I'm taking a hiatus from Fuggler orders so I can evict a baby, and spend some time not trying to manage a small vulnerable human and needles/glue/teeth in the same space. I'm planning to list some ready-to-go Fugglers in the shop as and when I get some stock made up, and you can still buy the usual mugs/stickers/cards/necklaces etc.
If you're trying to get hold of me at the moment, I'm on a bit of a time lag. I had surgery last week, and as it took the form of surprise "This Is Why Your Mum Warned You About Leaving The House In Mismatched Underwear" surgery I hadn't exactly scheduled for two weeks of bimbling around in loose fitting clothes trying to telepathically summon cats/chocolate/Sean Bean. I'm fine, recovering well, although a bit like one of those records you play at the wrong speed, and with a 50/50 probability of ending up with scars like the magicians assistant who didn't follow the instructions properly on the Swords Through The Suitcase trick.
So if you're trying to contact me, sorry for the slow go. Normal service to resume soon x
I've been waiting for a low mood to pass.
It's been... six months? I was beginning to think I live here, and that I should probably decorate. Impulse buy some throw cushions to offset the grey walls. Build a patio in the middle of the night, and bury 11,000 unread emails under it. Take down the smiling photos on the walls, because the expressions look insincere, and replace them with motivational posters of kittens, clinging to branches, or wearing office attire, with encouraging phrases anchoring to them page. Not those big, bold, size 48 font messages, that beckon you to greatness or seizing various days, but something in a nice understated serif font, telling me I should probably do some laundry, or at least get changed out of my pyjamas.
It's depression awareness week, and it coincides with the first time in months that I'm starting to feel my energy returning. It's like being on a sail boat in calm waters, and the relief when the wind picks up – finally, I can gain momentum. Finally, I can leave.
I've had depression, on and off, my whole life. It's mostly off. It's my version of that knee that plays up when the weather is bad. The scar that occasionally aches.
I don't know why I've been trying to keep it secret. My husband knows. The other day, I built a fort out of cushions, told him I was learning to meditate, and crawled inside it to have a secret cry. It was, apparently, wholly unconvincing. My parents know. My brother and my sister know. My brother in law knows – last time it was really bad, he turned up to take me for a therapeutic (hypothermic) swim in Dover sea which involved me, a non swimmer, screeching as I lowered individual limbs into murky waters, and then flailing around a bit in waist deep brine. My friends know, and affectionately understand what they call my “hermit” phases, where text messages go unanswered, and events go unattended, and hair goes unbrushed. So, who exactly am I hiding it from? I suppose I've always been a little bit scared that talking about it might limit my opportunities – a blot on my CV. I have come to realise that when your CV features stints as a stand up comedienne, the woman that sticks jam in jam doughnuts, international children's author, toilet saleswoman, and the world's leading supplier of teddy bears with artificial human teeth, it can probably endure a few tea rings of depression left on the page. I guess I was also wary of people seeing it as a defining trait; a parasitic adjective that would latch on to the way people describe me, shouldering more dominant aspects out the way.
I discovered a wonderful new phrase the other day: Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. With that in mind, I can't tell you what depression is like for anyone else, but I can tell you what it's like for me.
As far as I can remember, it's always been a part of me.
When I was four, I realised that everyone dies. I don't remember the exact moment this epiphany occurred, but I do recall the aftermath. The earth shattering unfairness. No matter how good you were, no matter how well behaved, how loved, how careful, one day you will die. One day, everyone you love will die. Your pets. Your family. Your friends. It felt like someone had dropped a black hole at the end of time, consuming days and people as it dragged everything towards it. It was colossal. Terrifying. Inescapable. I looked at everyone around me, functioning, smiling, eating dinner, walking dogs, and I couldn't understand why they were able to be happy, knowing what I knew.
And then it was obvious:
Nobody had broke the news to them.
Four years old, sturdy legged, serious eyed, I gently informed my relatives the nature of their own mortality. When we sung in class about how the “Clock stopped, still, never to go again, when the old man died”, I wept huge gulping tears for the old man, wondering who loved him, who missed him, whether he'd been afraid... and then felt obliged to tell my oblivious class mates that they, and their families, were equally doomed. When the health visitor came to visit my sister, smiling down at her in her cot, I solemnly informed her of her impending demise, and even provided a helpful diagram of her in the ground, roughly hewn in crayon.
If you think four is a little young for an existential crisis, so did the health visitor. The next stop was The Room, where the psychologist with the bed time story voice crouched next to me, handing me different coloured pencils, encouraging art. Every surface dripped with toys, smiling benevolent faces clustered on shelves, in boxes, perched on the edge of a desk. A world built of primary colours and soothing sounds.
So that's where I begin.
In truth though, I've never been very good with chronology. My memories lie in a tangled mess, arranged loosely by clarity or colour or shape: the mental equivalent of That Drawer in the Kitchen.
It's hard to find the beginning.
