Creative Business Success: Three Elements

Creative Business Success: Three Elements

In my last post I talked about the big myth that’s holding most creatives back from a successful independent career. To recap:

Success is not some cruel lottery in which you might or might not luck out. The freedom of lifestyle that you’re looking for is not achieved by talent, effort or chance alone; there are a few new skills and distinctions to be learnt, and newsflash: they’re not rocket science.

You’ve got this. I promise.

You’ve got this. I promise.

Have you ever wanted to make a living from doing the creative things you love? Ever felt like you’re floundering, lacked focus, or did you just feel overwhelmed and not know where to begin? If you took a breather this afternoon, and we sat down together for tea and finger sandwiches, what would you ask me about running a creative small business?

Big News. Need Your Help, Please!

Big News. Need Your Help, Please!

After over a year of work, I’m putting the finishing touches to version 2.0 of my long-awaited coaching program to help creative people make a good living from their talents. This thing has been a labor of love, and I’m so excited that it’s nearly ready!

It’s not easy to carve out time to develop a really awesome course at the same time as running a business like Harman Hay Publications. But I would feel selfish keeping what I’ve learned to myself. With so many people asking me to share what I know about making a living from my passion, it’s time for me to get this off the ground.

Real is better than perfect

Real is better than perfect

When I was a little girl, I was conscientious, neat, smart, and capable. Achievement was valued in my world, and the need to impress and be validated became strong. I tried ever harder to keep up, to do well, to maintain the very neatest handwriting.

(I still have very neat handwriting.)

I would listen to the other kids playing outside while I obediently stayed in the classroom to try to finish my work. I fell further behind every day. I was near the top of the class, but I was Too Slow, because every word had to be just right. I learned that my role was to do more and play less than everyone else. A pleaser and a perfectionist were born.

Begin it now

What is there that you have been meaning to do “one day”, someday, when you have Spare Time(TM)? You need to pick a horse, pick something out of all the myriad things that you really want to do and just give it a go…

…and be prepared to absolutely suck at it. It’s only by being prepared to be a beginner that you give yourself a starting point to work from. Get in the game, get something out there, because once something is out there, then you can tweak, fiddle and iterate it into something better and better. But in order to have something to improve upon, you have to be prepared to get out there and be absolutely terrible for a while, if necessary.

The Myth of Perfection

The Myth of Perfection

Way back in the woods in deepest England, there is a unique Victorian home. With her leaded windows, her steep, mismatched gables and her big red front door, she is a small, yet perfectly formed bijou country-house-ette.

Although vast by modern standards, she is a trifle in comparison to her extravagant tourist attraction peers at Wightwick and Tyntesfield. And therein lies her uniqueness. Unlike those sprawling estates, which finally defeated the grand families who ran out of funds to keep fixing them, you could almost call this elegant little lady manageable.

Almost.

The Edwardian Silhouette Emerges

The Edwardian Silhouette Emerges

Twenty-first century corsetmakers have heard me bang on about this a thousand times, but I will say it again: I’m convinced that there is no such thing as a “modern body”.

This persistent phrase is a symbol of the popular belief that the majority of us who live in 2015 simply cannot achieve the figure of the Victorian or Edwardian woman, who supposedly underwent unimaginable torture – or years of waist training – to achieve THAT controversial figure.

Costume College Gala gown 2015

Costume College Gala gown 2015

Last night I dreamt that I went to dinner at Kedleston Hall, where my hosts turned out to be just as I’d pictured them. Mary Curzon was ever the tall, charismatic lady who had captivated three continents, and her husband, the Viceroy, was a stiff, intelligent, intimidating man whom one instinctively did not want to cross.

The heat of India was oppressive in Derby (it’s a dream, go with it) but as His Lordship discussed political machinations with one of the other guests, my hostess’s interesting conversation made one feel comfortable, valued and welcome. I did not reveal that I had travelled over one hundred years to be there that night, but I felt sure that she’d be amused to learn that I was recreating the grand state dresses that she had considered little more than annoyingly expensive work clothes!

The Corset for the Peacock Dress

The Corset for the Peacock Dress

When I was raising money for Random Acts’ projects in Haiti in 2011, and pledging to make the Peacock Dress in return, I imagined that I would be the maker of the whole outfit, every stitch. However, it’s not going to work out that way, and I’m delighted about that.

Not only because it reduces the workload (hiring Indian specialists to embroider the dress takes about thirty years off, literally) but because the result of any project is so much better when you let go, step back and ask for help from people who know what they’re doing better than you do.

New Worth Evening Gowns, part 2: Expect the Unexpected

New Worth Evening Gowns, part 2: Expect the Unexpected

In the second part of this series of posts showcasing Worth designs from the photo archive preserved at the V&A, I’m sharing the one that stopped me in my tracks and made me say, WTF?     Zigzags? In 1902? Flouncy, frou-frou femininity with garlands of roses and frothy frills, yes, but… zigzags? I wonder whether this gown was considered unusual or avant garde at the time? Was it intended for Worth’s more adventurous clients, or does it simply not fit into our modern, shorthand, tl;dr version of Edwardian style? According to the notes beneath the photo, the gown is made from black and white silk mousseline. (It’s lovely stuff, a tad more substantial than silk chiffon, but not as stiff as silk organza. It’s not the first time I’ve seen it used for an evening gown of this era.) It looks as though the main white mousseline fabric is already spangled in some way when it comes off the roll, since the pattern is constant and regular across the gown. Successive layers of the sheer, plain black mousseline have been appliqued onto the white gown, and then the edges of each layer have been outlined in sequins. (Good idea on the sequins there – the silk mousseline would have frayed like a %$^*&!£.)     On the bodice there are three such applied layers, and on the skirt an extra layer of the white, or another pale colour, has been applied first. And the sleeves?     Two pieces of “spangled” white mousseline are sewn into the armhole and held together with an applied star near the shoulder,...