Tuesday's Blog A Pretty Penny

Tuesday's Blog A Pretty Penny

Hi there!

Don’t the weeks come around quickly? Tuesday again already! So rolling back the hours, where were we last week? Ah yes, last week I was telling you about my very first product, the Victorian Rhyme Chart. So the old boy, the sales rep, encouraged me to open up other product doors: 
Magnets, Stickers or Stamps; 
those were the logical follow-up options at that time with ye old Rhyme Chart. 

For me, it made sense to be able to move the letters around, so stickers weren’t an option, which left Magnets and Stamps. Now stamps appealed to me, because stamping sounded much more creative for kids than slapping magnets on a fridge door! At that time, all stamps were wooden. So how did we arrive at transparent stamps? In a moment of Clarity.
I remember it so well. It was my birthday, and my brother, Steve, the kids and I took a drive down Highway No. 1 to Santa Barbara for a weekend. Let me go and dig out a photo or two…
Have I ever told you I have a gorgeous brother? Well, he was instrumental in getting Clarity off the ground, and he is still always somewhere very nearby. I love him dearly.

So there we were, wandering around Santa Barbara in the sunshine. Check out Baby Mark in the backpack! My God! He’s 6’6″” now! And little Princess Grace. She always was a doll.
And there was this shop, called Stampa Barbara. Well, we had to go in, didn’t we? It was amazing. A whole shop, full from ceiling to floor with stamps, wooden stamps. 
And the conversation ran just like this:
“Blimey, Steve, look at this lot!”
“What are they?”
“Stamps. Wall to wall stamps.”
“It would make more sense if you could see through them”
“ Definitely”
“Maybe we should make see-through stamps”
“Good idea”
And that was it. Claritystamps were born. Or at least the idea was. But there’s a big difference between having an idea and taking it through to product completion!
So we set about converting that thought into a transparent stamp, which took a while, because people thought we were a bit mad. But we did it! We designed a perspex handle which children could easily hold; we still use them today. In the beginning, we used to line-bend them – each and every one. That meant bending the acrylic over hot wires. What a job! Every stamp came in a little box. Why? To shield it from the California sunshine! I also hand-stamped every single box-sleeve. Why? Because it was cheaper than printing!
In order to fund production, we kept on selling Rhyme Charts, and I started a very lucrative little sideline once I had a set of stamps, making children’s handpainted name plaques. I would stamp out the name, paint the letters, mount and frame. You could buy them unmounted or mounted, and I charged by the letter. So I took commissions and sold loads. All I did was paint letters for a while! But it made good money and it was a means to an end; it paid for the materials we needed to make the stamps. I cannot believe I have found these old photos! 
Where did we sell? Well, the old boy, the sales rep, still got us orders from shops, but we also did street fairs and art shows. Hey! It was sunny California! When shops first wanted our charts and stamps, it was so very flattering, but it soon became clear that they wanted everything half-price, and only ever paid us when they wanted more! Flattery wasn’t paying the bills, but the street fairs and markets were. 
I used to spend hours on setting up little tents in the streets of San Jose, San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Monica. It was hard, hot work, but Steve and I did have a laugh.
I would tell him to stop frightening the customers! He would say they fancied him.
If he got fed up, I would tell him to go for a walk 

