Looking Back and Under the Hat: what happened

Out with the old and in with the new: looking back on 2015 so that 2016 will be better –

Small confession: I’ve been making hats a few years now, but I’ve never gazed over the accomplishments of the previous year. Nor, have I ever made a Five Year Plan.

Why?

Perhaps because I’ve never been a diarist and only recently become a blogger, so looking back didn’t appeal to my less-than-analytical nature? Honestly, when a friend in art school asked me what I would be doing in five years, I hadn’t the faintest idea. “Eating cherries,” I replied. This is probably why I wandered around my life, being lost for so long.

But, now that I’m writing more regularly, looking back on 2015 and examining it seems more natural. It also seems quite useful. It reminds me that there were accomplishments in the year, however minor. It’s too easy to remember the not-quite-prime-time moments of the year: the embarrassments and stumbles.  Don’t you find this to be true for you?

How many things were made?

The official count is 44 wet felted hats and accessories. Okay, I didn’t manage to make something for each week of the year. But nonetheless, it’s a goodly amount. Especially considering that not much making happens during the forever-long, American summer holidays. Ideally, it would be more economically and creatively sustainable to be able to work through this period. We’ll see what happens in the Summer of 2016. (I had better start planning for that now!)

A retrospective of the work from 2015: there were seven collections.

Looking back in 2015 - Textured Black Felted Hats

Looking back in 2015 - Indigo Geometric Felted Fascinators and Accessories

Looking back in 2015- Felted Fascinators with Extensions, Dreads and Spikes

Looking back in 2015 - Nunofelted Hoods

Looking back in 2015 - Cat Hats and Cat Fascinators

Looking back on 2015 - Holly Leaf Elf Fascinators and Felted Hat

Looking Back 2015- Spring Will Come Series of Fascinators

and

Looking Back 2015 - Felting that does not fall under series

Knowing when each mini-collection was made, I can see that later in the year was a more productive time.

 

There are also a few fluffy bits that have not been counted.

In the Spring, I made a purse and a satchel in Fiona Duthie’s online Felted Bag class. I enjoyed the class, but would say that I’m rather shy of the 10,000 hours needed to approach a level of ‘sell-able-ness’ for my felted bags. A feltmaker who does make swoon-worthy wet felted bags and purses is Glafira Felt. Nice contrast of the high-touch, with a very tailored look. Very functional too.

Additionally, the year contains a few UFOs, unfinished object projects, of brooches and cuffs. I like how accessories felt-up quickly. But, I find that figuring out when ‘done is done’ and the placement of hardware for optimal balance/function is not as quick. And because my skill level is not as evolved in this area, my pricing needs to match that. This is both good: it makes the work affordable. And it’s also not good: things still take forever to make!

How many were sold?

If I were a better businesswoman I would dwell upon the topic of how many were sold and return on investment and whatnot. But, I’m somewhat lacking in this area. The point is enjoy what I create and to place these hats into good homes, where they will be worn and loved. Of course, I do care about selling, but perhaps not as much as I should. {The economic feasibility of running a small business with only one designer/maker/photographer/blogger/administrator is a separate blogpost}.

Drumroll, please: there were 19 orders via Etsy, with four of them being ‘repeat customers’ who have purchased in previous years. One of the sold items was this custom felted hood, which was sold to another Etsy seller who makes the coolest knitted scale mail. I didn’t include buttons because she wanted to sew on two from her own special collection. It’s always special to be appreciated by creatives one admires!

Custom Nunofelted Hood sold in 2015

 

At the “Hat or Crown?” exhibition in Chicago, this hat was sold.

Sun hat that was sold at art exhibition in 2015

 

 

In autumn,  I didn’t sell at the two wonderful MakerFaires that I participated in because that was part of the arrangement (not to). In December, the pop up sidewalk shop in the Strip District was a delight; however, it was not particularly sales-filled. Only two items found their ‘forever homes’on the Sunday: a Blue Wrist Cuff and the Elf Hat with a Curlicue. But, I remind myself that’s okay, because there was tons of appreciation, interest and advice. It was a great weekend!

