The Maker Series Interview
The Maker Series - "A curated collection of Northern Devon’s Artisan Makers, Movers and Shapers. This platform aims to promote their incredible skills whilst demystifying rural, creative self-employment."
Question 1 - Why did you start a creative business?
I spent my whole working life, (and much of it before), struggling with my mental health; I had to leave every job I've had due to not being able to cope. It left me feeling like there was something wrong with me, and wondering if I'd ever be able to lead a 'normal' life.
When I moved to North Devon, my friend approached me to start a stall at the South Molton Pannier Market, I agreed and began looking for inspiration for what I could create and sell. I stumbled across a polymer clay video on YouTube, and was instantly enchanted.
I began to absorb as many tutorials as I could, and started to develop my skills. It was during this time that I realised I am autistic, and with that realisation my whole life suddenly made sense. No longer did I see myself as a person who just couldn't get along in life, I was a neurodivergent woman, making her way in a world not designed for my needs.
I began to make changes in my life; I embraced my need to stim, allowed myself recovery time after social events, and simply removed the phrase, 'supposed to' from my vocabulary, and started saying no to things.
My mental health had never been better, and since polymer clay had become my main special interest, (SI), I was able to hyperfocus for hours on end, which allowed me to quickly up-level my skills.
For me, trying to work to somebody else's rules, in a 'normal' job was just too hard. Having the freedom to work for myself and use my creativity to earn a living was ideal. I have never been happier.
In short, starting a creative business saved my life, and gave me purpose.
Question 2 - What main challenges do you face whilst growing your creative business?
A lot of the barriers I have faced tend to be around a lack of knowledge. You assume, naively, when you first start that all you need is to create the products and offer them for sale, and the rest will follow. But in reality this isn't the case, there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the background, and the learning-curve can be quite steep
I have had to learn how to build a website, write copy, create social media posts, complete my business accounts and tax self-assessments, build display stands, create new product lines, up-level my product photography to a more professional level, create beautiful yet environmentally friendly packaging, and so much more.
When you're a small business you have many hats to wear, and I still have so much more to learn.
Question 3 - How do you make a living from your creative business?
In all honesty, it's tough, especially now, after all the turmoil of the last few years. Currently there's very little predictability, and you have the sensation of 'clinging on by your fingernails'.
I currently sell regularly at the South Molton Pannier Market on a Thursday, and am looking to expand to a Saturday. I'm also booking into various pop-up markets and events, and trying out other local markets.
I also have my own Shopify website, which gives me the opportunity to get my products in front of a wider audience.
I think the key is to keep your passion and joy for your art, and keep adapting to the changing conditions.
Question 4 - Do you have any advice for other creatives?
Follow your passions and don't let failures dissuade you from carrying on, learn from them and keep moving forwards. Surround yourself with like-minded creatives, who will keep you motivated and hold you accountable. Don't be afraid to ask for help and advice when you need it, and always remember that you are capable of anything.