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  • Writer's pictureBarMade Bags

Looking back over 2023

The first thing to note about 2023 was that I've been hopeless at writing blogs, but apart from that, it's been an interesting year for BarMadeBags and one that has given me lots to reflect on as I decide on the way forward.

At the beginning of 2020, I set out with the intention of making to order rather than creating bags and other items in the hope that they would sell. That year I had a big bespoke order that kept me going throughout the months of lockdown and many of my other online sales were for personalised or made-to-order bags, so I was managing to achieve my goal. The next year I succeeded in reducing some of my stock of ready-made bags as well as making to order in many instances but income was down and was even lower in 2022. At that point my sewing mojo was also reduced and I wrote about the reasons for that in a blog last year.

So that brings us round to 2023, the year that is just coming to an end and one that has seen an increase in sales, both made-to-order and readymade. Significantly, this upturn both in my mojo and my sales has been the result of joining The Derbyshire Makers.

Back in the spring, I went along to a craft market at The Peak Village in Rowsley, which was put on by TDM - The Derbyshire Makers and got chatting to Jyoti of Crafty Glass Studio whose lovely glass creations I had seen online. She recommended joining the organisation and that prompted my to introduce myself to Sharon O'Connell, the driving force behind TDM, and subsequently to joining.

During July and August, TDM had a pop-up shop at Peak Village at which members could opt to have their products for sale for 2, 4 or 8 week periods, so I decided to sign up for the last two weeks in July.

It was wonderful to see my stock beautifully displayed by Sharon alongside arts and crafts from many other local makers, and I enjoyed the two days that I spent working in the shop. I had made some extra items specially for the shop but mainly those that sold were ones that were already in stock but hadn't found the right person who wanted to own them.

Being able to both see and handle a bag, is definitely helpful in deciding whether to purchase one and I know that the new owner of one of the bags that was sold, wouldn't have seen them online.

Immediately after this, I had booked to do a craft fair at Tapton Hall in Sheffield - the first craft fair of the year and one that was poorly attended but nonetheless resulted in reasonable sales.

In December I took part in the TDM Christmas market at Peak Village Rowsley, a two day event that was somewhat hindered by snow on the second day but one that was good to be part of. I'd made more stock specifically with this market in mind, and afterwards resolved to get back to the intention of limiting what I make speculatively!

In person events are always a bit of a gamble as to whether they will be a worthwhile use of time and financial outlay, but I am increasingly convinced that meeting potential customers is helpful and I will be looking out for more opportunities and locations at which to display my products.

Meanwhile, online sales of patchwork made-to-order bags from my Etsy shop have increased, helped by some returning customers which is always extra encouraging. On Etsy, more sales of a particular item lead to those products being more visible amongst the many others available from shop owners worldwide. So although my made-to-order items show up more, my one-off, readymade items were getting no views and relied entirely on my own promotion of them through social media. As a result, I've reduced the range of items on Etsy and instead opened a Buy Indie shop called BarMadeCreations.

Buy Indie is an online selling platform for UK artists and makers. It has only been going for about a year but is an offshoot of The British Craft House which is becoming increasingly renowned . At the moment, my shop on there has many of the readymade items previously on Etsy along with some new more-recently made items and I am adding more stock all the time. I have yet to decided whether this move to a different platform will turn out to be worthwhile, but I would love you to take a look!

The change of name from BarMadeBags to BarMadeCreations is to reflect my growing interest in producing textile collages with the intention of adding wall art to my portfolio. This year I have already made one bespoke piece based on my client's photograph and you can find out more about this in my blog "The processes involved in my textile art pictures".

And for many months, I have been creating a new piece which I am calling "Crooked Spire at Night" which is based on a photo that I took of the iconic church in Chesterfield back in February. It is a slow process: one that is not commercially viable but one that I am enjoying. I have no idea what I will do with the finished piece - whether I will find a market for it or keep it myself - but I am learning a lot through its creation.

Smaller pieces or textile art included as a panel on bags are also possibilities for the future, as well as prints from my textile art creations.

I definitely feel enthused to continue creative pursuits as I get ready to welcome the New Year.  In the meantime, I'd like to thank you for reading this and to wish you all the best for 2024.

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