To CheesePlant or not to CheesePlant

I have been in turmoil people.  Absolute turmoil for the past 3 months or so and I have thrown tantrums and stormed from the office to the high street to eat biscuits and drink hot chocolate in a coffee shop on more than one occasion and yes, I inhaled those biscuits and yes, I felt guilty afterwards.  But there’s nothing quite like frustrated indecision to get you onto the biscuits I’d say.

Now you wouldn’t think that something as innocuous as a cheese plant could do that to a grown woman would you?  But boy, have they plagued me.  Sometimes, most days.  Some days all day. The relationship that is Sarah and cheese plants is starting to wear thin.

I liked cheese plants.  We had one in our first flat and we kept it alive for a number of years (which I think goes to show how resilient and therefore how lovable cheese plants can be).  But once we’d managed to kill our beloved cheese plant off, circa 1994, I don’t think I gave the genus another thought.

1aRoll on to summer 2015 and I had a very rare girlcrush on an item of clothing.  It was a Vivienne Westwood dress and, you’ve guessed it, the pattern was cheese plant leaves.  I liked the greens and I liked the cut and I managed to snaffle one at a rockbottom price and realised I couldn’t really walk in it… but still…. I stroke it and look at it in my wardrobe now and again and just, well, love it.

(and that’s fine because if you were to line up photos of me at trade shows over the last 7 years, you’d find that I really do get the most out of every item of clothing I buy – so having one in my wardrobe just for strokes isn’t that profligate).

 

Moving on….

So let’s get to 2016 when I take an idle wander around the floors of a well known department store to see what’s ahappenin’ and I notice that, yes, owls have, indeed, had their day.  The pale pink and grey ‘Pantone colours of the year!’ are moving on and we’re still trending through flamingos, pineapples and Rio stylee stuff.  (please see “Mid Week Rant” for the other trend that prevails).

and there I am, surrounded by flamingos and pineapples

…. and I think to myself.

“It’ll be cheese plants next”

And so, as I liked cheese plants more than I like owls, pineapples, flamingos, toucans and, indeed, unicorns (they’ll be everywhere soon….) I thought…

“I should design some products with cheese plant patterns”

Turmoil.  Because I’ve been drawing spider plants, ferns and cheese plant leaves for months now; moving them around the screen, playing with colours, tweaking, changing layer layouts, taking out elements, putting them back in, putting new ones in, isolating, combining.  And then I’ve looked at the cost pricing of having product printed and worked out the cost-trade-retail ratios and yes, may just make some money here and then I wonder if the artwork is good enough and whether we’ll get a garden centre or two interested and then I start to see cheese plant leaves popping up in a few places.

… and suddenly, I’ve found myself feeling sick in a coffee shop with crumbs down my front thinking “I can’t compete with them.

Last week was particularly bad. I was beginning to question it all, and I mean everything.  The very existence of cheese plant leaf artwork on my desktop felt like a virus in the files.  And it’s taken a lot of soul searching to conclude that I’m going to pop all of those artwork files into a folder and chuck them into the virtual abyss that I have named “Artwork in Progress” and here’s why I’ll probably never do anything with those files:

  • I’m not talented enough to compete with the true artists out there.  If I were, I would spend my life being an artist and making money from my art would make me happy.
  • I don’t want to lose sight of what 2littleboys.co.uk is all about.  We make cool shit to keep kids happy, beautiful stuff to keep memories and the odd funny thing for older people.
  • We don’t make patterns
  • We’ve never followed trends or even capitalised on trends we’ve foreseen before. Why start now?
  • We’re not big enough (or talented enough) to compete with the companies who create beautiful product with patterns and who can create a ‘story’ with their ranges.
  • I kinda like unicorns, pineapples and toucans, but not enough to create a range of stationery around them.  What if the trend after cheese plants was something I really didn’t like?

But most of all, and this is key.  

I don’t want to.

And that’s the joy of being the boss.

But it won’t stop me cringing every time I see a cheese plant leaf on a product. I’ll get over it, because FINALLY, I am exhaling and the turmoil of indecision is over.

And now I’m off to buy some soil, fertiliser, a nice big terracotta pot and a plant to grow in my living room.  I’ve moved on from cheese plants. I’m thinking a ficus.

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If there’s any company out there who likes some of these designs – don’t copy them, license them…. We’re fabulous licensors and our rates are very reasonable ;).

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Getting to the point. Quickly and sharply

Today, I’m reminded of how petty I can be.

I’m sure that there have been many typos and terrible homophone usage in my copy over the years.  But I’m certain that you’ll not find a misspelling of the word ‘stationery’ anywhere.

Now, I accept that it’s probably because I’m so kinky for stationery, that seeing an ‘a’ instead of an ‘e’ in there is akin to nails down a chalkboard (or cotton wool… no?  Just me then).  But still, it’s the english language!  And if you are writing for a living, are you not supposed to have a superior grasp of our mother tongue? (Oooh, I’m getting quite het up here; I’ll stop now)

If you’re emailing me to tell me how much you’d love to write something about our stationary, because you’ve always loved stationary, I will (and I’ve been surprised at my own restraint here) very politely decline your offer of a review.  It’s stationery people.  Not stationary.

STATIONERY

(It was the same with the word ‘liaison’ when I worked in recruitment many years ago.  If your CV had the word liason in there, you’d have to be a frickin’ genius at everything else to not get binned).

Harsh I know.

I think fair.

But harsh.

That’s all.

 

Oh – Happy Easter!

