P For Progress

P For Progress

Hello there.
Well, it’s Tuesday yet again, so I thought I would put my nostalgic hat on take a look back. I am not a person who dwells in the past much; there is far too much going on in the present for me to be losing precious time mulling over what’s been and gone!
But on Tuesdays, it does the soul good to check the road we’ve travelled.
As you may or may not know, last week it was announced that we have won the Best Rubber Stamp Range Award for the 4th year running, and I was also awarded Best Overall Designer and Runner-up Presenter. Which is very, very exciting, and on behalf of all at Clarity, we would like to thank you if you voted for us.
But I thought I would take a closer look at how this has actually come to pass. Would you like to join me?
Come on then…

Well, you see, not so long ago, in fact about 7 or 8 years ago, Clarity looked very different. 
Leigh was the Stampmaker, (he’s still my No. 1 and the Best Stamp maker in the Industry). 

I had occasional help in the office, but mostly the rest was down to me. The rest. Let me expand on that. I answered the phones, took the orders, picked the orders, packed the orders, cut out the stamps, wrote the newsletter and the project club, collated it (the kids helped me a lot there, too), did the book-keeping. Oh, and designed the stamps. The list goes on. And on. And on. 
I also did the exhibitions. Loaded the van, drove the van, unloaded the van, set up the stand, demonstrated all day and so on…Wears me out just thinking about it now! Needless to say, we were a fraction of today’s business, but it kept me hopping!
That was how it was. Didn’t make enough money to employ anybody, you see. I relied on my parents and brother a lot, too. But you know what? The business made us enough to keep going. And so I suppose it was working. But if I ever stopped pedalling, the business stopped. Phone calls went to answer-phone. Nothing moved. If I had a day off, it all ground to a halt. Now THAT is P for Pressure!
I remember going to Exhibitions and always scrambling to get the stand ready. Then, just as the public were coming into the hall, I would dash to my podium and think about what to demonstrate. Always the last thing was what to demonstrate. And invariably I would go to default, to the easiest demos I knew, because they required no thought, no prep. 
I would bounce between Clever Corner Stamps for Pattern-building and Tree landscapes using the elastic band on a brayer. This was what I did for years. Every now and then I would have another idea, and weave that into my performance (because that is what it is really), but the Clever Corners and trees were my salvation! 

The point is this: I NEVER HAD TIME! Never had time to be 
creative, was always trying to make a living. It did the job, I guess. Both kids had the best education Britain has to offer. Grace is successful in New York now. Mark is in his final year at University in California. So there you go! We rented a beautiful old farm in Kent, which we could never ever have afforded to buy. But who cares? I’ve never seen a Hearse with a Luggage rack!  

Let me dig out a picture of the farmhouse. You won’t believe it! We always think when we see these fantastic homes in the distance that the owners must be minted. Well, they usually are! But they don’t always live in them either! We lived there for 13 years. Not many people I know have lived in a house on a Postcard – rented or bought!

It was a slice of heaven. 
The 2 windows in the roof were the office.

But I digress.  I think of those years as buying work. We made just enough to keep going, but there was very little progress with the business; we were treading water. Life is what’s happening whilst we are busy making plans, but sometimes we cannot get off the horse – even if we would like to! Fortunately, I was much younger and had the stamina of the horse! 
Then things changed. Create & Craft offered me a slot. And that was where it all started moving forwards, to progress.
Thursday, May 7th 2009 marks the day. And then we got busy. And busier. And busier. I will talk about that next Tuesday, about rapid expansion, because I don’t want to lose my thread here. 

