Closing The Tabs In Your Brain - A Digital Detox

Today I want to write about something that I didn't realise was important until a week or so ago. Over the last few weeks, I let myself get sucked in by the numbers game over on Instagram and ended up comparing my stats to that of others (really bad idea) and wondering what I was doing so wrong.

And then, one of those unsolicited emails dropped into my inbox basically confirming what I was already thinking. They were telling me how bad I was doing with my account, they shared the stats and generally made me feel terrible about it. And they topped it off by telling me they can fix it if I pay them to buy fake likes. No thanks, I'm not going to lie to my audience. I don't usually give these types of emails, the time of day, but they caught me off guard, and because they had the stats I was instantly drawn in.

For days after that email, I found myself constantly checking my stats, constantly refreshing my feed and generally stressed myself out over it. It even got to the point that I was stressing about it before I went to bed. Daft huh? It's only an app after all. I even found sitting at my laptop also made me feel anxious because I know I can check it there too. Feeling anxious at my laptop, then led to unproductive afternoons, because I just couldn't relax or concentrate on anything for very long at all.

Image by Kyleigh's Papercuts

Then on a Friday, in the pouring rain, I packed up the car with my boyfriend and headed to Shropshire for a weekend of camping with a bunch of other small creative businesses. I grumpily hurried the tent up in the rain and was dreading getting in it that night because I had no idea if it was waterproof or if we were going to end up sleeping in the car.

Despite the fact I went to bed cold on Friday night, I woke up on Saturday morning feeling less stressed. Why? Well, not only was I surrounded by a bunch of great people, the rain had finally gone but there was no phone signal. Yes, this was a good thing. It meant that I couldn't refresh the app, I couldn't reply to messages on Facebook and I couldn't see what other people were doing online. This was the beginning of the digital detox.

But before we dive in, what exactly is a digital detox? Google describes it as this:
a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.
Over that weekend I was present in the real world, not a fake, online, curated one. There was no numbers to watch and no disappointment or questions. Instead, I spoke to real people, I took part in activities (well, actually I spent far too long on making a dream catcher which meant I missed out on sports day style activities, but I was enjoying it), I appreciated the amazing sunset, gliding across the boating lake and failing not once, but 4 times to get the boat back into the boat house with a fellow small business owner (there was a lot of laughing). I listened to the noise the swans made as they ran across the top of the lake, the rustle of the trees in the wind and the laughter around the campsite. And do you know what? I didn't miss the online world one little bit.

For the first time in weeks I felt stress free, all the anxiety had gone and I felt happy. Why? All because I didn't connect to the Internet. I didn't use my phone. I lived in the real world. I took a few photos here and there, but that was it. It was that simple. No phone = a more chilled out Joanne. I should have also mentioned that prior to this trip I had a serious case of creative block. Nothing could shift it and I hadn't drawn anything new in months and was beginning to feel like a failure. I wanted to draw but the ideas just wasn't there and it left me feeling angry and frustrated. But, upon leaving this trip I had gained a few new ideas. Whether they will materialise into new things is another thing, but I'm just happy to be drawing again.

Image by Kyleigh's Papercuts

If you think you might be feeling the same way I did, perhaps take a look at my list below and see how many you can tick off? It might be time you took some time away from the screen (laptop, tablet and phone) and did something a bit more in the real world and see if it makes a difference to how you feel? You never know, you might enjoy it! And if you don't, you don't have to do it again.

  • You're getting stressed with social media
  • You're getting hooked up on the amounts of likes and comments you're getting or not getting
  • You're obsessively checking how well your posts are doing
  • You go on your phone to do something but your fingers automatically take you to social media and then you forget what you're supposed to be doing
  • You feel anxious when you open any of the social media apps
  • You have creative block
  • You're falling into the comparison trap
  • You're feeling like an impostor or feel like you're not good enough
  • Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc are beginning to dominate your thoughts

How can you have your own digital detox? 

