And along comes the next behind the screen post, on the this blog’s fifth Birthday! How crazy is that?! A big thanks for all your support and particularly you lovely readers that have been here since the start. Five years of The Lovely Drawer sounds totally crazy but even crazier is writing what this post is really about.
So here’s the pretence guys. I’m not a fashion blogger. I’m not trying to be and definitely don’t have the camera charisma for it, hence the multiple verging on awkward poses you’ll bear witness to. I do however have a real love for fashion and have had a fair few people ask if I would ever do some fashion posts to see inside my wardrobe. I thought it was the kind of thing that would work well with a behind the screen post so here you have it.
The truth is I’ve always been interested in fashion and for the most part of my younger years, until about 17, I really wanted to be a fashion designer. Much of my manic drawing days growing up, were spent designing outfits with my pencils and crayons until I finally took textiles at GCSE and learnt how to sew (kind of) and started turning my designs into real life pieces. Back then I wasn’t into any of this ‘ready to wear’ lark, finding myself far more drawn to the weird and eccentric world of ‘haute couture’. I wanted to tell a whole story with the clothes I designed, very different to my present day style which leans far more into minimal and understated than crazy silhouettes and vibrant colours.
Gorgeous photos by the talented Shelby Nickel Photography
Wow! What a year! I think I said the same thing this time last year but it was meant in a slightly more positive sense. I feel like we’ve arrived at the end of 2017 by the skin of our teeth, weary and so aware of God carrying us on his shoulders. It’s been a tough one and yet I don’t want to forget how many great things have also happened this year. I know there’s a tendency for them to get lost in a sea of blows to the head but as with every year I feel compelled to look back and take stock of the last twelve months. In many ways I feel like I’ve aged three years in the space of one and I’m pretty sure it looks like it too but there were also so many blessings that can’t be ignored and making myself list them out here makes it clear that this year has been richer in highs than lows even though it may not feel like it on a day to day basis.
It has to be said that a DIY post takes a lot of thought and pre-planning. They’re definitely the most labour intensive of all the posts I work on and yet one of the most rewarding. It’s a great feeling to dream up something, then find it actually works and then see other people recreating it for themselves! I still love trying new techniques and thinking up creative solutions but over time you definitely become much more familiar with the kinds of things that work and the kinds of projects your audience love to make. Don’t get me wrong I have had my share of projects that have fallen flat on their face and just don’t work or look anything but Pinterest worthy (my side table with varnish that bled and legs that didn’t stick comes to mind) but all things considered more often than not I can make it work in the end.
It’s time for another Behind The Screen post and as promised it’s the second part to my commentary on photography. You can have a good old read of my first post about taking photos and in this one I’ll share with you how I edit them. Along with lighting it’s probably one of the things I get asked the most. As I’ve said before these posts aren’t meant to be prescriptive and I’m already aware there are quicker ways of editing photos but I’m letting you into how I do it so you can take or leave what you want and maybe learn some tricks along the way.
There’s something I really enjoy about editing my photos. It has a semi therapeutic quality, not to mention I love opening up my images, full screen and seeing them in their full glory for the first time. Occasionally there’s a disappointment but usually it’s an exciting moment of truth and I’m ready to get going on a few tweaks to really make them pop!
This behind the screen post was originally meant to follow on from the previous one on photography but I’m afraid life got in the way and everything’s been a bit up in the air. My promised photo editing post will have to be postponed until next time. In it’s place I thought it fitting to tell you what has actually been going down over here. These posts are called Behind The Screen posts after all. I think its important that all you beautiful readers know that life over at The Lovely Drawer ain’t always so lovely. I don’t want you to think its all perfectly styled images, endless DIY projects and Instagrammable food because life isn’t always that ‘magazine-worthy’. You may already have noticed things haven’t been great if you follow me on Instagram or snapchat and to be honest ‘not great’ is quite the understatement. The truth is I recently had a miscarriage and I feel compelled to talk about it because it was real and it still hurts and I know so many women feel they can’t say anything about this struggle. I can only imagine that keeping your lips sealed ends up fuelling the shame and feelings of isolation that surround the whole issue when it’s actually a devastatingly common thing to encounter. Something that has been so helpful over the last three weeks has been talking to many other women that have been through the same experience. The details may differ but the same loss is there, the loss of a baby and a derailed future that now looks very different to what you’d thought. You may see this as too much information and that’s totally fine. You don’t need to read on and I won’t be offended because I can’t see you.