 

Embarrassing things I did at The Stationery Show

IMG_0054If you follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook or suffered through my various blog posts (well done and thank you!) you’ll probably have already gathered that we returned, after a five year absence, to the National Stationery Show in Islington this week.

I have waxed lyrical about my thoughts on trade shows before, so, just to sum up the general gist of my feelings for these events, it was with enormous trepidation that we set up our little stand on Monday afternoon.  The costs, the energy, the emotional investment and the general rolling of the die in the gamble of ‘do I put myself through that again or not?’ have all been spoken of before.

I should also mention that there was an added cost/benefit aspect to the decision to return to the Stationery Show this year. It’s a very expensive business having to taxi from West to North London every day! No prima donna me, just a messed up panic attack sufferer – and trust me, I still had to take pills for the cab rides as I’m phobic of traffic jams (I know, a Londoner phobic of traffic jams!! Go figure!)).

I digress…

I woke up on Tuesday morning to make my first coffee of the day and found our beautiful 2 year old cat dead on the kitchen floor. She was a rescue cat who, in the short 5 months of her occupying our home had wormed her way into our hearts and it was horrifying to see her just lying there dead. Vet can only surmise a congenital heart disorder and family of five were left in shock and rightfully really upset. Not the most auspicious of starts to the first day. I was quite relieved to leave the home/office that morning as I’m sure that I would have moped all day waiting to hear for the cat flap clicks.

So, we were at the stand by 9 for a 9.30 opening. The doom set in at about 10am (possibly the wearing off of pre-taxi ride pill, who knows) but our stand was empty and the usual doubts whirled around my head like chattering dementors (bad enough when they don’t speak, but these ones are really verbal with the usual insults of doubts). And yet, at 11am, all heaven broke loose, PEOPLE! Not just people, stationery people. Stationery people who actually buy stationery for their stationery shops to sell to other stationery people. Yes, I know, the clue was in the title of the show, but I’m not so used to the joy of the ‘build it and they will come’ concept. Come, they did and we were busy on both days, taking a few orders, but more importantly, having the right buyers take the time to look through our products and to talk to us.

Time folded to speed the days and the monumental traffic jams on the way home were a good opportunity to catch up on emails and orders that had came in.

So, here’s to the embarrassing stuff:

  • Like an idiot, I noticed a name badge bearing the hallowed company name ‘Scribbler’ and literally just shouted “Scribbler” at the top of my voice (I wasn’t known as ‘foghorn’ for nothing at school). He duly turned around and I tried to style out my shock at my outburst as best I could; mumbling my way through the ranges and hoping that my initial impression of being an utter loon didn’t stick.
  • I told a very important potential client after she took a photograph of one of our notebooks, that should her company copy me, I would personally track her down and kill her. She then went on to tell me that she had run out of business cards but would write her contact details down. I duly pointed out that I now had a way to find her, hunt her down and kill her should her company copy us. She pointed out that, perhaps, if I thought rationally, should she be devious enough to copy our designs, she would probably have the guile to write an entirely fictitious email address in our pad. I couldn’t disagree with her logic. I liked her. I really hope they don’t copy our designs.
  • A really lovely lady from a multiple retailer that we would dearly love to stock actually turned up on our stand, declared herself and made all of the right noises about stocking us later in the year. I grabbed her, with no warning, and hugged her. I suspect she will be reporting to her boss as I type, that the woman at Two Little Boys is possibly a little too weird to deal with. I genuinely hope that she felt the love, but understand I may have overstepped the customary business parameters.
  • A wolf pack of ladies turned up from another multiple retailer, splitting up and checking out the stands. The tension amongst the exhibitors around us was palpable. Even though these ladies had partially hidden their name badges, we all knew. Two stopped at our stand and, as usual, produced no business cards when requested and left with a catalogue and impervious expressions on their faces. I then promptly followed them to see if I could get a glimpse of their names, but forgot to take my glasses with me and now apologise for what must have looked like a middle aged female stalker staring at boobs.
  • My body failed me and my immune disorder that is normally kept under control with drugs spiked through a little, so my chin and bottom lip swelled up – which meant that I left the after show awards ceremony way too early and, if anyone had noticed, would have assumed I was a sore loser.
  • Two young ladies wordlessly approached the stand, took a photograph of a few products and left without a single acknowledgment. I said ‘how rude’ quite loudly (and I still hope they heard). A further lady came to the stand, had the foresight to smile and then she took a photograph. Like a caged lion, I pounced, demanding to know what she was doing, to which she flashed her badge and meekly responded that she was ‘press’. I looked at her badge and apologised profusely.

Other than periodically making a fool of myself, I had a great time! The lovely couple on the stand next to ours had travelled all the way from the US to sell their leather pen holders and on the rare occasions that we had time to chat, we put the world to rights. I should also mention that knowing the guys who had put the entire show together and being able to thank them personally and acknowledge their hard work and success was an added bonus.

I loved catching up with old neighbours from years gone by, seeing delightful existing customers and hugging a lot of people that I was genuinely really happy to see again and I also met a silly number of new people.

And yes, only 2 of the 10 buyers who we had specifically asked, nay, begged to ‘pop by’ on their rounds did, in fact, pop by.

But right now I’m so buoyed by the response from everyone else, I actually spent a couple of minutes this morning thinking – “Their loss.”

Have to stop now – I have got a lot of emails to write starting with the words:

“Sorry we missed you at the show….”

And then I’ll have another cup of coffee and fill in the contract for next year.

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