Monday, 23 September 2013


Monady Maker... making things

While we are waiting for some of our makers to fill out the questionnaire for our Monday Maker series (it's a busy time of year for us makers as we are preparing for Christmas; we need lots of time to make enough stock for Christmas), I'm going to take this chance to indulge myself in my favourite pieces we've featured so far.

Beetroot Press – Squirrel Print

While we are 'barmy about bunnies' here at u-ni-k I've chosen the Beetroot Press squirrel over the rabbit because of it's soft facial expression. I love the intricate detail of it's bushy tail, and the way it is cuddling rather than clutching the acorn. The posture, facial expression & extra large cheeks of this print give me a feeling of calm, warmth & protection. Perfect sentiments for a child's bedroom; which is why the squirrel print Anna's Naughties gave DangerMouse is proudly up in her room!







U-ni-k Anna – Bunny box

So rabbit's were going to feature on this list somewhere...and these lovely decoupage rabbits hold both the flighty nature of wild rabbits with the mischievous curiosity of Beatrix Potter's famous naughty rabbit Peter! A memory box is a lovely idea for keeping treasures, items that spark memories of days gone by, happy moments brought back to life by a token of the time.



Shuktara – Blues baby blanket

It's very hard to put this blanket up for sale on the website (http://www.unikgifts.co.uk) but both Anna & I agree that we can't buy all our stock. You'll often find us typing / saying 'must not buy the stock, not must buy the stock' when unpacking for a craft fayre or handmade market. DangerMouse has a wonderful red blanket already, and while her bedroom colours are blues I can't justify a second blanket just because I love the colours....or can I?





U-ni-k Sarah – Bert Bunny

While I love all my softies, my latest addition Bert is becoming my favourite. There's something about this bunny that makes me smile. Come and find me in person at one of our u-ni-k handmade markets for me to tell you his story (all the softies have back stories!). Bert's is for your ears only...chuckle chuckle.








Lucy Litchfield - Lavender Mice

These mice are so sweet & deliciously handmade. The choice of corresponding fabrics is amazing & all carefully selected by Lucy herself. I love the fact that these are upcycled from materials that have already had a life (like our Shuktara blankets). The gentle smell of lavender is calming & perfect for calming even the most ardent bedtime avoider (which is why most baby bath washes & bubbles use lavender).









All of these items are available at www.unikgifts.co.uk 

(If you'd like any for Christmas please make sure you order in good time to avoid disappointment)

Friday, 20 September 2013

Friday funny...Overdramatic Children


I found this on BloomingTots  facebook page last week. 
This lady makes me laugh pretty much every day with her funny picture posts.

I saw this and thought of my big naughty....


Saturday, 14 September 2013

A passion for reading...

www.unikgifts.co.uk not only has lovely toys & nursery pieces, it also features books. This is because Anna & I LOVE books & as keen readers we are hoping to pass this on to our little ones!

As an IT geek many of my friends & family are flabbergasted that I don't own an electronic device for my passion (not mentioning any names or trademarks here but I think you know). Surely the lady who owns a smart phone, a pro laptop & provides IT support for her family, her in-law family, her neighbours (the more elderly one) & who taught herself HTML & PHP while up with an awake crying baby would JUMP at the chance to pick up the next evolution of books? Surely she would? No???

No. And I don't believe those electronic devices are the next evolutionary step for books either, but that's a WHOLE other blog so I shall not digress.

There's a lot to be said for books that the electronic devices don't have. For starters there's the illustrations - our very own Victoria Plum drawings are the originals from one of the books about her. These illustrations make the story come alive for those that struggle to read the words. My little one will often guess what's happening next in the story because there's a delicate illustration there to show her. Some of the really old, beyond rescuing story books, have illustrations that can be framed as a lovely momento of a well loved story.










The smell of the book. Who hasn't walked into a large
old library & just stood there breathing in the smell of ancient leather bound books & knowledge? There's a magical muster that comes with a book, as if the writer & publisher added the sense of excitement & wonder that produces this magical scent. If you don't believe me then watch Disney's Beauty & The Beast - Belle knows she's in a library even before she opens her eyes (look who she breathes in the smell!).