I’ve been looking forward to sharing this behind the screen post for a while as I frequently get asked how I take my photos. It’s been a while since my last post in the series and actually I’ve been writing this in drafts on my phone when I travel for months. The first draft dates back to January!! Even though people are very complimentary about my photos, it always makes me laugh as I still feel like such a novice. I wonder if that feeling ever wears off when you’ve taught yourself a skill. Somehow in my head it doesn’t count which is a ridiculous notion, as after all practise is how we really take hold of skills. I’m very comfortable with my way of working but at the same time would hate to have a professional looking over my shoulder taking note or asking my why I do certain things, as lots of the technicalities I don’t really know how to explain. I basically know what I do and what works. The most frequently asked question I get is how I get my photos so bright. Well part of the answer is within this post and part of it will be in my next post in the series on photo editing. I’ll let you into my little tricks of the trade that will make your photos pop!
Funny story. It’s very rare for me to lack motivation and seriously consider climbing back into bed during the day. People question me all the time about that very thing as I work from home and I can honestly say it’s never really an issue. Today however I felt it big time. I really couldn’t be bothered to do anything and felt unexplainably low and uninspired. Then I found out from my Husband, in all it’s ironic glory that today was ‘blue Monday’, deemed the most depressing day of the year. Well, that definitely got a smile out of me as I laughed at what a cliche I was. I’d conformed with this strange statistic whilst being totally oblivious. I’d been wondering why everyone seemed obsessed with the colour blue on Instagram prior to this discovery. It reminds me of the time I got embarrassingly annoyed that the light got so dim when trying to shoot a DIY post, only to find out much later that it was a solar eclipse. Maybe I need to get out more.
I love the time between Christmas and New Year, where life is slow and without the ‘to do’ lists and usual routines, there’s space to ponder the year that’s just flown by. I think it’s so important to give thanks and at the same time take stock for the upcoming year. Me and my husband aways make the point of spending some of New Years Eve day looking back on the year. We dig out the prayers we wrote down at the same point in the previous year and get to praise God for so many answered as well as think through how we’d like to grow and the things we’d love to see happen for the coming year. It reminds us how faithful God has been and whilst hard work counts for something, it’s all made possible by him!
It’s been an amazing year for The Lovely Drawer and I continue to be blown away by the new directions it’s taken me and the opportunities I’ve had come my way. Thank you so much to all of you lovely people that have ordered from my online shops or commissioned me for projects, as well as all of you bloggers and creatives that have kept on inspiring me and swapped advise and empathy. The road has been hard but I’m so thankful to love what I do and still get find myself in disbelief explaining I’m a small business owner when people ask. Me? Really?! I don’t think anyone who knows me saw that coming. I’m actually earning a decent living doing me dream job! Whilst it’s tons harder than my ‘not so’ dream jobs but I couldn’t care less.
It’s been longer than I intended since the last ‘Behind The Screen’ post so I apologise. Ironically this one of all so far should be have been the quickest and easiest to write as I’ve already spoken on this stuff at two events. It’s also something I feel really strongly about and constantly sigh as I see so many people get it really wrong. Obviously some of it is down to taste but there are some banding basics that need to be considered across the board when you’re creating an identity for your business. Whether it’s your blog, a full time business or selling things on the side of your job, branding is so important and really can make or break your business. Does that sound a bit extreme? I’ll explain why it’s not and this is all coming from someone who got it so wrong so many times before, trust me.
Even though you may not have put any thought into branding your blog or business, I’m afraid to break the uncomfortable news that you have created a brand, like it or not. Everything has an identity with the images used, the logo, the font, the voice and tone etc etc. The idea of ‘unbranded’ is a total myth. Even so called, ‘unbranded products like Tesco Value still have recognisable packaging that’s consistent across the whole range. You could probably recall what they look like in your head and you associate that with ‘cheap’. So if everything is branded then surely we need to be very deliberate about the process, in order to send out the right message, communicate the right story and create the right feel. Branding is the packaging to your product. Done well, it cleverly draws the audience / buyer in so they want to read further, listen longer or purchase.
So if it’s important to get your branding right then what kinds of things should you consider…
Last time I talked about making the jump to freelance and perhaps the word jump is an understatement, at least for what it felt like at the time. In this post I’ll talk about the day to day of setting up on your own and the great bits as well as the many challenges. Hopefully I can give a realistic view of growing your own creative business. As I’ve said before, these posts are coming from my own experiences and friends in similar positions that I’ve chatted to. Just because I’ve made the jump and come out the other end unscathed doesn’t make me an expert. Having said that I don’t really know what you need to qualify as an expert on any given subject. I definitely wouldn’t say a degree or even a masters or PHD could make you an expert in any field without years of experience living out the day to day of whatever it was you studied.
Starting out on my full time freelance journey, I felt liberated and that kind of nervous excitement you get that’s mainly powered by adrenaline. I finished work on a Tuesday weirdly enough and lots of people asked if I was going to take the rest of the week off before diving in, to which my answer was ‘no, I’m just going to get on with it’. As I said previously, I’d decided on what my days would generally be looking like with a bare bones structure but it was surreal hearing my alarm go off the next morning and knowing that I was officially the boss (eek). I set off on my walk around the park on my fake commute (I’m weird I know) and realised I could just take my time if I wanted. I started noticing parts of our neighbourhood I’d never had the time to notice before and actually finding inspiration all around me. It helped that it was a super sunny Spring morning, of course.
