Life’s Purpose…

I often find myself contemplating the meaning of life… over my lifetime I’ve drawn inspiration from quotes and concepts like that of the The 14th Dalai Lama’s ‘The true meaning of life’

We are visitors on this planet

We are here for ninety

or a hundred years

at the very most.

During that period,

we must try to do something

good, something useful,

with our lives.

if you contribute to other

people’s happiness, you will

find the goal,

the true meaning of life.

But there are still times when I feel my efforts are lacking and purpose is unclear…

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Recently while pondering the meaning of life I’ve found solace in the act of capturing, it is as though my inner yearning to feel as alive as I did back when I was a full-time photographer is becoming subconsciously unbearable. So I’ve been keeping my camera close at hand and have even travelled with the intention of capturing that which inspires me and will hopefully inspire others. I seek to capture a way of being, a way of living, that which represents a life of purpose. Working in solitude I have had to make a conscious effort to break up my week and spend Wednesday outside of the studio, off our little property on the hill, on the edge of our rural village, and engage with others in person. With a full production schedule it’s not always easy to allow myself that time, but I know it is necessary so I make it happen.

 

 

The other day I planned to tie these two must do’s into the one day, starting with a yoga class, followed by a walk around town, chatting with friends, shop owners & anyone who crossed my path… then I ventured off to seek out inspiration to capture through my lens. I drove through streets of Yass that I’ve not driven down before just to see where they would lead and found myself here!

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What better place is there to appreciate life than a cemetery?

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It suddenly struck me that I had not, in the 6 years of living in this region, been to this cemetery. Although I have attended funerals or memorial services for friends and acquaintances from this region, I had not physically been to the cemetery, nor did I even know where it was. I literally stumbled across it. I wasn’t looking at street signs while I was driving, just taking in the beautiful homes that adorn our streets and the spectacular vistas of those homes. This cemetery is probably the least manicured I’ve ever been to, but  it was certainly the most beautiful that I have ever visited… the view is breath taking!

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As I walked around the segmented grounds, sectioned into faiths and religions, I found myself captivated by the differences in graves and head stones, some obviously from very wealthy bloodlines, and others so very obviously not, and then another realisation hit me… it matters not in the end what your position in society or you financial status, everybody ends up lying side by side, in the same place, with the same magnificent view.

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So this begs the question, does money and status mean a better life lived OR a lack of money mean a life spent serving others rather than serving self? I feel the best option is try to live a life of purpose rather than power and if you can combine the two even better! So although we’ll end up in the same place as our final resting place, with a head stone that is either weathered and illegible or etched in stone for all to see and read for years to come, it matters not. What matters more is how we spent the journey toward reaching that final destination and the impact we had on those we left behind or interacted with along the way.

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xx

 

Ps. Here are a few extra pics from that day…

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Gateway to the afterlife… not as flash as some would hope 😉

 

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The all knowing tree that creaked eerily as I stood beneath it… whispering untold tales of those who have entered these grounds.

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Meandering paths of simplicity, nothing flash about these grounds… manicured grounds are not necessary when you’re surrounded by such natural magnificence.

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The ‘opt out’ passage…

 

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Daylesford to Bowning

I dedicated the last day of my recent solo road tripping adventure to capturing images of that which captivated & intrigued me OR simply made my imagination run WILD!

More time’s definitely required in this region to truly take in what it has to offer…

Macaroni Factory 1

The Macaroni Factory

 

Little Shack

Abandoned little shack

 

Farm Gate Cart

Farm gate cart

 

 

Daylesford Hotel 1

The Daylesford Hotel

 

 

Convent Gallery 1

The Convent Gallery

 

 

Farm House 1

Farmhouse Magnificence

 

 

Farm House Shed 1

 

 

Ruin &amp; Tree 1

Farm Ruin & Intriguing Tree

 

 

Boulders 2

Boulder Farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunset 4

Sunset Sky – Highway Side

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xx

 

Copyright 2016: All images in this post belong to Marie-Nicole Roberts, requests for use welcome.

