This one is for the creatives

Instagram and going to market

This one is for the small business owners or for anyone wanting to-market and social media advice… I’m no expert but I’m well up for sharing any advice that may help even just a few people. I spoke a bit about this at a recent “Gather” event with some lovely creatives, so I’m going to just briefly go through some of the essentials.


A lot of you know my creative journey and how I got to be where I am today from doing something totally different but I’ll just explain it in a nutshell for those of you that don’t (skip down to the next paragraph/main blog post if you already know!). I really believe hearing someones journey can inspire your own, it shows what kind of story we all had before we became 'creatives' and anybody can follow a dream.

When I was 18 I had NO idea this is where I’d be in life (I'm now 25 FYI). I was having a gap year and then off to study medicine at Cardiff University (so, naturally, assumed I’d have a life as a Doctor ahead of me) but I always had a creative niggle and studied and loved art at school. But at the time and come A level results day, science won. I didn’t stay long at Cardiff and knew it was wrong for me–possibly before even going- but came back home not really having a set path ahead of me either. I tried a few other routes and jobs too but in the end decided to give it all or nothing, and so “Made by Leah” was born 3 years ago. (Fun fact, I used to create cards for my family and friends and always used to write 'made by Leah' on the back of each one, so my business name was always going to be that! My parents had their garage converted for me and I booked into lots of local markets and fairs and (very naively, having no mortgage or bills or anything to lose at the time was the best way) I went for it. Full time. Crazy. Fast-forward 3 years and I’m still here, I’m still made by Leah and I have learnt a lot along the way too.

In those three years I’ve done LOADS. As well as getting engaged, married, buying a house and a dog, I’ve built my business and social media presence and feel settled in a job and industry that I absolutely adore. It’s easy to think you’re just going with the flow until you look back and realise how many people you could encourage and help by just sharing a few tips from along the way, so here goes. I’ll start with going “TO MARKET” and then I’ll give you a few instagram tips and tricks to get you cracking.


  • DON’T STRESS. Enjoy it. I LOVE the markets I do now and have narrowed them down to the ones that work best for me, so I love every single one I do.
  • There’s no market directory so, for me, it came down to finding them with word of mouth and asking other creative small businesses which had worked best for them. I now do select them each year to know which ones are really great. So ask other people and try them out!
  • Know your timings and display beforehand so you aren’t rushed or unprepared for the day! Draw it, practice it, and be prepped for it!
  • Write a to do list beforehand so you don’t miss ANYTHING on the day. Yep I’m talking water, snacks, money, bags, STOCK!
  • Keep a ‘market’ stock pile and a ‘website’ stock pile so you can keep more organised with what you’ve got available to sell. I know it can get messy having everything all in the same boat so keep your market selling as a separate thing in itself and your life will remain easy!

Enough about markets and a little about instagram. I started 2019 with around 1 thousand instagram followers. I now have almost 13 thousand. This isn’t too crazy when you look at accounts with huge followings, but with instagram being renowned for being so tough to grow nowadays I’m pleased with mine!

What works well for me on instagram for my business:

  • Building friendships/communities with other businesses and working together to promote each other’s work on your social medias. Shouting about your creative friends, getting involved with people that are just lovely. Everyone sharing posts and love for other small businesses makes a world of difference.
  • Mix up your content. Don’t sell sell sell all the time. You want people to buy your stuff but they won’t if they get bored of only ever hearing about it! Post about yourself and what you’re up to, there’s a real person behind all the perfect product photos!
  • Always be you. Don’t change for instagram or put your ‘business face’ on, be you, it makes your business unique. If you love things, post about them. If posting at 7am is convenient for you, post then. If you’re heading out to get some chips from Maccies (always guilty), then take everyone with you. People are following you for you, show them.
  • Make posts relevant to other people and not specific people or yourself. Posts people love and can relate to mean posts people share. Nothing worse than reading someone’s instagram post and having no idea what joke they’re talking about or who they’re tagging.
  • Do the odd giveaway and promotion every now and again. It won’t break the bank (well, make sure it doesn’t) and opens up so much more exposure with people tagging friends and new followers. Collab with that community/other creative I mentioned for a giveaway too, that will be amazing.
  • USE STORIES. Chat if you have the confidence to. Show your face, tell people about your day. Stories are a great way to go behind the scenes in a normal day. It might feel so boring to you but it’s so different to everyone else’s day that it’s lovely to show.