or look after the kids!
and I would take over. Check out blondie!
I soon figured out that ladies wanted other designs, so I drew a line of flower stamps, too. Many of you recently bought the fuchsias, the maple leaves and the gerbera! 
Those were the days, eh. But with the power of hindsight and a business hat on, one of the best things that happened to the young Claritystamp Company was that a Sales Rep took us on first. Quite aside from getting us into a load of shops, he also helped us establish our prices sensibly. 
Since we are opening our can of P’s each Tuesday, and today is P for Price, let’s just look at that. Because the rep was selling into shops for us, and then adding his cut, that forced us to charge more than we would have, had we started out selling directly to the public. The reason I mention this is not to divulge any big pricing secrets, but to simply advise anybody reading this who wants to sell their products, that they should always factor in the possibility of a potential shop account AND a rep. Let’s say you make a doll. The doll costs you £10 in materials. So you charge £20 and you’ve double your money. Well, yes and no. If the price tag is now £20, and a shopkeeper comes along and wants to sell the doll in his shop, he will only want to give you £10 for it, so he can sell it at £20 – the same as you were. At this point, not only have you only just broken even, you haven’t even paid yourself for making the doll! Then imagine the shopkeeper wants 20 of them! Then he’ll want bulk discount, too! How are you going to pay anybody to help you? Gasp. SO. A factor of 4 will always cover you. It will cover costs, labour and wholesale prices, if you get to that place. Oh, and taxes. If you just price the doll at £40, you always have price leverage; you can always do a deal. But if you are working to the absolute rock bottom price, where can you go from there? Know your worth, know your market, but always think the film through to the end.  
I have so enjoyed looking back to the market days in California. 
We are all the sum of our experience, right? 
Next Tuesday let’s talk about P for Placement. 
Remind me to tell you about the Chilli Cook-off in Folsom!
Don’t forget to leave a lovely comment, 
because there’s a £50 Clarity-Blog Candy Prize draw on Friday!

137 thoughts on “Tuesday's Blog A Pretty Penny

  1. mighty oaks from little acorns eh Barbara! Thank you for sharing the latest episode on how you got to where you are. It's not just interesting to read, it is also inspiring for everyone running their own little stall or similar. I suspect you never realised how much of a business you were creating back then, or where it would lead you, not to mention the amount of creativity you would spark in so many other crafters.

  2. I am really enjoying hearing how you got started in crafting. Those mounts you designed so long ago are just perfect. I even use them on the rare occasions I use non-Clarity stamps (not very often, but I do have some and I have to get mileage from them) and they are just so light and comfortable to handle. Thank you for sharing your life with us. xx Maggie

  3. Really enjoyed joining you on your trip down memory lane. Your children are beautiful. It's great to see your gazebo stall & feel that moment of 'that could be me'. Your pricing tips were useful toi. Thanks for sharing again Barbara x

  4. Thanks for sharing your story and precious photos..a lot of hard work got you to where you are today I hope young people will be inspired by your story…I certainly am inspired by these tutorials and enjoy trying to recreate what you show us xxx annie

  5. I am really enjoying the story of how Clarity Stamps started. Thank you for sharing. The pricing tips are certainly useful. I look forward to the next instalment. Sally xx

  6. This is yet another very interesting Blog and shows the stamina and the conviction you must have had at that time. I remember the last stall I did, I had 2 whole new concept/themes of cards which are still not sold today – people told me what a great idea they were and yet I didn't sell one single thing! What I had neglected to do was put up a notice reminding people that this event I was trying to get them to buy for was only a week away. Hence the last lady at the stall said "Oh I see, its nearly end of term"??? So I was £15 down for the price of the table. I do love Tuesdays Blog Barbara, it definitely shows that you have blooming well earned your place!!! xxx

  7. So enjoying the clarity story, and hearing a little about the family behind it all! You've worked so long and so hard . I admire you so much and I thank you for continuing to inspire me to keep going not only in crafting but life itself . Like now when I'm up with the night panic attack just reading a bit of your story helps to calm the nerves. Look forward to the next installment x

  8. I have enjoyed reading this installment very much Barbara. I remember when my kids were little and wanting to make a card using stamps but what was on offer was very basic or very expensive and of course you couldn't see through them so I didn't get very far. But thanks to you and your moment of CLARITY I make cards and nameplates and pictures etc. and although I do have a fair collection of other stamps my pride and joy are my Clarity stamps (got over 450 of them…if you include all the little ones that come in the sets) and I'm not finished collecting them yet! Always first choice for a project and if I am stuck for inspiration where do I look….Barbara Gray and her team. Big Hugs from little me xxx

  9. It's lovely to read how you started up the business and I agree with Helen – you should write a book! I miss reading your newsletters so I'm so glad that you are blogging now.

