For the last two years I've worked as a freelancer, designer/maker and illustrator. It's been the most amazing experience ever and I'm enjoying every second of it.
I graduated from University of Bedfordshire in 2009 with a first class degree in Illustration and absolutely no idea what to do with my life. I moved to London and for several years was in full time (mainly retail) employment which barely paid for my rent and food. I wasn't able to create after work, majority of the time I was too tired to even live let alone be creative. I truly admire people who can do that but I am not one of them. By the end of the 2011 I was exhausted & lost all hope of finding any creative job or even remotely creative or even a job where I would have two days off together (and oh my I did try! I banged my head, sent CV, found some commissions on the side).
I did work full time majority of my time while in Uni and summers while in school (including burger king, pub, amazon warehouse, food factory, airport), I don't mind soul sucking, dirty & hard work, it's all part of the process but as long as there is a glimpse of hope.
And at some point it happened I lost hope and it felt drained and empty inside. So when my partner suggested that I could find a part-time job and do drawing/illustrating on the side it was like a revelation, angels started to sing and the light came through the clouds (just kidding, but it felt a bit like that :)) In terms of money the difference wasn't much, it sounds nuts but that's the thing with low paid retail jobs in London, I earned so little that cutting 2 days a week wasn't making much of a difference but I was saving on transport etc.
I quit my soul sucking luxury retail job and found a lovely part time retail job in the summer of 2011. I also got married to that amazing and supportive man later that year. :)
I was working three days a week and drawing & figuring things on the side. It felt great, it felt liberating and I felt that I was becoming myself again. At one point one of the colleagues at that part time job was opening a pop up shop and asked to buy some of my greeting cards. I sold him some, printed some more for my Etsy shop and it went from there! I got addicted, I started to realise that people were making and selling all sorts of crazy things! So I asked myself what can I make that people might like? And answer was wearable illustrations! I bought air clay and made some people brooches & fox brooches. And things sold! Slowly but surely, little by little I was selling brooches, earrings, postcards, prints. I switched to shrink plastic and was hand drawing all of the brooches at that point. :) I started doing markets during Christmas time and meeting all the lovely people of London, Uk and social media handmade/creative community. And what a fabulous bunch they are! The most kind, supportive, open, talented and fun people ever!!!
Time went by so fast and summer 2013 I was getting more drained again. And I realised that I can't grow AndSmile if I stay in my part time job. I knew that I had to give it a go and that if it didn't work I could just find another part time job. So I did try! I worked really hard, launched new products, started printing on shrink plastic, signed up for all possible markets and just kept going & going & going. It's not a great business tip but it did work for me. I invested all of my time, passion and heart into it. And I'm still investing all of my time, passion and heart into what I am doing. I am not taking anything for granted. I'm so thankful for being able to do what I love for a living. I am so grateful for every single purchase from my shop, be it a postcard or a all Wes Anderson Brooches in one sale. It means the world to me to know that you are ready to pay for my work with your hard earned cash. I have so much respect for that. And every single parcel which is going out, every single brooch that is being baked, every single custom commission receives as much love, care and respect as the very first air clay brooch I crafted.
Thank you so much if you managed to read this very long blogpost to the end. :))
If I had a chance to give myself an advice when I started I would tell that: do what you love, don't wait for anyone to give you permission to do what you love, don't take shit (take criticism but not empty words, there is no money in it, it's just a hobby, you are not good enough, you will not make it), keep going, there is enough space for everyone, be happy and that it will be ok.
That's my story. What is yours?