A reflection on #marchmeetthemaker Instagram Challenge

You may have seen the hashtag #marchmeetthemaker floating around social media or if you are a maker you might have been joining in. It is a month-long photo challenge set by Joanne Hawker and is designed to encourage you to post more thoughtfully and create a community. This year I decided to join in and we are on Day 26 and nearing the end of the challenge I thought I would reflect and showcase some of my favourite posts so you can get to know me a bit better.

When I set my mind to do something I am very strong willed so I have so far managed to craft a photo for each prompt AND on posted them on the correct days! The success to sticking with it has been scheduling posts, I took advantage of times when inspiration struck or when it was a good photography day and planned ahead. I was also lenient with myself and interpreted the prompts in my own way rather than sticking with the clichés. Some of the posts were shared on Instagram stories only which is why some are missing but if you want you can see everything on my Instagram (@clarisecrafts).

I’ll hopefully come back and update this post at the end but I know it is Easter weekend and wanted to get ahead of the game incase I was too busy hunting down chocolate eggs. My conclusion is that it was a worthwhile challenge and I’m fully committed to continuing posting in the same way as I have seen a great upward trend in my reach which is always a bonus. I will just have to come up with my own daily prompts!

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DAY 4 – FAVOURITE TO MAKE: My favourite thing to make is probably always going to be custom stamps. Each one is completely unique which makes them really special and knowing that they will be well loved and regularly used makes me happy. Custom wedding stamps are usually the prettiest but it can get a bit repetitive as I find myself making the same design multiple times in a single day due to current trends. Business stamps are more varied and interesting as everyone has their own purpose for their stamp and I design and make them to very specific requirements.This was a recent design featuring the customer’s logo on one and then care label information on the other. I do have a thing for standardised care icons as I like the formality and clarity they bring so if I had to pick a favourite kind of custom stamp it would probably be care label stamps.
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DAY 5 – PHOTOGRAPHY: Late last year I invested in an entry level DSLR camera. I was worried that it was going to end up sitting in a drawer not being used as it was too heavy or complicated and that I would stick to what I knew with my iPhone. Surprisingly the exact opposite has happened! I actually watched tutorials, read some photography books and took the camera off auto mode.I’m fairly confident that I know what half of the buttons now do and when I should be pressing them and but I think one of the most effective ways to learn is by practising. I always had in my head what I wanted my photos to look like and I’m quite pleased with what I have achieved. Styling is still quite a challenge but I’ve learned to keep it simple and you can’t go far wrong.
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DAY 7 – ROUTINE: My routine is quite structured now, it has evolved over the years and at times I felt a little bit out of control. Now I have a rough plan of what I’m doing on a weekly basis it is easier to sit down and make start on a morning. I currently only go to the post office twice a week now on Tuesday’s and Friday’s and usually before midday so Monday’s and Thursday’s are spent making and packing up orders. Wednesdays are reserved for design work and Friday is a reserve day although I try to take the afternoon’s off to spend with my OH who no longer works on Fridays. My daily routine is less organised but I generally have a to do list on the go and I find that I am most productive before lunch so I can get motivated by about 9.30 then it’s going to be a good day.
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DAY 8 – FLATLAY: When I first started my business it was all about the flatlay photo, I think they were just called top downs then (feeling old). It worked really well for my products and it was simple to get a half decent shot using my iPhone. I think the main lure of flatlay photography is how quick it can be to set up, you can take them almost anywhere and you don’t have the think about the background too much. Not having to drag a big heavy camera around is also a benefit. Since getting to grips with my DSLR I’ve found myself experimenting more with depth of field and different angles and product photography has become much more enjoyable. However, I’m not going to abandon the humble flatlay as it does have its uses but I’m going to try using the camera a bit more to create them like this one from my recent packaging stamps shoot.
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DAY 9 – HOW IT’S MADE: You might be surprised to hear that I make everything to order; that even includes non customised items! It means I don’t have loads of stock taking up space, I can move with the trends quickly and I don’t feel guilty if I want to redesign a product. Occasionally I make up samples or spares which I save and have a stock clearance a couple of times a year.⠀
All my items are made by hand by me only. I don’t use a laser cutter or any big machinery which takes away from the fact I am literally running my hands over and checking the product every second it is being manufactured. I’m obsessed with quality so this is the only way I can feel confident that everything is top notch.
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DAY 10 – TIME TO RELAX: Being self employed can make it hard to relax and switch off. I made the decision to switch off all app notifications on my phone so that I can decide when to check my messages and it has done wonders for my metal health. I still check the apps far too frequently and I know it is addictive so I’m trying to get better at that.I don’t really have many hobbies so my time to relax usually involves a bit of stitching, reading or short walks. This photo was taken in Otley, one of the best places nearby for a stroll.