The Rural Woman: Wealth Retreat

In all honesty money has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I know it’s necessary to live in our current system, but my focus in life has been more about living well, not to simply create financial wealth. Finding a balance where you earn enough money to support your needs and help you move forward is something I believe to be extremely important, which is why I took the plunge and booked myself into this retreat. Leaving my family behind for a few days was a new experience, but one I felt I had to have in order to give myself the love and care I needed so as to provide them with the abundance of love and care that they need from me. Nurturing abundance, in both a psychological and monetary sense, was the essence of this retreat. Our guide was the holistic finance guru Dianna Jacobsen who focuses on empowering women to realise their dreams and take charge of their wealth. There was less of a focus on numbers and more of a focus on wellbeing, self love, worthiness & building foundations for a life of abundance, based on gratitude and beliefs.

Below is a visual diary of the confronting yet empowering experience I embarked on throughout this adventure. I say confronting, as the digging deep into myself to discover what guided my beliefs about money and self worth (or the lack there of) was confronting, but the realisation of what has been driving my decisions and actions to date was very much empowering! These pics are only those taken on my phone. They don’t show everything the retreat offered, such as the massage, webinar & workshops (hosted by Rebel Black founder of The Rural Woman), breakfasts, lunches, fireside chats, tears shared (during Christine’s session which was meant to encourage us to embrace today in order minimise regrets in the future),  along with stories told about each person’s life journey and the mineral baths (no photos to share of those sorry, you need to experience those for yourself). I completely immersed myself in this retreat and set my phone aside most of the time. Hopefully though there is enough there to inspire you to do what you need to; to nurture yourself and perhaps take the time out of your busy life to reconnect with yourself and regain your inner strength. This retreat certainly did that for me, I arrived feeling raw and broken inside and left feeling I had it within me to repair that brokenness and stride forward. Oh and then there were the friends I collected along the way… an added bonus!

VISUAL DIARY:

{Night before the retreat} I arrived in Daylesford the night before after a very long and tiring drive with the last 2 hours being along goat tracks by starlight with next to no phone reception, guided only by the voice of the Google maps navigator, in an unfamiliar car graciously loaned to me by dear friends (as our car broke down that morning, just as I was set to leave for the 7 hour drive). I’d booked a room at the delightful Daylesford Hotel for the first night to give myself a chance to drive and capture some images of the inspiring landscape along the way, and ease into the experience rather than simply drive all morning then throw myself wearily into the meet and great & first workshop session on the Monday afternoon.

The morning of the retreat: I awoke to the fantastic view of a lovely country town, much bigger than I expected it to be… arriving in the dark the night before meant I had no idea of what the place looked like. So, I drove around for a while familiarising myself of where I was and where I needed to be that afternoon, then looked for somewhere inspiring to eat and when I saw a sign with simply the word LARDER written on it, I knew I’d found that place. It did not disappoint…

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Larder for brunch and brain storming

{The retreat begins} Upon arrival at 65 Main, Christine Lewis the guesthouse owner and host greeted each of us with her vibrant smile and bubbly personality… spoiled us with gifts sourced locally and from small time producers and we were made to feel extremely welcome and at ease. Our first workshop sessions with Dianna & Rebel on our beliefs, our energy and introducing new ideas to our subconscious were extremely thought provoking. Ending day 1 by walking down the street to dine in a beautifully restored old house come restaurant The Grande, which I did not take photos of… but it was magical, warming, the food tantalised our taste buds & our waitstaff Owen & Renai were very attentive… and Renai lit up the room every time she walked in. Conversations & wine flowed at a steady pace and the sharing of stories began, we were all connected by common threads feel at ease, if not at home, there together even after only being in each others presence for a few hours we became friends.

{Dinner on day 2}  After a rather confronting experience of digging deep within ourselves to gain a better understanding of what our story on money is (intense) followed by a full body massage and the message delivered loud and clear by my masseur that I really need to learn to ‘let go’… working on that! We all freshen up and headed out to the two hatted restaurant The Lake House. Every part of that experience was amazing, from the grounds, the buildings, the decor, the wine, the personalised menu, each course served was a work of art and tasted sensational! Connections between participants continued to grow and strengthen.

