Can you believe Creative Calligraphy is celebrating its seventh business birthday?
And what a year the last one has been.
I spent my sixth business birthday in lockdown, having cancelled 10 calligraphy workshops, two private classes, two talks/demos and a whole term of weekly classes.
Several events I was due to take part in – The Lates Shows in Newcastle/Gateshead, the Make and Mend Festival in Stockton and The Art of Handwriting Conference at Newcastle University – were also scrapped as Covid-19 took hold.
Instead of teaching calligraphy, I was grappling with the primary school curriculum as I helped James and Sophie with their home learning. You can ask me anything about fractions now!
Counting the cost of the Covid-19 pandemic
At the time of writing my sixth business birthday blog, I had no idea how long the lockdown would last – or that it would be followed by a second and third order to stay at home.
Out of morbid curiosity, I did my tax return really early this year, to see what impact the pandemic has had on my income over the last year.
Fortunately, thank to support from Arts Council England and the Government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, my income was actually on a par with 2019/20.
What I didn’t have, however, was the additional income from my freelance work as press officer for The Customs House in South Shields, which has been largely closed since March 2020.
And with expenses still rolling in, my profit took a hit – down more than £2,500 on 2019/20.
Fortunately, my husband has worked (from home) throughout and I feel very fortunate to have been able to access the financial support out there.
Support for remote learning
Support has also flooded in from clients I would usually do in-person workshops for, as they pivoted their offering to cater for people remotely.
I’ve put together calligraphy packs and activities for people to try at home for The Cultural Spring, Shipley Art Gallery and Gateshead Libraries and pushed myself out of my comfort zone to run online classes for South Tyneside Libraries and the 17Nineteen project.
My weekly classes and weekend workshops returned, albeit briefly, last autumn and they have just resumed again after the November and January lockdowns.
I’ve also been able to continue taking commissions, although wedding work pretty much dried up, as well as learn new calligraphy styles and techniques for my own enjoyment.
Fighting the seven-year itch
I think it’s fair to say that I have felt the seven-year itch as a result of the pandemic.
There have been times when I’ve wanted to chuck it all in – yet here I am, happily taking bookings for summer weddings and working on my autumn/winter workshop programme.
Some things have changed – you’ll have noticed price increases for workshops for the first time in at least five years. This is down to limited numbers due to social distancing and the rise in cost of materials for kits, the contents of which I’ve improved and added to.
My venues have also, quite rightly, increased their hire charges. We’ve all taken stock of our businesses in some way over the last 14 months – and I’ve ignored pricing for a little too long!
Hopefully, by the time September rolls around, lockdowns will be a distant memory and normal service will have resumed in the UK.
In the meantime, I continue to be thankful for the support of my family, friends, customers and colleagues as my self-employment journey continues.
I wonder what the next year will bring.