The feel of a book. Pages are fabulous & it's a joy to turn them. Hence the phrase... it's a real page turner (this is now sadly used to describe films more than books). There's no way to describe the satisfaction of holding a book in your hand, turning the pages & coming to that point where you have read so much of the book that it sits comfortably in your hand & gives you a sense of accomplishment at how far you and the characters of the book have come. Also a twinge of sadness as you can feel there's only a shorter volume of time you'll spend together in the rest of this adventure.

So encourage your child to read, not with electronic devices (they have enough time with them for playing & watching things), but with books. Real books. Choose one of our delightful stories to help them on their way.

You never know, they like Belle could be starting a really big adventure in the world of reading!
Pop over to http://www.unikgifts.co.uk/products/artwork_peaspeavintagebooks.php and see which story adventure you'd like to take with your little one.

Teacup Tuesday... new projects

Anna's a few steps ahead of me with her new project. It's simple, beautiful and unique. She's the arty one and making beautiful things comes naturally to her. I'm more logical, IT, nerdy... and while I love to paint, draw and craft like the next person inspiration doesn't come to me naturally.

This is because my projects need to fulfil a purpose, my crafting usually comes from finding that I can't purchase the exact type of thing I am looking for! My frustration leads me to trying things out, making a mess until I have a product I am happy with.

Currently I have 2 projects in 'design' or 'doodle' phase, both of which are born out of necessity!

Motor Skills
Watching my little one try to throw a ball in our garden caused me much humour this Summer. In variably it went behind her, and in showing her what to do throwing became a ballet move rather than something that helped her with her hand eye co-ordination. Which proved even more hilarious than the original attempts to throw. So I bought her a small bucket (to concentrate throwing something into) and tried to find some balls small enough for her to hold properly... so that we could practice throwing something into the bucket.

Small balls, malleable enough for her toddler hands? Impossible. So I made some throwing bags:


These worked really well until she dunked them in the water tub bucket. Red lentil filling went musty and I had to throw them out.

So work in progress but I think the benefits of toddler throwing game eye co-ordination, beginning of being interested in sport, helping to understand accuracy between action and seeing - writing, concentration, and enjoyment of team activities (everyone can have one bag to throw, two teams etc) means that I'll probably take this on to a second phase once I have worked out a filling that suits me. Then it's on to shapes, characters, material, suitable alternative to the bucket (perhaps with a backboard to stop any wild accidents should this be played indoors)...Hmmmmmmm Work In Progress Indeed.

Mushrooms
I'm a big fan of fungi, it's fascinating stuff. The UK used to lead the world in fungal research but it's fallen out of favour in the past few decades. Which is sad, because there's so much and so many types of these plants that we really just don't know enough about. Mushrooms come in interesting organic shapes, very useful interesting organic shapes.
I'd love to make a mushroom shaped play box; it could double up as a stool when not being used as a play box. You could have several colour designs - chestnut mushrooms for a neutral decor playroom / child's bedroom, a toadstall colour, a natural wood colour....
While I don't have the wood carving skills to make this myself, I still see something that could be beautiful and practical at the same time.

I may try and sketch my design for a talented woodmaker I know. ;o)






Monday Maker... Wouldn't it be lovely

I'm currently on the hunt for us Mummies. I really want to start a Mummy section of the website, and while I have some lovely Shuktara blankets for us - I don't really want to put up a section where they are there... all by themselves!

So I'm looking for jewellery makers, scarf makers, dress makers, shoe makers, hat makers, soap & beauty lotion makers... Any makers that would fit in with our lovely website but for Mummies instead of children!

I've found some makers I'd love to work with, but although I like their stuff... I need to know if you like their stuff as well!

Scarves & Throws - Laura's Loom:

www.laurasloom.co.uk
Laura works in the Yorkshire Dales, weaving in a former spinning & weaving mill that's been converted into a vibrant Arts & Heritage centre.

She uses natural materials and is inspired by the colours she sees around her.

I've not been up to see the mill or her work but I LOVED going through her website, looking at her products.

I've already mentally purchased one of her throws for my guest bedroom... Go and see for yourself:








Beauty products - The Littlecote Soap Co
www.littlecotesoap.co.uk

There's so many handmade, UK based beauty product makers out there, I'm finding it hard to choose just one. Although I love the idea of bathing in G&T...

