Monday, 28 November 2011

Sitting pretty: ILF Venture's Jo debuts company at NEC

Jo Hancox, from the first cohort on the ILF Venture programme, has set up her company ‘Sit On My Face’, launching it in style at the NEC’s Festive Gift Fair.

Jo Hancox, second from left, with her stand at the Festive Gift Fair

Jo’s uses her artistic skills to apply quirky portraiture to cushions and soft furnishings. Interiors & Lifestyle Futures caught up with Jo as she recovered from an intense and long four days on her show stand.    

How was the show for you?
It was great to gain experience and see how people reacted to Sit on My Face.  The feedback was so positive and it was a massive high making so many people giggle. It was really enjoyable seeing people’s reactions. I think the market at the show only had a handful of people that really appreciated the price, the time and the materials that had gone into the product. People seemed to be there for a bargain –long legged Santas hahaha! 

Did you generate any sales, enquiries?
I have had a few enquires and an order of 10 cushions. I also had someone who wanted me to ring about them putting them in their shop, which I need to follow up. I think it has created a buzz and got the brand out there.

How did you find the overall experience?
It let me promote my brand and feel confident getting it out there. I found the actual selling a massive adrenaline rush. It was so enjoyable as people really loved the product especially the name. I definitely learnt a lot.

Jo's 'Sit on My Face' stand creates a buzz at Birmingham's NEC

What were the key lessons you learnt?
How to sell and talk to people. How to gauge people’s reactions – whether they were keen on the product or whether they would say the price is too high. I learnt that my market isn’t the NEC. My clientele are people with money. I should be going to more suitable fairs such as the Interiors Show, Grand Designs. I learnt that I need to create a logo instead of just the banners.

After the first day, I had to create some posters to explain to people that they could have their own portraits on the cushions, etc. I ran out of business cards though I had 400 to start with, so you need to be selective who you give cards too. I certainly learnt that people don’t want random faces they want their own face.

Finally, what would you advise other people who were thinking of doing an event like this to include in their planning?
Make sure they do the research. Make sure that the market is their target market.

You can keep up to date with Jo's company through her Facebook page

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Back to the Future: Contemporary West Midlands Glass Artists To Celebrate 400 Years of Stourbridge Glass

2012 will be the 400th anniversary of glass making in the Stourbridge area and a group of West Midlands’s glass artists and designers will be making sure the occasion does not go unnoticed.  

Back to the Future – an exhibition of contemporary work inspired by the world famous glass collections and archives of Dudley Borough – will open in August 2012 during the International Festival of Glass and run until the end of January 2013.

The driving forces behind the exhibition are glass artist Jackie Cooley and Kari Moodie and Roger Dodsworth from Broadfield House Glass Museum (where the exhibition will take place) with the support of The Friends of Broadfield House Glass Museum and Interiors & Lifestyle Futures.   

Glass artists on one of the guided tours 

“We are interested in creating a connection or dialogue between the contemporary makers/designers in the West Midlands and their historical counterparts,” says Kari Moodie. “We held a series of open days, during November, for artists interested in applying for the exhibition at Broadfield House, the Museum’s stores and library at Himley Hall, and Dudley Archives & Local History Service in Coseley.”

The aim is that inspiration for new work could come from glass objects, archival materials such as pattern books and other historical documents, or even the architectural features of Broadfield House.

"A dialogue between contemporary makers/designers and their historical counterparts"
Although an artist might be inspired by a piece produced using a similar technique to their own, we would encourage artists to look at items outside of their normal working techniques,” adds Jackie Cooley.

 “For example, a kiln former could look at a blown object or a cold worker might look at a lamp-worked piece. We are also encouraging artists to think about changes of scale as well as technique. The new work shouldn’t be an accurate copy of the original but could feature something of its essence.”

Successful applicants will be chosen by a panel in February 2012 and pieces that are selected as their collaborative inspiration will be exhibited alongside the new work or the new work will be exhibited alongside existing displays or features.

Celebrating 400 years of West Midlands glass making

Monday, 14 November 2011

Well done Will - winner of the pop up shop comp.

Congratulations to Will Cutler, winner of the Birmingham City Centre pop-up shop competition, we blogged about last month . Will is on the ILF Venture mentoring programme, which is supporting new West Midlands' businesses.

Interiors & Lifestyle Future is delighted one of the ILF community has won this prestigious  prize. Will will be running his own shop right over the festive period into the New Year, at The Square, Corporation St, in Birmingham City Centre.

