A day in my working life…

Last week I joined in with the Stoke-on-Trent City Wide Artist Census Day organised by the artist in residence here at Acava Studios: Spode Works, Nicola Winstanley.

Stoke-on-Trent Artists Census

It was an exciting day, clicking on the hashtags on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and seeing all the other creative activity going on in the city, especially as we all get together to support Stoke’s bid to be the UK City of Culture in 2021. It was really exciting to hear that, according to Trendinalia UK, #stokeartistatwork and #sotaaw were 6th in the top 20 trending topics in the UK for a while…

I posted hourly (ish) updates of my work, during the times when I was working, and it was quite an eye opener, really, into the amount of stuff I get up to on what was a fairly average day..!

My first pic for the census was posted at around 8.30 a.m. on Instagram – a blog reader had asked a question about one of my tutorials, and I was trying to answer, whilst remembering back to how the tutorial works, whilst drinking my one cup of coffee for the day..!

answering-a-blog-question
Trying to formulate a helpful answer for a blog reader.

At 9.30ish, I was still at home (having planned to get to the studio for about 9 – Sandy will tell you that this is a very common feature of working life, there’s always one last thing to do at home before I head out to Spode). Last Tuesday I was still trying to decide which fabrics to take down to the studio for a project I was starting. I don’t have enough room there to store all my fabric stash (haha, is there enough room anywhere?), so have to make sure I get organised in advance.

doing-a-fabric-pull
Final fabric pull for a kitchen-themed project for a magazine commission.

These fabrics are for a practice piece for a project for a craft/sewing magazine piece that I have to write for December 2nd. This is my usual way of working when it’s a small project – I make one or two prototypes to get the pattern clear in my head, then I write the step by step instructions, photograph and make the final piece(s) that will be sent to the magazine. If it’s a big project, like a quilt, I can’t have a first go (not enough time, not enough fabric!), so that’s always far more nerve-wracking, especially as once you get to a certain point, there’s no turning back!

By 10.30, I have finally arrived down at Spode, and I am delighted to see that the banner is up for our Makers’ Market. Hurrah! It has been a lot of hard work getting the Market going – it is our first selling event at the Studios, so we have learned an awful lot as we have gone along! I am so glad that, with massive assistance from our friends at Design by Weather (also based at Spode), we went with this fabulous red and white scheme.

market-banner

At the studios, my first job is to quickly finish and then photograph two mini Christmas stockings I have made for a free tutorial for my blog. I need to do this first because the light is so poor today, and I need to take photos before it starts to get even worse after lunch. That’s one of the big difficulties of pattern writing at this time of year in England!

I really enjoy writing tutorials for my blog, it’s such a pleasant contrast to writing for magazines, because I am not limited to length or number of pictures, and, of course, I have more say in the choice of project and fabrics! In my blog tutorials I can focus on writing for people who might not have been sewing for very long, and include loads of extra info and explanation that just isn’t possible in a magazine pieces. The other reason for writing free tutorials is to bring people to my blog, who will then perhaps, click through and go and visit my lovely sponsors, who I have a strong sense of responsibility towards.. first because they are great businesses, and second because they are one of my main sources of income.

liberty-patchwork-mini-stockings-another-shot
The finished stockings – Liberty lawn patchwork and linen always look so fabulous together. You can find the tutorial just here

making-a-template

Then I get on with trying to draw a template for the magazine project – showing how terrible I am at drawing!

After lunch and a dog walk, I finish off a little cactus garden I am making, inspired by a book I am reviewing for the blog. Again, writing about topics like this is partly about bringing traffic to the blog – but, as I love gardening books, and cacti and succulents are a real craze for me at the moment, this is a lovely way to do it! I get requests to review lots of books and products, and am very choosy about it – I never blog about anything that doesn’t interest me, or that I can’t be enthusiastic about, because although I want people to come and read, and click on links, I still want to be as true as I can be to myself and my interests. It’s a fine balance to get this right, and I’m not sure I always do.

making-a-cactus-garden
Not a great photo because the light really is scarce by this stage!

When I am at home and have time to work, I try to catch up on admin and social media stuff – so my next photo shows that side of my work. We have a little bit of money left in the advertising budget for our Makers’ Market at Spode, so I volunteer to make a Facebook ad to boost the event listing in the final few days before the big event:

doing-a-fb-ad
You’ll be glad to know, the Market was a big success!

Now it’s time to watch a Laurel and Hardy film with one of my boys, so no more work for me until after dinner.

Once we’ve all eaten and the boys are chilling out before getting ready for bed, I get back to my computer for the final slog of the day – editing pictures for my blog tutorial. I am pleased with how well they have come out, but there is 26 photos in all, and it takes a long time to go through them all, doing a bit of editing to make sure that they look their absolute best.

working-on-my-tutorial

Thankfully I have a cup of chai or two, to seem me through until bed time…

So that was one day of my working life… it’s not always quite this busy, but the mix of lots of different things going on is certainly a real indication of how much planning and flexibility is necessary to keep on top of things. Looking back now, one thing that strikes me is that I was very stressed that day, and yet now, looking back, the blog posts are published, and the Market has happened, and good times were had – so maybe all that anxiety wasn’t really required. I’m sure that Nicola had entirely different aims for her Census project, but having that insight is a real help for me.

12 thoughts on “A day in my working life…

  1. It was certainly one of the intentions of the census, as I myself had had a similar epiphany while doing it myself in the preceding weeks- I blogged about it in my website.

    I’m really glad you found it useful and your followers and fans appreciate the work and worry and madness that goes into bringing them all that you do!

    1. Thanks Nic – it was a really helpful thing to do, and has really got me thinking about how I use my time and how that in turn has an effect on my creativity. Am pleased that you are thinking of doing it again in the future. And I hope you get some really good info out of it all to inspire your work on the residency.

  2. Hi. I actually worked on Spode as a lithographer for about 20 yrs. Now I’ve finished work I am getting back into crafting (mainly sewing), however I haven’t visited Spode since it changed. Are the studios open to the public? If so what days and hours? X

  3. This is fascinating, it is really interesting to read about what you do. Having a creative day must be a happy day too. x

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your working day, phew is all I can say!
    I love reading your blogs and I have found some very good craft suppliers thanks to your recommendations.
    I am still very much a novice with the sewing machine and prefer to sew by hand but your tutorials are a real help, I download them into a folder so I can go back if I am struggling, I appreciate so much the detail you give which is just no available in books – thank you.

    1. Lynne, your kind words are so much appreciated. Thank you! All the best as you continue learning machine sewing. And so pleased you have found some good craft supplies through me, that’s very good to know!

    1. Thanks so much Deborah… I really don’t enjoy writing truncated tutorials and patterns. My blog gives me the chance to go to town…! We had a great day, you would have liked it, I think. We are hoping for another (once we have got our breath back in April/May). Hope your cold is clearing up.

  5. What a fab view into your day! I really do feel your pain with the light at the moment,we were just talking about it yesterday, it’s a case of get everything shot by 11:30am or give up till tomorrow. It’s enough to get me looking at “build your own lighting rig” posts again! Well done getting everything ticked on your to do list too 😊

    1. It’s so grim isn’t it?! Although I was blessed with sunshine today, fingers crossed for tomorrow. I am always taken by surprise by how much the light affects my working day. Maybe one day winter won’t come as a shock to me…!

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