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It’s the most wonderful time of the year

The festive season is just around the corner now.

During the build up to Christmas in November and December I’ll be at markets all around the north east. These fab handmade gift markets are the perfect place to buy extra special presents for Christmas this year.

Read on to find out about all the events that Drawn by Rhiannon will be exhibiting at this year…

Saturday 9th November – Park Hotel, Tynemouth

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The perfect place to start your Christmas shopping this year, with over 75 stalls from local businesses. The Park Hotel is situated by the roundabout just as you come in to Tynemouth, right by Longsands bay. 

Saturday 16th November – Azure garden centre, Cramlington

Azure Garden Centre is hosting a Christmas Boutique every Saturday and Sunday in the lead up to Christmas. I’ll be there on Saturday 16th November for the opening day from 9am – 5pm. The boutique will feature local independent traders showcasing a range of unique crafts, seasonal gifts and food items. The garden centre is located close to Cramlington town centre and the A1 and A19.

Sunday 17th November – Redfox Gardenworld, Gateshead

I’ll be at the Redfox Christmas market on Sunday 17th November from 10am – 4pm. Support lots of local businesses and find unique gifts for your loved ones. There’ll be a chance to try your hand at candle making, have a delicious mulled wine, browse the stalls, sample freshly cooked pizza and hot doughnuts, create a Christmas wreath and much more!

Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th November – Spanish City, Whitley Bay

Spanish City is an iconic landmark in Whitley Bay and I’m very excited to be exhibiting at their first ever Christmas Fayre. With a variety of stalls, this is the perfect chance to enjoy a fabulous festive weekend with friends and family. I’ll be there on Saturday and Sunday from 10am until 6pm.

Wednesday 27th November – Kings Priory School, Tynemouth

From 7pm to 9pm on Wednesday 27th November I’ll be at Kings Priory School for their Christmas shopping evening. Tickets include a glass of fizz or wine and can be purchased from either Percy Park Road School Office, Huntington Place School Office or from the Out of School Club. There will be a bar serving drinks and nibbles too.

Saturday 30th November – Trinity Church, Gosforth

I’m looking forward to meeting up with all my local Etsy friends for this year’s Etsy Made Local Newcastle Christmas market. The nation-wide Etsy Made Local Christmas markets are happening again this year and we will be running it for it’s third year in Newcastle. It will feature some of the best artists and artisan of the North East.

Sunday 1st December – Jarrow Hall, Jarrow

On Sunday 1st December I’ll be at Jarrow Hall for their Christmas Fair. The Fayre will showcase the latest local talent and support artists, designers and small businesses across the season. There will be a wide variety of stalls including ceramics, baking, glass, textiles, jewellery, metal, mixed media, recycled materials, painting or photography.

Monday 2nd December – Christmas in Corbridge

From 4pm – 9pm on Monday 2nd December I’ll be at Christmas in Corbridge feeling super festive! There will be carols, a brass band and more live music, over 50 stalls, street food, late night festive shopping, alpacas to meet and Santa’s grotto. Also the penultimate day of the 2019 Corbridge Christmas Tree Festival inside St Andrew’s Church which will be open on Monday night.

Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th December – Poplar Tree Garden Centre, Durham

By this point Christmas will be in full swing! I’ll be at Poplar Tree garden centre all weekend from 11am – 4pm. There will be over 60 stalls with businesses selling unique Christmas gifts, plus mulled wine, a visiting Santa, Christmas tunes and real reindeer!

Saturday 14th December – The Wood Yard, Newcastle

For my last Christmas market of the year I’ll be revisiting The Wood Yard for their Winter Market. This is a fab event full of local makers and crafters so it’s the perfect chance to get those last minute Christmas presents.

I’m very excited for the Christmas market season to start and I can’t wait to meet some of you face to face! If you’d like to know more about the location of any of these markets, visit the events page by clicking here.

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Share your photos for a chance to win!

It’s lovely to see Drawn by Rhiannon items in their new homes!

I spend so much time designing and making all these items that it’s brilliant to see them in their new homes. When your order arrives, simply take a snap of your new item and upload to Instagram or Facebook. Don’t forget to tag @drawnbyrhiannon so I can see them!

It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just a quick snap of your new item in use, or just out of the packaging!

It’s great to know that your order has arrived safely and that you love it!

It’s been especially fun seeing the beeswax wraps in use. So pleased so many of you are embracing a more eco-friendly lifestyle!

Every time you upload a photo of your purchase to social media and tag @drawnbyrhiannon, you’ll be entered in to a prize draw to win a £10 Drawn by Rhiannon gift voucher to spend on anything you want!

So what are you waiting for? Grab your phone and get snapping and sharing!

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The highs and lows of running a small business

Spoiler alert: it’s a real roller coaster.