{The Convent Gallery on Day 3} After another series of workshops (including one by Dianna on managing finances in a positive way & another by Kerry Griffith’s on self love), this time less confronting and more empowering, we headed out to The Convent Gallery on an empowered high… we were given a guided tour of the intriguing buildings, and had the opportunity to hear from Tina Banitska (the owner) directly about her very own journey of turning her dreams into reality. I could have sat and listened to Tina speak all day, her foundation building childhood experiences, passion for life and love of story telling was very much akin to that of my own story… I absorbed as much of her energy as physically possible and wanted to plead that we stay longer even though we were already behind time. However, they did manage to pry me out of there and I am glad they did as what followed was like nothing I have ever experienced… we then spent the next 2 hours soaking in mineral baths at Hepburn Bathhouse. A first for me and like nothing I have ever experienced, such a blissful way of spending the afternoon… the conversations flowed as we let the bubbles from jets massage our bodies again, next we floated in the therapeutic salt pool and ended off with time lost in the semi outdoor hot pool, as the sunset and the temperature dropped, which made us appreciate the comforting warmth of the hot pool even more, time simply slipped away, further connections were made, information exchanged and new friendships formed. What an experience… one to be had again that’s for sure.

{After letting our cares float away} The retreat had come to end, but the fun had not, some of us decided to make the most of our time together and ability to take advantage of our flexibility so we headed out to dinner again. Thanks to Christine we were introduced to a fantastic little locals haunt Cliffy’s where we bumped into the delightful waitress Renai (from our first nights dinner at The Grande) and Tina (owner of the Convent Gallery) whom I truly hoped to cross paths with again… voi la, there she was, it was enough to simply see her again I did not have to engage in an extensive conversation to benefit from her presence… at that point the priority was to converse with my new found & treasured friends, although we had only just met 2 days earlier we had a strong thread connecting us all and it felt like we’d known each other for years.

{A new person} On the last day of my adventure I took my new found inner strength and sparks of a new and improved version of me to come, and set out to take in the beauty that surrounded me, capturing images that spoke of a desired lifestyle using my DSLR camera to really capture the essence of each scene… I will share these images with you in my next post. My love of capturing the beauty of living through a lens was reignited that day, rather than simply using my camera as a tool for taking product shots I am inspired to follow my hearts desire and capture shots that represent a way of living…

As founder of The Rural Woman Rebel Black says: “may you bloom where you are planted.”

That is my wish for you too… along with accepting who you are and living out dreams, your individual gifts are valuable don’t let them be submerged in the name of doing, start being!

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xx

 

Keep on improving… and evolving

Keeping things achievable is vital to running a micro business, burning out serves no one, so having systems in place like setting up a ready to shoot area which was the topic of my last post in this Selling on Etsy Series, makes it possible to keep up with the many and varied aspects of running a business.  Equally important is to keep growing and developing as an artisan, not just for own your sake but also for your customer’s.

Keep on improving… and evolving!

Keeping an existing customer happy and engaged is far easier than trying to constantly find new ones. So it is extremely important to continue to improve your products, sometimes it’s just about tweaking things a little. I recently sold a third instrument case to an existing customer who had bought one for almost each of her children and her feedback this last purchase was; “The rivets on the labels work really well now!” (paraphrased) This simple little change of using mini rivets rather than hand stitching labels on not only upped the quality of the finish on my product, it also impressed an existing customer who was already sold on my work.

Riveted labels

By adding new designs to your product range you’ll also find that existing customers who already trust you and the quality of your work will keep coming back for more, not just for them but they’ll make purchases to gift to family and friends and will become your best form of advertising. Beyond just improving existing products though, there is always more to learn… I am always out to refine my skills or learn new ones. In the last couple of years I have attended workshops on leather work, sandal making, silver smithing, business development etc… every time I do a workshop it not only teaches me something new, it triggers ideas for improvement within my product range or ignites an idea for a new product all together. Expanding on my artisanal skill set keeps me thinking and my customers engaged.

