An Interview with Tracy Watkins

So it has been a while since I have last sat down to write a blog post, this is partly because I have used the scheduling tool and partly because I have been occupied with researching university.
When I think about going there, questions like, why do I want to go and where do I want to go crop up, finding the answers isn’t an easy task. Something I have concluded though is that my motivation for going is somewhat to do with the women in my life that have been to university, and more specifically the respect I have for them.
Role models, mentors, tutors are among the titles that they have held, the thing they all have in common is that they have been creative, strong, entrepreneurially minded women. What makes a successful woman? To find out the secrets of Tracy Watkins creative attitude, keep reading below.
A word on Tracy Watkins, having been a member of the design team at SCP after graduating from Middlesex, first studying furniture design, and later Design. Tracy is a member of the Welsh Makers Guild, and her page can be found here, living at home to focus all her efforts on the business, she finds companionship in her family, as well as her horse, and a small number of other four-legged pets.
To buy a bespoke bag from Tracy visit her Etsy shop, by clicking this link, where you can find stock products, or alternatively commission your very own personalised, unique design.
  • How did you get started?
I went to Carmarthen Art College to do a foundation before going on to Middlesex Uni to do a degree in 3D Design (furniture). I got a job the week I graduated for SCP LTD, a furniture retailer and manufacturer, as a product developer. I originally wanted to do interior design, but once I got to college changed my path slightly. It was while I was working as a product developer that I began to make bags out of the scrap leather. After completing my Master’s degree in Design and [after] a few years in London I decided to move home to Pembrokeshire, my long term plan had always been to run my own business so over the next 12 months [I] went about setting this up.

 

  • Where do you work?

I work at home in my garage, converted into a studio. It’s not really about the atmosphere, but practicality, I have everything around me that I need. It’s not 9-5 so I’m able to get on with work around everything else. I’m most creative when I have time to be!

 

  • How do you generate ideas?

It’s usually a detail or something I’ve seen on something not relating to bags,  that I think would translate well. I might jot down a few ideas, drawings, but generally just get on with putting ideas together at a prototyping stage.

  • Can you describe your design/production process from start to finish? 
I… sometimes have some visual imagery, paper/magazine cuttings, photos from some things I’ve seen. I sketch out some ideas, but I’m not much of a drawer. I’m working on a new range of bags right at the moment, so I’ve put a few prototypes together and [will] get some feedback and refine ideas from that.
  • What inspires you?

Having a work/life balance. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

  • What or who influences your work? 

Sales influence my work. I have to sell bags in order to make a living out of it. Out of 4 or 5 ranges, I started off with when I first started out, one, in particular, became the mainstay of my work, so I make bags that people want to buy and shops want to sell. The ethos behind the brand remains the same, sustainability, making bags from remnant upholstery leather influences my work.

I don’t really follow trends, my bags have always been unique and I like to think are more of a classic than ‘trendy’. I’m not a huge fan of ‘designers’, particularly in relation to bags as the bags themselves tend to be made in a factory somewhere.

 

  • What is your greatest achievement so far?
Still being in business 10 years on!
 
I met Tracy as part of the college that I am in when they held a talk in association with Business Wales, events like these are fundamental in encouraging young people, and in this case especially, the young girls sharing the room, to become self-reliant, to view the world as something they can contribute to, on their own terms, by utilizing and nurturing their creativity.
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Explorer Add on Comparison – Pocket vs. Instapaper

While browsing IFTTT, short for if this then that, a platform to organise and discover apps and actions linking other platforms, I found two applets for email digests from Pocket and Instapaper.

Having never heard of either of those I did a quick google search and discovered they are both available as extensions for Chrome, although they are available as applications for mobile devices at the moment I am working solely with my laptop, so this was particularly useful to me, and sparked the question how many other apps have Chrome extensions, something I will carry on investigating.

What each of these apps does is similar, they are specifically for the saving of web pages in article, video or image format, however, the ways in which they differ denote what they might be most useful for. For my take on the similarities and differences of the features read below.

