Wednesday, 20 January 2010

New Year New look

I've got a new look for my Etsy shop for the new year. I've made a new banner which I absolutely love, and plan some new packaging to go with it. After trying various designs and layouts, I opted for a more subtle look with turquoise rather than the bright colours seen above. However, it turned out that another Etsy shop already had a similar styled banner, so it was back to the drawing board.

When I first decided to change the look I initially intended to keep the brightly coloured spots, change the grey background for a brighter turquoise, and incorporate some photos of items currently available in my shop. But I had a real problem with the red circles. They looked great on the Seashore site I was working on, and looked lovely when I uploaded them to Flickr, but when Etsy got hold of them, they looked truly awful!

I tried everything I could think of to rectify the problem; saving to various file types, using web safe colours, toning down the contrast, but nothing would remove the dark outline and squiggly pattern on the surface of the circle. It looked very much as something viewed under a microscope; lots of wriggly worm shapes. The larger circles weren't too bad, but the smaller ones were very noticeable. I think they looked more pronounced against the turquoise than they did against the grey.

I ran a search in the Etsy forums and discovered others who had experienced the same problem with red, especially when used in conjunction with a darker colour. It seems to occur when Etsy compresses uploads and only affects certain colours. Red is the main culprit, but only if there is a block of colour, and at first it appeared to only affect warm colours. But after much experimenting by uploading different coloured spots on test banners (hope no one was viewing my shop at the time) it transpires that it affects red and royal blue the most, and purple and pink to a lesser degree. I tried replacing the red spots with orange and although it was a good clean colour, it didn't look right with the other colours.

I wasn't going to be beaten and spent hours trying various combinations, but I just couldn't get it to look right. So in the end out of sheer frustration I ditched the circles altogether and opted for the plain turquoise background. But as I said above, it turns out the layout was seen by some to be too similar to another person's banner. The colours, font, and photos were entirely different, but the layout was the same. Although the other shop owner didn't mind in the slightest, agreeing with me that it was a very basic layout, and was happy for me to leave it as it was, it didn't hold the same appeal for me anymore and I wanted to change it.

I tried various layouts, but couldn't get it to look significantly different, so I went back to my original theme of circles. Accepting there was no way around the red problem, and not liking any other substitute colour, I decided to keep it simple and use complementary tones of the main turquoise. I think the result is more in keeping with the way I envisage taking the style/look of my shop.

As is often the case, things that start off as an annoyance can often turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The resultant design is not only different, but I actually prefer it to the previous one. I'm also in the process of ordering some beautiful new packaging to match the new colour scheme. So all in all I'm very pleased with the way it's turned out. :)

Friday, 8 January 2010


I was listening to a debate on obesity in the House of Commons, and someone commented that it's not choices or lack of them that is the problem; the problem is we eat from habit and copy the behaviour of our friends and peers.

It suddenly struck me how much that applies to me. I'm very tempted by suggestion, be it from a friend, a conversation, a cookery programme or something I've read. I never realised until now just how easily I am led. For someone who tends to be a leader rather than a follower I find that quite shocking. Maybe I'm becoming more compliant in my old age, or lazy, or just couldn't care less!

When younger, I never tried drugs... still haven't; I just never saw the point in them. I rarely drank alcohol, and I trusted my own judgement about what was good or bad for me. But as I've got older I find myself acting on the merest hint of suggestion.

I can no longer watch cookery programmes on TV because if I see a dish that looks delicious, I just have to make it. If I'm on a diet, I might resist the temptation for a week or so, but inevitably I will eventually give in, and armed with my shopping list, will go to buy the ingredients. The thing is, more often than not I'm disappointed with my endeavors, the thought of the food far more appealing than the actual result.

The same can be said of talking to friends and family or chatting on forums. If someone says they are eating such and such for dinner, I think... oooh I haven't had that for ages. Or if never having tried that particular food/meal I suddenly develop an insatiable desire to try it.

The internet is a dangerous place for the unwary, and I'm not talking phishing, viruses, spammers and stalkers. I'm talking about that most dangerous of subjects, cake! I never used to eat cake until I joined one forum, and now find myself adding it to my shopping list with gay abandon, simply because it's constantly referred to. Likewise with alcohol; I used to drink a glass or two of wine at weekends. But chatting on line in the evenings, the drinking habits of others have somehow become my drinking habits, and pouring a glass or two of wine every night of the week soon became the norm.