  • Leave your phone or devices in another room
  • Delete the apps (for just a weekend if you know you'll be tempted)
  • Go away somewhere and try to take in the surroundings rather than the online world
  • Tell people it is what you're going to do so if they want to contact you, not to do it through social media. That way people don't think you're ignoring them and you won't be missing out on messages you think you might have.
  • Disable push notifications so that you're not constantly being told something is going on
  • Find activities and make some plans you can distract yourself with so that you're not tempted to spend hours scrolling

I'm already planning my next trip away, but this time it's going to be a working holiday. Internet for my boyfriend, so his work goes unaffected, but just a trip of drawing and designing for me. I hope this helped and I'd love to know how you get on if you decide to give it a go yourself. 

#MarchMeetTheMaker & the Mollie Makes Handmade Awards

On the morning of the 3rd July, I nervously wandered across Blackfriars Bridge in London wondering what I had gotten myself into this time. I say wandered, realistically it was more like a nervous power walk. I was heading over to the Yacht London for the Mollie Makes Handmade Awards and as the name suggests, these awards were held on a boat. So, not only did I have to hold my nerves, I had to find a pair of sea legs (it was quite choppy on the Thames.) I had made it to the final in the category of Handmade Champion, this award recognises people promoting and supporting handmade businesses, whether that’s a bricks and mortar shop, an online boutique, or the team behind a great campaign, website or Instagram hashtag.

After meeting with a bunch of wonderfully creative people, we were split into groups and at 10.15am I headed out on a photo walk of the Southbank with Xanthe. I was particularly looking forward to this, not only because it was a welcome distraction, but because I know London has lots and lots of colourful art dotted around its streets. I honestly think I need to go back and just dedicate a whole day to exploring London in a new way, through its street art.

When we returned from the walk we were given an interesting talk by Pavilion Books on 'How to Get Published' and more time to chat and network. After lunch, I hung out on the top deck whilst nervously waiting to be called for my presentation. The second I walked through the doors to present, I realised that this was a big deal, not only because I was in the company of the actual Mollie Makes Magazine but also the company of Jane Foster, Donna Wilson, and Fiona Humberstone to name just a few. I could hear the nerves in my voice, but I had no choice but to just pick myself up and get on with it. I had no idea how well I had done, but as I left the room, a sudden wave of calm washed over me. Not only was the daunting part over, but I had actually done something that really scares me and got through it okay.

Once I left the judging panel in the Stateroom I made my way back onto the top deck where were we treated to an afternoon of bunting necklace making with Tatty Devine. I spent so long deciding on which colours I wanted to choose, (there were loads!) and in what order I wanted them to appear! Obviously, yellow was going to be involved. The workshop was followed by a panel discussion on Growing your Creative Business and then with a keynote speech by Donna Wilson. Then came the awards and this happened...

To be completely honest, I was gobsmacked, I still am. I honestly didn't expect to win as I was up against two other really talented people. When I first wrote the Instagram challenge #MarchMeetTheMaker in 2016, I had no idea that it would land me a place on a boat amongst some of the most talented designer makers out there, let alone win an award for it. Really, the award belongs to everyone who took part in the challenge because, without them embracing the challenge the way that they did, I wouldn't have had this incredible opportunity. So, once again, I'd just like to say a great big thank you to each and every one of you who took in #MarchMeetTheMaker, even if you didn't get to the end!

How To Shift That Creative 'Meh'

Being a small business owner, or creative person comes with many ups and downs, and sometimes it can feel like there are more downs than ups, but it doesn't have to be like that. I get it, I go there often, but always manage to drag myself away... eventually.

Some days you are on top of the world, creating to your heart's content and packing up orders or completing custom projects and things couldn't be better. Then, you take a break and look at Instagram or Facebook and BAM! Suddenly, you don't feel so great about your little business anymore because it would appear that someone else has it better than you do. Someone else has packed up more orders and there are pictures of huge piles of mailing sacks and all of a sudden your pile of orders feels inferior. Or perhaps they're off doing something that right now, you can only dream of doing or investing in equipment or space that you long for. Perhaps some days you just don't feel like doing anything creative, but then beat yourself up for not doing something productive because that's being lazy. Sound familiar?

