At Pedddle, it’s no secret how thrilled we are to be back out to in-person markets and events, meeting and reconnecting with so many independent business owners and their wonderful products! After months upon months of being shut indoors, surrounded by the same four walls, many of us took to lockdown projects to keep us busy and vamp up our homes, leading us to discover and incorporate much more art and illustration from small businesses.
This week’s featured traders, Dikira, Art Star London, Jessica Sian Illustration, Greenwich Paper Studio & Charlotte Eldred, chatted to us about the importance of creating art and how it allows us to make and maintain connections with those around us. Read on for their Meet the Maker Q&A below and get to know them a little better!
Pedddle: We’d love to know a bit more about your business and how it started. Do you have a background in art & design, and what inspires your work?
Art Star London: I started Art Star during lockdown. I had the idea for sustainable paper craft kits and decorations floating round in my head already and when I lost some freelance work it motivated me to actually make those ideas a reality! I have an Architecture degree and am also a graphic designer, so I guess it makes some kind of sense that I’ve ended up creating decorated structural paper objects! The inspiration behind my work is really just to add some happiness to people’s lives, whether that’s through crafting and getting lost in the process of making the decorations, or just simply hanging something colourful and cheerful up on their wall…it’s all about joy!
Greenwich Paper Studio: Greenwich Paper Studio was created during the first lockdown in 2020. I studied Textile Design at university and had always wanted to set up my own creative business, and lockdown gave me the opportunity to go for it. Having always been a stationery/print lover, I decided it would be the right avenue for me, and have absolutely loved every minute of it! I create stationery and art prints exploring pattern, typography and illustration. I love experimenting with different styles and inspirations, all with a modern and luxurious finish.
Dikira: I studied filmmaking at University, but I’ve always been arty, I loved painting at school and music has always been a part of my life, being in choirs since I can remember. My inspiration comes from nature, I love recreating forests, landscapes and plants in minimal ink drawings or paintings. I’m also inspired by other artists that I follow on Instagram.
Charlotte Eldred: As a child I loved drawing, creating and making. At school, my favourite subjects were always Art and Design, particularly Textiles, which led me to doing a degree in Textiles at the University of Leeds. However, after uni, I somehow found myself training as a primary school teacher! I really love working with children, but my true passion is being creative. My husband (after a small amount of nagging!) kindly bought me an Ipad for my birthday and I downloaded Procreate, a fabulous drawing app! I spent hours watching YouTube tutorials to teach myself how to use it. I love the whole process – drawing, adding bold colours to my design, then bringing my illustration to life at the end when I print off the image! Over the years, I dabbled in making products such as cushions, bags, jewellery, and lino prints that I have enjoyed giving and selling to friends and family, but I never really had the confidence to take that next step…until recently!
Jessica Sian Illustration: I studied Decorative Arts at Nottingham Trent University specialising in ceramics and illustration. After graduating, I hired a ceramic studio for a short while but soon realised that my passion lay within illustration. A friend asked me to draw a wedding venue for her and soon I was gaining commissions through word of mouth. I continued to take commissions alongside a full time job as a trainee buyer for a couple of years. In February 2020, I left my job to travel Australia and Vietnam. Whilst I only got three weeks in before returning home due to the pandemic, it gave me time to think about my passion for making pieces of art that are special to people. Once home, I decided it was the right time to give my illustration business the love and attention it deserves, and from that Jessica Sian Illustration grew! I launched my first shop on Etsy last May, with commissions of homes, baby’s first homes, wedding venues and sports stadiums. In September, I launched a shop on my own website with my first range of prints and from there it has continued to grow.
I believe that people connect with art, and that everyone should be able to own art that’s special to them, so my pieces are focused around places that are special to people. I hope they act as a reminder of happy memories.
Jessica Sian Illustration: My first market of the year was last weekend! I love being able to meet my wonderful customers at markets, chatting to them, show them my pieces, discuss the inspiration behind them or ideas for potential commissions they may have. Being able to shop online is so convenient and Instagram has played a huge part in making us feel connected with businesses and customers over the past year, but for me there’s nothing quite like seeing a product in the flesh and browsing market stalls!
Art Star London: I love markets so much! I’ve done two since things opened up again and had such a great time at both of them. It’s wonderful to meet customers face to face and tell them about Art Star and what I’m doing. My Hack Packs are quite an unusual craft kit as you get to make whatever you want, so it really helps to be able to show people what you can do with them and talk them through it all. It’s also an opportunity to let people know that they are made from leftover paper, and the idea of making all these beautiful things from a waste product seems to really capture people’s imagination.
