Hello and welcome to a brand new, shiny blog series called, 'A day in the life'. This series is all about just what a day in the life is actually like for full time creative business owners, so what it says on the tin really!
I decided to start this series because as a full time creative business owner myself, I know just how hard other creatives work. No, they're not just sitting around drinking tea all day, they work really flipping hard and I want the world to know that. So, I thought what better way to share that with the world than by actually finding out from fellow creative business owners what they do.
And, just like that urge everyone has to see inside other people's houses, don't you just love finding out about people? I sure do and I'm super excited to kick start this series with an absolutely incredible jewellery designer. Want to know more? Me too, so let's hand the reigns over and find out about what the average day is like for...
Hello, I’m Erica Sharp and I am a jewellery designer based in Berkshire, U.K. I’ve been running my small jewellery business, Astrid and Rose, since August 2016. Before that I made jewellery alongside my other work but when things really took off in 2015 I realised it was possible to make this my full time job. I spent the last part of 2015 and early 2016 planning ahead and creating a website and doing a lot of research to ensure I was heading out on the right foot. Things have been brilliant this last year and I am excited for the next year ahead.
I originally trained as an illustrator and a visual arts teacher. I spent 7 years teaching art and design at secondary school, whilst taking illustration commissions when I had the time. I absolutely loved teaching children, but towards the end I began to feel creatively frustrated; it started to become more about targets and form filling than sharing my love for the arts. At the end of 2013 life threw some traumatic events my way, including an ectopic pregnancy, surgery and infertility. It was life changing and incredibly tough but also a realisation that I had complete control of what I really wanted to do, and a clearer vision of the type of life I wanted to live.
After leaving mainstream education I spent a couple of years illustrating, teaching visual arts to adults and selling jewellery on Etsy. 2015 was a turning point for my jewellery business and also the start of a new creative journey when I discovered the ancient art of lost wax casting. Lost wax casting is a process where an object is carved out of jeweller’s wax and then cast at a very high heat in a specially made mould. The wax disappears from the mould when heated, and then the void is filled with the molten metal. Carving miniatures in wax feels like second nature to me; it’s a lot like drawing and I love the challenge of working on such a tiny scale.
On a normal workday, I wake up around 7am and get ready to walk Pedro, our pug. We go out a little before 8 and have an hours walk. We live in Berkshire surrounded by lovely parks and woodland, and are spoilt for choice for walks. Being in nature clears my head and sets me up for the day. For breakfast I have porridge or toast, and read Grace Bonney’s “In The Company of Women”, it’s become a ritual to read one interview each morning. I love this book - the women featured are from such a diverse range of backgrounds, and the interviews are very honest and real, celebrating both the positives and the challenges of running a creative or small business.
I share a home studio with my husband Jay, a 3D motion graphics designer. We both have computers at one end of the room and then my workbench area at the other. Jay is a purely digital artist, whereas I’m more analogue; his area is normally very tidy and mine is messy! But we fully embrace our differences and really admire and inspire one another’s work.
I start my workday around 9.30 by reading emails and replying to enquiries. The majority of the jewellery I sell is through Etsy, it’s my favourite platform for selling and buying unique, handmade products. I print out orders and put them in a queue to make later in the week; depending on how busy I am I work a few days ahead. Having a long enough lead-time is really important to make the workload manageable, especially during busier times of the year.
I then run through the orders due for dispatch that day and package them ready to be shipped. Most of my charm jewellery is made and prepared in batches so all I need to do at this stage is attach a chain, box it up carefully, and it’s ready to go. I stop to make a cup of coffee around 11. Depending on how busy I am that day, I sometimes start to make jewellery that is made to order or personalised around this time.
I usually break anytime between 12.30 and 1.30 for lunch. I try my best to have a proper break of at least 30 minutes, away from the screen. I eat something healthy that is quick to prepare. Lunch normally consists of leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, soup or salad. After lunch I head out to the post office and dispatch the orders I packaged from earlier.
When I return, I get started with jewellery that is made to order, like rings or lockets. January is usually quiet, so I am spending my afternoon time replenishing products that are out or low in stock from Christmas. I’m currently working through a big box of castings that need finishing. This involved sawing off the sprue (the vessel that allows the metal to flow into the mould), filing and sanding it down, and then polishing. I use a dremel tool to do the majority of the sanding, and when complete, the castings go in batches into a tumbler to polish. The tumbler is filled with water, steel shot and polishing compound and rotates continually for 30 minutes to an hour. I love taking the castings out when they are done as they are so incredibly shiny!
