Quite a while ago I was having lunch at a favourite spot when the waitress saw me working on some design drawings. I’d eaten at this place many times while working downtown so I was familiar with this individual and we had become friendly.  We got to talking about my business and she became interested in having some work done.

Through the course of the conversation she asked me if the cost of custom was really that much cheaper than store bought. It’s not the first time I’ve faced this question and yet it surprises me every time. Today I’m going to set the record straight.

Generally speaking, anything custom made is more expensive than non-custom made.  Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why that’s so.

The Cost of Running a Business

Let’s deal with the practical stuff first. Businesses have hundreds of expenses that need to be taken into consideration. There is rent, utilities, insurance, equipment, office supplies, stock, salaries, and many other things. We often have professionals such as lawyers and accountants on retainer, and many of us don’t have benefits, vacation pay, sick days, etc. I charge the cost of materials plus an hourly fee. That hourly fee has to cover all the costs it takes just to run the business. When those expenses are taken out, there is not much left by way of a salary.

Expertise and Skill

Most people who offer custom made services have years of training, experience, and knowledge. All of that comes into play when they work for you. Since you’re paying for a custom product, the person delivering that product must have the know-how to deliver. That knowledge take years of training, study, and practical experience.

One of a Kind

Custom made items are made to fit you, your vision and your needs. It’s not something that is thrown together on an assembly line. In the case of small businesses like myself, it’s often one or two people spending hours on one piece, until it’s exactly what you want. This means one or two individuals working with you on the initial design, shopping for the supplies, multiple fittings, alterations, cleaning, pressing, steaming, and delivery. That doesn’t even include the hours it takes to actually sew the item. In the end, the product is what YOU want, not what a store says you should want.


Custom items are of a much higher quality than mass produced products. One example you can see in the case of sewing is that the seams are more generous. This allows for alterations of the garment should someone’s size change. It also leaves room for give as the garment ages. Generally better stitches and seams are used based on what the garment is, what type of material is being used, etc.. There is a greater attention to detail and the work itself is of higher quality.

So which is better?

I’m the first to admit that custom made is not the right choice for every situation. I don’t make all my own clothes, draperies, bedding, etc. I do spend time and money making quality pieces I know will last for years. I made a winter coat for myself fifteen years ago. It still looks as good as new, is clean and has no rips or torn seams. There is nothing wrong with it and I’m sure it will be good for another fifteen years, but my style has changed so it’s time for a new coat.

While custom made does cost more, there are definite advantages to going that route. Only you can decide which is the best route for you depending on your situation and what you’re having made.


I’m FINALLY back! I was away a lot longer than anticipated as my new computer build didn’t go as smoothly as I imagined. In fact, it’s still not 100% but it is usable and that’s all I care about right now!

Even though I haven’t been online, I’ve been busy with the continuation of Project Shuffle (a.k.a. setting up shop at home. You can read about the first phase here.). I’ve had lots of ideas and inspiration while offline, and done a lot of work on the studio. Things are really shaping up around here. It’s starting to feel like a real studio, somewhere I feel comfortable working and where I enjoy going each day. I can’t wait to share everything with you!

I keep thinking back to where I was at this time last year. So much has changed, most of it for the better. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy. I’ve had so many setbacks that have left me feeling frustrated and drained. The funny thing is, I still try to learn from that. I still try to let the Universe teach me its lessons. Now don’t get me wrong, I may sulk, throw a tantrum and complain until my best friend’s ears fall off, but then I get up, dust myself off and get on with it!

Like right now. I just spent almost two months building my new computer. Something that should have taken a few days (once the parts came in) took so much more time and energy than it ever should have. I’ve had delivery issues, dead components, and software problems. My old computer should have lasted while I worked on the new one, but the planets aligned against me and virtually shut it down. Throw the holidays in there and it felt like I would never be up and running again!

Yet as frustrating as it’s been, I’ve learned a lot.

As my dad says, “You don’t learn anything on the easy days!”

And it’s true. Easy days and easy times don’t teach us much. It’s through struggle and hardship that we learn and grow the most.

I like to think of it like this…. I’ve made this big declaration that I want to follow my dreams and work from home, so now the Universe is throwing obstacle after obstacle at me, as if to test me. It’s like the Universe is saying, “Really? Is this what you want? Are you sure? Because stuff goes wrong all the time, life is hard, and you’re going to have to get out of bed every day and deal with it. Are you ready for this????”

