Gumnut Magic

Pale eco-print results: Troubleshooting the cause

From time to time I get questions from my ebook customers, wondering why they have gotten pale or disappointing results when eco-printing on cotton using an iron mordant. There is no simple answer, because there are a lot of different variables that can affect results. In this post I will discuss some of the major variables, as well as ideas for troubleshooting the cause of pale prints.
When we eco-print, we use leaves, fabric and mordant. Each of these has its own set of potential problems.

Troubleshooting fabric variables

Fabric naturally contains oil and waxes that act as a barrier for natural dyes, preventing them from binding to the fabric. If you want to use new fabric, you need to scour it. Scouring is a form of deep washing that strips out the oils and waxes. Insufficient scouring can cause pale results. Make sure you follow scouring instructions carefully and rinse well afterwards with hot water. You can find instructions for scouring in my Gum Leaf Alchemy ebook , Intro to Cotton ecourse , or through a web search.
A simpler option to use old, well washed fabric. Often this takes up natural dyes even better than scoured fabric.
Another fabric problem can be not wrapping bundles firmly enough. The leaves need to be pressed firmly into the fabric, otherwise the dye will seep out into the water and cause pale, patchy prints, rather than being absorbed directly where it is touching the fabric, in a perfect leaf shape.

Troubleshooting leaf variables

There are two major leaf variables that can cause pale results. First is the leaf itself and whether it actually has enough natural dyes in it. Some plants are great for eco-printing with and others just aren’t. And a particular genus may in general be good for eco-printing, but that doesn’t mean that every species in that genus will be. For example, some eucalyptus species will produce vivid orange or red prints on wool, while others don’t even create a print. And even species that usually give good results can be affected by growing conditions, weather and rainfall, as well as the time of year that you pick the leaves.
The second leaf variable is how it has been collected and stored. In my ebooks and ecourses, I recommend collecting fresh leaves and soaking them in water for a few days or weeks, to remove the water soluble tannins that can cause bleeding on iron-mordanted fabric. Soaking the leaves makes some of the dyes more available, so you get brighter and clearer results that with fresh leaves. But soaking them for too long can also cause pale results.
I recommend doing your own tests – compare fresh leaves with some soaked for a few days, a week and 2 weeks, all eco-printed on the same piece of iron-mordanted fabric and cooked for the same length of time. This will help you begin to see what works best for your local leaves.
I explore all of these leaf factors more deeply in my ebook, The Leaf Guide.

Troubleshooting mordant variables

Homemade mordants can be a little tricky, because they are all different strengths and the quality can vary, depending on what metal you used for it and how long it has been brewing. In general, as long as your mordant changes colour as the iron soaks in the vinegar, it is usable.
To test the quality of your iron mordant, try to control the other variables as much as possible. Use old, well washed cotton and some reliable leaves like rose and Eucalyptus cinerea. I recommend using them fresh, so you don’t accidentally use leaves that have been soaked for too long. Press your bundle between tiles and secure with clips, to ensure good pressure. Cook on a low boil for 1 hour, then let cool in the pot.
If you get strong results, you will know that your mordant is okay, and you can start experimenting with soaking the leaves for different lengths of time and using other fabric.
If you get pale results, it tells you something is probably wrong with your iron mordant. One possibility is that it is too old – iron mordant gets weaker over time as the pH changes. Another possibility is that the piece of metal you used wasn’t the best for making mordants with – try to find a very rusty piece of iron to make a new mordant with.

Does the amount of mordant matter?

Homemade mordants vary in strength, so it is not possible to give precise instructions like ‘use 4% of the Weight Of Fibre’. Some people worry that they have used too little or too much. Don’t be too worried about the amount though – the fabric will only absorb some of what is in the mordant bath, and it is quite a forgiving process.
A small amount is surprisingly potent, and it is rarely the case that people haven’t used enough. If you are doing a large batch of mordanting, just make sure that you add a small amount more after soaking each piece of fabric, to replace the mordant that it has absorbed.
Using too much mordant can be a problem however. If your fabric yellows significantly after being in the mordant bath, you have used more that necessary. Try to flush some off by soaking it in plain water. Too much mordant will damage the fibres and make them tear and break down much more quickly.