  10. Really enjoyed reading your nostalgic journey to the past, thanks Barbara. That was good advice for someone who maybe thinking of starting up a small business (pitfalls of business!) Hard work and a good product are key, and you have buckets full of both.x

  11. Loved this episode and looking forward to the next part of your story. Not only should you write a book but you would be great at giving inspirational talks you have definitely inspired me. I have just got my insurance and will start doing a few fairs and see where things go from there…… thank you for the push.

  12. Hi Barb, what another fantastic blog – sat here with my mint tea before getting ready for work reading the next chapter in the history of Clarity. I once found an old magazine article about you and Clarity on the web…in it – it describes your dedication, family run company and how you pride yourself in how you employ your team. I think it was an article after you had won an award…so I am looking forward to the next instalment of placement. The photos are great – your kids beautiful – I suspect they feel great pride in their mum and her wonderful products – but most of all what a fantastic role model you have been to your children, and continue to be. That alphabet is so lovely – I have two little grandchildren and I am thinking of getting the poster and putting it in a frame each for a present at Christmas – as someone brought up on nursery rhymes I know my daughter teaches her daughter – and this poster will help to keep them going. I can remember being in America once and hearing children singing 'ring a ring of roses'…yet their version ends in 'ashes ashes we all fall down' – so had to google that one !!! As ever Barb, thank you for sharing your personal life with us all – factor of 4 – that will stick with me – thank you for that. xx

  13. What a wonderful , amazing and inspiring story . I loved this look into how you started x gorgeous pics and fab story x the price advice was great too 🙂 honest and wonderful post

  14. I do love Tuesday mornings! Thanks for the factor four heads -up! Markets a great fun in the sunshine… Not such a happy place in the rain when your selling cards and paper items! And just look at those beautiful children! Xxx. Thanks Barbara xxx

  15. Another fab blog Barbara!
    It is lovely that you can share this with us all and for it it makes me appreciate my stamps even more!
    And as I read it I could help but look at how cute the kids were…and how much you haven't changed….maybe a bit darker hair…and how handsome your brother is! He certainly would not have scared me off!
    I look forward to the next instalment into the wonderful world that is Clarity. Love and hugs xxx

  16. I am sitting on the bus on my way to work and have just read your blog. Such a great inspiration, only wish I had seen it a few years ago when I did a marketing module, as part of the course, as this explains the marketing principles in layman's terms and not jargon like a lot of the books you fan get. Keep up the good work!

  17. Hi Barb, good advice on pricing, I don't think people realise how much time and effort goes into well made handcrafted goods. Love the photo of you with the kids and your brother. Bx

  18. What a great story you tell, Barbara! If people could see the time and effort that is put into making stuff, they would NEVER complain about the price! (I wish…) Love the pics 🙂 Jo

  19. Hi Barbara,
    Love to read about your early days and your moment of Clarity, it is very interesting and shows your dedication and it is also very inspirational. Love Clarity stamps, they are so easy and comfortable to stamp with and are generally my " go to stamps". Thank you for everything you do.

  20. Every week I read and learn a bit more about your story, and just love it more. You are such a "strong" woman, and haven't given up. Thank you very much for that, we can now all enjoy using and playing with your and your team creation.
    Laurence xx

  21. such a wonderful look at clarity's history Barbara. Love ll the photos – Mark looks so tiny – its almost impossible to think he's 6 ft 6 now! So glad you went into that shop and spent all that time painting letters – it helped you get to where you are now and is a big inspiration to us all! Have a great day xx

  22. What wonderful photos and memories Barbara. I thought I was looking at Ulrika Jonsson in the one where you have your son in a backpack! Gorgeous. You've put such a lot of energy into your new blog, as you do with all things Clarity and the information you've shared about pricing and selling handmade items is invaluable. I have a poem in my 'craft room' (ha ha) – it is called 'Photographs' and the closing lines are: 'If you ever find my house on fire; leave the silver, save the photographs'.

  23. Thank you for sharing such lovely photos along with your story which I found really interesting. It's amazing where life's journey can take us and thank goodness for that little idea way back then that has opened up a whole world of crafting for so many of us. xx

  24. Love reading your blog every day. It is an amazing story of how you started off and how you got to where you are now. It is always good to treasure those moments from when the kids are wee and how they have grown along with your business into the amazing people they are today.

