Our Meet the Maker blog gets to know each of them better, finding out about their skills, motivation, why they love markets and what advice they have for other artists wanting to make the leap! Introducing Alison of Alison Butler Art, Cat from Bamber Prints & Kerry of Kerry Day Arts…
Pedddle: Where did you first become interested in the skills it takes to produce your products, and how did you learn them?
Alison Butler Art: I’ve always loved drawing and painting, I remember copying illustrations from books as a child and I was always colouring too. My love of art followed me through school and college to university, where I studied Art and Theatre Studies. Despite all of this I was very shy about my work, I never liked showing it to anyone and was actually quite secretive about it.
At University, I found my work being pushed down an avenue that had no interest to me and it knocked my confidence massively. So much so in fact that when I graduated, I put the brushes down and stopped painting altogether.
Three years ago (twenty four years since I graduated!), I decided that I wanted to create again, to do something for myself, something I truly enjoyed. I quickly realised how much I’d missed it and how important it was to me. Over the course of the last three years I’ve experimented a little with techniques and styles as I love to learn. Last year I taught myself to use digital software and I produce many of my paintings and illustrations that way now.
Bamber Prints: I’ve always loved drawing and being creative. I studied Graphic Design at Nottingham Trent University and illustrated a lot in my spare time. I think it was here that I really found my style, through experimenting with lots of different media. Most of my drawings are built up with lots of small dots. I feel most comfortable with this style and find it really relaxing, even though it can take a long time!
Kerry Day Arts: I’ve always been interested in art, drawing and making loads as a kid and it seemed like the most obvious choice when deciding what to do at University. I did a ceramic degree at Bath Spa University and we had the chance to try out different mediums as a secondary subject and I chose printmaking. It wasn’t until about 10 years later that I got back into printmaking after doing a year long evening class at Bristol School of Art in general printmaking, where we got to try lots of different techniques. From there I joined Spike Print Studio in Bristol, mainly doing etching and screen-printing. After seeing what the Lino printers were doing I just began giving it a go myself and I haven’t looked back.
Pedddle: What made you take the leap into running your own business? Do you have any advice for people wanting to take the plunge with their artwork?
Alison Butler Art: When I began painting again, I decided to be brave and I started showing people my work via my Instagram page. It started with some pencil sketches, life drawings and a couple of paintings of The Royal Liver Buildings. Funnily enough, the sketch I used for my Liver Building paintings was completed whilst at University in my spare time!
Quite quickly I had a couple of people ask about buying pieces, then I had one of my original paintings selected for a local Open Exhibition. It simply blew me away and gave me the courage to set up my business. I really wish I’d done it years ago – but it’s never too late!
My advice to anyone contemplating it is to just go for it, never let fear stop you! The beauty of having your own business is that you are in control; you can take it at your own pace, with your own direction. You really have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Bamber Prints: I have a few friends who own their own business and I follow a lot of makers on Instagram. It always seemed like a fun job and a way to have complete control over what you produce. I had a collection of drawings I’d saved for a few years, thinking they’d make great prints. It wasn’t until lockdown that I really made the leap, mainly because I suddenly had lots more free time to focus on it.
I think my advice if you’re thinking of starting your own business would be just to go for it – it’s so easy to make excuses and put it off but you’ll never know until you try. Also, I think it’s true that you get what you put into it, so be prepared to put in the hours!
Kerry Day Arts: After a short spell of ill health and being unemployed, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. At this time I was attending some painting and life drawing classes as well as a printmaking class. I ended up showing some of my paintings in a local art trail (an open house/studio event) and then a couple of exhibitions in local cafes and was pleased that I sold some of them. I kind of thought why not do this full time, as my job.
I was lucky enough to be just young enough to get a grant from The Princes Trust, which I used for business cards and creating cards of my paintings. I also attended a Self-Employment workshop run by the government, which helped me find out about keeping records and so on, and the side of running a business. I was given a mentor for 6 months, which gave me the opportunity to try out self-employment whilst still claiming job seekers’ allowance. I found it suited me well and it’s been 14 years this November, which I’m very proud of.
To be fair, I think I was very lucky that these grants and workshops were around when I needed them. I would say for anyone thinking of doing their art full time now, is to just go for it. It can be scary, but do a bit of research first. Speak to other makers, look at online resources, like Artist Newsletter, and maybe begin with working on it part time at first to see how it goes. Maybe start with doing a few local markets and open a Folksy/Etsy shop online and take it from there.
Pedddle: Markets are a great idea and give you a good idea of what sells and your customer’s opinion of your products, as well as being around other makers. What first made you want to sell at markets?
Alison Butler Art: I consider myself a bit of a market novice! I’ve only actually taken part in a handful of markets in Liverpool so far. One major goal I set for my business this year was to do more markets – which has been difficult with Covid! I wanted to give my business a more visual presence locally and reach a wider audience. Sadly, with everything that has happened, it’s made the goal a little difficult to achieve. However, it did lead me to the wonderful Pedddle community as I wanted to grow my online presence instead, where I’ve connected with some amazing fellow creatives, joined virtual markets and gained so much experience and insight.
Bamber Prints: I see markets as a great way of getting your products seen by your local community, as people love to shop local now more than ever. It’s also a great way to meet fellow small businesses and makers. With Christmas coming up, that’s the busiest season, so it’s great to have that support network there.
Kerry Day Arts: After trying the art trails I decided I wanted to try a more frequent outlet, so I attended a few local markets. Before the pandemic happened, I focused more on doing a couple of curated events a year alongside my online shop. Now I’m embracing the online markets, which have been a lifeline for many this year.
Pedddle: What’s your best tip for selling at markets – either online or in person?
Alison Butler Art: Wear warm socks if you’re outside!! Cold feet will make you miserable. Although I haven’t done many in-person markets yet, I’ve learnt so much by observing and talking to other stallholders. So, my advice would be to connect with others and build relationships within the community.
Bamber Prints: My best piece of advice for selling at online markets is to be present, just like how you would be at an in person market! Chat on your Instagram stories to let people get to know you (however daunting this can seem at first), chat through your products and offers for the market, engage with other sellers. When I started doing this, I saw a huge difference in engagement and an increase in sales!
Kerry Day Arts: When I first started markets I always thought if I didn’t sell well then it wasn’t successful. But now I see all events as promotional, and it being a bonus to sell too. Getting yourself seen by new audiences and building up customers can take time, so don’t get disheartened if sales are low (I know that’s easy to say) and keep promoting your wares. It’s all about getting seen.
If you want to know more about Alison Butler, Bamber Prints & Kerry Day Arts, you can find their Pedddle pages here.