EmmaJayne is a graphic designer, illustrator, blogger and one of Make It Shabby’s contributors. You’ll have seen her Pom-Pom Wreath tutorial here, and you’ll be seeing plenty more projects from her yet!
EmmaJayne studied Surface pattern at the University of Huddersfield and graduated in 1998. After graduating, she was employed by Dorma as a textile designer and also worked freelance, selling her work both within the UK and internationally to the U.S. and Europe.
Here is EmmaJayne’s story in her own words:
I spent four years in the studio at Dorma and then changed career track to go into teaching, where I taught various art courses and mathematics at F.E. level. I was in teaching for eight years and found that I really missed the commercial world of design, my freedom to experiment was very limited and I felt creatively suppressed. That led me to the decision that with all of my prior experience, it made sense to start my own business. My partner and I now have our own boutique creative agency. I also run a blog, which I balance with my design career and my family. I encourage my teenage daughter in craft; she has a natural aptitude for it!
Many people are intrigued by my choice to teach mathematics. I love maths and it is something I believe that I got from my father. He was a mathematician and an analytical thinker.
I have been crafting in one form or another, for as long as I can remember. My earliest craft experiences were knitting with my grandmother.
Creativity plays a huge part in my life. My partner and I are both creative, in different ways. I am always looking for inspiration, in all of the areas in which I feel I am skilled; craft, textiles, illustration, art, fashion and so on.
I have loved art since primary school and I felt that I had to be the best in class. I was always entering art competitions. I come from a creative family; my mum being hugely interested in fashion, and my dad was always making things and doing DIY (even when it was not needed!). My grandfather was also good at woodwork and my grandmother taught me to sew and to knit. I knitted my first jumper, when I was eight years old. It wasn’t a bad attempt, although I made it too large for me and had to wait for two years for it to fit!
I think I first realised that people were interested in my own designs, when I was freelancing, about 15 years ago. That is when I started selling designs here in the UK and abroad.
After leaving university, I gained confidence in my skills and experience and I felt that I wanted to create items that people would want to see in their own homes; cards, ceramics, clothing, ornaments and so on.
Another skill that I recognised and developed greatly, whilst at Dorma, is colour. When a design was to go to print, I would ensure that the colour on the printed sample matched the artwork as closely as possible. I am also good at creating colour combinations and mixing textures and patterns. This is a useful skill for use in fashion and interiors, as well as graphic design. In addition to this, I love to mix in hand drawn illustrations with computer graphic design, to soften the artificial edge and give a more natural feel.
Although I haven’t been in my own business for very long (apart from my part-time freelancing, whilst at Dorma), it is something that I have wanted to do for quite a while. The opportunity presented itself to us, last year, and we grabbed it. I design for print as well as digital, so that includes fliers, business stationery, posters, reports, web sites, and I am also talking to a client about creating some illustrations for a book she is about to start writing. As I mentioned earlier, the variety stimulates my creativity. I would get bored if I were to do only one or two disciplines.
My blog is an outlet for me to focus on trends, experiment and curate inspiration with craft, colours, design, interiors and fashion. I love to look at how different pieces of clothing fit together to create an elegant outfit, or a day-time casual look, or a funky outfit that my teenaged daughter would look good in. I also love to bake and of course make things, so it is a great place for me to post a tutorial on how to do something; make a healthy and quick meal, for people with busy schedules, or how to make Christmas or party decorations which look the part, but without breaking the bank.
It gives me a huge sense of fulfilment, knowing that people whom I have never met can use my blog to get their own inspiration and create their own things.
My blog started its life as a visual diary, in 2010, whilst I was doing a Masters degree at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). It was a space for me to post photos and information about the course-work, as an online portfolio. I changed the focus of my blog and began to post more regularly about twelve months ago. Since then, my posts have become more and more frequent. I love it! It is a fantastic feeling, when I get comments posted about my ideas and work, and I can have a conversation with people about it. It is wonderful to think that I have helped to inspire someone and have exposed them to some new trends, or that they have been able to use some of my tips to make or bake something and put their own mark on it.
What advice would I give to someone wanting to start their own business?
Well, to start with, I would advise that you should do something you enjoy. You will do much better at working on something you feel passionate about and it will show in your work and in how you talk to people about it. Get as much experience in it, before launching yourself into business. The passion and experience will take you a long way. Be a geek in your subject. Research your target market and make sure that people want to buy that which you want to make and sell.
Be aware of your value and do not undersell yourself. There are so many people out there who will ask you to create a flier for free, they’ll tell you that it will be good for your portfolio. It isn’t necessary to work for nothing. You can create that flier for yourself; a different treatment of something which already exists, for example. That will show off your creativity and you can provide a rationale for why you did it in that particular way. So keep a business head on your shoulders and don’t lose sight of why you are doing this, i.e. to make a living from it. Network and build relationships. Remember that people buy from people. Get involved in social media, join Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Post relevant items regularly and a few here and there which may be less relevant to your business but show your personality, and engage in conversations with people who follow you. Be honest with others and with yourself. It is important to let go of something that is not going to work. If you don’t you will just be a busy fool.
Follow EmmaJayne on Twitter – @emma_j_designs
Facebook – www.facebook.com/emmajaynedesigns
Instagram – instagram.com/emmajayne_designs
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