Monday, 29 June 2015


My last post "What if I did?" struck a chord with a few of other ladies, in a similar position - it seems there is a hidden army of People Pleasers out there, all secretly harbouring desires to take some time, and do something just for themselves. Something they've been pondering, or hankering after, for a while now.

Well, "I did". And it was incredibly rewarding.

You may have noticed the bright shiny new look to Ditsy Bird Designs today - this is the result of working very hard over the past few weeks, updating my branding to bring the style and quality of my online presence, in line with that of the products I make.

I'd been trying to work out why I found it so easy to design and make my products, come up with ideas, and never run out of inspiration and love for what I do. But, at the same time, why I was SO averse to listing these products on my website; or updating my blog with recent endeavours...why I hid in Instagram and ignored my Etsy shop. Why I never pointed friends to my sites when enquiring about designs, but would email photos to them. Why I NEVER carried business cards with me.

Why? Simply - and vitally - because, my online style in no way reflected my design style...or the quality of it.

I realised that I didn't want to list items on my site, because it looked clunky and clumsy. Amateur. Because I felt it devalued the work and effort that had gone into creating the products on there.

I also knew that I did not have the funds to pay someone to design me a logo, or a website, and I wouldn't know what to ask for if I did.

Then I stumbled upon the answer.

After seeing lots of buzz and excitement about it on Instagram, and that people I respect had been singing it's praises, I bought myself a copy of Fiona Humberstone's book How to Style Your Brand.

Best twenty quid I've spent in a long while!

click on the pic to go to Fiona's Pinterest feed

Certainly the best value for money - it is a truly beautiful book (coffee-table-worthy styling and photographs), and is bursting with knowledge, advice, encouragement and enable anyone with the desire to restyle or redesign their brand, to do just that.

So I did.

I worked my way through the book, front to back, reading and rereading each section in turn, and working through the action points that Fiona lays out for you.

With each chapter, it was made very clear what was required of me, so I just knuckled down and got on with at a time.

Now I have to admit that I really did struggle with some areas - the idea of seasonal personalities, for instance - and I confess that the concept of colour psychology blew my mind to begin with!

My little piece of advice? Lay your preconceptions about who YOU are to one side, and concentrate on who YOUR BUSINESS is. Whilst it may be an extension of yourself, it is a separate entity...and has it's own personality traits just as you do. Or, at least mine does. It is not a complete reflection of me as a person.

Once I'd managed to leave any prejudgement behind, and continued on with an unbiased view of my business (and myself to some degree), I found following the process more intuitive and much easier. 

Things started to click. There were a couple of light bulb moments. A 'who knew?" or two.

Some bits I had to leave, and come back to with fresh eyes, after a bout of inking to clear my head and my body of tension.

There was a moment there, that I thought I wasn't going to 'get' the season and colour philosophies, but I dug deep, was really honest with myself, and it did fall into place eventually...satisfyingly so! turns out that Ditsy Bird Designs is a Spring business! I didn't see that coming AT ALL. Though when I was talking it through with my mum, explaining the Spring attributes and colours, she very much in the "well, obviously" camp. It never fails to surprise me, the disparity between how WE see ourselves, and how OTHERS do. Never fails.

click on the picture to go to Fiona's Pinterest feed

It shocked me, just how blinkered I'd become to my own business. To it's look and feel. It's purpose. 

How my longing for a certain look to my blog and website, had blinded me to what my business is actually about, how it is perceived by others, and ultimately, what I want it to give to others.

  • take off those blinkers
  • set aside any specific design lusts you already harbour
  • open yourself up to the knowledge contained in the book - this is what Fiona does for a living, she is the expert, and you are reading her book - so listen to what she has to say
  • ask a close friend how they see your business/your products - what these mean to them, how they look, how they make them feel.
    (I kept going back to comments from friends on my Instagram photos - a cracking source of feedback if you put your business owner head on, instead of friend head (Worzel Gummidge anyone?). It's too easy to brush compliments aside with a "ohh give over" and a blush. But if someone has taken the time to tell you something, then chances are, they mean it. And if a few folk are saying the same's time to listen up!)

I made a brand board. I know! :)

Bright, light and fun - not the chic, black and white, stark Scandinavian look that makes me veritably purr when I see it.

