5 years Freelance; a recap and lessons learned

I was making a presentation recently for a talk at UAL for their Careers and Employability department, the topic was; ‘Buy me! Turn your creativity into sellable products’. I decided to present a timeline of how my products, website and photography have evolved and it was such an interesting exercise! Then this week I realised it’s been 5 years since I left my full time job. It’s hard to pin point when I started making my own products as I’ve always enjoyed a bit of crafting but I know that 9 months later; the following Christmas I did my first market selling note books that I’d hand bound in my own fabric. But I’d say that I launched the product side of my business the following May 2015 when I exhibited at the trade show; Pulse on UAL’s group stand. I did the fair hoping to get new clients, but I also started to understand the world of products and wholesale and that I could be a part of that through applying my designs to products. 

First collections launched at Pulse May 2015

First collections launched at Pulse May 2015

Website evolution Left top and bottom were Big cartel stores linked to my website and on the left you can see my current shop from 2018, The most important thing that has changed is my ability to take and style photos!

Website evolution Left top and bottom were Big cartel stores linked to my website and on the left you can see my current shop from 2018, The most important thing that has changed is my ability to take and style photos!

It’s worth noting that making products has always been the ‘side hustle’ to my main income. When I first left my full time job in 2014 (I was one of two textile designers at Oasis Fashions and responsible for half the collection) it was to become a freelance print designer and continue on with what I’d been doing the previous six years. My main clients were high street fashion and I quickly began to feel frustrated, as I’d left to pursue more creative projects, but I was doing the same thing. So I had to start creating the work that I wanted to see in my portfolio, without a client, solely for myself and with the intention to sell! 

2017: expanded range experimenting with new product types

2017: expanded range experimenting with new product types

Last year I worked hard on my product range, styling and photography adding colour and fun to my website

Last year I worked hard on my product range, styling and photography adding colour and fun to my website

That’s where the products began, I needed to show people my ideas and what I can do in the hopes that eventually I would simply be commissioned for my designs and no longer need to make the products. It’s funny because at some point that started happening, PHEW! (Breathe big sigh of relief) But I still carried on designing and making the products, It has became a core pillar of my practice influencing my commissioned work and feeding me creatively, as well as challenging me technically. 

2018: Big variety of products maybe it’s time to simplify?

2018: Big variety of products maybe it’s time to simplify?

I’m now looking to wind down and simplify areas of my product range so that I can focus on commissioned work but I know that creating my own products and designs will always feed and improve my practice as a whole. Big thanks to the Careers and employability team at UAL for supporting me initially in exhibiting at Pulse and for inviting me to present and reflect on this! 

Are you on a product making journey? Do you want to hear more about this? If you have a questions comment below and I’ll get back to you! :D Jacqueline

Markets have been an important way to exhibit my work here I am at The London Illustration Fair Dec 2018

Markets have been an important way to exhibit my work here I am at The London Illustration Fair Dec 2018

Cotswolds Break!

You’d think a trip to the Cotswolds in February would be in invitation for snow but the UK is having an alarming (global warming) heatwave this Feb so we actually had lovely weather! We decided to go as we’ve never been, we love a road trip and to celebrate our 12 year anniversary!

A scenic drive back to London revealed this beauty in Dorchester upon Thames!

A scenic drive back to London revealed this beauty in Dorchester upon Thames!

So the Cotswolds totally lived up to it’s ‘chocolate box’ reputation with each village cuter than the last! We stayed in South Cerney which seemed to be a perfect example of an English village complete with village hall and cute river! Our expeditions began with Burford which is a picturesque single high st on a hill filled with shops to delight tourists including a brush shop! Lynwood & Co was a delight with delicious coffee and foodie snacks!

Photographs of architectural and typographic things that caught my eye in the cotswolds!

Photographs of architectural and typographic things that caught my eye in the cotswolds!

Next we trundled over to Dyrham Park as we wanted to catch a stately home while we were there; It was interesting for me, as to see the house you have to take a tour. Which I would normally avoid but it was super informative and felt like catching a glimpse into past lives of the super rich! The grounds also hold hundreds of deer that you can see trotting about in the distance!

A Rummage through Oxfam Bookshops almost always pays off!

A Rummage through Oxfam Bookshops almost always pays off!

