Hoppy Birthday Frog & Pencil!

Hello lovelies,

Today marks Frog & Pencil’s first birthday. A whole year since we launched the website and headed out on this crazy adventure with little expectation but with a shed load of passion and grit. I never anticipated to have had such a wonderful year.

I don’t quite know where to begin. I’ve been sat here, in front of this glowing laptop for a while now thinking about Frog & Pencil’s journey and it’s hard for me not to become emotional. I’m simply bursting with pride with how far this business has come in 365 days.

Frog & Pencil went live from scratch. I didn’t have any commissions set up or any particular direction to set off on. I kinda fumbled along promoting my business, working out future steps as I hopped along. Looking back, I genuinely feel lucky that I managed to grab some spots at wedding fairs early on. I thought I had missed the Spring fairs boat but thanks to the incredible duo Dalia and Tim at Norfolk Brides, they gave me a shot. I believe that showcasing my stationery wares at their show last March was a key moment for getting on the Norfolk Wedding Industry map. It may not have generated direct business but being there introduced me to other suppliers and I’m happy to say those relationships have blossomed. So, I want to say a HUGE thank you to the Norfolk Brides Team. I think you guys are awesome and I truly appreciate all your support and advice this year. I hope to work more with you over the years as I think you’re a positive force in the business.

I wasn’t nervous about delving into self employment but I did have a few reservations about other suppliers within the industry. For some reason I had envisioned the wedding business to be ultra competitive and for want of a better word, a tad bitchy. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The people I’ve met and connected with are a wonderfully supportive bunch. Frog & Pencil has been welcomed with open arms and by the end of my final wedding fair in November, I genuinely felt like a part of the gang. To me, this is a big deal. I’ve banded together with like-minded creative people who are passionate, have a drive to deliver and encourage collaboration between fellow small businesses. I’m so fortunate to be a part of this scene.

It thrills me to see so many women led businesses cheering on the successes of other women. At a time where it can be easier to tear people down, it’s incredibly positive to be surrounded by these kick ass women! Additionally, I’m heartened by those that are managing to juggle their business with nurturing a family. To me you are (and all Mums) superwomen and it gives me hope for Frog & Pencil’s future when a cub or two may be on the cards. You lot know who you are, so thank you for inspiring me daily.

Running Frog & Pencil certainly hasn’t been easy. There have been moments where lulls lasted weeks with very little interest and it felt like I was in a crappy rut. Knowing my personality, I take a lot of this to heart. However, I’m an upbeat person too and I won’t be beaten easily. I’m learning that being productive keeps things moving, even when it feels horribly slow. Along with reflecting and evaluating my progress, it all helps me to keep on hoppin’.

This will sound awfully cliché but right now, after all this time of never quite fitting in, I feel like I’m in the right place, doing the right thing. I feel complete. I bloomin’ love what I do and it frustrates me that I took so long to realise my own potential, all I needed was some self belief.

It’s funny, when I think back to when I was much younger, as a teenager it was my aim in life to find a career I loved that would make me happy. What that actually was, I didn’t have a clue. For nearly twenty years, this is what I was searching for. I also met Lewie when we were eighteen, so we’ve been together a long time and I constantly fought the thought of marriage. It simply wasn’t a priority. I needed to find that career first. After eleven years together, Lewie proposed and I delightedly said YES. I still hadn’t found ‘the one’ career wise, but I was enjoying Festival work and there was no doubt in my mind about my Bear, he was/is my everything. Getting engaged triggered the concept of Frog & Pencil and it nurtured the confidence and self belief I needed to take the plunge. I guess what I’m trying to say is that saying ‘yes’ to something new can open wonderful adventures. I was blinkered for so long and I often wonder where Frog & Pencil might have been today had I realised what I am capable of sooner. So, if things aren’t quite going to plan, change it up a bit as you never know what’s around that corner, you could discover and realise you’re pretty awesome and are capable of anything; just get out of your own way.

This year has been a beautiful whirlwind and ended on such a high, as a finalist at the EDP Bride Wedding Awards. Simply put, I’m as proud as punch. This year is looking like a cracker too as I have some excellent commissions in the pipeline and I can’t wait to share them over the coming months.

