Etsy Made Local 2017

So. How’s the Christmas prep going? Please don’t tell me you have everything wrapped already!?

This year I’m really making the effort to buy well-thought-out gifts from local sellers and small online businesses. I talked about this recently on Instagram, as I hate the thought of pumping my hard-earned pennies into the pockets of faceless, tax-dodging megacorps (not to mention filling the house with more stuff we don’t really need or want!).

#campaignshopsmall

I wrote about about Not On The High Street founder Holly Tucker’s #campaignshopsmall, and I totally get where she’s coming from.

So if, like me, you’re looking to buy a bit more mindfully this year, focusing on supporting small businesses and choosing gifts which really mean something and bring a genuine smile and long-lasting pleasure to your recipients, then please consider heading to your nearest Etsy Made Local event this year.

 

2079_EML_UK_17_Digital_FB Post 3There are Etsy Made Local events happening in 40 locations across the UK this December (1st to the 3rd). The great thing about them is they’re organised by Etsy sellers themselves (I’m a Leader of Etsy’s Team York!), so they’re truly grassroots. Us Team members volunteer our time and energy into making our Team’s Christmas Markets an event to remember, offering stalls filled with fantastic handmade and vintage goods, craft supplies and gifts to suit the most discerning of shoppers. It’s just like browsing Etsy, only in actual real life!

You can find a list of locations across the UK for this December’s Etsy Made Local fairs here.

Team York’s event is at St Sampson’s Church, a gorgeous old church in York’s city centre. York is so beautiful at Christmas, so if you can make it through, you’d be so welcome! On both days, we’ll have goody bags to give away to the first 50 adults through the door, so make sure you’re there well before 10am if you want to snap one up!

Melissa Holmes of HolmesMadePapercuts at the Etsy Made Local Christmas Market in York, December 2016

My stall at the 2016 Etsy Made Local Christmas Market in York

I’ll be attending on the Sunday with a range of lovely gifts, cards and original papercuts – there’ll be something to suit all budgets. Across the weekend you’ll be able to shop from a huge range of sellers; this year Team York members are offering everything from Liberty-print bowties and hand-dyed yarns to unique baby clothes, amazing hand-crafted jewellery and hand-thrown ceramic mugs shaped like skulls! Seriously – something for everyone. Plus you get to meet with the Etsy sellers themselves, and view and handle their beautiful products for yourself.

For your convenience, you can pay for your purchases by card or cash, and we even have a fabulous photo booth this year so you can get a few fun snaps with your shopping companions! And if that’s not enough, you can also enjoy delicious cakes and refreshing drinks at the venue’s cafe. What’s not to love?!

Oh and you get to meet the Leaders and Captain of Team York. And you’ll probably agree, the less said about that rowdy bunch, the better…!

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If you can make it to our Christmas Market here in York (and if yes, please click “going” here, and share with your friends!), or to whatever Etsy Made Local event is happening nearest you, please do go along and support your local indie businesses… We’d all be super chuffed to see you. And if you can’t make one, keep your eyes peeled for free shipping offers from your favourite Etsy shops (almost as good as being there…).

Happy shopping!

Love,

Melissa x

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JUST A CARD

Reflecting on the Just A Card campaign, the importance of greetings cards in my life, and how I created one of my favourite card designs.

My daughter is a prolific card-maker. She makes them for everyone and every occasion – for each of her classmates at the end of each school year to thank them for being her friend and highlight the best points of their personalities, to say thank you to the family who recently donated their old trampoline to us, to wish friends and relatives a happy birthday. She even designs her own birthday party invitations. She just loves to create, and to express her feelings with a card.

My daughter's handmade end of term cards for each of her school friends

My daughter’s handmade end of term cards for each of her school friends

I think she’s developing a bit of a stationery obsession. I don’t know where she gets it from… I’ve had a stock of beautiful cards for years, kept in bag in a drawer. Purchased from uni book shops, in museum shops, in tiny little stationers in small towns, from high street chains offering fantastic designs, from friends running small businesses. Some of these cards were bought with the intention of never actually using them, but still… I know I’m not alone on that one!

