Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi – my name is Kamma and I live in Fremantle, WA. I share my house with my amazingly supportive partner Lachy, my 20-month-old son Fynlay and, for a few days a week, my 7 year old stepdaughter Luca. I’ll be adding another son to the mix in just under two months time, and I have a beautiful daughter Ruby who I lost to cancer last year, when she was just 2 and a half.
Ruby is my inspiration in choosing to pursue a creative lifestyle. She taught me that I shouldn’t fill my life with things or objectives that I’m not passionate about, life is too unexpected to waste time following paths that lead me in directions I don’t really want to go. When her cancer returned last year I stopped my post-grad work in Asian Studies and made the decision to spend my time at home, with my family, working towards building an independent lifestyle that will be both creatively fulfilling and financially supportive. Lachy is also self-employed and so when we aren’t on our respective computers we get to spend lots of time eating toast and wrestling Fynlay on our bed.
Can you explain your craft/art and the material you like to use? I currently stock a range of paper goods - journals, notepads, guestbooks and cards. I use MDF and pine veneered boards as covers and apply images using either laser engraving or decals.
I began my business just under a year ago, with the idea to make sturdy, refillable children’s drawing books. I love to surround myself with timber and so I chose wood as the base material for my products. Initially I was using printed fabrics that I sourced online for the covers of my books but I have recently begun to move towards using my own illustrations. I have found this process - being creatively involved from start to finish - to be much more stimulating and my head is now spinning with ideas. I have just begun to expand into gift cards and I now offer specialized custom books such as wedding guestbooks and baby books. I’m also toying with the idea of coasters, home wares and small pieces of wall art.
My books are sustainably designed, that is they are designed to be refilled which cuts down on waste. The wooden covers will survive years of refilling and reuse and I also use eco-friendly, V.O.C. free varnish and sustainably sourced papers.
Where do you get your inspiration and what is your creative process? I love simple, functional design in black and white or muted earthy colours. I have just rediscovered a long dormant desire to produce simple line drawings (a desire lying idle since high school art class!) and so this is currently my driving inspirational force. So many little, functional items in my immediate environment are being mentally transformed into line drawings and superimposed onto my journal covers every day! I’m currently having a nerdy office supplies moment (think protractors, compasses, lead pencils) but I can feel there will soon be a range of teacups, succulents and odd collections of cutlery or socks…
I photograph objects and turn them into illustrations on my computer. I then either print them myself as coloured images, or send them away to be burnt into wood using a laser engraver. I’m a bit of a paperaholic so I’m always looking for ways to incorporate different papers into my work.
How long have you been creating and how did you get into craft/art? I’ve always been creative in some form. I loved art throughout school, although in a fit of economic pragmatism and a misguided belief that ‘art’ always equated in the end to ‘oil painting’ I turned down a university place in Fine Art to study Asian Studies – which in a roundabout way led me straight back to art. After living in China as a component of my uni degree I spent the early part of my twenties immersed in travel photography – I was always drawn to photographing the small, often overlooked details in the new environments around me rather than attempting to capture dramatic landscapes on a grand scale. I believe this has transferred to my tendency to illustrate small inanimate objects.
After having children I found I had a massive photographic creative block, as I was no longer free to roam the world with my camera. Being a mum while at the same time attempting to be an academic made me want to balance it all out with a bit of good old fashioned creativity, which is how lorgie&me was born.
How did you come up with your business name? I started my business under the name timefortea, which I came up with late one night in a bit of a haze and consolidated in a big rush by creating timefortea usernames and purchasing timefortea domain names. It never really felt right to me, and after Ruby passed away and I made the decision to devote more time to the business I wanted to incorporate her a little more tangibly into my work. Lorgie (pronounced lor-jee) is a name she made up for one of her dolls. And me is, well, me.
What resources 'have or do you' use to help your creative pursuits (i.e. groups, classes, shops, websites etc)?
I’m a member of a great West Australian online community called Made on the Left (www.madeontheleft.org.au), which offers support and advice to West Australian handmade designers. Besides hosting their own markets Made on the Left provides both information about other upcoming local craft markets and also advice about all aspects of running your own small handmade business. I’ve met a great community of ladies through their online forums who have been an invaluable source of knowledge and support.
I’m also lucky to have a web designer, business branding consultant and all round technology expert for a partner. Lachy designed my website and patiently talks me through Photoshop meltdowns on a daily basis. You can see more of his work here (www.spaceworkersunion.com)
What's your best advice for someone starting up?
