Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A Day In The Life - Cat's Whiskers Cake Design

This is my 100th post! I cannot believe I have reached this milestone and more people everyday want to read what I write. Thank you to all of you who take a few minutes each day to read and comment on my posts.

As it's Tuesday it is time to share a day in the creative life of somebody and todays will make you hungry, so I appologise in advance!  Today Helen from Cat's Whiskers Cake Design is going to tell you a little bit about her company and how she spends her day.  Baking cakes for a living is alot different from baking a few cupcakes in my kitchen, as I learnt from reading Helen's post. It takes a lot of planning, creating and still fitting in time to market yourself. So now I will pass the pen (or rather the keyboard) to Helen to share a day in her life.

Hi, I’m Helen (thought I’d best introduce myself first!) and I run Cat’s Whiskers Cake Design. I spend my days mainly covered in icing sugar and edible glitter and I love it.

The business is run from my home in Ramsbottom (yes that is a real place!) which is on the edge of the Pennines, north of Bury in Lancashire. I work with my mum and we bake and decorate all sorts of cakes, cupcakes and biscuits in my kitchen and dining room. What started off as a hobby about six years ago has turned into a way of life through hard work, some good luck, lots of support and the odd twist of fate.

The business was set up in 2005 when I was on maternity leave with my eldest son. Orders built slowly and for a number of years I worked on cakes whilst doing first a part-time and then a full-time job in Finance. Then in September last year, while on maternity leave with my second son, I was made redundant during a restructure at the company where I worked. Taking my courage in both hands I decided it was a ‘now-or-never’ kind of moment and I now get to do what I love for a living. The business is building and we’re getting more and more orders and what’s even better is I’m around to do the school run.

So a day in my life revolves around both the business and my sons – a situation I’m sure that many people will recognize! And my days are very varied according to what orders we have and how busy we are. Generally we do all our baking on a Monday and Tuesday – most of our orders are for the end of the week. And then Wednesday is icing day! Mum moves round here for the day and we decorate the cakes together plus she’s a fantastic help with the boys leaving me hands free to finish what we need to. If we’re busy, icing-Wednesday spreads into Tuesday and Thursday as well, which is happening on a regular basis! We take inspiration from all sorts of places – and between us we suggest different things and try out different ideas. Sometimes it’s a case of making a cake and then leaving it and looking at it again the following day and that extra little something will occur to you. Admin and accounts are done on an ad hoc basis! Orders come in via phone or e-mail and we operate an online cupcake, biscuit and sugar flower shop. I have a very larger diary that has everything written down in it so I can catch up when I get chance.

This week has been a cake-free week, a rare occurrence I’m pleased to say! But I’ve been making wired sugar roses for a wedding cake and they’ll be going through the post and today I will be icing frog-shaped biscuits also for the post. We’ve had time to ice up some dummy wedding cakes for a wedding fair coming up in September and this morning I’ve had a lady come round to discuss plans for her parents’ diamond wedding anniversary celebrations – she liked my ideas and that is now a confirmed order for a main cake and also for miniatures for each of the guests. From next week things start to get hectic again as the diary is already filling up with orders. We have two wedding fairs this side of Christmas and then we’ll be running a stall at two of the Ramsbottom Christmas Markets this year too. We also get asked for a lot of last minute orders so a busy week can end up crazy as we try and help out whenever we can….maybe I’d best finish the ironing this week and sew name labels in the new school uniform!

Working from home gives me a great deal of flexibility so I can work late if I need to and also see customers outside of normal business hours. I try to keep early evening as family time and if I need to work later once the boys are asleep then I can. Some things, like sugar flowers, can be made in advance but most of our work is done within a few days of collection of the cake so it can be time pressured. We’re delighted that we have repeat customers though and I had one lady in tears because she loved her daughter’s christening cake so much! It’s fantastic to be part of a special celebration and to help create something unique.

