Monday, 23 November 2015

Beads & Beyond....and beyond!

Another exciting chapter begins...

I would never have foreseen the huge jewellery making journey I was about to embark on when I took my first steps into the world of beads. Looking back over the last six years or so, I have grown so much in my creativity and had some wonderful opportunities - how can the next six years live up to it? 

An unexpected journey

When I first picked up a pair of pliers in 2009 and was shown how to make simple loops and open jump rings, little did I know that it was the beginning of a passion that would become so much more than a hobby. When I began making jewellery for friends and set up my own little craft business on Facebook in 2011, I still had no idea where it might take me, and when I won the Beads & Beyond Jewellery Maker of the Year competition in 2012 and became a regular designer for the magazine, I could never have thought that I might one day be Editor of my favourite beading title! 

A month in the life of...

In my 22 months as Editor, I was often asked what it was like to work in publishing and on a monthly craft magazine. When I first applied for the role, I have to admit that I was imagining a glamorous office with a whole team working on each issue and a big photography studio where projects were left to be styled and photographed by a team of photographers. I was more than a little worried that my lack of editorial experience or knowledge of publishing would be very obvious and that I would struggle in such a fast-moving and high-powered environment. 
When I arrived at the publisher's offices on an industrial estate in Malvern, I was relieved to find a family company based in very unglamorous offices. There was a small team of editors working on numerous craft and model-making titles with an even smaller team of designers, a single photographer and just one editorial assistant to support all the craft titles. I couldn't believe that such a great magazine could be produced by so few people, but loved the idea that the editor had complete control of each issue, from commissioning projects right through to the final proofs. It was my dream job and when I received the letter offering me the position, I knew I had to take such a fantastic opportunity even though it was initially just a temporary position while the current editor took maternity leave. Within three weeks, I was commuting to the Traplet offices from Tamworth and starting an intensive handover! Three weeks later and we had relocated to Malvern, renting an amazing house right on the hills and I was editing my first issue of Beads & Beyond ON MY OWN!

Unless you have worked in publishing, you probably wouldn't be aware just how far ahead editors work to allow time for commissioning, editing, designing and printing. I would spend many days each month working ahead by at least three months, sometimes more, to come up with themes, decide on which techniques to include and contact contributors for project ideas as well as co-ordinate the designer challenge and pick an interviewee for the meet and greet pages. There would then be a short period of to-ing and fro-ing before projects were finally scheduled for an issue along with all the other regular features. Designers were generally given 4-6 weeks to make and write up a project then you needed a week or two to edit and get it photographed before the designer could lay it up in the right format for the magazine. Whilst the designers were working on their tutorials for a future issue, I would be editing and proofing the next issue, writing blog content to accompany it all whilst promoting it and the current issue on social media. At any one time, I would be juggling a minimum of three issues on a day to day basis which required fastidious organisation and a real focus on deadlines. I relied on a single Excel spreadsheet to tell me exactly where I was at with every issue and to track issues that could impact on print date. There could be all sorts of minor issues or mishaps that could suddenly require me to re-jig the magazine, find additional content or rework several pages. Being editor was not always plain sailing. I would often have to reorganise the issue several times before the pages were final - projects might turn out to be more or less pages than planned, or occasionally not arrive in time. Designer challenge beads have been known to go missing or challenge pieces not make it in one piece. On more than one occasion I found myself writing a last minute project or making some challenge pieces to fill some missing pages - it certainly helped to be a contributing editor in these situations!

Alongside the writing and editing of projects, articles and regular features, I was also responsible for styling all the jewellery pieces for photography with help from my assistant, Aimee. Aimee took over from Rosa at the end of 2013 and managed all the administrative tasks for the magazine like sending projects and prizes out. However she also wrote some great blog articles and even modelled the occasional piece of jewellery for photographs. There was a huge array of props to choose from but I also provided a lot of styling bits and bobs from my own stash of interesting and quirky items. You would not believe the amount of 'useful' stuff that I have amassed over the years from charity shops, antique shops and jumble sales. I also really enjoyed shopping for 'real life' props such as oranges, cocktail snacks and even a Cornish pasty! Take a look through your back issues and see how many 'fresh' props you can spot!

One of our regular features was the Top 10. This was planned months in advance and our beautiful projects were provided by our advertisers to promote their beads and their beading expertise! Some months, we were inundated with top 10 pieces and I would be forced to leave some out of the printed magazine and publish them on the website. Other months, both myself and Aimee would need to make something to make up the numbers and keep the feature to the planned number of pages. This was always a bonus because it gave me the chance to make something and to teach Aimee a new technique!

Whilst all this work was going on with magazine content, both myself and Aimee would be managing all the social media for the title, including the very popular mini design challenges on Facebook. I would also be working with my designer, Ruth, on revamping features, coming up with new ideas (such as the 'make it easy' series) and organising additional bonus content on the blog. For the final issue, we even filmed a project video. We'd also be planning special features and competitions, sourcing the latest hot products and books for review,and organising giveaways.

The onward journey...

There was never a moment spare in the Beads & Beyond schedule and I have to say that it has been a welcome relief to step off the publishing treadmill and take a breather. I am enjoying creating for fun and writing for me again. I am really looking forward to bringing you some of the same content I used to provide for the magazine but to my own schedule! Online craft content is the way forward and I have lots planned for the coming months here on this blog, over on my Facebook page and on Pinterest. I do hope you will join me on my onward journey...