Pocket
  • Tagging feature
  • Share an excerpt to Facebook, my profile, twitter or via email, with the option to add a note
  • “Read more” about the same subject
  • Search by category in “explore”
  • Bulk edit feature

Pocket highlighting feature - screenshot taken with evernote webclipper for Comaparison post

Instapaper
  • Welcome section
  • Speed reading feature
  • Background color doesn’t have to be picked on each use
  • A few more options to customize reading experience (column width and font style
  • Email sharing through Outlook only
  • Groups note on articles
  • Shows how many notes have been made

Instapaper highlighting feature - screenshot taken with evernote webclipper for Comparison post

Both 

  • Standard features (archive, favourite and sharing)

In conclusion, Instapaper gets my vote for academic purposes, the handy note taking feature makes it a great tool for referencing later. While it might not have the social media sharing options of Pocket, for note taking purposes the text box to record notes in and then a dedicated section to find those notes outweighs the lack of a tagging feature especially, however, for sharing, browsing and generally storing articles for reading later on to create a tailored virtual library then Pocket would be just as, if not more, useful.

Like I said earlier, this is a comparison based solely on the features and usability of the Chrome extensions, not the apps, also this post is not endorsed or affiliated with any of the company’s or their partners that have been mentioned, I just my take on them which helped me decide what I wanted to use each extension for.

 

50/20/30 Minimilasm Budenting

Budgeting – the 50/20/30 method.

In the midst of the new minimalism trend there is a sweet budgeting trick – to divide the monthly income into three parts, first into half and then split the remaining half into thirty percent and twenty percent. In this post I’m going to share my experience of using this method, full disclosure it’s relatively new to me and I’m not being too strict – mostly I see it as a guideline to improving my financial self-care habits. For some first class advice click this link which will take you to a video by The Financial Diet where you can find lots of helpful advice on all things financial, not just budgeting – it’s my go to for money related issues. I really like these guys because they have a professional look,

A basic introduction

What this method does is split up the lump sum of income into three categories which are much easier to keep track of, this tracking your money all the easier.

The first half is focused on the household or fixed spending, so into this category goes; rent, bills, debt repayments and optionally your groceries.

Thirty percent is for savings, so I put my 30 percent into two savings accounts, one long-term bond and an everyday saver. Saving habits vary depending on situation, some people might be saving for retirement, to buy a house, or just for a rainy day.

The remaining twenty percent is for personal spending, or flexible costs, such as entertainment, eating out, travel etc.

A breakdown

Say your monthly income was £1,420 which is approximately £17,000 per annum,

  • 50% = £710
  • 20% = £284
  • 30% = £426

So you would have £710 for rent and bills, groceries are optional to put into this category because spending habits can be altered, say if you live in an upmarket area then they could arguably go into personal spending so you would have more for rent.

If this was my personal budget I would re-jig it about so that I had £420 for my savings and £290 for everything else.

£290 is really tight but it is possible to live minimally and only buy what you really need, being broke really sucks but on a tight budget there is not much to do other than get hustling outside of where you get your main income from, this could be working as freelancer using whatever talents you might have, whether it’s writing for Textbroker, selling your old stuff, picking up some extra shifts or making saleable art if you are creatively inclined. There are lots of places you can go on the internet to get inspiration from, The Finacial Diet have a whole video dedicated to this subject with a list of things to do on the side.

30 Day Challenges – With Free Printable

Hello! Welcome to my mind, it’s nice to meet you! In this post, I want to discuss the love of challenges, in particular, 30-day challenges. Clink this link, to watch a video by College Info Geek a.k.a Thomas Frank, where he talks about his #1  way to build self-discipline and *spoiler alert* it’s taking a cold shower every morning.

The Challenge

Your first thoughts might be “that sounds horrible, how in the world will it help me?!?” or something along those lines anyway, but he goes on to explain why he thinks that is something that will help and provides a strong argument for the case…strong enough that I am now on day 8 of the challenge (I highly recommend watching the video, this guy has some really helpful tips and advice in general).

