You may remember I started this series a little while, interviewing the lovely blogging girls from the Flower that Blooms. For 2018 I really wanted it to make a return, and shower some love on some bloggers/vloggers who have embarked on other creative adventures and ventures alongside their writing and videos. I know, all to well, how hard it is to juggle various platform, industries, and mediums, so I thought it was so important to angle a spotlight on other people doing it and wholeheartedly celebrate what they do. Hopefully these Q and A’s will introduce more people to their wonderful creations, but also offer advice to others thinking about starting an arty business or looking to improve an existing one.
The first of 2018 is with Jemma, who manages to brighten up our Twitter feeds on a daily basis with her art and zest for creating. I have always admired her willingness to show vulnerability when it comes to the pressures of having a business, so thought she’s be a ray of authenticity and honesty for this opening interview.
To start…a quick introduction. Can you tell people about your blog, what it’s about, and how it captures who you are?
My blog can be found at www.dorkface.co.uk and it’s my colourful, creative, happy place! I write about anything and everything that interests me. Lifestyle features on a range of issues, behind the scenes of my life, beauty products, anything Arty and creative, and
hopefully it’s packed with inspiration! I wanted to be free to write about whatever I fancied, and almost four years later it still makes me just as happy!
Can you tell me about what spurred you to open a shop selling your artwork?
I’ve always wanted to be an Artist, since I was a kid actually. I studied Art and Design and a range of different classes over the years at College and University, and it’s one of my greatest passions (along with writing!). So one day I just decided to go for it! I’d shared
plenty of my work on my blog and social media, and I’d started getting requests from people; so it seemed time to open up shop.
Did you have worries or reservations about doing it?
Not at all; but I was greatly aware that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing at first. Getting sorted with the admin side of things like taxes was a pain! But once I got into my groove it was just really inspiring and fun! I look back and CRINGE at my original pieces I was selling back then, but it shows how far I’ve come which is great.
When did you realise you were this hugely artistic and creative person?
When my family used to joke about it when I was really young! None of my family are creative, so I stood out like a sore thumb. I would spend my weekends writing stories and crafting up my own ‘magazines’ filled with features I’d written and Artwork I’d created.
I don’t suppose there was a singular moment, I was just always a creative kid!
A lot of people find creating art hugely cathartic and relaxing. Does that change when it becomes a job? If yes, how do you get that back?
Hmm… Yes and no. It definitely does change things, and there are times when I’ve been doing a commission for someone, and really just wanted to give up. Knowing that I can’t is a real pain, because HAVING to do something creative can take the fun out of it. However as soon as I get to work on my own piece; something I’ve created ‘just for fun’ those feelings of happiness and relaxation come back. I’m trying to improve on this, but this is why I tend to create pieces I LOVE, and that I want to create; and THEN try to sell them. It’s very, very rare. I take on requests now, and I make sure it’s a project I’ll love first. In 2017 I made sure to cut down on requests that I weren’t passionate about, and concentrate on what I love. This is hard, to be honest; because money is money! I make a tiny amount and I need to pay
bills of course. But if I have a choice, I choose to focus on what I like.
With the amount of work you creative it’s probably an impossible question, but can you name some of your favourite pieces?
I love so many of my acrylic paintings, as it’s my favourite medium. I find abstract pieces the most challenging, even though I know there’s
a presumption that these are the easiest type of Art. But I’m not trying to slap down paint any old way on a canvas, I’m really trying to convey
a feeling or an idea with each piece, and I’m my own worst critic. If it’s not absolutely perfect, it gets tucked away in the attic. But when I do
really like how a piece turns out, it feels incredible!
What tends to go down best with your customers?
I’m always surprised by the variety of preferences my audience seems to have, or maybe I’m lucky enough to have a huge wave of support no matter what! But I guess if there was anything that was more popular than the rest, it would be pretty watercolour paintings.They seem to always have a nice amount of support!
You’re very prolific. What effects your productivity?
It’s so strange, but I’ve noticed I WRITE more (and better ) when in a melancholy mood; but I create more Art when I’m happier. Either way, I’m always creating. I do take time off from everything every now and again, but admittedly it’s extremely rare.Being productive is my favourite thing, I feel at a loss if I’m not creating. Purposely taking time off over Christmas was kind of hellish for me. I knew I needed it, to refresh; but I felt so completely lost! In fact, on my first day off from any work, writing, or painting…I decided to clear out the spare room and repaint the walls! I cant seem to sit still.
What feelings and emotions do you experience when you post a new piece of art online?
Anxiety, definitely! I always have this initial moment of feeling proud of something I’ve created, and happy to share it; but within a moment its gone completely. I then worry it’s total ‘crap’ and that everyone will think I’m an idiot. It’s not exactly healthy I suppose, to care so much what others think!
What were you initial goals when launching the Dorkface shop and how have they evolved as you’ve progressed?
Initially I just wanted a place to create a few things every now and again. These days, I always want the shop to be absolutely filled with glorious goodies. I want a range of paintings, prints, stationery, merch. I’m always trying to evolve it to be as best it can be,
and explore new ideas. I have big dreams that one day I might be lucky enough to get my own range in the likes of Paperchase! A distant, probably silly dream; but you never know.
Colour seems to be a huge part of your work and who you are? Where do you think this comes from?