On our last full day we were determined to look around some antique shops so headed to Stow-on-the-Wold unfortunately like our experiences elsewhere in the Cotswolds Antique shops are more akin to museums and bare hefty price tags! But on the bright side that makes them all the more interesting to look around and there were a few amazing ones in Stow-on-the-Wold Including Baggott Antiques Luckily on our way back to London we passed through Wallingford where there is an Oxfam bookshop and I found this awesome Natural History book for a bargain price of £9 (Books are my weakness!) We also ate at The Old Post Office which was delicious!

Antique shops in the Cotswolds are more akin to Museums!

Antique shops in the Cotswolds are more akin to Museums!

Here is my sketchbook spread documenting our time there; mainly my favourite buildings and antiques! All the Staffordshire Ceramics were definitely the most inspiring thing as well as the little architectural details like lions and gargoyles plus the cute doggos everywhere! Definitely up for more staycations in the UK!

A sketchbook spread from my time there

A sketchbook spread from my time there

Drawing trip with Caran d'Ache

When I received an email inviting me on a trip to Geneva to look around the Caran d’Ache Factory my first thought was this is too good to be true!

Charlotte Ager, Jacqueline Colley and Maria Ines Gul Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

Charlotte Ager, Jacqueline Colley and Maria Ines Gul Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

But I said yes and VERY surreal but last week I was flown to Geneva with 7 other illustrators! First stop the Caran d’Ache factory where we were greeted by this amazing display of the Caran d’Ache range (below) from 1915! I drool over vintage packaging at the best of times so this was heaven! Plus lots of vintage graphics from their posters through the years were all around! Swoon!

I always love vintage advertising and packaging!

I always love vintage advertising and packaging!

But then we get to the REALLY good bit; meeting Eric Vitus whose actual job title is ‘Master of Colours’! He showed us around the factory explaining how and why the Caran d’ache products are manufactured in the way that they are! Basically always working towards maximum colour saturation, so interesting! Check out the pigments below which were SO saturated my camera struggled to focus!

So much colour inspiration around the factory!

So much colour inspiration around the factory!

Here’s me in a colour induced craze trying to snap all the colourful things! Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

Here’s me in a colour induced craze trying to snap all the colourful things! Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

I loved watching all the mechanised processes such as pencil sharpening on an industrial scale! Check out this little video I put together using small clips taken on my phone! Editing skillz ;)

A very Talented bunch that I got to hang out with! From Left: Mr Slow Boy, Jacqueline Colley, Maria-Ines Gul, Nina Cosford, Bodil Jane, Jackie Diedam Below; Charlotte Ager and Joey Yu. Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

A very Talented bunch that I got to hang out with! From Left: Mr Slow Boy, Jacqueline Colley, Maria-Ines Gul, Nina Cosford, Bodil Jane, Jackie Diedam Below; Charlotte Ager and Joey Yu. Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

Next up we went to the Caran d’Ache house for some delicious lunch and then an amazing demonstration of the ways in which the products can be used! Ambassador for the brand Adrian Weber showed us some really interesting techniques such as using the water soluble aspects of some of the Supracolor and Neocolor 2 as well as demonstrating how saturated the colours are! Mmmmmmm! Then it was play time as we got to experiment with the range!

Studio Time! Beaut drawings by Mr Slow boy & Jackie Diedam

Studio Time! Beaut drawings by Mr Slow boy & Jackie Diedam

Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

I was super nervous to draw especially as I was surrounded by all these amazing illustrators! >.< Luckily I got on with it and started doodling some of the bits I’d been messing around with in my sketchbook; matchbooks and travel ephemera are my current obsession! I really enjoyed working with the Luminance colour pencils which are so vivid in colour which I’m ALL about! I actually started experimenting with combining these with the Fibralo brush markers and loved the effect so I’ll definetly be doing more of that in my work!

Having a play with ALL the products! Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

Having a play with ALL the products! Photo credit: Igor Laski courtesy of Caran d’Ache

Experimenting with Neo Colour 1, Luminance pencils and Fibralo Brush markers

Experimenting with Neo Colour 1, Luminance pencils and Fibralo Brush markers

Here is the sketchbook spread that I was working on while on the trip! This is all drawn using Supracolor Soft pencils!

Here is the sketchbook spread that I was working on while on the trip! This is all drawn using Supracolor Soft pencils!

