Five lessons from 2017

As with every year that passes, 2017 taught me some real life lessons. Here, I share the five biggest things I learned last year – about myself and my business. 

Lesson One: People still want my work.

When you’re self-employed and work alone from home, you often feel you’re in a little bubble. Your friends, customers and peers are all online, and it’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of comparison and jealousy when you scroll the Instagram feeds of fellow creative businesses and see their amazing creations and picture-perfect lives. Of course, I’m not delusional – I know everyone presents their best side online, but that doesn’t stop me being full of self-doubt.

I’ve been papercutting for more than six years now, and the days of being booked solidly for commissions for 18 months are long gone (I shudder at the pressure I used to put myself under!). I’m a lot less busy than I used to be. I know I’m not alone in this, and I’m happy with the amount of work I have on as it’s easier to balance with family life. So when I do get enquiries and send out invoices for one of a kind pieces, it still feels amazing. Every time my iPhone makes the cha-ching till sound when I get an Etsy sale, I do a little dance and a big “wahoo!”. It’s great to still feel wanted after six years of doing this (despite what my imposter syndrome monsters try to convince me), and it’s an honour to be kept busy by lovely customers with such great projects and orders. It helps put food on our table, pay towards the bills, and keeps me out of trouble – thank you. Always.

2017 saw me hand-draw and hand-cut a wonderful selection of commissions (a few are pictured above), from an architectural wedding venue cut to mermaids, seaside scenes and Cornish landscapes. I created a vintage typewriter which I turned into Valentine’s cards (buy them here!), cut lots more scenes of Yorkshire’s famous landmarks, cut some big family trees, pretty wedding hearts and colourful children’s name pieces, and developed new templates and kits in order to pass my passion for paper to others through delivering three fantastic workshops. I continued my work with Etsy’s Team York, hit 500 sales in my Etsy shop, and undertook my largest commission ever. Again – thank you.

Lesson two: I’m stronger than I realise.

I’m not a very resilient person, and lord knows me and my immediate family have had some trying times over the years. This year has been one of the most trying, but also one that’s taught me I am far stronger than I think. The year began on an unsteady footing as we recovered from the unexpected passing of a close family member, ascended into bliss as we discovered we were expecting our second child, and descended to despair when we discovered there was no pregnancy.

Laurence and I decided earlier this year that we really wanted to extend our family, and we were overjoyed to discover those thin blue lines in July. Everything seemed pretty normal – belly growing, strong symptoms, positive tests – and we were so excited to share our news with our seven-year-old after the 12-week scan in September. But it wasn’t to be. There was just an empty sac, with no baby. I said the words at the same time as the sonographer –  “a missed miscarriage”, while Laurence looked at me, dumbfounded. My body had been playing tricks on me, and it was a further two months of emotional and physical torment (eventually resulting in me needing surgery) before I was officially no longer pregnant. Even though I never really had been.

Missed miscarriage scan

Little Baby Nothing – discovering my missed miscarriage in September was a massive shock.

Once you see those two lines, your world changes. You feel all the fears and have all the hopes. But after that scan, hope went out like a candle. Hope for the little piece of love that would always be in my heart, but never in my arms. I read somewhere that you can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability, and I feel vulnerable putting this in words, but every brave step helps the healing.

A little over two weeks after my surgery, I was driving myself to the Lake District to deliver a workshop, for which I’d created three new products and devised and put together DIY packs and templates (and started selling them in my online shop). I don’t know how I managed it, but I did. December was one of my busiest months ever, with another workshop plus a Christmas market and a ton of online sales – and I was doing it all singlehandedly, putting in crazy hours as Laurence was working away in his new job and only home at weekends. Had my mind not been kept so busy, I think the final weeks of the year would’ve turned out very differently. So again, I’m so grateful for all of the orders and enquiries – you don’t know how much that busy-ness helped me get through the experience. It certainly taught me that I’m stronger than I thought.

Lesson three: I love teaching

After nine years of self-employment, I’ve become used to my own company. Sometimes I can go a full day without speaking to another adult. Which leads me to act like a complete dork when I do engage in adult conversation. I pull stupid facial expressions, and make foot-in-mouth comments. Social decorum is not exactly my middle name!

So when I have to professionally ‘adult’ in front of other adults, who’ve *paid* for me to stand in front of them and teach them something… It can be quite daunting (we’ll gloss over the fact that I used to teach at a real-life college!). As someone who has long suffered from horrendous panic attacks and anxiety over public engagements, it’s a wonder I can pull my rear end into gear and actually teach workshops. But teach them I do!

I taught three in 2017, at the wonderful ArtisOn and at glorious new venue Swallows & Artisans. There’s nothing I enjoy more than sharing my passion for paper with an enthusiastic bunch of lovely people. Seeing their faces as they pull a finished papercut away from the template, or pose proudly for a picture with their finished creations… I just love it. Expect to see more workshops in 2018 – subscribe to my newsletter if you want to be kept up to date on when they’re happening. And if you know of a great venue who you think would love me to teach there, please let me know about it!

