Me, my business and I…

My blog posts often make reference to my business, Calonogi, but I realised that I’ve never formally introduced you to what I do or why I do it.

So how did it all begin? Well, I worked for the same large organisation from the time that I graduated until very recently, moving from one role to another as promotions came about. In the early years, I viewed it very much as a career; I was motivated to climb the corporate ladder as quickly as I could and basically thrived on building a good reputation for myself. Then came the children…and everything changed.

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After PFB (Perfect First Born) came along, although my life changed, having a child didn’t really affect the way that I viewed my career. I still applied for promotions and whilst PFB was in toddler mode, I was promoted into the most demanding and pressurised job that I’ve ever had. It didn’t bother me that I worked long hours, or did work on weekends or late into the night, I just wanted to do make sure that each task was completed to the best of my ability. And it was whilst I was doing this job that PSB (Perfect Second Born) decided to make himself known…

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Now, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll realise that PSB is quite a mischievous little thing and causes some kind of trouble on a daily basis; his 9 months of “cooking time” was no exception. It was a difficult pregnancy and one that was fraught with problems…I knew he was going to be trouble from the very beginning! And it didn’t end when he made his grand entrance either as my health continued to suffer (much like it is now actually, but that’s another story!).

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Going back to work was never going to be easy and what with two little ones to ferry around to breakfast club, crèche, football training and swimming lessons, it was hard. I felt that my life was not my own anymore. So I decided to do something about it and do something for myself for a change. I’d always loved to sew, it was a gift inherited from my grandmother, although both my grandmothers were quite crafty in fairness. Now, I’m not one for technical sewing and I have trouble following patterns; I love to be a bit more “freestyle”.  I like to think of my talent as creating art on fabric. So creating my bespoke fabric crafts business was a no-brainer really!

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So for a while, I did my crafty-thing, albeit only making things for friends and family at this point, alongside my 9-5 job…yes, I was completely insane to think that I could juggle everything and I had to come to the conclusion, that I, multi-tasker-extraordinaire, couldn’t do it all and live to tell the tale: this was a sad day. There were days that I would leave my desk, pick PSB up from crèche, collect PFB from after-school club, dash home, feed them both, change PSB into his pyjamas, take PFB swimming twenty miles away, come home, feed them again, put them to bed, get the sewing machine out and finally get to bed at around 3am. Not exactly a sustainable lifestyle I think you would agree!

Cue some difficult decisions and lots of heartache BUT, this did lead to my decision to establish my business and make a go of it. It’s been hard, it’s still scary, but I love every minute of it. It’s exciting when I see the orders come in and I love spending entire days making gorgeous pieces of fabric art for my customers and spending evenings sketching out designs ready for the following day. I could never call it a job, or a career, come to think of it…it’s an extension of me. This is what I was meant to do.

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It makes me laugh when I think back to my school days: deliberating over which subjects to do at GCSE, agonising over which A-Levels to take, which university to go to. Today it all seems so insignificant and irrelevant. I’m doing something that I don’t need any of those qualifications to do…unless you can think of a way in which a joint honours degree in Politics and English is relevant to making a coastal scene cushion?!

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So that’s where I am at the moment…self employed and loving it! Now for a bit about the business itself, Calonogi. I’m not one for making the same thing over and over again. I want everything I make to be unique to the person who commissions it…and I’ve had some great commissions! For me, it’s all about bespoke: if you can’t think of it, I can make it (and I’ve never said “no” to an idea to date). I work predominantly with fabric, with a bit of wood and clay thrown into the mix on occasion, just to keep it fresh! I make cushions, fabric frames, doorstops, bunting, children’s baking bags and everything in between…and they’re all personalised in their own unique little way, whether it be as  brazen as putting someone’s name across a cushion or slightly more subtle such as co-ordinating a doorstop to the colours of a customer’s living room. And then of course, there are the more unusual commissions…take a look at my facebook page to see some of my creations www.facebook.com/calonogi.

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So at the moment, my business is 75% “virtual” with orders pouring in through the Calonogi website and facebook page; the other 25% of my orders come through Calonogi displays on other retail premises. Breaking news for this week is the brand spanking new display at O&F’s Coffee Shop in Carmarthen. I was really excited to put his together as I had a particular concept in mind for the display. I didn’t want it to look like just a bunch of things for sale, so I went with the vision of “breakfast before travelling” complete with breakfast tray, travel ticket and vintage suitcase. So if you’re visiting the cobbled streets of Carmarthen in the near future, why not call in for a delicious latte and see what they have on display at O&F’s (the Italian leather handbags are to die for!) http://www.olioefarina.com/en/carmarthen

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There we go, insight into me and my business duly completed. It may be small scale at the moment…but I’m working on it!

See it all for yourself at www.calonogi.co.uk.

Over and out…

Crafty little things…

As expected, Saturday was a whirlwind.