In fact, no black at all. My fall back ink choice every time.

And this was the biggest light bulb moment of all!

As soon as I changed my logo from black and white, to colour...everything fell into place. Oh happy, happy day!

And then I paused, looked over at my messy desk (I type at my neat desk - no ink allowed), and looked at the work I had on there, and realised that I use colour a lot. And bright colour too! Our house may be painted in muted shades, and our furniture may be subtly coloured, but my work is brimming with it.

I'd been so short-sighted. I'd been thinking about me, Sarah, not me Ditsy Bird. Face palm. No wonder I had hated my online look for so and the message I was trying to convey, were completely at odds.

So there you have it - a brand new look to Ditsy Bird Designs!

Well nearly. After spending hours (days?) trying to come up with a new logo, I went back to my original design that I love, and which feels right. I simply redrew it and utilised Photoshop and Illustrator, to get a sleeker, more polished look to it. And to add the all important colour.

The new look feels like a much more natural fit - a branding reflection of the business, it's products, designs, and it's intentions.

I'd love to know what you think? (Please be gentle)

Right, I'm off to get on with designing business cards, and product packaging...


Friday, 19 June 2015

What if I did...

I have a notebook, a journal of sorts, that I offload into when I’ve got issues nattering in my brain that I need to silence.
I usually spew out how I’m feeling in bullet point format. One liners like this. Or sometimes just words expressing how I’m feeling. Grrr. (That was an example). Headache headache headache. (Another example).
When ‘things’ feel like that they may overwhelm me, or if I can adequately voice whatever it is that has my brain so clouded, I find that this system really works. For me. 
The other day I was feeling a little twitchy – you know when you can’t settle into a task, your leg keeps bobbing, you’re up and down out of your seat – so I reached for my book and started the brain vomit. [Nice!]
Things often end up on the page that I wasn’t really expecting…sometimes it’s the subject matter, and sometimes it’s the way I articulate the issue in startling clarity.
“How do I view my success as important?”
This was the last line of Tuesday’s scrawlings, and it hit the nail right royally on the head!
Ditsy Bird Designs – this is the business that I have been dabbling with, without ever getting firmly stuck in to, for years now.
I want to do it
I have the creative skills and ideas to do it
I have spent money on it (materials, courses, tools, hardware, software)
I have spent inordinate amounts of time working on it (designing, honing my skills, trialling, practicing, researching, going on courses [photography, blogging, designing, painting, mixed media, drawing, branding etc], setting up the behind the scenes bit [accounts, supplier info, website, blog etc]
I know I can do it…
…but I never really do.
This is the crux of the matter. I always, ALWAYS, give other things precedence. And by other things, I mean other people…I am so determined to be there for the people who matter the most to me, that I don’t fully commit to DBD, because I know it will take more time, more effort, and – biggest of all – commitment.
I will have to say no to people, to let them down, to put something that is solely for me, before them.
Now before you go thinking I’m one of life’s martyrs, putting everyone’s every need before my own, I’m not. Truly.
This isn’t me being a doormat – I am a people pleaser; I like to help and do things for my loved ones; I get a kick out of it; it makes me feel good; a huge part of me needs to be needed. It is my choice, not the will of others.
And if, for one second, I felt that one of these folk were taking the proverbial, they’d know about it quick sharp! 
I’m nobody’s fool – except, perhaps, my own.
Ahem, and there we have it…I am the ONLY person stopping me from doing this, and achieving my potential.

I have been slogging away at researching branding and logos etc for a while now…I really don’t like my website or my blog, because they simply don’t reflect me or Ditsy, and certainly not my design style. 

How To Style Your Brand by Fiona Humberstone

The only way to rectify this is to work at it, and to dig deep to find what would reflect me and my creative style. I know that if I loved the look of my blog and website, I would be SO much more willing to update them and pop in once in a while. I’d be proud to!
Much in the same way as I’m happy to check in on favourite blogs and Instagram feeds, because even if their current post isn’t relevant to me, their web space and the overall feel of it make me feel…calm / uplifted / invigorated / inspired / motivated / joy. But mostly that I’m in a place of beauty and great designthis REALLY flicks my switch, floats my boat, and totally twirls my skirt. 

It’s all about the visual. Nah…getaway, really?!?! Ha. ‘Course it is! 

