Trader Blog #1 – Belle Amelie

For the next few weeks, every Sunday we will be handing this blog over to the CAMhub traders for them to introduce themselves and their work.  Each week you’ll find out a bit more about how the individual businesses started, what inspires the makers or collectors and (most importantly), what things they sell.

For this first edition, we’d like to hand you over to one of our handmade baby and kids clothing traders, the wonderful Belle Amelie:

Hi, I’m Caroline, I am the owner/designer/maker/general dogsbody behind Belle Amélie.

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I started off just making clothes and hats etc for my own kids – I then started selling at farmers markets in my spare time and it’s gone from there, the range growing organically as I add new stuff – I design and make all the clothes myself so I have to do it around my ‘other’ job as a mum to three children. I am very inspired by retro style clothes and Scandi prints as it’s what I dress my own kids in.

I try to keep my clothes as gender neutral as possible, so I don’t have it split into ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ clothes- they are just kids clothes at the end of the day- who decided boys can’t wear pink or purple? And who decided rabbits and kittens are girls animals and foxes and bears are for boys?

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I used to get so frustrated buying stuff for my two girls and having to buy stuff from the boys section just because I wanted something like a plain yellow pair of wellies or a fox hat.

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Lots of the clothes are named with a nod to who they were originally made for- for example, my ‘Luke And Laura’ dungarees are based on a pair of dungas I hastily knocked up the night before my brother in law (Luke)’s wedding to a lovely lady called Laura, as I decided my youngest son Teddy needed a new outfit.

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I used to work on the dining room table but now I work outside in a little shed at the bottom of the garden (I grandly call it ‘the Studio’ which my family have banished me and my hoard of fabric to – it’s actually the best move I’ve made as it allows me the space to be creative and I can leave piles of half made garments out without them getting in the way of family life. I’ve got a purpose built cutting table and work surfaces in there, as well as proper electric sockets and a heater – it’s all nicely insulated so I feel very cosy in there even when it’s sub zero outside!

Loving my Nemesis

”Hello, my name is Alice and I hate Facebook and Twitter and all that social media stuff”.

Up until very recently, this was how I usually introduced myself to new people.  Or at least within the first five minutes  I would find a way to mention my dislike for all things social media.  I only reluctantly joined Facebook 3 years ago when I became self employed and I always saw it as a bit of an addictive annoyance. Sometimes I had to just ignore it completely for weeks on end just to maintain my sanity.  Twitter and Instagram followed soon after and suddenly I was part of a world that I had blissfully resisted for years.

I could go on about the things that annoy me about social media, but I won’t.  I have done that enough.  And anyway, I think I’ve had a bit of an awakening.

I know its obvious to anyone who doesn’t class themselves as a wannabe Luddite, but its taken me all this time to properly realise that social media is not the enemy, and can if fact be a very useful, if not essential, advertising tool.

This realisation had already started to reveal itself when I was pointed in the direction of a great little blog which gave me much clarity on the whole subject.  It relates brilliantly to our shop and it gave me the drive to keep pushing on with maintaining our social media for the CAMhub.  http://www.onmysideoftheroom.com/getting-started/how-to-support-small-businesses-without-buying-a-thing/

So, I am pleased to say that there will now be a much more consistent social media presence, especially as we are now clearly seeing the effect it is having (barely a day goes by without a customer telling us they have seen an item on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram when buying it).  We see doing it now simply as part of our normal daily routine, rather than a bothersome chore.  And really, since I am getting to take photos of beautiful things and share them with people, it’s really not much of a hardship after all.  Definitely better than gutting fish, as my old college tutor used to say.

Two bits of exciting news – now that I am a fully paid up member of the techie revolution, I am now proud to announce that we have a shiny new website.  Thanks to the computer wizardry of Mark Wallis Design for giving up so much of his time to create this thing of beauty.  We’ll keep it updated with new photos so keep checking back – http://www.chorltonartmarket.com.

Also, from next week I’ll be handing this blog over to the CAMhub traders so they can tell you about themselves and their work.  Keep an eye out each week to find out what inspires and motivates our artists and vintage traders, and what pitfalls they have come across and the lessons they have learned.  We’ve got such a fantastic variety of collections in the shop so it’s going to be really fun to learn more about it all.

 

 

 

We got through it!

These last few months have been wonderfully manic.  It is only now that I am able to reflect on all that has happened and take stock of the present.IMG_20160202_175835360

Running a shop is a lot of work.  Running a shop that involves over 60 other people requires a lot of time and effort.  Running any shop at Christmas is hard work.  Having a baby at the end of November made being able to cope with all this seem virtually impossible.  I admit to having one 5 minute breakdown the day after I had my baby, sobbing uncontrollably in my hospital bed as I wondered how on earth I was going to cope with a new baby right at the beginning of the busiest 4 weeks of the year.  I knew I had traders takings to pay a few days after and I knew how much some people relied on that money.  I couldn’t let my standards slip, despite the agony I was in during that first week.  I am not proud of the fact, but I had to actually shout at a doctor to discharge me.

We got through it, Jay and I, with a lot of help from some of our fantastic traders.  We managed to keep the shop pretty much open as normal and I was able to start working in the shop a bit after a couple of weeks.  I’m proud that we got through it, despite how hard it felt at times.  It seems we are lucky enough to have a chilled baby who just likes to drink and sleep so we’ve been able to get on with things as normal, just with a small and very cute companion.

I felt utterly shite the entire time I was pregnant.  I made this very clear to anyone I came across during those 9 months.  As with my first child, I felt awful every single day.  What made it so much worse this time was the fact that, no matter how rough I felt, I had so much I always had to do and it did, at times, feel utterly insurmountable.  This was when it was truly hard running the shop.  But despite all this, I still believed completely in my vision and I knew that no matter how hard things were, we would always find a way to work through it.  I have never believed in anything as much as I believe in the CAMhub.

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Like I said, running a shop is a lot of hard graft.  In no way did I ever expect it to be easy, but it is certainly harder than I really imagined.  There are certainly a lot more costs and factors that I didn’t take into account initially, and many new things have cropped up along the way.  It is a never ending job – I know this is the case for all self employed people, certainly in the first couple of years at least.  The business is on my mind 24/7 and I feel that horrible guilt when I’m playing with my kids because a nagging part of me is telling me I should be working, but then when I’m working I feel guilty that I’m not with the kids.

Despite all this, I understand that this is what it takes.  I have always believed that nothing good ever comes easy so I am prepared for the pitfalls and we will always march on.   2016 will be a very exciting time for the CAMhub as I will be able to dedicate more time to working, rather than being sick and crying.  The shop is going to get better and better all the time.

So, after all that ramble, all I really should of said is ‘come and check out our amazing shop’ – we have loads of awesome new traders joining us next month, including a stained glass artist and new vintage clothes traders.  We’re also going to have a bit of a play around with the layout of the shop to create a fresh new look for the spring.  And I can’t wait to give that floor a proper good clean cos I’m a weirdo like that.