 

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Working with full kangaroo skins (has been a part of my evolution process) to create my own offcuts in colours that I find work well with blankets and colours that I find difficult to obtain reliably as an off cut. By increasing my skills in leather work I have also been able to expand my range even further, introducing full skin leather satchels, sometimes you just need a neutral tone bag to compliment your outfit, while other times the comfort of a blanket bag is what you need… using the two side by side gives you the complete by marie-nicole experience. Recently, I started working with hair on hide creating an adjustable vest perfect for a marketeer, artisan or even a musso, where you’re often exposed to the elements, need to maintain a comfortable level of warmth without feeling bulky and restricted in movement. This vest will soon become a part of the WILD HIDE RANGE which was born as a complimentary range to the RESCUED AND REPURPOSED RANGE… the two ranges now sit comfortably side by side in my Etsy store (and on my market stall).12901104_10154076223584133_1981474172251766016_o

As artisans we are not mass producers, we are not manufacturers, we are artists expressing our creativity with a practical application, shoppers who visit Etsy are not after something they can easily obtain in the mainstream, much like shoppers who attend artisan markets, evolving keeps things exciting for you and them alike. So don’t be afraid to expand on your skills and introduce something new.

Selling on Etsy allows you to have both “roots and wings”…in my case, trading from the serenity of our farmlet, even while I sleep, play with my kidlets, furry and feathered friends, or while we venture off to explore our region and beyond. Not being restricted to the opening hours of a bricks and mortar store suits the lifestyle we lead at the moment. Which I am sure is not dissimilar to yours, as the research has shown, most Etsy sellers are female, mothers working within the constraints of a family, or people with careers outside their craft, so juggling varied tasks at once is inevitable. The ability to reach customers across the globe who value your work while fulfilling the needs of those within your care is invaluable. Which is why I encourage anyone with a desire to do something different, something truly unique to them, but are unsure of how to get it out there in front of the buyers without drastically changing their current lifestyle, to start with an Etsy store, grow it organically and enjoy the journey it will take you on!

As I said earlier in this series of posts, selling through Etsy is easy, but it does take effort and should be treated like any other business venture to reap the rewards… of which there are many.

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xx

Ps. Transforming your dreams into reality is possible… you have it within you… and there are many tools easily accessible that can help you achieve that.

 

 

 

 

Set up a ‘ready to shoot area’

Writing listings that help tell your story was the topic of my last post in my Selling on Etsy series. As well as keeping the process of writing those listing simple, equally as important  is keeping the process of photographing your products for your listings.

Set up a ‘ready to shoot area’

The photographing of products is such a crucial component in enticing shoppers into your online store, especially since they can’t draw from the atmosphere of your space, the reception they received and how they were made to feel while they were there, as is the case in a bricks and mortar store. Ensuring the feel of your images are consistent and making the process of capturing them simple for yourself to achieve will keep your shop looking and feeling professional while telling an overall story representing the ethos of your business.

Running a micro business often means you cover most, if not all roles, in every step of the process yourself, so it is important to have systems in place that allow you to complete each step efficiently. Especially since most of us Etsy sellers are women with children (as per the finding in the recent report shared on the EtsyAU blog) meaning we are restricted to working around the needs of our families and sometimes with them right under our feet, so the simpler we can make the process the more enjoyable it will be and the outcome will in turn be much more rewarding. Although I love to be able to venture off into farmland or down into the village for a shoot, sometimes the weather at the time of a scheduled shoot does not allow for me to do so, or my window of opportunity may be narrow due to a hectic production schedule or family commitments, prohibiting me from achieving this in the timeframe that I wish to capture and then list my products…  so I like to have a back up!

For me that has meant finding an area in my studio with the most consistent natural light and setting up a display that can easily be tweaked to capture a product in a snapshot as well as rearranged and adapted for a more complicated shooting session.

Here are some examples of how I use my ready to shoot area:

I like to use props that are sourced from nature, or rescued items such as vintage suitcases, wooden bobbins, ladders & doors… as these all fit in with the feel of my studio and the ethos of my business. It also represents how I set up my market & festival stalls, no matter whether people see my products in person on online the style and feel is recognisable… keeping the ‘branding’ consistent.

Allowing these processes to be simple and manageable will also mean allow to have time to try new things, learn new skills and keep on growing as an artisan and business owner, which I will talk more about in my final post in this Selling on Etsy series.

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xx

 

Story telling continues in listing descriptions

In Selling on Etsy: Part 2 I talked about ‘telling your story‘ and how social media allows you to connect all those dots, for online shoppers and even those who may have seen you briefly at an event and then looked you up online. But what about those who find you simply through doing a search within in Etsy itself? This is where you have a chance to share the philosophy behind your work as well as the specifications of the products.

