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How To Reduce Stress as a Freelancer

5 ways to reduce stress as a freelancer

April is Stress Awareness Month so it seemed an apt time to reach out and chat about ways I manage to reduce the stresses I encounter as a freelancer.

I’ve said on many occasions how much I love working freelance and being my own boss: I firmly believe that my decision to leave full time employment to pursue a freelance career was, and still is one of the best decisions I ever made – but that doesn’t mean it is a stress-free option.

Working for yourself brings with it so many positives (freedom, flexibility, control, being your own boss, no commute & loads more!) but it also means absolute responsibility – you are the make or break of your business. It brings with it endless admin, accounts, marketing/PR and social media jobs to be done…instead of holding down just one role, you find yourself suddenly donning many hats, and that of course can be stressful.

Over the years I have found various ways to help reduce these stresses and strains – little ways to lighten the load and keep some semblance of order and sanity to your working life.

This topic has never been more relevant for me as I am currently 33 weeks pregnant and so I have been working on reducing my stress levels recently. My tired pregnant body needs as stress free an existence as possible and of course my priority is keeping myself well and the baby safe, if you too can feel your stress levels mounting then I hope these tips can help.

Here are my top five ways to reduce stress as a freelancer:

  1. USE ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE – There are absolutely loads of different accounting software out there for freelancers: I would recommend Wave or QuickBooks as being especially easy to use, cheap/free and reliable. Using this software has massively reduced my stress and now means my accounting is no longer a headache. I use the software to categorise outgoings, create/send and log invoices, access income statements and record receipts for business related costs. All this means that at the end of the Tax Year I have instant access to organised accounts making my Tax Return much more straightforward. Head to QuickBooks’ accounting software page to find out more.
  2. USE EMAIL FILTERS – This might be an obvious one to most freelancers, but my most used mode of communication in business is via email – which means my inbox is constantly full and attacking it can be a hugely overwhelming task. Since applying filters to my emails they have been so much easier to tackle. I filter sales emails into one folder, bills into another etc – which means I can access and clear different types of email depending on priority/need and what time scale I have for admin each day.
  3. GET A DROPBOX ACCOUNT – Having a Dropbox account has been such a godsend for my freelance life – I pay just a few pounds per month for unlimited storage and it means I can confidently store all my vital images and documents for work without the worry of losing them or needing to constantly back up. It also means I can access them from any computer/device with my login, anywhere in the world, and I can share any of the files with clients, collaborators and employees when necessary.
  4. ASK FOR HELP/OUTSOURCE – This is a big one for me… it took me a long time to bite the bullet and hire an extra pair of hands, but it is so worth it. Whether you’re drowning in admin, or have no idea where to start when it comes to social media – there will be someone perfect out there that you could hire to lend a hand. It needn’t be for very long – it’s amazing what an expert in social media or someone purely focused on your admin can achieve in just a couple of hours per week. Being able to delegate jobs so that I can focus more on the creative/design side of my business has definitely reduced my stress levels dramatically.
  5. SCHEDULE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA – We all know that keeping up with the social media promotion and interaction for your business can be a full time commitment in itself. I know I’m not alone when I say that social media overwhelms me, and I easily get lost in it, wasting valuable working time and reducing productivity. For me, hiring someone to devise a social media strategy and help me to implement it has been fantastic. The biggest change I made was learning to schedule a large proportion of my social media posts. This means I no longer post infrequently just when I remember to, but instead I schedule in a variety of posts, across all platforms at key times of day – which has seen me reach a wider audience much more consistently. Between me and my social media manager we can set aside time each week to schedule in posts, and then I can concentrate on the creative side of my work – designing my prints, and just dip in and out of social media – replying to comments, keeping track of interactions etc. The social media schedulers I would recommend include BUFFER, GRUM and SOCIAL OOMPH – check them out, they will change your social media life!

What methods do you use to reduce the stress of working as a freelancer? I’d love to know!

Bye for now,

Tabitha x

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An Interview with Tabitha Mary…

An Interview with Graphic Designer Tabitha Mary.

