Turning A Passion Into A Profession
We often envy people who can make a living out of a creative talent – being an opera singer, a novelist or a painter, for instance – most probably because we feel that if we could draw or sing or write, we wouldn’t have to soil our hands with the seemingly less glamorous daily routines that make up the majority of our working lives.
The reality of turning a creative skill into a viable business can be somewhat more quotidian than we’d like to think, however. Something with which talented Cumbrian artist Victoria Irving would wholeheartedly agree.
The Painted Feather: Just A Dream?
Victoria is an artist of real merit – her illustrations and watercolours are a joy to behold. Although Victoria undertakes occasional commissions, she’d always hankered after a career that involved selling her own range of illustrated gifts and homewares, rather than from creating one-off pieces to be exhibited in galleries and hung in holiday homes.
Victoria’s business concept, Feather And Wild, is a beautiful union of artistry and practicality; the homewares she produces are the opposite of ordinary and quickly caught the imagination of local art aficionados. But it’s one thing to produce exquisite gifts and quite another to find a market big enough to make it a sustainable endeavor.
Creativity versus Business
‘In many ways I’m the archetypal artist,’ says Victoria. ‘I’m very creative and tend to be focused on this part of the process rather than on the nuts and bolts of business-building. It’s easy to get carried away with designing and producing beautiful things that you hope people will want to buy without considering how you’re going to ensure you have an audience.’
‘I knew that I wanted to make a living out of my gifts and homewares but I had to stop and think about how I could make it happen.’
Victoria was savvy enough to know that her natural talent could only get her so far and that she’d need to tackle the sales and marketing aspects of her young business if she was to make it a commercial as well as creative success. Often, the most difficult step to take is to acknowledge that there are things you need to learn before you can move forward.
How Sarah Helped
‘Opting to participate in Sarah’s intensive month-long programme was one of the most important decisions I made and was even more successful than I imagined. Six months down the line and I can actually see changes happening, whereas when I started up I didn’t know where I was heading or how I would get there.’
‘Working with Sarah on a one-to-one basis meant I had to be accountable for my actions (or, more likely, inaction). I felt I’d be letting Sarah down if I didn’t deliver on my promises and do the things I’d committed to. I started by contacting art galleries and had my pictures in 6 galleries in the first 2 months!’ The Accountability Club Facebook group really helped with day-to-day support too. The support of other women who feel the same is wonderful.
‘With the homeware crafts, I took Sarah’s advice and picked out my most popular designs and products – tote bags, coasters, animal prints – and started thinking about where I could sell them. The first month was spent pinning down objectives, making lists and agreeing actions which helped give me a different mindset.’
Feather And Wild now has an active and growing customer base, with more outlets on the cards. Victoria is active on social media and is gaining a reputation for quality across Cumbria and beyond.
‘I’ve still got a lot to learn but I’ve been through an amazing transformation and I wouldn’t be where I am now without Sarah’s support – I simply wouldn’t have had the confidence. It’s been a nerve-wracking process in some ways and has pushed me way outside my comfort zone but I’ve realised that in order to be successful I need to have business goals as well as creative ones. My next project is my new baby – due in July – but I’m planning to be back with lots of fresh ideas in the autumn so watch this space!’