Happy Friday lovely readers! You may not know but I’m a SMP Living contributor which I was very happy about back when I was asked as the Style Me Pretty wedding blog was the very first blog I poured over, way back when, to get inspiration for the big day! When the asked me to do a ‘Behind The Blog’ feature I was excited to think through the long list of questions they sent me. You can find out more about me and life behind the scenes over on Style Me Pretty Living now. I hope you enjoy and I’m looking forward to sharing an easy DIY project with you on Sunday so keep an eye out!
After that little diversion into blogging last time, I’m now going to talk about my hop, skip and a jump to freelance, promise! First things first I NEVER saw myself as being a full time freelancer. Leaving uni I was very quick to tell people I wasn’t interested in going it alone and just wanted to work in house at a design studio, where I would have a steady income and somebody else to take care of the business side of things. People warned me that most creatives end up going freelance at some point but I wasn’t having any of it. Perhaps part of it was doubting I could do all of what it takes like the finance, planning, legalities, promotion etc. Sure, I could design but the rest totally freaked me out. I’m not naturally business minded and having an in house job was certainly the safe option. The same lump of money landed in my account every month, my working hours were the same everyday and once I shut down my computer at the end of the day I could check out in every way.
As I said before, blogging gave me exposure and opportunities I hadn’t even expected and it wasn’t too long before freelance requests started coming in. To begin with it was sporadic, small jobs and then more and more wedding related projects were landing on my lap. I was working my full time in house design role and doing other non-card related private commissions on the side so it didn’t interfere.
It started out fine but the more it went on the more I was completely burned out. I basically never rested and that wasn’t fun. It’s how I hear lots of creatives start they’re freelance journey and is in a way necessary to start with but isn’t sustainable. There came a point in the summer of 2013 that I started getting freelance offers from people further removed from myself. For the first time I had no link to them through mutual friends or contacts, which was exciting but I also realised something had to change if I wanted to pursue that sort of thing.
For the first time today I’m trying something a little different, something that I hope will become a regular fixture in this space. I get quite a few questions in my inbox about how I ended up where I am, as well as questions about blogging and techniques I’ve acquired. I thought it would make sense to give some snapshots of life behind the scenes at The Lovely Drawer or as I’ve coined it, ‘Behind The Screen’. I know how much I love catching a glimpse of the day to day from other bloggers and designers and learning from their experience. Warning; I am no expert in any of the things I will chat about, which is probably what’s stopped me from doing things like this in the past, but I guess a certain amount of wisdom comes from experience, especially as so many of us creatives are learning as we go.
Good morning! You may be wondering what on earth a blog hop is. Basically it’s 5 questions that get passed along to 2 new bloggers each time. Thanks to Katy from Folly and Bloom who passed the blog hop baton over to me. We met at Blogtacular and did some styling together at Ellie Tennant’s workshop which was loads of fun. Check out her blog hop post and just generally take a gander at her lovely, cheery blog.
These questions actually got me scratching my head and thinking quite hard. They are definitely good things to ask so here goes…
Well firstly I’m not really a writer. In fact this blog hop might be the most I’ve ever written on The Lovely Drawer! My posts have always and will always be very image based because that’s what I love and that’s what keeps me reading other blogs. It’s taken me a very long time to really see myself as a ‘blogger’. I started posting as an overflow of what I was creating in my spare time and I really loved the idea of an online scrapbook, a place to put all the things that inspired me and projects I’d been working on. I didn’t have an agenda, I didn’t have a strategic posting schedule or even a proper camera at the beginning. I simply did it because I loved to and I began to see it stretching me creatively and pushing me into so many other areas of design. As I kept on going I never seemed to run out of ideas and inspiration but instead was flooded with so much more. I wanted to inspire other people as I’d been inspired by so many other blogs and as time went on I also became quite passionate about making design accessible. By that I mean I love creating free art downloads or designed stationery for readers to use, as well as walking people through DIY ideas that are simple and inexpensive to make.
Now writing my blog is almost a compulsion. Walking about I see most things as inspiration for a new post or how I could turn that boring object into a desirable DIY. It works well alongside my freelance design as the two often cross over and inspire both ways as well as receiving feedback for my work. All this said, I think a big part of writing this blog has always been that I love challenging myself. Often I think could I do that? Could I make that idea a reality? And each time I do, I want to push myself even further. God gave me a very creative mind and I want to use and grow that. Thankfully he’s put me in a position where I’m very able to do that right now.
