Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Sobering Truth Means A Change to Custom Orders

Are you ready for the shocking truth behind handmade?

Handmade designers work for peanuts. Well I do, and the reality is setting in that I can't support my family with peanuts.

Peanuts and a time poor mummy, pushed me to grab Monkey & Mum, shake all the tangled emotions and expectations from it, and watch the little fragments fall to the ground in the form of a sensible plan for my future.

I've worked so hard at this business, and I can't watch it become a failed statistic - especially when demand is more than ever!

My husband's back working, and the kiddies are mine from breakfast to dinner, as is the the guilt of daycare, the workload of an increasing customer base, and the stress of a house that no longer has anyone to run it.

I love my job, but I had a sobering reality check when I divided the hours of my working week - spent emailing, scheduling, invoicing, sourcing fabrics, photographing pieces, editing photos, marketing, packaging, post office trips, designing, creating - with the money I make.

The harrowing hourly rate I came to was embarrassing.

$10 an hour!

I hope you can see why something has to shift. I've always been brutally honest with you, my customer, which is why I'm explaining my motives behind these new plans.

The biggest change (and I really wish I didn't have to do this) will be to custom orders, which will now incur a 20% mark-up.

Custom pieces, whilst I love them, are very time consuming - lengthy email conversations, scheduling, invoicing, fabric sourcing - and this extra work has never been factored in to my costs.

The good news is there will be more ready-to-wear designer pieces available than ever before from the Etsy store (select tab in top left titled 'Designer - ready made'). These will start appearing on the Etsy store this Monday, and there will be no change to these prices.

This is how my design time will shift:

The Fairtrade range will also be up and running soon, and priced even lower than the designer range.

Some more good news! I have five custom spots left for September which will not incur a mark-up.

To book one of the last five custom spots at the current price, please email me.

I hope that you will support these new changes, and my reasons for making them.

Many thanks, 
Tess x

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Happiness Trail

An unexpected turn of events has propelled my husband and I down an unfamiliar road.

It seems I've become the main income earner for my little family (eek!) and it is an excitingly terrifyingly electric feeling!

We took the jump and refused a transfer to Newcastle, instead opting for an unknown future in the warm winter sun of Brisbane.

So in the spirit of efficiency and creativity, I am grabbing this opportunity by the, er, reigns, and announcing a new project!

A buzz with inspiration after my collaboration with Chrissy Foreman last month (last pieces are on sale!), I've decided to release a small 'themed' range of necklaces each month on the Etsy store - a sort of virtual exhibition.

Launching this Monday the 7th of July, I will release a collection of pieces made from up-cycled t-shirts, and have already begun plans for the August range - vintage tea-towel necklaces!

They are bright, funky, and all kinds of glorious. I hope you'll take my hand and walk, skip and jump your way with me through this new and exciting Monkey & Mum adventure!

As always, I would love to hear your feedback on designs or colours you'd like to see more of, and theme suggestions for the monthly ranges are also welcomed!

Tess xx

Monday, June 9, 2014

An Explosive Collaboration of Colour

Two creatives came together, bringing with them a love of colour and expression, and what eventuated was a beautiful fusion of art.

Introducing the limited edition collaborative range between Monkey & Mum and artist Chrissy Foreman.

Working with Chrissy's Expressive Art Fabric range is bliss! Her attention to detail and use of colour effortlessly expresses many life lessons, and crafting them into wearable pieces of art for mothers is a fabulous feeling!

There are two necklace styles included in this first release, which have been created from three of Chrissy's fabrics - The Peacock Aura Soarer, Sunrise, and Beauty Within. Each encapsulates gorgeous messages of femininity, strength, dreams, light, or inspiration.

The first style is a bold three bound strand necklace.

The second is a single bound piece with an extender, allowing it to be worn long, or short with the extender as a bracelet.

 Chrissy's fabrics are custom printed using eco-friendly digital processes.

This range will be available Tuesday June 10th at 7pm AEST from the Monkey & Mum Etsy store.

Tess x

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ready-Made-Range, Ready to Make a Difference

What started off as an ethical way to meet the growing demand for my work, has turned into a life changing project with the capability of empowering a small group of women oppressed by gender inequality, social constraints, child marriage, lack of education, or abject poverty.

Partnering with Mehera Shaw Foundation, a member of the Fair Trade Federation, I am working on launching an upcycling project with women from urban slum areas in Jaipur India.

It is a project that will empower these women - most of whom are mothers themselves - helping to give them confidence and skills which will put the economic power back in their hands, and help reduce their dependence on men.

The pieces will be made from organic cotton and silk garment production scraps from Mehera Shaw’s Fair Trade manufacturing line, helping to convert their left over materials in to products of better quality and environmental value - something I am very passionate about.

The women are enthusiastic and talented, and have already begun to learn the skills and techniques required to make my pieces.

Like all Monkey & Mum pieces, the necklaces will be hand sewn, which is great for these women because it means a lot of them can work from home, needing nothing more than a needle and thread.

I am hoping that this range will be ready for release in the next six months.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Mother Until The End

"I miss her so much and I'd love to see her and hug her once more. I can not do that though, so this will be the next best thing."

