – it’s about what I actually spend my time doing. If running a handmade jewellery business means that my job is actually mostly marketing, then I’ll stop the whole thing tomorrow.

So: if you want to be sure to get my occasional updates, you can join my mailing list here; and if you’d like to follow the blog, you can do so in any RSS reader, or on dedicated blog following sites such as Bloglovin’ or Feed.ly.

New Cord Button Necklaces

My newest limited edition button necklaces are all made with woven cord, and sterling silver findings. For these ones I’ve made more than one in each design, so they’re identical, limited edition runs of just five pieces each. I had several cards of identical vintage buttons, usually with around five buttons, so once I’d collected enough of these, it was just a case of putting the design together and then doing the weaving and knotting part, over and over until they were all safely knotted together (I normally do this fairly quickly in case the buttons spill everywhere).

You can see these for sale on buttonjewellery.co.uk.

Green cord button necklacegreen button necklace, £25

Champagne and rose button necklace

champagne and rose button necklace, £25

multicoloured button necklacemulticoloured button necklace, £25

mustard button necklacemustard button necklace, £25

 

New Hook Button Earrings in Vintage Colours

When people talk about “vintage” or “heritage” colours – what do they mean? I think it’s usually to do with a muted, soft tone to the colours, which might be because a once-bright colour faded with age, or because the pigments used in whatever times qualify as “vintage” may not have been as bold as some used today.

Thus I make a distinction between jewellery made with “vintage buttons” – anything that comes to me secondhand, and appears to be ten years old or more (sometimes a lot more), I usually class in this category – and “vintage colours”, which might be new buttons, just with a softer tone.

Then again, some buttons may be both at once. And some of my jewellery might be made with a mixture of differently-aged buttons. If things look good together, I don’t usually try to segregate them by age. So in my latest button earring collection, you’ll find new buttons alongside older ones, but the colours are themed according to a vintage palette.

Teal and Coral Button Earrings

Teal and Coral Button Earrings

Wood Flower Button Earrings

Wood Flower Button Earrings

Forest and Rose Button Earrings

Forest and Rose Button Earrings

Champagne and Burgundy Button Earrings

Champagne and Burgundy Button Earrings

Eggshell Button Earrings

Eggshell Button Earrings

Purple, Burgundy and Orange Rust Ombré Button Drop Earrings

Purple, Burgundy and Orange Rust Ombré Button Drop Earrings

Olive and Teal Ombré Button Drop Earrings

Olive and Teal Ombré Button Drop Earrings

Burgundy and Olive Button Earrings

Burgundy and Olive Button Earrings

Long Green Button Earrings

Long Green Button Earrings

Other People Make Things: Lovely Handmade Soap

There’s a running joke in our house that almost every time we buy something new – normally some kind of commercial product – we have to hack it around and fix it to make it work right, or send it back because it was misdescribed. When something just works straight out of the box, it seems miraculous. With handmade products, of course, things do just work far more often than things from a “this-will-probably-do-for-most-people” factory. With a small scale maker, there’s the opportunity to communicate, customise and check details, which is just not available with mass-produced goods. (Unfortunately it’s not always possible to get handmade versions of everything… plumbing fittings and gutters are sadly not in proliferation on Etsy.)

Even so, just occasionally I buy a handmade product that doesn’t only do what I expected and hoped for, but surpasses it. And because of this, I naturally want to tell everyone else about it, so that they can receive the benefits of whatever-it-is too, and also so that the person who is making it gets more money for doing so and can thus continue. And while it’s a romantic idea to climb on the roof and yell its praises to the vicinity, I’m not sure the neighbours would really, you know, get it… So, instead, I’m doing a more socially acceptable thing, and adding a new category to this otherwise rather self-centred blog: Other People Make Things.

Traditional Crafts UK – Handmade Soap and Solid Shampoo

I’m not an expert on soap-making, but recently I have become a little more educated in soap-buying. As far as I can gather, there are three main types of solid soap to choose from: commercially-produced regular soap, which has had the glycerine removed to be sold separately and is very drying to the skin; semi-handmade soap made with a ready-made glycerine base (which could be made with natural ingredients, but could also be made with cheap synthetics), which the maker has poured into a mould and added things such as colours, scents and extras such as oatmeal or rose petals; and the Real Thing, which is made from scratch with oils and lye using methods called hot-process or cold-process.

irish moss and spirulina soap

Irish Moss and Spirulina Soap

I spent years rejecting soap in favour of shower gel, because I found commercial soap to be too drying, until I found out the differences: soaps are not all equal, and natural handmade soaps made the traditional way are far gentler to use. I can even use them on my face with no problems.

