Skill Highlight: Arts & Crafts

Editor’s note: This is a series highlighting just some of the fascinating skills on SkillPages. Genevieve Blignaut is a craftswoman using SkillPages to showcase her portfolio of products and loves being part of an on-line community.  We caught up with Genevieve to find out more about her skill,  her experience of starting her own business and her advice for people wanting to make crafts full-time.

Arts & Crafts

Hi Genevieve, how and when did you start making your crafts? 

In a nutshell – I have a passion for jewellery making and I illustrate for fun! I started expanding my techniques in Illustration while studying Visual Communication. While working with paper it helped me to realise that I could do more with the skills that I had already acquired.  I saw this as an opportunity with my sister to start our own little business and the crafts grew more and more from then on.

Is this your full job or more of a hobby? 

This is my full-time job combined with freelance graphic design and photography.  I also bake specialized cupcakes, but crafting always comes first.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to make crafts full-time? 

I think you should make sure that you have your own working space that will inspire creativity and make you happy.  Making crafts does take time, so if you have a full-time job maybe get someone to craft with you as this will motivate you to do more.  It may seem hard at first, but keep your spirits up and enjoy the creation process.  Be willing to explore new fields and constantly challenge yourself with new ideas and projects. Also it’s extremely important to build a network of people who can help you on your professional path so be afraid of nothing and no one!

How has your skill developed over the years? 

My love for art began with my drama and dance days.  I always thought that performance would be my creative expression.  After ending my drama studies I had a difficult time trying to figure out the next step.  I had a picture in my mind of sitting in a studio and illustrating children’s books and for the first time ever I dared to create with my hands.  So my skills basically developed from nothing to design, to painting and drawing, to paper art and animation and finally crafting with different mediums.

Who has been the most influential to your skill? 

Kate Slater and my sister Veronique inspired me with their daring approach to projects.  My Illustration lecturer also played a crucial part, always pushing me to explore and expand every possible medium and every possible object or artwork.

What has been your most popular item you have made to date? 

Definitely finger puppets! I think there is such an authentic and romantic aspect to telling stories while animating characters – how can you not get a warm and fuzzy feeling inside when you reminisce over memories like that?

Finger Puppet

What is your favourite part in the process of designing and making crafts? 

My favourite part is admiring the final product.  It still amazes me that out of nothing something that will last for generations had been made.  Thinking of all the stories that every piece will come to know makes the process and the product mysterious and magical to me.

What is your best advice on getting your business noticed online? 

Don’t be afraid to get your portfolio out there, create a blog or become a part of any network, more than one network is ideal.  You should also try to post new ideas, inspirations and products frequently as you want to keep your followers excited and on their toes!

Apart from being a talented craftswoman, what new skills would you like to learn? 
I would love to learn fire dancing, be able to express through music and do a yoga teachers course.

– Genevieve Blignaut, Arts & Crafts 

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Have you a fascinating or uncommon skill with an extraordinary story that needs to be told? Email us!

Presenting at Amazon’s Lean Cloud Event

SkillPages Team

I was recently invited by Amazon to present at their Lean Cloud Event in London, to share some insights and experiences around our engineering journey so far.  Contributing back to the community is something the whole engineering team here is passionate about so we were delighted to be part of the event.

The whole event was very enjoyable and informative.  I was blown away by the amount of energy that was evident.  It was inspiring to chat to so many people who are building really exciting start-ups and who were interested in our technology, methodologies and experiences.

If you’re curious about our AWS experience you can view the slides on SlideShare.  Based on some great follow up questions, I figured I’d take this opportunity to expand upon some aspects of our business that folks found interesting.

The Technology behind SkillPages

We get asked quite often about the technology behind SkillPages – we are cloud based platform, based on AWS, and we run a variety of best of breed software on top of this. Essentially, we prefer to focus on building a really great platform that our members find useful – the infrastructure we leave to those that do it best.  We like to consider ourselves technology agnostic and prefer to use the best technology to solve the problem.  Our architecture is such that any of these elements can be easily replaced as technology advances and better solutions are found.

At the moment we are doing a lot of work with provisioned IOPS and High IOPS SSD backed instances, which is showing great promise on our Cassandra clusters.  Interestingly enough, Cassandra is not our sole noSQL element; we are also leveraging DynamoDB to handle elements such as atomic counters.  The key point is that AWS is a very cost effective platform if properly managed and there are a whole load of tools available to help with this, for example Bill Tagging.