I wanted to explain why we were even in the running for Craft Awards. Nowadays, there are 20 + people working full-time at Clarity Towers. I seldom have to answer the phones, can’t remember the last time I picked or packed a box, stuffed an envelope or downloaded a web-order. Certainly don’t have to worry about the VAT return (I hated that job!). Dave takes a load off my shoulders as co-Director and Chief Van Driver nowadays! I really do have a brilliant crew. 
So what do I do? Well, I design, I draw, I conceptualise, I orchestrate, I put forward proposals for TV shows, I write this blog. My days are still packed, but they are packed with the things that get you awards, put you in the limelight. 
Nowadays, I am able to spend days preparing for a TV show, whilst the business is buzzing around me. I can take time out, and the business goes on. The Clarity Team allows me to progress, to do what I was always capable of doing but never had any time. And because I never had any time to explore my capabilities, because I was always chasing my tail, earning a crust, I never knew what I was capable of! 
So it comes as a big surprise at my age, to discover what I can actually do. And it’s all down to TIME. 
Having the time combined with the opportunity has been the key to personal Progress for me. And I believe there are thousands and thousands of people who never get the opportunity or the time to explore what or who they really are. I’m one of the lucky ones. 

much love

60 thoughts on “P For Progress

  1. Hello Barbara, I always look forward to reading your blogs. I have to say, this had me laughing at your saying "I’ve never seen a Hearse with a Luggage rack!" It is so true.
    Congratulations with winning all your awards, well deserved.
    Sally xx

  2. Hi Barb, yet again you are so right….opportunity is key. I've had a few and run with them and have been amazed of the positive outcome (there's been a couple of duds too) I am awaiting my next opportunity, I'll grab it with both hands and see where that leads me. Love reading your history, very eventful… thanks for sharing. Have a great night/day. Jx

  3. That is an incredible growth in a comparatively short time. It is good that you are now able to delegate things now and concentrate on your real loves and strengths. What a beautiful house that was to live in. The first time I saw you on C&C, you were demoing the clever corners, still a great set to play around with. xx Maggie

  4. You mean it wasn't you who packed up my box of goodies that arrived today – all carefully wrapped in tissue paper – my jungle animals are waiting for me to unwrap! What a great lot of living you have to look back on and all interwoven with your family working with you at various times. You must be so proud of what you've achieved and your kids with their

  5. Well if anyone lived in a Cottage that was on a Picture Perfect Post Card it would have to be a Lady who makes beautiful Pictures wouldn't it?? Talking of times of opportunity? You have very generously given them out to lots of people since you took yours. Thank you. Xxx

  6. Oh Barbara sat here in bed wide awake at stupid o'clock and have enjoyes reading today's blog. I remember those demos at the shows…it was where I first saw you..probably Port Sunny but I can't be certain. You weren't on the telly then but I remember the elastic band one lol. I also have the stamp you made of your cottage…I am so pleased that persistence has paid off and you can now allow yourself the luxury of time…time to do the things you are best at. Congrats again on the awards you and all your team deserve them. Xx

  7. Hello Barb, what a lovely post to read, and as usual you inject humour, humility and inspiration into the telling of the story. As you so rightly say, Life is what happens while you are busy making plans. Having persevered in all that you do, has brought us the joy of Clarity products. Thank you and all the Clarity team, may you continue growing. Bx

  8. Well Barb Those were the days My friend! And these are the best times of our lives!
    I am a true believer that you get out of life what you a prepared to put in and you have certainly put in a lot and now you are reaping the rewards.
    I remember that first demo I ever saw you do with the clever corner and it all makes sense now!

    Thank you for letting me be a little part of it all though Barb …Its my opportunity to develop the real me!!
    Love and Hugs xxx

  9. There is something very special about my Tuesdays and Fridays now …. reading your blog…appreciating your time to share with us the past and the future and sharing the wisdom you have acquired in your journey. I think you need to add D for determination and dedication – for you to me have demonstrated both in your true grit (pardon the pun in that) in keeping going and making it work. You, Dave and your team are truly wonderful and the awards well deserved – your team and DT are testimony of your Dedication and I believe you act as a mentor to them as they help make your products work without the need of the backing of a world wide big bucks company! From phone to packing, print off to packing and posting – they are all wonderful. Truly helpful and cheerful and ooze pride of you when you chat with them on the phone – so you keep on letting them do what they do with pride so that you can continue to blossom and grow in what is inside you – like a bud in the spring ready to burst forth! I love the cottage pictures – never really knew you could rent one – don't know why I did not consider that happens when of course it makes perfect sense! Kim xxx

  10. I love reading your blog everyday and like the way there is a mix of projects, history and new techniques with a lot of laughter on the way. Thank you all at Clarity and may you continue going from strength to strength as a business.