When a batch of castings is ready, I take them to London either for hallmarking at the Assay Office or for gold plating. I use a fantastic gold platers in Hatton Garden, and I often drop into a couple of shops to pick up supplies like chains and wire. I normally spend a day or two in London every couple of months, and try to fit in seeing my Mum on those days for lunch, as it’s a half way meeting point for us.
One day a week I also teach visual art classes to adults. I feel connected to people when I teach; you meet so many different characters and I care about my students a lot. It also gives me more stability financially, especially if I’m having a quiet month with jewellery orders. One day I hope to build a large studio at home, and use it to teach my own workshops, both for visual arts and jewellery. This is a long-term goal, so it’s really important that I continue my teaching practice and build myself a positive reputation as a tutor.
In the evening I stop for a break around 5.30 to feed Pedro and have a play. He gets bored around this time so it's a perfect little break for the two of us. I go back to the computer at 6 and finish off emails and admin, and tidy up my workspace. My workbench is always messy and I make sure I leave it tidy to start afresh the following day. I start making dinner at around 6.30, after that I make sure I spend quality time with Jay and Pedro.
In the evenings, I like to spend some time crafting. At the moment I am really enjoying sewing and textiles, and have just finished an embroidery. It’s a lovely way to relax and unwind and I find something very cosy about making things in the winter.
I also spend one or two evenings a week drawing or painting a new project for my art students. I love thinking of new ideas and techniques to teach, and I find that drawing and painting the projects inspires and supports my students. This week we have used charcoals which is one of my favourite mediums. The students loved it too.
On the weekends, I often work a little on Saturdays. It’s usually jobs like taking and editing photographs, uploading new product listings, and writing product descriptions. I use weekend time to make new waxes too. I have just finished making a very delicate fern in wax that I have just had cast in silver. It’s a new piece to add to my woodland collection, and I am going to start making some wildflowers for rings over the next couple of months.
I use a special jeweller’s wax to make my miniatures. The wax is available in different levels of hardness. I like the blue wax the most, as it’s quite a hard wax, and I use Wolf carving tools, as the blades are so sharp; they are the most incredible quality. I also use a softer pink wax for more delicate work, which can be moulded and softened with heat. I use a flame and the finest detailing tools to include textures on my waxes.
It’s a bit of a cliché but work really does not feel like work to me; it’s never a chore and always a privilege. So I don’t mind if I have to work some weekends or evenings. I enjoy it and embrace it, and do it with love and appreciation.
To relax and unwind, Jay and I love to go walking on the weekends with Pedro. We have recently joined the National Trust and have some exciting places to visit on the weekends. We also hope to travel more in the U.K. this year and go to Cornwall and the Isle of Wight for some long weekends away. Other weekend activities usually involve days out in London - a day of visits to galleries and eateries and exploring new neighbourhoods.
Running a small business takes courage and hard work, but I have no regrets about making the decision to go for it. I think the hardest part is giving yourself permission to do so and believing it will work. There are always hurdles of self-doubt that we all experience. One of my biggest challenges at the moment is pace. I find pacing myself difficult as my business is still at a very early stage, yet I am so eager to make every design idea I have in my head. At this stage I need to be realistic as I am still learning about my customers, and what appeals to them; I am still shaping my brand. This ultimately affects things like the type of designs I create, how many designs to make, how many castings to order, and so on, so I try not to jump too far ahead of myself. I am taking small steps and growing slowly. Being a one-woman band I only have limited resources and budgets, and being able to manage and grow my business at a pace that make it financially viable is a really important priority at this stage.
When I was little my Dad started up his own business, designing argon purifiers made for the engineering industries. He started with a small budget, working from the garden shed alongside his colleague. Back then there was no internet and no way of finding clients and advertising as easily as we can now, and he had a family to support. It was a niche market and despite the challenges, he made it a great success over the years. My Dad is my small business hero; to me he is proof that with lots of hard work, encouragement, planning, and long-term vision, running a small business can be a success and a joy.
Thank you so much, Erica! It's been truly wonderful hearing not only what your day at work is like but also how your journey to becoming a full time jewellery designer began. You're a true inspiration!
