Jen Spilly Designs
handmade for woman and home

spillymade blog

Handmade for Woman and Home

Goals, Intentions & The State of Things

  Palms in the Evening

...tempting you with a pretty pic to get you to read my long analysis of the state of things.

My friends and family get semi-regular glimpses of my home and creative life on Facebook and Instagram, and my local school community stays connected with my business through my class offerings, but it is no secret that the original intention of my business seems to have gone by the wayside.

My original goal and intention was to run a creative business in which I design and produce textile goods - bags, purses, pouches, camera straps and other original fabric items - and sell them online, at craft fairs and eventually in local shops through wholesale accounts or on consignment. I planned to market my work the same way as many other creatives with Etsy as my shopping cart linked to my website. The site would feature a blog bringing interested people regular content with behind-the-scenes glimpses into my process, tutorials, lifestyle features, and inspirational links. All of this would be augmented by a presence as a business on Facebook and Instagram.

Instead, I ended up teaching a lot of classes and not making much of my own work and, in turn, not selling or writing much at all. I look at my shop and I have a mere 20 sales (there have been other sales via personal contacts and craft shows, but still, not many). I have a handful of inventory left over from the last couple of years because I never applied myself to the relisting process on Etsy and I lost steam doing updates on my Facebook business page. By spring of this year, I found myself extremely burned out on teaching classes as well.

With teaching, it started out as a side thing - a couple of years ago a few people asked if I could teach their kids. I figured, "Why not?" One day a week in my living room quickly grew into more until I had to rent a studio just to keep my household sane. I was eventually scheduling four days a week plus private lessons on weekends to accommodate everyone who had interest. So many students were happy to sign up again and again that they became "advanced" and wanted to choose their own patterns but still work in a group setting to benefit from my help.

All of this sounded great, even successful, in theory. The reality was that I was dreading class because I knew it would be an hour and a half marathon each day of racing from pattern guide to pattern guide, sorting out pieces and steps, and troubleshooting problems when steps were skipped or done wrong only for lack of teacher attention. An hour and a half on any given day may not seem like a lot, but when you figure in all of the additional time it took to prepare projects for classes, help select and often shop for fabric and notions, guide students through pattern steps and troubleshoot, clean and prepare the studio for each day's class, manage all different kinds of personalities, not to mention schedule and publicize the classes for each session so they get filled... well, it's A LOT!! At one point I had 24 students (6 per class) and almost all of them were doing different projects...

Complaints? No! Whatever frustration or burnout came from this process is my own fault. I simply wanted everyone to be happy and so I let my students pick their own projects as they gained more knowledge. This was a mistake. In fact, most of the time I really enjoy teaching sewing to truly interested students. There is nothing quite like the moment a true beginner completes her first project and clearly can't wait to run and show her mom that she actually made something useful. Ultimately, I needed to put more time into finding a way to streamline the process so everyone continued to learn and have fun, but so I could stay relaxed and sane.

With regard to designing and creating product, I'm not sure if it's lack of time, lack of inspiration, lack of energy or something altogether different that has killed my momentum here. I really don't know. Looking at how classes have been going though, it's no wonder that after all the preparation and execution needed for classes, I didn't have the drive to make my own work.

I suppose some people might find themselves in this position and think it may be time to give up, but I have no intention of doing that. What I am going to do is take this as a sign that I need to reevaluate my business, restructure my class format, set some real goals and streamline my schedule in order to maximize my creative time. And so, I begin again on this blog if for no other reason than to document my own thoughts, to remain accountable to myself. It's not as if I have a huge audience here, but if I put it all out there - even if no one else reads this - at least I will have some record of the process.