By Kate Marsden
I “met” Katrina of Katrina Sophia Art & Illustration online a few years ago, and finally met her in person (and bought Christmas cards!) at an event in London some time later. She’s since moved to Nottingham where she creates her beautiful paintings from a rather larger studio. Here she talks about her work and the importance of small purchases when you’re making a living from your art…
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
I am an artist and freelance illustrator living in Nottingham, previously London. I run a business selling original paintings and products on my online shop, and offer commissions, such as pet portraits, wedding stationery and hand lettering services. I also create bespoke illustrations and letterings for brands and companies. Nature is my biggest inspiration, I collect ideas and inspiration on my sketchbook and then paint them with watercolour, or sometimes oil.
I studied two art related degrees and they didn't work out after the first year due to several barriers I faced as a deaf person and sign language user. As I still wanted to get into a creative field, I applied for internships and every one of them got rejected because I didn't have the experience. I was baffled, because I needed these unpaid internships to gain experience! After three years of working odd jobs while applying for internships and assistant roles, I realised my situation was not going to change until I started making things happen for myself, so I took control and started my business.
To this day, even though running a business is not easy and the communication barriers I faced will still be there for the rest of my life, I am proud of what I've achieved so far and feel determined to keep improving my business, and grow as an artist while I am at it.
What does a typical day involve?
In the morning, I reply to emails and work on personal projects. Then after 11, I pack any new orders and head to the post office. For the rest of the day I work on any paid projects I have at that time, and in downtime I work on improving my product photography, updating my website or writing posts for the blog.
Self care is also important so I go to badminton every Tuesday lunchtime with my boyfriend, and swimming or walking every other day.
Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
I work from home. My studio is pretty simple - white walls, wooden floors and plants. I have two tables, one for daily work with a computer and one for painting bigger, messier pieces. When I am not working, I enjoy making things out of clay, reading arty magazines, photography, looking after plants, and walking. I love discovering new parks and nature reserves.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?
To stand out. The creative industry is getting increasingly bigger and saturated. Getting my name out there and growing my profile proved very hard in the first few years of my business, and I think it is the same for most.
Staying visible is also difficult. We have to be consistent, self-promoting online to remind people that we are still around and selling our goods or services. I find that if I become busy for a few days and slow down online, or even go on holiday, I lose attention very quickly. It's a tricky balance.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
I hope to find more stockists for my products and build a bigger audience. I would like to be able to make a comfortable living through my business.
My biggest dream is to own a cafe-slash-gallery supporting independent artists but I think it is a bit far fetched at the moment! I just hope to live long enough to achieve this.
Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?
Start growing your email list right now! I regret not doing this from the start. Also, a continuous tip I always give myself is to keep creating as much as you can and focus on self development.
Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.
Handmade Nottingham! An amazing shop in the city of Nottingham, supporting small businesses from Nottinghamshire and beyond. It is a must visit if you haven't yet. I am stocked with them, and I am surprised at how my products sold well there and I am thankful for them.
I love Shedquarters, a beautiful online shop selling homeware and stationery. I've shopped with them since they first opened - they are always friendly and reliable.
I've recently discovered a shop inside Nottingham Contemporary. They stock lovely and unique gifts by independent artists. All their proceeds support their artistic and educational work, which I think is a good cause.
Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?
I realised that as I follow Just A Card on Twitter and the message is always crystal clear. When I learnt about this campaign, I realised how it was very true and might be part of the reason why my business was sometimes struggling, so I've been telling this simple but vital message to my family and friends.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
It is a big deal. Just a small purchase makes a big difference to my business, and to me too, because this is my living.
Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
I heard about this campaign on Twitter, which I am trying to be active on. I am generally rubbish with social media! My favourite social channel has to be Instagram, it is a perfect place to share work in progress photos and share pretty things! I post there daily, though I always remind myself not to put all eggs in one basket so I post on Twitter and Facebook Page quite regularly as well.
People can support the message of Just A Card by sharing their tweets and blogposts; telling their friends and family about Just A Card and their favourite independent artists; and of course, by actually buying lovely gifts and giving them to people!