  25. Hello Barbara It's so interesting reading your blog about how you started on your crafting journey and I love the tips you give so freely both for crafting and on the business side. I am fully retired now and can just play at my crafting for a lot of the time which is great but I did have a shop in the distant past and it's surprising what you learn. You are altogether a true inspiration Maggie x

  26. Oh I so enjoyed reading that Barbara,rarely does anyone at the top share how they got started. You see successful people and think they have been so lucky to get where they are but never think about the struggle it took to get there. A lot of hard work and dedication and belief in what they are trying to achieve, takes a lot of commitment. And then there is always the part where you have to try and get people to value what you are trying to sell. I no it's not quite the same but I used to sell my cards at craft fairs but gave up because everyone just wanted them for pennies when it had taken me hours to make each one and didn't understand the work that had gone into making them. I wasn't as strong as you and I guess that is what makes the difference between success and failure. Thank you for sharing you're story Barbara xx

  27. Another fascinating chapter in the Clarity story. I love Californian markets, they're very different to the British ones (the weather helps). Tuesdays are now the highlight of the week, can't wait for the next chapter.

  28. Love your blog and I must admit that Tuesday is getting to be the "must not miss" day. Not only is it entertaining and enlightening, it is also very informative. Have you thought about re-releasing these stamps?

  29. Just had another look at your pictures on the pc and I love those boxes you did for the original stamps. Really perfect as a presentation for a child. I bet there are loads of them still our there and treasured by those children who received the originals. xx Maggie PS could that be an option for anyone who wants them for a special present for a child?

  30. Oh my word, so this is how it all started out, thank you for sharing your family pictures with us. Just so amazing how Clarity started out and where it has come to, and its still growing. So please I stopped at your stand in the NEC, quiet a few years ago now. I'm honoured to travel on the journey with you, from rubber bands, dinner plates to gelli…. whatever will be next xx Claire

  31. Morning Barbara…another wonderful blog post…and such a good read…I feel honoured to share your past and your photos with you….I wonder…do you enjoy writing it as much as we all love reading it……it makes me feel even more privileged to be a part of your wonderful team…Thank you….Jo. X

  32. How lovely to read and see the birth of Clarity Stamps, and how lucky we are you brought it back to the UK !! Thank you also for sharing the factor of 4, I know it's not quite the same thing, but I've just completed some Wedding Invitations for a friend, and I stupidly didn't factor in the time each one would take to make…40 mins to an hour for each one !!! I didn't mind as using Clarity stamps is a joy…but what a numpty and not very cost effective !!…ho hum it's a lesson learnt….and I really think a book would be a best seller !! xx

  33. Another great read. Lots of hard work for you on the way but it's given you lots of fond memories too. The sunshine helps when you did the markets! Great looking family x Please continue to be an inspiration to us all xxx Thanks for sharing x

  34. Barbara you never fail to make me smile ,with the "History of Clarity" and your life as a Mum, Artist, Seller Designer, and Chief Cook and Bottle Washer too xx Look at you now !! Certainly my Inspiration to Stamp and I feel sure many, many others xx

  35. Another lovely insight into Charity history, Lovely photo's too of your brother, oh what a charmer he looks, and your 2 "little" one's awwwww so cute.
    A book about Clarity and who know's Barbara, what a great film your story would make. Hands up who would watch!.
    hugs sheila xx

  36. Really interesting to read how Clarity got started, See through stamps, the best idea since sliced bread! Is your brother a nice distinguished grey now! lol
    Aileen xx

  37. First time I have been on a Blog !!! Love Clarity Stamps same as everybody else . Had to make Cards as I live in France and they dont do the card thing. I have completely changed my ways ,my cards have improved . Although I think I am the only person in the Western Hemisphere who does not have a cutting machine!!Long may you reign.

