The C Word

Yes people, Christmas is coming. Like Death & Taxes, it’s a certainty and it’s only 3 short months away.

And if you think we’re a bit early with the whole promoting the big C moment thing, then spare a thought for me – I’m typing this on the 20 August and Boy! Am I feeling Christmassy right now :).  Because the new products have been designed through the summer, they’ve been sent to print and I pressed ‘upload’ about 10 minutes ago on the catalogue that I’ve spent the past fortnight completing.  Thank heavens the heatwave came early this year; nothing quite like sweat dripping into your eyes when you’re looking at an image involving snowflakes.

Weird industry this one we call ‘gift’.  We’re not an entirely conventional studio.  I tend to launch to you people first rather than work with the retailers’ calendar, because it’s difficult to keep up.  Some chain stores work on an 18 month timeline, which means that the ‘trends’ they set become self-fulfilling prophesies, something I find vaguely depressing. Other chains work a year in advance which is slightly easier so if I’m working on Christmas in July, they are too; it’s just for different years.  Smaller chains tend to work two seasons in advance and then the lovely independents can have strategic plans in place or go from one stand to the next at a trade show with that wonderful look of ‘ooh shiny, go see’ expressions on their faces (they’re my favourite).

I don’t have the time nor money to produce two seasons a year.  Because it takes me around 9 months to birth a new range and we all know how painful it can be – I wouldn’t want to put myself through more than that.  9 months to produce, proceeded by an enormous amount of trepidation and pain at launch, followed quickly on to starting the whole process again only 3 short months later (a pattern I started with procreation – it’s exhausting!).

So, seeds of inspiration are sewn during November and December, usually when standing on our patch at the Christmas shows selling our new products to all of you wonderful people. We don’t get much spare time at those shows, but everything is so busy and frenetic that it’s impossible to be diverted to anything but customer service and there’s something quite white-noisy about it that clears the head of all else.  And that’s when the ideas start to percolate, because you can see what it is that everyone is going nuts over and which product lines are flying off the shelves.

Then Christmas happens and I don’t talk for the week in-between Christmas and New Year (I’m not kidding).  And so it is that I ponder on those November/December ideas in January, just before a few trade fairs and possibly an award ceremony (if we’re lucky). And then onto logistics in around March/April. This process usually involves the gathering of a few samples – I don’t know why, but I find some comfort in looking at interesting bags and boxes that I’d like to incorporate into the new product which I then have to abandon because the costs are too high.  I write detailed print specifications to have my printer quote the costs, then realise that I’ve underestimated how much printing in full colour on heavy card stock is, change my design to fit accordingly, have him re-quote to a more palatable figure and then, over the process of the design, slowly creep back to the original specification.

I then allow a further month for a crushing crisis of confidence.

So we get to summer and I have fun doing what I like doing best – writing, designing, drawing, messing about, colouring in, listening for a good month to the same album over and over and over.  We’ve had Oh Wonder! (killed it, can’t really listen to it ever again), We’ve had Elbow (ditto), We’ve had Royal Blood, Maroon 5 and the dulcet soothing tones of Simon & Garfunkel, all now relegated and logged as the Sounds of Summer 20–.

I then allow a couple of weeks to tidy the office, catch up on some admin, think about doing some PR, get frustrated with social media, hate everyone and everything before returning back to the matter in hand, having a read through, making a few tweaks here and there and then sending the designs off to print.

And then, and only then, do I realise that I’ve left the print run too late to get the products back to photograph and into a catalogue that has to go to print before September.  Kicking myself, I spend painstaking days ‘creating’ the products in Photoshop to, effectively, lie to you, the consumer, with an ‘artist’s representation’ of what the finished item will look like.

And we’re back to this morning, when I pressed upload to my Dropbox and watched the progress bar in a bit of a fug (it was 6am).  And then I decided to write a blog about it as a really long-assed way of saying “Hey, our Christmas Catalogue is out!”

…. if you want a proper copy, email us with your address.  In the meantime, you can just click on the front cover and you’ll be taken to those clever people at Issuu and an online version to peruse at your leisure.

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Christmas Catalogue 2017

…I’m off to my bed.  I will be fully awake and functioning by the time you read this in, ummm, let’s see, a couple of months time…

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Free Ticket Giveaway!

We’re going to be busy again this November. Making hay whilst the sun shines and all that.

Although, thinking about it, it’s going to be November so the sun aint gonna be shining.  So maybe a better saying would be: “let’s spend a load of money and book up those Christmas show stands because everyone’s looking for Christmas gifts and we sell excellent Christmas gifts so we need to put our gifts in front of those people so that they spend their hard earned money on the fruits of our hard earned year round labours.”

But that isn’t quite as snappy.  So we’ve booked up our November to ‘make hay whilst the sun shines’ and hopefully make enough money to keep producing the gifts that we’re proud to create.

It really is that simple.

Now, because we spend so much money on these stands, the organisers give us some complimentary tickets and we would like to offer them to you!  We’re not going to run a competition because we find that it ends up on some ‘money saving’ site that has a url to directly click through and even an answer that you may need; and then we have 1000s of requests from professional competition enterers. (One time, a bright spark had put the wrong answer up so we had to discount around 90% of the entrants).  It’s not that we’re judging competition enterers (see what I did there).  I can remember buying “Take a Break” in the late 1980’s and armed with just a few postcards and a book of stamps, I would very happily use my free stuff – particular favourites included the sun-cream and the bright blue mesh shower pouf to exfoliate my legs in the shower (do you remember those? awful things).  It’s just that we’re not Ambre Solaire and we don’t need tens of thousands of email addresses for people who simply aren’t going to see us on a supermarket shelf.