I've always been wary of becoming a regular drinker, but drinking wine in the evening seems to be the norm for many people, and so it has become acceptable practice. We copy the behaviour of others, because if enough of them are doing it then it must surely be OK, mustn't it?

How easily the habits of others become our own. The recent snow has meant ordering my shopping online from Tesco. Clicking on my "favourites" made for shocking reading! There was all manner of unhealthy fayre on there, from cakes and bakery products, to chocolate, ready meals and wine. Many items I would never have previously noticed on the shelves, let alone bought. They looked oddly out of place scattered amongst the familiar brands I'd bought for years; aliens in a foreign land. It's enough of a surprise to see Tesco recommended products at the top of each section of my favourites, and unsettling if my particular brand is out of stock to see a similar unfamiliar alternative underneath. But these aliens were in my favourites because I put them there!

Can a remark or a suggestion from a complete stranger on a forum really have such an impact on my eating and drinking habits? Or am I just incredibly weak? I don't think it's just a question of weakness, although undoubtedly that does come in to it. I suppose it works very much the same way as advertising, or product placement on shelves. Or as in the case of Tesco, adding an item to the top of each section in my favourites; muscling in on my subconscious!

So, having acknowledged to myself how easily led I am, I've been through all my favourites on the Tesco web site and deleted anything that isn't what I would normally buy. Everything that is, except for Tesco's own suggestions, because annoyingly, they don't provide the facility to delete them! Drinking wine is now back to being a weekend only treat, out go the cakes, and there's to be no more baking... something that until recently I hadn't done for years.

I've also written a little memo to myself on a bright pink post it note and stuck it on my laptop so it's always there to remind me...

*Don't do as others do, do what is best for you!*

Friday, 1 January 2010

Looking Back Whilst Facing Forward

I've never been one for celebrating New Year's Eve. I tend to find my thoughts creeping backwards, trawling over the past, and I'd much rather be looking forward in anticipation of new experiences to come.

But being the end of a decade, I allowed myself to briefly reminisce. I could hardly believe ten years had slipped by so quickly. Time sure seems to go quicker the older I get!

A decade ago I was in a very bad place, the lowest point in my life, so best not to dwell on it too much. I'm just incredibly happy to be where I am at this point in time. But it does feel good to see how far I've come and acknowledge all that is good in my life. Recounting lessons learned also acts as a gentle reminder to keep me focused and feeling positive.

Horrible as the beginning of the last decade was, I wouldn't wish to change anything about it, except maybe how I handled it, because my reaction affected those closest to me. But events helped shape me into the person I am today, and I am a lot happier with myself these days; less angry, less selfish and more compassionate towards others, with I hope, a willingness to try to understand people and their behaviour, even when it impacts negatively on me. I don't have to accept what they say or do, so long as I strive to understand where they are coming from.

What I can do is to chose how I respond, if at all. Forgiveness and letting go keeps me moving forward, resentment and hanging on keeps me in the past, and ultimately hurts me more. Understanding removes much of the fear and anxiety. Acknowledging and owning responsibility for any part I may have played is also imperative, because often our behaviour has some bearing on the behaviour of others. I can't change their behaviour, but I sure can change mine!

So here we are, at the beginning of another year/decade. The past 12 months have been interesting and rewarding. I reached a milestone in turning 50 and wanted to do something to mark the occasion. I also needed to get back in touch with my creative side, so I started selling my jewellery on Etsy.

The experience has been immensely enjoyable, if not profitable. It has led me down so many avenues, each one a new learning experience. I feel so much richer (or poorer - depending how you look at it) and more rounded as a person (that'll be the cake)!

Etsy is definitely THE best thing that happened to me this past year! I've had my wobbly moments (not cake induced wobbles...or wine for that matter)... although there's been plenty of those... rather the wobbles that shake your confidence. But that happens when you try to run before you can walk. I'm going to take 2010 at a steady pace and look forward to seeing where it takes me, and what I can learn along the way.

Happy New Year! xx