It would be easy for me to say ‘make sure you sit down first of all and map everything out: write a business plan, do some test marketing, come up with a budget, get your branding perfect, etc etc’.
But I didn’t do any of these things, and really just made it up as I went along. I got very busy over the Christmas period, which has now forced me to sit down and map out product lines and devise advertising plans. Of course it would have made the last year run a lot more smoothly if I had a ‘plan’ to begin with, but I’ve enjoyed the process of learning from my mistakes and have probably learnt a lot more because of them.
Above all, plan for success! Make sure that you have priced your products correctly and that you will still enjoy creating them when you are making them over and over again to keep up with the massive numbers of orders pouring in! The best thing I did was structure my production process so that I’m creating in large batches rather than one order at a time.
Do you have any advertising/promotion tips for sellers to be successful?
I have been woefully slow at getting on top of the advertising / promotion thing. I created a blog (www.lorgieandme.blogspot.com) and facebook page (www.facebook.com/pages/Lorgie-and-me) only recently and so haven’t really had a chance to test them out as promotional tools yet. The same goes with advertising – I have booked some online advertising spaces on blogs and handmade websites in the oncoming months but as of now, I have no experience with advertising at all! If I get organized I would love to build a mailing list and run special offers and promotions for repeat customers.
I’ve recently spent a lot of time developing my visual brand, and I believe that ensuring all your various avenues of promotion and advertising are stylistically cohesive is very important. It pays to have customers recognize your products and style before they see your business name. I also make my packaging and presentation a priority. Everyone loves getting a beautifully presented package in the mail.
I’ve found that offering custom order or personalized options has been very successful for me. If it suits your product and your production methods to do so – do it!
Can you share any lessons that you have learned the hard way? Thoroughly prototype all your products before ordering large quantities of stock! I’ve been stuck with several supplies that I have no use for as a result of changing my mind about the benefits of creating a certain line of products (or, more truthfully, have found that some products just don’t have very many buyers!).
What do you like to do besides creating? We have just moved into a much larger house that has a fully equipped powered workshop, so most of my time is spent creating right now. When I do manage to drag myself away from my business I love to play with my boys, drink tea and lie on the couch with a good book. I’m savouring my free time at the moment as I know life will change dramatically very soon, once there is a tiny baby in the house…
I love to travel and so am constantly day dreaming about our next destination and plotting ways to make it work. Going out for breakfast needs to happen in our family several times a week, and I would also love to get better at gardening. My partner and I both seem to have a magical ability to miserably fail all attempts at veggie growing and my new collection of succulents all seem to be dying already.
What is your favourite music, television show, film, book, website?
This is a tough question to answer. I read a lot of travel and foreign history / culture books – especially those on Asia. I once had a crazy plan to travel the borderlands of China and write a book about my experiences (it got waylaid when I fell pregnant with Ruby), so I guess I’m still stuck in a permanent state of ‘research’.
I spend far too much time on the computer these days, setting up my own sites, browsing design blogs and checking in on news and social media websites. We tend not to watch a lot of television, although last year Lachy and I got through the entire 5 seasons of The Wire on DVD in about two months. I enjoy most independent movies - I tend to stay far away from any movie that features too many explosions, thin plotlines and ‘big name’ stars – and am currently searching for some new music to fall in love with.
What would be your perfect day?
Waking up for the first time in a new town, in a new country. Slipping outside just as the sun is rising, walking the streets, absorbing the new smells and sounds and stopping to drink coffee, chat with the locals and try out all the street food I can find. Browsing the local markets, taking some photographs, eating more street food then finding a seat in a colourful location somewhere and watching the sun go down.
Or alternatively, back home, to sleep in, get a cup of tea in bed then head out to breakfast at our current favourite cafe. Then I would stumble across an amazing garage sale full of bargain leather belts, wooden chests and old metal toolboxes. After gathering up my loot I would head out to a long tasty alfresco lunch with some old friends, then spend the afternoon reading a book or having a small adventure with my boys followed by dinner and wine with Lachy at a dimly lit, crowded tapas bar.
As you can probably tell, eating is one of my favourite things!
Who is one of your favourite madeit seller, explain why in less than 10 words? Hellogoodbyeagain – affordable art! Love the newspaper prints.