Do cooking times matter?

I also get people asking if maybe they haven’t cooked their bundle for long enough. While I recommend cooking plant fibre bundles for 1-2 hours and then leaving the bundles in the pot until cool, from past experiments I know that even after 15 minutes of cooking, much of the colour will have transferred from leaf to cloth. If you have cooked your bundle for an hour or so and results are very pale, then cooking them for longer will not bring out more colour. There is something wrong with your fabric, mordant or leaves.

What to do with pale results

  • Enjoy them as is. Let go of the idea that eco-prints have to look a certain way, and just enjoy what you have received from the plants.
  • Re-print them: re-mordant your fabric and add a new layer of leaf eco-prints. This is also a good thing to do when eco-prints have faded from sun exposure. Fabric generally takes up natural dyes much better the second time.
  • Use them to make moons: pale, splotchy results make a wonderful base for shibori moons.

I hope this has given you some ideas for troubleshooting pale results.

Want to learn more? If you are still new to eco-printing, find clear and detailed instructions for eco-printing on cotton and paper in my eco-printing ebook bundle. Or if you are ready to go deeper, check out my range of ecourses.

Pale eco-print results: Troubleshooting the cause Read More »

Naturally dyed shibori moons


I’ve been enjoying a stint of moon making over the past few months. Using relief shapes and eucalyptus bark dye to create ethereal moons on a dark background.

I use Australian 20 cent coins for mini moons, and metal coasters for larger moons. But you can use any flat circle that will survive a dye bath – it is best to stick with stainless steel, ceramic or wood circles.

Making moons is a great way to use up less interesting eco-prints. Patchy leaf prints can create beautiful moon textures:

You can also make shibori moons over naturally dyed fabric. Here I used coreopsis and marigold dye for yellow and madder for pink moons:

I love how these moons glow.

From time to time I add new moon packs to my Etsy shop, for slow stitchers or patchworkers to use in their projects.

If you’d rather make them yourself, I have a lesson all about making mini moons in my Iso Dye Club ‘use what you have, pay what you can’ ecourse.

Naturally dyed shibori moons Read More »

Why I am transitioning my ecourses to ‘pay what you can’ pricing


All of my eco-printing ecourses are now available with variable pricing. Choose the amount that feels right to you, based on your circumstances and the value of the course to you.

I’m a little nervous to announce this, because I don’t want to upset anyone who has paid the full price. I appreciate you so much, and your support has meant that I can transition my business to this new pricing model, which will help people with less money to still be able to access my work.


The seed of this idea

In April this year, during the height of the Covid-19 lockdowns, I was watching my business income plummet and getting ready to apply for government support. Then one night a vision came to me – to create an eco-printing ecourse for everyone stuck at home, using materials we could easily find, and for it to be ‘pay what you can’, because most people were in the same position financially. And so the Iso Dye Club was born.

I originally wanted to let each customer choose their own price, but it proved too technologically difficult. So I came up with a system of levels instead. I also gave away free places to anyone who needed them.

I had no idea whether I’d even earn enough to make up for all the work it took. But I decided to just trust the universe, and focus on generosity, community and connection.

I ended up having an amazing month financially (especially within the wider financial context), and at the time of writing, I have over 500 people enrolled in the course. I am sharing this because I want you to realise that it is possible to have success this way. It is possible to run a business in a generous way, to give some priority to social equality, and to still earn a good income too.

This runs counter to all the mainstream business advice I have ever read. There seems to be an accepted belief that as a business grows it should charge more –  you have probably noticed that online courses are getting more and more expensive. This way of thinking focuses on scarcity and exclusivity.


Business models of scarcity and inequality

The general advice for running any sort of creative online business is to charge as much as you can, and then put a lot of effort into marketing it in such a way that people feel like they need it. Sometimes this is done overtly, tapping into feelings of shame or FOMO. Sometimes it is more subtle.

In pricing advice, there is a lot of talk about money blocks, and owning your value, and a general assumption that higher prices are the ultimate goal. More and more, I am questioning this.

