Craft resurgence: but can micro businesses really make a living?
(Pictured above: glass vase by Adam Aaronson)

Online market place Onbuy says there's no doubt the UK has been enjoying an arts & crafts boom, with some craft sites seeing a more than 8,000 per cent increase in members over the past decade.

But even though our crafters are highly skilled and professional, comparatively few can make a good living from their work.
 76 per cent of businesses in the UK are defined as ‘microbusinesses’.
 65 per cent of those who sell their craft do it to supplement other incomes.
 71 per cent of microbusiness owners hope for their companies to grow into larger establishments.
E-commerce website Etsy has seen an 83-fold increase in users since 2008 - demonstrating demand for unique arts and craft products is no flash in the pan. And with programmes such as The Great British Bake Off, Sewing Bee and The Great Pottery Throw Down, it's clear Brits are more than open to the charms of hand-made and bespoke products
The arts and crafts boom can be attributed partly to the fact that more of us are becoming self-employed (whether by design or default...) or we're doing part time work for someone else and our own thing for the rest of the time.  
And it's microbusinesses like these that make up 76 per cent of British businesses..a figure that may surprise some..and the majority of these business-owners hope for their efforts will result in larger companies at some point.
This year British online marketplace Onbuy has been researching the rise of the craft microbusiness, and not surprisingly it started looking at Etsy, one of the largest platforms for the craft sector, which was founded in 2005 and allows individuals and businesses to sell arts, craft, clothes, jewellery and decorative objects online. The site has 54 million members (50 per cent are active buyers and 3 per cent are sellers) spanning 83 countries.
As far as who sells on sites such as Etsy, Onbuy found:

 86 per cent of sellers are women.
 95 per cent of sellers work from home.
 78 per cent of sales are from repeat customers, demonstrating customer loyalty.
 79 per cent run their Etsy for an outlet of their creativity, 65 per cent use it to supplement other incomes.
Another site, Folksy, which launched in 2008 and focuses exclusively on UK designers and artists, has seen an increase of 526 per cent in sales from June 2009 to June 2012. And in case you're wondering...the most popular items sold last year were:
an intricate embroidered hoop
a chunky crochet cow
wooden craft candle holder
Onbuy spoke to a knitted textile designer Claudia Hartley about her online Etsy shop Mad Ram Clothing, which she runs from home three days per week. She describes her shop as a ‘labour of love’, and would like it to grow into a full time business.
'Having studied knitwear to degree level, I was struggling to find a way to make ends meet during the quieter summer months. I began taking out panels in old denim jackets and re-inserting hand knitted panels or embroidering designs into them. I am keen to make as minimal an environmental impact as possible, so source only vintage and end of line materials.

'Now my Etsy shop is full of one-of-a-kind, hand embellished, vintage pieces, as well as the opportunity to commission ‘the jacket of your dreams’. I choose to sell on Etsy as it is arguably the most well-known of the handmade marketplace sites. It’s likely that otherwise customers wouldn’t find you.

'I think the interest in handmade crafts can be attributed to the fact people are far more interested in provenance than they used to be, which is great for a business like mine that tries to be as sustainable as possible. People love having something truly unique and buyers like to be able to tell the story of an item. I think we’ll see a huge surge in bespoke fashion over the coming years, people are buying less, but buying right and I think that’s a really positive step away from the destructiveness of the fast fashion market.'
Cas Paton, MD of OnBuy, says the digital age has really changed the way we consume and buy products: 'The internet has given rise to the ease of selling hand crafted goods online and the ability to sell and market your business. With the vast takeover of mass market brands, there is a growing desire for bespoke, unique and rare products, which have been handmade rather than mass-produced.'
Decoration, Lifestyle, Outdoor space, upcycling, eco friendly, eco home
Turn small empty bags into lavender bags to thwart the evil moth
By Coco Piras

If moths are the bain of your life because they eat your jumpers and cardigans, and quite possibly your wool carpets and rugs, you need more lavender in your life. And before you complain about the price of lavender bags, there is a much more obvious and cheaper  solution.

Which is to keep any little fabric bags you get when you buy jewellery or make up and to fill them with loose lavender...which is widely available of course - I like the organic lavender offered by Greenfibres in Totnes..

Or make your own lavender bags using spare bits of fabric..just sew two squares together by hand, leaving the top open of course for the lavender, then tie it shut with string. Simply tuck bags into drawers, pockets of cardigans, or hang them on the tops of hangers and munching moths will be thrown off course. A few drops of lavender essential oil on the bags can ramp up the scent which moths find so loathesome -  and also remember to squeeze the bags each week to release the perfume.

Then in a year's time, empty the bags, compost the old lavender and fill with new fresh strong smelling lavender.  The highly fragrant Lavendula X Intermedia is the best for this purpose as the fragrance contains elements of camphor which is what moths object to. A softer fragrance such as Lavandula Angustifolia will be less effective.