There's another memory then that might be my first. The rainbow. It starts with me running into my parents bedroom, propelled forward with excitement, soft landing on a bed of seventies fabrics and sleeping shapes. There's a skip in continuity here, time roughly stitched together, and now I'm outside with Dad, his strong hands lifting me onto his shoulders to see the arc of colours dividing the world. I'm so high up, skyscraper tall with my fingers looped round his neck, that there's nothing around me but sky, and I'm breathing blue air and grey clouds and colours and the smell of rain, and grass, and damp concrete. The memory doesn't end. There's no edge to it. I can crawl into that moment, and be amongst the sky, and the rainbow hangs forever.
The dichotomy of these two moments is a pretty accurate insight into what life with depression is like. It's not ink poured into a glass of water, changing everything within, It's a paint palette of different colours. There are black moments, certainly. There are grey times, like gaps in the paving where you are neither here nor there. I remember sitting once at a festival in the woods, huddled around a fire with people I love, listening to beautiful music, the sun setting through branches like fingers held up to the light, and I felt absolutely nothing. It was as if I'd sat down at a banquet of plastic food. It was a short period, where someone had stolen my colours from me, and I was so grateful when I found the edges of it.
However, sometimes I think, not despite, but because of my brushes with depression I have a tremendous amount of light in my life. That maybe, like a pendulum, the heights you can reach can only be matched by how far back you swing. Perhaps people that experience sadness are best placed to fully appreciate the currency of joy.
I hoard happy. It fascinates me. I laze on it, like a dragon stretching out on a bed of gold. I laugh. A lot. Even in my sleep. My house is filled with items that bring me glee: kitsch ornaments of surfing polar bears looking pensive yet majestic, fairy lights (so many fairy lights), toys monkeys with delightfully threadbare limbs and sinister smiles, photos of my husband posing with the cats. My computer desktop is a mess of photos that make me grin – I even have a whole folder dedicated to “People modelling terrible fancy dress outfits, and looking slightly ashamed about it". I'm growing lavender outside my home because the smell of it after rain is one of the most beautiful things in the world. The reason I created Fugglers was because the idea made me giggle, and making them feels like manifesting strange little lumps of happiness before sending them out into the world, talismans of laughter for other people to use.
So, it's depression awareness week: I'm thirty seven years old, I've experienced depression since I was an age where the floor frequently becomes lava, sofas become islands, bunk beds become pirate ships, and where storing lego pieces in your nostrils seems like a good idea, and yet this is my first time talking about it online. There's something quite odd about that. Probably about time that changed.
It was never my intent to start a business. With that in mind, it may not surprise you to discover that (by blundering into it with absolutely zero forward planning) I have made some mistakes along the way. I'm going to use this blog over the coming weeks to lay the cold, bloated corpse of previous business errors out before you, and then carefully cut it open with a scalpel and prod glistening things with a stick.
Lesson number one...
That big, squidgy lump there?
That's my inability to realise the importance of watermarking your photos.
When I first started creating and sharing photos of Fugglers online, I was pretty bad at making them. That was okay, because it was part of the appeal. They were roughly stitched, haphazard, inspired by some of the weirder edges of Etsy: lands where cocker spaniels are made from sea-shells and glitter, and where nipple pasties are designed in MSPaint and then glossed over with clear nail varnish. Watermarking my photos seemed cocky, and self important, especially when overlaid on such amateur work, so I didn't do it.
Over time I made more, and more Fugglers, and my work improved. My joke shifted into a hobby, but I still didn't watermark my photos. People had started spreading them online, and I didn't see the harm in it. They surfaced on 4chan, with a false back story attached, and since the story was in the same spirit of my work (to make people laugh, or balk) I just found it funny.
By the time I made the jump to making Fugglers as a full time career, the landscape of the internet had also begun to change. The rise of listicles changed the playing field drastically. Articles that list "TOP TEN CREEPIEST TOYS" or "HORRIFYING CHILDREN'S TOYS" started using my photos without ever notifying me, and the lack of watermarking the pictures or any reference to me in the text started to hit home. Firstly, these websites profit through advertising revenue, so any time a website like that uses your work with no reference to source, they're monetising your images and you get zero benefit unless someone kindly mentions you in the comments (the internet version of shouting into the wind). Secondly, sometimes it can be worse, less than zero benefit, because those images spread, picked up by other websites, and like chinese whispers erroneous details can get added. One (very popular) video used my images, and claimed that my dolls were a banned (no) children's (no) toy (no) from the 80's (no). A superficially harmless thing to claim, until you realise that, if believed, it writes me out of ownership of my own designs. You truly haven't lived until you've experienced how infuriating it is to be accused of copying your own work by someone who is copying your work. My eye twitched so hard I think it shattered teeth.
The worst moment came for me when I found someone selling copies of my work on eBay, using my own photos to do so. Imagine looking on a dating website, and seeing your own photo staring back at you, and under likes and interests it has "LOL watching adam sandler in "That's My Boy" LOL!!" and you're close to understanding the level of weirded out and appalled that caused.