I’m not sure really, it’s just what I’m attracted to a lot of the time! This wasn’t always the case either, as I was a bit of a goth/emo for all of my teen years. In fact it was probably only around 23 I started to experiment with colour more. I still LOVE that old emo me, and I still live in hoodies, band t-shirts, ripped jeans and Vans; but these days my hair is always
a bright colour, my jeans are likely colourful, and my makeup is always exploring glitter and rainbows. For my artwork specifically, there’s no way I can be without colour. I have one or two RARE times when I create a monochrome piece, but it’s not very often.
Who or what inspires your work?
Unique photographers such as David LaChapelle are hugely inspiring to me, and I have a great network of Instagram artists I’m inspired by too! Music is a big part of my process. My favourite music artists always help me feel more creative, and I’ve come to rely on the likes of Placebo, The Cure, The Distillers, Eminem and Nirvana to keep me going. I’m often inspired by poetry too.
Do you find it hard to part with your original pieces?
Yes, definitely! This is why a lot of the time when I create a cnavas I really love, I’ll make this into a print people can buy. I just can’t bear to part with it. This is the reason I have my own artwork hanging all over my home too. However I do part ways with original pieces often, as I’d be overwhelmed with them otherwise. Plus it definitely feels more special to give someone a real piece of my soul with the original!
Is there a particular type of work you find more rewarding to create?
I love so many different types of Art, which is why I can always be found switching between mediums. I love creating digital portraits, I love crafting my own handmade collages, and I love painting in acrylic and watercolour. My answer to this will always change, depending on what I’m most passionate about at that moment. It may be that I find small watercolour pieces more rewarding one week, and simple sketches in my journal more rewarding the next week. This week? Definitely great, big, acrylic paintings!
How do you cope with juggling everything?
Having a blog, managing a shop, creating the work, posting and packaging, marketing the shop, responding to messages, maintaining a relationship, looking after the pets, having a social life etc. Does it feel overwhelming at times and how do you counteract that?
I’m someone who thrives on being busy, so I do probably handle it better than the average person; but yes, it gets overwhelming! Daily to-do lists are a MUST, and planning ahead is key. I do get help with little things, like my fiance will often help me pack orders and take things the Post Office for me! But mainly, it’s just a hard case of working every hour under the sun and preparing as best as I can.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a blogger, and being someone that owns a creative shop/venture?
That you’re just trying to make money. This especially pisses me off as I’ve wanted to be a writer and Artist since I was a kid, and it’s my greatest passion in the world. It’s what I do behind the scenes constantly, and how I want to be remembered. So when people assume I’m just trying to hop on a trend by creating a blog, get free stuff, or make a quick quid from selling something; it grates me so bad!
Everything artistic is subjective. How do you deal with negative criticism about your work (if you’ve ever had it)?
I’ve had a thick skin when it comes to constructive criticism for years, as it was a major part of my studied in Collage and Uni. So I happily accept and expect that there will be people who don’t like my work at all; that’s normal and it’s okay! You’re always going to get that. However if anyone was openly rude about my work, I might be hurt for a moment or two; but usually I’d see it for what it is. It’s not constructive, or helpful, or even respectful. So it’s not worth me stressing over. I’m much more likely to care what another respected Artist thinks of me, than someone who simply doesn’t like my work.
What has been your biggest mistake with going down this career route? And what advice would you offer those thinking about launching their own?
Keep a record of everything you purchase for supplies – this will help when it comes to sorting your taxes! Haha. I also recommend keeping records and planning your finances thoroughly. You’ll need to pay out a lot to buy supplies, post off orders, pay online fees – check you can afford to do this if business doesn’t go well! And above all, create because you WANT TO. Not because you need to make money.
What is the most difficult aspect of your work?
Probably taking the time to promote it well. I’d love an assistant to photograph my work, video me as I create; and help me promote my work efficiently! SO much time is taken up on photography, writing up listings, creating videos for Instagram, scheduling tweets, etc. If I could leave all that to someone else, and just create – it would be a dream! Maybe one day I’ll make enough to hire someone 🙂
What makes everything worth-while for you?
Feeling proud of a finished piece, challenging myself to something new, trying to improve on my skills, and making a customer very happy!
Who are your go-to stockists for materials?
I have none! Im always scouting for different sellers and shops online for paper, ink, paints, canvases, and other materials. The only constant I have is that I religiously buy things from Cass Art I guess. Their quality when it comes to materials is fantastic!
What are your big tips for promoting your business?
Schedule tweets every single day, every few hours. Use Instagram well; share behind the scenes on Insta stories. Write blog posts about your creations, the story behind them, the process.Be honest with your customers! Tell them if you’re happy with something, or worried about the result. Ask their opinions!
A lot of creatives aren’t business minded. How do you find that area of things?
I’m not the greatest, but I’m learning all the time. I mostly observe what my inspirations do, and try to learn from that.It’s definitely something I have to work on this year, if I want to progress.
What are your goals for the Etsy shop for the year ahead?
I’d love to have a whole new range of merchandise in the shop; mugs, tote bags, pins, beanie hats! I’d LOVE to hit 4K sales this year too, that would be a dream! Im currently around 1.9K away haha, so fingers crossed!
Are there any other bloggers with creative ventures outside of that, that you’d like to shout out to and tell people about?
Absolutely! I’m a huge fan of the following people (I’ve listed their Twitters, as they have lots of different things people should check out!) –
Lastly, describe Dorkface in a punchy sentence for those that haven’t seen your site/work.