There are so many highlights from the first year but I feel they deserve their own post, look out for it over the next week or so.

That leaves me with a few thank you’s before I sign off. Firstly, a big thank you to the industry and suppliers who have embraced Frog & Pencil. The support and advice I’ve received warms my heart and I am happy to call many of you friends. Your creativity inspires and challenges me to make more exciting illustrations, so thank you for keeping me on my Froggy toes. You guys are my frickin’ rock stars!

To my lovely couples, be it a bespoke commission or a bridesmaid card purchase, thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting a small, independent business. I honestly do a little happy dance every time a new couple is confirmed. It is a pleasure to get to know you and to create stationery that reflects your personalities and also offer an insight into your big day. Remember to always be unashamedly yourselves when it comes to your wedding.

To my treasured friends and family, thank you for all the belief, support, encouragement, words of wisdom, hugs, for every share, like, recommendation and for the laughter. The love in my life is overwhelming and I’m truly blessed. You guys are always there and that means the world. A special mention to Lewie’s folks for their unconditional generosity and to my Dad (a rival to Lew as number 1 fan) for his love, support and for encouraging the potential. I love you all, mwah! xxx

One final and special thank you is for my partner in crime & hubby, Lewie. Without you Frog & Pencil just wouldn’t be possible. You could see what I couldn’t all those years ago, so thank you for you unwavering belief, love and the daily support. Thank you for being the best ‘tech guy’ around and for being just as much as a perfectionist as I am…website v2 is going to be awesome! Thank you for being my wedding fair sidekick and for hashing out all the tiny details with me. To me you are the greatest Bear in the land and I’m one lucky, lucky, lucky Frog. Here’s to our future, I love you millions. xxx

All that’s left to say is what a hell of a year and I’ve loved every moment. It’s time to celebrate, eat cake and probably cry a smidge more (happy tears of course!). Most importantly, I’m excited to get back to my commissions and create more illustrated loveliness.

Best hop to it & hustle!

Thanks for sticking by me,

Love Cx

P.S – I’m happy to report that after a year I can easily use the correct spelling of ‘stationery’…well, almost! x

Hoppy First Birthday Frog & Pencil!

Celebrating Frog & Pencil’s first birthday. Hop Hop Hooray!

 

Frog & Pencil outside Not On The High Street HQ after her Pitch!

Carpe Diem; My PitchUp2016 Experience.

Hello all.

Last Saturday the day finally arrived. With a tummy full of butterflies, my hubby and I were on an early train heading to London for PitchUp2016!

Throughout the previous two weeks, it felt like I lived and breathed this pitch.  I thoroughly researched, carefully chose my products to discuss and nailed down a good structure that would tell my story, show off my products and also touch upon what makes me unique and why I would appeal to a Not On The High Street (NOTHS) customer.

I was feeling pretty confident about my 10 minute pitch and my first run-through came in at 15 minutes…bugger! Even though I have a background in marketing, editing isn’t my strong point. Thank goodness for Lewie! He listened to my spiel and section by section helped me to trim the fat until we were running at just under 9 minutes; genius!

The day before, I was champing at the bit.  I’d successfully completed several rehearsals without glancing at my notes, found a pitch perfect dress and my bags were packed and good to go by early evening.  All I needed was a quality sleep. Hah, good luck Mrs! Sometimes, I hate my brain. I am prone to bouts of insomnia and it kicked in big time, I think I managed three hours and I was NOT a happy Frog!

Luckily, I’m a positive person, so I managed to shake off the rocky nights sleep and focus.  We made it to the train and settled in for the journey, however I couldn’t get rid of my sickly feeling.

We hopped into Richmond with an hour and a half to wait.  We found a nice quiet pub, bought two orange juices and lemonades and I nearly fell off my chair when a £10 note didn’t cover it…I’ve never made a drink last so long in my life. Nonetheless it gave me time to change, calm my nerves and go through it one last time.

At 1.45pm I topped up my lippy, popped on my heels and made my way to NOTHS House.