I hope you've all enjoyed reading about Erica's story. If you'd like to find out more head to her website and don't forget you can also find her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
If you'd like to share what your average day looks like, please do get in touch here!
Man what a week! How's it been for you? It's been non stop stitching here at Adventures & Tea Parties HQ as I've raced towards the finishing line to get my Valentine's Day designs completed. Just a tiny bit of embroidery to do tonight, then I'm ready to start photographing them all and hopefully adding them to my online shops by next weekend. Fingers and toes crossed!
As well as designing and making every day, I've been sending out some early Valentine's Day orders for the Love Birds and the Arrow & Heart Hankies, doing a whole load of research on technological gadgets for the design part of my business and pushing forward with my goal of creating a website and my very own online shop. Feels good to be edging a little closer to completing some big goals. Still a way to go but hey, baby steps are always best I reckon.
There have been a few late nights this week too; working in front of the tv or listening to playlists on Spotify as I stitch. Something I've been glued to is the new Amercian drama, Quarry. Have you seen it? It's very dark but bloomin' good and oh man, the music is incredible! So, this week has involved a fair bit of googling of tracks from the series and playing them on repeat. These numbers got played ALOT. Pop them on and have a listen, they're really rather good.
Yay, it's that time of the month when I find out and introduce you all to the face behind a wonderful creative blog. This month it's the turn of 'OhHay!', a creative lifestyle blog full of gorgeous posts about design, illustration, photography and all things blogging related. As you'll find out, the person behind this blog wears two hats, which totally impresses me, so I was super keen to find out about her creative world!
Hello there, can you tell us all a little bit about yourself?
My name is Lauren, I'm a 21 year old Graphic Design graduate from the North East of Scotland. I started my blog, OhHay!, back in May 2013 as a place to grow my online presence as a creative and to share my adventures. I also run the blogging community group #CBloggers that I set up in September 2015.
Where do you blog?
My usual spot is in the bedroom. I only got a desk put in a few months ago but it has really helped change the way I work. It has given me a proper space to get down and focus on what I need to get done. I’m also known to do a bit of blogging whilst on the train or sitting in coffee shops.
If you had to take only one tool to a desert island, what would you choose and why?
If paper was already going to be supplied (or I could draw on leaves?) then I’d probably pick a water brush pen filled with black ink. Since starting to use it I have found it helps me be a bit more expressive in my work.
How do you get inspired to blog?
I won’t lie, I do struggle with this a lot, which is probably evident in how often I blog. But I definitely find it easiest when there is a topic that I am really passionate talking about, such as community or creativity. I also follow a lot of amazing creative bloggers that are always pushing the boundaries, so that’s always an encouraging incentive too.
What top tips would you give to anyone starting a blog?
Blog for you! For a while I tried to include things like beauty reviews but that wasn’t me and it was forced. Your blog should be your space for your interests and passions. If you are forcing or faking an interest it’ll be obvious. Whereas, if it’s something you are really into, it’s most likely going to resonate with other people too. Most recently I realised this when I shared my Tips for Networking blog post.
Is there a story behind the name, ‘OhHay!'?
There is! The name basically came about from needing to come up with a self promotional “branding” as part of a web design module when I was in my first year of college. Instead of just going with my name, I wanted to go with something that was a bit more quirky and after some brainstorming I went with OhHay! The idea for the name basically came from when I was back in secondary school, I used to get the line, “Oh ‘Hay’ Lauren Hay!” from friends and so I thought it would work for my module (but shortened) and then I ended up keeping it when I started my blog a month later.
If you could go to a Blog Award dinner with any 5 people (dead or alive, real or fictional) who would you choose?
I would love to chat to James Victore as he was such a key, inspiring figure for me throughout University. Also, Jessica Hische as she seems like such a wonderful women and I love the work she produces, Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman as their projects are always extremely thought provoking and boundary pushing, and Andy J Miller because his podcasts always inspire me to be a better creative.
And finally...if you had to choose one song to represent 'OhHay!', what would it be and why?
Oh man this is such a hard question because I listen to so much! I think it’d likely be some indie or a rock/punk song that just makes you want to lean against the train window and watch the countryside roll by. So, I think something from Imagine Dragons, Bastille Walking On Cars or The Rocket Summer would be perfect to represent it!
