On 15 September 2016 the virtual doors of we are stardust opened. Of course, the planning had started long before that. I first had the idea for we are stardust around 2012. I love science and I love art – they are both ways of learning about the world and our place in it, but there were very few products out there for people like me – people who love to learn, appreciate craftsmanship, poetry and the value of surrounding yourself with beautiful objects. I’d produced a couple of cards and put them on Etsy but it wasn’t until 2016 when I could afford to go down to four days a week in my day job that I had the time to craft we are stardust.
Ups and downs
While I am incredibly grateful to have we are stardust as a creative outlet, the last two years have seen many challenges. At the end of 2016 I left my job as a science communication specialist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to go freelance and three months later I was pregnant (and now without the nice University maternity leave package). At this point we are stardust had only just launched and I didn’t feel it would be able to provide enough income in 2017 for me to save for my maternity leave. I had to devote more time to my freelance work, meaning less time for we are stardust. In November 2017, our little girl arrived (what a moment of wonder!) and for the last nine months we are stardust has barely been ticking over while I am on one of the steepest and most rewarding learning curves of my life – learning how to bring up a child!
The upshot of all of this is that the last year and a half I don’t feel like I have given we are stardust as much love as I would like. But despite the ups and downs, creating we are stardust and keeping it reaching for the stars is something that constantly inspires me – I have found my element. I can spend hours thinking about a new design concept and how I will package and present it. We are stardust keeps me energised, thinking through creative ideas – it inspires me.
We Are Stardust Highlights
While I often dwell on what I “should do”, “could do”, “would do”, I am taking this birthday as a time to reflect on some of the highlights of the last two years. I’m sharing these achievements with you to inspire you to run with that passion project you’ve had at the back of your mind and as a reminder to be proud of every little step we take in learning about ourselves and our place in this world.
- Creating card designs celebrating moments of wonder about our world for my four collections: Anatomy, Astronomy, Botany and Zoology. I have enjoyed taking the time to really look at animals, plants, body parts and the night sky as I sit down and draw. I’ve also learned some curious facts while researching the card concepts. These facts deepen my understanding of the world and add a new layer of wonder to everyday life.
- Understanding how branding and marketing is really about telling a beautiful story. Branding and marketing often get a bad rep but I have found working on this aspect of we are stardust absolutely vital, very hard and extremely rewarding. You can read more about my brand values – wilderness, loyalty, sophistication - on my about page. I try to embed these values in everything I do for we are stardust. Huge thanks to Fiona Humberstone’s How to Style Your Brand book and Kayte Ferris’ amazing Grow with Soul podcast. We are stardust went on to be featured in Fiona Humberstone’s book Brand Brilliance - such an honour.
- Launching at Brixton’s CraftyFox market in September 2016 and getting a feature in Emerald Street’s mailout. This was a HUGE tick for me. I love Emerald Street and Stylist. I tweeted Emerald Street a week before about the launch of we are stardust and lo and behold, the next week I was featured!
- Finding a supportive community of we are stardust friends online who love the sometimes strange designs I create (I am very aware cards with anatomical hearts, beetles and crows aren’t for everyone).
- Seeing my designs go into the world and finding homes with like-minded people who love the outdoors, learning, family, friends and beauty. While I always hoped my cards would spark a shared moment of wonder for our amazing world between card giver and recipient, I never imagined how they could help with the loss of a loved one, the celebration of new life, the tender moment of commitment between two people.
- Getting my first stockist – the Wellcome Collection Shop – and then seven more, including one in the US!
- Launching three limited edition posters: Reach for the stars, Anatomical heart and I love you to the moon and back and new card designs – the Tea cards and the Bess Beetle cards (I still intend to make a coffee card).
- Being part of the Makers4Refugees project in early 2017 and raising around £450 for Help Refugees. Huge kudos to project creator Pip Wilcox. Her idea helped raise over £30,000 for Help Refugees over 2017.
- Learning how to better use Instagram by taking Sara Tasker’s informative Instaretreat and how to get my money right with Tara Swiger's Pay Yourself course.
- Being featured on blogs and gift guides, including: Maker Feature on Single Malt Teapot's blog, More to science: working in science communication and art on BioMedCentral Careers blog, Just a card Valentine’s Day gift guide, Simple and Season’s 2017 Independent Christmas Gift Guide, Creative in the Countryside blog.
- Breaking even in 2017! Making money from we are stardust is a challenge when I am unable to dedicate as much time to it as I’d like so to break even felt amazing.
- Shuffling through much of 2018 and still managing to send a few card orders out. I recently listened to a podcast with life coach Ray Dodd. She talked about shuffling through life and I rather liked that description (though I think I often bumble too). And then coming back after maternity leave by launching a new print gift set, the chilli plant.
- Creating Christmas cards for 2016, 2017 and very soon 2018. I especially loved my first ever collaboration with Laura from Circle of Pine Trees in 2016. It was quite scary approaching Laura as her photography is beautiful and she had a big following. I am so glad I plucked up the courage to email her. Our giveaway gave me a huge boost. I LOVE Christmas time especially folklore and love creating cards around festive folk tales and how they are often a mythical interpretation of how things work, i.e. science.
We are stardust learning
Reading this list makes me feel so proud. I've learned a great deal these last two years - from practical skills like setting up an ecommerce website and how to price my work to emotional lessons such as accepting failure, the importance of a supportive network and, perhaps most importantly, the need to show up and do the work. My highlights reminds me that small steps add up. When I feel like things are moving too slowly or I am not selling enough or self-doubt sets in, I can come back to this list and remind myself what I have achieved. Yes, it’s not a Nobel Peace Prize or the cure for cancer, but I am incredibly lucky to be able to spend time drawing, researching, creating designs I love and sharing them with a supportive community of nature-loving people who want to know more about the wonderful, messy, dark, fantastic universe we find ourselves in.