250g organic French lavender from Greenfibres cost £15.90
1kg lavender costs £30 at Shropshire Lavender

Hygiene, eco friendly, eco home
Want a secure job? Then train in a trade

Recent research shows a worrying dearth of young people coming into the trades, as our skilled workforce of plumbers, electricians, builders and carpenters are ageing and will be retiring in the next decade.

So young people, if you don't have that Oxbridge first in maths needed to get into Goldman Sachs and you worry about robots taking over loads of desk jobs, just as they've taken over many of the roles in car factories, the trades still look like a good bet for fairly long term employment. After all, try to imagine robots building the Shard, plumbing it and fitting out its electrics.. Exactly. 

So which trades are the best paid and indeed which countries pay the best? Because if you're a plumber or an electrician, your skills will be welcomed wherever you want to go and live.
Electrical Direct have created an infographic that focuses on salaries within the construction industry. In the visual, electricians, plumbers and carpenters are the key focus within five different countries. It also drills into the specifics on which region within each country offers the best pay and what qualifications you'll need.  
Electricians in the UK
Here, an electrician can earn a good £30,500 a year, though a newly qualified electrician’s salary usually falls between £19,000 and £22,000. The hourly rate outside London usually comes in at around £25 to £50.

Top five regions with the highest salaries for electricians:

London - £36,028
Bristol - £32,669
Portsmouth - £32,364
Brighton - £32,058
Glasgow - £32,058

Education is important to start a career in this industry. Qualifications you might need:
National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Diploma at Level 3 in Electrotechnical Services.
National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Diploma at Level 3 in Installing Electrotechnical Systems and Equipment.
Level 3 Diploma in Electrical Installations – if part of an apprenticeship.

Plumbers in the UK
People who progress to a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 3 can around £18,000 pa and after five years expect to be on  £25,000. Those who are self-employed and very experienced tend to earn £30,000 to £40,000 - and more in the big cities.
Education requirements
City and Guilds National Vocational Qualification at Level 2 (England and Wales).
Scottish Vocational Qualification at Level 3 (Scotland).
You can start work as a plumber straight after leaving school if you can find an apprenticeship. These are a good idea as you're being paid as you learn on the job and you'll work for around 30 hours a week over a two-year placement.

Carpenters in the UK
The average salary for carpenters falls between £25,000 - £40,000 — those who work as team leaders/project managers can earn considerably more though. However, those who begin as an apprentice will usually have a starting salary of around £16,000.
Educational requirements:
Level 1 Award in Basic Construction or Wood Operations.
Level 1/2 National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in Wood Occupations.
Level 1/2 Certificate/Diploma in Construction Crafts.
Level 2 Diploma in Site Carpentry.
To find out more about pay around the world, check out the infographic. 
Careers, Construction, Development, Jobs, painting and decorating, self build, eco home
Ocean plastic eco pants

If your home is eco you're no doubt zealous about wearing eco-friendly clothes too, non? So organic cotton, organic wool, linen, hemp.. and, er, dare we ask about your underwear?

Natural sustainable yarns are brilliant, but you could also introduce ocean plastic into the mix when it comes to buying pants. Because ocean plastic is being heavily fished and turned into pellets that can be extruded into fibres that make super softy silky fabrics - among them one called Smoothshell.

And you can buy Smoothshell underwear from Nordic fashion brand The Other Danish Guy, whose Ocean Discovery range includes boxer shorts and trunks for the man with an environmental conscience.
We like the sound of this - it's a range of underwear that's not only helping to clean up the oceans but is also sending a message to the fashion world to get with it and use high tech recycled yarns in its products.
The Other Danish Guy ships to the UK
Environment and ecology, Lifestyle, upcycling, eco friendly, eco home
Standing up desks
By Abby Trow

I am at my desk as I write this...but I'm not sitting, I'm standing. After a morning of sitting, my restless legs started driving me bonkers so I've put the desk that sits on my desk into stand up mode and now I'm happily typing away as I stand. So much more comfortable than sitting.

Here at the Deco offices we're all clamouring to work at the Varidesk desk. It's a substantial piece of kit that sits on your desk and looks like a desk. But it's got a lever on each side which you pull forward and the desk rises to standing height. 

It's not often we go mad about a product but this desk is a fabulous thing and a wonderful addition to the office. Because sitting all day is uncomfortable and we now know, unhealthy. With the Varidesk you can be up and down like a yoyo according to how you feel... legs feel tired, pull the levers and lower the desk. Legs feeling restless..pull them again and you can work standing up.

Standing up desks are becoming easier to find and we've tested only the Varidesk. But boy do we like it!
Varidesk is based in Texas and its products are manufactured in Southeast Asia. Desks are made from wipeable PVC-coated MDF with metal hinges and the company says the materials are recyclable. They expect with daily use the desk will give decades of use.

