Ok, so that's a slight exaggeration. I'm not exactly going on leave to sew - though that would be truly great if I could!
I've decided to give myself a month off from making made-to-order handkerchiefs - it seems I cannot make them fast enough for you lovely Not On The High Street shoppers!
Why? Well, after upgrading my sewing machine, I've done nothing but make hankies on it and I'm not only desperate to try out some new projects on it but also, and possibly more importantly, I want to get to know my machine and find out just what it is capable of.
So, I've decided to sign up for a few evening sewing classes to get me focusing on new projects and using my machine in different ways. I'm also going to be blowing the dust off various sewing books, which are sitting unloved on my shelf. I'm hoping that will help me and my sewing machine get to know each other better and to say I'm excited about it is a complete understatement!
I plan to share my makes, so do check back soon to find out what I've been up to.
While my machine and I are becoming better acquainted, my onlines shops will still be open. The only difference being that my made-to-order handkerchiefs will be unavailable for a month. If you desperately want a handkerchief for a special event over the next month, please do drop me a line.
Hello March and hello Blog Gem time! This month as part of my Blog Gem series we get to find out about the lovely, talented Ruth - the face behind Blue Eggs and Tea, an utterly gorgeous blog I discovered recently. Ruth not only runs a blog but she also runs an Etsy shop, full of her beautiful illustrations. I simply want to buy everything in it!
So, lets find out more!
Hello there Ruth, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I daren’t call myself an artist or a blogger – I just happen to pour myself into both, whilst also juggling my career as an academic adviser in Higher Education. I’m recently married with two cats and fish, and I just moved out of the hills and into the flat lands of England. I have an on-going love affair with Scotland and the mountains. I’m a geologist by training. I’m allergic to aubergine, pathologically fearful of Ginger but also, ironically, a redhead, and I long for a small herd of Alpaca. Oh, and I love birdwatching!
What's your creative space like?
In my old house I used my spare room, which was a fit-all room for everything that didn’t fit into ‘kitchen’ ‘lounge’ or ‘bedroom’. But moving was a great chance to go out with the intention of finding something bigger, which we did. I now have a spare room, which is solely for Blue Eggs and Tea and I’ve really relished filling that with all my stuff. I have a long desk of about 2 metres where I can do general stuff including packaging orders, and then there is my computer desk where the main work happens. I also have my sewing machine in there, a load of plants, a load of books, and a load of pictures. I am obsessed with buying other people’s art work. I don’t think it’s massively important to have a dedicated space – it can become another form of creative snobbery and I don’t go in for that. You do what you need to do in this life, and find the space you need however that comes.
If you had to take only one art or craft tool to a desert island, what would it be and why?
I love craft, but if I was on a desert island I’d be far too excited about the rocks, and the plants and the birds to bother with crafting! Seriously though I’d take some sort of knife and get down to some woodwork. I’ve always wanted to carve my own canoe!
How do you work and get inspired?
I work when I can, however I can, in every available scrap of space I can find around the edge of my full-time job. This can be hard work, especially as they are so different, but I try not to moan because I chose this life and it’s a privilege and a joy to have the choice. My major creative inspirations and the True North for my work are Dr Suess and Quentin Blake with a myriad of other people popping in and out at different times. An average day on twitter will leave me inspired. Who can be more inspiring than the people we choose to spend on this planet with? Day to day it’s all about people and places and the world we live in. Clearly, I love birds. Animals generally. But I also love people and believe in the goodness and kindness in the human spirit. So the birds become a vessel for conveying the message of what I am feeling at any given time about people and our relationships together. I tend to feel something, and then I go out and surround myself with nature and let the idea ferment into something bird-orientated and colourful. Something uplifting. I’m a huge believer in positivity. I’ve had some bad times in my life, periods of darkness, but I also know the transformative power of time spent working on your personal outlook in life. Working on recognising happiness, and accepting pain as normal, which is a skill that needs developing in us all.
What top tips would you give to anyone starting a blog and online shop?
When it comes to blogging I am all brand new. It’s been less than a year, and I didn’t really pick up any momentum for several months. I think you need to find your voice and then run with it – I learned this a few years ago when I did a writing MA. I try and keep the focus on things that ‘speak to’ Blue Eggs and Tea. Topics that relate to the underpinning values: kindness, happiness, triumph over adversity and fun! I don’t want to portray a fake life on my blog because I find those sorts of blogs intimidating. So I write the blog I would be happy to read. Another tip is to let your blog grow organically – don’t be worried about followers. Just be authentic.
When it comes to starting an online shop there are so many tips I could give, and I try and put these on my blog if you have a raid of that, but primarily it has to come down to this: just get on with it. You’ll regret what you didn’t try more than you will regret what you did. If you have a passion chase it. The worst that can happen is that is doesn’t work. Don’t waste time wondering exhaustively about the pro’s and con’s. These days you can make your choices low risk, by testing the water through free social media, you can invest a little money with new ideas without going bulk. Social media has made this possible so why wait? Bravery and risk taking is rewarded in this life: the research proves it.
Is there a story behind the name 'Blue Eggs and Tea'?