Yes, creatives deserve to earn enough money to live on, to be fairly compensated for our work. But there is more than one way to achieve this. We need to dig below the surface and really examine this paradigm of scarcity that we are co-creating. Do we really want our world to head more in the direction of individualism, accumulation of wealth and power, and an ever-increasing divide between rich and poor? Our business models can either support this, or support a different story. And where we spend our money can either support this, or support a different story.

Even Patreon, which in some ways offers more affordable access to creatives’ work, still operates from this paradigm of inequality. Most Patreon subscriptions have multiple tiers of pricing, and the higher tier you are in, the more you get. This may seem reasonable. If you pay more, you should get more, right? But do people with more money really deserve to get more?

Economic inequality is firmly entrenched in our society, and is inextricably linked to power and privilege based on factors such as race, gender and ability – factors that we have no control over. If you are born female in a society where males earn more, if you are born disabled or as a person of colour or Indigenous, do you really deserve less?

Economic inequality is firmly entrenched in our society. It is linked to power and privilege based on factors such as race, gender and ability - factors that we have no control over. Offering variable pricing is one way that I can counteract systemic injustice and make my work accessible to more people.


Business models of interdependency and abundance

What if business growth could instead mean that we can make things cheaper and share them among more people, while still earning enough?

My experience running the Iso Dye Club taught me that it is possible to run a business in a generous way - to give some priority to social equality rather than just trying to make money.

Unlike in the Patreon model, everyone who buys my ecourses gets access to all the same course materials, no matter which level they join at. This is a model of abundance. There is enough for everyone, everyone is welcome. We also get to foster a sense of interdependence. The people who pay more, support the people who pay less to be able to join.

It is possible to run a profitable, sustainable business that aligns with our values. It is possible to have a win-win situation. To offer something that is generous and accessible, a good experience for my students, while still earning enough to be a fair exchange for the work I put into it.

I truly believe that we can co-create a more beautiful, equitable world. Especially in this time when old structures are precarious and the way forward is unclear, we have an opportunity to do things differently. It is possible to operate from a paradigm of interdependency and support.

When you buy any of my products, when you comment on my posts or share them, you are supporting my work. This in turn means that I can continue to make, experiment, learn, film, write and create both products and free content. We both give, we both receive. This is interdependence.

It has been a bit scary making this transition. Wondering if I am undervaluing my work, or whether it will be a failure. But then I come back to my heart. I remember what I truly care about and what sort of life I want to live, and the world I want to co-create.

If this topic interests or excites you and you want to learn more, I highly recommend Charles Eisenstein’s books, Sacred Economics and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, and his ecourse, Living In The Gift.

Let's be brave. Let's do better. I trust you to pay what you can.


How the variable pricing levels work

Each ecourse on my website now has several price levels. The lowest levels are concession places for people who need extra support and can’t afford the full price. If you can, I encourage you to pay the full price ‘Tree’ level or higher. This allows me to earn a fair income from my work, and also to offer concession places. In turn, this keeps the ‘pay what you can’ pricing model sustainable. But if you can only afford the lowest levels, you are still very welcome.

If you can afford to pay the higher levels, you are supporting other people to access my courses through your generosity. You are also supporting me to continue creating free content as well as new ebooks and ecourses.

The world is changing, and perhaps we need to let go of the idea that people with lots of money deserve more, and people with less money deserve less. No matter what level you can afford, you will get access to all the same course materials. There is enough for everyone, and I trust that you can support or be supported, as you need.

When you decide on a price level that feels fair based on your circumstances and what I am offering, you’ll know. It will feel right in your heart.

Why I am transitioning my ecourses to ‘pay what you can’ pricing Read More »

Wasteland dress update


Searching through my blog archive tells me that I was working on this dress a year ago.

I am finally ready for it to go out into the world – I’ve taken some proper photos of it, worn by my gorgeous friend, and have listed it in my Etsy shop. I want to share some of the final photos here too.

This dress is one of my favourite things I have made so far. Naturally stained and sculptural, almost like it has grown up out of the landscape.

I had originally planned to eco-print the dress when it was finished. Luckily when I shared it on my Instagram page, everyone convinced me to leave it alone and let the subtle colours and patterns of each piece come through.