The way I respond to these setbacks is what will make or break me. Will I work through the obstacles and persevere above all to attain my dreams? Or will I let every little thing hold me back, or stop me?

Anyone who knows me even a little bit already knows the answer to that question! Determination oozes out of me!

I don’t know how many times I’ve had a conversation with someone about starting my own creative business and their response is, “I’m creative too and I always wanted to do my own thing.” They say this with regret in their voice. My response is always, “Well, you’re not dead yet! What are you waiting for?” In almost every situation the other person makes up excuses why he or she can’t follow their dreams (have kids, need the benefits and stability of an ‘outside’ job, their job/pay is too good to give up, etc.).

Sadly the reasons they list have nothing to do with why they aren’t following their dreams. The reasons are only excuses. The only real reason people don’t do what they want is because they are holding themselves back.

What do you really want to do? Why aren’t you doing it right now?

Seriously, take a minute to think about, maybe even jot a few things down. Then think about the reasons why you’re not doing it. If you’re truly honest with yourself I bet you can eliminate most, if not all, of those reasons.

Now what’s really holding you back?

If I hadn’t taken a leap last year I would still be stuck where I was rather than where I am now (happy, healthy and raring to go!).

Nothing was particularly wrong, but it wasn’t right either. And I knew it too. I knew in my heart that I wasn’t being true to myself and following my dreams. So I let the excuses go and took the next step. Things aren’t perfect. Sometimes they are far from it. I may be fighting with this damn computer for another two months. But that’s okay. It’s okay to struggle, to have setbacks, even to make mistakes. The important thing is how you react and making sure you don’t let those things hold you back.

It’s that time of year when most people are making New Year’s resolutions, only to break them a few days, weeks or months from now. This year why not make a resolution that allows you to be who you want to be while following your dreams? Stop holding back and just go for it!

As I look ahead to the coming year there is only one resolution I care to follow. That is to continue on the journey I started last year. To keep living my life according to my own road map, and sometimes, if no road exists, to pave my own road as I go.

So… what do you really want?

I love technology, I even admit that I’m a wee bit of a computer geek, so you can imagine my woe when my computer up and dies on me!

To  be fair, I knew it was going to happen. I’d already planned and ordered the components for my new build but I had hoped the old one would last until the new one was here and ready. Alas Murphy strikes again!

I’m still waiting for a few pieces to come in, so I’ll be taking a minor hiatus from the blog for the next couple of weeks, until the parts come in, and it gets built and setup. My phone may be smart, but it’s not fun typing long posts on, or trying to edit photos. :/

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. No matter what you celebrate I hope it’s safe and joyous. Bright blessings!

And here’s a rather fitting funny for the road:

COMIC I Tore my pants mom download a patch

Comic from http://www.cartoonstock.com/cartoonview.asp?catref=rman6634.

This week’s post is a little more functional than usual. There are some events coming up that I’d like to announce and this is the best place to do so! (Okay, really they’re shameless self promotions as I’m involved in and/or sponsoring these events. But hey, it’s my blog so I guess it’s okay to do that here!)

Let’s take a peek down the rabbit hole…

Fashion Against Bullying – Fashion Show Call Outs

Project BE presents: Fashion Against Bullying.

From the event’s Facebook page: “This event, which will take place in April 2013, aims to create awareness of bullying by bringing together fashion, media, music and entertainment under one roof for a night of fun and networking.”

We need:

– Dance groups, people who have unique talents, and those who think they have a routine that would fit this show;

– Designers who would like to put some of their skills to work, who will work with a variety of models in all age ranges and all sizes;

– Models of all sizes (and I do mean ALL sizes right up to size 22+) and all ages. The only requirement is that you are at least 19 years old;

– Make up artists and hairstylists: a creative team, that can show the inner beauty in people; and

– Anyone who wants to be part of the bringing the whole event together. If you do not wanna be in front of the scene, then we would love you to be part of the planning group.

If you fall into any of these categories and are interested in participating please come to the call-out. It’s this Saturday, December 1st, 2012 at The Roxbury (1165 Oxford Street East) at 2pm sharp.

