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Cute Penguin Rainbow note card - Illustrated Card

Shop news | New Penguin Cards, 2019 Calendars, sneak peeks and 10% off

Good Morning, how is your week going so far? For a while now, I’ve been trying to make a plan for this blog. I’ve read many an article saying “you must have a blog for your business,” “if you want to succeed on the internet, you must write a blog” and “blogging is back” (in my book, it never really went away!) and I’ve written for my own blog for a little under ten years now, with a few breaks here or there. I’ve written about my research at University whilst I studied for my Graphic Design degree, then later about working in London, my life as a graduate and creativity, with a little phase where I loved creating scrapbooks.

Recently however, I’ve been trying to figure out how I want this space to work and considered all different types of blog. I want it to be a useful, helpful space for you, whether you are a regular customer of my Etsy shop, a potential client or an engaged couple, considering asking me to design your wedding stationery. It took me a while longer to figure out what that looks like and so I think I have a little plan.

I plan on posting three times a month (roughly!) with a mixture of posts, featuring:

  • a freebie post at the beginning of the month, like a free desktop wallpaper,
  • a shop update around the middle of the month, with all the new things in my shop and any new goings on, which may or may not let you know about offers or sale events in my shop (that’s what this one is,)
  • a useful post towards the end of the month, some ideas I’ve had so far for this are about my process and what I’m doing to help the environment. I think of this as an extended version of an FAQ section, so if there’s anything you want to know, just give me a shout in the contact form.

Enough chatting about it and more getting on with it!

New super cute card designs in the shop

I have been dreaming up a few new card designs for a while now and finally got round to getting them printed. There are now three new Penguin note cards available to send to a friend to cheer them up, to say hello or just-because. I’ve also added a few colour variations of my floral birthday cards.Cute Penguin Rainbow note card - Illustrated Card

Back to School wall planners and an offer!

If you’ve gone back-to-school or back-to-college/university this month, or just want to get organised for the academic year, I have added two new wall planners to the shop. There is a minimal version and a version with cute penguins on it, if that’s your thing! These are instant download wall planners and available in A3, A4 and US Letter sizes. To celebrate back-to-school, I’ve created a little offer in my Etsy Shop until the end of September, you can get 10% off those new wall planners, penguin stickers and notepad & pencil sets when you use the code BACKTOSCHOOL (or click on the code to add the code to your basket straight away).

Penguin academic wall planner

 

2019 Calendars (a little sneak peek!)

Now for the exciting bit, I have had quite a few messages asking if and when the Penguin Calendars will be back for 2019 and the good news is that I have been working hard on some new designs for the 2019 Calendars. I have expanded from just a Penguin version this time. There will be two other versions and I have exciting new stands that they’ll sit on this time as well. I hope that these will be available next month ready for my 2nd business birthday!

On the subject of calendars, the 2018 version is now available at the ridiculous price of 50p (+postage) and these won’t be available from October 1st to avoid confusion, so if you’d like one make sure you order one before the end of the month. I made the mistake of printing a few too many and so I’m pretty much giving these away. A few people have said that they’re cutting off the calendar part and using them as bookmarks, as postcards, sticking them on the wall or even as gift tags. I’m sure there are endless possibilities!

2019 Calendars sneak peek

 

No. 7 Cherry Tree Lane

On a non-related note, I have set up a new Instagram account for my dollhouse. I had considered documenting the progress here as I had started to write about it on the blog, or setting up a new blog for it, but I struggle to keep up with this one. So, I thought an Instagram account would be perfect. Updates are slow, and I’m still catching up with posting the progress so far but I’m excited to post more about it in the future.

7 Cherry Tree Lane, Dollhouse Instagram Account

 

So, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed the first of my shop updates. There might be some months with more to update and others where there isn’t much at all. Let me know what you think, and just give me a shout if there’s anything you want me to write about that might make ordering from the shop or working with me easier.

Dollhouse progress

I previously wrote about my dollhouse on the blog before all of my previous posts went into the abyss, never to be seen again! So if you didn’t catch that, I’ll update you.

My Mum’s friend built a Dollhouse as a Wedding present for us (read: for me! Although it is probably intended to keep be busy whilst any football is on, so Rob is grateful for it too!) It was made completely from scratch apart from little details like the window frames and the door. We were so impressed by it when we returned from Honeymoon to find it had been delivered by two secret squirrels.

Here are a couple of photos from before I did any work on it: (Please note that I had only had my big camera for a couple of days here and no amount of photoshop has made up for my not knowing which setting to have the camera on!)

I delayed getting started on it for a few reasons, firstly, where do you start with a dollhouse? I had no idea what to do first. Secondly, I didn’t have any tools or paints etc to get started; and thirdly, I found that you could see the roof behind the dorma windows, so I cheekily asked my Mum’s friend if he could cut two small squares in the roof before I started work on it, this was so that you could see through those windows to the top floor rooms. He was happy to do it and managed to cut out the windows during the Christmas break, then I started work on it almost straight away.