I was greeted by friendly receptionists and headed to the 3rd floor. The room was filled with experts and suppliers; the atmosphere was buzzing! Looking around, I felt super overdressed as most people were pretty casual. As I waited, I chatted to a lovely jewellery designer Ruby. It turns out we’d already spoken via my blog and twitter, what a sweet coincidence!

As my name was called, I took a deep breath and I was set to seize the moment.

On reflection, it was a positive experience although I’m not a partner…yet! A few minutes into my pitch I felt like I was over prepared, it seemed like my presentation was a bit unexpected. I didn’t even finish what I had planned to say or ask my questions. To sum it up, she loved my products. I showed her my Little Bespoke Book, Ready-to-Write, Portraits and my Alpaca collaboration pieces (still currently top-secret) to show them what a semi-bespoke collection could look like from Frog & Pencil.

Her feedback was great.  She really enjoyed my Little Bespoke Book, especially how personal it could be and hadn’t seen anything like it before. However, her concern, like mine, was the simple fact that it’s too Bespoke for their website to handle. She liked my use of colour, admired my illustrative designs and thought that I had a great eye for detail which was all a nice little confidence boost. She believed there is a gap in their market for Ready-to-Writes and would like to see me develop those further along with my semi-bespoke collections.

She liked my portraits and suggested I speak with the Home Team and proceeded to sign me up. Thankfully, I brought loads of examples of my work, including other portrait pieces. I chatted with the Home Team who liked my designs but they already have a partner who paints people in a similar style. They suggested I come up with new ideas for designs that include my personal elements but without the garland and then to e-mail those over. This is a tough one. I believe that the garlands I paint are essentially my signature.  I’ve spent years battling to find my style and now I have it, do I want to change it?  I don’t want to discount their helpful suggestion so It’s certainly a point I need to spend some serious time considering.

Overall it was an excellent experience and I’m happy I signed up. Not only to gain their advice but I discovered so much about my business in these last few weeks and that is invaluable.  It’s also always beneficial to push yourself and wander out of your comfort zone for a while. Alongside that, it’s exciting to know that they connected with my work and it’s something that could sell on their marketplace.

Be that as it may, I wish they had given a little more input into what those minutes would be like. All we had to work from was to sign up for a ten minute pitch, bring a maximum of five products to discuss and that they shouldn’t be too big.  It’s quite an open brief. I spent a lot of time working on this and I won’t lie, there were points where I stressed myself out so much I was quite emotional. It didn’t need to get that far. Essentially, it was a casual talk about what I do and I didn’t need to prepare as much as I had.

My advice to those who are going up to pitch is this. It’s a very relaxed environment and I would treat it like a chat. Know your products/business inside out and be prepared to maybe answer questions on why you’re unique and why you would appeal to a NOTHS customer. But I certainly wouldn’t have called it a ‘Pitch’, it obviously meant something different to me. Additionally, wear something that you’re comfortable in. Even though I felt pitch ready in my outfit, being so overdressed did make me feel a little self conscious…which is stupid right!? But it happens.

I truly appreciate the time and guidance. Like I said it’s an experience I’m pleased I went through and I picked up a lot which is always priceless.

I have to remember that I’m still a newbie and everything is a learning curve. My plan now is to work on my semi-bespoke ideas and create new Ready-to-Writes to present on my return. In the meantime, I have products made and waiting to sell, so I may set up an Etsy shop or apply to sell on Folksy; stick around and we’ll see where that leads.

Thank you to NOTHS for seeing me and if you’ve signed up for future events I wish you all the best of luck!

Until next time you lovely bunch,

Cx

Frog & Pencil has Landed!

Hello there!

Bust out your best little Froggy dance because it’s now official!  After months of preparation and a whole lot of love and dedication, Frog & Pencil has launched.

I am incredibly honoured to introduce to you, my lovely website, www.frogandpencil.com

To say that i’m completely chuffed would be an understatement; i’m over the moon with the end result and so happy that I can now share it with the world. From the get go, Lewie and I wanted to create a site that was clean, professional, user/mobile friendly, and to be the best platform to showcase my work and I believe we’ve ticked every box.