The solid shampoo was a revelation – because it doesn’t contain cheap surfactants which strip the hair of all its oils, as almost all commercial shampoos do, it doesn’t dry it out (something I’ve had a problem with when using commercial shampoos for my entire life) – for the first time, my hair is shiny and sleek (well, ish.. I mean, it’s still my hair, and my hair is rather nonconformist even at best) instead of an uncontrollable collection of frizz. Also, I hardly need to use any of it – I’ve had my shampoo bar for nearly two months now, and it’s only shrunk by about 10%.

There are dozens of different Etsy shops selling soaps made in the traditional cold process method, but after comparing all of those in the UK I decided to go for some soap from Traditional Crafts UK, run by Melanie in Bury. The main reasons I chose these soaps above all the others I could find were:

1. Only the absolute nicest ingredients. No palm oil – the production of this type of oil is particularly damaging to the environment, leading to deforestation and a loss of biodiversity. Most sellers I saw included palm oil in at least some of their soaps, but this shop didn’t have any. Knowing exactly which raw ingredients are in the soap is a definite plus.

2. Sensible shipping prices – it might seem expensive to ship one bar of soap, but it is no more expensive to ship several bars together, and the prices are an accurate reflection of Royal Mail’s actual postage charges. Several sellers were adding more and more shipping costs when more than one bar was bought, which made the whole thing add up to twice as much per bar.

3. Free samples! There were so many different lovely-sounding soaps in the shop that I didn’t know which to pick, but after a couple of quick messages, Melanie sent me some samples to choose from. Choosing soap was still kind of difficult because they were all just as nice as they sounded, but in terms of the two shampoos it was great to be able to choose the right one for my hair type instead of ending up with a whole bar of the one that wasn’t quite so suitable for me.

4. Overall choice of fragrances. I like things that are scented with essential oils (rather than synthetic fragrances), and this shop has loads of choice in that area. There are traditional favourites such as lavender, patchouli or mint, as well as interesting combinations I hadn’t come across, before such as licorice and vetiver.

Citrus and Clary Sage Solid Shampoo

Citrus and Clary Sage Solid Shampoo

My soap choices in the end were Purely Patchouli (patchouli is my favourite scent ever) and the lovely green Irish Moss and Spirulina soap. The shampoo that works on my dry hair is the Rosemary and Tea Tree – but there is an alternative for more oily hair, with Citrus and Clary Sage. This smelled amazing but was just a bit too drying for me, but I can imagine it would be fab for someone whose hair is less of a frizz machine.

As well as soap and shampoo, Melanie’s shop also has a variety of other wonderful-sounding scented things such as facial scrubs, body butters, candles and bath melts – and there’s a whole collection of handmade silver jewellery too. You can begin your shopping spree here.

 

Slim and Lightweight Woven Button Necklaces

Most recently I’ve been making my button necklaces using various cords and weaving or stitching techniques. The first time I ever saw someone wearing a necklace made with buttons (which inspired me to make one for my friend’s birthday, then for myself, and then – well, the rest of this story is here, so I won’t repeat it right now) it was actually quite unlike the first button necklaces I made. It was made with small buttons, all the same size, woven together with cord. But when I sat down to make button necklaces, my first button necklace design used wire, and all kinds of different sized buttons, like this pink button necklace here:

Pink Button Necklace

Pink Button Necklace

I haven’t stopped making necklaces in this style (you can see some of my current colour schemes in my necklace section here) but I have been experimenting with different ways to join buttons together to make jewellery – I’ve made button charm necklaces and bracelets using lots of buttons attached to chains (which are more jangly); long-length button necklaces which are reversible, so that as they move and flip over the necklace still looks good; tapered necklaces made with thick cord knotted strongly so that the buttons don’t turn over; and also some slim, lightweight button necklaces a bit like the one I first saw someone wearing.

Autumn Colours Slim Button Necklace

Autumn Colours Slim Button Necklace

The buttons in these necklaces are tiny and light, so they don’t need such a thick cord to keep them in place and stop them turning over. They are woven to stay in a straight line, using a strong but fairly thin nylon cord. They are made to rest gently on or just below the collarbone, and they’re especially good for people of more of a petite build. I’ve sometimes had requests in my bespoke button jewellery service for necklaces that are made with smaller buttons, because smaller people in chunky jewellery report sometimes feeling as though the necklace is wearing them, rather than the reverse. So now I’ve included these slimmer necklaces in my “regular” section. So far I only have a few colour schemes ready-made, but if you’d like a necklace like these in any other colours, I can make them with different coloured buttons as a bespoke order. These ones use silver-plated findings, but if sterling silver is more your things, that’s fine too – it just costs a little extra.