How did Tabitha Mary.co.uk start and what was your initial inspiration?

It started with the Shipping Forecast Regions print, I created it for my parents for christmas about 5 years ago! It looks quite different to the version we all know and love now. But the original got so many conversations started with people fascinated with knowing where the actual regions were that it dawned on me that I might be able to sell it as a print. So I reworked it into a more commercial version and gave it a whirl… I had my very first listing on Etsy, I couldn’t believe it when I received my first order! I can still remember exactly where I was: In the car on mini break in Yorkshire.

Original Shipping Forecast Print by Tabitha Mary

You have over 80 prints in your collection, which is your favourite? Or top 3 if you can’ pick one.

Oh tough one, probably Kilimanjaro and Annapurna as they are two prints that I created solely for myself as a memory of my travels and hiking adventures. I also love the Mount Fuji one, just because I love mountains!

What is your proudest work achievement to date?
Just being sat here, right now making a living out of my dream. I never thought I would end up running my own business and being able to survive off of it. Quitting my full time job was so scary, but looking back, the best thing I ever did!

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Stevenage, but when I was 3 just before my sister was born we moved to a tiny village called Buxted in East Sussex near Uckfield where my parents still live. I love going home to Sussex. I’ve lived all over Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire following my career as a graphic designer but no where’s quite felt like home in the way Sussex does.

Do you have a favourite thing to draw?

Definitely coastal locations.

What Radio station do you listen to?

BBC Radio 2

If you had to watch one DVD Box-Set forever more, which would you choose?

EASY! Sex and the City – it’s my guilty pleasure!

What would you choose as your favourite food?

Ok, that’s a lot harder. Can I have a savoury and sweet choice?!

Savoury: Sausages Sweet: Anything pastry (makes me sound so healthy!)

Do you have a particular style when it comes to home/interiors/décor? Can you tell us a little about this…

My husband and I love anything vintage and retro and mix that with my obsession with Orla Kiely and all things graphic makes for probably quite a 60’s vibe, but in a modern and vintage way. My favourite home colours are grey and duck egg, so that pretty much features all over the house with accents of yellow, orange and tons of graphic patterns injected in the form of blinds, cushions and bedding. I believe in having a plain base and then adding the detail with accessories.

What is the best holiday you’ve ever been on? Did it inspire any artwork?

This is really hard! I like different types of holidays and locations for all their own reasons. Summiting Kilimanjaro will always be up there as it was such a personal achievement, but Italy with Paul when he proposed and our Honeymoon in California are also pretty high on the list! I just love to explore and experience new things, so all holidays are great!

Tabitha & Paul’s Engagement
Nepal
Nepal

What is the best and worst thing about being self-employed?

Best thing: The sense of achievement and flexibility of being your own boss. Worst thing: The pressure, I set myself really high standards which means I never switch off, i’m always working and I find it really hard to let go or delegate things.

What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?

My Mum and Dad’s carpet in the house I first lived in until I was 3. I vividly remember thinking it was horrible!!! HA HA! Sorry Mum!

What’s your scariest experience?

My best friend making me do Aerial Extreme for my hen do! I used to be okay with heights, apparently as i’ve got older I no longer am! Hated every second! I remember climbing onto the platform and my bum cheeks were shaking I was so scared!! ha ha. Conveniently said best friend was pregnant so couldn’t participate!

What is your favourite piece of artwork and who is it by?

Oh it changes all the time! Currently its a set of 3 prints I recently bought from the super talented Talia Giles.

Tabitha Mary's favourite artwork
Art by Talia Giles

Describe a real-life situation that inspired your work?

Summiting Kilimanjaro lead to me creating a print that can be personalised with your name, route and summit date. It’s one of my best sellers with fellow sumitters wanting a lasting reminder of their achievement.

Kilimanjaro
The fabulous Kilimanjaro

What’s your most embarrassing moment?

Oh there’s too many! I can be a bit dizzy!

Do you have a favourite colour?

Probably duck egg, but closely followed by grey, orange and yellow.