I am so glad I listened to them. I’m not usually that into greys, but there is something alive in this cloth…

Wasteland dress update Read More »

The Iso Dye Club ecourse reflection


The live round of the Iso Dye Club has come to an end, although new students are still welcome to join and will be able to work through the ecourse at their own pace. It has been the most wonderful, inspiring whirlwind of an adventure. I feel so grateful to all the people who threw themselves into it with such enthusiasm and dedication, sharing their beautiful creations on Instagram and in our private group.

It has been such a good way to spend this quarantine/isolation time, hopefully for my students but also for me personally. I really appreciated staying busy, and feeling uplifted by everyone’s kind, supportive comments.

I’m also really glad that I offered it as ‘pay what you can’, to make it accessible to lots of people, especially at this time when so many of us are out of work or underemployed. Going forward, I want to bring this pricing model to more of my business, because it is a small way that I can help to create a more equitable world. Or as Charles Eisenstein puts it, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.

I want to share some of what we did in the course, because I really enjoyed creating simple lessons using materials that people would be able to access easily at home or in their neighbourhood, yet still get some stunning results. This craft doesn’t have to be complicated or precise. At it’s most basic, you just put leaves on paper or fabric, hold it together somehow and heat it up! And I encouraged everyone in the course to embrace the results they got, because sometimes in eco-printing, as in life, we don’t get what we expected and it can be very healing to learn to accept this.

Week 1: Rolled Bundles

For Week 1, we started with some simple rolled bundles, on both paper and fabric. We rolled around jars and cans – even rusty cans, if people were lucky enough to have these highly coveted, utterly magical eco-printing tools!

We used plain fabric and paper, to see how even the most simple technique could still give us some beautiful colours and patterns:

Week 2: Simple Homemade Mordants and Binders

In Week 2, we prepared our fabric and paper with homemade iron mordants and with protein binders (from kitchen scraps of yogurt, cow’s milk, nut milk or other protein-rich liquids). As well as leaves and flowers, I also demonstrated with some ingredients from the kitchen – onion skins, tea leaves and a sprinkling of turmeric – because some of the students were in isolation in apartments, or still emerging from the depths of winter. Here you can see the different colours and strength of results on plain cotton, and that prepared with a protein binder and iron mordant (from left to right).

Week 3: Folded Bundles

This week, we folded our paper and fabric and cooked them in dyebaths. On paper we experimented with creating different amounts of colour in the background. These bundles are both the same paper with the same leaves, cooked in the same dye bath, but I shared a simple trick for creating either dark or light backgrounds:

And on cotton, we created some shibori patterns around our leaf prints. This was one of my favourite lessons from the whole course. The leaves were eco-printed on fabric prepared with a simple yogurt binder, with a few tricks to get these vibrant results:

Week 4: Fun Things to do with Pale Results

When eco-printing, it is inevitable that some of your results will be pale or uninteresting. So we finished the course by exploring 3 ways to improve our pale prints. One option was to re-print the paper or fabric, with the addition of iron to bring out more colour and detail:

Another option was to draw over our paper eco-prints, either what we could see or what we could imagine. I shared some simple tips to encourage even the most reluctant artist to give it a try:

And we finished the course with a bonus lesson, because I wanted to thank everyone who was involved. So we used some of our pale fabric results to create some mini shibori moons:

This is another contender for my most favourite lesson. Sometimes the marks and leaf prints already on the fabric creates the most wonderful serendipitous results:

I hope you enjoyed this peek into the ecourse. If you are interested in joining us, I have left enrollments open because I want this course to be available to anyone who wants to be comforted or inspired by the magical combination of plants, creativity and community. Read more or join us here – the sliding scale starts at about the price of a coffee!

And whether you are enrolled in the course, or just enjoying this preview, I’d love to know which week or lesson is your favourite?!

The Iso Dye Club ecourse reflection Read More »

Introducing the Iso Dye Club


In this time of isolation and quarantine, I wanted to offer some moments of peace and joy. The healing power of nature and creativity. And so I have created the Iso Dye Club.