  38. What a great post and how wonderful to have those lovely photos, bet lots of memories flooded back. It's amazing how reading this encourages everyone. Please let your brother know, we believe him when he says the ladies where chatting him up, especially with his lovely body on display. Love to you and yours.

  39. Morning Barbara, I am thoroughly enjoying your Tuesday posts. It is wonderful to read all about your journey. What wonderful pictures of your children. They were real cuties. Kind regards Joanne K x

  40. Love reading your blog Barbara. It is very different to other leading crafters blogs. Hope you keep it up as I know it's hard to commit to blogging daily.

  41. Love reading your blog Barbara. It is very different to other leading crafters blogs. Hope you keep it up as I know it's hard to commit to blogging daily.

  42. Barbara, I so love reading your Tuesday blog – finding out where it all started. Loving all the week's blogs too, but Tuesdays are facinating. Keep up the good work. Jean.x

  43. It is fascinating reading about how you started out – love the old photos too and some sage advice on pricing!!! I remember when I first saw clarity stamps and it was such a surprise to have a clear stamp!! I remember thinking – now that's sensible!!

  44. Hello Barbara, I love reading your Tuesday blog and hearing all about how you got started. The photos are great too. Thanks for the pricing advice, and of course for bringing us clear stamps! x

  45. Loved reading today's blog. Loved looking at the warm sunshine as well, it's sunny here today but combined with hail showers and very cold.. Not nearly so nice.

  46. A fascinating insight into Clarity stamps, sometimes it's good to look back and remember how things all started and weren't your children just so gorgeous. Look forward to the next instalment x

  47. I'm really enjoying reading the Clarity history. I didn't know it all started in California. Great photos of the early days – and weren't the children so cute! Such sensible advice about pricing structures, too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and story.

  48. Wow Barbara. I can't believe you did all this with two small children to look after too. The alphabet stamps are lovely – are they still available? It has been really interesting reading your past 3 Tuesday blogs and yes I agree most crafters underestimate the price of their talents!

  49. Barbara you are an inspiration in all sorts of ways! It's lovely to read of your experiences and so generous of you to share them with us. You were very brave to take on so much with such young children and your brother was clearly a great help and support. You certainly deserve all your success and thank you for sharing your journey, I'm looking forward to the next installment! x

  50. Thank you so much for sharing these stories, it is really interesting to see how you built up the business. Its good to know that even "shero's" are human too 🙂

  51. Your story makes me realise just how much hard work has gone into Clarity and the process is a wonderful entrancing story. Just loving each daily blog

  52. What a great insight into Clarity's beginnings, you obviously had the drive and substance to make this business continue to the present day. I am sure this will inspire others. Thanks for sharing,love the Name plaques.

  53. Wow, Barbara, you really have done it all to get where you are today haven't you ?? Not that I ever doubted you, but it is no wonder your feet are firmly planted on the ground and you appreciate everything you have …. It's because you have worked blooming hard for it and still do !! Loving your blog and feel you are touching all our hearts and souls with your tales of how you got started on your journey.
    Take Care and keep up all the great work xx

  54. loving hearing where it all started. You have really worked and learned from it all. Totally fantastic and so so talented. Can we look forward to the re-release of these absolutely adorable stamps but please not as a huge set cos' many are on budgets and would prove collectible one/two at a time…so so love them. Thank you!

  55. these insights are so amazing Barbara. i love these tuesday posts. and isn't that brother of yours gorgeous…… and good advice about pricing. i always struggle with that when anybody asks me to make a card xx

    1. Theresa, take what you think you ought to charge, and then double it! Now imagine you have to make 100 of them. Does that sound lucrative or like a nightmare? Or like a lucrative nightmare?! And your cards are superb and beautifully finished. Inserts add value. Matching envelopes add a little extra. If you had to live off this money, you would have to think it through (TIT). Why not create a little price tariff, like a hairdresser? Then the customer can decide whether they want the basic dry cut, or the full works, with highlights and a tiara! xx

    2. Great advice, I am always selling myself short, foolishly thinking I'm doing folk a favour,!! But not much good to me after the time & effort spent making Cards, people don't realise just how much planing goes into some work, I'll remember TIT … & follow your advice it makes sense , after all Charity begins at home… My home.!! Got to make my work pay for itself so I can get more Clarity gear. Love Jules. Xxx