What jobs have you done other than being a graphic designer?

Since graduating in 2007 i’ve been lucky enough to work as a graphic designer in a few jobs, designing christmas crackers, kitchenwares, licensed sunglasses, licensed stationery, packaging, cards, wrap, gift bags. The days before uni I did all the usual jobs, macdonalds, tesco, waitressed, worked in staples for a bit! Best job was waitressing at Glyndebourne Opera house during the summer breaks from uni.

Is the artistic/creative life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

Being self employed can be lonely, luckily I’m a pretty motivated person and good in my own company. But to stop myself going stir crazy I go to regiment fitness two mornings during the week, which ensures I actually talk to other human beings other than Paul (my husband!) and we always have pretty busy and social weekends either seeing family or friends or working an event.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

I get really overwhelmed when people write me lovely feedback, especially when they’re talking about a gift they’ve bought for someone else. I’m pretty shy when it comes to receiving positive feedback, it drives my husband mad!

Have you visited all of your print locations? And what research do you do for your prints?

Gosh I wish! Sadly not, in the early days I did as that’s how I chose my locations, but now so many of my prints are commissioned by a shop or customer I use photography and online interactive maps to explore the areas and get a feel for the place.

Can you describe a typical working day for you?

There is no real typical, but i’d say I start about 8.30am, I action any sales that have come in and do any admin that needs doing. I then start on whatever print is next on my ‘to do’ list. I try my hardest to break for lunch, this didn’t always used to happen, but now that I’m pregnant I make sure I take an hour time out every lunch time. The afternoon is normally designing or if a wholesale order has come in then printing and packaging that. I tend to finish work about 7pm when my husband gets home from work.

You’re currently heavily pregnant with your first child – what aspect of having children are you most excited about?

Everything! I find thinking about the fact i’m growing a little person a bit mind blowing! I just cannot wait to have a mini Paul and I and for us to have something so special between us to look after and watch grow. At the moment I’m mostly focused on the birth and I cannot wait to see Paul hold our baby for the first time, I get a bit teary just thinking about it!

Where do you envisage your business to be in 5 years time?

My main goal is to keep it growing at an achievable and realistic rate given that things are going to change as I approach motherhood. I just hope that I’m still sat here in 5 years working for myself. I feel lucky everyday that I have the opportunity to be living my dream job, but don’t take it for granted and worry all the time that it might end one day. I just have to hope and pray it doesn’t. But main goals are to continue focusing on my wholesale and licensing growth which has already grown significantly over the past year.

What hobbies do you pursue outside of your artistic work life?

I used to be a massive hiker, hiking most weekends all over the UK and taking trips abroad to partake in hiking holidays. That’s dwindled a little since settling down with Paul as our hobbies are more focused on home improvements, and very often working weekends! (sorry paul!) But I hope that country walks will be something we will enjoy once again as a family when our baby arrives!!

Is there anything else about Tabitha Mary you’d like to know? Perhaps we can do a second interview if we get enough questions…

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The Midland Hotel, Morecambe

Paul and I took a week off last week to celebrate my birthday and have a mini break up north. We were staying near Liverpool so took the opportunity to visit The Midland Hotel in Morecambe which I’d captured in a print 18 months ago.

Last year The Midland’s manager Mark spotted this print online and has been stocking it in their shop ever since. He is also now extending the range with my licensor Star Editions. I can’t wait to see the new product range.

We arrived on a VERY windy day and were instantly in awe of this grand art deco building and as you go inside it only gets better. Every inch oozes art deco, I was in heaven! Reception pointed us in the right direction to get a cup of tea and Paul insisted I mentioned I was the designer of their print. The receptionist immediately phoned Mark who zoomed down to reception to greet us. I’m so glad Paul had prompted me as Mark then gave us a wonderful tour with interesting facts of the hotel and even showed us the penthouse suite with its balcony jacuzzi and views to die for. Definitely on the to do list when the weather is a little calmer!

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I’d definitely add The Midland Hotel to your bucket list.