So, the total sales for 2015 was 21 items, which is not exactly splendid. Hence, I need to find other opportunities, because sales on Etsy have declined and I’m no longer part of Open Studios, nor the craft fairs and community of Norwich, having moved from the UK in September 2014. It takes quite some time to figure out the lay of any new location. Pittsburgh is slowly revealing itself. It took me a while in Norwich to figure out where the best fit was for my work.  <-I need to remind myself of this when frustrated at my slow progress.

What else was accomplished in 2015?
Taught a workshop

In May I taught a two day workshop in my home to a felt maker who wanted to broaden her work to include hats. More in this previous blogpost.

Joined organizations

Trying to settle myself better in to America, I joined TAFAlist, a membership organization of fiber artists and textile businesses on the web. Locally, I joined the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh. Lastly, I became a member of American Craft Council. I do like their magazine, although I wish there were more textiles in it!

Participated in an exhibition and fashion show

Hats were mailed out to the aforementioned “Hat or Crown?” exhibition in Evanston, IL and the Fort Collins, CO Art Wear Fashion Week. These did not prove as successful sale-wise as hoped for. But, who is to say where there has, or has not been, a ripple of influence in some unknown sphere by participating in these events?

Adjusted my social media focus

While I still share a few times a week on Facebook, I pulled back from spending so much time there, and began instead to focus more on Instagram. At the beginning of 2015, I started sharing my completed hats, behind the scenes and a bit of my life on Instagram. It’s a very agreeable platform for visually based folks. Due to how it works, it’s possible that anyone can see your work. There seems to be greater opportunity for serendipity. With Facebook this no longer seems to be true. One can ‘Like’ a maker’s ‘fan page’ and rarely see what they ‘are up to.’  I actually, have TWO accounts in Instagram. I became volunteer admin for TAFAlist’s Instagram account in September. It’s lovely to share all the STUNNING work of our talented members. And I’m learning more about other textile disciplines. I’ve fallen in LOVE with our members’ art quilts and batik. Plus, the ritual of sharing EVERY day has made me more diligent with my own account.

Migrated this website and wrote weekly blogposts.

Previous to September 2015, I was on the Drupal platform for my website. It was hard to use and I sometimes needed to ask my busy husband for help. Thankfully, I’ve migrated over to WordPress, which is loads easier for me to use. Can you say LOADS?! Even when I don’t understand something, I can google it over at WordPress and figure it out on my own. It’s such a relief!

Started an email newsletter

Many creative types recommend starting an email newsletter. On this I procrastinated for the longest time. What did I have to say? What would I say??  However, watching Abby Glassenberg on CreativeLive this summer, combined with my MakerFaire weekend provided an ideal opportunity to start a modest newsletter. And so I did. It had a little holiday in December, but will be back each Wednesday in January. If you’re interested in joining, Jottings of FeltHappiness, please see sidebar to the right of this posting. I promise never to sell your name or send you spam.

Added accessories

In 2014 I began to use a unifying theme/inspiration with each collection of hats. In 2015, I added accessories of felted cuffs and brooches to many of the collections. I figured that having a lower price point would be helpful for my customers. And maybe it would allow folks to be able to buy a bit a more affordable FeltHappiness.  Plus, there are so many people who do not wear hats, so this would be an opportunity to reach these potential customers.  Alas, the verdict is not resolved on whether adding accessories was useful. The category of jewelry is over-saturated on Etsy so it’s surprising that what I was made was seen, let alone sold. However, five out of my 19 items sold on Etsy were accessories. Almost a quarter of items sold. Another issue of accessories is that of not being familiar with this type of making; it takes awhile to figure out what works. A cat that was three inches across proved much too large to be a brooch! Maybe better as a cat toy!  I don’t think my eyes/hands/heart are as well trained in accessories…yet.

 

Felted brooch better as a cat toy!