I started off by painting the outside. We had some light blue paint left-over from painting our Kitchen, so instead of buying new paint, I started with that.

I then painted all the interior walls, floors and ceilings in the white paint that we painted our kitchen ceiling with. The inside was only roughly painted so I thought that painting it again would create a blank canvas to work with. I also like the fresh white look of interiors, so might leave some of the walls white. Here are some in-progress photos where I had painted the blue exterior and started on the white details. You can see that I painted white triangles above the squares for the windows in the roof, this is because you would be able to see that space when peeking through the window and I wanted it to look finished behind there, not just the plain wood.

I bought a small tester pot of charcoal grey paint for the window frames, door and chimneys. I considered painting the roof tiles grey originally but am undecided now that I’ve tiled the roof, what do you think?

Here is a close up of the door, I still have a few details to add to the door, including deciding which number it should be. I’m thinking Number 7 for 7th May, which is our anniversary.

Just after Christmas, in a little dollhouse related shopping spree, I bought some cute wooden tiles and took some time to build up the courage to work on the roof over the last few weeks or so. Working on the roof was a lesson learned the hard way. I’m usually someone who reads instructions and follows them to the letter. The instructions said to use hot glue for the roof tiles, I didn’t have a hot glue gun but they’re made out of wood, so wood glue should work, right? …wrong! I spent a couple of hours battling with the wood glue and clothes pegs and holding each tile down for ten minutes each whilst it dried, then another ten minutes later found that each tile had warped! I stuck at it trying to make it work for a few hours before insisting on a road trip to Homebase for a glue gun. My gosh did that make a difference?

Most of the first half of the roof was done over the following few hours. The most difficult part was cutting each tile to fit around things like the chimneys and dorma windows. I quite enjoyed it once I had the right tools! I’ve also added a small magnet so that the whole thing stays closed now.

So that’s where I have got to so far. The dollhouse has six rooms and I plan on creating a living room, kitchen, bedroom, art studio, man cave (although I’m undecided about this one, it’s mostly because I want a miniature pool table but might think of something else for that room!) and a beauty and the beast style library (which I’m so excited about!). I’ve already bought a few bits and pieces for each room but will finish the exterior decor first before starting on each room.

I really love that this dollhouse is something arty/crafty for me to work on in my spare time. If you know me at all you’ll know that I love anything creative. I’ve wanted a dollhouse for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I don’t think I realised that the making/decorating of it was half the fun, so it’s probably exactly the right time to be working on it now. I wouldn’t have had the patience before either. I’m sure if I owned a dollhouse when I was about 9, I’d expect it to be some sort of magic house for Borrowers or the Indian in the Cupboard! (I loved that film!)

I love that it is such a slow process too, everything else seems to be needed yesterday in today’s world and I really appreciate anything that encourages life to slow down for a couple of hours and will be exactly as I left it when I go back to it after a break.

2016 in Review

It feels so bizarre looking back to the start of  2016, it doesn’t feel like long ago that we were ringing in the New Year, celebrating that this would be the year we would get married, however, what a year it has been? I started writing this post as a month by month summary of what I did, and it was more like a list copied from my diary and started to get very long and quite boring, so instead, I’ve picked out some of the highlights.

Image above copyright to Piers Cunliffe

We got married!

We got married on the 7th May and what a wonderful day it was. I had been so anxious in the lead up to the wedding and found the day before so stressful (not that anything went wrong, I just worried that I’d forgotten something) then the morning of the wedding I woke up so early and was so calm. I was excited and nervous for sure, but I was a lot calmer than I thought I’d be. The Wedding day was perfect, I didn’t stop smiling all day, and a lot of guests have commented on what a good wedding it was.

All images above copyright to Piers Cunliffe

Our Honeymoon in Mexico was the most luxurious holiday we’d ever been on, after months of planning and anxiety, it was so nice to just do nothing and soak up the sun, the food was amazing, we visited Chichen-Itza and swam in a Cenote which was beautiful! We’ll definitely go back one day. I love being married now, it suits us and I’ve very much enjoyed being called a Mrs and being a part of Rob’s family, they’ve accepted me with open arms since day one and I very much see them as my family. Rob has been an immense support over the last year with various things going on, he seems to take it all in his stride and looks after me too, I’m not sure what I would have done without him.

Work, My Etsy Shop & Penguin Calendars

I was sadly made redundant from my job in London last year, which was a bit of a shock but I resolved not to let it get me down, but to take every little positive out of the situation and change my life for the better. I got to work straight away on setting myself up as self employed and although it is still early days, I haven’t turned back.