I’m sure it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to instagram but those are my key tips to get you building a successful page. Any more specific questions just let me know!

Take care as always my lovelies and thanks for reading,

Leah x


CHRISTMAS GIVE BACK BIG LIST (and we are all giving something back)       



This blog is all about shopping small at Christmas, supporting some of the gorgeous brands and businesses I have grown to love and think of as “colleagues”, (I can sit and pretend I have colleagues even though I sit in my studio with just me and Otto, right?!) and shouting out about all their lovely products to show you them in time for shopping small for Christmas. But even more than that, I want to share with you something we will be doing with all these gorgeous gifts and how honoured I am to know such wonderful people!

Below is a list of all the beautiful brands instagram handles that are part of this Christmas wish list, take a look at them! Since announcing it on my instagram @itsmadebyleah, over 40 more brands have added their name to the list of 15 I initially asked (oh my word). There’s a gift for everyone and these brands do such lovely ranges too. After the instagram handles, I’ll do a little write up for each brand and their products and hopefully you will find something you love in that list! There’s quite a lot of them but definitely give it a read, I’ll give you the vibe of their brand in each write up along with their instagram so if you’re looking for something specific, hopefully you’ll find it in these guys! I know so many of you have already shopped with everyone I’ve been sharing!

So, with that in mind let me tell you the plan! These gorgeous brands have each sent me a beautiful product or a few products that I’ve photographed on my instagram and shared. I thought long and hard about what to do with all these products once this blog had been written up. We could have done a giveaway (which would have been fab for everyone, but I knew what I actually wanted to do and all of them were on board). We know the value of shopping small and whenever anyone buys a gift from us for Christmas; they are giving us a gift too by purchasing from us!

So we wanted to give something back, and so we are. All these gifts are being gifted to families that would otherwise not have or be able to afford Christmas gifts. And honestly, I just feel blessed to be able to give something back and to have so many stand with me, offer their time and money and products and put my plan into motion.

All these beautiful people have sent me their products:

  • @thecakespa (gorgeous marshmallows, biscuits and other amazing bakey goodies)
  • @tayler_and_hugo (beautiful hand painted decorations, teepees and wall hangings)
  • @cakepreneur_laura (gorgeous baked goods in beautiful subscriptions and boxes)
  • @popandpunch (gorgeous kids decorations, toys, beautiful home wares)
  • @littlempapergoods (lovely illustrations and designs)
  • @bowbeaus (gorgeous party animals!)
  • @darwinandgray (queen of banners)
  • @bettydreamgifts (products for little ones, gorgeous pieces)
  • @oohilikethatdesign (stationery, art prints, little pads and lists)
  • @sophievalentineauthor (author, beautiful believing in yourself book!)
  • @bakefulplay (baking with little ones BEAUTIFUL baking box)
  • @orgilloriginals (leatherworks, bags, accessories, GORGEOUS)
  • @heytherestickers (stickers! Beautiful and so much fun)
  • @lauraelizabethuk (illustrations, decorations, the most stunning Christmas pieces)
  • @mermaidsanddinosaurs (gorgeous jewellery)
  • @hearts_and_twine (lovely little decorations hand made)
  • @grizzlybooks (amazing books for little ones!)
  • @oursensoryshop (lovely sensory play, play dough and other amazing pieces)
  • @janekent_studio (AMAZING stitching, positive vibes, beautiful products)
  • @panacheparparis (gorgeous hand made paper decorations and paper goods)
  • @norawright (stunning illustrations and hand painted goods, fairy kits)
  • @carla_murdoch_ceramics (pottery, gorgeous ceramics and tableware)
  • @ethel_and_co (the best candles you’ll ever buy!)
  • @zomzomclothing (the best and most beautiful sweaters for mums, aunties and Christmas!)
  • @windingthebobbinup (the happiest badges, pins and prints)
  • @withlovedesignsxo (hand stitched products, key ring, garland, re-useable face wipes)
  • @little.greymoon (stunning sterling silver jewellery)
  • @homebird_makes (lovely hand made fabric pieces)
  • @the_threaded_rose (hand made bags, pirates and mermaids!)
  • (gorgeous cards and prints, sparkles too!)
  • @buntinginabaguk (lovely gorgeous hand made bunting in a matching bag!)
  • @becandboouk (gorgeous make up bag/pouch)
  • @ronnie_roos (children’s clothing and gorgeous products)
  • @hallelula_prints (gorgeous designs as art prints. So great)
  • @theconfectionerylounge (fudge and gorgeous box of goodies!)
  • @eyeownadesign (lovely designs as prints)
  • @cakehannah (gorgeous biscuits)
  • @popsidaisickle (hand stitched loveliness for little ones, baby mobiles and other kids room decorations)
  • @geminigifts (gifts clothes and toys online shop!)
  • @houseofhopeuk (beautiful stationery, lovely designs as prints and baubles)
  • @ninawithapencil (illustrator, Christmas cards and calendars, everything lovely)
  • @littleelfin (gorgeous kids clothes, just stunning fabrics)
  • @ivyoakdesign (beautiful illustrator and designer, lovely products and Christmas pieces too)
  • @neonblushhhlingerie (beautiful scrunchies and other hand made pieces)
  • @pebble_and_sage (designs and prints as gorgeous pieces)
  • @hannahjoy_designs (wooden plaques and pieces, lovely decorations and Christmas badges and pieces)
  • @thepersonalisedcraftcompany (gorgeous products, stars, wooden pieces)
  • @littleteethersuk (beautiful and stylish teethers for little ones)
  • @katemoby (gorgeous illustrations and personalised art designs)
  • @nova_and_me (illustrations and art designs as lovely prints)
  • @mylittlesnowdropshop (beautiful decorations and products for kids such as lunch boxes and book ends etc.)
  • @doodleshandmadegifts (letters to Santa plaque, wooden signs and pieces)
  • (ethical male grooming and cosmetics, lip balm, moustache wax etc. gorgeous tins)
  • @littlebird.bear (leggings, kids clothes and accessories and re-useable face wipes/pads)
  • @sproutillustration (stunning Christmas eve box activity pack)
  • @thelittlebrownmouseco  (THE most gorgeous wooden themed decorations)
  • @gempangillustration (stunning and unique illustrations)
  • @origin.bespoke (beyond gorgeous designs as prints, workshops, bespoke pieces)
  • @littleboxofbooks (books, so many books and activities, so gorgeous!)

So, these people are fab people. I want you to support them as much as you guys support me (which is a heck of a lot, thank you all!). Put them on your Christmas list to buy, follow them on instagram, like a post or two, WHATEVER you wanna do to support small this Christmas, They have given back BIG and Christmas is such a crazy time for us all (trust me, I’m looking forward to January for a good old sleep haha!).

You can see the products they sent over to me in the highlights section of my instagram @itsmadebyleah under the headings “give back big 1, 2 and 3”

Thanks all for reading and I can’t wait to see what “shop small” Christmas gifts you all buy this year!

Leah x



Autumn/Winter plans (& blogging!)

Hello everyone!

I’ve been a bit off the radar recently when it’s come to blogging, who has time for something extra really?! But I just wanted to let you know my plans from now because I absolutely love writing for you guys and am going to make it part of my job and pop it into my to do list every couple of weeks so there’s always something new to read from me! (even if it means typing away in bed on my laptop, it’ll get done!).

I also just want to put into a quick blog the details of my website and ordering from when the website changes happen to Christmas.

So, here’s my plans…

From mid September onwards I will be doing a blog every couple of weeks (I even have them pre planned so no excuses!). Autumn winter is the busiest time for my business and I like to throw my all into the September to December- it’s a crazy time! I have a few markets that I’m attending (And by a few I mean I don’t think I’ll be going home for the whole of November) but I am SO excited to show you everything new, everything I have planned and everything for you guys I’ve been creating all year. I have even gathered lots of small businesses for an extra special Christmas list and plan too, I can’t wait to show you that. If you’ve followed me on instagram for any amount of time you’ll know I basically worked on my 2020 calendars ALL summer, I know… I can’t quite believe they are finally ready and going to be for sale soon. Along with so so many other products!