Thankyou Mark for the wonderful tour and we hope to visit again soon.

TM x

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Tips & Advice on ‘Connecting with your audience’ with Creative Bedfordshire

When Sandra Dartnell first approached me about speaking at last nights Creative Bedfordshire networking event a fear of dread filled my stomach. The last time I spoke to an audience was for my dissertation at university, I remember stumbling over my words and my face and neck slowly growing redder and redder until my course mates thought I might pass out! It was not a good experience!

However, a decade on and last night I overcame my fear of public speaking and do you know what? It wasn’t that bad!

Sandra asked myself and Claire from the PlatePeople to speak about our experiences of ‘connecting with your audience.’ My perspective from being a sole trader for 1+ years and Claire’s from only 3 months in.

It was really great to get the opportunity to talk about my life running my own business and it really hit home just how busy i’ve been and how much i’ve learnt about myself and business in the last year.

Some of the top tips that were given by myself and claire:

  • Listen to your audience, if they ask you for a product or design; do it! Be as flexible and engaging as possible.
  • Be transparent. To be self employed is something to be proud of. Shout about it! Don’t try and hide behind the pretence of being bigger than you are. People like to support small businesses so it often goes in your favour – small but mighty!
  • Social Media is a mind field of variations and can be really time consuming. Pick a few channels you are comfortable with and do those well. Better to do a couple well then to do all of them half heartedly.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask – that old saying “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” is SO true.
  • My business plan has always been “Say YES” In the past year i’ve not turned down a single opportunity, you never know where something might lead you. Even if at first it scares you or doesn’t seem to be your thing – give it a go! If its wrong, you don’t have to do it again. But you tried.
  • Be smart on connecting your social media – for example on Etsy you can now update your store and link customer photos to your actual products and then share on twitter for people to directly link back to your shop! GENIUS! (I stole this tip from Claire!)
  • Network and make the most of all the fantastic organisations around Bedfordshire: Bedfordshire Business Women, Creative Beds, BCA, Velocity, Wenta… etc etc etc
  • No your facts. Approaching year 2 i’ve had to face reality and hire an accountant. You need to know where you stand to know what you’re doing is working.

Any questions do ask. Lots of people asked me about packaging last night! Why struggle when I’ve tried and tested every possible way and courier, so save time and ask!

TM x

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Happy Birthday to me!

Gosh, I just cannot believe that this week marks the one year anniversary of me leaving full time employment and taking my little business out into the big bad world all on my own! To mark my 1st year I’m taking a few minutes to reflect on the year gone by and my plans for the next year.

I’d been running Tabitha Mary has a hobby alongside my full time job as a Graphic Designer for 3 years. I was selling prints online and attending the odd craft market when I found time. Sales had slowly increased along the way and I was finding I was working harder and later into my evenings and weekends to keep up with demand. In the spring of 2014 I met my Fiancée Paul. We knew instantly that we’d found love (awww… cue for the sick bucket!) but more importantly he was 100% behind my business and believed in me and my product. When we met we lived on opposite sides of Hertfordshire, me in Bishops Stortford, he in Tring. If we wanted to live together, someone was going to have to move. It was the opportunity I never thought I’d get! We both agreed that it was now or never. So we jumped in, feet first! I quit my full time job designing licensed stationery and moved west into our new house in Leighton Buzzard where Tabitha Mary HQ was created in our spare bedroom.

I started my new life in the self employed world by flying to Nepal and trekking the foot hills of Annapurna – as you do! I’d already booked the trip before all these decisions were made. But what fabulous timing. It gave me the break I needed to reset, recharge and refocus my mind onto being my own boss.

On my return I got busy selling at Christmas events, designing new prints and freelanced for 2 months at the Tigerprint Studio in London. I’d never been busier!

Come the New Year and I just couldn’t quite believe that I already had months of work booked in, a mix of freelance, commissions, events and new print launches planned. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought this plan was going to work out!