The take away is, you won't realise the moment your work is good enough, interesting enough, weird enough to need a watermark. I was worried about putting people off, or coming across as self important or arrogant, and it's something that continues to bite me on the arse years later. This is from just yesterday:
So, if you're a crafter, an artist, a maker reading this, I implore you: watermark your photos. If anyone calls you up on it, tell them I made you do it. Tell them I drew on the sternest of eyebrows in permanent marker, prodded you with a finger covered in superglue and fluff, and that I barked at you until you did it. It doesn't matter if you're a hobbyist, or a professional, your work is constantly changing, and you'll never know the exact moment you'll need that watermark in place and it's certainly not something you can go back and retroactively add. There are free apps you can download that will even do it for you on your phone. No excuses. I've seen copies of my work sold on eBay using my own photos, I've seen people hijacking popular viral posts and claiming that my work is theirs, articles with hundreds of thousands of page views earning money from my work but never linking back, and I'd hate for anyone else to make the same mistakes.
Here endeth the lesson.
What would you like to see covered in the next autopsy? What's In A Name? Pricing? Going Viral?
For those interested, I've put my new shop live. You can reach it at shop.fuggler.com or via the links embedded in this site.
There is already some exciting NEW on there (stocking fillers, anyone?), but I will be adding some ready to go Fugglers today..
It was a bit taxing setting it up, which might be a little bit to do with the fact that the postage is set up by weight, and I put all the product weights in grams but somehow set the postage to be calculated in lbs, and Royal Mail price based on weight in conjunction with dimensions where x+y+z cannot be greater than N... So, while I think everything should work, I was getting terrifying flashbacks to the old Mensa tests where 90% of all Squeebles are Bloobles, but some Bloobles are Flidges, and if a small contingent of Flidges are travelling in a car going ninety miles per hour towards a tide that's receding, so how much is postage to America? If I'd have been naked in front of an audience while this was happening, it would have been the perfect anxiety dream.
All of which is a long winded way of saying that, should you buy something and the postage not work out right, I will refund you the difference while I work out the kinks. If it works out in your favour, I will suck it up unless it's fall to the ground, rocking back and forth amounts in your favour, in which case I might have to pull a sad face at you and rattle a tin.
There are some buttons on there I still don't quite get. I think they're vestiges, like a website version of an appendix. A dangly little drop down that says Brands, and things like that. I'm working on doing whatever the online version of tying an elastic band round them until they drop off is. If you see any other faults with the website, please shout out though!
What does your Fuggler do at night while you are sleeping?
One possible answer is that it cameos in music videos.
Warning: video contains mild vampire rampaging, quite a bit of fake blood, the kind of death toll responsible adults warned you would happen at parties like this, and the effect opening a beer bottle with your teeth has on Fugglers.
Click here to watch The Kenneth's new video, Cool As You.
So here's a heads up for you guys:
If you've been procrastinating or mulling over a Fuggler order for a while, this is a 7 day warning: On Monday the 9th of March I'm going to stop taking Fuggler orders for a while.
The problem with ending up in a career you never planned is trying to steer it while it's gaining momentum, like abruptly waking up after a night on the tiles and realising you're halfway down a hill in a shopping trolley. I've accidentally turned myself into a one woman sweatshop, and I need a bit of space to plot new designs and ideas, and make changes to the way I work in order to stave off bills/DVT/the complete atrophy of social skills.
I want to shift away from making the same designs over and over, and spend some time creating unique, one off pieces.
I used to be a full time writer, and I miss it. My tardy new years resolution is to carve some time out of each day for writing again.
I want to do collaborations with people that haven't yet realised how poor my attention span is, and that working with me is like a task of Hercules, if Hercules had been tasked with herding cats instead of that weird venture everyone forgets where he had to clean a really poopy stable.
I want to have evenings off, and use them to watch movies where:
People wear cloaks and look like they'd smell of bonfires and leather and beard.
There's a normal creature that's grown to abnormal size
People younger than half of my wardrobe settle grudges through the medium of hip hop dance
Okay, so that's the plan. Abridged version is a shift towards more writing, more one off designs, reclaiming time for family, and VAGUE exciting new things on the horizon but a step away from being a one-woman factory.
Mrs McG x
Just a couple days to go until the first ever Fuggler Event. You can, nay, should buy tickets for it here: http://www.makegoodfestival.com/tickets/
As part of the display, I ordered a metre tall sexy beast Fuggler cardboard cut-out. When it arrived damaged, I was sent a replacement, so now I have two of them (which is excessive in anyone's book). Therefore the first person to come up to me at the event and promise to take photos of the cut-out out in the wild gets to keep it. The idea of someone sat on the Tube with it, taking it home, appeals to me on a very basic level.
io9 covers science, science fiction, and the world of tomorrow. I don't know which of those Fugglers fall under, but I'm glad that they did.
With eerily human eyes, false teeth, and a few choice props, McGettrick creates felt toys that you might not want to watch you sleep
Teddy bears with terrifying human teeth
Pretty excited to see Fugglers featured on techno-culture website Boing Boing.