My own feeling is they're not kidding when it comes to longevity. It's a really strong product - you can lean on it and there's no sense at all that it could buckle. In fact when it arrived I was here alone and could barely lift it into place.. so if you're a tiny lady, or indeed chap, you may need a strong person on hand to lift it onto your desk for you.

In short...if you find sitting at a desk all day a nightmare because your legs get restless and your bum goes numb and by midday you just want to run out of the office screaming, then get a stand-up desk. Thumbs up, smiley face... it's time to join the stand-up-to-work revolution.


Furniture, Health, Lifestyle
Street smart: the rise and rise of informal eating
By Coco Piras
Gone, it would seem, are the days of families sitting down together at the dining table every evening to eat dinner. Research suggests we don't do that very much at all - and those of us who do tend to sit down together in front of the telly, plate on our lap.
Dinner trends are evolving – and this applies to both eating out as well as in. Overall, there's been a shift away from formal dining to a far more casual dining experience, allowing for the rise of what you could call a street food lifestyle. Homewares retailer Oldrids and Downtown has been taking a closer look at what's happening on the dining scene. 

Formal v casual dining: the waiting's over
Restaurant dining has traditionally been fairly formal - a restaurant has almost always referred to an establishment where you go to sit at a table and enjoy a meal cooked for you with table service. 
A recent survey suggests 70 per cent of adults are frustrated with...wait for it... the aspect of waiting in a restaurant. Indeed when 18-34 year olds were asked about their biggest frustrations, 42 per cent cited waiting for food to arrive and 30 per cent said waiting for a table was a drag.
In recent years the shift has been towards a more casual dining experience.  We've all been influenced by the proliferation of now pretty good fast-food and take-away restaurants, and a formal or fine dining experience isn't people's number one choice when it comes to eating out. Restaurants offering buffet style food, street food and outdoor eating spaces are what we want, especially if we have kids in tow. 
What about cost?
According to a report by Trajectory, the affordability of eating out is major consideration for families. Chains such as Wetherspoons, Nandos and The Harvester offer casual, comfortable dining experiences that are moderately priced and tend to offer us a more relaxed atmosphere. Nandos, in particular, has been voted the UK's favourite restaurant chain on - proof that what we really want our restaurants to be is casual.
The rise of the pop-up restaurant
We've become a nation eager to try new experiences when it comes to food. A survey by Eventbrite of more than 2,000 people who've attended pop-up dining venues found 75 per cent of them believe a unique dining experience is worth paying extra for. And having looked at 40,000 plus pop-ups, Eventbrite found this is the fastest growing dining trend — recording 82 per cent growth over the past year. With 66 per cent of us Brits describing ourselves as passionate about food and drink, the UK is really has become a foodie nation.  Also, 74 per cent of people attending pop-up dining experiences say they like interacting with the chef and seeing their food cooked in front of them. With figures like this, could traditional formal dining now be a thing of the past? 

Food on the street
Street food used to mean grimy white vans selling chips and greasy burgers. Today's street food however has gone gourmet and it's international, taking influence from Asian countries, where everyone eats street, so to speak. Street food caters for every taste, whether you want Thai, Chinese or Indian, or juicy burgers or pulled pork baps. And younger people love it because it's like no other dining experience - there’s no dinner table, no fancy's quality casual - and it tastes even more delicious when you're eating together with friends at a music festival or market. 
We all seem to feel time is precious and sitting waiting for a meal in a formal restaurant is something fewer of us are prepared to do. We're the 'I want it and I want it now' generation when it comes to food, so no wonder quality street food vendors are doing such a roaring trade.
Eco friendly holidays
By Abby Trow

The desire to travel is innate in us so how to do it more responsibly?

If you live in Europe and you're travelling in Europe for holidays, then take the train if possible - this could well be viable option for the two-week summer vacation. But eco travel isn't just about transport, it's also very much about the places we choose to stay in. Are they sustainable, do they have renewable energy, do they use organic cotton bedlinen and towels and source their food locally, etc etc?

A green travel business Deco loves is Germany's Green Pearls, which is full of recommendations of green hotels/lodges/spas, as well as tips of being a more eco traveller. Take a look... we certainly like the look of the hotel above, the Hubertus Alpin Lodge & Spa in the German region of Bavaria. Actually, that was what the place looked like a few decades back. It's bigger now with lots of mod cons, but it meets PassivHaus standards and waste isn't a word the owners are familiar with...

Environment and ecology, Lifestyle, eco friendly
The carbon cost of our internet addiction
By Hari Alexander

Web hosting service Kualo has an eyeopening infographic showing how all those hours we spend surfing the net are leaving one giant carbon footprint. See it here:

Green hosting for charities

And if you're a charity, and an environmental one in particular, you may be interested in a green offer from Kualo: it's offering charities free web hosting using its servers that are powered by renewable energy - find out about the offer on Kualo's charity hosting page.