With the ever-expanding use of social media, along with sending texts and e-cards plus our increased awareness of the need to protect the environment, cards are becoming a bit of a thing of the past. But there’s nothing like receiving a card through the post. Hearing the thud on the door mat and spotting something personal in the pile of bills and envelopes, peering at the date stamp to figure out where it was posted from and who may have sent it, sliding your finger under the envelope flap to release the card, and opening up the card to read the personal, heartfelt message. I don’t know about you, but the whole experience of receiving a card in the post gives me the warm and fuzzies.

When my partner and I got together, we were living 250 miles apart. I often sent him cards, and he kept every one in a special box. I even have the Valentine’s card he sent me when we first dated as young teens. When my mum was dying of terminal cancer, she wrote me and my sisters our own personal cards, with individual messages and advice for our lives ahead. Again, something I’ll keep forever. When I recently suffered a miscarriage, we received some beautiful cards from loving friends, including the beautiful card pictured bottom left from Jo at Bespoke Verse. Again, these will be placed in a memory box, to be treasured always.

Selection of special cards_HolmesMadePapercuts

A selection of special cards we’ve held on to over the years. Baby loss card (bottom left) by the brilliant Bespoke Verse.

You see, cards may just be pieces of paper, but they can mean so much.

For some gallery and stationery shop owners, cards can mean the difference between staying in business and closing the shop doors permanently, as the founder of the Just A Card campaign discovered. As one gallery owner who was forced to close their shop noted “If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought just a card, we’d still be open”.

And so the Just A Card campaign was born.

Just A Card

As a small business owner selling mostly online, I welcome every order and every sale I receive, no matter how small. If a customer comes to one of my fairs and puts their hand in their pocket for a 50p postcard, it is appreciated. If someone visits my Etsy store in their search for an anniversary card and chooses one of my typewriter cards to be personalised and posted to their loved one, I’m thrilled. Those small purchases mean everything to me. Every sale counts; helping feed and clothe my beautiful family, and giving me the confidence to carry on with what I do.

You don’t need me to tell you about the importance of supporting small independent businesses like mine, so I thought I’d use this post on Just A Card Day to tell you about the production of one of my favourite cards. As a papercutting artist, I don’t offer a huge range of cards – the process of papercutting is super time-consuming and takes many woman hours, so I don’t often make designs with the sole purpose of turning them into cards. That’s not the case with my love letter cards though.

Vintage Typewriter Drawing_HolmesMade

My vintage typewriter drawing, all ready for cutting

Before I started cutting holes in paper (it’s a real job you know!), I was a journalist and magazine editor. I’ve always been obsessed with words, and have a list of ‘future cuts’ themed around reading and the joy of words which I’ll get round to cutting some day. But one idea I just had to design and turn into a card was a vintage typewriter papercut with a quote that popped into my head one day: “A true love story never ends”. I thought it would work perfectly for a sentimental, romantic card. So I got to work.

As with all of my papercuts, the initial piece began life as a drawing. This one was based on a vintage typewriter I’d seen at Allan Bank, the fabulous National Trust property, which I’d photographed a few years ago with the intention of using as future inspiration. Once the drawing was complete, I got to work on cutting out the piece by hand from grey paper using just my scalpel. After completion, I scanned the finished A3 papercut using my flatbed scanner, before transferring it to PhotoShop (the extent of my computer design abilities!) and adding my wording and space for personalisation.

Typewriter in progress_HolmesMadePapercuts

The finished papercut, ready to be scanned and turned into a card design.

The majority of my cards are professionally printed elsewhere, but because this was a personalised design, I needed to be able to print it on my own printer using my own recycled card stock. That’s partly why the design is so simple – I wanted a simple aesthetic, but I also needed to make sure I created something my own printer could handle. After printing a few cards off with different names for samples, it was time for some photography and description writing, after which the finished product was uploaded to my Etsy shop. I’ve had a few orders for the love letter card since I first listed it, and every order counts – I just adore the thought of a loved-up couple enjoying a card personalised with their names for their wedding or anniversary, or sent as a little love note through the post!

