Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Nicole, and I live on the Central Coast in NSW. I'm a former marketing communications professional turned stay-at-home mum of Fern and Elliott, the two loves of my life (along with my husband, Dan!) My inane inability to sit still, a passion for all things handmade and a yearning to turn a creative 'hobby' into a business all led to the creation of Bubby Makes Three in early 2011, and I haven't looked back!
Can you explain your craft/art and the material you like to use?
My focus is primarily on babies and childrens' clothing with baby boy bow-ties, nursery pretties, embroidery hoops, wreaths and mobiles thrown into the mix! My signature is bright colours and patterns and reinventing everyday objects: three dimensional butterflies, elephants with little flappy ears, personalised felt scrabble tiles... I have rather a lot of fabric and am constantly adding more; I also scour the op shops for buttons, vintage crochet, and linen I can repurpose. My craft is constantly evolving and I have lots of ideas for new products to be added to my store later in the year once I find a few more hours in the day!
Where do you get your inspiration and what is your creative process?
As a mother of two little ones, I can't help but be inspired by my own children and our relaxed lifestyle on the Central Coast. I don't go much for 'fuss and fancy' and like to think the simplicity of my designs is part of their charm!
I am constantly dreaming up ideas and try to make at least one new thing for my store every week, but sometimes my idea can take months to eventuate into an actual object! The creative process takes time and I never add anything to my store unless I love it myself or would have my own children wearing it. I am often inspired by my customers, and custom one-off orders sometimes turn into staples in my store! Blogs, websites and magazines are another great source of inspiration – I'll see an image of a gorgeous dinner plate and think "hmmm how can I turn that idea into a onesie?!"
I am really blessed to have my own little 'studio' (rather than the kitchen table which was my workspace for most of last year!) – it's small but mine, and is perfect for dreaming up ideas; I have a moodboard full of sticky notes, drawings and magazine cuttings, I am trying to think ahead to the next season but there just aren't enough hours in the day!
How long have you been creating and how did you get into craft/art?
Despite my somewhat rocky start when I pretty much flunked home-ec at school, I have always loved to create. When I was in high school I used to paint little terracotta pots and oil burners and sell them at markets; I also used to sell handmade jewellery. But when I was on maternity leave with Fern I dragged out the sewing machine my husband had bought a few years earlier (dusty and sadly neglected) and began sewing; I started with softies, cushions and eventually tackled an outdoor picnic rug… my house became choc-o-block with all my work and I had this overwhelming desire to throw my handiwork out into the marketplace to see what happened so in the end I made six sets of little bloomers/ singlets (at the time, they took me about a month to complete), popped them online and drew a deep breath. I was lucky enough to make a couple of sales straight away and got some really positive feedback which gave me the confidence I had lacked until that point… I quickly caught the crafting 'bug' and have never looked back. Over time I have sped up productivity (I can now make that many sets in a day if I have to!) and the rest is history!
How did you come up with your business name?
'Bubby Makes Three' actually began as a blog: www.bubbymakesthree.blogspot.com that I started shortly after I had my daughter, Fern. What began as a chronicle of my life as a new mum gradually turned into an outlet for my creative projects and inspirations and it was the amazing encouragement from my readers that gave me the courage to start my business. It seemed only natural to call myself Bubby Makes Three after that… besides, I was too lazy to think up anything else!
What resources 'have or do you' use to help your creative pursuits (i.e. groups, classes, shops, websites etc)?
I would love to take some creative classes but with two children at home with me all week (minus my one “official” work day) I can’t find the time at the moment. My wonderful mother in law is always on-call with advice and assistance where needed; she’s a very talented quilt maker although we have been known to sit down with the objective of working on customer orders and end up spending an entire day making one vintage pattern sunsuit! There are so many inspiring and helpful websites out there with tutorials on just about everything under the sun if ever you get stuck… and to think it was just a few years ago I had to google “thread your sewing machine!” I’ve come a fair way since then!
What's your best advice for someone starting up?
If you build it they will come... Be passionate and tireless about what you do. Don’t get hung up on what other people are doing and have confidence in your own product. I was so intimidated initially by the talent I saw on Madeit that I almost didn’t open my store! I had to take a big deep breath and just do it; and after that I threw everything I had into creating a unique product that didn’t TRY to compete with others.
It takes time to establish a ‘brand,’ but it’s worth establishing a niche for your products, photography and overall ‘look’.
It can be tempting to price your wares cheaply to make a sale, especially in the early days, but you might be undervaluing your craft and harming others in the same category. Be proud of what you do and value the time you spent creating it… price accordingly! Quality doesn’t always come cheap!
Lastly, find someone that is a little ahead of you in the game to mentor or bounce ideas around with you. Advice from someone who has been where you are is invaluable, there is always someone a little ahead who can help you and someone a few steps behind who you might be able to help, too!
Do you have any advertising/promotion tips for sellers to be successful?
I think it’s really important to build a ‘brand’ for your business that presents a professional image and differentiates you from anybody else; this can take some time but its really worth it! Your business cards, your headers, your style of photography, your descriptions – these things are what makes you YOU and can really make all the difference! I like Facebook for communicating in ‘real time’ with my customers. Blogs are fabulous and such a great network; support other handmade businesses and they will support you!
Can you share any lessons that you have learned the hard way?
I think the biggest lesson is to value your product and not undersell yourself. Undervaluing something you have lovingly handmade just to make a sale will only harm your business in the long run.
Learning that it’s ok to say ‘no’ is a difficult lesson, too. So many times I have taken on other people’s ‘emergencies’ as my own; committed to unrealistic timeframes and bitten off more than I can chew. Saying no can be difficult, but making mistakes from rushing doesn’t help anyone either!
What do you like to do besides creating?
I am a very active person, so when I’m not ensconced in my studio, you can usually find me sweating it up in the Spin room at the gym, riding my road bike or power walking with my poor old Labrador as fast as my legs can carry me. I have absolutely no talent or aptitude for cooking but I love to live vicariously through my cookbook collection. I also love blogs, interiors magazines, decorating, drinking coffee and kissing my children so often their cheeks might fall off!
What is your favourite music, television show, film, book, website?
• Because I work a lot at night, I don’t watch much television… when I do, it is unabashedly lowbrow, with lots of dreadful reality programs! I love em!
• I am a closet Twilight fan, and am obsessed with the books (and movies).
• My favourite book is “Catch 22” by Joseph Heller; his humour is totally my cup of tea!
• My favourite movie of all time is the French film Jeux Enfants.
• At the moment I’m loving www.craftgawker.com for inspiration and project ideas for a rainy day!
What would be your perfect day?
Before I had my kids, I once spent a day driving through the hills of Tuscany with my husband and best girl friends, visiting the Prada factory outlet, eating gelato and drinking coffee at Italian cafes, and were that evening invited up to the apartment of the vigneron who owned the Tuscan villa we were staying in for a glass of local grappa. I don’t think it gets much better than that!
Of course… now I have two children under three, a full 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep would be good enough for me!
Who is your favourite madeit seller, explain why in less than 10 words?
My Sweet Prints – because the creator, Janette, is not only very talented at what she does but has always been incredibly helpful and supportive of me.
Bubby Makes Three visit store
29 April 2012