• Jess

Handmade Christmas Tree Decorations - My Life as an Elf

Handmade Christmas tree decorations with a pink tree
My first batch of Christmas tree decorations

Around 6 years ago I had some spare time on my hands so I sat down and made a few Christmas characters out of air-dry clay. I had no agenda, I was just passing the time in a creative way and thought it would be nice to make some new decorations for the tree. Little did I know that was the beginning of something huge and that in just a few years I would have made over 10,000 decorations for people all over the world! That first year I put some photos up on my Facebook page and my friends and family wanted some, so I made about 60 which I sold to people I knew as well as attending one small Christmas market - my first time as a stallholder at a Christmas event! I was totally sold, the immense feeling of happiness and pride that I got from people purchasing and complimenting my own art creations was amazing! I had to make more the following year and sign up to more events...

Silverpasta Crafts Jess Smith artist with handmade Christmas tree decorations
Me surrounded by 2,000 decorations

Skip forward a few years and I'm selling more than 1,500 decorations every Christmas. I would never had guessed I would be making Christmas ornaments in January, February or March! In fact in order to keep up with demand I have to start making my decorations pretty much straight after Christmas has finished! I usually give myself a week or two off before starting again - I imagine this is how it would feel to be an elf in the north pole! Other seasons pass me by - Valentine's day, Easter, Halloween - there are some sales but nothing in comparison to Christmas and so it goes that I make about 80% of my annual craft income between Oct - December and have also become known as the "Queen of Christmas tree decorations" as I was recently referred to by one of my fellow crafters on Instagram!

Christmas handmade sheep decorations

The most common question I get asked is how do I know how many to make of each design every year? The answer is, I don't! The whole thing is a systematic guestimate... once Christmas is over, I do a stock take of what I have left and how many of each design sold. I compare this to the previous years' sales and then add on an extra few. This generally works, I always aim to make more rather than less so that I don't sell out of designs but I usually do sell out of a few. If I have spare stock leftover, I just put it towards next year's stock!

Handmade Christmas Puffin Decorations in an egg box

Sometimes there is an obvious change in trends... one year foxes can sell incredibly well and the following year much less. It is difficult to predict these kind of trends so I don't always get it right! I also have some rules by which to follow to create new designs each year... they have to be wildlife (I've exhausted most of the traditional Christmas icons, some sell better than others and animals always sell the best!) and they also have to be round(ish)! This is because I package and sell my decorations in egg boxes so they need to fit nicely in these. For example I can't make a long, thin snake or a stick insect as a design. They also need to be relatively simple to make... as much as I would love each of my decorations to be really detailed and intricate, when you have 1,500 of them to make every year, you soon give up any dreams of each one taking you hours and hours to make! Simple but cute is the goal here!

Another question I get asked a lot is how long does it take to make one? Another question with a not-so-simple answer! I generally make my decorations in batches of 10 - any fewer and I can't get through them quick enough, any more and the clay starts to dry before I finish them. As a general rule, it takes me about an hour to make 10 but this greatly differs depending on design. Each one is completely individually crafted from scratch - they are not made using a mould or stencil etc, so there is time put into crafting each one. However, making them in batches speeds up the process a bit because I can mix the colours for 10 instead of just one at a time. For example my more simple designs such as the polar bear might only take 30 mins to make 10, however, the octopuses can take 1hr15 mins or more to make 10! This also doesn't include the stringing aspect or drawing on the eyes... I always wait until the clay is dry before drawing on the eyes so usually I dedicate an afternoon or day to drawing hundreds and hundreds of eyes. However even 1hr 15 mins (plus string and eyes time) seems fast to most of my "Crafternoon" attendees who usually manage to make 2 decorations in a 2 hour slot! (These are some of my favourite memories of running my craft business and I hope to be able to run some socially distanced craft sessions this year....stay posted!)

Silverpasta Crafts artist at an outdoor Christmas market stall
At a market stall last year - an unlikely sight this year!

This year all of my Christmas markets have been cancelled so I am having to rely heavily on online sales. All of my decorations and other illustrated gifts and Christmas cards can be purchased in my shop. Don't forget that my Christmas tree decorations come in cute little eggboxes with plastic-free packaging, they are made in the UK and one tree is planted for every 10 orders! There are 22 different designs in total to choose from, mostly inspired by wildlife, including: Reindeer, sheep, badger, tortoise, bat, octopus, angel, polar bear, mouse, sloth, pudding, puffin, robin, penguin, snowman, hedgehog, whale, squirrel, bumblebee, fox, santa and owl! You can mix and match whichever designs you like!

You can browse my shop and all of my decorations below.

SHOP NOW! #handmadechristmas #silverpastacrafts #handmadedecorations #christmasdecorations #madeintheUK #plasticfree #ecoartist #ecochristmas

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