Measure Everything

At SkillPages we are relentless about leveraging our data to improve how we serve our members.  Our motto is ‘measure everything’ – anything else is just opinion.  We have a fantastic infrastructure in place right now, using EMR to crunch a vast amount of data and onward it to our BI toolsets for analysis and visualization.  Although it looks simple enough on a slide, it did take a few iterations to get this just right!

In the presentation I reference ‘Boyd’s Law of Iteration’.  For those not familiar with the history, I recommend reading a bit more behind Boyd’s theory – it’s a fascinating story based around two military aircrafts.  Boyd gives rise to the principle ‘Speed of iteration always beats quality of iteration’.  Some may consider this controversial, but a better way to consider this when growing your business is ‘Where you are today does not matter so much, compared to where you are going tomorrow’.  Based on this we have found that iterating fast and measuring the data is something that works really well for us.

In terms of iterating, we always ensure to make provisions for paying down technical debt accrued along the way.  We, along with every other company (including yours!), incur technical debt – it is inevitable.  Anybody that says otherwise is either in denial (!) or not innovating fast enough.

Our Greatest Asset

There were a few questions around our team, specifically What size is the team? Our engineering team is 19 strong – a very talented bunch of people.  Everybody codes, tests and deploys.  This led into some really interesting questions around How we hire? and Where do we find people with AWS experience?  In truth, we don’t necessarily, the main criteria is that we hire smart people who know how to solve problems and get things done.  For us, our team is our greatest asset.

I hope you found this useful, if you have any specific questions don’t hesitate to get in contact.

Mike McCarthy, SkillPages CTO

Skill Highlight: Environmental Researcher

Editor’s note: This is a series highlighting just some of the fascinating skills on SkillPages. Cassidy Rankine is an environmental researcher using SkillPages to connect with scientists around the globe to help in his research.  We chatted with Cassidy to find out more about his skill, overturning Brazilian legislation and his advice for getting noticed on-line.

Cassidy Rankine - Environmental Researcher

Hi Cassidy, tell us a bit about yourself.

Although I’m based out of the University of Alberta in Canada, I work in Central and South America pioneering a new field in environmental monitoring.  We are using advanced sensor networks in order to better understand how the climate is changing tropical ecosystems in impoverished regions of Mesoamerica.

How and when did you get interested in environmental research?

Even from an early age I was curious about everything and how it worked, so it was a natural progression to take interest in grade school science classes.  Going into actual scientific research happened towards the end of my university biology degree after I spent a summer at a marine science center and found my love for biological field work.  So I stuck with it into a graduate degree and now I travel all over for amazing field work opportunities in the tropics!

Is this your full job or more of a hobby?

Environmental research is my full-time job and my passion, but it is not a far stretch from my hobbies like skateboarding, snowboarding, camping and travel which are outdoors anyway.

How has SkillPages helped in your work?

I have used SkillPages to connect with some remote sensing scientists, a relatively small but quickly growing global community.  These connections allowed me to address a problem I otherwise could not have solved on my own.  Our goal is to make environmental data more accessible to the public and to researchers across vast distances and people need to utilize social networking technology more and more to bridge these distances.

What is your favourite part of the research?

The places I get to travel to, the people I work with and the positive outcomes of a successful project.  I spend 3-4 months of each year overseas working with researchers in Panama, Costa Rica, Brazil and Australia for field work, and even more places for scientific conferences. Having colleagues and co-workers who are also passionate about what they do makes everything you accomplish more rewarding as a team and never makes for a boring work week. Last year we overturned Brazilian legislation to cut down 16,000 ha of tropical dry forest using our team’s data.  It’s outcomes like this that make all the work we do worth it.

Cassidy Rankine - Environmental Researcher

What advice would you give to someone considering a similar path?

Take GIS courses – it’s by far the most useful skill to have in environmental research, either with an institution or on your own, there are great tutorials now for GIS software, but nothing beats the mentor ship of someone who has been doing this for years.  If you are in an undergraduate degree, then go for any field school courses or chances you can get, it’s so great to apply your textbook knowledge to the real world.  If not in university then get engaged with researchers.  Graduate students are always looking for assistance for field excursions and data collection, volunteer to get a good start and see if you like it.

Any tips on getting yourself and your research noticed on-line?

Videos of your work – very short clips to engage people in your research have been shown to be very effective.  Start a blog – anything to get your work out there is great.  We have an onslaught of pseudo-science in the media these days, misinformation is rampant and very few scientists use social media effectively.  Get networking, use tools such as SkillPages to connect with others who already have the on-line followers to promote your work.  If it’s outstanding research it will speak for itself, but not until someone notices it.

