Tuesday, 4 February 2014

P for Pressure

Tuesday’s Blog rolls back the hours, and takes a look behind the scenes at Clarity, where we were and how we got here! 

Last Tuesday, we talked about P for Progress, and how, after years of pedalling like a lunatic, just making ends meet and raising a family, the pages of the Corporate Clarity chapter began to unfold. 
When I started demonstrating them on Create & Craft, our Claritystamps finally got the recognition they deserved, and what was a tiny business grew very quickly in to a bigger business. 

Isn’t it funny how life can suddenly catapult you into a different world? I went from worrying about money and bills pretty much constantly, to worrying about how to hang on to the business whilst it took off! So the pressure shifted completely from a negative to a positive - almost overnight! Two words spring to mind: Family and Friends.

We very quickly learned about supply and demand! One of the worst things you can do is create a demand for something and then not be in a position to supply it! But what if you don’t see the volume of demand coming? Good question!



Looking back, it was almost comical. To coin a good old English phrase, we didn’t know what hit us!! 
A good friend of ours, Julie,  just rolled her sleeves up and piled in! Dave took responsibility for supplies, raw materials, delivery up to Peterborough. I cut out stamps till my hands changed shape! Mum and Dad were making up kits as fast as we could make the stamps, Grace and Mark were thrown in at the deep end, bagging, counting, packing. And still it grew. The house was busting with boxes and stamps! 
We were scrambling to meet demand, but we managed. 
Month on month, the demand grew. And month on month, we grew with it.
I actually think that rapid growth isn’t always good. The pressure - albeit a positive pressure - still ends up being what it is: PRESSURE. 
In fact, I am still scrambling to keep up !!!! The consolation is that there are about 20 people scrambling alongside me nowadays! So at least I’m not lonely!

I will NEVER forget the first NEC show the November of that first year on TV. We had a feeling we might be busier than usual, but nobody could have anticipated what happened. When Health & Safety closed our aisle, because the Clarity Stand was heaving so much it was dangerous, it was almost surreal. And anybody who has ever been to the NEC knows that it is always heaving! 
It really was unbelievable. You can imagine how popular we were with the neighbours!
And in the evenings, inbetween the crazy trading days, the Clarity Crew took over the dining-room at the B&B into the wee small hours, cutting out and mounting more stamps, so that we had something to sell the following day! Needs must!
And it’s like that pretty much whenever we attend exhibitions. A sea of people...how fortunate we are! We mostly manage to take enough stock now, although we invariably run out of popular lines fast. Sometimes, Dave even drives back to base for more stock. What a great business position to be in.


Harrogate...


NEC ...


But if you have ever visited us at a stand, anywhere, you will know how hard we work! Non-Stop. Sometimes, I think why not take your foot off the pedal Barb? It’s not like the old days, when you really had to sing for your supper. But actually, I think I really enjoy the buzz and the interest in what we are doing! If somebody wants to know how to do something, and they want to learn, then it goes without saying that I am there to help. Also, it makes the time fly by when you are busy and working, don’t you find? 
So a lot of the pressure I’m under nowadays is self-inflicted; I don’t necessarily HAVE to graft like this - I choose to.  

However, I take non of this for granted. I have watched good people with sound businesses crash and burn - and often through no fault of their own. 


To quote Charles Darwin:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

much love,

56 comments:

  1. Its been such a pleasure to watch your business grow. I remember standing watching you agog many years ago before you were on telly. Do you remember the pile of miniatures you had on the stand back then? I would rummage through them deciding which ones to pick on top of the proper stamps i got. Then I eventually joined the ndc my first issue was 35 now eagerly anticipating number 88 . I have kept all the project sheets and the chapters of the book you did ..now its all high tech and on cd.. got most of those too lol ..woman your stuff is just too addictive...long may it continue x

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  2. Since I first starting watching you, I think that the last 12 months have shown the biggest changes and your ability to change and adapt to your needs. You are not afraid to try new things and have shown the rest of us that we can change along with you. Pressure can be good to sharpen and focus the mind, but make sure you allow others to help you carry the load. xx Maggie

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  3. And I will echo what Linda has said....you need to create a group called the CAA....Clarity Addicts Anonymous! Ii too can remember the little pile of miniatures you had at shows and I have then still. I know that you work hard Barbara...you never seem to stop! But if that's what you choose to do then so be it! That way if you choose to stop you can! But not just yet.... I am enjoying being part of the Clarity Family too much. As Linda Says long may Clarity continue! xx

