Phew what a busy week we have had. We started the week getting the keys for our new shop and ended it nearly ready to open. So what did we do?
Firstly we sat and contemplated. Sound lazy doesn't it, But we hadn't seen the shop enough to know exactly what to do! The first time we saw it, we fell in love, not necessarily with the shop itself but with the location, which is in the beautiful harbour village of Polperro, in Cornwall. We made the decision, as we quite often do, with our hearts. So as reality set in we decided before we signed the contract ( which I have to say is scary). We would need to see it again. It just so happens that we had a lovely visit with some good friends who's opinion means a lot to us, so we dragged them screaming (NOT) to view it. We all had a good poke round and I started to panic about all of the metal shelves and slat board. As Mr Wellydog put it, we wanted it, 'less Woolworths and more Wellydog!'. So with all the ideas we had discussed with our friends and with all the discussions we had had while waiting for the lease to go through. We realised everything we had thought of doing was not really that possible.
We started to take down so of the metals walls. the problem with this is, we had to be able to store them, as part of our contract says we have to return the shop to its original state when we leave. So apart from storing them, everything we did, had to be reversible.
We made the decision to take out the back wall, as that was the easiest one to remove and the wall behind was actually if fairly good condition. Also I felt it would make a good wall to become a focal point. We knew we wanted to move the counter and fudge counter ( yes I know, why do we need a fudge counter?) The counter needed to positioned so we could easily greet people and be able to see the whole of the shop. Moving it sideways on, seemed logical. I had picked some bold stripey wallpaper for the back wall, but when I came to order it, it was discontinued Grrrrr. But actually it was a good thing as we found a wave mural wallpaper, that certainly makes a statement. The way we had to split the picture for the door, meant that there is a strip on the side that needed covering. I painted it a nice windsor blue and painted in some shadows and white splashes to blend it in.
There were three central units which we felt was too crowded, so with the help of our daughter and son in law it was taken apart and stored in the back store room.
It was helpful to have such a tall son in law. He was very useful both in stature and in ideas to get the sign up. We had bought pub letters when our sign at Hayle had got ruined in the storms. I like them, but if I'm honest I miss the old sign. I will live with it for a while, but it may get changed at a later date as we have realised our logo is no where on the shop. How daft.
Then all our jewellery cabinets were moved in and were assembled and attached them to the wall. The cleaning then had to begin, moving loads of bits meant the floor was in a bit of a state. The last thing when did before leaving for a restful weekend, was to paint the store room door. It was in need of a bit of tlc. So here we are at the end of the week just about ready.
Tomorrow we collect some stock from a few of our lovely crafters, we then will finish the last bits of cleaning. (The shelves and the glass cabinets). Then we should be all ready to start filling the shelves, ready to open on Wednesday.
Today was a bit terrifying, we had to move the glass cabinets, We had dismantled them on Sunday so it was just loading all the glass into the car and driving it across Cornwall. Its not the first time but hopefully it will be the last for at least a few years, its quite nerve wraking, but as you can see they all made it. But they do look a bit lost! We are not quite sure where there final place will be, so they haven't been attached to the walls yet. The floor is not very straight so they will need a lot of packing and adjusting, but nothing Mr Wellydog can't handle.
I don't know if you noticed, but we dismantled the metal wall at the back of the shop. I have plans for it. We found an old Arch way, I bet that used to look lovely. We also uncovered the Mirror window in the right hand wall. I quite like it, but I think we will be covering it up again. There are a lot of shelving units in the store room behind so its not useful for any light. We are wondering about the one way sort of security windows, in the back if the shop. Maybe it was a post office or somewhere dealing with money? Anyway they are a bit odd. We know a little bit of the history. Before us, it was a man who ran a gift shop for about 7 years. We have also found the Ghost of lettering on the front window that says it was a fudge shop, We spoke to a lovely couple who run businesses in Polperro and they said the fudge shop didn't last long. There is already a long established fudge shop in the village so I guess they couldn't compete.