And it’s continued in this way. I have been completely mesmerised, overwhelmed and humbled by the kindness of everyone I’ve met, exhibited / sold with and the opportunities that have come my way and the support shown by those who I’ve worked with. I’ve made some mistakes, but i’ve learnt from them and carried on!

My work ethic across the year has been to say yes to everything and my goodness what fun and craziness it’s lead to! From small school fairs to the conservative conference!

A rather MASSIVE thank you goes to all those in Bedford who have shown such consistent support. From the Pavilion cafe commissioning THAT print, to Creative Bedfordshire and Velocity for their small business support. And of course a huge thank you to my wonderful Fiancée who proposed in the Summer and has been my rock, business confident, advisor, sales man and right hand man all the way through. I wouldn’t be here without him.

Who’d have thought all of this would’ve stemmed from the shipping forecast print I did for my parents 4 years ago!

So… what are the plans for the next year?

Well my biggest plan is to expand my range, buy a super duper whizzy new printer and be able to offer LARGE scale printing done in house and to get myself out into the world of wholesale more. I tapped into it a bit this year, but would love to grow that side of things. And we of course cannot forget the wedding planning and becoming Mrs Paul in May!

There’s plans set for me to talk to college students about being a self employed designer and to hold a Q&A evening with Creative Bedfordshire to talk all things small business. Set to be a fun evening where you can pick my brains on what i’ve learnt and where hopefully I can pick yours too! As i’m ALWAYS learning!

Not to mention the HUMONGOUS list of prints I want to do!

It’s set to be busy!

Hope you all follow me along for the ride.

Thank you for all your support. To celebrate there’s 20% off everything online until Sunday when you use code IAMONE

TM x

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Mount Vesuvius, Naples, An Italian Wedding Commission

At last weekends Handcrafted in Bedfordshire Market I met a lovely lady who asked me to design a print of Naples for her husband for their 15th Wedding Anniversary this weekend.

I of course jumped on the chance to create such a lovely gift for her to give him, how romantic! After a couple of sketched ideas we decided upon a fictional scene incorporating the gorgeous cliffs that Sorrento is so well known for with the iconic silhouette of Mount Vesuvius in the background.

Naples Main copy

I’m so pleased with this print and hope her husband loves it!

Happy Anniversary you two love birds!

My Fact of the day: Did you know that Mount Vesuvius is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes today due to the 3 million people living in its shadow and the fact its last eruption was in the last 100 years! SCARY!

TM xx

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Annapurna, Nepal: A magnificent trip

In October 2014 I went to Nepal taking in the sites of Kathmandu, Patan, Bhuktapur, The Annapurna Massif and Chitwan National Park.

I begun the trip exploring Patan and Bhuktapur. Ancient areas of Nepal where the most traditional buildings, values and ways of life can be found. I was mesmerised by this beautiful country from the second I got there. The people are enchanting and friendly and the architecture is just absolutely stunning.

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I couldn’t believe it when exploring the jungle of alleys in-between the houses in Patan (truth be known, I was very lost and getting a little bit worried I wouldn’t find my way out!) I stumbled across a printers, screen printing the most wonderful papers. I just couldn’t believe my luck, how this lost print designer found a fellow printer in Nepal! Just one of those memorable moments.

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Other than exploring the major towns of Nepal my trip really evolved around the 4 day trek into the Annapurna foot hills, staying at the basic and wonderfully traditional tea houses along the route. From the moment our Gadventures group walked into the park the views were spectacular but the further we went in they just kept getting better! The route was undulating and at times really tough going; compared to my Kilimanjaro trek it was a walk in the park! But I hadn’t gone for a physical challenge but to simply explore.

The morning views had been fantastic throughout the trek, but on our final morning of the trek we woke up to the most spectacular view:IMG_9353IMG_9377

What a way to end our time in the mountains! The trip didn’t end there though as we set off for Chitwan National Park for a short safari tour.