Thanks so much, Lauren! It's been wonderful hearing all about your creative blogging world and your advice about just being yourself when blogging and creating YOUR space is so true. Keep up the awesome design and blogging work, Lauren!
I hope you've all enjoyed this month's Blog Gem interview. If you missed any recent interviews, you can catch up on them all here. Happy reading!
All of the images and interview answers are the copyright of Lauren at OhHay!. Please do not use without seeking permission first. Thank you.
Over on the Simple Stylish Makes blog I'm showing you how to make lemon and ginger tea. It's super easy AND it works wonders if you've got a grotty cold. Pop the kettle on and find out how to make this winter brew here.
Hello my lovelies, I hope you're all having a good weekend. I've been on an epic walk today where I spotted loads of beautiful birds; sadly I didn't take my binoculars with me. Next time though, next time. I think I spotted a Yellowhammer and I'm 90% sure I saw a Goldcrest but more on that another time. As well as bird watching and walking, I spent all of Saturday practising my drawing skills (a personal goal if you like) using this book I got out from the local library. It's a brilliant book. Really well written, very funny and is perfectly structured for those keen on learning to draw. Talking of drawing, I really should stop rambling on and introduce you to this month's 'Meet the local artist', Rosie Webb. I discovered Rosie's work in a gorgeous shop in Bristol called, Blaze. I was instantly drawn (ha-ha, like what I did there?!) to Rosie's work for it's loose, characterful and story-like style, so I just had to find out more....
Hi there Rosie, can you tell me and my readers a little bit about yourself?
I am an Illustrator from Bristol. I lived in London for 10 years working as a freelance illustrator for magazines such as Red, Jamie oliver and Stella magazine and am now back in Bristol and loving every minute. I have a four year old daughter and two step sons aged 7 and 10.
What kind of art do you do?
Loose humourous watercolours often featuring anthropomorphized animals in some form of human attire. I have self published two children's books and sell limited edition prints and cards that seem to appeal to all ages.
How do you work and get inspired?
My kids inspire me no end. I also throw ideas around with gallery owners such as Adrian Flower at Studio 73 in Brixton and Sarah Thorpe in Room 212 Bristol. I regularly visit museums such as the Natural History Museum in London and sometimes ideas come to me on my bike when I see something that catches my eye or when I'm washing up!
I work in my studio in the middle of Bristol and need to set myself deadlines. Sometimes I have to paint an idea over and over again before I get it right and sometimes it comes very easily. I never use pencil, just paint straight onto paper... always at least a bit of wet on wet.
What do you love about art?
All kinds of art, be it visual or music or literary allow us to escape, find a voice for feelings we can't express or understand, empathise and offer an alternative to the mundane. I don't think anyone can live without art.
What's the creative scene like in Bristol?
It's lovely. I am a member of Blaze Studio at 84 Colston street, BS1. We run a shop and gallery as a co-operative and offer each other help and support. I feel that there is more room to be creative and explore different ideas in Bristol than London due to the fact that the rent and cost of living is lower so there is less of a panic over money. People living here know there is a lot of talent on their doorstep and like to buy art from local people. We all know each other so there is a real sense of belonging. The craft markets, such as 'The Frome Independent' are a good source of income but also great social events where you see some of the same people each month and the kids are growing up being regularly involved in.
If you had to take only one art tool to a desert island, what would you choose and why?
Watercolour paint. I love this medium and feel there is always more to explore and learn. I'm sure I could find something to paint on and with.
If you could go to an Art Award dinner with any 5 people (dead or alive, real or fictional), who would you choose?
My old friend Martin because we haven't had a night out for a long time plus Andy Warhol, Beatrix Potter, Donald Robertson (a very current and prolific living American illustrator, father of 5 and force of Nature) and Frida Kahlo.
Thank you so much Rosie, it's been wonderful hearing all about your creative world!
If you enjoyed this interview, you might like to catch up on my previous 'Meet the local artist' interviews here and if you'd like to be featured, feel free to drop me a line.
I'm absolutely over the moon to have an advert in the February 2017 issue of House Beautiful! I'm a big fan of this magazine. It's bursting with inspirational interviews, stylish features, delicious recipes and gorgeous photography. If you haven't already picked up a copy, you can find it in most new agents and supermarkets and you can find me on page 154, woohoo!