I opened up my Etsy Shop in October! I worked so hard in the latter weeks of September, creating Penguin Illustrations to go into a mini desk calendar, I had also created a more typographical desk calendar. Originally I printed 40 copies of each design, thinking that this was ambitious and they wouldn’t sell, however as of 4th January, I’ve sold 178 Calendars! This number astounds me, I can’t believe it has been so successful and I’m excited to create more products for the new year. Watch this space. Thank you to all of you who have purchased from my Etsy Shop over the last couple of months, I genuinely do a little happy dance whilst packing up your orders.

Last year, I created two new logos, a set of business cards, plus my own logo and business cards. I worked on all the design for our wedding (some of the work was done in 2015 but finished in the early months of 2016). I designed and printed our Wedding Albums (I’ll make sure to write a blog post about those soon). I’ve worked on the design for a vegan recipe book and have worked on so many ideas for new products and services for my shop and business.

I started my new Instagram account for my work in February and it has been great. I’ve done more painting, drawing and lettering than ever before and have met a lot of new designer, illustrator and maker friends, it is my favourite social networking platform for sure. I took part in Meet the Maker Week in December as well which was something I’ve never done before and I really enjoyed it.

I had the pleasure of presenting at a careers fayre at my old secondary school, returning there after 10 years was quite weird. I also took my Calendars and Greeting Cards along to a few Christmas fayres.

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The fall and rise of the blog

One day in October, I was updating a plugin on my blog and suddenly everything disappeared, my screen went white, I couldn’t log in, I couldn’t visit my website, nothing. I left it a couple of days to see whether it was just me going crazy and tried to fix it. I tried everything my limited knowledge of websites, self hosting and google would allow, the back ups that I thought I’d set up, failed and I just couldn’t get it all back. I had been considering starting a brand new blog anyway (although not wanting to delete the old one) so decided to start from scratch and here I am. I hope to blog a lot more in 2017, I seem to have got out of the habit of writing for the blog and although I write every day in my diary, the blog is public and it has taken me hours to write this post because I over think every sentence.

Happy Times

Although 2016 had a reputation for being a bad year, there were some really happy times when I think of it. Obviously, Rob and I getting married was one of those, I’m so grateful for our marriage, our home and the life that we have. I had two Hen Dos! Two of our best friends had babies in 2016 and they are the most beautiful little babies. Another of my best friends got engaged and is getting married in 2018. We went on the best holiday to Mexico, enjoyed our holiday in Cornwall, a long weekend in Norwich and a road trip to Newport for the day. I saw The Bodyguard and The School of Rock in the West End, and enjoyed both immensely. I also celebrated 10 years since my Art & Design Foundation course with the friends that I met on the course, I can’t believe it was that long ago and I’m so glad that we’re all still friends! We also celebrated a few big birthdays and anniversaries and our first Christmas as Mr & Mrs.

Sadness and Anxiety

Sadly my Grandfather passed away in November 2016 and just two weeks later Rob’s Grandmother passed away. I have a whole other blog post to remember the influence that my Grandfather had on my work and my life but that is for another day. Whilst I’ve mentioned the highlights of this year, it hasn’t been without it’s difficulties, I’ve faced a lot of anxiety and sadness but I look back on what I have achieved and realise I shouldn’t be anxious about my abilities, then I look back on what I still have and realise I shouldn’t be sad but happy for the memories I have of the people that we’ve lost.

Onwards into a New Year

I am grateful for the lessons that 2016 has taught me, however happy to move into a fresh new year. I move into the last year of my twenties this year so I better make it count!

I like to choose a word for the year and then my goals for the year come from that. In the past I’ve had Grow, Explore, Create and Joy as my word for the year and it forms a kind of mantra for the year. The words that passed through my mind for this year were build (on my business), (find my) purpose, peace (to curb any anxiety), courage (this relates to most of my goals for this year) and thrive. But none of it seems to be sticking with me. Courage is probably the best out of those for now so I’m seeing how it goes.

Other goals are:

  • Make a success of my business, which will mean a balance of creating a sustainable income whilst keeping my sanity. (I could write a whole other blog post about my goals and ideas for my little business in 2017 but no spoilers).
  • To read at least 12 books (I think I read 2.5 books in 2016).
  • Start working on my Dollhouse (I already started during the Christmas break, I will write a blog post all about it soon).
  • Write regularly whether it be on the blog or in my diary
  • Get Driving (This is my goal every single year, I’ve had a full driving license since 2009 but haven’t used it, I need to get over the fear of sitting in the driver’s seat!)
  • Less Social Media and more socialising! (This sounds rather sad but I don’t see enough of my friends, I will plan more get togethers).

I’m excited to get going and glad you’re along with me for the ride. I hope you all had a very Happy Christmas and New Year! What are your plans for 2017?