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.

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

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

My papercut designs on your phone case!

I’m absolutely delighted to introduce an entirely new product to the Holmes-made range.

I was approached by SwagMyCase; a young British company which prints images on to high quality device cases, about having my work included alongside a number of other brilliant artists featured on the site. Of course I jumped at the opportunity (and was quick to order a case for my own phone too!). We actually launched my range just before Christmas and so far the feedback has been really positive.

My own phone cover with my own designs from http://swagmycase.com/collections/holmesmadepapercuts

You can buy some of my most popular designs through the SwagMyCase site, with more designs being offered in future. I wouldn’t put my designs on just anything, and I’m proud to say hand on heart that these are beautiful quality with a really good finish. I myself have the tough case (which has a silicon lining) in my rainbow heart design for my iPhone 5C and it makes me smile every time I see it!

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The cases are made using a patent printing process which infuses the image right around the case, wrapping your device with a glossy image that doesn’t fade over time. What’s more, postage is free for UK orders. SwagMyCase offers slimline and thicker ‘tough’ cases for more than thirty devices, including iPhone, iPad, Samsung, Sony, LG, Blackberry and Google products. More are being added all the time, so do check back on the site soon in case you don’t see your phone or tablet on the list.

I hope you like them as much as I do!!

BANK HOLIDAY DISCOUNTS

Head over to my shop now where you can get 10% off all purchases this weekend when you use the code BANKHOLBONUS.

Offer runs until 10pm Monday 26th of May 2014 and covers prints (buy it now and pre-orders), originals and canvas prints.  

And the winner is….!

We have a winner! As chosen by my fella’s hard-working hands.

Congratulations to…


Well done Jeni! 

You have won your choice of either an A4 family tree (unframed) or an A4 filled initial cut (single letter, unframed)! Please get in touch with me to discuss your prize and we can sort out the specifics and delivery for late August!!

A HUGE thank you to everyone who took the time and effort to sponsor me and provide me with such encouragement and support in the lead up to the race! I’m already planning more races in future – I’ve definitely got the running bug after only a month!!



My fundraising amount – a whopping £750 – is well above and beyond what I could ever have hoped to achieve. Thank you all so much, your contributions have made a big difference in the fight against bloody horrible cancer. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

You are all amazing, I wish I could give every one of you a prize but failing that you will just have to have a big virtual smooshy hug (((((lovely sponsoring likers))))))

Much love,

Melissa x

Race for Life sponsorship / bespoke papercut giveaway

So, here’s some bumpf about why you might like to sponsor me for this year’s Race for Life, which I’ll be attempting to run on July 21st. If you want to read all the emotional stuff, carry on reading, but if you want to bypass that and just sponsor me (and be in with a chance of bagging yourself a bespoke papercut), simply click here



Cancer, as my darling mum would say, is a bastard. And she would know – it killed her on the 15th of May 2002, after starting in her pancreas 14 months earlier and taking control of her (previously very healthy) 53-year-old body.

Me and mum, a month before she died up at one of our favourite places – Filey Brigg
(where we used to go and scream at the sea).

Mum was one of those people everybody knew. She had a lot of good friends, was warm and kind, liked to live life to the full. Her chosen profession – a counsellor with the NHS – went some way to showing her thoughtful, human-centred nature. She was the kind of mum a lot of my school mates constantly told me they wished for – easy to talk to, fun-loving, patient, understanding. Yes, she could be firm, she could shout and eff and blind in her authentic cockney accent like the best of them. But I couldn’t have wished for a better mum.

Having a boogie with mum at my sister’s wedding.
Mum had been living with cancer for seven months here.
You wouldn’t know, she held her head high the whole time.

I had just turned 20 when she died, at home, surrounded by people she loved. I was living in Glasgow at the time and made it back home just three hours before she passed away. Others arrived ‘just in time’ – but I reckon she was fairly compos mentis and I like to think she was waiting to see everyone before she slipped off gently in her morphine haze.

After living with a fairly decent quality of life for far longer than her initial three to six month diagnosis, mum went downhill suddenly, literally over a weekend. And with hushed voices that my dad overheard, the doctors murmured that it had spread all over and she didn’t stand a chance.

It. Cancer.

It took my fiancé’s uncle too, a few years later.

And then, just last summer, it took my fiancé’s uncle’s sister as well. That’s right – my man’s mum; leaving both of us without our mothers.

It. Cancer.

And I tell you what, and I won’t mince my words – it fucking hurts like hell.

Thousands and thousands and thousands of people get cancer every year. There are thousands and thousands of survivors enjoying a decent quality of life after treatment. There are all sorts of means of support out there, lots of awareness-raising going on, some amazing drug trials taking place (my mum took part in one, in fact), some fantastic treatments and plenty of truly wonderful individuals who’ve made it their life’s work to help those with this crappy disease; many more who are working their butts off to bash the life out of cancer and uncover a cure. To stop it hurting like hell.

But it’s not enough.

Now I’ve always been cynical about fundraising for cancer. Stopped in the street by charity collectors, I would walk away, mumbling with tear-filled eyes “You’ve already taken my mum, what else can I give you?”

But that’s a bit selfish, right? That sort of attitude, as time and gradual healing have taught me, will get us nowhere.

I myst admit I’ve been grabbed by the ads I’ve seen on telly lately for Cancer Research UK. ‘Cancer – we’re coming to get you’. Well, it’s got some balls, some feist about it – just like mum, uncle Nobby and Julie all had. Their young lives all snuffed out by this utter bastard of a disease.

Which us why this year, inspired by some very motivated, wonderful people, I’m gonna do my bit to help kick cancer’s rear end.

I’m not a runner by any stretch of the imagination, so the decision to sign up to run Race for Life was a bit of a hand-wringer. But at the end of the day, common sense has prevailed, and I’m gonna go for it. Training, iPhone apps, the lot… Hell, I might even do it in a silly wig if my arm gets twisted far enough.

This is me doing my tiny little bit to kick cancer’s ass. To help with research, treatment, support; to help ensure that folk in the future don’t have to go through the absolute hell of losing people who mean the world to them.

So here’s the deal.

For every £1 you sponsor me, I will write your name down on a little piece of paper. £2 you get two pieces of paper, £5 you get five pieces. Got it?

You must make sure you leave a comment with your name on my sponsor page, so I know who you are and can write your name on a bit of paper. Or ten bits of paper. Or however many bits of paper your incredibly kind and wondrous donation translates into.

The race is on July 21st, so pretty soon after that I’ll be sticking all those bits of paper in a hat/bowl/saucepan, having a root around, and pulling out one name. That person will win an unframed, A4 bespoke papercut – either a family tree or a filled initial papercut.

So summink like this:                                                              

Family tree © Melissa Holmes

 Or this:

Filled letter initial © Melissa Holmes

There’ll be reasonable limits on the number of names/level of detail included (to be discussed with the winner after the draw), and I will endeavour to do the winner’s cut in August. I’ll cover UK postage, if the winner is international I’d request that they cover their own postage. And I’ll announce the winner right here, soon after race day.

So what do you reckon? You in? Fancy winning a bespoke Holmes-made papercut *and* doing a wee bit to help scare the crap outta cancer?

You do?!

Best click here then…

Take me to Holmes-made’s Race for Life sponsorship page and give me the chance to win a bespoke family tree or filled initial papercut!



PS – This has nothing to do with Facebook whatsoever. So there you go.