I like to take the opportunity at the start of the new year to take a moment to look back at the year that has just left us, and to look ahead to the year to come. This year it seems particularly poignant as we are expecting a baby in April. There’s not been many years which have started with such certainty that something big & life-changing is going to happen.
2018 treated me well. Not every year in recent years has brought so many months of easy happiness, and I’m sure that not all future years will be so kind, so I’m grateful for these golden times. I had a moment of pure contentment on Boxing Day. The dog was lying beside me on the sofa. I was drawing with one hand and stroking Buddy with the other. He had quite a close clip just before Christmas so his coat is as soft as velvet at the moment. Buddy had his head on my bump and was snoring very loudly. I could feel the baby moving about – possibly aiming kicks at the snoring. Upstairs, Ross and my sister were both reading. The house was peaceful. My most beloveds were all under one roof and all was well.
In June, my little business turned 7 years old which seemed like quite a milestone. Seven years of drawing and making for a living! It was fun to look back at where I began, and to cast a grateful nod to all of you who have stuck with me throughout. 2018 was an important year for my business. Some of the big milestones for me this year were:
- my solo exhibition, I Know a Place, at Old Gala House in the summer. It was great to have a reason to produce a collection of new drawings for exhibition. I enjoyed working on the drawings enormously.
- being able to do some fundraising for the local Macmillan Centre through the business. The A Garden for Wildlife card range was launched just before Christmas last year and has raised over £1,200 for the Macmillan Centre at the Borders General Hospital so far. You can read all about why I started fundraising here.
- the Big Studio Move in August. We said goodbye to Teapot Street this year and moved to a bigger house near Melrose. I’ve got a studio in the house now – an office with a lovely view and plenty of space to store all my stock and equipment. It has completely transformed my work environment.
- getting help! The extra space in the studio allowed me to bring in some help to try to improve how quickly I can get orders out. The help is called Jenny and it’s been marvellous so far.
- I enrolled on a mentoring scheme through the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce called Mentoring for Growth. It’s a peer mentoring model. There’s five of us who run businesses in the group. We meet once a month for a morning session with an expert and then in the afternoon we have time to discuss our businesses and to set goals for the next month. It’s been a helpful focus for the year. I’ve not only been exposed to ideas and concepts that are new to me, but I’ve been forced to focus on clarifying what the goal is for my business. Sometimes when you are running your own enterprise, it seems that there is only time enough to keep your head above water – to get orders out the door, respond to emails, do the bare minimum of drawing – so it has been valuable to have time set aside to see the bigger picture.
It was a big year for me personally, too, as we bid a very fond farewell to our tiny cottage and made the leap from Wendy-sized House to Adult House. There’s a blog post here about leaving Teapot Street. The new house, other than being huge in comparison, is in the most magical woodland. We are surrounded by bunnies, squirrels, wood pigeons, deer and owls. Most days we are shouted at by the grumpy heron on the river. We see tree creepers in the woodland and nuthatches, woodpeckers, long tailed tits, goldfinches and pheasants in the garden. There’s a nosy robin who sits on the handles of our french doors and peers into the living room. Living here, so far, has been a dream.
Of course, in August we found out I was pregnant! I was actually working on my stall at the West End Fair in Edinburgh at the time. I was feeling a little queasy and weird, so I took a pregnancy test one evening so I wouldn’t feel bad about all the festival wines I intended on drinking, and low & behold! A little blue plus sign appeared. Yikes! It’s taken me a while to absorb the news and accept that the result of all this is likely to be an actual real-life baby! The bump got nicknamed Percy Blueberry early on and that seems to have stuck firmly (n.b. probably not what we’ll call the baby!).
For me, the excitement of expecting is tempered by the vulnerability of the situation. When people have told me they are pregnant in the past, I was clueless as to the myriad of worries that pregnancy brings. As soon as you learn of the existence of this little potential-person you open yourself up to some many possible hurts, worries and griefs. It’s been hard for me to adjust to letting that vulnerability in. But the overwhelming feeling is of joy when I think of all the possibilities of love and adventure and excitement that this new little one brings.
The pregnancy has also been physically harder than I was expecting. I thought I’d sail through to about 8 months when I might be forced to slow down a little. But alas! It’s an absolute full-body apocalypse! I was thoroughly sick and miserable until about 20 weeks when I finally rallied. It was good timing having Jenny to help with stock-making as it allowed me to get through the hectic pre-Christmas months without collapsing. I’m feeling like I can enjoy being pregnant now. I like having a bump very much. I can pretend to be a womble.
I’ve begun making tentative plans for maternity leave and managing the business going forward. The aim is to keep continuity for customers without compromising on quality, whilst not putting too much pressure on myself to get back to work too quickly. Mostly, I’m hugely lucky to be working from home, to be able to be flexible, and that Ross is self-employed too.
Before that, though, there’s plenty happening! I’ve got a head choc-a-bloc full of ideas. I’m working on new drawings and designs to be launched later this month. I’m also taking part in a couple of events before I go off on maternity, one of which is the Borders Art Fair from the 15th – 17th of March in Kelso. It’s my first time taking part in this fab event.
I’m hoping I’ll stay healthy until the baby is due in April-time so that I can get lots of things ticked off the to-do list. This will be the first new baby on my side of the family since I was born. My sister & I have no cousins, and I’ve not had much exposure to babies so I’ve absolutely no clue how to look after a baby, but people keep telling me it’s instinctual. Fingers crossed! It’s impossible to imagine exactly what life will look like post-April so there’s not a lot of firm plans after that point. I’m excited about seeing the world through the eyes of a little person and how that might affect my drawing work and my product range.
I feel like a very lucky girl at the moment. I don’t want to take a single thing fore granted. Thank you for all your likes, comments, shares and purchases in 2018. Running this little enterprise is a dream come true, and it’s going to allow me to help support our little family.