Sometime in September (date TBC) my whole website will change over from what it is currently to be an “in stock” system. This means I will list on there what I have in stock, once it’s gone it’s gone and that’s all that will be available. This means I won’t be able to get anything back in stock in time for Christmas (I don’t think), which is scary, exciting and SO unknown.

I have been ploughing everything back into my business for the last 6 months and to be honest I can’t wait to see it all come together soon!

I hope that all makes sense, I’ll release the date for my full winter launch very soon!

Below I’ll list where I’m going to be and my plans for September-December. Thanks, as always, for reading this little blog and I can’t wait to spend my autumn and winter with all you guys!

  • Out of office 23rd August until 3rd December
  • Back to pack up and send orders on 4th 5th and 6th September
  • Out of office 7th-14th September
  • 14th September, BACK AND READY TO GO
  • 22nd September, mama meet and market (The custard factory, Digbeth)
  • 9th and 10th November- Fabulous places Christmas market (roundhouse Derby)
  • 17th November- Walled garden at Beeston with fabulous places
  • 24th November- Mama meet and market at Christmas at Derby university
  • 5th December- Deck the halls Shopping event. Haarlem mill, Derby
  • 14th December- Open studio at my studio to finish off the season!
  • 18th December- last day in the studio for Christmas orders to be placed

Now you know where I’m at and what my plans are, I hope to see you all at one of my events. But if not, say hi on instagram and I’ll be there behind the scenes too.

Wish me luck for September and October, I think I’ll have a bit of packing to do!!

Have a fabulous week.

Leah x



Do your own illustrations

ILLUSTRATING for yourself


Illustration (in my opinion) is the MOST fun form of art. It’s a way of expressing creativity and fun in a quirky and loose style, it doesn’t have to be too serious (or even real at all!). I’m not saying that everyone who is an illustrator has quirky and loose styles (as like everything it isn’t a one size fits all!), but my way of working is quick, colourful and happy and I want to share with you loads of ways of being able to illustrate for yourself too! I hope you can get inspired to do some DIY and learn a bit more. Use whatever you like as a canvas. A napkin, a blackboard, ANYTHING! Get yourself into the groove.


I’m mostly self-taught, so take everything I say with a pinch of salt, I’m no professional! But I did Art A-level and adored it. To be honest, my ‘art studies’ were more ‘fine art’ than ‘illustration’ but I soon figured my style once I decided to launch made by Leah, and these are the rules I stick by…

  • Don’t be precious. I don’t believe in rubbers or doing it in pencil first or starting again. If you go wrong then kinda dance over it and make a squiggle where it was a problem! (By the amount of squiggles in my work can you even guess how many times I go wrong each time I put pen to paper!?). Honestly though, once you have an idea, start squiggling. You might be a sketch book person or a straight pen to paper person, either way I urge you to just stop thinking of the mistakes and start throwing yourself in pen first!
  • Don’t be afraid of being too simple or too much. Too simple is never a thing, a simple wording or bit of greenery is top notch in most peoples books so if you fancy just doing a bit of writing or drawing something small, don’t think of it as being any less! Go on, get those paints out and paint a leaf. The same can be said about being ‘too much’, no! Too much doesn’t exist and if you want bows on glitter on swans with crowns with a pink lake and candy floss mountains then DO IT. Honestly, as someone who does a real mix of simple and busy, do whatever floats your boat.
  • Find your style. Just because you love the style of someone you have seen illustrating doesn’t mean it’s the one for you. It takes practice to find what naturally comes to you so enjoy the process and take some time to decide what you do best! I used oil and acrylic paint for years until one day I tried watercolour and BAM I was sold, knew it was the thing for me. I would like to go back and try some other techniques one day but for now I’m keeping busy with what I do best!
  • Get yourself a few little bits like paints and pencils so you can do what you wanna do! I’ll write a shopping list for starting some illustrating below, on a budget…
  • Illustrate subjects that MAKE YOU HAPPY. I can’t stress this enough. If you don’t love it, it won’t come naturally to you and it won’t be as good as if you went for a subject you absolutely love!


I started off making cards for friends and family, perhaps start with something like this first and give your little creations to the people you love!