So, please only respond to us if you genuinely want a pair of tickets to one of the shows.  You are under no obligation to buy anything, to visit our stand or even to like us or follow us on our feeds (although that would be very nice).  We would just like to know that we’ll be sending out codes to claim tickets to people who will make use of them.

So, if you’d like the chance to win a set of 2 tickets to either the Spirit of Christmas at Olympia or to Country Living Christmas in Islington, then please EMAIL ME and tell me which show you would like to attend.  That’s it.  I won’t save your email address or bother you or do anything.

I’ll simply pick 15 people at random on September 30, which should give you lots of time to plan your trip.

We also have ONE precious set of tickets to the Wealden Midwinter Fair to give away so if you’d prefer to not come into London, do put Wealden as your preferred choice.

That’s all.

Further show information can be found by clicking on the images below:

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1 Set of 2 Tickets up for Grabs!

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10 Sets of 2 Tickets up for Grabs!

 

London MPU

5 Sets of 2 Tickets up for Grabs (Saturday not included)

 

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New Babies

It took me a long time to feel broody after I had my twin sons. But then being pregnant for 18 months with a three month gap would, in my humble opinion, kill the desire to procreate for a century or so.

But I’ve been surprised that I’ve started to feel it again, not really for me to actually do (I’m not insane) but just that urge to cradle, gaze at and smell a baby is becoming more appealing as I get older. And the great news is, I know a few ladies now expecting, so roll on next spring I’d say.

I do love a newborn, a baby, a toddler, a pre-schooler, a little one. Super-cute when they’re as small as dolls, delightful when they can be shocked out of a tantrum just by acting a little bit weird. Ultimate entertainment when you ask them about their family and how much wine their mothers drink. Ya know, the really entertaining stuff.

They can be excellent value, those friend’s and relative’s kids. If I’m honest, I’m happy not to spend so much time with them as teens, only because I found it irritating enough trying to glean conversation out of my own children and I’d rather wait until they get a bit older, more interesting and the attitude isn’t at volume number 11 anymore. But hey, that’s just me. (I’m not sure anyone has ever accused me of tolerance).

My best mate and I go to a rather nice hotel in central London a couple of times a year and we always spend our Sunday afternoons sitting and chatting and drinking tea and eating biscuits and reading the papers in the rather nice lounge. Generally speaking we are joined by a group of anything between 8 and 20 women celebrating a Baby Shower.

Bearing in mind that my best mate and I met within a few weeks of our first borns being ummm born and that we have six children between us, we can happily say that we have been there and we have done most things maternity wise. But having a Baby Shower isn’t one of them. They simply didn’t seem to exist when we were busy bringing up babies and I feel like we missed out, because they seem such sweet, supportive and joyous affairs. Mothers and mothers-in-law always seem to be in attendance, another few women in stretched jersey over football tummies waddle about for fun and everyone seems to be eating cake with gay abandon.

And I think one of the nicest things about them is that it gets the whole ‘come celebrate with me’ out of the way. You get to give gifts and be special and celebrate the start of a new life before the actual baby arrives. Because when your baby arrives, there are only certain people that you’d be glad to see and, quite frankly, most people won’t make the cut for the first few months.

I remember my uncle turning up out of the blue to see our first born when she was under a fortnight old and I resented every second of him drinking the tea I’d made whilst my baby slept and I didn’t.

And he wasn’t the only one. In hindsight, I should have sent a ‘round robin’ style note out that read something like this:

Come around to see us if I know you so well that I won’t even have to explain why there’s a cabbage leaf stuffed inside my bra and that I’m crying because I still can’t see my ankles. Pop in if you’re in the mood to do some washing up/ironing/cooking/cleaning of floors without us actually having to talk to you. Enter if you think I’d feel comfortable enough to have you sit there holding my baby whilst I change the dressing on my episiotomy and promptly fall asleep with a boob hanging out. If you want to bring flowers, expect a tight-lipped thank you, and be prepared to silently return in a week to throw them out.

And if you think that a nice 30 minute snuggle with a sleeping baby whilst you talk about how your boss is pissing you off to a semi-comatose woman with bruised eyes and bleeding nipples is your idea of fun, then you need to look at yourself in the mirror and try to work out what kind of human being you actually are.

And so, before I truly get into the groove about the unwitting idiocy of the visitors that we received with our daughter and then with our twins, I’ll get back to why I think baby showers are so awesome.

Because when you’re heavily, but not too uncomfortably pregnant, you can spend a couple of hours surrounded by friends and nearest and dearest celebrating with cake and sandwiches and tea. And then you get gifts that are useful, thoughtful and returnable whilst baby is still conveniently inside. And that’s it in a nutshell.

So, although I’m really looking forward to meeting new humans next spring and showing off my keeping babies alive skills, I think I’m also just as excited that I might be invited to a baby shower. I’ve got the best ever gifts to take. One will be our Award Winning Birthday Yearbook (it really is a frickin’ awesome gift for new babies).

The other gift will be the promise that I’ll not visit for the first two months.

 

If you’d like to give more than just the promise of your absence or the promise of your help, do check out our Birthday Yearbook here.

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The Birthday Yearbook cover

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yes, that is actually me with my firstborn

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The Birthday Yearbook