We have also met two other fellow shop owners, The lady across the road who runs the Dog gift shop and also the lady next door with a quilt shop. Its nice to be made to feel welcome. Also a fellow Instagrammer, spoke to me briefly and said welcome, which was so lovely.
You can also see we managed to finish moving the monster of a counter, Its opened the back off the shop right up, The fudge counter is massive and very very heavy, so it was quite a palarva. We think we have it in the right place, but wont know until we actually use it in anger. I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to use a fudge counter for? but I sure I will find a use for it !!!
Another long day today and yet another tomorrow.
What an eventful day. We finally got into our new shop. Phew its seemed like a long time coming, but then again we hadn't even thought about moving until 8 weeks ago, so its been quite quick really. For those of you who don't know we are moving from our little shop in Hayle to a much larger shop in Polperro. We will be moving house later in the year to, and we will be closer to family and friends, not masses but enough to stay in Cornwall but to cut the journey into a manageable distance, for more frequent visits.
This morning didn't go quite to plan, we were surprised to still find snow on route and also had to drive though a flooded road. When we arrived at the agents, the solicitor hadn't agreed to release the keys. It took so long to sort out because the solicitors all went to lunch. Apparently they don't prioritize the smaller payments so we had to wait,.... Anyway at about 3pm we finally got into the shop...phew.
So what next........ we need to inject some colour or at least soften the effect of all the slat-board and metal shelves. Its a too bit harsh for my liking. Unfortunately as we are renting, then whatever we remove or change we have to be prepared to return to its original state, when we leave at the end of our lease. So anything too major will be hard as we cant store that amount of shelves etc. But I have some ideas and a little bit of a plan as formed in our heads this afternoon.
The units are very heavy and we did manage to move one, but its going to have to be in easy stages so I don't wreck Mr Wellydog already delicate back.
Anyway Its been a long day but we will be back tomorrow to see what else we can do.... watch this space .
Sadly we are leaving our cute little shop on Hayle harbourside and moving to pastures new. In the next couple of weeks we will be packing up everything and moving to a new larger and much bigger shop. Its exciting but also terrifying and a little sad to. We have truly loved our time in Penpol Terrace. While we work, we have been watching the boats go up and down in the harbour as the tide ebbs and flows. Its been wonderful. But things do have to change and for a number of reasons……. We want to expand the shop and to do that we need larger premises. We want to stock more variety of things and to collect more crafts people to sell with us, for that we need space. One the most common things we hear in the shop is, “It looked bigger in the photos”, being able to have more than 6 customers in at any one time will be amazing! But also I haven’t settled in West Cornwall. I miss my family and friends and I miss having a garden. So when the opportunity came up for us to take on a shop further up in Cornwall, it made sense to move, home and shop closer to those we miss. So the shop has been sold and will soon have new owners. Our house has also sold and we have started looking where to move to. We are not sure where we are going to live, but it’s exciting exploring new areas as possible new homes. So we will be quiet for a bit, while we get organised, so please look out on facebook and Instagram for updates and as soon as we officially get the new shop keys, we will tell you where we are. Janice
The start of a new year is always a time to reflect both personally and for the business.
One aspect of the business that is not working for us is pillow talk… haha, not as interesting as it may sound. Being a married couple who run a business together, then business talk is always on the agenda. Sometimes it is too intrusive, and I especially am guilty of discussing anything and everything whenever it pops into my head. Mr Wellydog is much better at writing down thoughts and then discussing them at more appropriate times. So with a promise to try and separate our business and personal life better in 2018, we have had our first meeting. With advice from the Wellydog apprentice (she is very clever business woman), we made sure it was away from home or the shop and we went out and had a coffee. We had a strategy meeting to look at our long term goals for the future of Wellydog. It was interesting really as we looked at figures and targets and Mr Wellydog had done some clever graphs and figures to show all sides of the business and how it compared to previous years. Although I knew we were on target to have an ok year, things were better than I had thought. So although we know we are in for some very quiet months before the end of our trading year, we are still looking at a successful 2017, where we exceeded planned targets. We now need to look at how to grow the business next year.