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  4. I too was Barbara fan WAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY before C&C days. I fell in love with your work in Craft Stamper. As an Ex-Pat living in NZ I was/am starved of craft shows but am fortunate to be able to visit the UK most years. Imagine by ABSOLUTE delight when I found Barbara and Clarity at the show I was at on Newbury Racecourse. I watch your C&C shows on my computer. The 9am - 11am show is 10pm - midnight for me and of course I can't record the program so I sit up until midnight watching and scribbling notes as fast as I can. Often have trouble deciphering the next day. Don't often stay up for the 2pm - 3pm (3am - 4am for me) as I do need to function on the Monday. I did order some new stencils and stamps after last Sunday's show. So I think I can claim to be an avid fan (or ADDICT as Jane suggests). Thank-you (and your staff who are always so lovely when I ring through my orders from NZ) for many happy and productive hours of crafting. Elaine Franklin

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  5. I would be very proud to be a member of the CAA, I love your stamps, you are an incredible inspiration so glad you now have a wonderful team to support you. I can't wait to see you, Maria, Heather and the rest of your team in March at Harrogate xx

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  6. You are he role model foe effective effort, or hard work creates amazing results. I think roll back Tipuesdays are great. Thanks

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  7. Great blog today and wishing you continued success x

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  8. I too can remember the miniatures that were on the stand and sifting through them !! Clarity has grown hugely but you only have to mention Clarity and immediately you are being talked about Barbara, things like "I don't know how she does it " "I wish I had as much stamina as Barbara" "Where does she get all her ideas, I wonder ?" are just a few that pop up regularly and the one I hear most of all is " What a lovely lady, what you see is what you get ... " No bigger compliment than that Barbara in my book and so the conversations continue !

    I also would be a very proud member of the CAA I have no problem admitting it ... why would I ??
    Keep up the great work but do allow your foot to ease off the throttle when it needs to, you have plenty of people more than willing to do their bit for you if you need them :) xx

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  9. Love reading the daily blog, sets me up for the day! I too could join the CAA club. You are an inspiration Barbara! Xx

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  10. I love the Keep Calm and Carry on Logo --- and it suits you down to the ground.....As Jane has suggested CAA is needed for so many....some more than others that have been with you for a long time! In the time I have been with you I have seen you adapt to newer things for you - the stencils a prime example - yet boy you have made them work - the gelli - well what shall we say - you promote it so well that you have the rest of us approach with trepidation and then equally fall in love with it - now your blog - I remember taking part in a conversation with you at Little Baddow last year - and then you began this on my birthday last year - that was a real treat I can tell you. On the shows we see you adapt as the sell outs demand - your carefully prepped samples staying in their packets and off you go - a true 'pro' and artist - thinking on the run seems to be what you do well - I won't say best - as best is your stamps and techniques - to watch you give us your ideas, your techniques is a pleasure. I have said it so many times - your family must be very proud - and I am sure that occasionally - you sit back in your chair at work and look around round - taking stock of what is going on and secretly think - I built this - how proud am I!!! xxxx

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  11. Hi Barb,
    I think that everyone who has commented this morning have said it all. You are truly an inspiration to us all. Your dedication and hark work have made Clarity what it is and that is Awesome! The best stamps and stencils on the planet and a fabulous " front of house" to show us mere mortals how to use them. Put that together with your family, friends and all team Clarity ( including design team) and you have the award winning company that we know & love. I too would be proud to be a member of theCAA club. Love Alison xx

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  12. The first clear stamp I ever bought was at the NEC years and years ago, must be at least 20 years. It's a cinderella carriage (the same one you used on C and C a while back. It brought back memories! I was fortunate enough to see you demonstrating the gelli plate at the NEC last year, yes it took that long to go back! I look forward to getting back into stamping this year having let it lapse a bit and one of my goals is to join in with the classroom when they return. Keep up the good work Barbara it is very much appreciated. x

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  13. You have certainly been on an amazing journey. It has been a privilege to watch you grow into the company that you are today. I am not sure which was the first Clarity Stamp I bought, it might have been the birthday cake,candles and numbers set. It has been much used and is still in the original box that it was sent in. The post mark is 18.07.03. Happy Days. xxXxx

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  14. I only became aware of you and your are company after you came to C & C - very shortly after I started crafting myself so have only ever known your stand being so busy you have to stand in line to get anywhere near it. Your success is well deserved as your stamps and the inspiration you supply with them are second to none.
    Beryl xx

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  15. This is a strong reminder to all of us when we think about selling our wares in a craft fair, it's hard work. Well done Barbara and thank you