– Cassidy Rankine, Environmental Researcher

Send us Your Story

Have you a fascinating or uncommon skill with an extraordinary story that needs to be told? Email us!

Video Producers Of The Highest Calibre

Editor’s note: This is part of a series highlighting member stories on SkillPages.  Rob used SkillPages to connect with music producers interested in his song.

Rob Moulder

Revival of a Song

Working as a therapist and life coach is my full time job but I also create a little dance music in my spare time.  A while back I created a song which I sent to a local radio show.  Their staff called me 2 weeks later, asking if I would like to be interviewed and have my music played, which I accepted.  However, since then the song was doing nothing but collecting dust.  I thought I’d try posting an opportunity on SkillPages to see if anyone would like to create a music video for it, thinking to myself I would rather have 50% of something than 100% of nothing.

I created the opportunity in the morning whilst eating my breakfast and then went into town and forgot about it.  5 hours later I returned home to discover I had 17 emails.  I soon realised that all of the emails were from music video producers competing to work with me.

High Calibre of Applicants

A quick overview of the choice of applicants – one had produced a recent award winning TV commercial for Mercedes Benz, several had their own music studios with years of experience and one even produced a music video for Mel C!  I’ve been spending some time viewing their work and have decided who to work with.  Now comes the exciting part of getting started.

From my personal experience, it would be difficult for me to find one reason not to recommend SkillPages!  I’m excited that I’ve discovered a site that works so well.  And the best thing is that these new contacts I gained were all for free!

Rob Moulder, Therapist & Songwriter

Top Opportunities This Week – US

Editor’s note: Every day over 100,000 skilled people are presented with new opportunities on SkillPages. This post highlights some of the top opportunities recently added in the US.

Hairstylist Wanted

Hairstylist – San Francisco, CA

Hairstylists are needed for un upcoming fashion event that will take place at the Faitmont Hotel in San Francisco, on October 9th.  This is a great opportunity to expose your skills – contact Yekaroma today for all the details.

Photographer – Overland Park, KS

Michelle needs some family photos done, but with a twist.  Something along the lines of an old fashion or western costumes themed photo shoot.  If you like to have fun with your photography contact Michelle now with your portfolio.

Pattern-maker – Orlando FL

We love the idea of bringing two passions together and this is the perfect example for a fashion designing, scuba diving fanatic!  Sergio is looking for a senior pattern-maker to work on the development of new scuba diving products.  Experience in a manufacturing environment is required and an interest in scuba diving is a plus.  If this is your dream job – apply today!

Technical Lead – Santa Clara, CA

Corinne has an exciting opportunity for a technical lead with an interest in fashion.  Her vision is to bring personal styling services to anyone, anywhere.  Collaborative attitude with an entrepreneurial spirit is essential for this start-up environment.  Apply now to show your interest.

Fusion Drummer – Apopka, FL

Groovesum is a three-piece fusion jazz band brought together by Daniel Merchant.  He lives for music and wants someone equally passionate to join the band as their drummer.   Apply now to secure an audition.

Search all opportunities on SkillPages to find one that matches your skills!

Skill Highlight: Graphic Artist

Here at SkillPages, we believe that the story behind the piece of art is often just as fascinating as the piece itself.  Our skill highlights is a series dedicated to showcasing the stories behind our member’s extraordinary skills. We caught up with Kerry Robinson to see where her inspiration came from to create her ‘Eye People’ and how her skill has developed over the years.

Hi Kerry, how and when did you start graphic art?
I’ve always loved drawing and painting as a little girl, and somewhere along the way, illustrating took over. To this day, I love to people-watch in the streets so I take my camera with me everywhere and just take pictures that inspire me. This helps me when I sit down to draw and try to capture the moments I observed.

Is this your full-time job or more of a hobby?
For now it’s just a hobby but I’m currently trying to spread my work and projects across my online portfolios to help me get seen and noticed.

What advice would you give to someone considering a similar path?
I think for anyone starting out they will need to keep an open mind and gain computer software skills such as Photoshop and Illustrator. Another piece of advice would be to write all of your starting idea’s on a spider gram and if you get stuck on an idea or image you can just refer back to this. It hasn’t let me down yet!

You started at a young age, where did your inspiration come from for your designs?
My inspiration comes from Nanami Cowdroy and Tim Burton.  Nanami Cowdroy inspired me for my final college project which was based on tattoos as I love her style of work.  She uses black ink and pen and that’s how I became very fond of the biro as a technique.  I began to mimic her style until I became more confident in my drawings.  Another inspirational figure for me has been Tim Burton as he gave me the confidence to experiment with my artwork and as result I created my ‘Eye People’ that have been successful and very popular.

