I’ve been running Eternal Magpie and the Inexplicable Emporium as a tiny business since April this year. I’ve been very good so far, and sitting down once a month to do the sums, rather than leaving it all until I have to have one giant panic about the tax return in January. (I have yet to make a suit out of my taxes, but I’m sure the time will come!)
Sitting down to fill in my spreadsheet this afternoon, I was disappointed to discover that this is the first month that I’ve failed to break even – mainly because I haven’t made as many sales as usual, and I still have Etsy fees to pay. The numbers are small, deliberately so in these early stages, but I was still slightly confused about where all the money had gone – not just this month, but since I started.
Each time I make a little profit, I’ve been buying materials to make the next lot of Things. Except, as it turns out, I haven’t actually been using those materials. I’ve been putting them in a cupboard and “saving them for later”. Well, it looks as though “later” might be here! I can’t afford to buy anything else right now, so I’d better start using up what I’ve got.
What I’ve Got turns out to look like this:
- A huge bag of 2″ d-rings and steel rivets, for making belts
- Three different kinds of mordant, for natural dyeing
- A bag of linen buttons, for natural dyeing
- Moulds for making scented wax tarts
- Three large wool batts for making felt
- Three different kinds of wooden buttons, for adorning naturally-dyed accessories
- Three different kinds of powdered natural dyestuffs
- Eight felt hoods for making new cloche hats
- Craft felt and beads for making brooches
- Wool felt pieces for making hat embellishments
Of course there have been other costs too – stationery , shipping, and Etsy/PayPal fees being the greatest of them. But I do have rather a lot of materials here, just waiting to be used.
Sadly the natural dyeing went completely by the wayside this summer, as the new garden simply wasn’t in a state where I could grow any useful plants. But I do have powdered dye, and mordants, and cream cotton fabric and undyed wool, so that’s something I can make a start on while the weather’s still nice. (It’s an outdoor/garage-based activity really, as the dyes sometimes smell very bad!)
The D-rings are waiting for me to actually finish my first experimental felted belt – I wasn’t sure it would be sturdy enough to carry the weight of the rings. That’s about an hour’s work, to finish off the felting and hammer in the rivets, so I’ve got no excuse for just getting that done! In fact, I could go and do that now.
The wax tarts have been put on one side until the winter, which I think is nearly upon us, despite the fact that today is glorious! I plan to melt down the old scented candles, dilute them with a little more soy wax (our overwhelming feedback was that they were a bit strong!), and pour them into shapes that can be melted with an oil burner. I’ve also now found a supplier of ethically-produced and imported oil burners, so I can put together a gift set for anybody who doesn’t own one already.
I haven’t done a great deal of felting lately, mainly because I’ve been a bit down in the dumps about it. I made lots of felted flowers back in the summer, which were widely “ooooh”ed at on Facebook and Instagram, but I haven’t actually sold many of them, and their Etsy listings are just about to expire. I tried turning one of the larger ones into a fascinator, but I wasn’t very happy with the way it came out. I think they might need a little more work (perhaps embroidery? or beads?) before they’re right.
Same with the hats, really – I’ve just been a bit un-inspired. It’s difficult to find the motivation for making lots of new hats, when the ones I’ve made already are sitting on a shelf unsold. Of course it’s been summer, which isn’t the right time of year for selling warm wool hats! I’ve been watching a lot of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, to get me in the 1920s hat frame of mind, and now that the winter coats are starting to turn up in the shops, it’s getting easier to see what colours and styles people might want to wear this season.
Trouble is, sitting around feeling uninspired turns out to be a terrible way of generating new sales. (Surprise!!) If I’m not feeling enthusiastic about my own work, there’s no reason on earth why anybody else should be, so no wonder my sales have been low this month. But, plans are in place for making improvements, and for kicking myself up the behind. And, of course, I’ve got lots of lovely new materials, all ready and waiting for me to make lots of new things!
Onwards and upwards, as they say.