This week I had the bitter sweet privilege of creating pieces that transcend life itself.

My first tear fell when I had the honour of being asked. The second when I laid my hands on the fabric her mother hand-dyed so many years before. By the time I began creating the necklaces which Christina said would ensure "a little piece of (mum) is still with me wherever I go", I was raw with emotion.

Christina told me "mum loved being creative, and she was so proud of the fabric she dyed", and that "when she became ill, she gave them to me and told me to make something special with them".  

I've had the privilege of creating pieces for Christina before, and when her mum underwent her last chemo treatment last year, Christina asked me to make her mum an earthy piece with butterflies and dragonflies which had always had a special meaning to her. 

Sadly Christina's mum passed away some months later.

Having previously made pieces for Christina and her mum, and after sharing in some of Christina's pain over her mum's illness, I felt honoured and very connected to the task of combining a little piece of both of them in these necklaces. It seemed to beautifully unite so many stages of motherhood - from the glorious beginnings to the inevitable and sometimes trying end.

These creations had me reflecting on my own mum, the complicated and fabulous creature that she is, and my own role as mum to my boys.

These creations have been a poignant reminder of what we should all be thinking about this coming Mother's Day. My mum is an irreplaceable extension of me - she hurts when I hurt, and laughs when I laugh. Like so many mothers, she would sacrifice anything and everything for me. In becoming a mum, she chose to put me before herself, from that day until her last - not because I expect this of her, but because she is incapable of anything less.

Like my mum, Christina describes hers as "an incredibly strong person, always thinking of her children first".

This Mother's Day, try to escape the commercial fluff, and take the time to think about your mum and what she means to you. I know Christina will be thinking of hers, and I hope these necklaces help her feel a little closer to her mum.

Thank you Christina for trusting in me to create something of such beautiful significance. I hope I've done justice to your mum's fabrics and your heart.

Much love, 
Tess x

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ready Made Range Not Quite Ready

Outsourcing production for a ready made range has proved harder than I first anticipated.

I have big dreams of releasing a ready-to-wear range sourced through ethical Fair Trade groups in India, and I am still determined to make this happen.

Many women in India are victims of gender inequality. Living in extreme poverty and with little education, they are unable to work for themselves. My dream is to work with a development group that provides abused and mistreated women with both emotional and financial support, whilst helping me to meet the demands of my growing customer base.

I recently began working with an artisan group, and quickly discovered the difficulties involved with training women over 7000 kilometres away.

The first order came in last week, and as one might expect, the designs were not yet perfected. I spent last week unpicking and reworking these necklaces to meet the level of quality my customers are used to.

Whilst more than happy to continue working with these women to perfect my designs, they have instead chosen to focus their efforts on their other product lines, having found my pieces more time consuming to perfect.

The dream lives on, and I am confident an ethically sourced ready made range of Monkey & Mum pieces is just around the corner.

Until then, I have these collaborative Fair Trade pieces available, but get in quick, because they're already getting snapped up!

Three strand pieces $45 - Single strand pieces $35

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

I had a break down last year. There. I said it.

I hit rock bottom. I literally broke. If you've ever had a panic attack you'll understand how scared I was.

I've been told by some not to share this story with the world, but I'm choosing to do so because it feels right to me – and I've learnt that listening to yourself and speaking with complete honesty is a pretty powerful thing.

I understand there'll be people who'll judge or label me, but that doesn't faze me in the slightest. If by speaking my uncomfortable truths I can strip away the stigma and isolation felt by just one woman, then it's worth it.

We women can be so hard on ourselves, and each other. It took some pretty special friends, one in particular, to remind me of the incredible support, safety, and nurturing energy that only a bunch of women giving themselves permission to have, can create (in fact, I may have just blatantly plagiarised a few of her words there).

I think that's a huge reason why I love what I do. I get to share many beautiful moments with incredible women. I hear about your pregnancies, births, babies, late night feeding dramas, your highs, your lows, and all the glorious moments in between. You let me in to your private worlds, and for all of this I am incredibly honoured. I feel it's now time I let you in to mine.

One positive that came from falling in to a deep dark pit of despair, was the climb out. It was life changing.

It afforded me the opportunity to meet an inspiring woman. She let me in to her world, and I discovered her strengths whilst managing to embrace her weaknesses. I learnt to listen and to love her. This woman was me.

Since having my babies and starting Monkey & Mum, I'd slowly forgotten the act of creating just for the joy of it. To be in the moment and listen to myself. With no end goal in mind, the act of creating can be so therapeutic, and a powerful way to tap in to our thoughts and truly live in the moment.

I've spent much of the last few months cranking up old albums and singing my lungs out, dancing my feet off, and getting out the paints but ditching the brushes (finger painting!). I've played with foods I've never heard of before, have written stories no one will ever read, I've danced under trees and made art from the world around me.

You don't have to be a good painter, or even a good cook (I can hear the collective giggles of friends that know me and my culinary skills too well!), you just need to express yourself and make space for you!

If you're struggling with life right now, talk about it! Help other women break down their walls of dishonesty. Ask for help, connect with people, and most importantly of all, connect with yourself! Make a promise to listen to yourself daily and I promise you will fall in love with the person you get to know. I have.