  56. Thank you Barbara for your sharing your amazing journey with us. I am not only addicted to your stamps/stencils etc and website, I am now addicted to your Blog too! My husband said I should be careful or I could be looked upon as a stalker! lol

  57. What a wonderful story and such memories to have and pass on to your children/grandchildren ..you all look so happy too …thank you for sharing and also the good advise concerning selling ..I must admit this area is my great downfall and I have taken on board what you have said ..watch this space lol …happy crafting Barbara x

  58. What an interesting read. You deserve your success as you have worked and still work so very hard.Your photos are lovely .Thank you for sharing all this with us all.We love you Barbara.x

  59. Love reading this part of your Blog…..Just love Tuesdays and the way you take us back to the beginning of Clarity Stamps. This is a real insight to how you started and such a help to us as well. Thank you for sharing your photo's with us and roll on tomorrow morning so I can see your next post xxx

  60. I so enjoy reading your blog and learning the techniques, but these little insights are so fascinating and interesting. Looking forward to more. xx Mags

  61. I just love reading about peoples journey from where they started to where they are now. It's like looking into a window of their lives and sometimes where there are similar interest it gives you lots of encouragement, so thank you Barbara for sharing part of your journey with us, it seems to have given lots of people encouragement by all these lovely comments everyone is leaving

  62. Well Barb , what a fascinating insight into your beginnings , what a mine of helpful info you are, thanks for sharing this with us, and the lovely family pictures, I bet your Bro Steve pulled a few Ladies to the stalls, lol, a good sales tactic, is he for hire lol, America is a great place to be for home Crafts they love it, you are a constant inspiration to me in so many ways , you should write a Book about it all, I think you like me have had Quite a life.!!! Take care & hope your feeling a bit better, your a Gem. Xxx Jules

  63. I am just loving your stories, is there a book in you somewhere? Joanna Sheen has gone and done one so why not you as well. Your writing is so very interesting. Keep up this wonderful blog.

  64. Another great post – learning more about your journey is inspiring! I love that stamps you designed in the early days are such classics that we are still buying now 🙂

  65. Loving the trips down memory lane and am in awe of the way you spot a gap in the market. I grumble about how awkward things are to use but can't take the next step of actually improving it. Hats off to a true entrepreneur!

  66. I am loving this trip into the past to hear how it all started and it looks like I am not the only one !! looks like we are all either very interested or just plain nosey – either way it's very enjoyable xx

  67. Wonderful Tuesday
    When does the Autobiography come out?, we would all buy
    First saw my first Clarity stamps at Farnborough and thought how weird, now I know better and only buy Clarity, Your history is amazing and now got to wait for another week, to read wonderful Tuesday.

  68. I am thoroughly enjoying your blog Barbara and I especially enjoy hearing about the early days of clarity. And how blonde and Californian do you look in the picture. Thank you for sharing with us. Lx

  69. Wow a stunning Barbra and you still are ,and your Brother yum yum can see why you love him so much what a rock to have at your side ,love your blog posts ,but Tuesdays are like a soap you watch every week ,can't wait for next week .
    Big hugs xxxx

  70. Thank you so much for sharing your memories, and your journey in developing the stamps! I'm loving having the story in installments – and the photos are just amazing – little Mark and Grace are just too cute! Really looking forward to next weeks gems…. Thanks, Susan

  71. Thank you Barbara. That pricing tip is really good to know. Your blog is a real source of inspiation on so many fronts. Keep up the excellent work! It's lovely to see the old (obviously not THAT old 🙂 ) photos. Looking forward to next week's installment. .xx

  72. thank you Barbara for sharing your life and talents with us, I enjoy your blog every day and the large type suits me fine as I don't need my glasses!!!!! enjoy your blogging and your memories.

  73. What an interesting adventure you've had to get where you are today, people often only see the success and don't realise the hard work that it took to get there. Well done 🙂 And I love your stamps 🙂 x

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