  11. Good morning Barbara. You really are on a journey through life with lots of twist and turns. I didn't realise that clarity's rise was so recent. I live reading about your journey. Keep it up and the awards are well deserved. X

  12. A wonderful talented bunch of people working hard have to be lead and inspired by someone, and I know you fit the bill perfectly. Love reading your blog so I'm glad you have found time to write it everyday. If you could just sell and pack a box of time so I can get all my projects started that would be great!

  13. Love your story, Barbara! You are one of life's true grafters!! You are intelligent and creative and that is a rare thjng! I am so please that C&C came your way, people probably say that was a stroke of luck but, it wasn't, it was because you had created a stunning product and because you are capable of presenting that product! I love the stamp your team made for me of the dream cottage that I have the privilege of living in!! My cottage should be on an Isle of Wight postcard but the church at Gods hill always beats us to it!! Helen xxx

  14. I'll second that! Having your creativity stifled by lack of time is sooooo frustrating but at the end of the day it's paying the bills that has to come first! Having said that, I suppose I'd better get back to work!

  15. I love your Tuesday blog! I remember seeing you on C&C and was amazed, I told my sister of this amazing crafter who created a small masterpiece with inks and brayer, wow. You have come so far and worked so hard you and your team deserve the accolades. Remember you only get from life what you put in to it and we are lead by example, so true about you Barb. Keep on with your amazing work. Joan x

  16. Morning Barbara, oh it is so good to share in your story…we all have our own story of how we first met you. The first demo we came too and how you have Inspired and helped us…..you really are a very generous and kind lady…Thank you for everything…..x

  17. Love reading your blog, you have come through such a lot of hard times and it is good to know some people make it. Congratulations to you and your team

  18. Hi Barb,
    I love reading your Tuesday blog, it really does give us an insight into how you have got where you are today. I remember your first appearance on C&C and how nervous you were ( and always reaching for the tissues!). I couldn't believe how anyone could create such masterpieces with a few rubber stamps, a brayer and ink pads – you really were an inspiration (and still are I have to say). So from the bottom of my heart thank you for your perseverance, inspiration, determination, creativity and enthusiasm because if it wasn't for you, I'd have thrown away the few stamps I had and given up crafting. Mind you, I'd probably have more money LOL! Thanks to everyone at Clarity. Love Alison xx

  19. i love reading your blog you have an interesting life that you have lead , love the picture postcard of your home you had , wish your shows would clash with ours ,we do plant shows at county shows ,there was a craft room at Kent county last year ,hubby wondered were i keep disappearing to!!! xx

  20. Morning Barbara, you have come on an amazing journey and through all your hard work you have inspired so many people and you continue to do so. I love reading your blog and sharing in all your experiences you are a very generous lady and the awards are very well deserved
    Thank you to you and to all your team
    Jackie x

  21. I remember watching those early shows oncreatandcraft and being amazed at seeing those landscapes you created with trees and ripped up paper and a beautiful landscape picture appeared something could frame and hang in your lounge started to bye cornered tree etc no addicted to clarity stamps and the different things cando with them just love your blog and learning more from you all and your history how you got here

  22. I will remember seeing you on C&C – don't know if it was your first show, but the pattern building and demo you did with the corset stamp and angelina fibres had me hooked! Just amazing, and it's no wonder you win awards, as I continue to be amazed with many others!! Thanks, Susan x