Charlotte Eldred: I am fairly new to taking part in live markets. I attended a couple before the pandemic hit and I am now on the lookout for more local events. During lockdown, I took part in a few online markets which was initially a little scary, but I did enjoy embracing this fun new experience. I have arranged an Artist Fair in my local town of Hornsea in August, so I’m really looking forward to working with lots of other makers and creatives in my community. I really hope to take part in some festive markets in the lead up to Christmas this year, to share my new Christmas collection!
Greenwich Paper Studio: Even before starting my business, I used to visit markets all the time. I love discovering other makers and unique products that are not available elsewhere. I am also very lucky to live in beautiful Greenwich (in case you hadn’t guessed!) and there is the amazing Greenwich Market right on my doorstep with lovely products and delicious food! Things are slowly opening up here again and there has been a lovely buzz in the local markets at the weekends.
Dikira: I had my first stall in April at Fargo Village in Coventry and it was so fun! Meeting the other makers and customers was really great, and getting feedback is so valuable. I love the buzz of the markets, and at Fargo they have music too, so it’s an amazing mood.
Pedddle: Many people used the time they gained in lockdown as a chance to switch up and refresh their home decor. What sort of impact do you feel art has in people’s lives today?
Dikira: I think art prints and illustrations are very personal. One illustration will mean different things to different people, and I love hearing what meanings my customers find behind my paintings. Prints are a great way of making any room ‘your own’ and adding personality to it. That’s why I buy them from my favourite artists, anyway! I recently moved house and as soon as I displayed my prints it felt like home.
Jessica Sian Illustration: Art and illustration have been a huge part of my life. I have loved to draw and create for as long as I can remember (and longer still if you go by all the ‘art’ my parents have kept from my early years!). Being able to connect with a piece of art and it brighten your home is special, and to be able to provide these pieces of art for other people is even more so. I think now is also the perfect time for people to refresh their home decor, after so long inside! Prints are an easy way to do this, especially when renting.
Charlotte Eldred: I have sold lots of cards and prints during the pandemic. Many of my customers have said they have enjoyed sending my creations in the post to the loved ones that they have missed so much in the last year or so. Prints and cards are so easy to post, and we all know it’s always lovely to receive some jolly and colourful post, and to know that a friend or family member is thinking of you, and cares for you.
Art Star London: One of the reasons I started Art Star was so that I could collaborate with artists and illustrators that I admire, so to have just launched my first collaboration is incredibly exciting. Art has always been a hugely important part of my life thanks to my brilliant parents who filled our house with art and encouraged me and my brother to make things all the time, so to have the opportunity to work directly with artists and create products with them is fantastic. I have another collaboration lined up for Christmas too.
Greenwich Paper Studio: I studied art through school, college and university and have always been surrounded by creative people who love what they do. I think with the huge popularity of social media platforms, which seems to keep growing and growing, it is easier now than ever before for creatives to get their work out there and be seen. I also think people are looking for ways to express their individuality, and art/illustration is a great way to do that. Even if you are not creative yourself, purchasing from designer/makers who you relate to is a great way to support them and allow yourself to be a little arty!
Pedddle: In your opinion, why is it important to encourage shopping small?
Greenwich Paper Studio: I think it’s so important to support small/local business, especially in the current climate. There has been a real shift in the last few years and more and more people want to do this and to step away from the big online companies. During lockdown especially, I think many of us were incredibly grateful for the shops on our doorsteps and I hope that people will continue to support them. You will find unique products that are made with real love and care, whilst also supporting your local community and small business owners dreams!
Jessica Sian Illustration: I think we’ve all seen the posts about small businesses doing a happy dance when you buy from them (I think I’ve even posted a reel of it myself!) but it’s so much more than that. By purchasing from a small/local/independent business, we help to pay someone’s mortgage or feed their family or fund their next holiday. We’re supporting someone’s dream. And in doing that we’re making the long days, late nights, countless product trials and hours upon hours of hard work worth it!
Art Star London: Supporting and being a part of your local community is beneficial on many different levels. Shopping independent enables people like myself to make a living (which is obviously very important!) but it also creates valuable connections, which are hugely important to our wellbeing and sense of belonging. I ran some kids’ craft workshops at a local cafe recently, and met so many lovely kids and their parents. It was such a good feeling to connect with them and to give the kids a fun creative activity to do in their school holidays. It was also wonderful to see the parents mucking in with the kids and helping them glue bits together!
Dikira: Shopping from a small business means supporting someone’s dream and passion and directly impacting them in a positive way. The quality of the products will also often be much better than what you would get from a larger or chain producer.
Charlotte Eldred: I sell my products in two beautiful local independent shops, and I strongly believe it is so beneficial to shop small and support local and independent makers. This year has been an especially challenging time for so many small businesses, but I’ve been lucky to have the continued support of my lovely customers. People have been so supportive during the pandemic, but we need our customers to be aware that shopping small isn’t just for a pandemic, or Christmas, it can be for 365 days of the year!