Selling in other shops has not proved to be as good as we had hoped this time last year, and we have scaled down where we stock. It is hard to keep stock sitting doing nothing in some places. But others may have had quiet times, and we know they are doing their best for us and we hope to continue with them. We have had some shops who are ordering wholesale so that again is another avenue to consider growing.
Online is always a struggle for us. We had some great advice and training this year, which certainly has helped, and we have seen a small growth. But there is a dilemma between successful online selling and keeping the one of a kind nature to what we do. With the time involved with listing each individual item, instead of producing 10 or 20 of identical items under 1 listing, it is a fine line of time against profit. We have looked at the possibility of listing similar items under the same heading, for instance a green seaglass bracelet, but each made to order and although the structure will be the same, then the glass will vary on each one. It would also help with the stock tracking. At the moment then each item listed online is marked. If it sells in the shop we can immediately remove from online, but it only takes for a busy time, or and internet access problems and we could run into problems. Does doing this mess with the essence of our business, the business of handmade, does that cause a conflict?? Are we getting into mass production? And if we do, is that a problem? We still haven’t come to a conclusion on this one yet. I have a feeling this will be an ongoing discussion. I would be interested in your thoughts.
We also need to look for more peoples work to stock in the shop. As we qet busier then we are not keeping up with the making quite so well. The people we currently stock have all agreed to continue with us next year, which is lovely. But we also had some issues with stock levels at a very busy time, because we had a few people who we agreed to take work in from, but they never delivered. So we will start to look for new people again and hope to form new lasting relationships and have a shop full to the brim in 2018.
Overall though we are happy with where we are, but where we go from here is the unknown. I am excited for 2018 as I feel this will be our turnaround year. Hopefully the one that takes us from doing ok, to actually gaining ground. Of course, only time will tell but I am looking forward to finding out.
Happy new year to you all
I saw a Facebook post today from the Design Trust. It was about all the pledges people make, especially around Christmas, to support local small businesses. Patricia who wrote the post talks very passionately about how we, as creatives, should not just be asking or begging for support, but explaining why it is important. Not just to talk about the economic benefits or how its keeps our high streets a more vibrant and safe place, but also how it impacts on us as individuals, especially what it means to us as individuals!
So I have pledged to tell 10 people about how I feel. About how every time you make a purchase with me, small or large, I smile and want to do a little dance. It is not just about the money, although that is important, it's about how you value what I do. How when you buy something I have made you are saying 'you did a good job'. Don’t we all like to be told we do a good job? Ever since I was a small child I wanted to make and paint things. I had the confidence to just explore and create what I wanted. I felt no boundaries. But as an adult I had boundaries pushed onto me. Being a creative, when I was a teenager was not considered a job, although I was indulged there came a point where inevitably I was told to get a proper job. Not because anyone wanted to stop me being creative, but out of love for me and concern for my future. Inevitably I never settled in any meaningful career and jumped from job to job with no purpose and no sense of achievement, and quite frankly very little praise. But, importantly, it did mean I could help support, my growing family.
But now you are that person who says yes I can be creative, yes I can do something you feel is important. You make me feel fulfilled and gives me a sense of purpose and achievement. You make me feel confident and empowered. You make me proud of what I do. And yes I feel that way regardless of whether you spend £2.50 or £250 with me.
…..and for that I thank you x
Its been 5 months since Mr Wellydog gave me a microwave kiln for my birthday. So I thought I would give you a bit of an update on how it’s been going. Some of you may have seen the results of some of the things I have been making. You may have noticed that I have been using it quite a bit. It’s been well loved but unfortunately not very well cared for.
Opps!!! yes there have been some accidents, thankfully none that have caused any physical pain, but my kitchen worktop and my kiln have been deeply scarred. I guess the problem is my frustration with not being able to produce what I really want to. Having said that I have discovered I LOVE frit…… what is frit you may ask?.... its crushed-up bits of glass. The bits I like are very finely crushed, you can get course/big bits, but no matter what the size they are, they come in a whole exciting range of colours. So with just clear glass and frit I can make patterns and pictures. What I really want to move onto is powder, so I can ‘paint’ more realistic pictures. But that’s probably best resisted for a bit longer.