Seems I'm not alone as the Littlecote Soap Co has a whole range devoted to my favourite tipple (well not my favourite tipple perhaps second favourite tipple after vintage champagne but I don't get to drink that very often!)



Jewellery
http://www.alanpfulton.com/

Diamonds are a girl's best friend! I'm not one for wearing much jewellery but even I stop to look at diamond earings & eternity rings. I'm a complete sucker for champagne diamonds (not very common at all but I love their subtle colours... google them and look at the images!). However, this jeweller in Glasgow has caught my eye with his wonderful take on all things sparkly. Wouldn't it be lovely to own one of his creations...


Bedding

www.thewhitecompany.com
OK OK so not everyone's first thought of call when thinking of gifts for Mummies but stay with me on this one...what Mum doesn't like to sink into a freshly made bed? Now add to that feeling the luxury of 800tc (tc = thread count) cool crisp clean cotton? Bedding is one of my must have luxury items, of which there are not many as luxury isn't something us Mum's have a lot of, I love a freshly made bed. I really struggle to find UK bedding makers. Especially ones that deal in 800 thread count (If you want to know why thread count is important email me!). But The White Company does bedding sets in a wonderful white in a 800tc... if only there were a small maker.




Homewares

www.ifranks.com/
I love photo frames, especially vintage or preloved photoframes. There's something about a mixture of frames providing a gallery feel to your treasured family moments. It's not only photos that can be framed but 'treasures' gathered by your little ones (I've framed the beach 'treasures' DangerMouse has collected and brought to show me over the years they're proudly framed & mounted in the family bathroom for all to see). So providing a source of beautiful frames & other luxury housewares would be another gift category for us to have.

Other homewares could include jewellery boxes, soft furnishings, bookends... you name it we could stock it!


What happens next...

Well I'm going to finalise my list of makers that I'd like us to work with and organise a sit down chat with Anna. No doubt Anna will have a list of fabulous makers that she wants to work with as well. Will sit down and chat over a cuppa & discuss who we both love and try to convince each other who's makers are the best to approach (we sometimes differ when the crafts people we've found make the same type of products!).

Once we've whittled down the list we'll approach the makers with the idea of joining the u-ni-k website. Some will, some wont. But rest assured we'll be working behind the scenes to bring you the best in handmade unique Mummies gifts!

















Wordless Wednesday


Oooh who wants a dippy egg?

www.unikgifts.co.uk

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A special friend

I am busy with a few lovely bespoke orders for special memory boxes at the moment. 
So not to leave you in the lurge today in the world of blogging, I thought I  would share with you a box I made for a ladies Birthday- depicting her late doggy Max, A Welsh Springer Spaniel.

Not something we will add to the u-ni-k gifts website as it's not very baby-Esq.  But a very good example to show you how individual and personal we can make our gifts.

Thrilled that it bought happy tears to the eyes of the new owner.


Monday, 9 September 2013

Teacup tuesday....Our customers

We love our customers, we especially love knowing and seeing that what we choose to feature on the u-ni-k gifts website is loved and cherished, just like we hoped it would be.

This weekend I was sent a very beautiful picture of a little girl in one of our Antique linen apron dresses bought for her Birthday as well as being told that one of the Memory boxes I made personally for a special ladies birthday, actually bought tears to the Birthday girls eyes. Something very lovely to hear when you have spent time and care carefully trying to make something precious and lovely.

Henry's gorgeous Easter pressie is here! 
Thank you Anna And Sarah at unikgifts
Henry loves it!! 
Fantastic site for children's gifts!!!!
Dinner on our elephant meal boards

























With that in mind I thought I would share some of the lovely pictures and messages sent to us from our clients who have enjoyed giving our gifts to very happy recipients.


A beautiful Birthday Antique Linen dress
A new born wrapped in her new cotton Shuktara blanket




Lucky Samson with a blanket & wooden car
Beautiful Winifred and her flowers
Handsome boys and their flying machines
Sleeping James in his Shuktara blanket.

                   
Party frocks and Cashmere at Christmas
A beautiful blanket in Brighton
A sleepy sausage with her floral Shuktara
Cuppa and cashmere
Happy customers & happy gift receivers.

