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Beepurple workshop

This week I have been attending a set of workshops run by ‘BeePurple‘, which is the University of Brighton’s entrepreneurship network. The course was brilliant: fantastic value for money, great workshops, and an excellent opportunity for networking.

It was also a great way to get feeback on my business ideas. From the conversations I had with the other attendees it was evident that although most people seemed to like my polymer clay items,

polymer clay flower cane earrings

I was still just one of many artists/craftspeople, so I needed to come up with something more interesting. The idea that did get some interest was my plan to set up a business involving laser-cutting and laser-etching services. It made me realise that the laser cutter is so versatile that it can be used to create (or tailor) products for almost any other business. For example, the other artists/designers could send me their graphics files and I could cut or etch their designs onto the material of their choice. The pet-based businesses could send me photos of pets for me to etch onto metal, glass or stone. Other businesses could use my services for creating promotional items with their logo on them. Even the podiatrists on the course were interested in having (foot-shaped) business cards created for them.

As well as gaining lots of business contacts we were also able to enter a competition which had a prize of £250.  The idea was to present an ‘elevator pitch’ – i.e. a very quick sales pitch that you could present to someone if you only had a very limited amount of time to speak to them. Rose (Biela?) was the winner, with her proposed business as a ‘reminiscence facilitator’. Rose is a qualified nurse who works with patients who have (e.g.) senile dementia or brain damage, and she provides specialised therapy which uses the patients’ memories and stories. It sounds like a brilliant form of therapy – very natural and completely un-threatening for people who must often spend a lot of time feeling confused and frustrated. Well done Rose!

Part of the course also involved a charity challenge, which was to raise as much money as possible in one week for “IT Skills 4 Rural Kenya“. That really was a challenge, as we only had lunchtimes and evenings to be able to make objects for sale and then try to sell them. Fortunately that is just the sort of task where a laser cutter comes in handy! My team-mate Lucy Hart sent me some pictures of African wildlife, so based on those I was able to design some greetings cards for us to sell:

kenyan cards

(They look better individually rather than as a set, otherwise it looks like the elephants are smaller than the antelope (when of course they are just further away…))

It really has been a brilliant course. As well as having learned lots about business plans and sales tips, I have also been forced to learn more about my laser cutter just as a byproduct of the charity challenge and elevator pitch tasks. For example I have made some business cards out of wood…:

laser cut business card laser cut business card

…Created a sample dog tag with a photo of an actual dog on it…

…Made a butterfly from mirri card…

laser cut butterfly

…Made a box…

laser cut box laser cut box

…Etched some promotional samples for Beepurple…

…and learned how to turn a cracker into a business card:

So even though it has taken a massive chunk out of the time I was supposed to be spending on doing my final project for university, I think it was time well spent. Thank  you, Clare Griffiths and Brad Crescenzo from Beepurple!

Ooops – I’ve Just Bought a Flatbed Laser Cutter

August 31, 2010 Leave a comment

I imagine I speak for women everywhere when I say that it is surely every young girl’s dearest wish to one day have their own flatbed laser cutter. Well, Dear Reader, that day has finally come for me. I have this very afternoon purchased a second-hand Epilog Zing laser cutter.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with it when it is delivered*. Of course I was always going to buy one sooner or later, but before I actually bought it I was going to be all sensible and find a load of outlets for my laser-etched and laser-cut products, like….erm….making dog tags with pictures of people’s actual pets on them, or etching christening gifts with pictures of the actual babies on them.

You know when you’re a kid and you get a new pair of really sharp scissors and then suddenly there comes an irresistable urge to start snipping loads of things with them, just to check how sharp they are? Fingernails, paper, hair, curtains, carpet, that sort of thing? I’ve got a terrible feeling that a similar but oh-so-much-more-creative urge is going to overtake me when I finally receive the Zing. Oh dear. Under the guise of ‘learning how to use the features’, I sense that my first few experiments will be food-based. That way even if the design goes wrong I won’t have wasted any money on the raw material, because I’ll be eating the evidence anyway.

…In my head just now I have invented a new type of ‘marquetry’ toast/sandwich, that involves two pieces of very precisely-cut white and brown bread, with the cut-out pieces carefully swapped over.

"Marquetry Toast" - artist's impression

"Marquetry Toast" - artist's impression

Of course, this equipment isn’t just a toy. I need to get it working as soon as possible and to provide myself with enough income so that the laser not only pays for itself, but will start to help me make a living as well. My disability might prevent me from getting a ‘proper’ full-time job, but my ability should allow me to find other ways of supporting myself. On the negative side, I am effectively gambling a large chunk of my compensation money away on a big piece of machinery in the hope that my craft/writing business will eventually start to pay the bills. But on the positive side, there is a bit more to it than just “hope” after all, because (a) over the years I’ve been doing bits of teaching and writing and craftmaking already, so I should be able to build on those experiences, and (b) I’m going to WORK HARD at it and not just “wish for it” or think I deserve it just because I “want it so badly” (e.g. like so many X-Factor contestants seem to think).


* This particular laser cutter has a working surface area of less than two square feet, so although I don’t know what I will be doing with it, I know that one thing I won’t immediately be doing with it is strapping Sean Connery to the base and switching it on and going “No, Mr Bond — I expect you to DIE. Mwahahaha.”.