Why is green hosting Important and how does it work?  
The internet is a carbon-emitting machine - and it’s growing. It produces as much carbon annually as Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangladesh, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Mongolia combined. Green webhosting represents the first steps towards reducing its impact. By powering its operations with emissions-free renewable energy, hosting services reduce the impact of their energy use – and therefore the energy use of all the websites it hosts. Electricity generated from renewable sources creates less environmental waste and pollution and displaces other non-renewable sources from the electric grid.
*Kualo says its hosting infrastructure is also designed to be as energy efficient and eco-friendly as possible, featuring free cooling technology, hot-aisle containment, water based chillers and virtualisation technology that makes better use of its infrastructure capacity.


Environment and ecology, eco friendly, eco home
The psychology of colour
By Gerard McGuickin for LZF wood veneer lighting
Our world is ablaze with colour and colours provide the bedrock and building blocks of our emotions: think about ‘seeing red’ (angry), ‘feeling blue’ (sad), and being ‘in the pink’ (healthy). Both consciously and unconsciously colour is integral to how we feel and how we view the world.
When we're very young we're taught about the rules and foundations of colour: how mixing equal amounts of the three primary colours—red, blue and yellow—will produce three secondary colours—orange, purple and green. We learn about warm colours, cold colours and colour combinations, depicted on a colour wheel.
As we grow we identify colours that please us and those we want to avoid. We start to understand the many nuances of colour and how colour affects us. We recognise the perceived meaning of colour in clothing: the authority of black, the steadfastness of brown, the discipline of blue and the power of red. We see the influence of colours in action: we stop at a red traffic light; environmental groups are termed green; and for lots of us yellow doesn't just mean daffodils...the ‘yellow (golden) arches’ of a certain fast food behemoth lure us in.

When unpicking the psychological aspects of colours, we tend to find dissimilar traits. For example:

Red is a physical and visceral colour: one whose properties include strength and stimulation, fire and passion, energy and warmth. But too much red can be too bold and overbearing. Red is the colour we see first and it's used to convey caution and danger.
Blue is a strong and emotive colour. Regarded as an intellectual colour, blue tends to affect us mentally as opposed to physically. A serene and calming colour, blue tones can stimulate thought and promote concentration. But blue is also used to convey coolness and aloofness as well as to distinguish boys from girls.
Yellow is an emotional colour that buoys mood and temperament; it is optimistic, outgoing, friendly and creative. A strong colour, yellow should be used sparingly: too much yellow can give rise to fear and anxiety.
Green is a mix of blue (intellectual) and yellow (emotional), and represents balance. A restful colour, green is easy on the eye, it's the colour we associate with nature and it promotes a sense of harmony and reassurance.
Pink has positive virtues, from feeling rosy to reaching the pink of condition. But of course while pink is often used to define femininity, it was once seen as a masculine colour. Pink may stink to those who rail against gender stereotypes but pink is embraced as a neutral hue and is associated with balance. 
Grey is another neutral colour that's come back into fashion, having previously been seen as a dull miserable colour best left for school trousers. But there are many shades of grey and greys that tend towards the green and blue provide a sense of calm, of restrained elegance with a solid grounding. And as fans of Farrow & Ball paint will concur, a warm grey can alleviate tension and anxiety.
Decoration, Garden, Lifestyle, painting and decorating, eco home, art
What makes you buy new furniture?
By Coco Piras

How often do you think about buying new furniture or decorative accessories? and how often do you actually change things like sofas, beds, blinds - or even cushions?

New research from an online furniture company suggests loads of us go for well over 15 years with the same mattress and sofa while things like carpet stay with us for decades...even when worn or very grubby.

Obviously big ticket items can be very expensive and we don't want to rush into a purchase. And of course it's not remotely eco friendly to keep replacing old with new - although if we recycle items by selling or giving them away that lessens the impact of the new puchase deed.

But some general pointers seem fairly universal, so which of these resonates with you?

More than 2,000 UK adults were asked what motivated them to change their soft furnishings:
It looks worn or tired – 65 per cent
It is broken – 53 per cent
I was redecorating and it no longer fit with the style/colour/look of the room – 39 per cent
It is no longer comfortable – 36 per cent
I was bored of its appearance and wanted something new – 30 per cent
It is unhygienic – 19 per cent
I saw a new piece of furniture that I liked more – 14 per cent
I got a bargain on a new item that I liked more – 14 per cent
The Deco verdict is that seems fairly encouraging - we're not a nation of rabid neophiles who buy new because we're bored and surprisingly few of us are tempted by bargain marketing. 
Decoration, Furniture, Hygiene, painting and decorating, eco home