I love my job. I have always wanted to work for myself but I can tell you for free that running a small business is not easy. I’ve been running Drawn by Rhiannon for three years now and pretty much every day is a struggle. However, for me nothing beats being your own boss. Today is a beautifully sunny summer’s day so I’m writing this blog post with an old fashioned pen and paper outside in the garden. Of course I will have to type this up later but that’s a job for this evening when the sun goes down. And that’s one of the first things I love about running my own business – the flexibility.

It’s great to be flexible.

I have never particularly been a morning person so starting work at 8am every day isn’t an ideal situation for me. I find I’m much more productive later on and in to the evening so I love that I’m able to start work at 10am and work until after tea instead. Sometimes I can be working until two in the morning if that’s when inspiration has struck and that works great for me.

Drawn by Rhiannon studio
I’m lucky to have a great studio at the bottom of my garden

On the flip side, the negative aspect of working from home is that you’re never able to switch off. I’m lucky to have a fabulous studio at the bottom of my garden where I do all my sewing and most my designing. Unfortunately my internet doesn’t stretch to the studio so all the website designing, marketing and general computer work has to be done inside the house. There’s always a never ending to do list so the temptation to just quickly finish off a few things soon turns in to several hours of work when I’m supposed to be taking some time off. The work life balance is something I’m constantly battling with to prevent me from spiralling in to a full blown burnout.

Freedom is liberating

The main thing I love about running a small business is being able to design what I want. You wouldn’t believe the amount of junior designer jobs that mainly consist of making coffee and doing dry cleaning runs. I didn’t go to university for four years to do that! This is part of the reason that I wanted to work for myself because I didn’t want to lose my creativity or all the skills I worked so hard to learn. I love taking inspiration trips and deciding what prints to design next. And I love not having to work to a trend brief or having to stick to a restricted colour palette.

Drawn by Rhiannon watercolour painting
I love being able to be super creative in my job

On the other hand, not having anyone to bounce ideas off can be difficult too. When you’ve spent several hours working on a new print design, staring at the screen and nudging layouts a millimetre here and there, it becomes impossible to know what looks good any more. As the business grows I plan to take on a couple of staff to help with the workload which would be a huge bonus (and would hopefully stop me going stir crazy and asking my pet rabbit which colour background she thinks works the best). Until then I rely on all you lovely lot to keep me sane so I really appreciate you replying to my questions and commenting on my social media posts.

Money talks

Now for some serious talk – money. As much as I love what I do, at the end of the day I can’t keep doing it if it doesn’t make money. I’m fortunate to have a part time job in a craft shop which ensures my house and bills are paid for each month so I don’t have to worry about becoming homeless. However, if you’re working 30-40 hours a week running a small business, you kind of want to see some profit return on that right? This is something I still find very tricky to manage, especially as the gift-orientated things I make are really quite seasonal.

I was on such a high at the end of 2018 as I’d had my best Christmas ever and was actually taking a full time wage. Obviously this was due to a huge amount of work and I spent most of the Christmas break in complete brain dead zombie mode but that’s how it is. I even earned enough to book a holiday in February to Belgium (check out the blog posts about that trip here) which I was absolutely over the moon with.

The Christmas markets were a huge success and it was brilliant seeing people wanting to buy my items for special gifts for loved ones.

However after all the buzz of Christmas, the start of 2019 hit me like a tonne of bricks. I barely made any sales and at Easter time I almost packed the whole thing in. Which brings me to my final point.

Confidence and motivation

Without a doubt the hardest thing about running a business is having the confidence and motivation to keep it going. There are times when I’m consistently working 12-14 hour days and only seeing pocket money in return. When you put your heart and soul in to something and people don’t really seem that interested it can destroy you. Sometimes I just have to keep ploughing on because I know if I stop and really take a look at things I might not be able to carry on (sometimes doing the books at the end of the month can be really devastating).

The words ‘I can’t do this any more’ have gone through my head more in the past three years than in the rest of my life combined, but so have the words ‘I love my job’. The minute I receive a message from a customer saying how much they love their order, or see someone smile at a print I’ve designed on my market stall, it makes it all seem worthwhile.

Running a small business is hard. By supporting a small business you are supporting a dream
Every purchase you make really does make a huge difference

I would love to say that Drawn by Rhiannon has been an overnight success and every day is better than the last but that wouldn’t be true. It would mean the world to me if you could all support me to help me achieve my dream by shopping small and interacting with the brand on social media. One day I hope that I can do this full time and employ some wonderful people to work alongside me but I’m not there yet. After all, nothing good in life comes easy does it?

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Product spotlight: makeup and wash bags

Makeup bags are super versatile.

“That makeup bag is so pretty but I don’t wear makeup”. I often hear this from customers I meet at markets. If this is you, there’s no need to worry! Yes, the makeup bags are brilliant for storing your cosmetics. However they’re also great as project bags, toiletry bags, or giant pencil cases.