Sex Toy Bingo

Also brought to you by ProjectBE is the monthly Sex Toy Bingo. Usually held on the last Friday of the month, it’s like bingo, only way more sexy!

“Let the mayhem continue this month’s Edition of Sex Toy Bingo, starting at 10pm inside DownTown Kathy Brown’s with your hosts, Cardiff Monroe and Rick Renaud. Wild new twists, games, and sexy and fun prizes to be won. It’s time for some nontraditional fun, at a new level. The best & most outrageous way to spend a Friday Night. Buttplugs! Anal Beads! Dildos! Handcuffs! Strap on dildo! Blow up dolls! The hot boy or girl at the table beside you! Who knows what you could walk away with after a night of Bingo!”

The November’s edition is being held at Downtown Cathy Brown’s here in London, this Friday, November 30th at 10pm.

For more details visit the Sex Toy Bingo website: www.sextoybingo.com or the event’s Facebook page.

Volunteers Needed for  2013

It’s that time of year again when I plead for help. Ok, it’s not actually that desperate, but I am always looking for folks to join the Naughty Gypsy Empire! (Insert maniacally evil laughter here.) Right now I’m planning ahead for the 2013 season of shows and events. Extra hands are always helpful so I’m always on the lookout for extra hands for everything, including help with sewing, photography, web design, hair and make-up artists, models and assistants. If any of that strikes your fancy send me an email. If you’re currently attending post secondary school in any of these fields and are interested in a co-op placement, drop me a note.

On the flip side, if you’re an event planner, charity organization, etc. and are interested in receiving some NG products or services for your charity event, let me know! I’m always looking for new opportunities. And really, what’s a prize package without a nice blindfold, or pair of wrist restraints, included? Certainly not as fun as one that does! 😉

Peace, Love and Naughtiness,

Laura Lee, The Naughty Gypsy

I often chuckle over little idiosyncrasies that are related to being a sewer or crafter. I jot these tidbits down in the hopes of doing something with them, someday. Well someday is today. Here’s my first attempt at a poster. It’s all about being a sewer. I hope you like it!

PS: If the poster looks a little fuzzy just click on it to enlarge. The quality seems much better then.

Poster: You Might Be a Seamstress if...

I’m a little late getting this week’s post pulled together and posted. On the one hand it’s been a rough week. On the other, I had an incredible experience with generosity and gratitude. More on that in a minute.

First the rough part…

Apparently I need new glasses. That may not seem like a big deal and if I had stuck to a regular schedule of eye exams and the replacement of glasses that goes along with that, it wouldn’t have been. I didn’t do that so the past two weeks I’ve been paying the price. I have no one to blame but myself. Of course that doesn’t mean I’m not going to complain about it a bit first!

So normally needing new glasses isn’t a big deal. That is, until your eyeballs revolt and decide to send excruciating pain throughout your upper head for hours, sometimes days at a time, until you comply with their demands. I haven’t had the chance to comply yet, so my eyeballs and I are currently at war. I really hate negotiating with terrorists. I’d much rather do something drastic, like starve them out. Something tells me that won’t quite work in this situation so the war rages on.

They had a brief, albeit mighty, win yesterday. I spent Tuesday and Wednesday not able to look at anything. Think I’m kidding? I wish it were so. No sewing, no computer, no writing, no reading, no TV, PS3 or MP3 player. Anything and everything hurt my eyes, made my head throb, and sent waves of dizziness through me. Now I’m used to a regular and mighty degree of pain because I’ve lived with migraines my entire life. The pain of the past couple of days was different and worse. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I’m comforted by the fact that you would have had a great laugh watching me stumble around the apartment with a Naughty Gypsy blindfold, not only covering my eyes from all light, but also holding an ice pack in place. I’m fairly certain the cats had a chuckle at the sight as well!

Well played eyeballs. Well played.

Onto the amazing part of this week…..

Every so often, when things are rough, something amazing happens that restores my faith in humanity! An event like this happened this week.

With all the posts on photography, photo shoots, light boxes etc., I’m sure you can tell my life has a certain theme to it right now. Yup. You guessed it: photography. I’ve always enjoyed having a camera in my hand, and even took a photography class in college, so it’s no surprise that I enjoy the photography aspect of my work. Including that aspect in my work also gives me the perfect excuse to buy photography equipment. Mainly, a camera!