    Mx

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  16. You are such an inspiration Barbara and I really appreciate you sharing your story with us. I've been doing arty things all my life but only discovered C&C a couple of years by chance. And when I first caught your classroom show it was a revelation! I now the proud owner of my own craft room crammed with stuff and a husband who rolls his eyes every time a brown box (labelled Clarity Stamps) arrives with the postman! I love reading your blog and watching your shows. I learn so much and I have a little notebook full of notes and sketches of things I want to try. Like you I am under a great deal of pressure from a demanding teaching job and doing something creative when I get the chance is a massive release. I would love to do it 24 hours a day but I've got to earn a crust and go to sleep, not to mention a family to look after! Don't work too hard Barbara, but keep the goodies and ideas coming! love Pam xx

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  17. It's so nice to hear your story Barbara, you've done amazingly. I'm yet to get any clarity products, but I admire absolutely everything you make x

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  18. It's lovely to see all your hard work bear fruit Barbara. When I go to the nec I watch you from the aisle as I never could get near and I always feel that you are too busy to for me to bother you. It's great to see you on tv because I can see what you're doing without lots of people in the way. I'm sure there must be kors of other people like me too. Xx

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  19. You deserve every bit of success you get Barbara. You work like a Trojan, you are a wonderful stamper and artist and you are always so pleasant. U are never greedy with your knowldge and I love visiting the Clarity stand at the SECC. When I "get lost" my daughters always know where to find me. I hope you continue to prosper. Lynne.x

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  20. I first became aware of Clarity last year after watching Create and Craft and your shows have fast become a must watch or record if I am unable to watch. Long may the Clarity story continue.

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  21. Well done you! All your hard work and determination has paid off and is richly deserved. Long may the Clarity dream live on. Joan x

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  22. All your hard work has definitely paid off Barbara and it´s well deserved. Your programmes on C+C must be the most well watched of all - i know i wouldn´t miss them.
    I´m visiting the Wirral from here in Spain next month. It will coincide (deliberately) with The Happy Stampers North West which is the highlight of my crafting year. I get to watch you in person together with hundreds of other fans. Looking forward to seeing you demonstrate in person.
    Love Val x

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  23. The first show I went to was at Newbury in 1999! WOW!! I lived in London then but soon after moved to Buckinghamshire and I remember your stand over in the far corner at Stevenage and all those little sample stamps!! I still say that your Spaniel stamp is my Billy, he is a cavalier king Charles. I just need one of my Elvis now! I haven't been to Stevenage for s little while as I have now moved to Isle of Wight but am starting to go to shows in the south and will still go to the London shows when possible! Most crafters really do appreciate demos and they definitely like to see the "face" of the company at shows! Its hard work for you but I think it pays dividends and the fact that you attend the shows just reinforces your dedication to your products!!! Hope to see you somewhere soon, Helen xxx

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  24. Morning Barbara, do you know what I love is the fact that alongside your stories from the past we all have our own....when we first met you, how we have followed you and grown with you...and how we connect with you....and it is these individual stories that make the whole Clarity experience so special.....I am so thrilled to a member of such a fantastic Team and Family.....With you and Dave at the helm you will go from strength to strength......
    Have a great day and try and find five minutes just to relax and breath.....hugs...Jo. X

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  25. Hi Barbara,
    I love reading your blog every morning it starts my day right!
    I have watched you demo for years even before C&C, and love every time I see you.
    Clarity stamps are the best and your awards prove it!
    Well Done to you and your team of 20
    Lorna D

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  26. I remember meeting you first with my sister and cousin at a little craft show in Farnborough - then again at a two day Clarity workshop in Kent. You were such a warm and generous person and that comes over on your TV shows, so it is no wonder that you are now enjoying increasing success! Long may it continue, but do remember to take time for yourselves - work to live, not live to work...

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  27. I love reading about how Clarity has grown over the years and your adventures along the way. Perhaps you should write a book if you ever have enough time! Big thanks to you and all the team for all the lovely stamps, stamps, demos, artwork and super packing.
    Shirley G

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  28. You really deserve your success Barbara. Congratulations to you and your team. I remember the first time I saw you at the NEC, which was only a couple of years ago, and after I'd discovered you on Create and Craft. The stand was extremely busy yet you and everyone else who were there were so friendly and helpful. I'd certainly be a member of the CAA! Many, many thanks for all you and your team have done for crafting. xx P.S. I realised the other day that my slate vase is one of yours!!!