  23. Good for you Barb… you deserve that time now! I love your stamps, your work, your designs and your blog… my day wouldn't be the same without Clarity in it! xxx I'm very proud to be a little chip in your team xxx

  24. Hi Barbara love reading your blog you have the knack of writing as you speak and i can hear your voice saying the words as i read. congratulations to you all on your awards.Sandy

  25. You are a true and inspiring person Barbara,I remember seeing you on C&C for the first time and how nervous you were. I saw you at a Demo before that and knew you were Special so much talent you had and wanted to share ,freely and Gladly.I remember how you flew round at shows readying every thing on the stall and prep work for Demo's a true inspiration to us ALL You are Amazing Enjoy your success you deserve it and more xx

  26. you are one of the lucky ones Barb – but its so nice that you know that and I'm sure thats one of the reasons – besides your amazing artistic talents – that you are such a success – so well done you xx

  27. So glad you have stopped having to paddle furiously to keep your head above water, and you now have some time. Missed your sale yesterday, (drat) but I expect there will be another one at some point that I won't miss, I'll just have to be patient.

  28. Barbara Lovley to read your blog each day we cannot change the past we can only go into the future one day at a time but each day I look forward to your daily blog .xxx

  29. I well remember the first time I came across Clarity – November, in a papercraft show (it doesn't exist anymore) in Ringwood. I loved the 'Twas the Night Before Christmas stamps. I could only afford 4 (they were on offer), but I knew I wanted more.
    I'm so pleased you now have more time for creativity. You inspire so many of us 🙂

  30. Thyat was a fabulous read. Barbar. Filthy day here in Gloucestershire but your blog has made the sun "shine " Pure inspiration your blog. Beats any TV daily soap into a cocked hat. I have a lot of lessons to learn from you when it comes top hard work and dedication I think. You " scream" faith and belief. Must try and do the same. Have a great day and Thank You !

  31. Sorry to be a bit serious in my post today……But I really think you're right Barbara, you are a very Lucky lady, to be able to do what you love with a great team and husband to support you. Anf that is priceless in today economic time. Thanks for sharing all that with us, and thanks for taking time to draw and create for yourself and for us all.
    Laurence xx

  32. Thanks for sharing again Barbara. I find your Tuesday blogs quite inspiring as someone who has recently taken the opportunity to do what I love. Congratulations again to you and your team for the very deserved awards. xx

  33. Hi Barbara. Just want to say that you so deserve all of your awards, the place where you are today, both physically and mentally, and most all the time to be able do what you obviously were born to do : ) Congratulations again, and thanks for sharing another chapter of your life. I agree with KraftyKaren, you should write a book. Take care.

  34. Thanks for sharing Barbara-yes -you are a very lucky lady -but you have worked very hard and now you get to have more fun!
    Love your stamps-especially the lovely corner one in this post.
    I see it's not on your web site -maybe you will bring it back as it is very beautiful.
    Enjoy your week and take care,

    1. Hi Ruth,
      The corner stamp used is on the website – if you go to seen on tv and then corners on tv it's there called leafy corner. Hope this helps, Alison x

  35. I am in awe of all your accomplishments and I thank you for your wonderful crafting goods which I love to use! I have all your dvd's too. Just a big thanks from me and am so glad you are you!

  36. You deserve to reap the rewards of years of hard work. You know it was worthwhile when you can look at Grace and Mark and know that your hard work has given them a good future. It is lovely that now you can do the things you enjoy, we all enjoy them too. Retirement has given me time to enjoy my hobbies and I am loving it. Certainly not bored, there are too many Clarity products to try. I vaguely remember you doing something with a rubber band on a brayer but would appreciate it if one day you could repeat it. Well done Barbara keep enjoying the journey. Lynne xx

  37. Barbara you are the proof that sheer hard work and determination can pay off. You truly deserve all the accolades and success that comes your way, may it all continue for as long as you wish it too. x