Will, who is setting up F7 Jewellery to help jewellers and other new designers, has written us a blog all about it. Don't forget to pop in and see Will, especially if you are on the look out for a beautiful gift  at this time of year .

Post Will Cutler
My shop is running from 15 November until the end of January and it's a fantastic opportunity for me to try out one of the aspects of my business plan relatively risk free, as I had planned to use pop up shops as a method of retail in the future. This has given me the chance to see if it is a viable offer to make to the designers that I will represent, as well as hopefully making some much needed capital for the start of my business. If all goes well, the use of pop up shops will definitely become a part of my company in the future.

"Being on the ILF Venture programme has helped me to do this"

Although it's been quite a struggle to organise all my suppliers as quickly as I have had to, it has already shown me the importance of having a diverse network of people around you, with many of my go-to designers already booked up and busy over the Christmas period. It's also forced me to think about the other disciplines of craft I could represent such as ceramics, art and textiles, as the practicalities of filling a huge shopping unit with jewellery in such short notice is rather difficult. Caitlin Griffiths, a colleague on ILF Venture has been a great help. I've been able to ask her to source artwork for me and as she is an art professional I can trust her opinion on hanging and display.

Just three of the desirable gifts on sale at Will's pop up shop

Just by being on the ILF Venture programme has helped me to do this, as I wouldn't have even known about the competition, as well as all the help I have received, which has allowed me to take advantage of this opportunity.  

Contact Will:

Tw: or @F7jewelleryabout last month.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Exhibition by Midlands' artists and designer makers

Textiles and Paper (TaP) is a group of independent textile artists and makers living and working in the Midlands, who aim to showcase contemporary textile art around the region.  They have a seasonal show at the Pop up Gallery , New Brewery Arts, Brewery Court, Cirencester 14-26 November ( 10am-4pm daily). Ermine Jackson-Miles from the ILF Venture mentoring programme is one of the artists included.

TaP exhibition

TaP formed in 2005 to offer inspiration, support, and a network to its members.  Exhibiting members are Jane Freer-Wyld - weave, Jenny Fergusson - felt, Deb Roberts - felt, Barbara Fidoe - print, Ermine Jackson-Miles - constructed textile,s and Michaela McMillan - sculpted textiles.

Location details

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Is your collaboration SAFE: a simple model for collaborative viability

Post Ken Thompson, Bioteams

Most collaborative ventures don't turn out quite the way we envisage. It would be great if we could determine in advance if a particular collaborative project or joint venture will be worth the required investment. Here is a simple way you can assess the merits of any collaborative endeavour BEFORE you invest time, effort and money in failing to make it work.

The SAFE model of collaborative viability - a summary 

S is for SYNERGY
Is there genuine synergy between the parties? If you all do the same thing or do things which are too diverse to join up then you don't have SYNERGY.

Assuming that there is SYNERGY do the parties actually want to collaborate? If SYNERGY is the mind of collaboration then APPETITE is the heart. You can't have collaboration without APPETITE.

OK so there is SYNERGY and APPETITE but if it now requires monumental effort to collaborate or there are huge practical obstacles to collaboration then it won't happen. Is it Feasible?

Finally you could have the other three things but unless there are some good specific benefits to the parties, preferably economic, then any collaboration is probably not going to be sustainable.

Many thanks to Kathryn Burns of Birmingham City University  who collaborated with me to develop this model. 

If you are a West Midlands business working in the interiors or lifestyle markets and have an idea for a collaboration you'd like to pursue or would just like to know a bit more about how Interiors& Lifestyle Futures could help your business, please call 0121 331 7925 or write to

Don't forget to check out some of Ken's other collaboration models:

The Sustainable Network model 

The Fair Collaboration model

The 3 rings of commitment in any group

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Everything you ever wanted to know about social media but were afraid to ask: LinkedIn The Instant Business Guide

“People keep telling me I should be using social media. But, how does it work? I don’t know where to begin/don’t have the time/which format should I be using?”

Variations on that theme are heard regularly at various  Interiors & Lifestyle Futures workshops and events..

Make sure you are in with the In Crowd

Now, thanks to Nadia at Bioteams, we can now offer handy-sized and easy-to-follow instant guides. These will help social media newbies make sure they aren’t missing potential business opportunities and even launch themselves successfully into the Tweetosphere!

 For the Linkedin and other guides, please visit Bioteams.