Self-discipline is difficult to cultivate, and in a world where so much is instantaneous the act of waiting for and working towards a goal that is difficult to achieve becomes even harder, so any steps to improve our willpower sound like good ones to take!

If you decide to give the challenge a go, let me know in the comments section below I would love to hear your thoughts on this challenge or any other you might have taken.

Why 30 Days?

Well, it is supposed that doing anything for this many days in a row will instil a habit, now that’s not scientifically true, but it does give any goal a reasonable time frame long enough reap the benefits but short enough to be attainable, I mean, who doesn’t feel great after routinely doing something new and exciting that is having positive effects in their lives?

Challenge Ideas

If waking up to ice cold water isn’t what gets your goat, then try one of the following, these challenges range in difficulty based on time/effort and willpower but pick one that sounds easy to you and get a taste of the accomplishment buzz from completing a 30-day challenge. For a free printable tracker download this file: 30-day-challenge-printable-tracker(due to formatting issues please select the “Print Layout” option in the bottom right-hand corner of the document reader)

  1. Read 10 pages a day ( for self-development purposes most people recommend a non-fiction book, currently, I am reading “How Not To Give A F*ck by Mark Manson, or try reading the book your favorite T.V show is based on, mine is the new hit “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman, if you’re not watching anything based on a book why not pick one at random?).
  2.  Try a “Clean Eating” program for 30 days ( how about go vegan, or meat-free Mondays, or even just incorporating a smoothie into your day).
  3. Get that yoga pose your working on down to a T by doing it every day ( mine was forearm stand and I took pictures every 10 days to record the progress, but you could try another pose based on your level, or if you’re not a yoga practitioner why not take this opportunity to start?).
  4. Try a Sudoku puzzle to wind down in the evening or get your brain juices flowing in the morning. I love these time-bending brain teasers, but if you’re not into numbers how about a word search or crossword puzzle? There are plenty of apps or if you prefer a hard copy then your local newspaper is sure to have a section along these lines.
  5.  Cook your favourite food. Cooking every day can seem like a big effort so to make it easier to incorporate into a busy life why not try just once a week, or make it a small snack or your favorite breakfast.
  6. Get off the bus a stop earlier. Now I did this the other day and it backfired, I missed my connecting bus and ended up being late so my advice is to do this on the way home, not only will you feel fitter but a short walk it great for our emotional health too.
  7. Take a short (10-20min) walk. This is a great alternative to getting off the bus a stop before you need to.
  8. Go off grid, this one is a huge commitment involving no phones, no laptop and generally no tech, it would be a great way to accurately assess how entwined our lives are with tech, but also near on impossible in today’s world so a watered down version could be to set some time aside, an hour or so a day where you don’t use your phone.
  9. A 30-day photo challenge is great for recording memories, this could even snowball into a scrapbook challenge and it might encourage you to try some new things to get that snap.
  10. Meditate. Meditation has so many health benefits such as greater focus, a happier and calmer mindset and an increased sense of self-awareness, as with all these challenges start small and give yourself room to improve a simple 5 mins (or even 2!) a day to start with and then you can increase as you feel fit, and believe me, you will want to! There are lots of apps (such as Headspace) to help with this, but all you really need is a timer with a gentle alarm sound, music can be part or it but for a deeper experience try it silently.
So there it is a list of 10 easy to try 30-day challenges, I would love to hear which one you picked! For more inspiration, once you have the area you want to work on in mind have a look on Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube or even good ol’Google.

Launch Date: July 2nd

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

As of the 2nd of July, this will be a live blog, with posts, free printable’s to accompany them, and my take on life. The content of the posts will largely be about what is most helpful to me at the time, whether that’s financial advice, self-help books, meditation techniques, I hope you feel that the content is as helpful to you while reading it, as it is to me while writing it. Check back here for posts!