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DAY 12 – POSTAGE & PACKAGING: I’m not ashamed to say I’m a bit of a packaging geek. It is an ongoing battle between being a minimalist and saving every piece of beautifully designed packaging I come across. One of my favourite things to design is packaging stamps and I have quite the collection now. Stamping is one of the quickest and easiest ways to make your letters and parcels look fun but professional at the same time. It is also very eco-friendly.
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DAY 14 – DREAMS & PLANS: Today’s theme is dreams and plans and this is something I struggle with. I never really plan anything more than a few weeks or months ahead and I don’t know why, I guess it is just who I am. Since the start of the year I have been doing more drawing on paper so hopefully I’ll be able to use those doodles as part of my creative development. I also dream of a house full of lovely greenery, my plant collection is slowly building so we’re halfway there.I guess my only real plan is to keep doing more of what I love and less of what I don’t! 
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DAY 19 – CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: Right now I would have to say I can’t live without the DSLR camera! A few months ago I was feeling a bit stagnant and that my marketing efforts were a bit lacklustre; I knew how I wanted to portray myself and my business but it just wasn’t looking right. Now I know what is possible and it has opened up a load of possibilities for development and creativity so I’m very excited about that. I use my phone less and less these days, I even prefer to use social media on the iMac because I think it takes away the hustle and allows you more time to say what you really want. I’m not in a crazy rush to post something that’s not my best, I can source the most appropriate photo from my hard drive and plan my posts in advance so If I need new photography then I have the time to do it properly and enjoy it.
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DAY 20 – TOOLS & MATERIALS: When it comes to tools and materials I use on a daily basis, it is pretty standard stuff. Even my stamp making kit is pretty low tech utilising only light and water but it does the job.The majority of my raw materials are clear so very difficult and uninspiring to photograph so I decided to focus on the paper based side of the business instead.I have always been a huge paper addict, a lovely sketchbook or textured card make me so happy and I’m not ashamed to admit it. There is a simplicity about paper that inspires creativity; you can sketch, paint, write, layer, cut, stick in so many different ways that you always end up with something unique.At the moment I am having a massive sketchbook revival making scrapbooks as well as using them for drawing. I’m slowly getting over the fear of ruining that perfectly pristine sheet.
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DAY 22 – SKETCHBOOKS & LISTS: If I could make lists of lists then I absolutely would. Although my list books are not very pretty and most of the time the writing is illegible but when they are scrunched up in the recycle bin at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.Sketchbooks on the other hand are something I’m precious about. I’m always terrified of starting a new book incase I ruin it or something doesn’t turn out quite right. I’m trying to be more free about putting pen to paper, knowing that if I need to tidy up my drawings I can do it digitally in Photoshop and Illustrator. I think digital drawing is just as valid as the ink kind but when I’ve spent all day in front of a screen it is nice to relax on the sofa with my sketchbook.
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DAY 23 – HANDS AT WORK: Quality control is where I take my time. It is not worthwhile rushing because so much relies on getting the perfect outcome. My QC threshold is pretty high on all my products but especially stamps. I use both sight and touch to test my products; running your fingers across is a great way to see if there are any air bubbles or loose bits. As my stamps are clear polymer mounted on clear acrylic it is so hard to tell if there are any issues by sight alone. I always test them in ink too but I think the hands are a really integral step in this process. The only downside is that my hands get very dry and sore but I think it is worth it.
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DAY 24 – ACHIEVEMENTS: Achievements are not something like to shout about but if I had to pick something that I’m really proud of is when I was asked to be an Etsy Resolution mentor last year, my task was to help new Etsy sellers find their feet and it was very rewarding. During the training at Etsy HQ in London I got to spend it with the lovely @jillyjillydesign and @handmadebymonica. The office was brand new at the time and they hadn’t yet finished decorating so I’m enjoying seeing up to date pics from this weekend’s Captain’s Summit.A close second was getting invited to meet Linda Kozlowski, COO of Etsy with a few other sellers including @lunaharkinand @elsieandnell to discuss improvements to the platform. She had flown over from the US so it was a real privilege to get to chat with her.
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DAY 25 – BEING A MAKER MEANS: Being a maker means so much to me. I like to be one hundred percent accountable for myself by physically crafting things as well as doing all the other stuff that comes with running a small business; marketing, shipping, admin, accounting…I’ve thought about outsourcing things for a while to streamline my processes and free up some precious time but I’m not sure it is for me. I like to be hands on and relying on others causes me so much stress. It means that I am limited with how I can progress but I’m sure I’ll work it out in time.
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DAY 26 – BOOKS, BLOGS & PODCASTS: I absolutely love books, especially ones that I can come back to time and time again. Brand Brilliance by Fiona Humberstone (@thebrand_stylist) is a permanent reference source for me, I also enjoy reading her blog as it is full of words of wisdom.
My copy of Brand Brilliance is especially precious to me as I was lucky enough to go to the book launch last year and Fiona signed it for me. It’s a great little reminder to Be Brilliant.

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