These two small businesses create original artworks full of colour and imagination. Meet Hannah, of Hannah Kate Makes, a fantasy-inspired art business offering illustrations through both traditional and digital methods, and Sarah of Mushypeadesign, who offers a variety of products including intricate paper art, gifts and jewellery.
In this Meet the Maker Q&A, Pedddle chatted to these fab makers about all things small business. Read on to learn more!
Pedddle: Tell us a little bit about your business and how it came to be!
Hannah Kate Makes: I’ve always loved art and drawing, but didn’t pursue it as a career until 2018. I had to stop working due to a shoulder injury and while I took time out to begin my recovery, I picked up my pencils again. A small offering of handmade cards on Etsy that Christmas has evolved and grown into Hannah Kate Makes as it is now. I love to create fantasy-inspired art and it’s almost like a dream, seeing my work and designs in print and on products. Working with individuals on commissioned art is also truly rewarding as we bring their imagination into the real world. Creating a painting that catches someone and allows them to escape reality for a spell, that’s always my hope.
Mushypeadesign: Welcome to colour and quirkiness! Hi my name is Sarah Ryan and I’m the artist/designer behind Mushypeadesign, a Liverpool based small business. The name comes from a very special cat who was the inspiration behind my range of cat illustrations, which I still sell as greetings cards today! From as long as I can remember I have always loved drawing and making things. Back in the day I studied a BTec in Illustration & Design, but as a paper artist and jewellery designer I’m mainly self-taught. After working within retail and education for a number of years while my children were growing up, about 4 years ago I decided to take the plunge and follow my dreams to create my own indie brand full time, making jewellery I love to wear and paper art that’s both intricate and unique. I’m a member of Arena Studios, where I have my own small studio space working alongside other artists.
Pedddle: What are the inspirations behind your work?
Mushypeadesign: My work reflects my love of colour and pattern, the natural world, folk tales and pop culture. I like my designs to have a playful approach and love experimenting with materials and mixed media. Each jewellery design starts with lots of drawings resulting in a final sketch which is then transferred on to tracing paper, acting as the blueprint for each piece. The design is then hand etched on to acrylic sheets and cut out. Due to their hand-crafted nature, no two pieces are ever the same. The pins and brooches are digitally printed from my artwork on to recycled plastic. I became interested in papercutting, having been inspired by a wonderful exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery. I love the technique of illustrating with intricate cuts rather than drawing lines and creating texture and depth by adding multiple layers of collage and water colour to create a delicate piece of art. Pieces can take anything up to 40 hours to cut and assemble by hand. Watercolour, acrylic and pen and ink are my favourite mediums to work in when painting, as all three offer an immediacy and allow me to build colour and depth.
My inspiration comes from fantasy, comic and cosplay, erotica, mythology, magic, sci-fi, legends and fairy tales, horror…You name it, if it’s a cool idea that captures my imagination and can whisk us away from reality, I’m in.
Everything begins with a few rough sketches for the layout of an idea, either in pencil in my sketchbook or digitally if they are the start of a commissioned piece as those are easier to send over to clients. These are then worked up into a final design, usually after several changes, before I start painting. I favour acrylics on canvas, but also love to create miniature art in watercolour or inks. More recently I’ve begun to work digitally as well, which has been a huge learning curve in itself!
Pedddle: What do you love most about selling at markets?
For me, the best thing about markets is meeting new people! Other stallholders and people browsing are great to speak to and learn from and make the whole experience memorable and fun. I haven’t been back out to any in-person events yet although I’m keen to as soon as I can. I’ve been making up for this with online markets and Pedddle’s sister-site, Tresstle, has been fantastic for helping me find some brilliant opportunities.
Mushypeadesign: Although I sell my work in a number of shops and galleries in the North West, I don’t think you can beat selling your work directly at markets. Being face to face, chatting about my work, watching people’s reactions to my stall is priceless. I love the interactions with customers and other stall holders, who offer both friendship, support, inspiration and a rich well of information and advice! Since markets have re-opened, I’ve been back on a regular monthly basis at the brilliant community led Levy Market; been proud to take part in both weekends for the re-opening of Victoria Baths and had stalls at Liverpool’s Open Culture’s Summer Arts Market and Make/Invisible Wind Factory’s Summer and Winter Arcades. Last summer, as part of a promotion of local businesses, I was selected to trade at Liverpool City Council’s market events and Future Yard’s grand opening. Last Sunday I spent a brilliant day at Dovedale Towers, trading for the first time with Good Liverpool, which I hope will become a regular monthly date.
Pedddle: Did you face any challenges during the pandemic? How did you overcome them?
Mushypeadesign: Initially my business crashed and burned and it was devastating to see the momentum halted. However, I dusted myself down and took some time out to just be creative for myself without the pressure of having to think of my work as commercial. For the first time, I participated in some online markets, setting my stall up at home and making some fairly wobbly Instagram reels to accompany them! Taking part in these online markets helped me adapt and develop my online presence more and improve my Etsy shop. Through my local community involvement, I was asked to design a range of flower inspired jewellery for a local charity called Growing Sudley. On a practical level, I learnt how to apply for grants and make spread sheets!
Most of my business already ran predominantly online, I was only just getting started with market events and approaching stockists when the pandemic hit, and lockdown cancelled those plans. Online markets have really come into their own since then and I had a lot of fun with the handmade community throughout Christmas events last year! I missed meeting clients in person to discuss commissions so, like the rest of the world, I had to learn my way around Zoom quickly!
Pedddle: Why is shopping small important to you as a small business owner?
Hannah Kate Makes: Shopping small is beneficial because you’re buying from the person (or people) you can see, right there in front of you. If you buy from me, I’ll listen to what you need and do my best to create that for you. I care about my clients and so tailor your experience to you. Whether that’s a little handwritten note in your order when you buy a print or pin from my shop, with everything wrapped up with care and eco-friendly materials, or if we’re working on a bigger piece that’s totally personal to you, you have my attention and ears so that we both know you’ll be happy with the finished article.
Obviously, on the flip side, you’re supporting a small independent business. I pay my taxes here in the UK and shop locally and from other independents. The money you spend with Hannah Kate Makes also helps me pay my rent and bills as well as buying more materials to create my art with. Your choice to shop small supports an actual person and you should be proud of that
Mushypeadesign: For me, shopping small is so important as it’s all about community, sustainability and empowerment in a world heavily dominated by huge multi-national corporations. It adds a face to a product and enables local communities to shape the look and nature of their high street and area. On a personal level, I love the flexibility and freedom to be my own boss and it’s such a delight to own something that’s been made by an individual that is both unique and hand-crafted.
Pedddle: What are you looking forward to next?
Mushypeadesign: So what’s next for my business this year? For the first time, I’ve taken the plunge and made a bigger financial commitment by taking part in Craft in the Pen at Skipton, a much larger event than my usual ones, so I’m excited and scared at the same time! With a view to extending my market, I’m in the process of developing some online collaborations with independent online shops. My plan is to finally set up my own website and learn how to use Illustrator, as I’m admittedly a bit of a technophobe! Presently, I’m developing a range of celestial inspired jewellery and researching ways to produce work in larger quantities so that I can develop my ability to fulfil wholesale orders.
I’m very excited for the last few months of this year! Spooky season, followed by Christmas is a lot of fun for me personally and I hope that this shines through in my work. My Halloween Collection has just launched and includes some new products such as my first stickers and wooden pins.
I’m also beavering away in the background on my Christmas Collection and I’m looking forward to sharing that with everyone in a few weeks! I’m working on a collaboration with another small business too, so keep your eyes peeled for that in November!