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/496231188/love-letter-typewriter-card-personalised?ref=shop_home_active_2

Personalised love letter card

So that’s my story of Just A Card – from what cards mean to me, to how I make them myself. What’s your story?

 

Words and images © Melissa Holmes :: HolmesMadePapercuts

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Valentines cards, Valentines gifts, personalised Valentine, love card, gift for wife, gift for husband

Love is in the air!

A little seasonal update for you! First up – hello 2017! 2016 was the year of the exhibition for me, with shows in London and Yorkshire (there’ll be a review of the year to follow); it looks like 2017 will be the year of the workshop, as I have a few planned already.

The gifting year is well and truly underway, with lots of interest in my latest Valentine’s designs. I’ve been busy creating some new pieces including my sweet retro typewriter card, which can be personalised with a couple’s names. Featuring the wording “A true love story never ends”, and based on an original hand-drawn, hand-cut papercut, these cards are available in my Etsy shop. They’re like a little love letter, and great for all lovey-dovey occasions, from Valentine’s to engagements and weddings – or simply just to send someone a message (customers can personalise the quote section too!). It’s just one of a number of perfectly romantic cards available in my online store now.

Just a little reminder that my order books are currently open and I’m accepting commissions for a wide range of pieces; from papercuts featuring special landscapes (after the success of my Whitby and Malham Cove pieces last year!) or buildings (like my York Minster piece created in December 2016), to my more widely-known family trees and filled letter cuts. You can order these via my Etsy shop or directly from me via the contact page on my website.

March and November will see me host workshops at Artison near Masham in Yorkshire. With a hearty lunch, refreshments and cake provided, I’ll be tutoring participants in the fine art of papercutting for pleasure. Find out more by visiting the Artison website!

Here’s to a great 2017.

Melissa x

personalised Valentine – wedding card – engagement card – love card – vintage typewriter – you are my lobster – Etsy shop – UK artist – The Paper Artist Collective – Melissa Holmes – HolmesMadePapercuts – papercutting workshop – learn a new craft – Yorkshire artist – British artist

 

AN EXHIBITION OF PAPER ARTISTS

I’m thrilled to be involved with an exciting exhibition of works by paper artists from across the world, which is happening in May in Hackney, London! I will have four original pieces on display (shown below), as well as a range of printscards and notebooks – plus my fantastic Beginner’s Papercutting Sets if you fancy turning your hand to this wonderful form of craft.

Sixteen members of the Paper Artist Collective are presenting a selection of their works in Hackney, as part of an event which will see dynamic pieces on display from members in the UK, USA, Norway, India, Thailand, South Korea, Lithuania and Australia.

At the exhibition, you’ll see work by some of the world’s most talented artists working in the medium of paper (including me – yikes!), from 3D sculpture to geometric papercutting and colourful paper illustration. The group exhibition will showcase a broad variety of talent and techniques, creating an inspiring and uplifting pop-up gallery experience, which will also see a selection of prints and greetings cards on sale.

Exhibition Dates
Thursday 5th May – Tuesday 10th May

Opening hours:
11am-5pm daily

Venue
A-side B-side Gallery
Hackney Downs Studios
Amhurst Terrace
London E8 2BT

If you can’t get to the exhibition, subscribers to my mailing list can enjoy a special 10% discount in my online shop. Use code SUPERSMASHINGGREAT to get 10% off all purchases in my online store, for the duration of the Hackney exhibition and beyond (it’s valid till 31/12/16!). That includes fine art prints of the four original pieces I’ll be exhibiting, pictured above. If you’re not already a subscriber, you can sign up here.

© Holmes-made Papercuts

On creative block, not being good enough, and not giving up.

‘I used to be a papercutting artist.’

‘I was a self-employed creative, but I’m taking a break while I decide on a new direction.’

‘I worked as an artist, but…’

No matter how I try and phrase it, it doesn’t sound right. What is all this ‘used to be’, this ‘was’?