This ecourse is a gentle introduction to natural dyeing and eco-printing techniques, for cotton and paper. The focus is on making do with what we have. Simple methods and simple materials. Finding joy in the process and in unexpected results.

It’s also a chance to slow down, to connect with plants and with fellow artists/makers in isolation. Creativity and nature ground me, especially in uncertain and changing times. I look forward to sharing this with you too.

We’ll be using kitchen scraps to make natural dyes and binders, and eco-printing on paper and fabric that we find around the house. Here’s some results on printer paper:

This is a bit different from my other courses, because I wanted to offer something more affordable, and more accessible to those of you who can’t access fancy materials or lots of plants at this time. So our results might be softer and simpler, but this feels like good medicine for these times.

Join the Iso Dye Club to learn how to eco-print on paper and fabric using materials from around your house and garden. Use what you have, pay what you can.

The course is 4 weeks long, with 2 videos each week that cover both paper and fabric projects. There’s also a bonus video to get you started, about natural dyeing with easter eggs. Here’s a preview:

If you are interested in this offering, click here to read more or to join us. There’s a lovely group already, beginning to share their results on Facebook, and on Instagram #isodyeclub.

You’ll have access to the course for as long as it exists, so you can do it in your own time and come back to it as often as you like.

Introducing the Iso Dye Club Read More »

Eco-printing on paper video tutorial: St John’s wort


Here’s a simple video tutorial for eco-printing on paper using St John’s wort. I’ve used three different variables to get quite different results from a single plant:

  • plain watercolour paper
  • paper soaked in iron mordant
  • paper soaked in logwood dye

Although I love the bright results St John’s wort gives on plain paper, the discharge print is really special. As mentioned in the video, you can learn more about discharge eco-printing on paper from my ebook, Plant Poetry. That ebook covers a whole range of methods for eco-printing on paper, and has many examples of plants that are suitable to use.

Here’s a quick version of the tutorial, if you just want to see the process without all the explanations:

Please excuse the sideways orientation, it’s to make it easier to view for those of you on phones!

Here’s the three variations together:

If you’d like to learn more about St John’s wort, or check out some more prints using this plant, take a look at my earlier blog post.

Eco-printing on paper video tutorial: St John’s wort Read More »

Soy Milk Binder eco-printing module


Last year I created my eco-printing ecourse, Living Colour. It is a comprehensive guide to eco-printing on natural and semi-synthetic fabrics, using alum, iron and soy milk, and a whole range of techniques. But for those of you who are interested in just one topic, rather than the whole course, I have begun breaking up the ecourse into four modules: ‘Intro to Cotton’, ‘Advanced Cotton’, ‘Soy Milk Binders’ and ‘Wool and Shibori’.

I released the Soy Milk Binder module in November, and will make the rest of the modules available through 2020. Here are some samples of work by my students:

This lovely piece was eco-printed by Debbie Lucas. She prepared the cotton with soy milk binder, then used geranium and herb Robert leaves which have created a bright, layered pattern.

These soft, harmonious prints were created by Bobbi Stowers, using rose, passion vine and eucalyptus leaves. Again, the cotton was prepared with soy milk binder.

It is also possible to prepare fabric with cow’s milk, which creates a similar effect to soy milk because both are protein rich. Kathy Little has used this to great effect in this sample of eucalyptus leaves eco-printed on cotton. You can see how the cow’s milk makes the cotton take the dyes very similarly to wool, creating vivid orange prints.

You can view more samples of my student’s work in the Student Gallery on my ecourse website. There you can also browse the ecourse curriculums and some sample lessons.

Soy Milk Binder eco-printing module Read More »

Another naturally dyed wasteland dress


I recently collaborated with the gorgeous Alice @catinawitchhat, who took some stunning photos of one of my wasteland dress creations. It was such an honour to see her work her magic of styling and modelling and photography with something I had made. Check out her Instagram feed for more of her creative, beautiful photos.

Here is how the dress started off, pieced together from many scraps of white stretch cotton, some of which had already been eco-printed. I used a combination of hand-stitching, decorative stitching and machine stitching.

