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at home with Hannah

at home with Hannah

GETTING TO KNOW ME | how I got my first book published | getting into blogging

This summer I’m going to be taking part in a talk called Break Through In Blogging with a brilliant company called Creative Hub. I recently did an interview with them. You can see the original interview here

Hannah Read-Baldrey is a familiar face on the London craft scene. Since creating and co-writing the acclaimed book, ‘Everything Alice,’ she has gone on to write four more books, each selling in 10 different countries, as well as becoming a popular YouTube craft and baking presenter, and running the successful blog, CoutureCraft.co.uk, all whilst bringing up her son, Teddy (busy, busy)!

Hannah creates and models her contemporary designs for leading craft magazines such as The Craft Network, The Craftseller, HobbyCraft, Tesco, Crafty, and has recently designed the John Lewis Christmas 2016 craft kits for Avec UK.

Hannah also works as a photographic stylist represented by agent Sarah Kaye, on advertising projects with clients such as John Lewis, Waitrose, Harpers, Debenhams, Clarins, Cath Kidston, Vogue and Red Magazine. Collectively, her books have sold over 100,000 copies and she is releasing a new one soon…

Hannah will be delivering a writing workshop at our ‘Breakthrough in Blogging’ event this year in July.

1. Hi Hannah. Thanks so much for doing this interview for us, and for agreeing to speak at ‘Breakthrough in Blogging’ this year. It sounds like you have had an interesting and diverse career and have got your finger in lots of different pies. Where did it start for you?

1. “Thanks! Yes I have managed to do so many wonderful things. I’m very lucky. I have always been creative, so naturally I made my way to Art School, studying Theatre and Costume Design at Central Saint Martins. After this I spent a couple of years working as a set design assistant on movies as well as studying acting at night school at Central School of Speech and Drama.

My career has lead me from films, to TV, to photo shoots, to books and to blogging and presenting. If I was to define myself, I’m a stylist who is a craft and baking author, that loves presenting and blogging. I started CoutureCraft.co.uk about 15 years ago. Being creative, I have always loved recording the things that I do: either drawing, taking photos, writing or filming, essentially diary making.

I felt like I needed an outlet. I remember being at my parents cottage in Dorset and discussing a name with my family. I decided on Couture Craft to combine my love of fashion and craft.

I set up first CoutureCraft.co.uk blog on the blogger platform (subsequently I have moved to WordPress) and I did a shopping post about winter accessories. I didn’t actually expect anyone to read it, especially as back then there weren’t platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to easily advertise it to the world, but they did and I actually got a comment!”

2. For those that are looking to publish a book, what is the best way to go about this, and what is the process?

2. “Okay, so I had no idea about publishing when I first started. When I got married I had a loose Alice In Wonderland theme to my big day (not cheesy I promise). I had always loved the story and I thought it lended itself so well to a craft book. At the time I was working with HobbyCraft with my lovely friend Christine Leech, who is also a Graphic Designer/ Art Director.

So we joined forces with another friend – a photographer Tiffany Mumford and shot what’s called a blad. This is a few pages, so in our case, a few potential projects for the book. I created a cover illustration and we provide a rough contents list. We printed off 10 at the local printers and stapled the pages together to form mini books.

At the time you could buy a book called The Writers Guide Book. But now there is something similar called the Writers Market, and this is a directory of all the publishers and agents, etc. We scoured the pages and came up with a list of names. One of which was Quadrille Publishing, which stood out as the Quadrille Dance is in one of the stories in Alice. We found their addresses and posted them off with a bit about us. Then waited and waited and waited.

Over time we had three publishers come back to us who wanted to see us, and we also had lots of rather off putting emails saying it was a “passion project”, “not commercial enough” etc.

The first publisher to our delight that wanted to see us was Quadrille. We arranged a date and met at their then Tottenham Court road offices. In the reception sat Gordon Ramsay and Cath Kidston books (Christine and I were silently screaming eeekkkk).

We had a meeting with the commissioning directors, which went well. Yet about a week later I got a phone call from them saying they wouldn’t be able to commission it. But that’s when I had to pull out the big chat guns, so I sat on the phone and persuaded the editor that we had another offer (we didn’t).