It’s taken us a few months but since the beginning of the year, we have lived and breathed frogandpencil.com and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the whole process. Yes, there were quite a few hurdles in our path, but throw in a handful of profanities with a hell of a lot of grit and we jumped over every single one! There were plenty of highlights too, the best one being able to spend more time with Lew, working together and bouncing ideas off one another; I’ve loved every moment.

Watching Lew work his coding magic has been a pleasure, I didn’t think I could be more proud of my husband but after this project I have a higher respect for what he does for a living. Thank you Lew for bringing life to our website and for all your support and belief; I love you Bear 🙂 (by the way…if you’re into computer languages, my clever hubby write’s a blog about his random coding journeys, check it out here…Bear and Hammer).

Soppy bit over, I promise.

Every launch deserves to be celebrated! Well, last Saturday we threw a party at Frog & Pencil HQ and invited a few close friends and family. We cracked open some bubbly and hired the amazing Pandora’s Kitchen to cater our special event. We indulged on BBQ Pulled Pork with all the trimmings, followed by Salted Caramel Brownies, it was delicious. If you’re ever in Norwich, stop by their friendly cafe and say hello to Jeff and the gals, you’re in for a treat!

Check out the Frog & Pencil Launch gallery below for a peek into the evening.

It was a lovely, relaxed night and I’m so happy that we did something to mark this important moment in my life. Anything’s possible if you set your mind to it, right?

Please do hop on over to the website and browse the pages. More importantly, if you know someone with a special occasion coming up, direct them to frogandpencil.com or share, share, share; I’d very much appreciate it.

The Frog & Pencil future is bright and I’m excited to see where we leap to; I hope you stick around for the journey.

Love what you do.

Cx

Life Is Funny…

Hello all!

I hope you all had a marvellous Christmas, jam packed with merriment, we certainly did. With 2016 just over Twelve hours away, I’ve been reflecting back over the last few years.

Life is funny and always surprising. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a strong woman with a career. I simply wished for something that I had built which made me happy and proud. But life is never that straight forward. In all the jobs I’ve worked in, I believe I never found my true place. Don’t get me wrong, I loved working on arts festivals and being a part of those teams but there’s always been a nagging sense that it wasn’t enough. I needed to be creative and I needed something that was mine. I’ve been blessed to be a part of a loving and committed relationship for thirteen years now, however marriage was still never high up on my priority list, I always fought against it…I guess I just needed to get my sh*t together.

Life is funny. Being a bride and going through the experience of planning a wedding has opened up this whole new chapter in my life. I honestly believe that without it, I wouldn’t have found the confidence in myself to use my illustration skills and start Frog & Pencil. I’d still be lost. It just goes to prove that you really don’t know what’s around the corner when you say ‘YES!’.

Frog & Pencil is still in it’s infancy but I believe in me and I will work my damn hardest to get this business off the ground in 2016. I know it’s a job that I can’t do alone and I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported my endeavour so far. I’m so grateful knowing that you guys have my back. A special thank you goes out to my new legal partner in crime and number one fan Lewie, for your unfaltering belief in me; I love you Bear.

2015

2015, you have been a beautiful whirlwind, the bones and heart of a whole new life. Here’s to the future, saying yes more and to the wonderful adventures that await.

Wishing you all a happy & healthy new year!

Cx

Facing Fears…

Hello all!

Woah, time has flown by since my last post and how is it now December?! A big slap on the wrist goes to me for taking my time and leaving it so long. My general aim is to publish something of interest at least once a week, however the last few weeks have disappeared on me (I did have a week off with my hubby too), but it’s lovely to be back.

So what’s been happening on the Frog & Pencil lily pad?

In a nutshell, the past few weeks have been a little tough. I can have some super productive days and then I struggle to make anything. I’ve developed a post-it note wall to schedule out my weeks so that I have a purpose every morning and that helps me to keep working towards the end goal.