I could write forever on my time in Nepal, the smells, sounds, views, culture, just everything about it is enchanting. My trip also signified a massive change in my life, it saw me quitting my full-time job as a Graphic Designer and stepping into the unknown world of self employment with my business ‘Tabitha Mary.’ A horrifically scary decision and step to make, but one I will never regret. I’ve had just the most fantastic year being self-employed and felt it was finally time to capture the place that focused my mind onto my new and exciting challenge ahead. The people I met there and sites I saw will never know how much they touched my life. I hope everyday that they are safe and well after the horrific natural disaster that struck in April 2015. The print captures that stunning view we woke up to on our last morning in the Annapurna National Park.

Nepal copyNepal Crop copy

If you have trekked in Nepal then like my Kilimanjaro print I can personalise this print for you, just drop me an email tabitha@tabithamary.co.uk to find out more.

TM x

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Eastbourne Promenade, an emotional gesture

I was recently contacted by a customer who was enquiring about a print enlargement. Unfortunately I couldn’t fulfil his request,  but what caught him about the print was the kite in the sky. His family had recently been through some awfully tragic circumstances and his granddaughter loved kites and wanted to have a new print to offer some future hope to her and the family.

Their home town of Eastbourne is also where I studied Art Foundation and local to where I grew up in East Sussex. I so badly wanted to provide this family with a print they’d love, I set about designing an Eastbourne print, with a kite, just for them. I couldn’t help but feel that this gesture was rather insignificant in the grand scheme of their pain; but I just felt like I wanted to do something to help them.

Their reaction has truly humbled me and it is a lovely reminder of the power a kind gesture can have on a stranger. I think we should all help a stranger more often.

Eastbourne copy

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My first video advertisement

So, rumour has it that video is the new social media frenzy and is an absolute must for any self employed business owner.

The thought of making a video scares the living daylights out of me! But luckily, for my first attempt the lovely Katie was willing to share her story of our work together and here is the result:

I’ll be shooting footage whenever and wherever possible of my business, what I get upto and sharing many more videos to come!

If there are any pre-existing customers out there who are willing to help me out i’d really appreciate it! It only has to be a 5 second clip! I can mash them all together to make another video.

I will I guess feature on one at some point…

Hope you enjoy!

TMx

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Pieces for Places Exclusive Barmouth Commission

In May my boyfriend (Paul) and I went to Barmouth in Wales for our anniversary. We had a wonderful all be it rather windy time! Whilst there we stumbled across Pieces for Places. Being a moth to anything homeware or designer esk I fluttered in quickly racking up a long ‘to buy’ list from all their beautiful products.

I get really nervous approaching shop owners about wholesale or commissions but Paul gave me a reassuring nudge in the direction of Fred and I was greeted with a big friendly smile which put me right at ease!

After a lovely chat and look though my work Fred (1 brother of this 2 brother enterprise) seemed really keen but his brother Jack was the one I had to convince, so I left with Jack’s contact details and crossed my fingers!

After a few emails back and forth to my delight Jack ordered an exclusive print of Barmouth:

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I set to work and captured the lovely view across the estuary incorporating the train bridge and quay. Jack was thrilled with it and promptly placed his stock order.

Print available from Pieces for Places only.

It was ace to work with you Jack and Fred. Thank you!

The commission page on my website has grown quite a lot recently! Take a look…

TM x

Are you a shop owner in a rather picturesque location and fancy a print for your shop? exclusive or non exclusive! There’s a whole load of options… drop me an email tabitha@tabithamary.co.uk to find out more.

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The Chantry, Turners Green, East Sussex Wedding

This weekend I have been in East Sussex fulfilling my Maid of Honour duties to my best friend as she married her man at The Chantry. It was followed by a Vintage Fete themed reception at Punnetts Town Village Hall. Such a perfect weekend! My massive congratulations to the new Mr & Mrs!

I am just in love with The Chantry! It’s so cute! So much so, that for their wedding present I created a print for them to keep forever and ever… not in my usual style however! But inspired by the fabulous Rob Ryan.

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I framed it in a floating glass backed frame and just LOVE it! and thankfully so did they!

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I’ve certainly hit that age of weddings and babies! With a total of 7 weddings this year! I do love a wedding!

TM x