Oops, digressed a little there, where were we? Ahh yes…

..So the other day I had a meeting with a lady in the village, about the prep for the village show in September. Our team of 5 (last year) has reduced to just the two of us, so I happily took on the role of sorting the paperwork…leaflets, show booklet, posters, forms, entrant info and so on and so on.
I came home that afternoon, shoved my branding book and notebook to one side, and immediately got stuck into designing this year’s show booklet. For hours. And I mean hours.
Why, oh WHY??? am I so happy and motivated to work on something for someone  else, yet I find it SO hard to work on MY stuff?
It’s like my brain goes, “hey, for the show to work, you are NEEDED to get working on the paperwork, and you MUST design the booklet this instant, because you have a clearly definable PURPOSE”. And “oh you can leave all that branding stuff, after all, it’s ONLY FOR YOU”. 
So I’m asking you, genuinely, how do I start to see that Ditsy Bird Designs is a real and valid reason to be working hard (whilst not earning anything for it at the moment…obviously no one will pay me to do my own branding), putting in the time and effort, and focus? That’s a biggie right there.
How do I stop seeing “just for me” as less important, lacking purpose?

How do I change my attitude, my way of thinking?
I’ve tried thinking in terms of the potential extra cash I’d earn; the feeling of empowerment I’d have; the sense of purpose and the happiness that would bring; the rush I get when people buy my products; the joy of working on something I love and the flexibility of doing it at home…but thus far, they haven’t provided the catalyst I need.

that's me, waiting - but not just for my son
I know it’s not because I’m lazy (I had thought this for a long while) simply due of the amount of time I’ve spent this week alone, messing about with entry tickets, and ‘save the date’ posters on my macbook – time that would have been amazingly useful spent on researching colour themes and fonts for my own website.
When I think about the show paperwork, I know the end date; can see the actual room on the day; the users of the information I’ve created; the end result of all the hard work; the purpose.
When I think about spending hours working on who my dream client might be; sharing value; building a community; reflecting my style in a blog banner, it all goes very fuzzy and blurry…all soft focus (with bokeh..true fact), hard to visualise, and intangible.
Yesterday, I suddenly thought of it all from a different angle which turned it all on its head…
…instead of my usual “what if I did?”, I thought “what if I didn’t?”!
To be continued…(with luck, a following wind, and renewed focus and purpose).

In my search for online assistance with all this (or for a virtual rocket up the bum, if you like), I did happen upon two very interesting articles:
This one by Genevieve Smith on Elle, and
This one by Steve Farquharson on 2HelpfulGuys.

[The comments on the Elle post contained some real gems]


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Chocolate Hangover Tuesday


Mondays are always tired days in our house - Paul is up at 5ish in order to get the train to London, to head to work for the week.

I often doze off again for an hour, but the sleep during the night is usually broken, as we toss and turn, anticipating the early alarm call.

Why is then, that it usually Monday night when I get the urge to stay up silly late?

Last night, I was supping decaf, scoffing Dairy Milk, and catching up on DCI Banks at 10:30pm.

Once the TV programme had finished, I mysteriously decided to work through the Planning workbook for How to Style Your Brand...why oh why had inspiration eluded me all evening, yet just as I should be heading upstairs to catch up on some much needed sleep, there I was on the sofa furiously scribbling away my thoughts????

Self- sabotage I call it, and I have absolutely no idea why I do it.

Today I am nursing a hefty chocolate much dairy (not just Cadburys) has been consumed over the weekend, that it has rendered my sinuses blocked and unhappy, and left me with a stonking headache and feeling mildly nauseous. Silly Sarah. [Though the meal that Paul cooked up on Saturday evening (the Culprit) was most definitely worth it].

I've even been back to bed for a power nap this morning - I never do that!

Even more shocking is that I actually nodded off straight away. 

On the up side, I can actually concentrate now, and stand a much better chance of making it through until actual bedtime, before running for my bed!

So, it just me? Do you do it? Has anyone sussed out why we do it? Is it due to a strange sporadic masochistic trip ourselves up before we've even got going?

Who knows?!

What I DO know, is that there will be none of it tonight - tonight I will be tucked up nice and early, ready to welcome Slumber's warm and cloud like embrace.