How do you get out of your creative ruts?
When I get stuck I tend to leave the idea for a while and come back to it later.  When I get back to that idea my thoughts on it will have changed and I’ll have other directions to take it. Other ways I try to come unstuck is by doing a spider gram of different ideas.  If I get stuck on an idea I can just look back to my spider gram. I also look at other artists to help me get started on a project.

Is most of your business generated online or is it more word of mouth?
My business is mostly online. The best aspect of being online is that it has allowed me to present and showcase my work to a global market.  I really enjoy adding images of my work and introducing them to the world.  It’s like, hey, I DID THIS. It’s me!

Apart from designing, what new skills would you like to learn?
I would love to become more confident with programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.  Someday I would also love to work on new techniques such as graffiti and stencils.

Thanks Kerry for sharing your story!

Graphic artists from around the world 

For a sample of more graphic artists on SkillPages click the links to view their great portfolios:
Rosanna Gonzalez from Philippines is a freelance graphic artist for over five years and specialises in t-shirt designs, murals and posters.  Lukasz Owsieniecki from England recreates images from different photos and logos and also has experience in photo manipulation.  Leaza Tobias from South Africa has been involved in graphic art for over twenty years and has a huge amount of experience in all aspects of printing including silkscreen, boxes, t-shirts and adverts.

Unlocking The Door To Highly Talented Musicians

Editor’s note: This is part of a series highlighting member stories on SkillPages.  Paolo is a music producer using SkillPages to find an array of talented musicians.

An Essential Resource

A composer friend of mine told me that SkillPages was an essential website for me and I have to say I agree with him.  I’ve been a member only a few weeks and I have already been contacted by a lot of people!

I’m a music producer and a professional DJ working in the music industry for over 20 years.  In that time I have created a recording studio at home where I produce my own material under the label Discomilk.  I now have 4 albums produced and my next project is a soulful, funk album. The project features many different instruments and production techniques, which meant I was on the look out for a variety of new people to collaborate with.

A Great Response

I was looking for specific musicians, singers and re-mixers so I posted an opportunity on SkillPages detailing the type of skills I needed.  This meant that I didn’t even have to search, they notified people with skills suitable to what I needed.  The response was great – I could hardly find the time to answer all the replies I got!  There really is a large number of highly skilled people waiting to be engaged.  I am already in the process of negotiating agreements with some great musicians that I found on SkillPages.

As well as producing the album I have other ongoing productions so it’s great to have many valuable collaborators to constantly refer to for my professional requirements.  And it isn’t just good for finding musicians – the next step is to connect with a music video director, a digital animator and a graphic designer for LP and CD covers.  SkillPages is just the right place to find all the professionals I need.

Paolo Guglielmino, DJ & Music Producer

Top Opportunities This Week – UK

Editor’s note: Every day over 100,000 skilled people are presented with new opportunities on SkillPages. This post highlights some of the top opportunities recently added in the UK.

Photographer – London

Samantha is in search of a photographer that can help her produce extremely creative and inspirational works of art.  You need to have access to a studio or a range of good locations and be willing to put in the time for storyline photography.  Contact Samantha today to chat more about this interesting opportunity.

Dressmaker – Huddersfield

Are you a whiz with a sewing machine?  Emma needs 4 bridesmaid dresses and she’s having trouble finding exactly what she wants in the shops.  So now she’s looking into getting them made.  Contact Emma today to see exactly what she’s looking for.

Web Developer – London

Izzy needs someone to build and integrate a web application of a virtual clothing store to a WordPress website.  If this sounds like your area of expertise apply now with a quote.

Cake Decorator – Birmingham

This sounds like a dream job – making and decorating cakes!  Sid is looking for an experienced and enthusiastic cake decorator for his busy patisserie in Birmingham.  You will be baking and decorating cakes to a high standard but also working with the team creating new and exciting cakes.  Apply now to grab this sweet opportunity.

Ukulele Teacher – London

Jennifer is looking for someone to teach people how to play the ukulele!  Preferably you’ll be accessible to central, north and east London.  Contact Jennifer now to show your interest.

Search all opportunities on SkillPages to find one that matches your skills!

Skill Highlight: Event Planner

Every day on SkillPages more and more people are adding their skills.  As SkillPages caters for such a wide variety of skills each member has a unique story and that’s why we love hearing their stories.

We recently came across Sabrina Low’s portfolio on SkillPages and caught up with her to see how she has transformed and developed her passion into a successful event business.