I am the type of creature who needs people around so it can be lonely working at home, but I’m learning to like my own company. I just need to remember to get out in the air every now and then as cabin fever is becoming a bad habit. With all this horrible weather on top, I do find it extra hard to motivate myself somedays but it’s a work in progress and I usually pull myself out of a slump.

Overall though, I’m a positive person and search for ways to help me be more productive. Music is so good for the soul and it lifts my spirits. I’m often found asking people on Facebook for new suggestions for something to listen too. I find most things can be accomplished with a short, sharp, power dance to get the blood pumping and I’m good to sketch! How about you, what helps motivate you when you’re having ‘one of those days’?

In between all that, there has been more progress on the website and I’m starting to finalise my branding. Originally I was thinking to launch F&P officially by the end of the year, but I do feel that with Christmas coming up it may be swept aside. Therefore, I’d like to go live in January; a new year and a new start.

I have been sketching and painting most days though and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Around a month ago I was thinking about my invitations and what I’ll be providing. I decided that some lovely folk may not want to be interpreted as an animal, like Bear and Frog; they may want a portrait. Now, for some reason this instilled in me a fear...right to the gut! I’ve struggled in the past with drawing people but I thought I’d confront the faces fear and give it a shot in my own style. I’m so happy that I did.

I began by drawing Lewie and I along with some friends of ours. It frustrated me at first that they’re not highly detailed but it dawned on me that they don’t have to be and that was incredibly liberating. I’m delighted with how they’re turning out and when put into a composition, I think they’re quite lovely. These can be used on a Save the Date, on an Invitation or I could also create personalised portraits to sell separately as gifts.

Here’s a few examples in the gallery below, click on an image to expand it & enjoy.

So, whaddya think? I’d love to have some feedback.

With the website nearly built and having more examples of content, the next big decision is pricing up my work. I’m making a plan to visit local printers soon to get a good idea of their costs and also quality. I don’t want to sell myself short so I’ve researched other illustrators to get an idea of what they offer which is a great base to begin. I also purchased ‘Craft A Creative Business’ by Fiona Pullen, which is all about making and marketing a successful creative business which is packed to the brim with useful knowledge and in turn should help me figure out these important details.

As a curious side note, if you were to buy an illustrated couple’s portrait as a gift, what would you be willing to pay?

That’s about it for now but I’ll have more for you by the end of the week. I’m hopping off to the big smoke on Thursday to take part in a beginners modern calligraphy course with Quill London and I’m rather excited! A post on my time there coming very soon!

Cx

How do you eat an elephant?

Hello there and welcome to my Frog & Pencil Blog!  I’m certainly feeling the ‘first post’ pressure here but let’s give this blog malarkey a whirl!

I’m at the start of an exciting, shiny new venture where I am setting up my own business.  Having worked in various fields over the past years, I’ve always had a niggling feeling that I should put my illustration skills to good use, but I never truly found the right direction to follow.

Cue marriage and ‘HUZZAH’ I saw the light! I already had the intention to make many of our wedding details and this was reinforced by visiting several wedding fairs; there wasn’t much that caught my eye. I was looking for the more quirky, whimsical and personal bits and bobs, nothing too traditional. For me, it’s all about the details and after lots of lovely comments and feedback about my wedding stationery, I knew I had something unique.

So here I am, about to build a business on bespoke wedding stationery and other handcrafted loveliness.  I’m not going to lie, I’m super excited but I’m bloomin’ scared; remembering to write stationery correctly is tough enough! Sometimes though, the thought of it all is so daunting I get a bit dizzy and just don’t know where to begin.

I talked this over with a gorgeous friend of mine and she simply said, “Claire, when I find a situation overwhelming, I think to myself, how do you eat an elephant?” And this little phrase has stuck with me, I simply need to tackle each obstacle bit by bit. With this in mind, along with the incredible support from my husband, family and friends I can’t wait to get started.

This blog will document my new, creative journey, including all the highs and all the lows. I’ll be posting my work, ideas, the admin challenges I’ll face with starting a business and will keep you updated on all things Frog & Pencil.

My goal is to be up and running by the end of the year…it’s early days but I have nothing to lose. I hope you’ll stick around and join me on my elephant adventure.

C x