It was an early start to get PFB’s (Perfect First Born) football kit ready for his game later on that morning and to do a last minute check that I had everything ready for the morning’s craft fair. Why is it that every time I do a “last minute check” it turns into an hour of complete and utter panic? Cue lots of running around the house like a headless chicken, walking into rooms and then forgetting why I went in there with PFB around my feet trying to “help” when all he succeeded in doing was making me trip over my own feet…or his. If I told him to be careful with the keys to the cash box once, I told him a million times…I had visions of prising it open with a screwdriver when he told me that this time, he thought he had “REALLY” lost the keys and that he’d looked “EVERYWHERE” for them! Needless to say that my stress levels by this point were rather heightened…

Following a mad ten minute hunt for the keys, during which, PFB triumphantly announced that he’d found them…in his pocket, he was duly dropped off with his Gramps. Gramps is responsible for football duties you see, which conveniently saves me from having to stand pitchside in cold, wet conditions. I think it’s an excellent arrangement.

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And onto the Gorseinon Food and Craft Fair I go with a neatly packed boot full of wicker baskets. I arrived at around 8.20am and proceeded to empty the car and set up the stall. My new, streamlined version of the stall looked very pretty, even if I do say so myself! There was a great atmosphere amongst the stall holders and I even managed a browse around the other stalls before the doors opened to the public. I met some great fellow crafters who were selling some gorgeous products…so gorgeous, that I thought I’d feature a few of them in this blog post.

The Pure Bliss Body Products stand was one of the first to set up and I was instantly drawn to it because it smelled so fantastic. The stand was brimming with brilliantly coloured and of course, glorious fragrances…the cherry bath bombs smelled good enough to eat. It was most definitely an assault on the senses! I believe that Beverley may be looking into doing house parties before long so keep an eye out for news on her website www.bevbombs.com

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The next stall to catch my eye was Little Bit Different who had an amazing range of quirky vintage products that were right up my street. Think hyacinths planted in teacups, personalised wooden letters, pretty floral jewellery and quaint vintage tea cup candles. A very eye catching stand which proved popular throughout the day with a steady stream of customers…no doubt helped by the lovely customer service provided by Vicky and her daughter. If you take a look at the website www.littlebitdifferent.co.uk, you’ll find that Vicky has given each design of vintage tea cup candle its own personal name…I love Agnes..and Belle…and Grace!

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Onto something a little different and it was Twiddleys Wedding Stationery and handmade cards that next drew my attention. Their range of stationery was simple, elegant and refined; a total contrast to the crystal encrusted, glitter embellished offerings that you often see. The choice of colours on the stand was understated and classical and it was obvious that it was drawing much attention. And if you visit their website www.twiddleys.co.uk , those of you who enjoy card making will find that they also supply a comprehensive range of card making supplies.

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My next visit was to the stall of Sam’s Invites. Sam had a great range of wooden embellishments and shabby chic plaques. One of her plaques instantly caught my eye as it summed up my morning with the children beautifully! It read “Having children is like being pecked to death by a duck”! Never a truer word was read…Sam specialises in blank wooden plaques and shapes so take a look at her facebook page www.facebook.com/people/Sams-Invites/100004499283469 for some great crafty ideas.

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And on to the stall of the Little Black Hen I go to rifle through the album of amazing celebration cakes that Alison makes. The cakes, whether they be for a birthday, christening or wedding, are a sight to behold. I totally recommend taking a look at the website www.littleblackhen.com or visitng the facebook page by clicking HERE to see for yourself…the rainbow creation complete with rainbow coloured sponge is ridiculously impressive. The Little Black Hen jam and chutney range was a definite hit at the fair with lots of customers taking time to read the tempting flavours on offer…I can thoroughly recommend the lime curd!

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My final destination on my whistlestop tour was to Goggi’s Cuisine. There was no way I could walk past Naseem’s stall without sampling her amazing Pakistani home cooked food. The onion bahjees and samosas were being freshly cooked on the stand and the smell was marvellous. A few samples later and I was set to go back to my own stall with my bag containing Chicken Tikka Massala, Lentil Curry, Vegetable Biryani and a selection of onion bahjees and samosas which served as my delicious Mother’s Day tea. Take a look at the Goggis Cuisine Facebook page by clicking HERE.

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And I hope you don’t mind that I’m sneaking in a few photos of my own stall! Come and visit Calonogi on facebook to see some of the commissions I’ve been working on recently… www.facebook.com/calonogi

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Before I knew it, it was time to start packing up the stall and say goodbye to the lovely people that I’d met…but I’m sure that we’ll cross paths again in the near future.

It was, however, rather nice to come home to an afternoon filled with good friends, mad children, my favourite food and one or two Cherry Fizz cocktails!

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Hope you all had a great weekend too.

Over and out…