Monday Maker: Packaging & all the frilly finishing touches


This is the last in our Monday Making series of blogs.  If you have missed the other parts, click here to follow our blogs on making a product to sell over the past month.



And now for Part 4- Packaging & all the frilly bits.
Ok, your product is fabulous and you have made a sale. 
Congratulations. But that isn’t where your job ends.


Service

I am BIG on service. The service you give is a reflection of your business. So if you have a face book or twitter site representing your business make sure you stay entirely professional.
Always ensure you communicate with your customer.
Acknowledge the order with a confirmation- in whatever way you choose to communicate with your clients. If you offer a “made to order” service and it takes ten days to make it, explain that in an email. Ensuring the client understand that the goods are made by one pair of hands with love and care.   If you need a little more time to make it, be honest and explain. Normally if they have chosen your product for the reason that it is a special unique and one off treasure, they will wait a little longer.

If you sell bought in products and you happen to be out of stock, explain the problem, offer a fabulous alternative and a refund if necessary. If the goods are delivered later than anticipated,  ensure  that you apologise, keep the client in the loop and as a gesture of good will, send something lovely to apologise like a gift voucher token.
Inform the client when it has been posted with a tracking number. 
Always be open in your communication.
A good service is normally a good foundation for a repeat sale.



If you offer matching sets to accompany the product the buyer has bought, make sure you send a little picture or mention the matching items. 
No big sales talk. An image talks 1000 words!

U-ni-k's porcelain matching egg cup, cereal bowl and cup sets

Packaging
Something alot of small business forget. But the packaging can be just as important as the bought product.  I know of people who have bought something purely because of the way it was gift wrapped!!

Aesthetics- Make sure your packaging reflects your little companies ethos.
We have chosen Furoshiki for many reasons. Our gifts are for infants so we wanted to replicate a swaddle cloth & a comforter.  Something without sharp edges, dangerous staples or messy wrappings.
We believe in being ec-friendly and making minimum wastage therefore we designed our packaging to have a double use. Not only is it a protective wrapping, it also duplicates as a burp cloth. A perfect free gift without giving a gift.
Don’t cut corners. If your ethos is to be eco-friendly recycling old packaging is fine if you stipulate you do so, so that people aren’t surprised. But be prepared to cost your packaging and include it in the cost of your products if it is something you do for free.
Function- If you are selling something breakable ensure your goods are well wrapped with a wrapping that will protect your goods in the post. You don't want your best efforts to go to waste and have to re-make it again.
Gift wrap- don’t feel you have to gift wrap your products. Offering the service for a additional price is ok.  If you do gift wrap make sure the gift is wonderful and gives the “WOW” factor. I believe that a beautifully wrapped gift present should make the recipient smile as much as the gift. A simple beautiful tissue with a customised sticker is lovely as a standard packaging. Beetroot Press uses a very pretty sweet floral tissue and a lovely string.
Mess & Outer Packaging- I recently opened a package full of broken Styrofoam sheets. A BIG mess over my floor. It looked un-professional, made a mess and quite honestly looked awful. Something i would avoid doing when packaging a product. Keep it simple, Mess free and if possible similar to the beautiful outside packaging. We use brown paper and string to outside wrap our parcels. 
Lucy from LucyLitchfield uses a beautiful brown gusseted envelope that she stamps with her logo in the shape of a brown parcel label and stitches through the envelope in red to replicate the string on the tag.


Fabrics & Material- Use something original that will be a signature of your business. Everyone remembers when Body shop started selling in their gift in fabric bags. Everyone wanted one. The bags at that time became more popular than the products. And with "Body SHOP" on the bags- helped spread the word.
Useful information-
Make sure the wrappings have your company name on and a way to contact you. If the product has been bought as a gift, the recipient may want to know where to find you. This can be done in the form of a swing tag or  a "hello"postcard. 
I love the combination of swings tags and postcards that Beetroot Press use. 


After care
We always send a  "your gift is dispatched" email to the client as the gift leaves us.  That way the client knows when to expect it. Always ensure any track able delivery has been received by following the delivery on the Couriers website. That way you know if there is a problem before the client does.