Yep? Thought so. It's a perfectly normal part of running a small business or being a creative person. It comes with the territory, and is made even easier to feel that way since the invention of good old social media. But don't worry, you can shift that 'meh' feeling and get back on track.

When I'm feeling rubbish about the way my business is going, the fact I don't really like my latest design or when I'm wondering what the hell I'm doing with my life, I stop and take a step back.

Closing Facebook and Instagram is usually the first step. Shortly followed by making a list and putting the kettle on. Making a list helps your brain dump everything that is tangled up inside your head onto paper so that you can begin to rationalise what's going on, whether it's an overwhelming list of jobs you have to do, a list of all the things that are troubling you or how your latest design is irritating the hell out of you because you can't finish it. Get it down on paper, helps because then you can try and work out what you're going to do about it and hopefully realise it isn't as bad as you're telling yourself.

Now, why are you feeling the way that you do and what are you going to do about it?

You want to work, but you're just not feeling it
I get this a lot. It's an odd one, you feel like you want to be creative and you're like 'yeah! let's do this', you get out your pencils and then nothing happens. The inspiration just isn't there, you've lost your mojo. Perhaps, it's a design that you've been staring at for the last few hours and no matter what you do with it, it just doesn't feel finished or hasn't gone to plan (my engagement cards were in my sketchbook for 2 years. It took my best friend getting engaged to finally finish them off!) Or you know you need to work but end up procrastinating instead and then you beat yourself up over it because nothing got done. When I'm feeling like this I find it's better to just walk away and do something else and let your brain work its magic in the background, fresh eyes are a game changer. If you have that easy job list, hit that up instead. Think of it as 'productive procrastination'. Or, if it's really one of those days, walk away from it all. Take a break, find time to relax and come back to it later. You can't turn on creativity and brain power on like a tap. If it's not there, then it's not there.

Social media
You've spent too long looking at what everyone else has and are now comparing your life to their highlight reel? Well stop right there my friend. That isn't going to get you anywhere. You can't see the stresses and strains that got them that success. You can't see the staying up all night worrying about money or how they're going to pay the next bill. You can't see all the sacrifices they've had to make to get to get in a position that they're in now or how long it took to get there. Remember, they were in your position once. Rather than beating yourself up because you don't rate yourself as highly as these people (which is naughty because I think you're great), sit there and make a plan. Use them as inspiration, something to aspire to. How can you up your game to help grow to the next 'level'. Don't set yourself an unobtainable goal though, because that will only lead to disappointment. Start off with small steps that are actually achievable and work your way up. Being successful or mastering a new skill doesn't happen overnight.

Overwhelming list of things to do
I've got lists left, right and centre. Lists of things I want to make, lists of things I feel like I should be making now, lists for each day, important jobs, not so important jobs and lists for things I have to go to. Some days, it's easy to get so caught up in all the things that we think we have to do, we just end up doing nothing because we just don't know how to start. Been there, done that? Yep, me too. I was actually there last week until my friends came to the rescue and rationalised everything. See that word again? So, what did I do about it? To begin with I spoke to someone about it and they helped to clear my mind. And how did I do that? I wrote a new list of course. I wrote down everything I had penciled in for that week. What jobs had to be done no matter what and what could wait. Was everything that I told myself I had to do completely necessary? Secondly, which jobs required brain power and which were a lot easier. Once I had that list, I knew which I had to focus on and which ones I could fit in if I had the time. On days where I don't have the energy for the jobs which require brain power I do everything on the easier jobs list. This way things are still getting done and you don't have to feel guilty about it. This is the result of last weeks 'meh' day when I labelled envelopes instead (a job from the easy non brain power list).

What are other small creative businesses saying?
Becka - Becka Griffin Illustation
I think sometimes you just have to roll with it. Take it easy. Do other stuff. You can only be creative so much of the time, and sometimes it is your brain's way of saying "slow down"!

Don't be annoyed at yourself! The more you beat yourself up the worse it is. Take a break, go for a walk, get some fresh air and try again. Or talk to biz friends as sometimes they can spur you on.

Frances - Halfpinthome
I have a day away or however long it takes... before I know it the feeling comes back. I never run out of ideas, but I do hit a block with the motivation to finish ideas I'm stuck with half way through the design process!

