Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Most Wonderful Woman I Know

I wanted to carry on a little from the last blog post. 'Winging It...' was largely about the creative side of the business and how I personally went with it. However, I wanted to do a post solely dedicated to one person who made it all possible, my Mam (which is Geordie for Mum, Mother, Mom etc). A few sentances didn't seem enough.

When I was in school she taught me to sew and supported any dreams I had to be a poor artist and when I finished university in 2011 I moved back home to Newcastle and in with her. When I decided that I was going to make a go of business as a wildlife artist and illustrator she supported me in this dream and I could never thank her enough. She was there as a shoulder to cry on when I doubted myself or thought I was crazy. She stood with me freezing in the cold and wet when I did my first events. She gave me the push to try the bigger events which then helped me expand my business. She even let me take over the spare room as a home studio...and the dining room for making mugs...and the garage for storing all my stock. 

Now I have moved into my first place of my own I want to thank her for all the help and support she has given me over the years. Although I know she is overjoyed at having her space back and clutter-free no amount of free paintings, coasters and lamps can make up for that. I am sure that there are many other creatives out there in a similar situation and have wonderful families who are there for them. My thanks not only go out to my Mam but my Dad, brother, aunties, uncles, grandparents and friends but I wanted to give extra special thanks to the woman who brought me into the world and has supported me every step of the way. I love you Mam.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Winging It - Starting Business as a Wildlife Artist

A lot of my customers seem interested in how I started my business 4 years ago. I think a lot of the time this is because I look 17 and indeed if I do an event with my Mam or Granny along to help, more often than not they are addressed by people assuming they are the artist. I think this is because you have to be crazy to try and make a living as a full-time artist. The majority of fellow artisans I know are in business as a hobby; to supplement an existing job or they are retired and it brings in a little extra income. I am 27 years old this year and this is the only job I have and I wouldn't have it any other way. Here is the story of how I started and a little bit of my journey along the way.

I graduated university in 2011 having studied illustration and having had an awful time of it. There was a strong emphasis on digital illustration which is simply not messy enough for me. After leaving university I wanted to get back into painting and I have always had an affinity for wildlife, thus the first subject I painted was a fox cub. 

I loved exploring mark making in my sketchbook and I'd been drawing little dry brushed ink crows and I thought the technique would transfer well using a little watercolour to add some colour. The fox was just a cute subject and thus the first painting was born! As a person I like a challenge and I set myself the target of painting one thing a week. It didn't need to be perfect, it didn't need to even look like an animal and more often than not I made mistakes but in doing so I learned and the whole process helped me loosen up and explore. I posted the paintings onto Flickr and Behance and people really responded. Come November I decided I wanted to take my work to a craft fair to see how people responded to my style and my work. 

I never in a million years intended to become a wildlife artist. My Granny had wanted me to be an accountant or an architect and I did have some sane thought in my mind that informed me that most artists are poor and it was not a steady job prospect. Nevertheless my first of two fairs at Gibside NT in Rowland's Gill came along in the December of 2011. I was freezing. I was muddy. I was nervous...and I was selling original artwork for £50. I sold out over the two fairs and that included cramming some extra painting over the 2 weeks in between. I had a few other products to begin with including limited edition prints, cards, tote bags and little badges. I understood the need to have different price points but the cost of originals lead them to fly off the trestle table and into the homes of customers I will be forever grateful for taking a punt on little old me.

After Christmas my Grandma pretty much dragged me through the door of the North East Art Collective and I met John Thompson who shocked me by taking 11 pieces of my work. At the time I would have been ecstatic to have given him 3 but he supported me from the very beginning and the price of my work trippled instantly. John gave me the confidence to approach other galleries and slowly but surely I spread my work around the North East. John also told his customers that I was 17 and worked as a carer for old people (for those of you out there who still think this I was 23 and I worked with children with additional needs). I started to look into new events and craft fairs and stood at Gibside twice a month freezing, mudding and more often than not soaking wet as I honed my products and added to the range to ensure I had products to fit every budget.

In Christmas of 2012 and almost a year on from my first craft fair I was trading at Living North Essence of Christmas and Durham Christmas Festival. Looking back at the time I thought it was a lot of money to spend to trade at these events and I was terrified but I had a fantastic time and made new aquaintances, met new customers and earned enough money to buy myself equipment and supplies to grow the business. 

Three years on and I am still winging it. Getting to this point has been a wonderful journey and along the way I have met fabulous people who have given me advice, support or opinions. I still try new events I haven't done before. I still get nervous paying large bills for events and the mountains of stock invading every shelf in my home and studio. I still paint at least one thing a week. I love lists.  I have tried things that haven't worked and I have tried things that have. I get sick to death of painting hares. I have no life in November or December. I swear I have enough products and I don't need to do any more but I guarentee you the crazy little voice in the back of my head will pop up and say "Ooooo that's a good idea...why not just do this?". Low and behold next year I will have yet another new product. I teach classes and demonstrate my work in public. I get new opportunities and I even have to turn some of them down. I stock galleries and shops all around the UK and I sell work all around the world. I plan Christmas in January (yes, it is very sad). I love hearing people say "Ooo this is Jina Gelder's work". I get emails from start ups asking my advice. I have learned to let go and delegate. Most importantly I love my job. Every crazy, unpredictable, snow-balling and spontaneous minute of it.

My New Website : www.geegeedesigns.co.uk