I see blogging more as part of my work now, even though it’s work I really, really enjoy (the best kind of work). God has used it to provide so many opportunities I wouldn’t have had without it.
At the start of the new year I really wanted to work on more collaborative posts and thankfully many have come my way. The frustrating thing about online collaborations is that you can’t reveal them right away! So I’m working on a particular one at the moment which I’m very excited about but I can’t say more than that. I’m also adding a wedding page to my blog to make it easier and clearer for people to order and commission my wedding stationery. Those jobs always take a whole lot longer than I ever expect but I’m sure it will be worth it in the end.
In terms of general content for my blog I never really have a set schedule, more of a interchangeable scribbled list in my planner. I try and post every Tuesday and Thursday/Friday but I’m finding that isn’t always possible when I have lots of freelance work on. I always have millions of ideas for posts, especially DIYs. Unfortunately they take the most amount of time to produce from idea, to ordering supplies, to making and photographing, to editing the photos and writing easy to follow instructions. It is however the thing I love doing most on my blog and the posts my readers enjoy the most so expect many more.
Now that I’m actually running my own design business and taking the whole blog thing more seriously I’m trying to get more connected to my audience through social media as its such a waste to not use that tool. Up until around last Christmas it was only my husband that would go on my twitter page to check in. I was very apathetic partly because I wondered, ‘Where would I get the time to do that?’ However I’m enjoying that side of things more and more now.
As always I’m also trying to improve my photography skills. Thats a lifetime project I guess. I used to roll my eyes when I heard another person saying you just need to practise over and over, everyday if possible and that’s how you will get better. I think I wanted a quick fix course or something but money didn’t allow for that so practise was the only thing on the menu. Developing that has actually been very organic and straightforward due to my blog and the constant need for images to convey what I mean. I’ve improved loads but I’d love to get better. Photography is so powerful!
Hmmm tricky but a question I probably should know the answer to. I guess it took me quite a long time to work out what kind of blog I was writing because to start with in true artist fashion, I didn’t care. I was finally able to sum things up in my tag line ‘Style inspiration and DIY ideas’. I certainly knew that I didn’t want the focus to be on me. Design was always meant to be the focal point and it’s interesting how things turn out because now I I’m often referred to as a DIY blogger first and foremost. That kind of happened on it’s own.
There are literally soooo many amazing blogs out there in every genre that it’s hard to say what makes mine distinct but before I’m a blogger, I am firstly a Christian and so with that affecting all areas of my life, it also affects my blog content. There is a different drive behind what I do and I try to be aware of that in my attitude and things I post or choose not to post. This may not be ‘in your face’ obvious as this isn’t a blog about theology but there is a constant God awareness in what I do/ produce.
I would say in terms of the DIY aspect I always try to make things that I think people would actually want to wear, display in their house or use for an occasion. I really do question each time I come up with a tutorial whether I would have originally wanted to buy something like this or is it just making something for making sake.
Well it’s pretty fluid really, meaning I do bits when I can. It’s very seldom I will do everything for one post in a single block of time. Thankfully now I work full time from home I can fit it around the work I have to do which is great, especially for photography! When I was working in-house, in order to get decent light I would either have to photograph all my makes at the weekend or quickly before I left for work in the morning just as the sun came up. Not ideal! I would then edit and type out posts most lunch breaks in the office. It’s pretty funny now I think about it.
Often if I come up with a curated post, colour palette or designer maker feature idea I can execute them reasonably quickly but something like a recipe post takes a lot more prep and a DIY post can often take over a month on and off to be fully realised because of all the stages. I often wish I could just make it and then photograph the lovely part at the end but I know photos of the process are important.
I will always question if what I’m doing fits in with my blog aesthetic and brand and often things get canned just on that basis. I’m always striving to make my work consistent and hopefully pleasingly coherent. I even think about that with my Instagram feed.
That’s my blog hop done! Now I’m passing the baton onto two lovely bloggers who blogs I love.
Firstly is the über talented Francis from Fall for DIY. We met online via twitter and I’m so glad I discovered her gorgeous blog. If you love DIY tutorials especially for jewellery then you will be over the moon to read her feed. Beautiful images and makes that I genuinely want to wear/own. She’s about to launch her first jewellery making e course and is also working on a jewellery collection to go in her upcoming Etsy shop!
Second is my lovely friend Ruth Garner from The Planned Adventure. We were at two of the same events just before Christmas and some how didn’t manage to meet each other so we connected first over twitter. We since have been meeting up, exchanging ideas and discussing the fun and challenges of blogging/ the world of freelance. She is first and foremost a writer and a talented one at that but has a big interest in interiors and styling an avenue she’s currently dipping her toe into and loving it. She is full of ideas, some of which we were brainstorming the other day and she knows just about everyone in blogland, I swear. Check out her fun ramblings and soak in some of the interior eye candy right here.