What do I mean, I’m ‘taking a break’?

I’ve never taken a break. I don’t take breaks. My brain never stops. I have always been creative. It runs in my blood, from my grandparents to my beautiful daughter, there’s a creative root that’s grown and flourished and blossomed throughout my life – whether it’s painting from my imagination as a toddler, working as an arts co-ordinator to support young people with disabilities, writing articles for national magazines as a journalist, or creating bespoke keepsake papercuts for great clients.

I’ve never not created.

But suddenly that blossom has withered away. My petals have fallen.

Trying to get my head round the concept of taking a break from my creativity, or even – heaven forbid – actually stopping papercutting… Well, it’s difficult.

For a few weeks, I haven’t created much at all. It seems to have started a while back, perhaps triggered by some rather nasty personal insults which caused me to question myself a little too much (apparently, I’m “just a mum who cuts holes in paper in her daughter’s bedroom” – the things people say when they have a keyboard to hide behind). I’ve been going through the motions. I’ve posted out Etsy orders in between being mum and caring for my family during the Easter holidays. Commissions have taken a back seat while I wrestle with ‘just not feeling it’ – thank you to those understanding customers. I’ve spent time with family, time alone, time online trying to breathe new life into my creativity with the support of a network of amazing fellow business owners. I’ve spent time exercising, meditating, reading… But very little time at my cutting mat.

The feeling of not creating is a very strange one indeed. I’ve come to realise that the minutiae of running a creative business (and the vast amount of non-creative time that involves) has started to overcome me. Keeping up with the admin, marketing, accounts, social media, getting my product photography just so, setting out plans for the future… But wait a minute. When did I last sit with a pencil and just draw? When did I last go for a walk in nature and not check my iPhone for Etsy stats or Instagram likes? When did I last spend an evening with my family without responding to client enquiries or updating product listings in my online stores?

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It’s Spring – time to gather up my petals and start blooming again.

I’ve come to realise that what I’ve been experiencing isn’t creative block. It’s creative overload. Surrounded by highly talented peers who are consistently coming up with bestsellers and new concepts; constantly seeing apparently perfect, organised lives and brilliant businesses on social media… I won’t be the first creative person to tell you that my ideas don’t feel original, that I can’t come up with anything new, that people must be bored of what I do, that I feel like I’ve no sense of direction, that I’m just not good enough. But all of these thoughts have whirred around my head in recent months.

Ah, self doubt. How I loathe you.

I wish I knew how to quit you.

And it’s been so hard, so hard when everyone else seems to be doing great, and when working alone (when I usually really value my solitude) can make me feel like the loneliest person on the planet. Not physically alone, but also alone with those isolating, almost self-indulgent thoughts.

I’ve reached out. I’ve spoken to other creatives, to friends, to people who follow me on social media. I know I’m not alone – in every sense of the word.

From my best friend: “You’re such a talented person. Taking some you time is maybe what you need.”

From a brilliantly creative online friend: “You may find you don’t need a massive break,  just time to remember how to be you again. You are a papercut artist, that’s what you do.”

Who is this ‘you’ that they speak of? I’m not sure who she is… I am my business and my business is me, and if I never have another decent creative idea ever again OH MY GOSH THIS IS THE WORST FEELING EVER!

And yet another wonderful original creative talent: “You are more than capable. Please don’t think you’re on your own with this, you’re not, at all.”

Of course, when you’re in the mire of creative numbness, feeling like you’ll never have an original idea ever again (while simultaneously beating yourself up about having such narcissistic thoughts when there are so many more important things going on in the world), these loving, supportive words bounce off your psyche like raindrops on a leaf-laden forest floor. Just not in such a beautiful way.

Because, when you keep telling yourself the same thing over and over, sometimes you start to believe it. Even when, deep down, you know it’s not the truth.