Tell us a bit about yourself? 
I currently own two companies, one being a property development company and the other an events company.  I have been an event planner for over 11 years now and I quickly found a passion for creating an event and organizing to the very last detail. Event planning is not only my full-time job but also my passion. I thoroughly enjoy making my clients vision come to life!

How has your skill developed over the years? 
Over the years my skill has developed as my confidence grows.  I am a very creative person, a very driven person and I take great pleasure in learning from my suppliers and fellow event planners alike.  The beauty of being in this industry is that I’m constantly learning as new things are being developed all the time.

Where does your inspiration come from? 
My inspiration comes from my friends, family, my children, fashion, culture, fabric, television, movies, and iconic people like Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and Humphrey Bogart.  My favourite theme for an event has to be vintage as I’m heavily inspired by the likes of Chanel and the 1920’s.  I take inspiration from everything and everyone and always have my camera and diary with me as inspiration hits you when you least expect it!

Who has been most influential in your skill? 
I would say that I have been the most influential in my skill as I am the person who decides to take that leap of faith and try something new and fresh or even revive a classic.

Is most of your business generated online or is it more word of mouth?
For my business it’s a little bit of both right now.  But I would have to say that both my website and my online portfolio have really helped me to showcase my work and skills both to suppliers and potential clients.  It’s a fast and easy way to get yourself out there and get noticed.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in event planning?
Be calm and be brave.  It’s a tough industry to get into but once you start it’s a rollercoaster. One thing that you should always remember is to have fun and listen to your clients. It’s important to keep in mind that all events are not about you but about what you can do for your client and how you capture their vision.  How you represent your client in an event is very important.

Apart from event planning, what new skills would you like to learn?
I would love to learn to ride a bike (hands over eyes). Yes, you heard me, I cannot ride a bike! I’d love to skydive, take scuba diving lessons and do an advanced driving course with Mercedes. 🙂

Thanks Sabrina for sharing your story!

Event planners from around the world

For a sample of more event planners on SkillPages click the links to view their great portfolios:
Romsha Singh from Mumbai is richly experienced in event production and has a very strong resource network.  Nicolaas Bosman from Rustenburg specialises in event planning for weddings, private functions and Christmas parties.  Lauren Cameron from Massachusetts has been an event planner for over six years and has experience in hosting workshops, night club events and conferences.  Lallit Nayyar from Shimla Colony has managed both private and corporate events from weddings, theme parties to client coordinating.

Send us your story

Have you a fascinating or uncommon skill with an extraordinary story that needs to be told? Email us!


70% Of People Will Hire Someone With A Portfolio

We’re always looking for ways to make it easier for people to get found for their skills.  We recently conducted a survey to discover what our members thought was most important when selecting someone to work with on SkillPages.

Key Finding

For 70% of respondents a portfolio was the most important thing on a member’s profile.

It’s very clear from this result that showcasing your skills is the most important thing you can do to get yourself noticed and in return get contacted for new work opportunities.  You can easily build up your portfolio by uploading images, files and videos for potential customers to browse. If you are confident in your work, then showcasing it is the next natural step.  You don’t need to be a professional photographer or videographer, let your work speak for itself!  Work examples not only allow you to stand out from your competition but also tell people why they should choose you for their next opportunity.

The big take away from this is that members with work examples are more likely to get hired. So don’t waste any time in making sure your portfolio is up to date. To give you some inspiration have a look at some popular portfolios:

  • Kerry Robinson a graphic designer from England updates her portfolio with her designed merchandise such as t-shirts, notebooks, key rings, mugs and bags.
  • Kelly Vanfossen a crocheter from USA adds work examples such as her hand made Angry Birds, shawls and other women’s wear.
  • Sunny Wieler a stonemason from Ireland illustrates his progression in his stone projects, uploads photos and videos of his work examples and snippets of publications of is featured work.
  • Sam McFarlane a free runner from Scotland frequently adds videos of his skills in action (I wouldn’t try this at home!).  He also uploads different photos of his performances in events/ festivals and even when he features in music videos.

We are also going to take this insight on-board for our upcoming site redesign, with an overhaul to portfolios which will help to bring your work examples to the forefront.  Stay tuned for more updates on that in the coming weeks!

Other Findings

  • 52% feel that recommendations were very important when considering to work with someone.
  • 49% of respondents wanted to see a profile picture before choosing to work with someone new.

Thanks to all those who have given their feedback.  If you have any questions or feedback to add please let us know in the comments or email us!

The survey polled more than 300 members.