  38. Hi Barb, I've just read through some of the messages and completely agree with single one – you are a fanastic lady with so much inspiration for everyone. I would love to thank you personally, but seeing that I don't live near you I will send you this instead – THANK YOU!!!!!!!
    lol Jan xx

  39. Tuesday is my favourite blog day. I love to hear your past exploits. Its good to know that you have lived life and nurtured a strong family around you.
    Keep writing about your journey. I almost think you are right next to me telling your story when I read your blog and we are sharing a pot of tea! Your words weave a spell of inspiration around me encouraging me to be more of who I want to be rather than what everyone else wants!

  40. Love your blog, I didn't realise Clarity as it stands isn't that old. I first saw you at the big stamp and scrapbooking show quite a few years ago and watched for ages and as I was a scrapbooker not a stamper I didn't buy anything, the stamps I had always ended in failure. Now several years on I have joined the club and although not very good I hope to get better and love watching you on C&C for all the tips. Thank you x

  41. The more you 'reveal' about yourself, the better we feel we know you,( I am sure I am not the only one who thinks this) what an inspiration you really are in more than just your art talents. I think you are a very strong willed and determined lady, who it has been through really bad times as well as good and come out the other side feeling much much stronger. It shows and the admiration you receive is not just for art it is for just being who you are and all the things you share give us some insight as to how you got where you are today. Keep smiling and keep up the great work you do. We all appreciate it you know !! xx

  42. Barbara Gray – what a true Inspiration you really are. You remind us that hard work and energy do reap rewards and that we should be grateful every day for family, friends and the world around us! Keep it up…….

  43. oh Barbara i think that is the nicest blog you have writ so far. it is so true what you say about time. that is the one thing i constantly crave for. but now you have it, treasure it and make the most of it. hugs xx

  44. Yes you are. But how lovely that you know and appreciate it. And … we appreciate all you do now which is why you win these awards. Clarity is great because you made it so and we thank you for that. All the best for the future and more awards to come. xx Maggie C

  45. You are our wonderful super woman Barbara and I am so glad and happy that Clarity is doing more for you than just living hand to mouth each month. They ought to slapped for doing that to the beautiful cottage, I hate peeps that do that.
    Thank you for all your and your teams hard work – we do appreciate it xx

  46. An amazing insight as always, I love reading about your journey. It is extremely difficult finding that balance , but I shall endeavour to do so, crafting is so good for my soul, great therapy when things are not so great, thank you for the inspiration as always X

  47. If anyone deserves success it is you Barbara. I could watch you on TV 24/7 and never get tired of watching you brayer, sponge, stencil and create gelli designs. We are lucky to have you to inspire us and to share your ideas and techniques with us. I attended a workshop – your first at Sedgefield – and I still think about it now, it was an absolutely wonderful day. Pat x

  48. Well done Barbara, you have worked so hard and I am sure you & your team will go on to win many more awards. You are so inspiring and I am so glad you have this blog too. Onwards and upwards love Jennifer xxx

  49. Your blog is the best I have ever read and the only one I read daily. It it is like a book I can't put down. I knew of Clarity stamps long before exhibitions, TV etc and when you went to C&C I was over the moon, religiously watching every show and recording them. You are an inspiration to so many people and deserve all the rewards. I am now lucky enough to go to workshops run by Jo Rice so I can enjoy even more Clarity goodies. Long may your success and happiness continue

  50. Dear Barbara I was one of the many that stood in front of you demonstrating at the NEC years ago before C & C and was inspired by your talent, skill and willingness to show us tips and tricks.
    I remember thinking what a beautiful spirit you are!! I have not done much but always watch your lessons and what you are up to on C & C. I live on a narrowboat, fab lifestyle but limited storage for lots of crafty things. I can feel my creativity revving up and have just bought some new masks and stencils so hopefully will be doing some good artwork sometime soon. You really do deserve the awards and keep inspiring us all. Thank you.

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