My kiln has been used excessively in the few months I have had it. I was reading an article the other day that suggested they were only good for between 250 and 300 firings depending on your microwave. I would say I’m getting close to the lower end of that and to be honest I can notice the difference. The firings are getting very noticeably longer and not as even. What used to take about 8 – 9 minutes now takes 15 – 20 minutes. I don’t suppose it helps that I have quite a few chunks missing out of the base of my kiln.
As far as I can see the advantages of having a microwave kiln are;
Mr Wellydog says he’s created a monster. I am always firing something and not a week goes by without me getting everything out 2 or 3 times. I am still completely in love. I drop hints all the time for him to buy me a larger one, even though I know it’s not possible at the moment. So I will continue with fusing little pieces as I am still having soooo much fun, I really can’t complain. I may look into sharing a kiln with someone I know local, so I may get a chance to do larger pieces. My latest little experiments have been with Christmas trees, which was a total blast. Some of these have gone to new homes already and I do sell a reasonable amount of little sun catchers and hearts. So watch this space or my folksy shop to see what I get up to next.
Summer has been a very interesting time at Wellydog Towers. In June we shut down for a bit of time as our new Grandson arrived unexpectedly 5 weeks early. We looked after our lovely 18 month old granddaughter for a bit, and boy do I know now just how old I am! Visiting and playing with our little sweetie previously was a bit different than looking after her almost full time for a few days. Blimey, how did we ever manage with three children all under 5? But all said and done, it was a joy to spend some quality time with her on our own. Seeing our grandson do so well after such a shock entrance is wonderful. We are so lucky to have such wonderful children and now grandchildren.
We did think therefore that things would be quiet. But what we hadn’t anticipated was that as we had kept some time free for the due date in July, we could in fact take on a few extra, unexpected bits. We were approached to do a last minute wholesale order. Not ever having done one before it was a steep learning curve. We thought we were pretty keyed up and pricing and timescales were sorted fairly quickly (the company we were making for were very patient). We estimated time quite well. We knew roughly how long each item would take and pretty much kept to it. Although things did get slower towards the end. The order was for 440 bag charms and was increased at the end to 450. It sounds a lot doesn’t it? Well it blooming well was! But we would definitely do it again. Although not too often. I am not that keen on repetition, but once in a while, I certainly wouldn’t object to it.
It wasn’t all plain sailing and we did learn a thing or two from it.
Once its finished, you are very proud of yourselves and kind of miss the challenge
Well they have now all been posted off and I hope the customer is as pleased with them as we are.
We then went to Hayle Fest at the beginning of August, it was really good, I think Lauren who organised most of it did an amazing job and yes there are always things that could have gone better, but generally it was well supported. As with most things we do we set a target, Mr Wellydog had a daily target in mind which was the costs for the day plus a nice profit and we beat it each day by a mile, so we are very pleased.
We also had help, the Wellydog Apprentice was there too. Our eldest daughter Gemma is amazing and helps us out when she can with outside events. This was particularly helpful at Hayle as it meant Mr Wellydog had help and company on the stall and I could keep the shop open too. It was helpful to have more than one person because at times the Gazebo had to be held down from the gusts of wind sweeping through across North Quay. But it thankfully survived the 3 days, even being left over night open to the elements.
I was pleased with the extra height we managed to get on the stall, Mr Wellydog made stands out of some wine boxes and made stand for me to hang my slate paintings on. All in all it was a great 3 days.
So our next challenge is packing all our wears away after they have been at the fantastic St Just craft event. Every year they take over the Cape Cornwall school and over 400 exhibitors bring all their handmade goodies and raise a lot of money for Cancer research, I think I was £44,000 last year. Its been on for over two weeks now and finished on yesterday, we have been up twice to re stock. We will then have to check what stock we have left from such a busy time and get ourselves organised for the Newlyn Fish festival on the Bank holiday Monday at the end of August.