Chiara - Hoobynoo
I take some time off and do non work stuff, I read, go to the cinema, go for walks. Then it comes back.

Lindsay - Littlebirdydesigns
I think working in a different medium than normal can help, so if you normally use watercolour, having a go at collage or using clay for example just to get the inspiration flowing. Also I've been trying a new thing - it's only been 3 days, but it's working so far. I'm making myself spend an hour every morning doing drawing and painting, no matter what else there is to get done that day. Otherwise, I just keep thinking... well if I get this finished I'll do some drawing later, but of course I never get things finished so I never get around to the drawing. Not sure if that's quite the same thing, but I suppose I'm saying sometimes you just have to work through the 'meh' bit.

Jo - Adventures and Tea Parties
When my mojo is flat, I have to switch off my phone and laptop and get outside, either for a long walk, a long gardening session, a trip somewhere new or to go see my mates. By not focusing on why my creative mojo has gone and instead letting my brain relax and getting away from unhelpful distractions (the internet), I find it comes flooding back!

Charlie - Stitchsperation
When my mojo/sewjo has gone, I have a tidy up. A tidy studio = a tidy mind. Also switching to something different can help. Sometimes I lose my mojo because I can't work out how to complete the project I'm working on. It needs to marinate in the back of my mind for a bit, so like Jo says, do something else and stop thinking about it and usually my brain works itself out and suddenly knows what to do!

So, how are you going to shift that creative 'meh' of yours? Everybody deals with it differently so there are not any right or wrong answers, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Close social media and stop looking at what other people are doing
  • Make a plan, set realistic, achievable goals and celebrate your successes
  • Rationalise your thoughts and work out why you're feeling like you are
  • Make an organised list of jobs with a realistic time frame if it's jobs you're stressing over and split them into needs to be done and what can wait. After all, there's nothing more satisfying than ticking off a to do list.
  • Take care of yourself - are you taking breaks, drinking enough water and getting enough sleep? Are you pushing yourself too hard? Don't let yourself burn out.
  • Take time out just for you and do what relaxes you. A walk, a bath or reading your favourite book for example.
  • Walk away from it and come back to it later with fresh eyes.
  • Talk to someone about it
  • Exercise, it's good for stress relief and helps to wake you up and get you motivated.
  • Have a good tidy up. Tidy space, tidy mind. 
  • Put the kettle on, grab a little something to eat, change your mindset and plough on
  • Set a reward. 'If I get this done by X time I'm going to allow myself to do/have Y'.

Insta Plan - Free Planner

So far this month, I've found it really difficult to come up with daily content because I've been so busy with one thing or another. I know this isn't the best way to create great Instagram content because stressed and rush work isn't our best work. And so, I've tried to sort myself out by planning ahead and updated my planner from April to help me work out what I want to post on my grid and story, and when I want to post it. I hope to set aside some time to fully complete it and get at least a weeks worth of content in the bag, because, I'm only going to get busier!

If you think this could help you in anyway, I've added it as a free download, to help you keep on top of your content and plan for June. Like April, there is a list of ideas for content and some hashtags to help you along the way. If you'd like your free download, simply click here to be taken to the planner and hit save or print!

If you do use it and happen to share it on Instagram, I'd love to see it in its new habitat! Simply tag me @joannehawker so I can pop over and have a nosey :)

Finding Your Designer/Maker Tribe - Etsy Style

A typical meeting of our tribe includes plenty of tea, cake and friendly chatter. 

Being a creative, small business owner can have great benefits, including choosing your own working hours, doing a job that you actually love and being free to pursue whichever creative direction you desire. However, at times it can be very tiring and stressful to the point of burn out during the busy periods. One of the most reoccurring comments that I saw during this years #Marchmeetthemaker was that it was quite lonely running your business on your own and that friends and family just didn’t get it. It’s this type of feeling that makes it all the more important that you search out your tribe, whether that’s in the form of facebook groups, finding friends in people on Instagram or joining a local etsy team or craft group.