I always knew that someday I would put the money into a good DSLR camera with all the fixings. It was only a matter of time. Last week I decided that time was here. I diligently did my research. I figured out exactly what I would use it for, learned about the different features, the manufacturers, and the retailers. I asked my photographer friends via Facebook for tips and advice. I taught myself the lingo, made notes, and shopped around online before even setting foot in a camera store. Once there I spent almost two hours with a very kind and knowledgeable camera guy. I didn’t buy anything. No. I had to go home and pour over all the information he gave me. This was to be a big purchase and I wanted to make sure I got it right.

That very afternoon, after getting home from the camera store and feeling more than a little overwhelmed, I received a message from a friend (for privacy reasons I’m not going to name him). This friend of mine had a camera, with lenses, cards, batteries and bag that he wasn’t using anymore. The amazing part is that he didn’t want to sell it to me. He just wanted it to go to a good home. As a bonus it would be a sort of  thank-you for helping him with an annual charity event we work on together.

Since I did all my camera research I can say this package of goodies probably set this person back well over a thousand dollars. Easily. It is an older camera and is used, but you couldn’t tell that by looking at – or using – it. It’s in perfect condition and works wonderfully! I know this because I’ve spent the better part of the week (such as allowed by my eyeballs) playing with it!

Onto the gratitude….

The first lesson in gratitude is being thankful I have use of my eyes back today! I seem to be winning the battle, for now at least. Of course I know that I’ll have to slow down and take things easy until I get my eyes checked and new glasses sitting on the bridge of this nose. Unfortunately these things take time so the battle continues!

The big lesson in gratitude is of course with the camera. I’m forever grateful to this person for passing along such a wonderful gift. It will make my work life much easier, give me more professional level images for my portfolio, and has freed up funds so that I can get something else needed for my business. Practical reasons aside, it touched my heart. While I never would have expected such an amazing show of generosity, I’m thankful for it.

I’m also thankful for a life lesson that came along with the camera. I’ve been on the giving end of gifts before. I’ll often pass along items I no longer use and am happy that they go to someone who will appreciate them, rather than the monetary (if any) gain. But it was quite a different experience being on the receiving end. It was difficult accepting such a valuable item without some form of trade in return. That’s where the lesson comes in because, of course, it got me thinking; wondering why it was so hard to accept this gift.

The truth is it’s hard to simply accept a kindness and be thank-full for it. It’s a simple concept and yet we humans go and make it all complicated!

Think about it…

When was the last time someone gave you a compliment? How did you react?

I know how I react. I fluff it off, make light of it, or change the subject. I rarely accept it and just say thank-you.

How did you react the last time someone gave you something?

I was sceptical, wondered what the trick was, and refused it, until it was forced on me. (Not the camera, this was a different occasion.)

Isn’t that what we’re taught? We’re taught to be self-sufficient, to be able to take care of ourselves and not rely on the generosity (or pity and charity as it’s often called) of others. We can’t just take it as it was meant… as a gift, wrapped in kind thoughts and well wishes, given from one caring human being to another.

Well no more! In this instance I happily accepted with many thanks and a heart full of gratitude!

As my dad says, “You don’t learn anything on the easy days.” This week was trying at times, but full of life lessons, and now, gratitude. It was a good week.

As a funny anecdote to this story, the charity event this person and I work together on is the annual Rocky Horror Picture Show fund raiser and I have no pictures from this year’s event! I had someone with me taking pictures but none of them turned out. Something freaky happened with the camera, the settings were accidentally changed and all the pictures have strange blurred people in them. Every. Single. One. Not one is salvageable. Thanks to this new camera next year will be a different story. How serendipitous!

And now, before the revolution in my eye sockets starts up again, I better sign off. Until next week. Peace, love and naughtiness!

I can’t avoid it anymore. I said I would start doing tutorials so I have to start doing tutorials.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to. I’m just a little nervous. I’ve never done one before! Over the years I’ve trained and taught many people on a variety of topics. But I’ve never done a step-by-step tutorial before. I guess it’s time to break that barrier. Let’s get to it!

Let’s Build a Light Box!

In the not-too-distant future, my Etsy store will open its online doors to sell my ready-made products. The photos that highlight those products need to be spectacular but hiring a photographer isn’t feasible.