After I had finished sewing it, I decided to dye the whole garment, to unify the different parts. In the photo below, you can see some of the prints from the big, round eucalyptus leaves that I used. They created quite a gentle, scattered pattern in earthy greys, which was perfect for the grey goth aesthetic that Alice does so well.

And yes, this dress has pockets! Repurposed from the sleeves of the old tops that I cut up to make the dress, which I simply pulled inside out and sewed shut at the end.

I love how the grey looks against Alice’s vibrant orange hair, and the soft oranges of the dry bushland behind her. She really brought the magic of Gumnut Magic to Life. Thank you Alice!

Another naturally dyed wasteland dress Read More »

2019 year review: going full-time in my handmade business, plus my advice for other makers


Here’s a breakdown of this year in my business, for any other creative biz owners or if you are just curious about what it is like making a living as a maker!

I’ve been running Gumnut Magic for a few years now, but this was the year that I went properly full-time. No more side jobs to guarantee some money for the week. By January 2019 I had grown my business enough that I felt confident in ditching this safety net. I’m glad I took my time to get to this point though – it would have been really stressful to be fully dependent on it earlier and would have taken away much of the fun and joy. For anyone just starting out, I recommend growing your business up slowly and not expecting it to pay all your bills straight away.

My focus this year

This year I made and launched my first ecourse, Living Colour. It took much longer than I expected to put together (6 months longer!) because of technical difficulties and quite a few uncooperative eco-print bundles. It was a frustrating process, but the whole time I kept thinking that it was better to take longer and do it well, rather than rush the process.

I’m glad I made most of the content before I launched the course, because I wouldn’t have been able to cope with the stress of trying to get each week’s videos done in time. I know some people prefer to launch a course then start making it but that wouldn’t work for me.

That said, once the course had begun I kept filming extra lessons to add in, partly because I wanted to make it really good value for my lovely customers and partly because it was fun! The downside of this is that the course ended up a bit too big and overwhelming, covering too many different topics. So this led me to explore the idea of breaking the ecourse up into smaller modules, the first of which was the Soy Milk Binder module that I released in November. I think it works better to have a more focused topic at a lower price point, so more people can afford it and they can buy just the modules they want. But I will still keep the full ecourse available for those who want a comprehensive introduction to eco-printing.

What else I worked on

Besides the ecourse, I had some other streams of income. I ran a few workshops and kept selling my ebooks and also eco-printed clothing and fabric. I also got one of my ebooks translated into Spanish. I was really interested to see how this would go, as I’ve had lots of people asking about translations, especially into Spanish. But I haven’t sold that many of the Spanish ebook. Enough to cover the translation service, but not much more. So unless something changes, I won’t be getting any more translations done. Although I loved making my work accessible to more people, it doesn’t feel like a good use of my time.

That said, some areas of my business aren’t directly profitable or are somewhat inefficient – selling eco-printed clothes and fabric packs is definitely a hard way to make money. The dyeing process is very time intensive, then I have to photograph each item and create a unique listing for it. But I actually think of these products as having a different purpose than making money. Eco-printing the items is a way to practise my skills, and I can also photograph them to share on Instagram and my blog. It‘s also a way to find new customers by getting more of my work out there. Someone searching for clothing might find my etsy shop, then decide to buy an ebook instead. And, pragmatically, it also gives me something to do with all the fabric and clothing that I will be eco-printing anyway. It’s nice if I can sell them, but I make more money through teaching. And I also get a lot of joy from the teaching. This wasn’t the direction I thought my business would take when I started out, but I am so glad that I listened to what my audience wanted and also what I enjoyed doing. I started up as a clothing business, but I have been pivoting more and more each year towards teaching. Don’t be afraid to change your business structure, especially if you realise that something else might be more profitable, more enjoyable, and more wanted by your audience.

This year, I also spent a lot of time doing the usual marketing things of course. Pinterest was the biggest driver of traffic to my website and I did put a lot of energy into pinning there and creating new pins of my work. As part of this, I tried to write a new blog post at least once a month. I also grew my Instagram account from 6k to 13k followers – finally passing the mystical 10k, which lets you see extra analytics and get the ‘swipe up’ feature in stories. After several years in business, this year I really noticed that I started reaching critical mass with my marketing and exposure, where it is now somewhat self-sustaining. If you are still in the early stages of your business, know that with consistent work over time you will start to see this too.