Until October last year I was working a full time job and running a small business. Between them, they took over my life and I didn’t have time to be sociable. I had my online tribe of designer makers I made good friends with through NOTHS and Facebook groups, but it’s not the same as seeing actual real life people. At the end of September I left my job and moved to a new area where I didn’t have any friends. It was at this point I set up the Somerset Etsy Team. The purpose at the time was to find new people who were local and who I could forge new friendships with. However, it turned out to be a lot more than that...

What is an Etsy Team?

An Etsy Team is a community group who have come together with a common interest, selling on etsy being the main one but there can be further sub categories such as location, marketing, product type etc, the list goes on. Each team has their own forum within the Etsy page where discussions can take place and connections are made. A lot of teams also have their own private facebook groups as this is much easier than remembering to check the forum page. Sellers run these teams on a voluntary basis and are not employees of Etsy. They're just normal people like you and me. Each team generally has one team captain, but the captain can also appoint team leaders to help them run the team, do specific tasks or just to support the captain in anyway possible.

Why should you join one?
Etsy teams are little communities in their own right. They are groups of friendly, like-minded people who are all trying to make a living doing what they love to do most. Quite often, these people are all in the same boat, part time, full time, juggling small children and a business etc. Chances are, you are going to have a lot in common with these people.

Selling on Etsy can be frustrating at times, especially if you think you’ve nailed the photography, tags and titles and all that comes with it, but if you can share these frustrations with people who get it then you might just find a solution to your problem. Teams are a fantastic source of help, advice and recommendations.

We don't just sit around drinking tea, we have themed chats, including shop critiques and help with product development 

Teams are also a great place for skill sharing. For example, if you do a lot of work in textiles and don’t use digital design programs like Adobe Photoshop often, then I’m sure you’ll find someone within the group who would be more than happy to help you or swap their skills for a little bit of help with something that you’re a whizz at. Or maybe you want to expand into a new market and need some help making up some samples, or you need a new logo or a graphic designed or maybe you just want a little bit of feedback. Meet ups are another great place to swap skills, advice, and share hints and tips.

Most teams will have meet ups, whether it’s once a month, once a fortnight or every so often. These are a great place to go and actually chat with people who completely get it. I understand that it can be hugely daunting at first, but I can assure you, it’s absolutely worth it. If you’re a really shy person and are worried about attending, please do message your local captain (I’m sure they won’t mind) and ask if they can pair you with someone who can meet you before the event so you’ve made at least one connection and don’t have to walk through the door on your own. It’s important that these meet ups are accessible for everyone. I’ve made solid friendships with a couple of people out of my team and it’s quite possibly one of the best decisions I’ve made.

This is myself, Joanne, the team captain with my amazing team leader, Jo. We're a friendly pair and love inviting new people into our tribe. 

How do I find a team?
If this sounds like this could be the thing for you the lovely Rachel from the Dorset Etsy Team has put together a list of location based teams and I’ve added in a couple more too.

Birmingham Ideas
Birmingham Originals
Bristol -
Glasgow (Glasgow Team also accept Etsy sellers from across Scotland)
Isle of Wight
Leeds -
London Local -
New Forest
Portsmouth and Southsea
South East England
South Cheshire
UK - Craft Britannia
UK and Ireland

If you’re looking for something that isn’t listed here (this isn’t a complete list of teams!) then it’s really easy to search. Let me tell you how.

1. Go to and scroll right to the very bottom of the page.

2. There are five columns of links and under the heading of ‘join the community’ is a heading for ‘teams’. Click it.

3. Here you will find any teams that you’re already a part of or where you can search for more. There is a little search box that says ‘search for teams’ inside it. Use this to find the sort of team you're looking for whether it is location or craft based etc.

4. If you can’t find what you’re looking for then why not create your own team like I did and use Etsy’s product search function to discover sellers near you and invite them to join you in a team. If you find that a team you want to join is inactive, before making a new team, send them a message to see if they want any help in reviving it or to make sure that they aren’t active elsewhere, like on Facebook for example. You don’t want to tread on anyone’s toes.