We really wanted to work with them and had an unusual position of being able to design and style the book between us, ie, it wasn’t going to be that expensive comparably. Another two weeks later I was away on a photo-shoot (ironically for Cath Kidston) and got the email with an offer! Whoop! After this I came to realise that only 1% of book proposals get commissioned.

that book became an international bestseller, and I think has sold around 60,000 copies worldwide”

3. Obviously you’re quite well known for your interest in arts and crafts, and you demonstrate this through your blog. Would you say that the skills developed through writing various books have contributed to your success with your blog?

3. “The purpose of a craft and baking blog, is to get the readers to make whatever you have crafted and baked. When I wrote my first book I had no idea of how to write a “how to”. The editor did on occasion send back my writing and asked me to look at it again!

I waffled on and perhaps didn’t have the skills I have now developed to edit my own work. Being slightly dyslexic, this didn’t help either. But after writing and writing and writing I have discovered a brilliant formula.

– Give your project a catchy name.

– Write your process as you are making.

– Number the steps to your process (you can remove this later).

– Get each line as short as possible and re-read to check it makes sense.

The simpler and more concise the steps the better. I hope that as my writing and projects have become clearer this has reflected on people using the blog.”

4. You mentioned that you’re a ‘photographic stylist.’ What exactly does this mean, and what form does it take, i.e. what type of projects do you do?

4. “Being a photographic stylist means I source props and/or clothes for photo-shoots. I need to know where to get unusual props from quickly and have good contacts with PR agents. It’s a job that you learn on the job. You need to be creative and have a very precise eye when you are on the shoot, making sure everything is in its place and looks good.

But you also have to be logistical and highly organised, and working big scale in the film industry taught me so many lessons. The rolling work means you have to be looking ahead to the next thing constantly and sourcing continuously. I like working in photography as its not quite such a demanding pace!”

5. What is your secret to building a big following on YouTube and through your blog, Couture Craft?

5. “I think building a following is all down to consistency in photography and writing, regular posts, original ideas and time. Followings take time to grow. Using social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have also helped spread the word.”

6. And how has your presenting linked in to this? Has YouTube, your blog, social media, and your books helped you to secure presenting positions? And what type of things do you present at?

6. “I love presenting. If you had asked me when I was 5 what I wanted to do, I would have said ‘be a presenter.’ The Internet has opened up opportunities for all sorts of people to present away from mainstream TV. Especially in the craft and food industries, where it is really helpful to literally have someone guide you.

My first presenting job was for Hobbycraft on their website, for whom I presented my project for years. I then got picked up by Tesco Magazine and Red Magazine, working on various craft projects. Then after I released my book, ‘Girls’ Night In,’ a big internet company called VideoJug got in touch, where I worked on their wedding and home channels.”

7. What are your thoughts on the ‘underdog,’ ‘Ridiculously Rich By Alana’ winning the most recent BBC Apprentice series?

7. “Sorry my love I didn’t watch it!!!”

8. Any general advice on how start-up bloggers can build a following, build their brand online and monetize their work?

8. “For all you start up bloggers out there, its important to find your voice. What do you love? Gaming, food, craft, fashion, etc? There are so many people blogging now, so what makes you different? A great name helps a lot with a blog, so think long and hard about what you want to call it. Handbag.com, Gloop, PerezHilton all stay with you, like any good marketing. Do you have a logo or a namestyle? You can easily get someone to design this for you on People Per Hour or Etsy…

Go into a blogging platform and have a play, get to know the tech and how it works. It’s really important to get to grips with this, to allow yourself to add widgets such as social media icons and even monetisation. If you want to you can join affiliate programs such as Amazon Associates, Rakutan and Affiliate Window which pays you per purchase through your blog. Make sure whatever brand you choose to list reflects your brand. I have made the decision not to list through affiliate marketing on my blog.

I do however work with brands who sometimes send me products to test. You can get to this stage by getting in contact with the brands or their PR agencies and raise awareness of your blog. To do this its good to create a sheet describing your blog, with screen grabs and traffic listings.

If you are lucky and they feel you fit into their brand they may want to pay you to test product or give you freebies.”

9. In such a crowded online marketplace, how have you managed to stand out in what you do – online and through your blog/YouTube channel?

9. “I have stood out because I work hard and am passionate about what I do. It’s simply my lifestyle. I’m continuously writing and posting on social media, which takes dedication and you have to love it, as you may not always get a huge financial reward. I also have been lucky enough to been exposed to multi media channels, working across platforms is often a good way to gain new followers. Some people my follow my Instagram feed but never read my blog.”