 

Focused on fascinators and small hats

One of the challenges with making wearables is making sure that they fit! This is true with most hats, with the exception of fascinators and small hats. This type of millinery can fit almost all heads. In fact, visitors to my pop up shop in The Strip District assumed that my Holly Leaf Elf Hats were for dogs or children! However, I intentionally made many ‘one-size-fits-all’ hats in 2015 because it’s SOOO frustrating when a customer loves a cloche or fedora, but it’s too big or worse, too small. If you scroll up to the retrospective, you can count 24 hats that would meet this requirement of ‘one size fits all’. Even wrote a blogpost on the topic. However, if I look at my sales, I can see that I sold two small hats on Etsy and one at the pop-up. Hmmm. I can also see that almost all of the nunofelted hoods sold. My takeaway for the coming year would be to make more hoods and more proper hats that cover the ears. In many ways, small hats and fascinators miss the ‘raison d’etre’ of my original FeltHappiness hats. My ‘tagline motto’ is “practical and fantastical’ because felted hats keep you warm. In thinking about the challenge of sizing, I’m going to try a suggestion of my friend, Bridget O’Connell. Put a narrow casing inside the hat so that it can be adjusted and decreased for a smaller headsize.

 

Goals for 2016

Well, after looking back, one needs to look forward. Here’s an incomplete list of my To Dos.

  • Keep a log of completed items.. Right now, my Etsy shop serves as a logbook. However, it doesn’t contain a ‘date stamp’ for when a hat was actually made. Nor does it show when something is sold elsewhere. So it’s off to Excel (or Word) to keep a one-stop-place on when a hat is finished AND when it is sold. (I already have an ongoing Excel file for sold items).
  • Teach how to felt hats. There has been a lot of local interest in learning how to do this! I’m still figuring out the logistics, but stay tuned.
  • Continue working on this website. I need/want to make a gallery section with the aim of eventually adding an e-commerce section. The WordPress theme that I’ve chosen, Virtue, allows this.
  • Perhaps become more active in Pinterest. As a former librarian who cares about provenance and authority, it really bugs me when an object or information is disassociated from it’s origins/writer/maker. But, we’ll see..
  • Start contacting stores and galleries in the US that might like to sell my hats. I’ve collected a list of names and websites but now need to contact them. Supposedly, the best time to contact shops is in the Summer and the second best time is at the beginning of the year.
  • Start applying to local and further afield craft fairs. It seems that Ohio and West Virginia are closer to Pittsburgh than Philadelphia. And I finally have that magical driver’s license…
  • Figure out how to ‘do’ American taxes! Do I really need to do inventory of my supplies? (It seemed simpler in the UK).
  • Further improve my photography and perhaps photograph the hats ~without~ Goldie the Mannequin.
  • Have a sweet and talented photographer that I’ve met shoot the series that I’m currently working on.
  • Consult a calendar for 2016 so that holidays don’t come as a surprise. Both the summer ones and the ones that can be celebrated by wearing a hat. Yikes! I need to make a few Valentines’ Hats!!
  • And lastly, as always, be more productive with my time. Ideally, this ‘hat factory’ needs to make more hats, and more quickly! But, nice ones of course! Make Good Work is ALWAYS important. That and eating cherries.

Patricia from the very helpful The Design Trust has two PDFs which can help creative types analyze the past year and make plans for future. I believe that you need to already be signed up to their newsletter and submit your same email address when requesting these helpful PDFs.

Here’s the looking back one for 2015 – http://www.thedesigntrust.co.uk/creative-end-of-year-questions/

And here’s the looking forward one for 2016 –  http://www.thedesigntrust.co.uk/creative-planning-questions-for-2016/   While I’ve spent a goodly amount of time with the 12 questions on the looking back PDF, I will need to set more time aside to complete the looking forward PDF because it asks 16 very specific questions!  I plan to print it out and pin it to the wall of my studio. It will be a time capsule for me to look back upon in 2017.

Yesterday, while cooking dinner, I caught a bit of a free rebroadcast on CreativeLive by Lisa Congdon that helped me try Vision Mapping for 2016. What a neat idea for a gal who has always been shy of Five Year Plans! My little spider of plans looks funky, but it’s getting me even more excited about the coming year!

 

What have you learned by looking back on your past year?

And where will you go forward to dream and create?

Wishing you a creative and productive 2016!

Juliane

2 Responses

    • jgorman

      Many thanks Carol-Ann. Glad that you found it inspiring! Had begun to wonder if I should have written with a slightly different angle. Perhaps, one that used less ‘I’ statements (to lessen me sounding like a crazed ego-maniac). Again, I really appreciate your reading and responding. It’s really helpful!