Well, it's been a long time coming but the website is back, new and improved!
There are still a few tweaks to be made but, as I keep being told, if you wait for everything to be perfect, it’ll never be finished!!
2021 was a dumpster fire of epic proportions, as it was for many others. Fortunately, I am very lucky that my nearest and dearest are all safe and healthy, but on a professional level, it was very much a year of extremes.
At one end, I was so pleased to be invited back to St James’s Church of England High School to produced more large scale art illustrations. These were to decorate new buildings and more importantly, to revamp the school hall to celebrate being able to hold school assemblies and masses once again.
I’ll write a separate blog about the work there and about the new designs they are commissioning for their Modern Languages Dept.
The project involved multiple pieces of artwork including this laser cut design which I am so pleased with. This was something new and quite challenging for me. Whilst I am used to designing laser cut and engraved pieces, this was the first time I had ever attempted anything that involved pieces being fitted inside one another to create a flush panel. None of this would have been possible without the help of the school’s DT technician Chris, who was amazing!
On the downside, apart from the obvious complications and restrictions caused by COVID and lockdowns, I had a recurring and frustrating bout of Kiln Gods’ Revenge! Despite trying to plan ahead and get loads of ceramic stock ready for Christmas,. a mismatch of clay and clear glaze lead to almost 3 months worth of work having to be ditched due to unpredictable cracking of the glaze. Sometimes it was just cosmetic and other times it meant small, very sharp, shards of glaze would come off meaning I couldn’t possibly sell them on. The unpredictable bit was sometimes they would come out of the kiln cracked, sometimes it would take a few hours and others a few days or even weeks. Either way it was a very frustrating time but it did lead to some new designs that worked around the issue and techniques I intend on developing this year,
By Autumn I was trying to motivate myself and signed up with a boot camp aimed at increasing art sales. Whilst I did learn some things, I was extremely frustrated by them talking around in circles without actually telling you HOW to do anything. Saying the same thing over and over but slower and in a different order might work as a marketing ploy but it is not a valid educational technique. Should have known, it was just a way to try and get people to sign up to their full mentorship programme at nearly £6K for a year! After the last few years, if I had a spare six grand knocking about, I wouldn’t be needing a boot camp on selling more artwork! So finished that even more disillusioned with myself.
On a positive note the year finished with the publishing of Ripley’s first calendar. Now two and a half, she has grown into one very large, stubborn buddle of fluff! Very vocal and sneaky, she seems to have a very different view on what her role in the business is than we do! However, she is very entertaining and is a fabulous model, living up to her supermodel pedigree name, Migatobonito Elle McPurrson! There are just a couple of her calendars left if anyone is interested. I’ll pop them in the shop (when I get it fully working!)
Markets this year have been few and far between so Christmas takings were bound to be down just by reason of doing less markets. The crunch came when comparing markets I’d done previously. After an initially promising start at Heaton Fold Handmade Market at the start of the season in Bolton, it never really picked up and comparing like for like, Christmas takings were down about 60%.
Like many very small businesses, I was ineligible to claim any financial support from the Government’s COVID support schemes so the loss at the markets was worrying to say the least. This has lead me to rethink my business and to focus on commissions a lot more. I am currently taking part in a 10 week digital marketing course with DMS4ALL with the aim of restructuring and relaunching my business. Fixing and reopening the website is Stage 1, followed by plans to launch a Collectors Club on Facebook to offer exclusive or priority offers, designs and content to customers and loyal fans. There’s still lots to do, not least my tax return, but I am feeling a lot more positive about 2022.
From our little, furry family to yours, wishing you a healthy and happy year ahead xx
Kat, Bear & Ripley
UPDATE: Tax return for 2020-21 done and dusted!! One less thing to worry about and try and juggle. Onwards and upwards (fingers cross!!)