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H E L L O ! My name is Naomi Shiek (pronounced CHIC).
I've been very fortunate to have my own small independent atelier called Woodland Papercuts. This is my private blog exploring my favorite things in beauty & design.

L E T S__B E__F R I E N D S !
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Sunday, 19 November 2017

BUSINESS UPDATE | So... what now?

I wrote my last post on the subject fueled by far too many hours deep diving into Aeolida's world (a design & business consulting firm for creative businesses) which instead I should have spent fulfilling orders. I was optimistic. I was empowered. I was... meh.

It's not that I don't want to improve, I do. In one of her newsletters Aeolidia's founder Arianne spoke of a client that wrote her:
“I’m still interested in staying relatively small. Relying on Etsy less and gaining more sales in general is definitely a goal. But I’m not interested in having the same growth as some of your success stories – warehouses and dozens of employees and $100,000 in sales every month. I like the quiet days and flexible schedule that my business provides me, as well as the ability to work at home as I raise my family. This probably makes me sound so unambitious, but I thought it would be important information for you to have as you think about my best next step.”
This is me, guys! I have the same dilemma as the client above. I don't want to stop drawing and cutting each product by hand. I just don't. I like the personal interaction I have with each client. I think keeping the process handmade and having a human voice with clients are the foundations of my brand, but more than that this is what I do to fill my days and my source of happiness. If I had to exchange that with managing employees, overseeing wholesale accounts, relinquishing the joy of hand-making to a machine, and I don't know what else - I won't like it. Just thinking about it makes me stress. It does sound unambitious to some (the number of times people urged me to find a lasercutter and make paper gifts in bulk, yikes...) but my ambitions are different: Live comfortably and quietly, run a small artisan business successfully. That's what I want.

I'm not above streamlining my process. And while I struggle with delegating I am employing others to fulfill roles I know I'm not good at, and we're learning together how to make it work. So first thing's first: I do also realize that my studio is in dire need of expanding its online presence, and overhauling the website to be more informative and easier to navigate. It's dedicating that time and money to create the content and execute the overhaul that's overwhelming me... have I mentioned the idea itself makes me exhausted?

Now that the wedding season is ending I have the time to rework the user flow on the WOODLAND PAPERCUTS site - and that means rewriting and adding lots more content. I'm also going to streamline my social media. I gave it a few months on Facebook and Twitter and such, but I really don't like those platforms and I am not seeing any meaningful results. So I think I'm going to cut it all down to INSTAGRAM, PINTEREST, and NEWSLETTER (when I set one up). I've already spent far too long trying to make my landing page a bit... friendlier? Easier to navigate? It's a work in progress.


Saturday, 21 October 2017

work rant | When life gives you crappy paper, try not to burn the house down

I'm beyond upset and stressed right now - in fact I'm so mad I've slid right into apathetic. Here I am, ready to finally start papercutting again after a shitty week - it's my stress reliever - and lo and behold! the new batch of papers I open are complete shit! Sure, despite my best efforts and instructions art supply employees don't know how to handle paper so I often get packets with errant dimples and scratches I have to work around - but this time it goes beyond low quality. Way below. It's the definition of 'I picked this up from the trash and got you to pay full price for it HAHA there you go!' I paid A LOT of money for this heap of garbage. I spent 10 hours driving back and forth to get this!

So I decide to take a big breath and open the second batch - Maybe only the top one was shit?! - BUT NO! THE 2ND BATCH IS WORSE!! It's thievery, is what it is. I don't know what to do. On the scale of bad days at the office this is up there with the paper crisis of 2011 when this shit happened. I am... beyond annoyed. And disappointed. And stressed. And murderous. And this day isn't going well.

I wish I could say there's a happy ending here but the reality is I have orders waiting, no paper, have a supplier I can't trust anymore, and am out hundreds for a product I can't return or use.

And this day really isn't going well.


UPDATE A FEW DAYS LATER: After the terrible, awful thing that happened Saturday, I decided to call the shop where I bought the papers to notify them I received subpar product and will be returning it. They are called ARTA by the way, an establishment well-known to all Israeli artists & crafters, I am sure.

Now mind you, I don't make it a habit of calling out shitty shops and services for bad customer service. {Don't know why not, I probably should do it more often, really.} And yet, I know I'm justified to call ARTA out for their suckage simply because it is so epic.