There sure is. My all-time biggest influence is Dr Suess, it’s the combination of moral issues, picture and word rhyme. As a kid we read them aloud with my parents all the time. My dad’s favourite was Green Eggs and Ham and so the name came from that. My dad died suddenly a few years ago and I’ve found that lots of things that I’ve done since have connected with him in some subtle way. I find it’s a good ‘way back’ to my memory of him, as the years pass and I get scared of losing the memories I have in photos. I also love blue eggs. It’s that banal.
If you could go to a Creative Blog Award dinner with any 5 people/fictional characters (dead or alive), who would you choose?
Let’s assume Dr Suess and Quentin Blake are busy that day. This would leave me with a longlist that’s still too long! Ask me on any other day and I would probably say something different but let’s say for now: Margaret Atwood (I love her books, Life Before Man in particular), Captain Scott (Adventurer and all-round hard man. We’d discuss the strength of the human resolve), the Head of Dept. at Nottingham Veterinary School (so I could persuade him to let me study with them part-time for free and fulfil the one dream that will always be the one that got away), Aung san suu kyi to discuss how she has stayed so brave and focused in her fight for the liberation of Burma, and then finally, my Dad. There’s lots I never said; I think we’d get on really well these days. A weird mix, and as I say I could switch some of those out for a chinwag with Neil Armstrong, Philip Larkin, Germaine Greer, Hazel Irvine….haha.
And finally...book & tea or film & wine?
I’m a hideous cliché. Book and Tea please. I’m not a big drinker to be honest, though I do like Rekorderlig cider a lot. And Rose wine. Oh, and Baileys….ok, maybe I lied. Still tea though. Ceylon preferably. And the book needs to leave me with something. I need to come away better for reading it. Saying that though I seem to rarely finish a book these days, if only books were 110 minutes long…
Wow! What inspiring words! I wholeheartedly agree with your tip for those thinking of starting an online shop: just go for it, there's no time like the present! Thanks so much for stopping by, Ruth. It's been fantastic hearing all about what inspires you and of course who would come to that Creative Blog Award dinner!
I hope you all enjoyed reading about Ruth's creative world. Stay tuned for next month's Blog Gem and until then happy blogging!
Writing an 'About' page for a blog/website is never easy. When I sat down to re-write mine as part of my blog and business rebrand, I hit a huge brickwall - thud! I then proceeded to fill my blogging notebook with numerous different versions, some turning into the start of an autobiography. It got messy, so I turned to the internet for some advice.
I read loads of posts on the topic, which totally helped me get started and I finally wrote my About page. I'm sure it will evolve again. In fact, I'd be cross with myself if it didn't - life continually changes, so a blog, brand and business should too. Being stagnant isn't good for the soul!
Anyhoooo, I thought I'd share what I learnt and what seems to be the general consensus out there on writing an About page.
1) Start by introducing your blog/website/brand/shop, telling your reader straight away what your blog etc is and what they can expect to find.
2) Entice your readers in to stay (and follow you). For example, say why you stand out from other blogs.
3) Don't write an essay or produce a long list of '30 things about me' - people will never read that far and instead get bored and click away.
4) Put your contact details and ensure the link to your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc accounts are easy to link to.
Now, I don't know about you but I quite like reading those "things you might not know about me". I think they give a bit of personality to a blog/website. So, I've decided to do a list of ten random facts about me, which I'm linking to from my About page for those who like to read a bit more. I always like a balance of professionalism and personality, so I'm giving it a go.
I hope that's useful to those of you who, like me, struggled with what to include.
1) I'm a 30 something Librarian by day. Yes, I do wear reading glasses. No, I don't wear a bun.
2) In another life I would have been either a backing dancer for Tina Turner or a drummer in a rock'n'roll band.
3) I once, at a young age (very young, I hasten to add!), went to school in my pjyamas because I was convinced they were leggings with a matching top. Never ever did I repeat that.
4) Years ago I did a dj-ing course where I learnt how to mix vinyl, not cds. For my final piece, I mixed early Tina Turner (yes, I am a fan) with some Count Five, much to the surprise of the teacher and the entire class. I think it went down well?!
5) I do a mean impression of Sivio from the Sopranos.
6) I absolutely abhor offal (except in pâté), e-books, stilton, desiccated coconut, and glacé cherries.
7) I absolutely love every flavour of crisps, avocados, cheese (except stilton - see above), record players, card and board games, victorian houses, the colours turquoise, magenta and mustard, veggie patches, brightly coloured doors...oh and did I mention my husband? He's pretty darn awesome! ;-)
8) My biggest two fears? Heights and public speaking.
9) I'm obsessed with the 1985 tv series of Anne of Green Gables.
10) The last pet I owned was one guinea pig called Maggie and a rabbit named Cosmic Star Dust. They lived together for a very long time. Oh and yes, I was having a big David Bowie phase at the time of naming the rabbit.
Eeeek, exciting news alert! I've got my first ever bricks and mortar stockist!!
My rings, cufflinks and earring designs are now being stocked by Bird in Borrowed Feathers, a gorgeous shop run by the lovely Hannah and Georgie. They sell a beautiful range of handmade products, both in their shop and online. Just look how cute their shop is!
Thank you so much Hannah and Georgie for stocking my handmade accessories!