I’m very lucky to get the chance to give my dream a shot – I couldn’t do it without the support of my husband (who puts up with endless ‘Does this look right?’ kind of questions!) and my parents….we had a stall at a local market earlier this year and we were so busy baking for the week beforehand that my Dad did endless icing sugar shopping trips! My sons love me being at home too so all in all things have worked out really well. Hopefully the business will keep building the way it has over the last twelve months and I’ll be leaving an icing sugar trail around my house for many years to come!

Thank you Helen. This is a great insight into the organisation required to run a cake business from home.  I'm now going to see if my children have left any cakes in the tin that we made yesterday!

Cat's Whiskers Cake Design


Don't forget you can share a day in your creative life, I'd love to hear from you.
Email me for more details

Monday, 30 August 2010

Advertising Giveaway

Wow it's the end of August, the end of the school summer holidays. Already the nights are getting darker earlier and it has been chilly here for the last few days, with thoughts of Autumn and walks through crisp crunchy leaves, wrapped up warm in scarf and coat.

It is also time to announce my monthly advertising giveaway.  This giveaway is open to all my blog followers and the three lucky winners will receive one months free advertising in the right sidebar of my Buttons & Bows blog.  I will also write an editorial about the winner, to be posted on a Monday throught their months advertising spot.

I will pick three winners on Saturday 4 September and their advert will run from Monday 6 September.  All winners are picked using a random number generator and will be advised on Saturday.


{Don't forget you can still purchase advertising for the reduced price of £10 for 3 months}
{Click here for details}

Saturday, 28 August 2010


I tweeted earlier that I had managed to create a Blog Shop. However I have since found a problem with the code that I am just trying to correct so that you can shop for ribbons whilst visiting my blog.

I hope to have this problem fixed this evening.
Thank you for your patience.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Fabric Friday - Bunting

I will appologise now for this quick Fabric Friday post, but life is busy here! With all this talk of Birthdays and as it's August Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK I thought I'd feature some gorgeous fabric bunting.


If you need a fabric designer fix, catch up on Tuesdays post in which Valori Wells shared a day in her studio.

We must also catch up with Katie to see how her studio is coming along!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Summer Birthdays

Today is my wonderful husbands birthday. He is the love of my life, best friend and my rock. Thankfully he is also incredibly laid back and puts up with my madcap ideas and continual indecisiveness!  However the celebrations do not end at midnight as our second son will turn eleven tomorrow, missing sharing his birthday with his daddy by fifteen minutes.  I cannot believe my energetic little bundle of curly hair is now almost as tall as me and starting High School next week.  He is still full of bounce but is also incredibly intelligent, creative and a fantastic sportsman, with the world at his feet and still believing that dreams do come true.

So in honour of my boys I am going in search of some fabulous birthday decorations and cards, care to join me, we'll stop for a nice cuppa tea and cake on the way.

As you can see there are some fantastic decorations and stationery to make your party extra special!

This is just the tip of the iceberg, Etsy has some fab stuff for parties and Folksy is catching up fast.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Selling in Multiple Marketplaces

As is life wasn't confusing enough, the internet has added to such confusion for artists, designers and makers when it comes to selling their wares.  The creation of Etsy, Folksy, Misi, etc are fabulous but also can create more computer time and less making or designing time. 

Last week I wrote my first post for the UK Handmade blog discussing the pros and cons of selling in multiple market places. Whilst it may seem beneficial to try and sell your work in many different venues these will all need promoting, which as you know is very time consuming.   So before opening a shop in every available outlet please read my post over at UK Handmade

Places to Sell Your Wares

There are so many, please share any more in the comments section.

Also take 10 minutes to read the great advice from UK Handmade in response to Mary Portas' advice.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

A Day in the Life - Valori Wells

For me wonderful designers are like celebrities and if I am honest I feel in awe or a little star struck when I meet or speak to one.  So when Valori Wells replied to my request for people to feature in my new Day in the Life feature I was very excited, having recently featured Valori in a Fabric Friday post.

fabric stash heaven!