To note, I buy quality speciality artist papers, which are an investment of both my money and time, to say nothing of the stress of transporting them flat and unharmed cross country. They come in giant sheets which are packed into batches of dozens each. Shops open these up to sell individually, but if you buy them in bulk you should get them sealed and in as close to pristine condition as to when they are arriving from the importer. I moved to the edge of the country years ago and still I make sure to drive down to Tel Aviv at least once a year to buy hundreds of these sheets so my stock will last me for months. I go through the trouble because I bought from these shops for years and I trust them. Imagine my surprise when I discovered my last two batches of a large order were in such deplorable condition. I've bought these papers from ARTA for years and did not expect to find them damaged, especially considering all the other papers I got in the same order.

You can guess: my phone call did not go well. I don't want to repeat what took place because it still gets my blood boiling. Not only am I out time and money in unusable product, ARTA handled it very poorly, really adding salt to the wound. I got yelled at, hung up on... Let's just say that the lack of common sense and civility lost them their dignity, reputation, and me as a client.

So moving on... I took a deep breath after that call, kissed that money goodbye, and started searching for other paper suppliers. I'm happy to announce a few hours later my assistant found two lovely shops (much closer than Tel Aviv - YAY!) that I hope to count as my new base for all future paper runs! In fact, through them I've been introduced to a cheaper, more readily available but completely comparable in quality paper that I'm really excited about. I already took it on a "test run", printing and cutting it, and there's no difference in the weight, color, and grain between it and my beloved paper stock. SO LONG Fabriano! I HAVE A NEW LOVE!

In the end, all's well that ends well. Without the above debacle I never would have even looked for those new shops and new paper! In the end I got to #papercut all week and orders still went out in time. Count your blessings.


Image credit | A custom papercut in progress, my studio table, June 2017.

Friday, 6 October 2017

fashion | Does the capsule work?

2016 was all about the Capsule Wardrobe. At least for fashion & lifestyle bloggers, it seemed. Nearly every blog I read jumped on that train... and by the end of the year most fell off it.
So, does the capsule wardrobe work? It did for me!
... Until I forgot that's why I had so little clothes (read: just enough to cycle through every week) and went and bought (so, so many) new clothes!
Why did I do it? Frankly, the capsule wardrobe was a good excuse to getting rid of nearly all my clothes after I gained curves. In my mind I told myself "I'm not just throwing away my clothes because they don't fit, I'm downsizing because it's the responsible, adult thing to do." See, a positive spin!

My trouble was that like with all trends, I promptly forgot about it. See, for the first three months it worked. I enjoyed overlapping my outfits with the same 10 items. It was a no-fuss system.

Then I realized that I only have two jeans to wear when I leave the house (the rest were pajama pants or gym leggings), they weren't all that comfortable or frankly flattering, and wearing the same clothes all the time was getting boring. It actually wasn't until I read Shoeper Woman's end of year post that mentioned her journey with the capsule wardrobe that I even remembered that's how I started my year. I flaked!

What I can say is that the Capsule Wardrobe helped me 
learn what I'm looking for from my wardrobe & what my true style is 

My journey back to a full wardrobe started with my quest for pants. Actual non-jeans pants, i.e. trousers. Which I never wore in my whole adult life! I always associated trousers with business attire and thought when I'll be an adult with a job, that's when I'll buy them. And time just never felt right. Until it did, this year.

That's also how I found these pin-up style reproduction clothing shops - my saviors! Oh, where have you been all my life? Love you! - and threw myself down that deep, deep rabbit hole. Seriously, my savings have taken a beating. But look at me in this GIF to the left! I love it! So here they are (and if you're wondering why these aren't photos of me wearing them, I apologize - I'm much too lazy to attempt it. Annoying, I know):
From left to right. I bought all my trousers from TOP VINTAGE so I'll be linking them below together with the brand's original page where applicable. 

DANCING DAYS BY BANNED STAY AWHILE TROUSERS & HELL BUNNY NELLY BLY SAILOR TROUSERS | I think almost everyone who first gets into retro clothing starts with a theme. The most popular is sailor, because well... It's so cute, why not?! and I am no different. I have tops to match for a whole outfit, I admit:)

DANCING DAYS BY BANNED PARTY ON CLASSY TROUSERS | These are my most comfortable pair, the ones I can wear without pulling even when I've put on a few pounds. I'm wearing them in the top image here - See, they're so comfortable I'm laughing! 

