Small biz : The Artful Business Conference – who’s coming with me?

YAY! The Artful Business Conference is on again in LESS THAN TWO WEEKS. I am so excited about attending this wonderful event again – I learnt HEAPS last time and came away buzzing with ideas!


artful business conference


Why is it so fantastic? Because its core purpose is to help small businesses just like you and me – it’s designed specifically for us folk in the creative industries. It’s fantastic because the speakers themselves have been through the hard grind of starting from scratch; they’ve built themselves up to where they are now – and they’re sharing the nitty gritty and the insights they’ve gained along the way!

There are NINE speakers over two days, covering a huge range of subjects – including Karen Gunton speaking on Branding (I saw her last year, and you will NOT be sorry!); Victoria Gibson showing you how to use advertising on Facebook to grow your business; and Denise Duffield-Thomas on how to break through the fears that limit your growth (You can check the whole list of speakers here).

AND not only do you get to hear these fantastic people; but with each ticket purchase, you also get access to recordings of the previous two events as well – that’s around 70 hours worth of fabulous information.

SO, if you’ve got a small business in any kind of creative field, then this is definitely something you should be attending. Can’t wait for this year’s – I’m sure it’s going to be an absolute eye-opener!!



You can find out more about the conference and purchase tickets here


Disclaimer: YES! I’m an affiliate of the Artful Business Conference, which means I earn a small commission on every ticket sold through the link above. But seriously, I’m attending the event myself, and I reckon that should be recommendation enough that I think it’s an EXCELLENT idea. See you there!


The crafted object : Quality ~ it’s in the details

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe famously said “God is in the details.”

Quality is the purposeful attention of the maker to all those little things that many of us rush over, and is the reward for those of us who choose to pay attention.


Rebecca Hannon - 'cobblestone' brooch - front and back {via}

Rebecca Hannon – ‘cobblestone’ brooch – front and back


 It’s in the interiors and undersides of objects.



yumiko higuchi {via}

yumiko higuchi


 It’s present in immense skill and precision.



thyme tealight - {}

thyme tealight – {}


 It’s in the understanding of materials, and how they look when the light catches them.



Molly Hatch  cups {via}

Molly Hatch cups



yumi okita -

yumi okita – cross’s wave moth



And NONE of it is made by casual fiddlers or doodlers.


Build your vision, build your skills by years of long, hard work; 

and one day quality will appear, as if by magic. 



Photography : Amy Giese
Amy Giese : Glitch and Digital Photography

I always love me a bit of well-constructed glitch (which is kind of a contradiction in terms I know, but do you know what I mean?).

At its purest, glitch is a machine-driven, random alteration of sound and/or visuals – mostly resulting in nonsensical waste. But when the aesthetic of that technology is harnessed and utilised, it can become a beautiful thing indeed, presenting the world from an altered viewpoint which can be both incredibly expressive and thought-provoking.

It’s what Amy Giese does with her photography. Using various filters and post-image manipulations, she cuts and weaves her images of the everyday into moments of beautiful expressiveness.


atgiese - move

atgiese – move


Although she’s been making photographs for over 15 years, like many artists it’s been a convoluted path, and she has supported herself and her artwork by working in restaurants throughout much of that time. It has been a lot of hard work to get to this point, and now she is excited to be teaching photography and exhibiting her work regularly.

College was the first place she really discovered photography. “I took art classes, but only did painting and drawing (horribly, I might add!), but I always loved creating.”


“And when I took my first photo class in college, it was like a bolt of lightning hit me – all these ideas in my head actually showed up in the film, which never happened when I drew. It was magic.”



atgiese - motion blur

atgiese – motion blur


She loves the history of photography; to see what others have captured on film and how those ideas have developed. “I have always been drawn to the fundamentals of how the camera sees the world differently than human beings do – long exposures, overlapping frames, the play of light and shadow.”

It’s also this sense of altered perception that has drawn her to her favourite artists – “I’m drawn to people who find a way to re-interpret the physical space of our existence in such a way that I see the world through new eyes. Alberto Giacometti was an early influence, particularly his paintings. The photogram projects of Susan Derges are haunting and beautiful. The installations of Ann Hamilton seem to blow my mind every time. And the use of sound in a specific place of the duo Cardiff and Miller makes me reevaluate how I move through the world.”


atgiese - geometric water

atgiese – geometric water


atgiese - ocean storm

atgiese – ocean storm


Her camera phone is a tool of choice, because of its portability and its immediacy. One of her favourite photographs is Morning Commute “because it was one of the first images I made on my phone where it exceeded my expectations of what a camera-phone could do. It captured the feeling of riding the bus into work, early in the morning perfectly.”

Another favourite is Ocean Storm “because of the place and what an editing app pulled out of the moment. It’s a beach I go to every year, and the colors and weather are epic! Somehow the fractured pattern of triangles really captures some of the emotion of the location for me.”


atgiese - broken clouds

atgiese – broken clouds


atgiese - blue sky

atgiese – blue sky


Based in Boston with her husband and their cat Winifred, she spends her spare time fixing up their house and scouting Etsy for new and interesting things to bring into the mix. She loves being barefoot and dances while she cooks dinner, occasionally singing songs to her cat and/or husband.