I really liked what I came up with in my sketchbook and during the drawing session so I decided to work up some final illustrations using Luminance colour pencils that I bought at the Caran d’Ache shop on the trip! Again lots’s of paper ephemera such as tickets, the little signage bits that you find on Aeroplanes plus some of the awesome vintage typography that I saw at the Caran d’Ache head office!

A visual travel journal!

A visual travel journal!

Wow! such an incredible and inspiring trip, I want to say a massive thank you to the Caran d’Ache team and the Massey Partnership who arranged this and invited me along! THANK YOU!! :D

Making a Matchbook Mural

What I learned from my first experience; designing and painting a wall mural

So this all started because I’d been having a couple of quiet days / weeks on the freelance illustration front, that tends to drive me crazy, so I need a project! Time for me to make some personal work and ping out some emails to potential clients! Caran d’ache had sent me a set of their Supracolor pencils in limited edition colours so I cracked them out and started illustrating some vintage matchbooks that I picked up in the US you can see them and my illo’s below:

Flea market finds are the best finds!

Flea market finds are the best finds!

Matchbook-illustrations.jpg

That was cool and it all would have stopped there but one of the emails I’d sent out had been to Global Street Art about getting a wall space to paint on. (I’d love to paint murals to commission but I need to get some in my portfolio!) GSA were happy for me to take a wall space so now the panic started setting in; I didn't know what to paint or if I really could paint a wall!?

Matchbook sketches A4.jpg

I decided to do something completely new and took the small sketches I’d made and scaled each one up to A4 to see how they looked big! I always like practicing drawing something to figure out how I want it to look, plus knowing that I would need to paint these large scale made this a good exercise.

However the draw back is that it’s so easy to sneak in more detail (especially if you’re a maximalist like me!) and working in my usual medium of felt tips. In hindsight I know that these details will be hard to achieve when it comes to painting.

Plus mainly, really time consuming, how fine a brush do you really want to work with when people are seeing your art from across the street!?

Match-book-matchbox-illustrations-sm.jpg
Wall-Mural-Pre-Painting.jpg

Once I’d got these sketches done and into a layout I had a plan for my wall mural and there was no more procrastination to do,

I went to see the space…

Wow! That is a big old intimidating wall! I felt scared…! At this point that I put a call out on Social Media for HELP! This wall was too big for me alone!

But I started hearing back from awesome creative ladies whose work I love and I thought well hang on instead of helping me painting my design on a couple of panels why don’t we just fill this corner with colour!?!?

Wall-Mural-Painting-Day1.jpg
Wall-Mural-Painting-the-paint.jpg
Wall-Mural-Painting-Day2.jpg

So I began turning these lovely offers of help into fellow mural artists! I also prepped the space, sorted the colour palette and started painting my Matchbooks, end of Day 1! On Day 2 Aleesha Nandhra joined which was perfect as she is a fellow matchbox lover and the theme was set! She smashed out her design in a day; absolute pro and it looks awesome…!!!

On day three wall mural regular Natasha Nuttall joined in the fun and took inspiration from the strike paper’s on the side of matchboxes and created a dotty design which tied the two walls together and seriously cheers up this little Shoreditch corner! To see the Wall Mural in person head to 10 Rivington St, but be quick! These walls get turned over fast!

Matchbook-Mural-Pin.jpg
MatchbookMural8.JPG

Blisters!

No I'm not banging on about my ailments, it's the annual Print Club Exhibition! This year the theme is TV Shows! There are 50 Artists with 50 Prints and they each cost just £50! This is my largest print to date at B2 and the design is secret until the show opens on Friday the 5th of October, but I have a super sneak peek for you below plus a little video that print club made! Make sure you RSVP 

Blisters-Print-Supermarket-Sweep-3sm.jpg

I can now reveal the full poster that I designed for Print Club London’s 7th Group show; ‘Blisters’ you’ll be glued to the screen! I chose to illustrate a poster inspired by 90’s TV show ‘Supermarket Sweep’ drawing cleaning products and altering the packaging to erase brand names and replace them with the advertising jargon; Shine, Zap! and Fresh! The final print is exclusively available here

The final 3 colour screen print inspired by 90’s product packaging!

The final 3 colour screen print inspired by 90’s product packaging!