Listing descriptions

When I write a listing I like to give shoppers as much information as possible, not just about the product’s materials and it uses, but also the inspiration behind the design, where the materials are sourced and even details about the photographs, including the props and/or the location I was shooting at. This is all a part of the story and the enjoyment of every step of the process. To keep writing each listing description simple, I set up a template of sorts with separate sub headings breaking up the information into blocks, so if a shopper wishes to get straight to the point about the measurements they can or if they’re someone who loves the little details they too are catered for.

Listing descriptions

Repurposed Blanket Guitar Case shot in the leafy main street of our village in autumn…

My subheadings go something a like this:

~ The inspiration

~ The photos

~ About the [product name]

~ Size

This is especially helpful when you have a large variety of products for sale in your shop, some of which are of similar design just made out of a different materials like my Repurposed Blankets Guitar Case Range, I keep a stock of stand classical sizes available as well as offer a Bespoke Order for larger and different shaped guitars. Each standard classical is still a one of a kind as I don’t often get the same blankets in. So when I have made a few stock items but want to list each one individually (a few days apart), it is simply a matter of copying an existing listing to changing the specific details for the each product.

In much the same way that I do this for my listings, I also have a ‘ready to shoot area’ to simplify the process of photographing products. Which I will talk about in my next post!

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xx

 

Large companies create story boards, artisan’s live those stories…

In my first post of this Selling on Etsy series, I talked about how I’ve used Markets and Events as a promotional tool, taking the opportunity to trade in person and promote my online store. In the lead up to such events, during them and afterwards, I share the story of my journey which brings me to this post. Selling on Etsy: Part 2

Telling your story…

Social Media has been a fantastic way of building further credibility online, where shoppers can’t talk to you face to face, especially when it comes to demonstrating the authenticity of what my family and I are about, and how that relates directly to what my work is about. Sharing the process of creating my products and the environment they are created in is a part of this story telling.

Part of the reason for me changing direction in my creative career was to be able to include my family in my adventures. So I also share snapshots of our travels, especially when we head off on a weekend adventure together to trade at a market or festival. The flexibility of running an Etsy store means that my shop is still working for me while we’re exploring and I do not have to physically be in one place all the time.

During these events I do place my Etsy store on vacation mode, with most of my products being one of a kind, I don’t want to risk double selling an item.  I also state in my vacation notice exactly where I’ll be trading, during that period, to give online shoppers living nearby the opportunity to visit my stall in person.

Cécile - Millthorpe

The evening before Millthorpe Markets, enjoying a local drop that we picked up during our exploration that day… finishing off some work outside Cécile 1965 Franklin (our home away from home).

Aside from sharing my production process and traveling trader adventures I also like to share images that validate (for want of a better word) my use of recourses especially since this relates directly to the way we live, our waste not want not approach to living means everything is viewed as a valuable resource with potential, so it is not discarded unless it’s truly deemed useless. That may sound like we’re hoarders, but I can assure you we are not… keeping our surroundings both beautiful and comfortable is just as important in my workspace as it is in our home and garden. Sharing snippets of what we as a family engage in to create and sustain the lifestyle we choose to live, based on what we truly believe in, only stands to strengthen what I speak about in my listing descriptions.

Larder Love

Our larder is right in the centre of our home, which represents our lifestyle perfectly… growing, tending, preserving & appreciating every step of the process of living off our little piece of land is central to our existence.

I believe its possible to be both personable and professional in your approach to social media, being yourself takes a lot less effort than pretending to be someone you are not… Etsy shoppers support authenticity. So as a sole trader, artisan, artist, designer or micro business, giving customers a true sense of what you stand for through your story telling is far more beneficial than trying to keep up the appearance of being a large company when you are not! Keep in mind that large companies (if not selling on a cheap price) try to create story boards for their promotions that capture the imagination of their customers… while artisans live those stories! Don’t be afraid to share the story you are living, as it can both inspire others to work on living their own dream as well as providing your buyers the confidence to support your work.

“Large companies create story boards, artisans live those stories!”

My next post in this series will be about listing descriptions, your descriptions are a part of your story telling opportunity! Selling on Etsy: Part 3 will expand on this further.

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xx