Makeup bags - Drawn by Rhiannon
There are many different makeup bag designs to choose from

As for the wash bags, those are made with water resistant fabric so they have all sorts of uses! You could use them as pretty bathroom storage, or as a wipe clean bag to hold your favourite art supplies.

Rubber duck wash bag
The rubber duck wash bag would be fab as bathroom storage

The difference is in the fabric

Inside, the makeup bags and the wash bags look different too. The makeup bags are made with a tough and durable cotton drill fabric and are lined with a complementary cotton lining. The wash bags are made with a water resistant fabric so aren’t lined. This is because a cotton lining would get damp when exposed to water.

A makeup bag and wash bag handmade with fabric designed with the inspiration of traditional Polish houses
The makeup bag (top) is made with cotton fabric and the wash bag (bottom) is made with water resistant fabric.

As you can see, all the makeup and wash bags feature a zip along the top so whatever you choose to store inside will be safe. Each bag measures approximately 28cm wide x 20cm tall x 9cm deep meaning you can fit loads in. There’s enough space for an expansive makeup collection, or for all your toiletry essentials on holiday.

Butterfly wash bag
All the toiletries in the photo fitted in the toiletry bag with lots of room to spare

So many designs to choose from

What’s more, there are loads of designs to choose from! Here’s just a few of the latest prints available right now.

If you’re looking for something fun and fruity, the banana wash bag is the one for you! I love the contrast of the yellow bananas against the aqua blue background – very tropical.

Banana wash bag
Banana wash bag

If you’re more interested in insects (a big trend for this year by the way) then check out the fab ladybird wash bag. The classic combination of black, white and red will fit in well with any colour scheme.

Ladybird wash bag
Ladybird wash bag

Or if you’re looking for something super glam and girly to hold your favourite makeup essentials, look no further than the fabulous flamingo makeup bag.

Flamingo makeup bag
Flamingo makeup bag

Whatever your taste is I have a design suitable for you! Take a look at the full range here.

If there’s a particular design you would like to see on a makeup bag or wash bag, just let me know! Or if you have any suggestions of what you’d like to see next, such as mini wash bags, jumbo makeup bags… comment below to tell me.

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Print designing ahead of the trends

Sheep wash bag

My background is in fashion design so I’m always keeping an eye on the latest fashion trends and print designs.

Although I enjoy looking at the season’s newest styles, my print designs aren’t really inspired by current trends. I set up Drawn by Rhiannon to provide fabric designs that you couldn’t find on the high street, so following trends didn’t make sense to me. My inspiration comes from all around me, usually from my travels, but also from the beautiful British landscape. However, I thought it was interesting that this season I’ve picked up a couple of trends without even realising it!

Animals

As you know, I love drawing animals. I would say about 75% of my designs are inspired by animals because I love them! They come in all shapes and sizes which gives me a real challenge in drawing. I also love quirky designs so what’s better than a fabric covered in dinosaurs or puffins!

It looks like I’m not the only one who thinks that because the big fashion houses are at it too. Look at this fab dress by Dolce & Gabanna, covered with a mix of farm animals!

I never would’ve expected to see high fashion designing fabric with chickens on but it’s great to see them having some fun.
I’ve designed several farm animal prints over the years, and the chickens are one of the most popular.

Chicken print design on a hair bow
Chicken hair bow

The chicken print was inspired by some very free range chickens that used to escape their garden and make a break for it down the village road. I loved the rich colours of their feathers and their cheeky characters.

Since then I’ve designed a sheep print, inspired by a particularly sassy sheep we spotted one day. I really enjoyed creating the wooly texture of the fur on this print design.

Sheep print design on a coin purse
Sheep coin purse
Sheep passport cover
Sheep passport cover
Sheep print design on a water resistant wash bag
Sheep wash bag

I’ve also designed a cow print, inspired by some beautiful cows in Graves Park. You can find out more about the cow print design in the blog posts here.
I was really chuffed with the cow print design so used it to make a variety of items which are all available for sale.

Cow print design passport cover
Cow passport cover
Cow wash bag
Cow wash bag
Cow coin purse
Cow coin purse

I like the farm animal theme so I’m hoping to add to it in the future with pigs, horses, donkeys… any suggestions? Comment below!

Butterflies

Insects and other bugs can be really interesting to draw. You get to zoom in really close and see all the little details that you didn’t know existed which makes for quite a challenge. The bee print I designed is now my most popular print, but before that I designed a butterfly print.

Butterfly wash bag
Butterfly wash bag

I loved how colourful and fun this print was to design. It’s currently not in use on any of my products, but if you’d like to see it make a comeback please comment below!

Butterflies are also a big trend on the catwalk this year. The pretty bugs have been featured by many high fashion brands, including this beautiful dress by Mary Katrantzou.

As you can see, you don’t have to spend a fortune to be on trend this season. Just add a splash of print to your home and shop small instead!