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  29. Hi Barbara I have lots of your stamps I love them all I never miss your shows would love meet you I live in Manchester and my daughter takes me to craft shows when she can I'm 76 and do my cards for Christies.i get told off by my daughter I collect autographs of the demostraiters at the shows she says they don't know you mum I say but I know them. !!!! Thank you Barbara for everything x x

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  30. How I love reading your blog each day how very lucky we are to have clarity dedecation what a fantastic team you all are .I joined the ndc last September its like getting a treat every month yes im a clarity addict and proud to be one .long may clarity reign xxx

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  31. I'm so glad you see this as a positive pressure Barbara - it really is that - but I imagine it was very hard at first when demand became so high. So glad it did for you though! Big Hugs rachel xx

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  32. Barbara I love reading your blog and how your business has grown and developed over the years. I'll never forget the first time I saw you demonstrating back in the 90's I was so inspired but it took me a long time to actually pluck up the courage to attempt using my brayer I think it sat in the box for years unused lol . Your programmes on C&C have actually given me the courage to use it and slowly I am gaining confidence. Thank you so much for all you share
    Jackie x

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  33. I just love reading your blog and the fact that your sharing all These memories and Überlegung/Erkenntnisse with us. Touches my Heart. LOve

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  34. I try to read your blog on the way in to work on the bus - it sets me up for the day - then I have a re-read at luncthimes like now. You can't see it all as well on the bus! I'm looking forward to NEC this year as I haven't been for a few years. Remember watching you last time, or trying to as the crowd was rather deep! That's why it's so good to see you on TV in my own personal space! I'm glad you've kept calm and carried on - where would we all be without you!

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  35. Hey Barb - I remember the BC&C days, too! that's "before create & craft" :-) I remember well my first visit to the Big Stamp show @ Ally Pally in 2005 & you nabbing my friend, Fiona & I on our way out; you demonstrated the brayer & the willow lady & I was hooked instantly & bought the brayer kit & DVD immediately - even though Fiona had conviscated my credit card earlier she gave in as your sample was so amazing! You did make it look incredibly easy, though & I was very disappointed with my first attempts at brayering :-( However, once you started appearing on C&C I was able to watch exactly how you did it & you explained exactly how to hold the brayer & so on & finally, I could brayer - YAY!!!
    And the rest is history, as they say - now I regularly attend your regional workshops (Little Baddow 2012 & 2013) & hope to attend a Kent one later this year for more tips, techniques & triumphs - splodge mat, I now love you & Gelli plate - well, I'm getting to like you a little better than I did last August, when I was scrabbling around the floor after you flew off my table, staining my white trousers with "lovely" brown paint on the way. Lesson learnt, though, don't wear white to workshops!

    Anyway, Barb - you are such an incredible artist & inspiration to us all - you truly deserve your success & long may it continue. And loving the blog, by the way...

    Hope to see you soon, take care,

    Liz M xxx

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  36. The trouble is Barbara your product is just so amazing and such good quality we are all hooked. I was very lucky last year at NEC , we were quite early and crowd not too bad so I was able to stand by you and watch for quite a while. You were telling us how you had sent Dave back for more supplies , so obviously some things never change. I will be there again in March, my daughters always know which stand we need to find first. (Keep mum happy ). You do inspire us all to have a go, you have a way of making me (and everyone else I am sure ) feel that if I keep trying the end result will one day be good. Just make sure you get a break when needed. Lynne xx

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  37. The trouble is Barbara your product is just so amazing and such good quality we are all hooked. I was very lucky last year at NEC , we were quite early and crowd not too bad so I was able to stand by you and watch for quite a while. You were telling us how you had sent Dave back for more supplies , so obviously some things never change. I will be there again in March, my daughters always know which stand we need to find first. (Keep mum happy ). You do inspire us all to have a go, you have a way of making me (and everyone else I am sure ) feel that if I keep trying the end result will one day be good. Just make sure you get a break when needed. Lynne xx

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  38. I just read your blog again with a cuppa after school and on close inspection of the harrogate photo my friend Brenda is right at the front watching your demo avidly!!! She's the lady in black with her gold chain bag strap over her shoulder! How cool that is!! Don't know where I was!!!