Her best piece of advice? “I respond the most to negative feedback – someone saying what doesn’t work, pointing out something that I didn’t see, poking holes in an idea.

“The best advice I ever got was to not take criticism personally, but to use this feedback as fuel to improve.”


You can find more of Amy’s images in her Etsy shop, atgiese.



The crafted object : Pendragon Shoes

Pendragon Shoes

First up I must apologise for the overload of pictures I’m about to share – these handmade shoes are just too too glorious and I couldn’t decide which ones I should show you first. Anyway, here goes.


 leaf ankle boots

leaf ankle boots


leaf boots detail

leaf boots detail


Inspired by myriad things including mythology, medieval and historical literature, Jackie Orme Ward and Adrian Lockwood create their extraordinary footwear in their tiny 6m x 6m workshop,  on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.  It’s a fascinating place with old casement windows and recycled timber floors, and it’s jam-packed with tools, fabulous old wooden filing cabinets stuffed full of everything that goes into their shoes - a variety of dyed and digitally printed leathers, fabrics, braids, buckles, tacks, boot hooks, and more.  Although they have some machines (sewing machines, grinders and sanders and a click press), the actual building of the shoe is by hand.


red renaissance slip ons

red renaissance slip ons


winged goddess sandals

winged goddess sandals


in the workshop - hand painting summer sandals

in the workshop – hand painting summer sandals


autumn leaf sandals

autumn leaf sandals


It all started way back in 1987, when Jackie and Adrian decided to make their own boots to wear to a medieval fair in Brisbane. “The rest is history – we got hooked.  We are self taught as there were no courses available in Queensland.  The name Pendragon fitted our business perfectly as we made historically inspired footwear.” Now, all these years later, they’ve built themselves a thriving business; their work  has been featured around the world, including Milan Fashion week and Design Festa Tokyo. But Jackie says that even more exciting and amazing than those was “Being asked to make boots for Italian Vogue in 2009. Our shoes were photographed with Vivienne Westwood, Prada and John Galliano clothes, styled by Karl Templer and shot by photographer Steven Meisel.”

And that’s not their only proud moment. One of Jackie’s favourite pairs of boots is from their Leaf collection. “The first pair we made were called The Prince of Autumn Leaves; they were part of an exhibition called Metamorphosis back in 1994.  It was our first exhibition of art shoes exploring themes of nature using natural leathers, dyes, embossing and moulding.  That pair of shoes is now in the Power House Museum in Sydney.”


ballet boots

ballet boots


victorian striped boots

victorian striped boots


marie antionette shoes

marie antionette shoes


What I love about Pendragon’s shoes is not only their incredible inventiveness and humour, but also their absolute emphasis on attention to detail. As a maker, I am in awe of their beautifully hand-tooled leathers and their mastery of stitching, not to mention all the little things like rare buttons, antique buckles, and the inclusion of miscellaneous fragments from other items totally unrelated to shoes (did I spy drawer handles?), that all combine to totally knock my socks off.


 men's steampunk boots

men’s steampunk boots


alice ankle boots

alice ankle boots


ancient mariner

ancient mariner


Jackie and Adrian are absolutely hands-on and work together every day.   “It’s just great to be able to work at something we love every day. It’s hard work and doesn’t pay that well but we are still going 27 years on.”

Their best piece of advice?


“Just do it!”



in the workshop

in the workshop


adrian and jackie in their workshop

adrian and jackie in their workshop


Besides making exquisite footwear, Pendragon Shoes also offer both beginners and advanced shoe making courses in their workshop on the Sunshine Coast (oh how I wish!). You can find them on Facebook, and on their own website,


Small biz how-to : Monday Mini Makeovers {part 6}
Monday Mini Makeovers {part 6}


Welcome to Part SIX of Monday Mini Makeovers! That means we’ve covered quite a few shops, and helped them with a lot of business presentation issues, ESPECIALLY the visual. So if you don’t find the information you’re after in this post, I encourage you to go back through and check out the other Monday Mini Makeovers. I guarantee you’ll look at your shop with fresh eyes.

{If you want to find out more about what the Mini Makeovers are, check here.}

OK, let’s meet this week’s beautiful people and check out their shops.


Jenni from The Paper Lake


Jenni Tedman sells lots of bunting and stationery through her shop, ThePaperLake – bunting always looks so cheery, don’t you think?

First up, nice logo Jenni! Your shop banner is simple and clean, and I like the handmade feel conveyed through your choice of font.

Your photos are clear and bright; however I would say that for some shots you are too far away from the bunting – I know you’re trying to include more of the whole string, but this results in too much white space in your photos, and they end up losing the impact of your lovely colours.