Earth and Stone Slim Button Necklace

Earth and Stone Slim Button Necklace

New Handmade Bunting Triangle Necklaces

My new triangular necklaces are like little strings of wooden bunting flags in miniature. I had the idea for these when I was half asleep, just waking up, in that few seconds in between dreaming and awake. When I actually did wake up, I initially thought the “bunting necklaces” idea was another of those weird mad subconscious things that make no sense but seem like a really sensible idea at the time (like when a friend of mine leapt out of bed one morning, rolled up her duvet and was about to cut all her hair off when she realised she’d just had a dream that she had lend the duvet and her hair to her housemate who was apparently going to use them both to play in a concert).

But then I had a cup of tea and thought about it a bit more and decided that actually bunting necklaces would be quite a good idea. They’re little geometric tiles, and each one is different (a bit like bunting). I’ve made five different designs – one with old maps of England, one with an old music theory book, one with Japanese washi paper, and two different ones using my handpainted tile designs — one in green and one in purple.

Bunting Necklace - Music Book

Bunting necklace – music book

Bunting necklace - washi

Bunting necklace – Japanese Washi Paper

You can view the whole collection on my necklaces page here.

Bohemian Upcycled Necklaces

Here are my latest three Bohemian style necklaces – all completely unique and one-of-a-kind items, made with re-used or leftover buttons, beads, chains and assorted bits and pieces.

Bohemian Necklace - Beachcomber‘Beachcomber’ upcycled long necklace, £45, Unexpected Boutique

Upcycled Bohemian Necklace - Dragon's Hoard‘Dragon’s Hoard’ upcycled long Bohemian necklace, £45, Unexpected Boutique

Riverbed Upcycled Necklace‘Riverbed’ upcycled long Bohemian necklace, £45, Unexpected Boutique

All are hand-assembled, and although I hope to make some more jewellery in this style in the future, each one is very much a one-off. They were created partly out of thrift – using up bits and pieces that were leftover from other jewellery projects, experiments that didn’t produce the right results, and in some cases bits and bobs that I’ve had since my teens and childhood – things that were nothing particularly special or useful but shouldn’t be thrown away. Because: if something can be repurposed, used or appreciated by anyone other than the current owner, of course it shouldn’t be thrown away. Far too much is thrown away, and while these necklaces are hardly even a thousandth of a drop in the ocean when it comes to changing that, I hope they at least symbolise the idea that what might seem like rubbish doesn’t always have to be, and might add to a growing consciousness of re-use and re-purposing being better – at least sometimes – than making something brand new in a factory.

Custom Button Jewellery

I’ve added a new feature to my button jewellery site – my wire button necklaces, bracelets and jewellery sets are now available with customisable colours which you can pick out from my colour palette.

Button Jewellery Colour Palette

First you can select your type of jewellery – you can get just a necklace, just a bracelet, or various different jewellery sets (I’ll be adding a few more variations soon). Then you can pick up to five different colours from drop-down menus, and even select your wire colour if you want to – or you can leave this up to me.

Custom button jewellery set

If you want to discuss the colours in more detail, want more than five colours or a different bracelet or necklace length, I can do that too – just send me an email and I can make further customisations too.

Unique Bright Button Necklaces

Here are some of my recent bright button necklace designs. Each is unique, made with vintage buttons and multistrand wire. Some of these have already sold, but there are a few left, which are for sale on my button necklaces page.

Jigsaw Puzzle Necklaces and Earrings

These jigsaw puzzle necklaces are made with Japanese washi paper over jigsaw pieces, to form unusual necklaces:

Jigsaw Puzzle NecklaceJigsaw puzzle necklace: £28, Unexpected Boutique

There are also some matching earrings:

Jigsaw EarringsdWashi Jigsaw Earrings, £10, Unexpected Boutique

Japanese washi paper is a beautifully decorated paper which is often used for origami, but here it has been repurposed to create ornate and eye-catching jewellery. The combination of washi paper and jigsaw pieces is a surprising juxtaposition, and on top of that, the edges are decorated with ink “stitching” to make them look a bit like sewed-on patches. So it is a jigsaw, some origami, or the start of a patchwork quilt?