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  39. The problem is once we Clarity fans have used a stamp, Gelli plate or stencil for the first time we never want to use another brand because the quality is exceptional. I was lucky enough last year to attend a workshop, although I was really nervous and my hands shook enough to draw magical wiggly lines, I loved every minute of that day's session. The NEC is the same, each demo is a learning curve and your always stop to explain. I was there when Masimo stopped by with his Mum. The genuine expression of joy on your face was unbelievable and that's why Barb we all are 'Clarity addicts. X

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  40. I have walked a mile or two in similar shoes & you are catapulted from worry & fear into a different realm of worry, fear & excitement all at the same time. You are a great role model

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  41. I have been to your stand at many exhibitions and it is always worth the wait. I have spoken to you many times and no matter how busy you are, you still have time to answer questions or have a little chat. Keep it up Barb I love Clarity stamps.
    Lesley

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  42. I've seen you "work your socks off" many a time at the shows, how you do it I have know idea, your enthusiasm holds no bounds, keep up the good work - which we all know you will do.
    God bless Jan xx

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  43. I am so, so delighted that your business is the success that it is, it is so very well deserved. I habe come to see you at the SECC and could honestly have stood and watched you all day and ignored the other stalls. If you fancy expanding and opening production in the Highlands give me a shout and I would happily graft for you x

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  44. Your range of stamps is the best and you are always bringing new things to the craft market. I think you adapt well to an ever changing craft industry. I for one always look forward to what you have in the pipeline. Xx

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  45. Just back from a very, very pressured day working with a District Judge! A conveyor belt springs to mind. Did I feel the pressure. Now trying to come down to earth and reading your blogs.
    You deserve all the praise one can give. Well done and thank you so much for your programmes and blogs.
    Anne A

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  46. It's been great watching your business grow, you are such a nice person and at the shows you have time for everyone - it really is appreciated. Good luck for the future but just remember to take some time for you. I would definitely be a member of the CAA group. Jx

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  47. Hi Barbara. Thank you for the next chapter of your life and business. It is so interesting learning about you and Clarity. You deserve every bit of the success that you work so hard for. I am a fairly new crafter but have stood and watched you at the NEC twice now (silly, but I haven't had the confidence to talk to you, much as I would love to :) Your programmes on C & C are never missed. As I am on a very small budget I have yet to get a brayer and Gelli plate but they are at the top of my birthday wish list which is in May. The only problem I have with you and all of the Clarity goodies is that I want them all even more every time I see you demoing them : ) (Also now need to get one of your fantastic slate pieces, I know now that it was your company that I used to see at agricultural shows, would spend ages on your stand loving them all : ) Hope you do take off the time that you want/need to, but when you love your work and team mates time off isn't quite so important is it. Take care.

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  48. Your stamps are fantastic quality Barbara but you are the star of the show and I think people come along to the Clarity stand to see you demo so I'm glad you still enjoy the buzz and long may you continue to feel like that.

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  49. Hi Barb, and Oh boy have you and the clarity family adapted to change, from stamps to card stock to Gelli plates to stencils, and you keep growing, because you have amazing drive and determination, and Dave and a great team to back you up. What would we do without Barbara and the Clarity Clan. Thank you. Bx

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  50. I remember Clarity at the beginning and at the time I didn't get 'it' but as soon as I did - oh boy I was hook line and sinker for Clarity stamps. I do hope you get to take your foot of the pedal sometimes, like your French mini-vacation. Money certainly doesn't make you happy but it does make life a lot more bearable xx

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  51. It is lovely to hear the story of your success, Barbara, and I am sure Clarity is here to stay and hope that you continue to enjoy creating and demoing as much as we enjoy seeing and using your wonderful creations. x

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  52. It is so good that you have received awards again this year they are much deserved. Yes the miniture stamps in the CD cases - I have them too! Standing watching you at the knitting and stitching show at Alli Pally all those years ago, then at the scrapbooking shows, NEC and even Farnborough and your Hamshire workshop. You work so hard, your lovely children were helping out and of course good old Dave with his van and smile. Youhave always had time to talk to people, show them a few trick, explain something they haven't got the first time and generally be the lovely person that you are. Thank you for being you and sharing your days with us on your blog and remember to put your feet up and have those fun days out once in a while to keep you on track. Diane xxx

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  53. i feel quite left out. don't know what people are talking about with the miniatures and cds. however i am a clarity addict and have 100s of stamps and a healthy stencil collection. with regards to pressure, like you say it is not always good but it keeps us going and as long as you like what you are doing then long may it contunue, hugs xx

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  54. I read this post late at night and thought I would come back to comment. Funny isn't it, when I first saw you it was on C&C I didn't know there were any craft fares, I used to go in search of anything slightly crafty where ever we went on holiday, I had absolutely no idea then that I would be involved in anything so exciting just a few years down the line. What I do remember is thinking, I want to be able to do that! When can I watch this woman again? At that time I was Painting cards with Metallic paint and cutting Holes in the middle of them to decorate behind the hole? Just to try to be a little bit more artistic than the licking and sticking all the magazines were showing us. Not recommended the edges curl up! Think about how many lives you have changed by stepping into that C&C Studio! xxx

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Thank you for your kind messages and I hope you get inspiration from my ramblings.

Barb x