Lesson four: Family and friends are everything

After a trying year, I can barely begin to thank my family and friends for being there for me. I’ve made more of an effort to be social this year, rather than cooping myself up alone in my little studio, and it’s certainly helped my mental health. And probably my productivity as well!

Batfest collage_MelissaHolmes

Batfest… Heavenly!

From lunch dates with creative girlfriends and giggle-filled meetings with my Etsy Team York posse, to full weekends camping with creative geniuses; friends and fun were a central part of 2017. Once again, Batfest was a highlight. It’s not a festival dedicated to bats, it’s just a small get together organised between a bunch of creative indie businesses which this year involved camping, Smores, giant bubbles, stand-up paddleboarding, wheelbarrow races, eating, star-gazing, campfires, balloon modelling, rowing, face-painting, macrame, henna, dogs, country walks and an epic water fight. Very much looking forward to doing it all again this year!

Then of course there are the times when friends and family go above and beyond to help out in times of need – like when school mums take my daughter C to school while I’m struggling to stand upright due to a flare-up of my chronic pain condition, or my Dad and stepmum step in to help out with C when I’m too ill to manage, or one of my oldest friends accompanies me to the hospital to take the tablets to induce my miscarriage, and stays with me for the next ten hours through the contractions and crying to rub my back and bring me pain meds. Thank you Em, I’ll never forget your kindness and love over the past year and will never be able to repay you.

As independent as I like to think I am, 2017 taught me that I can’t get by without my friends and family. I’m so grateful to have such a special bunch of people in my life.

Lesson five: Self-care is vital

A couple of years ago, I read the quote “an empty vessel cannot serve”. To me, that translates as “you’ve got to fill your own cup before you can fill anyone else’s” – like when you put your own oxygen mask on first on a plummeting plane.

Spring is always a great time for new beginnings for me, and starting to try to extend our family corresponded with me really pushing my exercise and clean eating up a notch from around March onwards. I started lifting weights, my daily workouts went from 20 minutes to at least an hour a day and I was restless and tetchy if I didn’t get my exercise-induced endorphin boost. To me, exercise is a huge part of self-care – it gives me more energy, and helps me manage my pain condition. Plus lifting weights makes you feel ruddy incredible, like you can take on the world. So 2018 is seeing much more of that happening (I had to put exercise on hold with the whole pregnancy thing last year), along with more early nights, more daily gratitude lists and more making time for the things I enjoy doing (reading, art galleries, day trips with my family, good walks…). Last year showed me the rewards I can reap when I take better care of myself, and that’s a great lesson to learn. It’s inspired one of my new product ranges this year, and I’m so excited to share with you the first piece from the new range, which sums up this happy-go-lucky approach.

DoMoreOfWhatMakesYouHappy art print_HolmesMadePapercuts

Do More of What Makes You Happy – words to live by for 2018, and a fab new print by me, available now in my Etsy shop

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know a little more about my lessons of 2017. What were the biggest things you learned last year? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

Much love,

Melissa x

PS – I know I’m posting this blog at the end of January, so it’s a bit late. But I don’t think I’m the only one who finds those first few weeks of the new year a little overwhelming! There was a lot to process last year… And this post is better late than never.

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…!

171001_202139

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

SaveSave

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

SaveSaveSaveSave

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

 

Holmesmadepapercuts is on Etsy!

After almost four years of creating my hand-drawn, hand-cut papercuts and lovely printed products, I’m thrilled to let you know I’ve now created a shop on Etsy.

You can visit it here.Holmesmadepapercuts - now on Etsy!

Etsy is one of the world’s best known marketplaces, and it brings together creative entrepreneurs like me with lovely shoppers like you. Since being founded in 2005, Etsy has grown to have 1.4 million active sellers (I’m a little fish in a huge ocean of talent!) and a huge 20.8 million active buyers. It’s a safe and secure method of shopping online, and I’m pleased as punch to be part of it.

For now, I’m maintaining my website at www.holmesmadepapercuts.com while I shift everything over to Etsy and decide whether to do away with my old site and stick with just Etsy, or if to maintain both sites at the same time. Bear with!!

Right now you can order a small selection of fine art prints, a bunch of beautiful originals and my fabulous printed mugs, notebooks and greetings cards. You’ll also find my Beginner’s Papercutting Sets and a new addition – papercutting templates, for those of you who’re keen to try your crafty hand at my designs (instant download templates will be available soon, all templates are for personal use only).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Of course, much of my time is still taken up with wonderful bespoke commissions, which are an absolute privilege to cut, and I’ll soon be adding slots for these to my Etsy shop once my order books are a little quieter. In the meantime, you can always email me to reserve your own commission slot via hello (at) holmesmadepapercuts (dot) com

I’ve also joined my local Etsy Team, so expect to hear news in the future about local events I’m taking part in alongside fellow Leeds-area Etsians.