MISS CANDYFLOSS MELISSA TROUSERS | After experiencing the quality of Miss Candyfloss's Gigi jumpsuit (post in the works) I jumped on the chance to try on one of their trousers. I have to admit, I wear these the least. Whether it is because the fit is slightly too big or because I prefer navy blue, or because out of all my trousers these have the thickest fabric, I can't decide. They are good quality, and I like how they cleverly hid the button and zipper for a clean look - but the fact is I do not wear them much. (Top Vintage page)

VOODOO VIXEN SHELLEY SUSPENDERS PALAZZO TROUSERS | These came in my latest purchase from Top Vintage and I haven't worm them yet. I tried them on and gasped - because I LOVE high waist and who can say no to the maxi skirt look - but the top button came off in my hand.  I much prefer to complain about it than take out my sewing kit! For now the pants are hanging on my clothes ladder waiting for their day. It's on my to-do list, honest. (Top Vintage page)

Monday, 2 October 2017

BUSINESS UPDATE | Where To From Here?

A few weeks ago Emily Hendreson, an interior designer & stylist I've been following for years, announced amidst much activity on her blog and social media that hey! she was changing her business from a home designer for hire to a an editorial designer (that's my description for it; for her own much more accurate description read announcement here). That threw me for a loop. I was still swaying - I admit I don't much like changes, even ones that have no effect on me - from Orlando's news of personal and professional upheaval (yes, I am on a first name basis with a complete stranger!), and I had recently got back to watching Flipping Out and following Jeff's business transformation - so I have metamorphosis on my mind. Namely, mine. With all these organic, take charge decisions other creatives are making - shouldn't I start looking at my own business?

This might be an ill-conceived overshare, but between 2014 and 2015 I had awesome business growth (nearly %62) but between 2015 and 2016 I earned less (an %8 drop). This is worrying for a business starting out. What happened? What did I do wrong? Is it because new vendors offering similar services have cropped up? Am I not different / special enough? Are my products not good enough to stand the test of time?! - So many questions big and small, and all falling on my shoulders. What Can I do to Change This? The projected earnings for this year seem to indicate a rise so 2016 will be just a dip - but I don't like that dip and I don't know what I did wrong to cause/facilitate it. Earning the same as years past is respectable - but a young business should rise in sales, not stagnant.
I have to admit I am struggling in my decision making, when I take the time to think about how much WOODLAND PAPERCUTS has grown and where I'd like to take it. The studio grew organically without much business input from me. I just put my head down and cut. But now it's been a few years and I realize this is a real business, my only source of income, and I should treat it as such - protect and cultivate it. That's when I get stumped. I mean, I'm much more a follower than a leader, and I don't know how and where and again how I should start. What should change? How should it change?

I read other #girlbosses talking about changing their businesses, taking them in bigger, better, other directions than they initially thought they would be years ago. Myself, I never conceptualized, set a goal, or prophesied anyting for the studio when I started - except to be financially secure. Had no business plan except Draw > Cut > Ship. Had no business philosophy except Be Kind. Be Patient. Be Informative. They stood me well so far, but I realize I need to consider all the foundations now, before my sales go backwards.
A branding & consulting studio I've been following for years now is AEOLIDIA. Besides the difficult name, the founder is a genius (in italics, that's how much). Like Emily and Orlando, Aeolidia's founder and director Arianne comes across as very open, honest, friendly, relatable, and smart. Everything I wish I could be in my own online persona. I've been reading her newsletter and periodically browsing her portfolio for insights - and there are plenty! If you're in a creative business rut of any kind I urge you to take a look, read the blog, join the facebook group, the lot.

What I seem to lack in general is motivation. I much prefer to pay someone else to dedicate the time -and mainly, brain power- needed to think of and implement all these changes that surely need to happen. I know I need to make changes, I just don't want to be the one doing them. There are so many resources and advice on Aeolidia that it's almost overwhelming to me, but I'm going to try. The ideas and steps Arianne lays out in her blog and workbooks are so simple, it feels easy instead of a monumental effort to begin.

Aeolidia is out of my price range for now, so I'm going to take in all the wisdom she shares freely and not only spend days posing questions and answers to myself - but actually get off my butt and implement my ideas! WHO'S WITH ME?
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