10. And last but not least, what exciting projects and/or dreams and ambitions have you got lined up for the next few years?

10. “Well I’m currently writing my 4th book, ‘FlowerBomb! 30 Floral Crafts to Blow Your Blossoms…’ Which I’m really excited about, to be published in Spring 2018 with Pavilion Books. I am looking forward to growing the blog and my following even more in the next few years and ideally developing a product brand alongside this.”

You can find out more about Hannah here, here and here. Or check out her talk at #BTIB2017here.

Thanks, Hannah! We can’t wait to see you in July…

at home with Hannah Craft

Luxury Drinks Glass Soy Candles

These soy wax candles are so pretty and oh so simple to make. A great way to use some of those pretty glasses you haven’t used much, because of course you can use them again after the candle has melted. Or why not as I have done make a batch and buy some cheap glasses from to give as a gifts.

NB. I bought all candle making ingredients from Hobbycraft

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at home with Hannah Christmas Creative Living Lifestyle

Craft is not just for Christmas. 5 reasons the festive season get’s us making.

Tis the season to be jolly, to decorate our homes with random pieces of delight and get ready for the biggest celebration of the year. So what makes the most non-crafty of us get the urge to pull out some glue and glitter and join the surge of creativity at this time of year?

#1 BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE

Image by Erica Hoida

Image by Erica Hoida

Burrr, yes it is a little chilly. Those long walks in the park and being outside in the warm weather have passed. It’s time to keep warm and cosy inside, but what to do? Yes there is the TV, but actually there are things you can make too, the decorations for the tree, the wreath for the front door or even Christmas cards for your friends. With more time on our hands inside, it’s no wonder we are more tempted to get making.

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at home with Hannah Creative Living Lifestyle Sewing

Pretty Crafty Places: Stag and Bow Haberdashery

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Nestled amongst the pretty independent eateries and retro shops on Dartmouth Road in South-London’s Forrest Hill, the beautiful Stag and Bow haberdashery is a gem to be admired.

Inside the vintage styled store are a carefully curated collection of must have modern crafting materials and equipment: from Debbie Bliss Wool, to Tilly and The Buttons & Sew Over It dress making patterns and DMC thread to Jennie Maizels Iron Patches. Then there are pretty little bits that all us crafters adore, in delicate  bowls, vintage clothes and great craft books.

When I arrived on a Wednesday morning, I was greeted by a table of ladies who were all sat centrally around a large table making their personal projects, over a cup of tea in an Art Deco cup and saucer ( of course). Some were sewing, some knitting, all gossiping. Which makes me love the heart of this store, there is a huge sense of community which brings a warm and welcoming feel.

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at home with Hannah Lifestyle Shopping

10 of the best light box slogans on Pinterest

This year has seen the rise of the Light Box, the fun little light that can make you laugh with its adjustable slogan. With so many brands producing them for around £20 its a brilliant thing to have in your home, literally marking in words your current mood, favourite saying or party names.

Here are my favourite slogans from Pinterest. You can buy your own here.

#10 REMBER WHY YOU STARTED.

With my husband working on his start-up RangeRoom.com this year and a cousin who has been there at the beginning of Uber, this really resinates in my house!

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at home with Hannah Baking Lifestyle Parties

My Halloween Party Table

img_5404This is the third year in a row we have hosted a baby & toddler halloween get together, so I conclude this may be becoming a tradition! As a kid I do remember going trick or treating, but costumes were most defiantly hand made and not readily available in supermarkets. Sweets were most defiantly not Halloween branded, you’d be lucky to get a Quality Street. One of our neighbours used to actually give away his 1p & 2p collection in little brown bags! But this year the shops have grown their ranges massively and there are some fantastic things you can get. Needless to say, I do love Halloween and luckily so does my son!

I have a bag of props in the attic that are mainly bought from the pound shops. Much like Christmas, I buy a few new bits every year and chuck out the ones that are a bit passed it. This year I bought a giant glitter skull from Sainsbury’s and my Fred and Friends cookie cutters, which I am obsessed with ( see above and below). You can see them here on Amazon, they are amazing!