Valori is an incredibly busy working mother, as you can find out now as she shares a day in her creative life.

day in my studio.....

My day usually starts with email. I get my computer time out of the way so that I can create. What I create depends on what deadline I have. Right now I am working on new fabric designs so I am at my drawing table.

Drawing Table
 these are some drawings in progress for new fabric.

My studio is above our garage in our house. It is pretty big and has wonderful high ceiling and lots of natural light. There is lots of space, although I can fill it up pretty quick. I have room for the whole family because I never want my kids to think of my studio or my work as something that takes me away from them. We think of it as another family room. These days I have to keep an eye out for the baby since he is crawling everywhere and taste testing EVERYTHING!!! I am sure he will eat some fabric at some point.

Mama Photo Wall
this is a bulletin board that is above my cutting table that I put lots of photos of the family, sketches, inspirational words....etc.

I have lots going on in the studio at one time....fabric designing, new fabric to make samples out of, painting (something I like to do for fun), knitting projects, sometimes silk screening, work from the store there are lots of projects in the works. My attention span is pretty short so I like to be able to work on what is inspiring me at the time. And when I get stuck on a project it is nice to have something else to work on. Like piecing a quilt - it can be just labor and then I can let my brain rest. In turn I usually figure out what I am stuck on and go back to it. Probably not the best use of my time but I have to be willing to stop and go with the kids around and life being as busy as it is. There are times when I have to work on store projects at home and it is nice to have more than one thing going.

Bird Box 
I have an obsession with boxes, containers....this one holds my birds (another obsession that I have), rocks that I like to draw on....other things that mean something to me. My girlfriend from college sent me the hand one day and she wrote on it “I am always here to lend a hand”.

Inspiration Wall
one of the walls in my studio with lots of ideas on for fabric, patterns, etc. sometimes just stuff that I like at the time.

Inspiration comes in so many forms...my kids inspire me. Their love for life and just being with them fuels my creativity. I take lots of photos - especially around my home and where we live. I look through magazines and love to go to galleries and look at other peoples art work.

My Red Chair
 My mom bought me this chair one year...my love!! I sit and knit there, read to the kids, just contemplate....

Painting in progress
I love to paint and this is a painting I have in progress for my girlfriend Carolyn..I do hope to get it done soon!

My stuffed friends...they are from patterns that I have done or just made them because. The kids love to get them out and play with them in the studio.

Thank you so much Valori for sharing a day in your life. I also have to have several projects on the go as I get bored easily, I just need to remember to make time to finish some of them soon!

Valori Wells

Monday, 23 August 2010

Advertiser Spotlight - Wellydog Designs

Today I would like to introduce you to another of the winners of my advertising giveaway

Wellydog Designs is named after the family dog, Wellington Boots, who sits at the designers feet whilst she creates gorgeous jewellery.

The designer behind Wellydog Designs graduated in Art as a mature student in 2001and then gained a PGCE in Post Compulsory Education the following year.

Intially designing jewellery with beads Wellydog Designs has extended their range with fabulous silver clay pieces, with plans to study silversmithing in the future.

You can find Wellydog Designs on Folksy and keep up to date on their blog.

Wellydog Designs

Friday, 20 August 2010

Fabric Friday - Amy Butler Wallpaper

I know that it is Friday and should really be Fabric Friday but something very exciting has happened, Amy Butler has launched her wallpaper range.  As you all know I am a huge Amy Butler fan, so this news is fantastic.

Amy Butler has collaborated with Graham & Brown to produce an ecologically responsible range of wallpaper that has been printed here in the UK.

Amy has designed her fabulous new wallpaper so that you can mix and match to create many combinations throughout your home.

In this new collection there are six colourways, Moss, Midnight, Sunset, Ocean, Field and Stone.  Within each colourway there are six designs, hence 36 fantastic new wallpaper designs.

All the designs are printed on responsibly sourced FSC base using water base inks.

