First off, I have to thank you all for your kind and thought-provoking comments about my last post. I'm newly resolved to focus on what I DO have in life and not what I don't. A hard thing to attempt, but a necessary one.
On to today's guest--meet the talented, fabulous Helen Tilbury--all the way from Africa!
Helen had some wonderful things to say about her journey in the industry:
I started scrapbooking in 2003 in Harare, Zimbabwe, after my daughter attended a holiday workshop & brought home a simple layout that captured my heart! For a couple of years I attended weekly lessons at a really basic studio using simple products & none of “the latest stuff” as it simply wasn’t available. For the first 2 years of my journey all I learned were the basics as I had no time to scrapbook at home and had no idea that there was a whole new world waiting for me online.
In 2005 we emigrated to South Africa & I took a break from scrapbooking for a year while I was adapting to my new environment. 2006 came around and I started attending weekly lessons at my new local scrapbook shop. Now that all my kids were at school I began scrapbooking every morning. I discovered Creating Keepsakes and it was the first scrapbooking magazine I’d ever seen! I became an instant fan of Ali Edwards & finally the cogs started turning and my mind-set regarding my hobby began to shift to a more serious mode 4 years down the line, with that my excitement for scrapbooking started to grow exponentially.
In September 2007 I entered the then only (now non-existent) national scrapbooking competition and came second out of thousands of entries. I received nothing, there were no sponsored prizes for second place (as most scrapbooking products sold in South Africa are imported) & no design teams to get onto as there are virtually no local manufacturers. No recognition followed as there was no-one to recognize me! The scrapbooking industry in South Africa is almost non-existent, not even any local scrapbooking shops to teach at as the few that exist teach the classes themselves as they are so few customers. Even the one and only local scrapbook magazine that was set to print the finalists’ layouts closed down the month after the competition & retrieving my layouts turned into a year-long nightmare.
The disappointment spurred me on to find a solution as I realized at this point that there were no local opportunities & I would have to get online in order to get anywhere with the hobby I was growing to love more and more by the day. There had to be a way I could indulge my passion and succeed despite my location. I kept hearing the word “blog” &had no idea what it meant but gathered that it was some type of personal online interactive website.I just knew I needed one but had no idea how to go about getting one – having never been online! September 2008 & I had never surfed the web!! I began fighting with my kids’ computer when they were at school & in October the same year my blog was born.
I love how Helen's growth in the scrapbook industry also involved finding and "clicking" with an online community--this was very true for me as well!
I spent hours online, learning the ropes, started commenting a lot – I figured someone was bound to notice me eventually if I just kept at it and after a year I had a small readership.I discovered just how excellent so many scrapbookers were in the online world and I remember feeling like I could never “get there”, but the more I saw the more desperate I was to learn& to eventually succeed at creating layouts just as good! I lost my way a bit as I fell in love with blogging & ended up blog-hopping more than I was scrapbooking - I certainly made up for all my years offline as I was so excited to broaden my horizons & learned so much about the world beyond Africa, that I had lost sight of my dream of becoming a well-known scrapbooker whose work spoke for itself.
I have always been a competitive person and it just came naturally to want to go all the way with something I was so passionate about. I was determined I didn’t need a national competition to succeed – I was aiming higher than that anyway – I wanted to take on the world! Towards the end of 2009 I started my online education in earnest. Less blogging & more studying. I poured over layouts by talented designers from all over the world & tried to emulate them. I gave myself an 18 month intensive online “course” in scrapbooking by studying successful scrapbookers from all over the world, whose work I admired & used as my inspiration. I was struggling to find my own style though & not sure of what I liked & disliked. I was trying too hard & doing too much – I was all over the place!Trying too hard--definitely an issue I've noticed and experienced! How about you?
Towards the end of 2010 (2 years since I started my blog) it dawned on me that I was never going to “get anywhere” if I didn’t release myself from the confines of my blog and “get out there”. I began taking part in challenges, joining forums, adding my work to galleries and I had various successes along the way. Definitely more failures than successes but finally I felt like something was happening. In 2010 I started to apply to various design teams & faced rejection upon rejection. By Christmas 2010 I realized that I couldn’t go on & needed to reassess what exactly I was doing! Or at least trying to do!! I prayed to God to please give me a change of heart, so that I was able to apply for design teams then forget all about it (as opposed to keep checking my inbox for the e mail that never came…only to see the DT advertised on their blog!). I cried my heart out then went away on holiday! This was the turning point for me. The next DT I applied for when I returned accepted me! And the one after that, and that, and that, and that, and that!
Six design teams in six months & definitely more successes than rejections. The tide is finally turning. I feel I have worked for everything I have but at the same time I want to give all glory to my maker for giving me the stamina and attitude needed for this harsh game. Scrapbooking is sweet and lovely and nurturing and healing, but competitive scrapbooking? Welcome to the School of Hard Knocks! Want to give it a go?! I hope my story has encouraged you & that, if it’s what you really, really want (as the Spice Girls would say) that you’ll go confidently in the direction of your dreams. I love finally having a real audience, feeling like my work has a greater purpose& getting a “wow” once in a while. I am striving to be the best I can be &looking forward to the rest of this wonderful journey. I still have a long way to go (I have my first CK publication this month but it’s actually a photograph – check out page 99 of your latest issue) & I’m still not on the DT of any “major” scrapbooking manufacturer, but I am in it for the long haul & I’ve always believed I’ll make it eventually.I LOVE how Helen really believes in herself--so hard to do but so important!
I do think that it is definitely harder for an “international” (especially an African) to make it in an American dominated industry – mainly because it takes a month to receive any product & I have to make all my scrapbooking purchases online from the States – but I don’t think it is impossible – you just have to be fantastic – and that’s what I’m aiming for! My advice – count the cost. There is a lot involved, and that’s the honest truth. You need to up your game on all levels if you want success. You need to work long & hard. You need to meet deadlines. You need to be 100% reliable. You can’t blog about the bad day you’ve been having if your DT has it’s reveal that day – you’ve got to put your happy hat on & encourage everyone to play along. You need to comment on all the entries & in some cases judge the winners, and that is really hard! But along the way you will have a wonderful, exhausting time!
You’ll be rewarded with the most wonderful affirmation of your work (and you’ll make some enemies along the way who despise you just because they’re jealous so you’ll get the occasional nasty comment too!) Toughen up & let it slide off you like water off a duck’s back. Just keep your eye on the prize! If you’re prepared to work for it it can be yours – you can live the life you’ve imagined!!
Thank you for sharing, Helen! Here's a layout that shows off Helen's vintagey style:
Check out more of Helen's beautiful work on her blog here!
Helen lives in Durban, South Africa, with her husband & four kids – Chelsea (18), Jack (16), Reilly (13) and Cami (11). She is a keen photographer & when she’s not taking photos, scrapbooking or blogging you can usually find her in the car, rushing up & down the freeway with kids off to dancing lessons, soccer matches or sleepovers!
Currently Helen is designing for Scrapbook Challenges, Inspired Blueprints, Once Upon a Sketch, Bird is the Word, Pretty Paper Petals&Scrap-it-Lah. You can find her blog @ http://helentilbury.blogspot.com.
Tune in next Monday for another edition! And let me know if there are any questions YOU'D like answered about publications and DTs!