Small, independent makers like me create their products with passion and love. We care about people and planet – not just profit! If every adult in the UK spent £1 a day with small businesses it would add £12 billion to local economies. We need to save our high-streets, be proud of our local community and celebrate its individuality and uniqueness.
Pedddle: What a year we’ve had! How did you navigate your way through such unpredictable times as a small business owner, and what’s next for you in 2021?
Charlotte Eldred: During the last year, I had lots of time to practise, develop my drawing skills and expand my product range. Drawing has really helped me to unwind and de-stress during this difficult time, especially in the evening. I was very keen to have a go at digital illustration as it was something I had never done before, but I liked the idea that I could do it anywhere in the house without lots of bulky and messy equipment. Working digitally also worked really well around my three young children and busy teaching job, as I could easily draw in the evening, and then quickly pack it away for the next day of madness.
In the future, I am hoping to run some drawing workshops for both adults and children as I feel it is so important to show others how much drawing can help to lift your mood, and to take time to relax from this busy hectic life we all live in. I am now working on extending my greetings card range, to produce larger prints and wooden keepsakes and decorations in preparation for Christmas. My goal is to share my passion and love for drawing with as many people as I can! I currently have a fun range of Father’s Day cards available on Etsy – please go and have a little browse!
Dikira: I definitely had more time to experiment and try new things during the pandemic! When I first started everything was black and gold, but more recently I started experimenting with coloured inks and watercolour. Each piece I sell has its own individual charm. I started working with colour recently and I particularly like the bold dark ink pieces. I embellish all my prints by hand with metallic ink or watercolour. One of my prints that photos don’t do justice to is my Snakeshead Fritillary print. It was created with a colour-shifting watercolour paint, which changes from blue to purple depending on the angle you view it from.
I have a few exhibitions lined up this summer which I’m very excited about! One at the Warwickshire Open Studios in June and one in London at Camden Image Gallery in August. Hopefully some more markets too! I’m planning to expand my range a bit more, currently I sell mainly A4 prints and I think customers at markets like a bit more choice, so I’m working on some new ideas! I’d love to create some enamel pins. I have an obsession for them myself so I would love to design some!
Jessica Sian Illustration: The pandemic kickstarted my business. It went from being a side thing that spread by word of mouth to my full time business and I’ve learnt so much from it, from growing on social media to the importance of SEO and so much more! 2020 was unimaginably challenging, but I feel incredibly privileged to have been able to dedicate the time to something I’m so passionate about. It truly was my silver lining of the year.
I have lots of exciting launches that I’m currently working on or thinking about, but nothing is quite ready to reveal yet…keep an eye on my Instagram or join my mailing list to be the first to hear when they’re ready to launch! Of course, with Father’s Day coming up, I have my football ground prints to offer. They’re inspired by my own father’s love of football and weekends spent watching our local team whilst growing up. I know how passionate football fans are about their teams, that many happy memories are made at games and that often watching a match is a break from reality. My illustrations are centered around places that people connect to so it seemed only right to introduce a range of football prints that can be personalised!
Greenwich Paper Studio: As I have only been running my business during the pandemic, it is going to be an interesting few months to see how things will change now everything is opening up again. I’ve learnt a great deal so far, but I am sure I will need to continue to adapt as none of us know what is around the corner!
My immediate plans are to grow the wholesale side of my business and to expand my product ranges. There is a lot to learn, and I am sure there will be obstacles along the way, but I will do my best to continue to enjoy every minute! My new notebooks are printed on FSC certified paper that is produced in England, and everything is sent in plastic free packaging. I also use this paper for my cards and it has a lovely luxurious feeling whilst still being good for the environment. It is really important to me that all my products are as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible.
Art Star London: My business would not exist without the pandemic. I don’t actually think I would have ever taken the plunge without it! It was a challenging time to start but also a great time to start as it gave me such a positive thing to focus on. I’m very much enjoying adapting to things opening up again!
I’m looking forward to doing loads more markets. I have one or two new product ideas which I’m excited to explore and I’ve been loving decorating my Hack Packs so much that I’m thinking of creating some repeat patterns as well. It’s very much about basic mark making with things like potato stamping and then layering up colour and texture. The objects and decorations I’m making with the Hack Packs also seem to be growing in size so I’m going to create a larger scale installation in my front windows as part of the Leytonstone Arts Trail next month. So much to look forward to!
My very first artist collaboration also launched recently, so I’m excited about that! I worked with the amazing artist Malcolm Fisher to create some joyful paper celebration bunting which is covered in his beautiful illustrations. On one side, it spells out ‘Yay Hooray’ and the other side has images of 10 wonderfully different people. It’s a celebration of diversity and will definitely make your home happy! It’s effectively 20 miniature artwork flags that you can hang in any combination.