So all I have to do now is persuade my wonderful husband that we need to decorate.  Maybe he will be persuaded by the fact that you can just put the paste on the wall and hang the paper dry!!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

What Katie Did Next....

When I announced my new feature 'A Day in the Life' one of Twitter friends, Katie of What Katie Did Next, said she would love to be involved but was in the process of putting together her studio after a reshuffle at home had freed up a bedroom.  As Katie would be blogging reguarly about her new creative space I suggested I link to her posts once a week so that we can see the process of a designer creating a studio. 

The story so far....read katies post here.

Also today my first post for the UK Handmade blog is live, read it here

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Power of Ning

Whilst most of us are aware of Twitter and Facebook there are other networking tools available free of charge and from the comfort of our desks.  Earlier this year I discovered the UK Handmade ning network, which is  a great website for UK based artists, designers and makers.  A few weeks later I discovered British Mummy Bloggers ning network and signed up in hope of promoting my blog and gaining more readers, which  I did!  But what is a ning network?

Ning is a website that you can create your own social network around a central theme, so BMB is a network for mummy (and daddy) bloggers.  On the Ning website you can also search for other networks to connect with that relate to your business or your interests.  I have also discovered other ning networks through other blogs, as many display badges for the networks they are a part of.

On the BMB and UK Handmade networks you have your own page to display links to your shops, blogs, websites and can link to your twitter account. There are also groups you can join and forums to ask questions. The greatest thing about a Ning network is that you are all working towards  a similar goal so the support is great.

Go on, join in and enjoy the power of ning!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A Day in the Life - Nicola Rowlands

Last Tuesday I introduced a new idea for this blog so that you have the chance to share a day in your life and for us all to learn a little more about the creative lives of other artists, designers and makers. I have had a great response and have some fantastic posts coming up over the next few weeks.

The first person to respond was artist and designer Nicola Rowlands.  Here are her answers to my questions-

When does your creative day begin?

Although I try my very best to seperate my work from my real life (ie I switch my computer off when my boyfriend gets back from work) I am nonstop looking at signs/the colours on the seat of the bus/peoples moustaches/writing down song lyrics on my hand/creating pdfs whilst sleeping...so in my mind, there is no beginning or end but in reality I get up around 6:30, shower, put my makeup on and that’s when my day starts.

Where do you create?

I sit at my desk to gather all of the research for a project, I sit on the bus to think a project through, the logistics of print/the reality of a project is discussed over a chicken shashlik at the Gurkha Grill with my longtime suffering other half, drawing is done in my living room accompanied by TV and tea and the finished product is usually picked up from a printers somewhere!

What do you create?

 Illustrations, greeting cards, designs for fabric, wedding invites, prints, stickers, mirrors, tea towels,  t shirts, logos...

Do you design/make/create full time, part time or as a hobby?

I’m self-employed...so it’s full time...and I mean full time!

If Full time, do you structure your day to include design time, making, admin and promotion or is it dependable on work load/orders?

I live by the power of The List. If the list says ‘think of 5 ideas for so and so brief,’ I get the bus to town and listen to my music and go through the project in my head.... and usually get to cross off ‘Post orders to so and so’ and ‘deposit cheque at bank’ off the list while I’m at it. So yes, I make sure that every aspect of a project is written on the list so that I can make time for each part and also get the deliciously satisfying enjoyment of crossing things off the list when they’re done.

If Part Time, is this an addition to another part time job or even a full time job?

I also run workshops at the BBC and freelance as a project manager at a web design studio... I love the variety but there is always a voice in the back of my head saying ‘you should get a real job...’

Where do you find inspiration for new ideas/designs?

It’s usually my constant desire to be better that inspires me to create new things... When I finish one project I’ve usually figured something new out or created a certain aesthetic that gives me an idea for my next project...if that makes sense?

Thanks Nicola. I am sure many of us can relate to working 'full' time when we're self empoyed!

Nicola Rowlands

Please email me if you would like to share a day in your creative life.
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