Marketing
If the client has agreed to allow you to keep their details in the form of a client list, use the Marketing & Promotion blog from last week to keep in touch with your client.
Click here to read it.



Survey Monkey
Survey Monkey is a good tool to follow up your sale and gain feedback.  A perfect tool to gain constructive criticism and positive feedback.
We have a section on our website for Client feedback and an album on facebook of "We use our products so we can recommend them to you" so people can see our gifts in action. We also always share images of other people enjoying their new gifts on our social networking sites.



We hope you have liked reading our helping hints into taking the jump and delving into being Crafty.
The MOST important piece of advice I can give is to enjoy what you are making.
If you are smiling so will your product.
 And be Original

Happy Crafting


From the u-ni-k gift ladies, Anna & Sarah

Friday, 6 September 2013

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Looking for inspiration...

Did you know that we are also on Pinterest? We joined when we started noticing people pinning our pictures on to their 'For baby...' or 'Love this!' boards.

Ever since we've become a little addicted. We find it a great place for inspiration, in fact we even have a board dedicated to inspiration!

Here Anna & I collect images, places, people and artwork that inspires us! We search the web on a regular basis looking for that extra special something to add to our u-ni-k family, and sometimes we find something that we can't add to our family (it's owned by someone else for instance) so we 'pin it' to our board


 This painting by Goro Fujita is wonderful, it inspires me to think out of the box. Who says little girls are afraid of monsters that live under the bed? This little girl certainly isn't and they're teaming up to read after lights out... a match made in heaven. I love this picture, the more I look at it the more I notice and the more I love it.


 This picture is from an unknown source (which makes me a little sad as I'd like to be able to credit the photographer or owner of these lovely animals). It inspires me to treat all little creatures with kindness, sometimes we forget how much taller we are than those smaller ones around us. Without a little tenderness we could be imposing, so this picture inspires me to try to be a little less imposing to smaller people.

This picture is my idea of heaven, books, peace, quiet, comfort, writing desk, surrounded by warm, worn wood.
Just wonderful.


















We have these pins and many more over at our Pinterest site. Why now come over and check out some of the things we have found? Follow us for Inspiration or Mummy humour!

http://pinterest.com/unikgiftsllp/

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Teacup tuesday...Tinsel, tree and turkey

Christmas is a coming.... a time for us gift companies to think about contacting the press and telling them how special our gifts are with a hope that they will feel the same way.

We've struggled through this summer heat to think of Christmas wrappings, Brussels sprouts, crackers, tinsel, trees and turkey.

But Sarah has perfectly put this together to send to our friendly press friends....

Click here to see it in full- Christmas at u-ni-k gifts



        














Are you thinking of Christmas yet???

unikgifts.co.uk



Monday, 2 September 2013

Monday Maker- Marketing & promotion


It’s week three of our making blogs. Our top tips to making a product to sell.
We have looked at inspirations, making a product, selling methods & websites alongside photographing your pieces. Now we look at marketing your products and promoting them to increase a sales.

Marketing & Promotion means what can you do to help sell your product? 
There are endless ways and means to do this. There are many paid marketing websites out there but here I recommend all those that are free. If you are starting out, counting the pennies is important.

If we assume you are selling your wares on our own website or a  selling site like Etsy or Folksy, 
How do I encourage people to come and see my wares on the sites and places I am selling them?? 
How do I get word out that I am selling something lovely?

Word of mouth
Firstly this is probably the best form of promotion. Hard I know to do for a maker. 
Not many people like to tell the world they have made the best thing since sliced bread. There are easy ways to do this in a hidden way.
The about.me website is a site where you can make a little home page about yourself, who you are, what you do with an image to support your page. Like a little C.V. You can add links to your website, facebook, twitter and Linkedin pages if you have one. As well as a touch button for people to directly email you.
Have simple business cards made and have them in your pocket always with photos of what you make.  There are many reasonable sites doing cheap deals. Look at Vista print and moo.com. 
Moo.com often run free cards through the about.me website.
You never know when you may get chatting to someone who likes what you do, and would like to contact you at a later date. My Mum and sisters are great advocates of my work and have talked about what I do so much so I have had sales through their friends. 
Word of mouth doesn't just mean your own words. 