Don’t just take my word for how great these little communities are. Here are a few comments from the Somerset Etsy Team:
Charlie – Stitchsperation
“I love meeting people in the same boat (or at least a similar one) as me, who understand the struggles of running your own creative business. Having other creatives to bounce ideas off is invaluable. It's always good to find your 'tribe'”

Tamsyn – Maid of Glass
“Like Charlie said, it's a brilliant opportunity to meet others who understand what you're doing and have a similar mindset. It's also great to be able to share Etsy tips and tricks with others and be able to help each other out and benefit from each other's strengths.”

Jess – Jessica Scissorhands
“It also brings together people who although have very different businesses are reunited under the 'Etsy' tag if that makes sense! Because of this the advice and tips are so wide and varied from many different points of view.”

Jo - Adventures and Tea Parties
"Finding the Somerset Etsy Team is the best thing that could have happened to me. Being new to the county and hardly knowing a soul, I joined thinking it would be nice to chat about running a handmade business and well, to have some people contact. But, it's been so much more than that. Not only have I made some very dear friends but I've found a creative tribe that I feel so completely connected to and as a naturally shy person, being with super friendly, likeminded people has made me feel so at ease with everyone in the team that I literally hop up and down with excitement when it's meet up time! I can't recommend enough the value of joining a local team and will be telling everyone I meet who's on Etsy to find their local tribe too."

If you've already found your tribe then amazing, if not, good luck and I really hope that this helped!

My Top 3 - Photo Editing Apps

Today, I wanted to share with you my top 3 apps for editing photos on my phone. It's something I find myself repeating when I'm talking with people about Instagram so thought I'd jot them down here. If you follow me on Instagram already (@joannehawker if you don't) you'll know that I absolutely love it. I take 97% of photos for my feed on my little iPhone SE and edit them on there too. I'm not really a fan of the standard Instagram filters, so I sought out new ways of getting the photo quality I wanted. The photo above was also taken on my phone, (well, it had to be because my camera was in the picture!) and edited using the apps I talk about below. So, here we go, what's on my phone?

1. Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom has a whole ton of editing options and you can quickly brighten up that dull, dark, poorly lit shot with its range of editing options. There are also plenty of presets/filters to play with, although, I don't use these as much. My favourite thing about this app is how easily I can whiten images and pull up the exposure without completely killing the rest of the image and that the shadows and blacks are two different things. I do like really bright shots and this my little secret weapon for that. It takes a bit of experimenting to learn what you can get away with but it's most definitely improved the quality of my images by far. This is my number one go to app for fixing photos.


This is my go to if I feel there is something missing from my image or if I feel it needs a filter of sorts. There are a variety of free filters and then there is the option of buying even more if you're after something very specific. There is also a whole range of editing options here too, some of which I'm still experimenting with. The skew one for sure. I love that this is an option, I just haven't found a reason to properly use it yet. And straighten! (although you can do this in Lightroom too) I'm very good at taking wonky pictures if I'm in a rush or being impatient. Best of all, this app is completely FREE. You can also post your images to a VSCO feed, which is pretty cool and isn't something I've properly explored yet but it seems to be a good way of discovering some great new people to follow.

3. Layout

This app is by Instagram itself and in my opinion, one of the better apps for creating a collage of images. One of things that really make me cringe is badly formatted collages or ones with ugly backgrounds and weird shapes. It's all about clean, well put together, good fitting shapes for me and layout definitely delivers on this front. You don't even have to do much. Just select all the images that you want from your camera roll and layout shows you all of the different arrangements you could have with your photos. Once you have selected your arrangement, you can then move the images around inside of their boxes so that the right parts of the photos are shown. If you're not happy with that image you can just tap replace and swop it out for another, or mirror or flip it. My favourite bit and this is going to sound really silly, is the simple white borders that you can add to divide the photos. If you've ever tried to do that in photoshop then you know how annoying it is to get that dead right. This app does it perfectly at the tap of a button. I actually used it to make all the collages above. Again this is completely free and I wouldn't use anything else.

Quick recap!