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at home with Hannah Lifestyle

Current Cards I Need To Write

IMG_2308Notecards, birthday cards, new baby cards, wedding cards, thank you cards, even hi how are you cards, the list is endless. I have a little corner of my house dedicated to cards, as every month there is bound to be an event I’ve forgotten about. If I see something I like in a shop I will just buy it and hoard it for when I need it. I haven’t quite got to the stage of a present draw yet, but I know it’s coming.

Cards and props: feature window people card, Alexander Girard at Lagomdesign.co.uk. Hi & lightbulb cards, FSC.org. Doughnut card, M&S. Mini fake succulent, Paperchase. Party Blower, Talking Tables. Nail varnish, Nails Inc.

 

 

at home with Hannah Creative Living

5 simple ways to live life more creatively! with Hannah

Photo: Tiffany Mumford

Creativity: The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, method sand interpretations

Lots of people tell me during their busy lives, of work, kids, dogs, Game of Thrones…they simply don’t have time to be creative, then they host an amazing kids party, bake a cake fit for a queen, have an impeccably designed house or simply write a beautiful message in a card. So I believe most of us do have a creative spirit, but we just may not recognise it.

The word creativity often scares some people, they remember back to being at school where art class was a chore not a pleasure. Admittedly this is not something I can ever imagine, this was where I found most of my freedom. Often creativity has been taught academically based on drawing skills alone and if this skill didn’t come naturally, people often suffer from a lifetime of un-confidence and fear of the words art, craft, drawing, baking,writing, or simply creative. Some of you also may have loved those art classes, you may have been great at them, but you don’t get a chance to indulge your creative streak as much as you would like to as an adult.

As we all know, thinking creatively is liked to wellbeing, happiness and relaxation. So what are you waiting for, take these tips to heart and you may just ignite your own creative spirit.

 

1. Make time away from technology & television.

If you add up all the time we spend in front of the TV or on our smartphones it’s more than we sleep!

“Communications regulator Ofcom said UK adults spend an average of eight hours and 41 minutes a day on media devices, compared with the average night’s sleep of eight hours and 21 minutes.” BBC News

Schedule in creative time, whether at home or attending a class. The best way to do this is to start a project, for beginners why not try your had at a craft kit working on it one evening a week or attending a craft café? For more advanced creative plan a project using your skill-set, having a purpose often helps with motivation for example painting a picture for the downstairs loo or sewing a skirt for a party.

2. Craft and bake with your kids or like a kid.

Being creative comes naturally to all children, its how they learn, so maybe you they could teach you a thing or too. Don’t worry about the mess! You can of course contain it… But get painting with potatoes, sticking with pasta, making hand prints, baking with breakfast cereal! All the things that seem a no-no as an adult are perfectly normal when you are a little person and will help you free up and let go of your preconceptions.

3. Think outside the box.

This can reach many elements of life and work, but simply think a little deeper about things. You have a friend or relatives birthday coming up, don’t just hop onto Amazon and buy the first thing that looks okay. Think about them, who are they, what do they like, do you have a fond memory. A card is a great place to get practical, it can simply be a heartfelt message. I often laugh at my husband for his lack of card writing skills, placing the most basic, spaced out message in his cards looks so bleak! But if you are feeling creative why not make a card, there are so many bits and pieces you can buy now. And yes this may open the doors to… Scrapbooking!

4. Do something mundane.

Get on a bus, sit on a train or even clean the windows! Doing things that require minimum thought can actually trigger your creative thinking.

Prof Jonathan Schooler from the University of California, Santa Barbara explains: “If you are stumped, take a break. Allow the unconscious processes to take hold. But rather than just sitting there, you might want to take a walk or a shower or do something like gardening.” BBC Science

I know when I used to write comedy, the best place for me to do so was in the bath! I somehow could remember my lines and come up with Whittier jokes when I was submerged in water, now I know why!

5.Don’t be afraid to take risks.

As a creative freelancer, I had to get over quite quickly the taking “risks with my career” . Everything I do comes with an element of risk, from hosting a comedy night, to writing a book when I had never done it before, to presenting for a big craft channel when I had never done it before, to having a baby! What is life without risks? When you improvise you there are actually changes that happen to the front of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, it actually shuts down, which allows us to be more creative. This has been studied in jazz musicians and freestyle rappers when they are free flowing and improvising.

So, do you think you can do it? Take one of these points onboard and you may just may feel a little tingle of that creative Magic!