 Your perspective angle shots are good because they also give an idea of the close-up (colours, patterns, textures), as well as the whole string of bunting. For those simpler shots, you could also create more colour and impact by having a double string of bunting; or you could take a closer pic of just three, or five elements, so there’s not so much white space in the image, and people can see the print/texture of the paper if there is one. When you’re stuck for styling ideas, always check out the competition! What images do you like/not like from other shops that sell bunting?

For backgrounds, I also think the pics of your paper sticker stacks work well – the grey circle adds more depth/interest to image, without being distracting – it’s a clean shape and fits well with your overall aesthetic.

Don’t hide your Custom Colour Matching item on the second page! It’s a real feature of your offerings, and should be on your front page (also, change the title around a bit so that ‘Colour Matching’ is visible under the thumbnail too – every bit of awareness of what you have to offer is helpful).

And it’s nice that you’ve got a bit of a back story on your About page; it’s also good to see a variety of pics showing your materials and space and what you do. However, PLEASE don’t squash your pics! A simple two-part image with the bridal party and one perfectly matched banner would be an excellent demonstration of your colour matching.

Your policies are good and clear. And I love that you’ve said “The benefit to this is a one-on-one buying experience. My banners are not factory made.” However, I would encourage you to include something more friendly to finish with – I know you’ve told people where and how to contact you, but in sales, it’s ALWAYS about the words and where you put them!! (I am SOOO still learning all about this…) – so in Seller Information at the end, you could finish up with a friendly, “Don’t hesitate to contact me if you’ve got any questions”.


Lauren from Gears and Gadgets


Lauren from GearsAndGadgets sells a variety of luxurious handmade bags and vintage accessories inspired by many eras.

First up Lauren, your “About” page is beautifully evocative of what you do and what inspires you! Your words totally took me to another place – you should try and include some of that in your Shop Announcement. While your SA kind of says what you do, in comparison it’s a bit vague, and it could be so much more inspiring. Because you’re appealing to a very particular group of people, be more specific and more evocative of what appeals to them – mention steampunk, magical, Victorian etc – otherwise you’re not connecting with them as well as you might. I’d probably avoid using the quotation marks on “different” too – it doesn’t need it. If you need to emphasise the quality of difference more, try some other words or phrases – e.g. for those who take the path less travelled, unusual, contrary, exotic, fantastical…. a thesaurus is your friend!

The most striking thing is – you need LOTS more products. This is especially important because you have such a variety in your shop – handmade items are only about 1/3 of your 20 or so items for sale. You must give your customers a choice; if they don’t find something similar to what they want, they won’t bother asking for a custom order – they’ll go looking in another shop.

I absolutely love all the rich fabrics and trimmings on your About photos. With the words, you could also give more of a backstory to where you’ve come from, and why you’ve chosen these areas – is it the romance? Is it just the love of rich fabrics? What’s your particular interest?

And again, like Jenni, your policies are clear and comprehensive, but perhaps make them more friendly?

Remember to always think like a customer. How do you make you customers feel when they visit your shop?? You want them to feel welcome? Use welcoming language!! :D


Lolita from LolitaStas

Last for today, but by no means least is Lolita Staskevidiene from LolitaStas, maker of delicious felted accessories from Lithunia.

I think Lolita’s  shop is already very lovely! The items are well photographed – bright, clear, and consistent in styling, and it’s nice to see how she has grouped items by colour. Currently, she only has around 40 items – which is not an empty shop, but it’s certainly not overcrowded either. Put more items in! If people like your style, they also like to see choice. I’ve heard many successful businesses suggest around 3-5 pages or more (i.e. 60+ items), although this might vary according to your type of products.

Lolita’s Policies page is concise and friendly, and I definitely like how she finishes up with a friendly reminder that if customers have questions to contact her.

But Lolita! One big area I would pay attention to is your About page!! People ALWAYS want to know about the maker – how/why you started, what inspires you, what your creative space is like, why you like living where you do, other interesting hobbies, what you do for a living (if you’re not making a career out of being a maker) – anything quirky or crazy or downright beautiful about you is great. Include photos of your workspace, your materials and tools, you doing your favourite thing… who are you???

I think your shop is already doing very well even though you’ve been open only for a few months, and with a few more little tweaks, it will be absolutely ace.


ALL the very best to today’s participants, and I thank them very much for allowing me in for a little poke around and a prod. And I KNOW it’s appreciated by my readers too, especially those of you who have shops of your own. Thanks for all the feedback!



But you know what? After taking a look at so many shops over the last few months, it is becoming more and more obvious that lots of folk struggle with the same things.

So I’ve decided to put it all together for you.

If you’re struggling with how to brand your shop; if you don’t know how to convey your vision and mood; if you have no idea what your business personality is… I’ve put it all together in a BRAND SPANKING NEW WORKSHEET.

If you’d like a quick reference sheet OR like to have a good hard think about your shopfront, you can get it here. It’s hot off the press.


So that’s it!


AS ALWAYS, if you would like a Monday Mini Makeover on your biz, you can join in too – all you have to do is follow the instructions over here.

Catch you next time!
Julie X