If that’s not enough then we are also excited to have had it confirmed that we will be at the Flambards Christmas event in Early December.
So hopefully see you at one of these events
Ta ta for now
We have just had a lovely break away to North Cornwall. We spent some time in Tintagel, Boscastle and the beautiful Port Issac. I say a break, what I really mean is we had a busmans holiday. We explored the area and checked out all the local shops and we will now be stocking at least one shop in North Cornwall, with our seaglass jewellery.
Things are definitely changing in Wellydog Towers. With the sales we are getting in the shops we are stocking and also our own sales rising steadily from last year, we are happy with our progress. Our business plan is consequently having to change and we couldn’t be happier.
Our original plan included an online shop presence as a second income stream. This we felt was necessary as the winter months are very quiet. Although traditional holiday seasons are a bit more blurred than they used to be, then winter is a challenge. Hayle, although up and coming and does have a lot of holiday makers, but it isn’t the same as being in St Ives, Padstow or the other main tourist spots, that have visitors all year. We are however building up a following and are very happy with how our little shop is doing. But I ’m afraid our Etsy shop isn’t replicating that small but steady success. I do promote online a lot, in fact I love connecting with people all over the world, and I love sharing our experiences, as I feel people are genuinely interested. But for whatever reason, I can’t seem to get our online shop working for us. Perhaps it’s just not the right time? So, as things have started to fall off the listings, our shop is looking empty, and with little or no time to restock, we have decided to call it a day and close our Etsy shop. It may only be a temporary closure but only time will tell. That’s not to say we won’t sell online, if you like something just yell and we can post it out. It just we just don’t have the time at the moment to do it justice.
Which leads me to the other change. The good thing about stocking other places and with intending to stock more, is that we have lots of making to do, that in turn leave us less time to fill the shop with the other bits and bobs we both make. We dont want it to be just a jewellery shop, that was never the intention. But the jewellery is our biggest seller and we are following what our customers have lead us in the direction off. Anyone who has followed me online knows I am just addicted to making things and since having the shop ,then I have an outlet for the more successful pieces. This keeps the shop eclectic and holds my interest. Something I certainly won’t be stopping, but it’s also something I am not getting as much time to do as I used to. So, our other change is that we will now stock other people’s work on a sale or return basis. We feel we can offer a slightly more established place to sell from and more experience from both being a seller and being stocked elsewhere. When we first opened we had a nice trial with our great friends Nigel and Sarah at Wight and Wight, who sold jewellery with us. Thanks to them we learnt a lot. We won’t be stocking a lot of things just enough to give our customers more choice. We will only stock items made in Cornwall and that have some sort of seaside or blue theme.
Phew for us this feels like a major change, but hopefully our customers will not notice much as the changes will be gradual. As with everything we do, it’s a slow progression and evolution. Mr Wellydog is always telling me cash flow is the life blood of the business and we don’t want to extend beyond our means, so slow and careful will hopefully help us achieve more success each new season.
Yes really it was my birthday and look what the wonderful Mr Wellydog bought me.
No not a microwave, he wouldn’t live that one down, but a microwave kiln.
I cant tell you how long I’ve wanted one of these, fused glass has been popular for a long time and I’ve always wanted a go. I can't afford, or even have the room for a proper glass fusing kiln, and knowing me I would pay out all that money and it not be something I would continue with, so this is a good and cheaper (well relatively speaking) alternative, to at least see if it holds my interest.
So Mr Wellydog, being a clever old stick, bought me a kit from Fusitt. it came with the kiln, a wire rack, heat gloves, safety glasses, glass cutter, 6 small bits of coloured glass 4 pieces of dichroic glass, confetti glass, frit (although not as I know it) some flower pieces and jewellery findings. Having dabbled in stained glass and jewellery making, some of these I of course didn’t need, but most of it was essential. It didn’t really come with good instructions…..but as we all know with Google and YouTube, who needs proper instructions!!