So, these are the little icons that you need to be looking for if you wish to have a closer look at any of these apps in the app/play store. These are just the apps that I personally use and who knows, there might be better out there, but I just wanted to give you an insight into how I create the images for my Instagram feed. If you've read this far, thank you and I hope that some of this might be useful! If you've got any good app suggestions for creating content I'd love to hear about them.

Etsy Captains Summit 2017 - Etsy HQ, London

In march I was invited to Etsy HQ as part of the Etsy Captains Summit. Team captains from across the country were invited to London for a whole weekend of networking, talks, tea drinking, eating amazing food and workshops. I've been asked numerous times how I got on and what I got up whilst I was there. So, I thought I'd do a little post on it so you can find out a little more.

Firstly, let's start with what a team is for anyone new to this. A team is a group of people who sell through Etsy and who have come together with a common interest. Teams can be regional, or have set focuses like advertising and promotions. My team, the Somerset Etsy Team is a regional team for people who live and run their Etsy shop from Somerset in the U.K. We come together each month to help each other in various aspects of our shops or to just chat about everything small business and Etsy related. We also talk and support each other within a closed group on Facebook where everyone is free to ask questions and chat. More of this later on in another post!

I ventured up to London on a Friday afternoon where I met up with the lovely Merseyside Etsy Team captain, Becka Griffin. Saturday morning soon came around and we wandered on down to Etsy HQ where we were greeted with a breakfast that catered for all, and tea on tap! I won't lie, despite Internet appearances, I was terribly nervous, because to me, meeting new people is incredibly daunting and my mind just goes blank and nothing comes out of my mouth! Luckily, everyone was really friendly and Becka already knew most of the people there and introduced me to lots of other captains from across the country.

One of the things that I noticed first about their amazing offices is, not only are they playfully decorated and have puns for meeting room names, but they are also fully accessorised with handmade products from the site itself. I recognised a number of prints on the wall and even the mugs we drank our tea from. It's great to see that level of support from such a big company.

Once we'd all scoffed down our breakfasts and had a good chat we moved into the main offices where we got to sit on super comfy wheelie chairs. I LOVED these. I love wheelie/swirly chairs anyway, but swirly chairs on a wooden floor = fun... The team at Etsy introduced themselves and we jumped straight into ice breakers and talks. Jessika Hepburn of Oh My! Handmade delivered a great talk on 'the power of when people get together'. This was incredibly interesting because it made me realise all of the things that we could do if we worked together on our Etsy team. We can help each other grow and succeed. We can share our knowledge and fill skills gaps. We can overcome obstacles and help to grow each others confidence. We can create a support network that helps people to feel less lonely and more connected.

After lunch we did some more community activities and Etsy updated us on a few more things, but I was much more excited about something else. The amazing Rachel from OH NO Rachio! came to do a little ceramics workshop with us all. I've wanted to have a go at something ceramics based for so long, so this was fantastic. Not only that, but I'm a big fan of Rachel's work and she is just so full of energy and super friendly!

In the evening we were all taken out to Only Connect for food, where the Fabulous 698B not only served up some amazing food but also put on an incredible show. It's difficult to describe how amazing the show was. Imagine desserts being created in front of you via theatrical performance and then you get to eat the results of said performance!

On Sunday morning, we all popped back down to Etsy HQ for another great breakfast and another day of great talks, tea, cake and activities. I left that evening feeling very inspired about the things I want to do with my team and how I can best help them. Speaking to other team captains has given me lots of new ideas and ways to get the most out of the team and I can't wait to get started on implementing them. One of them was taking on a team leader, which I did as soon as I got back and it's helped make things so much easier. Luckily, the lovely Joanna from Adventures And Tea Parties said yes!

I can't thank Etsy enough for inviting me. They are such a friendly bunch of people and they looked after us so well. If we had a question, they did their very best to answer it. They also took note of all suggestions to feed back to the relevant people. It's not just another selling platform. It's a whole community and I feel very grateful to be a part of that. Many people don't realise this, but being a team captain isn't a paid role, it's voluntary. We do it because we love it, and want to help people and create our own local community of makers. And I felt we were really appreciated for this. So, thanks for having me Etsy, I had a great time and met some amazing, inspiring people along the way.