What I loved

I am so grateful for the opportunity to just focus on Gumnut Magic this year. I am so much happier and more resilient when I don’t have to do any other work, even if it is just part time. Over the year my energy and contentment grew a lot, partly from other changes I made in my life but also hugely from not having to do any draining part-time jobs any more.

I also loved how much time I made this year for different creative outlets. I sewed lots of fun fairy clothing and also took up nature journalling. It felt great to nurture my creative self and make time for things beyond work.

What was hard

This year I really noticed how much I dislike having lots of things on at the same time, especially when they are time-dependent things. When I was running my soy milk binder module live, I also had a lot of other work and life commitments. I felt really stressed and pulled in lots of directions. But I also realised that I have more capacity that I think, to hold lots of things at once. I still don’t like it and would rather structure my life differently, but it is good to know that if I need to, I can do it. But the best thing about being my own boss is that I can choose how to structure my business. Going forward, I will be more intentional with my planning to avoid having all the things happening at once, and give myself space and time to get things done, with less time-dependent pressure. It is so important to structure your business in the way that works for you. There is no ‘right’ way, and you can choose which options feel best to you. If you set up your business to be mostly full of tasks and workflows that you enjoy, you will be so much more productive, which leads to being more profitable and successful. Not to mention more content, which is something I value as much as profit. If I just wanted to make money, I could go get a regular job!

I also struggled with Instagram in the second half of the year, seeing a significant drop in the number of likes and comments even though my audience was growing. I know this is partly because I wasn’t posting as much and wasn’t always putting a lot of effort into my photos. But it is also something I have seen other creative businesses struggling with. Going forward, I have decided that I need to stop focusing on creating so much content specifically for Instagram, and instead use it more as one place to share photos and information that I am also putting elsewhere. It can be a huge time drain otherwise that is not necessarily worth it. For those starting out, I would advise being mindful of your use of any social media platform. Try to discern what effort is actually useful, and what is taking away from time you could be putting into other areas of your business, such as making more content or products.

Plans for 2020

I’m really excited for 2020. I want to change some things in my business, and also make more time for rest and play. I’m going to be launching a second business soon, which will be a home for all my other creative work – collage, sewing and magic. And that will be more of a hobby business, just for fun, rather than one that needs to pay my bills. As Gumnut Magic has grown, I have noticed that eco-printing now feels a lot more like work. I still love doing it, but I generally do it for a very specific reason and sometimes in stressful circumstances like needing to get an ecourse lesson completed by a certain time. So I am making more space for things that can just be nourishing and fun. If I make money from them that’s nice, but it won’t be my driving force.

In Gumnut Magic, I will be releasing the rest of my ecourse modules throughout the year. I will probably release them each individually as a live course, which will then stay open for enrollments for people who want to do it in their own time.

I have also been working on some new ebooks all about running a creative business. As you many have noticed from reading this, I actually enjoy the business side of my work quite a bit! And just like with eco-printing, I would love to share what I have learnt so I can help other people who are just starting out. If there is anything specifically you would like to learn about, please leave me a comment.

I would also like to write another eco-printing ebook, which could be about mordants or soy milk binders or something else entirely. That may or may not happen, but again, if there is a topic that you are interested in learning from me in this format, please let me know. Ebooks tend to be a very big project, because of all the experimentation and research that has to happen even before all the writing and photographing and compiling. But I also find them a really satisfying thing to create and I love being able to provide something really useful.

I’d also love to make a few more Youtube tutorials. I am still very new to that space but it feels like an interesting thing to explore more of.

And overall, I want to structure my days and the whole year in a spacious way. With time to play, to explore, to experiment, to try new things. Time to tilt into one area of my business, and then step back and focus on another. The biggest thing I will be taking from 2019 into 2020 is the knowledge that this is a priority for me. Nourishing my creative self and having space and time, with as little pressure as possible. This helps me to keep this business sustainable and fulfilling. And in the end, that’s what matters most to me.

2019 year review: going full-time in my handmade business, plus my advice for other makers Read More »