I spent a month saying ‘No’ to illustration work and this is what happened;

In the lead up to July I’d had a few conversations with fellow creatives where I compared myself to a hamster stuck on it’s wheel having forgotten that to get off you just need to slow down! I was feeling burnt out, pulled in every direction and unsure what to spend my time on. So I decided that I needed to start saying no.

I’m constantly haunted by the ‘Freelance Spectre’ a ghost whispering in my ear that I’ll never get another offer of work if I turn this one down! So for the month of July 2018 I turned off that ghoulish record and set myself the challenge of saying no to any and ALL offers. (Obviously if THE dream client had got in touch with THE perfect job I would have put the experiment on hold, but that didn’t happen!) This is what happened.....

  1. I worked through my to do list; for example screen printing the remaining few prints on a couple of editions, a time consuming task which I’ve been putting off for months!
  2. I made some new personal work; finally developing some ideas that I’ve been thinking about for a while, designing new work for my portfolio and new products for my shop which will be useful as we move towards the winter months!
  3.  I got on top of my accounts; Like many creatives I hate the financial side of running a business ignoring it until I have to deal with it. It’s a major weakness that I need to overcome, so I started using an accounting software called Xero to help me! I’m now weirdly loving looking at my finances because for once they are organised!
  4. I got on top of my emails; ever heard of email debt forgiveness day? You get the idea! 
  5. I said yes (whoops) to one indie collaboration with a brand whose ethics I really admire because I had a gut feeling of excitement about it and I always listen to my gut! This also weirdly helped me say no even more, as if you aren’t excited about at least one aspect of a job then why do it? 
  6. Apart from that one yes, I said No for a whole month; as a result I’ve become a lot more comfortable with saying No, something I’ve always struggled with.
New Bandana idea, Personal work July 2018

New Bandana idea, Personal work July 2018

This experiment has left me feeling a lot more relaxed about work (an afternoon on the sofa with my cross stitch has happened this week!) Stepping off the hamster wheel has given me way more perspective on my business and what i want to focus on. I'm going to continue on saying no going forward because taking on more projects means spreading myself too thin and leaving no time for nurturing personal work.

To wrap up; saying No is important no matter what stage you are in your career; as a new illustrator taking on a job that doesn't suit you stylistically can leave you confused and with an incoherent portfolio. As an experienced creative saying yes to everything leaves you with mediocre work and burnout. Finally definitely say NO to unpaid 'exposure' work as it devalues the whole industry. BUT say yes to collaborating with fellow creatives on cool (possibly unpaid) projects that excite you and that you want to see in your portfolio!  

Did you like this post, do you have something to add? Let me know in the comments! 

Jacqueline x

New Bandana idea, Personal work July 2018

New Bandana idea, Personal work July 2018

London's top 5 Craft & illustration Fairs

Applications and call out's for the Market season ahead are opening, don't miss your chance to exhibit at London's top craft and illustration fairs! I've rounded up some of my faves below;

Renegade Craft Fair 2018

Renegade Craft Fair 2018

  1. Crafty Fox These guys were at the forefront of the craft market scene and for that reason they know how to put on an amazing event that is a delight for customers and stallholders alike, now in residency at 'Mercato Metropolitano' in Borough
  2. The London Illustration Fair Aimed more at illustration but they have a wide variety of exhibitors and the space at the Oxo tower wharf is amazing! This is a long 3 and a half day event and it's constantly busy with visitors!
  3. Renegade Our friends from across the pond visit once a year to host an extravaganza of an event filling the Truman Brewery with an eclectic mix of the UK's best design, craft and illustration practitioners I've done this event three years in a row!
  4. Illustrator's Fair - The House of Illustration host a biannual illustrator's fair under the canopy outside their venue at Granary Square King's Cross, usually attracting close to 100 vendors the market is buzzing with inspiring work!
  5. Urban Maker's East - These guys are super on it, regularly hosting events, pop ups and markets around the East End of London in great venues
Exhibiting at the London Illustration Fair December 2018

Exhibiting at the London Illustration Fair December 2018

Top tips: If you are interested in applying to any markets now or in the future then get subscribed to their mailing list to hear about what opportunities are coming up and when to apply. Also many of them run really awesome blogs filled with top tips for getting prepped for a fair and articles on what to bring etc!