I hope you like the new shop and find buying from it a pleasure! I’d love to hear your thoughts, so if you have any comments or suggestions (be kind, I’m completely new to Etsy!), I’d love to hear them.

That’s all for now,

Melissa

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

York Makers Spring Fair and papercutting workshop

york makers posterIn early May I took part in a fantastic event with York Makers, a collective of craftspeople, artists and designer-makers based in York. I had a stall upstairs in the lovely Clements Hall, selling my originals, prints, cards, notebooks and mugs, plus I hosted my very first Beginner’s Papercutting Workshop at the event.

The day was a huge success, with more than 400 people through the doors (it’s not really central, so that’s a great number!). There were lots of beautiful stalls downstairs in the main rooms (which I was unfortunately too busy to look at!).

Manning my stall – a rare quiet moment!

Manning my stall – a rare quiet moment!

My stall was really popular – people always love the chance to look at my detailed work up close – with a very busy “till” (i.e. tupperware box containing my float!) plus lots of enquiries about commissions too.

The pre-booked workshop was a hit. The attendees (who came from as far away as Doncaster, Lancashire and Derby!) really enjoyed themselves and went home with completed papercuts (some used my Holmes-made-designed templates while others drew their own) as well as Beginner’s Papercutting Sets. Oh, and full tummies from the delicious homemade cake on offer!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m currently in talks with a couple of local venues about hosting papercutting workshops with them in future, so please keep your eye on my online shop and Facebook page for more information. I’m also planning a number of other craft fairs and events for the rest of 2015. If you’d like to be notified of a future workshop or event, please sign up to my mailing list by clicking here.

I just love this photo of Steph as she pulled her finished papercut away from the paper!

I just love this photo of Steph as she pulled her finished papercut away from the paper!

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

Spring update

spring pic

March already! Yikes. Life continues at a hectic pace here at HM HQ. New designs, more commissions and new products seem to be appearing left, right and centre! To match the blooming daffs and blossoming crocuses, I am going through a wonderful period of creativity and productivity – it’s fab! Alongside that, my little girl is really flourishing and showing me more and more of her creative side everyday, which is just wonderful! At four and a half, she’s quite the little artist, and I’m proud that she sees that as a viable job option for her future! I must share some with you, being a super-proud mum and all…

She has been helping with some order packing too… Sticking on stickers and my return address labels. Well, I have been kinda busy!

It's a good job I get on with the folks at my village Post Office!

So, what’s new? Well, I recently had my first small exhibition through in beautiful Harrogate at the stunning RHS Gardens, Harlow Carr. “Let’s Get Creative” saw a host of designers and makers come together to showcase their work and also do demonstrations of their craft, in a bid to encourage others to take up new crafts for the new year.

Papercutting demonstration by Melissa Holmes at RHS Gardens Harlow Carr, February 2015.

In preparation for the event, I was asked to put together Beginner’s Papercutting Sets. These feature everything you need to get started with the wonderful hobby of papercutting, including a couple of Holmes-made templates, spare papers, the same tools and materials I use, and of course a hints and tips sheet which condenses more than three years of my self-taught knowledge and experience! Feedback on the kits has been great so far; you can get yours here!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m absolutely thrilled to say that my work will be exhibited and for sale again at RHS Gardens Harlow Carr from March 17th until April 12th 2015, with a selection of originals, prints, cards and other products available.

Which leads me nicely on to those ‘other products’. 2015 is very much a year of new things for me here at Holmes-made, and I’m delighted to share with you these new products, which first went on sale in January and have been really popular. I have introduced a range of notebooks featuring some of my favourite designs, including my very popular ‘Creative Minds’ piece, which is a new original completed in January. These notebooks are perfect for doodles, daydreams, and dull stuff like shopping lists. I’ve also had two sizes of mugs printed with my ever-popular rainbow hearts design… Just to give you that extra boost with your morning cuppa!

Just some of the new items available from Holmes-made

And finally, I’ve also been working on more beautiful fabricy pieces, including extending my flora and fauna range with three new originals featuring British birds (pictured below are my robin and blue tit prints). I’m still working on this range, with more flowers and creatures to come, all featuring gorgeous fabric infills which, much like my tiny colour infills have in the past, are becoming something of a trademark to my work!

I think that pretty much covers it… For now! More mug and notebook designs are on their way, along with more new original pieces that I’m so excited to complete.

I hope you like what you see. Thanks as always for your support of my business!

Melissa x

PS – I’m very excited to be hosting my first ever papercutting WORKSHOP in early May! Further details of this will be announced in early April… Please keep your eyes on my social media for more info.