When you’re used to always being creative, creative block is a very scary feeling. None of my ideas feel like mine, you tell yourself. I will never be able to create anything ever again – you’re convinced. What if I never have any more ideas ever again!? My brain is empty. Literally empty. And this sketch looks too much like this other artist’s work. And I can’t do this design because everyone is doing this style and I don’t want to look like I’m jumping on some sort of bandwagon. And I can’t even put my pencil to paper as I’ve talked myself out of having any sort of talent or four years’ worth of happy, satisfied customers. That never really happened, did it? Face it, you’re just not good enough.

And so it continues, round and round. The nasty cycle.

Weirdly, all I’ve wanted to do since this murky creative fog descended is to write. Which is what I used to do – and do well – before my daughter was born. In a cruel twist of post-baby nose-diving self-confidence, I gave that up (not good enough! Are you spotting a theme here?) to pursue papercutting, which I loved (love). So perhaps I do still have a little creative ember burning away inside of me. Maybe I just need to find that spark to light it up again.

At times like this, I seek advice everywhere. I want to know what my favourite thinkers and influencers think about creative block, about self care, about keeping going and trying new things. The brilliant Austin Kleon quips: “You can’t find your voice if you don’t use it” and (pertinently, for me) “You have to remember that your work is something you do, not who you are.” Phew. Well that’s a relief.

Meanwhile, my beloved Elizabeth Gilbert tells me: “Done is better than good,” and “Perfectionists often decide in advance that the end product is never going to be satisfactory, so they don’t even bother trying to be creative in the first place.”

Elizabeth? Is that you? Actually inside my mind??

I could read every opinion and every theory about the situation, continue my procrastination and prolong my fear of getting wrong the commissions that a few of my wonderful (and patient, and understanding) clients are waiting for. But I still wouldn’t find the answer. Why? Because only I have the answer. And I know, through all my denial, dilly-dallying, self doubt, lack of confidence, anxieties over my abilities, that the answer is very, very simple. Too simple.

Do the thing.

Draw the sketch. Create the piece. Cut the paper. DO THE THING.

Actually doing the work, getting my ideas down (preferably free of my own judgement and self-criticism) is the only way I can get past this block. To rediscover my love of the process, to reignite my passion for the craft. It is truly the only way.

So that is what I’m going to do.

One pencil line, one scalpel cut at a time.

I’ll see you on the other side. Who knows what may happen…?

Words and images © Melissa Holmes :: HolmesMadePapercuts

Launch of The Paper Artist Collective

I’m thrilled to let you know I’m now part of The Paper Artist Collective; an international group of hugely talented artists all working with the medium of paper.

Proud member of The Paper Artist Collective.The Collective is made up of some 50 members from 22 countries and, since our formation in early 2015, we have been working together to share opportunities and information.

My artist's page on the PAC websiteAs a member of the Collective, I’m excited to be involved with such a diverse and interesting group of people. I consider it a real honour to have been invited to be part of this internationally renowned group of artists. We have a number of events and exhibitions planned, so I will keep you posted on those over the months ahead. Please feel free to visit the website, follow our Instagram or find us on Facebook or Twitter to learn more about the many individual artists involved, and our future plans, which include a pop-up shop in Oslo and an exhibition in Geneva.

In the meantime, I am busy with commissions, Christmas planning and organising more workshops (despite it being the Summer holidays and me saying I would take less on!), as well as filling my lovely new Etsy shop with goodies. So yes, I’m certainly very busy just now! My order books are filling up for Christmas, with limited slots now available from mid-October onwards, so if you’d like a bespoke piece like a family tree, quote papoodle or filled letters papercut, please contact me.

Till next time,

Melissa

Busy in the kitchen!

Kale... From my veg patch to my green juice!

#TeamKale… From my veg patch to my green juice!

My love of being creative extends to the kitchen, so trying new recipes and food ideas is one of my favourite things… I even love to grow my own food.

Those of you who follow my Instagram feed will know I’m a huge fan of juicing and healthy eating, but that I also have a seriously sweet tooth.

So imagine my delight – thanks to the big surge in popularity of whole foods and clean eating – when I discovered a simple recipe for homemade chocolate hazelnut spread, and when I found out about the marvel that is ‘nice cream’.