As a small business owner I have to wear many hats. Photographer is just another hat I wear from time to time.

The Process:

Step One: Get all your stuff together. Here’s what you need:

– One cardboard box sized according to your needs. (I chose a box 22″ x 22″ x 18″. This is large enough for me to photograph all my smaller items and small enough to keep set up all the time.)

– White paper and/or tissue paper. (My OCD told me to use both! I listened.)

– One piece of white bristol board. (If the box you chose is on the large size you may need to use fabric instead of bristol board. In this case you’ll also need some velcro and a glue gun. I’ll explain when we get to that step.)

– Three lamps (minimum 60watts each, better if they’re 100watts each) and three natural light light-bulbs. (I used Enersaver bulbs in cool white and daylight.)

– An X-acto or other sharp knife, ruler, pencil, scissors.

– Clear or white tape (I went with white duct tape).

– an extra set of hands by way of a helper is extremely, well, helpful!

Most of the supplies. I said it was my first tutorial and I meant it! I forgot to put the scissors and bristol board in the photo.

Most of the supplies. I said it was my first tutorial and I meant it! I forgot to put the scissors and bristol board in the photo.

Step Two:

Cut windows out of the two sides, top and front of the box. I left a two inch border around each window. Leave the bottom and back of the box uncut.

Box with top, sides and front cut out.

Box with top, sides and front cut out.

Light box with top, sides and front cut-out.

Light box with top, sides and front cut out.

Step Three:

Use the white duct tape to tape the white paper on the inside of the box. Be sure to cover everywhere inside the box.

Light box with white paper done. Now onto the tissue paper (or more white paper if you're just using one).

Light box with white paper done. Now onto the tissue paper (or more white paper if you’re just using one).

Step Four:

Next cover the top and sides with white paper (or tissue paper, depending on what you’re using).

Side view of the light box with white and tissue paper done.

Side view of the light box with white and tissue paper done.

Step Five:

The basic light box is done but there’s a few finishing touches to do. This is where the bristol board or fabric comes into play. The point where the back and bottom sides of the box meet leaves an unsightly line in the back of your photos. To combat this, cut a piece of bristol board the width of your box by the length from the top back wall to the bottom front wall. Once placed inside the light box, it will cover that line, giving your photos a nice even background.

In my case, the box was too large for the bristol board to adequately cover so I came up with an alternative: fabric back drops. Using a glue gun, stick one side of velcro along the top edge of the back wall.  I used a piece of white cotton 18″ wide by 35″ long, finished the edges and stitched the other side of the velcro to the wrong side of the fabric at the top edge.

Inside lightbox with velcro added to the top back side. The other half of the velcro is on the inside of fabric. This hides the bottom back bend of the box and allows for the use of back drops.

Inside light box with velcro added to the top back side. The other half of the velcro is on the inside of fabric. This hides the bottom back bend of the box and allows for the use of back drops.

With the back drop in place I’m left with that same even background:

LIght box with white back drop.

Light box with white back drop.

Step Six:

Now place your lights on either side, and on top of, your light box. Voila! You’ve got your light box.

The full view of the completed light box.

The full view of the completed light box.

Light box with black back drop.

Light box with black back drop.

The nice thing about using fabric for a back drop, is that you can easily change the back drop to suit your needs. Here’s the same light box with a black back drop.

A side view of the finished light box showing the black back drop, light coming in from the side and the subject I'm shooting.

A side view of the finished light box showing the black back drop, light coming in from the side and the subject I’m shooting.

Let’s take a look at a photo using the finished light box:

Using the light box to photograph completed projects and items for sale.

Using the light box to photograph completed projects and items for sale.

All projects have their setbacks and this one was no exception. Light boxes are fragile. I knew that. I was being extra careful around it. I diligently kept the cats away from it. So of course I broke it! One of my lights fell right through the side tissue paper! At least I had all the supplies handy for a quick fix. 😉

I was worried about the cats ripping the tissue paper but this was all me. My side lamp fell right through the tissue paper. Opps!

I was worried about the cats ripping the tissue paper but this was all me. My side lamp fell right through the tissue paper. Oops!

Have you done this project or one similar to it? Have some tips to improve this project? Post your ideas, photos, comments below. I’d love to hear them!