To create your own illustrations, paintings or drawings, I would recommend buying or making sure you have the following:

  • A nice pencil (no not for drawing something out first, for adding lines to an illustration!). I would suggest going into a store that has a lot of choice and deciding whether you like it soft or hard and go with the one that feels right when you test it out. (I use black wing but these are slightly pricey)
  • A sharpie or fine liner or biro. Something to scribble those lines and that you like the feel of on the paper!
  • A mini travel watercolour palette. Something with just a few basic colours for you to be able to mix and create all sorts. Watercolours can be expensive and I would suggest when starting out to literally just buy a cheap on the go style pack! I can recommend the Windsor and newton travel set; it’s fairly cheap and has good colours.
  • A sketchbook or paper, for the appropriate media! If you want to try watercolour, get watercolour paper; get oil paper for oil paint or normal paper if you just want to use pencil. Get the right paper and it will create the right effect! Perhaps start with a little sketchbook (places like WHSmith’s do good art books, or Hobby craft!)


I think you’re all set!

I can’t wait to see some of your illustrations, remember EVERYONE can create something beautiful. Send me some photos of your pieces if you have a go!

Take care lovelies and have a lovely week.

Leah x


Simple ways to be kind to yourself




I have recently been making a few changes within made by Leah (mainly additions, nothing has really been swapped out!) and have tried to embrace a positive and encouraging aspect to my business and instagram, have you noticed?!

This change was initially sparked in me because I know how negative social media can be to people and how tough life can be, and wanted to brighten up peoples days with my little squares. It’s so easy to doodle a quick message that can easily speak to so many people, and even if those doodles only touched one person, that’s enough for me!

Being kind to yourself or ‘self care’ have become quite glam and trendy/talked-about topics this year and I for one am all for it if it’s genuine. Looking after yourself is SO important. It doesn’t have to be a week abroad or luxury spa breaks, just simple things can help too. I find switching off and taking care of myself quite difficult sometimes. I’m not a stressed person and am very blessed to have good health, but running a business can for sure knock it out of you. As can any job. As can not having a job. As can being a teenager, adult… You get the jist; life can be stressful for everyone and anyone.

How on earth is it possible to wake up early, pay bills, do the food shopping, keep the car filled with petrol, work full time, drink enough water, cook healthy meals, go to the gym, wash, pay the mortgage, sort that bank appointment, have your hair cut AND keep the dog alive?! LIFE. But we are all amazing at keeping going. And whether we struggle or we don’t, we are all doing a fabulous job.


I’ve put together a few simple things that are just so normal but 100% essential in keeping your head above water and being kind to your body and mind. They are things you can do every day and seem SO easy, but in reality how often do you mindfully do them? I know I can hold my hands up and say I’m much better at doing the simple things to take care of myself when I see a list actually in front of me and remind myself it’s important. Here goes:


I reckon everyone knows how much sleep they should be getting. Burning your candle at both ends won’t help anything! Sleep if you need to, wake up early if you know that helps how you feel all day. Do what makes you work!


Have a long hot bubble bath, have a quick cold shower, wash using baby wipes, do anything to make you feel fresh to face another day!


Don’t stay cooped up all day and night. Go for a quick walk at lunch time or walk somewhere instead of driving. Even just make sure you move your feet if you’re stuck at a desk all day! Moving and getting some fresh air will really help clear your head.


Plants can’t flourish and grow without enough food and water and neither can we. When I’m drinking enough and eating well my whole body thanks me, including my brain, and I’m much more productive!


Every. Single. Day. Do something that makes YOU happy! I’m not even going to do a list because millions of things make people happy. Free things, enjoying nature or watching your favourite series. It doesn’t matter what makes your heart happy, just let things make it happy!


I am RUBBISH at this one. I say no phone time after a certain time but I’ll check instagram in bed, first thing in the morning, have dreams about it (you know the drill). Having a break from social media even just for an hour while you cook and eat your dinner can do those eyes and that brain a world of good!


Text your friend, chat to your parents. Know your people and who builds you up and let them do that whenever you can! Trust me, your best friend isn’t going to wish you hadn’t dropped her that text. A whole world of people care about you, let them!


One final thing, remember to appreciate the little things.

Appreciate the big things too (like the holidays and spa breaks), but remember even the tiny daily details can give you a happy mindset.

Take care lovelies.

Leah x


(three positive things template to use as you wish, and something I do every single day and add to my instagram stories!)



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