It was a both exciting and terrifying.
Mr WD had to open the shop, as its Easter we couldn’t afford not to be open (not that Easter is ever that good for us) but as anyone working for themselves knows, you don’t miss any opportunities, so he stayed long enough to help me with the first firing, which is to prepare the kiln. Don’t ask me why I needed to do this, but the instructions were very clear on this, not on much else, so it needed to be done.
You need to make sure the turntable doesn’t rotate on your microwave. In our case this just meant taking the wheels out from under the plate, but on some you have to turn the plate upside down. Just a quick note on microwaves, everything I have read suggests you don’t use the normal food prep microwave, so again being really organised, my lovely husband stole the microwave we use in the shop to heat up soup and cold tea, so flasks and the need drink tea quicker will be the order of the day in the shop from now on! So the preparation of the kiln takes 3 minutes on full power……and then off Mr Wellydog goes to work. And leaves me to potentially maim myself and blow up the house (ok slight exaggeration)
The next step in the leaflet says “cut your glass to the desired , shape and then fire”, helpful don’t you think?
Luckily I’ve been on a course and knew how to score and cut glass, I have a great oil filled glass cutter so I used that and played around with just a simple piece of orange glass with three flowers on. I thought it was best to be simple for a first try and only put one piece in. I have been lucky as in my darling husband thought that as big is always better, so got me a large kiln. Some of the small ones you can only do one piece at a time in as the internal size is quite small.
To stop the glass melting to the kiln base, it has to be put on a piece of kiln paper, ( I forgot to mention that was included to). Timings for cooking (firing) are vague. Most proper kilns are controlled and temperatures go up and down on a schedule but on a microwave kiln there is very little control. The leaflet suggests you fire for 5 to 6 minutes then check every 30 seconds after to see until you get the desired result.
You can peek in the kiln to check, but use your gloves and only open briefly. The first time I did that I was terrified, it’s no laughing matter, molten glass, but it was easier than I expected. This first one took 12 minutes!!!! Much longer than expected, but it is an old microwave and a large kiln. I discovered later that it not the best idea to just put it straight on for the 12 minutes, or you melt everything to a liquid….oops. I guess the constant checking keeps the temperature a little less fierce.
I was quite happy with the result. I know its not that exciting, but it was for me. It’s the first time I've melted glass!! And to boot I did it in my kitchen!
The stand is a must, as I think when the kiln comes out of the microwave if you didn’t have that, then it would melt through your work tops, as a precaution I did put an old bread board under it to. There is also a lot of heat coming out of the top, so best not to put it under a cupboard.
Now this next bit is the hard bit for me, to allow the glass to anneal and not crack then you have to take the kiln out ( if you leave it in the microwave, it might over heat and ruin it.) and leave the lid on, you then have to wait……for anyone who knows me , patience isn’t a skill I have ever learnt. It says 30 minutes but I did have quite a few crack in my second batch and I think it needs a minimum of and hour to be cool enough, which is just agonising. Especially the firing I did in one go (impatient again) and I knew everything had melted, I was just praying it hadn't dripped off the kiln paper and ruined my kiln, but Phew it was fine.
You can see the yellow bit is all crazed and melted and I pulled this out and used it again, I have discovered the joy of refiring and reusing old bits. I also put odd bits of glass in to just melt and form balls that I the used later on a fishes eye.
I enjoyed doing the fish. I didn’t want to just bung bits of dichroic glass onto other bits of glass, but of course inevitably you do. It’s a good way to experiment and see what happens and how many thing you can layer, or how thin you can stay. I have made a real mess of some bits but I have done a couple I really like.
Its great having a starter kit as it mean you can play straight away, but the colours and types of glass are not really what I would choose so the results are not what I would really like.
So as soon as I can afford to I will be ordering some clear glass, some proper frit, (no idea what the big lumps they gave me were, apart from very easily melted.) and some nice blues and turquoises.
Watch this space ……