Put up flyer's
Putting up flyer's in local places your clients may be. For u-ni-k this is easy. New Mums and Dads regularly go to coffee shops. As do Grannies and Grandads, Aunts and Uncles etc etc. 
The charity N CT generally tend to do seasonal second hand sales. At these they give away flyer bags promoting local businesses. . At a small charge you can have your flyer's added to these bags. 
If your company is child friendly like ours, put flyer's up in local sure start centres , drop flyer's at nurseries if they allow and ask schools if your flyer's can be added to book bags. 
Make your flyer's informative, simple to read and aesthetic. 



“Best of” sites
If your local area has a “best of” site add your little company to it. Now days many people are looking to help independents and will always try and “shoplocal” and support small & micro businesses rather than put money into large corporate rich companies.

Social Media
-Facebook. Look at setting up a company page on Facebook, Upload good quality photos into albums that show your pieces off to the best you can. Simple is always best. In the “about you” section write some simple words to explain a little about you and what your product is. If you have multiple products talk about the “ethos” of your product. Have a way that clients can contact you by phone, contact form or email. Add status updates frequently that are friendly and informative and complement other small companies. Normally that will encourage many to look at your page and “like” it.



-Instagram. Although u-ni-k doesn’t use this to the best of our ability I know companies that use Instagram to promote and run competitions on instagram. A photo speaks 1000 words!
-Twitter- a simple way to “follow” like minded businesses. To chat, liaise and # with key words that showcase or “class” your product to get new followers who may spread the word or be potential clients. Words like “handmade” “gift” “baby” etc are good for a u-ni-k gifts. Through networking on twitter we have managed to get u-ni-k included into Joanne Dewberry's newly published book & won an WOW award from Jacqueline Gold.











Linked in is great too. Look at setting up a business page to support your little company and link it to yourself. Ensure you make is appealing with regular updates to make people come and look. Old colleagues love to be nosey at what you are doing.

Grow your clients list
When you have a sale, ask permission and keep the clients  contact information. It will come in handy with marketing tools like Mail chimp. (See below)


Crafting sites
Ukhandmade is my favourite. 
It’s a place to share your thoughts by suggesting your written blogs to be used on their site. A place to look for local craft markets to participate in. You can ask for your company website to be listed. They are frequently looking for companies that have products suitable for a certain editorial planned to be included. So keep your eyes and ears pealed. They even have seasonal showcase walls where makers selected images shown for a  set time for a small charge.

Craft Markets
UKhandmade has a written article on this that explains all! 
An very important and interesting read. Click here

Networking
I am part of three local networking groups. A place for like minded businesses to welcome new people and their companies, promote your own and ask for help. A place to find a local printer, source a perfect ingredient, share a promotion and find like minded friends. I have found once you use regularly, by helping and sharing other businesses, people then recommend you too. 
Share the love and people will love back.

Mail chimp
This is a fabulous free tool that I think every company should use. Mail chimp provides a news letter type tool. You can maintain, add, edit your mailing list too. You can design a newsletter to send with news on new products, seasonal suggestions, offers and sales etc with links to your website. Mail chimp kindly accesses the “opens” and use of links on the newsletter and cleanses your client list for you. A perfect tool in my mind.

Blogs
If you have a lot to say (Sarah & I do) write about it. Get a little following, link it on your website too so it's constantly new and spreading the word.

Go right to the point
Do a little homework. Find the magazines and newspapers that you feel your clients read. Make a list of those who write the articles and do the photo shoots you think your items would sit perfectly with. Write a press release explaining why your product is special and send it directly to the people who write the articles. We have been successful with this many times. Our products have been included in ST kids (The Telegraph) and Selvedge magazine, The Telegraph Christmas gift guide to name a few.

u-ni-k baby blankets featured in Selvedge





Paper animals- Casa Facile
Generally-

-Always have in mind who you aim to sell your product to. Don't put up flyer's for a product directed at the elderly in a Sure start centre!
-Be friendly and open and always remember you are representing your product.
-Always use edited and simple text.
-Always use a simple, naturally lighted, beautiful image that shows the product off to it's best ability. 
-In our opinion, word of mouth is the best way to promote your wares if done correctly.