Homemade pancakes... One of my favourite naughty treats just got a smidgen healthier thanks to homemade chocolate spread.

Homemade pancakes… One of my favourite naughty treats just got a smidgen healthier thanks to homemade chocolate spread.

Nutella is a go-to for me; whether I’m spreading it on homemade pancakes (here are some I made earlier!), dipping my pretzels in it, or just eating it straight from the jar. On a spoon.

But the ingredients list isn’t all that appetising, with palm oil high on the list. Since my large jar was down to its last dregs, I decided to attempt to make my own. Right after I finished eating those pancakes! Homemade hazelnut chocolate spread is actually really simple to make, with just a few ingredients. Here’s how I made mine, with my recipe slightly adapted from this one which I found in the Guardian.

You’ll need…
200g whole hazelnuts
One teaspoon of cacao powder (if you don’t have this, you can use regular cocoa powder, like you’d use in baking)
Four teaspoons of caster sugar (you can leave this out if you prefer)
Two teaspoons of groundnut oil
One teaspoon of vanilla essence

Roasted hazelnuts, before removing the skinsFirst, spread the hazelnuts out on a baking tray and pop in the oven at 180ºC for about ten minutes, maybe fifteen. Once the outside skin of the nuts has gone dark brown, wrap the hazelnuts in a clean tea towel and massage the tea towel ‘bag’ vigorously against your worktop. Give the bag a good rub back and forth to loosen the skins of the hot nuts (so many opportunities for sniggering here, sorry) – it’ll take some doing but you’ll be left with a pile of clean hazelnuts (you can pick any stubborn skins off by hand, or pop them back in the oven to roast a little longer).
Once you’ve got skinless nuts(!), pop them in the food processor with a teaspoon of the oil and whizz for a few minutes till the mixture takes on a buttery consistency. You can then add the rest of the ingredients including the remaining teaspoon of oil, along with a pinch of salt. Whizz all of this up for a few more minutes in order to get chocolate hazelnut spread. Once done, pop it into a clean jam jar and store it in the fridge, where it’ll keep for a month. If you can actually keep it that long!

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Mine has a lovely roasted nutty taste (I left a few stubborn skins on the nuts) and a rich chocolatey flavour (I used a posh block of pure cacao which is meant to be for hot chocolate, but I grated it and it worked fine!). My spread was also quite crunchy (I could’ve blended it for longer) which is really tasty, especially with the little crumbles of salt I can taste in it. It might not look as smooth or as dark as the original recipe, but… Mmmmmm… Pass me a spoon!

Next up was tea (roast chicken, blanched kale and summer potatoes, in case you’re wondering!), then – more importantly – pudding!!

If you’ve never heard of nice cream, you’re missing a treat. It’s dairy free and divine. What’s more, it’s been taking over my Instagram feed for months. Just look at these beautiful examples…

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So how do you make it? Next time you have overripe bananas (a rarity in this house), simply slice them up and put them in the freezer. Then when you want a refreshing, cooling dessert, just grab those frozen banana bits and whizz them up! It’s as simple as that. With frozen bananas as the base, you can then any other frozen fruit into the food processor at the same time (we used strawberries tonight) or even cocoa powder or matcha. It’s a great reason to raid the reduced-price fruit in the supermarket – just bring it home and pop it in the freezer. After a couple of minutes of blending, you’re left with a delicious, creamy nice cream!

Strawberry and banana 'nice cream'

Strawberry and banana ‘nice cream’

It’s definitely something I’ll be making again… She wolfed it down in minutes!!

Strawberry and banana 'nice cream'... Didn't last long!

Strawberry and banana ‘nice cream’… Didn’t last long!

Well that’s enough of my foodie chatter for now… I just had to share the homemade choc spread and more importantly the nice cream with you! Definitely worth a try this summer. Why not give them a go?

All images and words © Melissa Holmes :: holmesmadepapercuts, unless stated/otherwise credited. Please do not use, alter, copy or redistribute without my prior consent.