By Kate Marsden
A fun and colourful trip up to the tenements of Glasgow this week, as we find out all about illustrator/designer maker extraordinaire Claire Barclay…
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
Hiya! I'm Claire and I'm a designer/maker based in Glasgow. I have a wee illustration business named 'Claire Barclay Draws' where I create a whole assortment of illustrated goods from greetings cards to jewellery. A lot of my work is based on my Scottish heritage and the funny quirks and sayings we Scots have from being a top 'Glasgow Girl' to just generally being 'Pure Braw'. I also work on commission work such as family portraits, logo designs and wedding stationery. All these designs are drawn from scratch and made to order, which makes them super special to the individual who orders them.
What does a typical day involve?
I'm such a morning person so I tend to start my day as early as possible and usually find myself at my desk at around 7am. I feel so much more productive at the start of the day, and love the light I get in my studio space in the morning as well. I always start my day with emails as I find I'm most on the ball with writing early on while my head is still clear. I then usually try and get a commission piece done before lunch. After lunch I'll make up any Etsy orders that have come through and pack them all up. Around 4pm I head along to the postie as I find this a good time to stretch my legs and get some fresh air too. In the evenings I can be known to keep on working if I've got enough energy, and to be honest can find it hard to switch off. A classic evening can be making some stock replenishment while watching some trashy TV!
Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
I work from home which I love. I live in a Glasgow tenement which has a lovely bright huge living room which I've actually managed to divide into two separate spaces (thank you IKEA shelves!). My space is right at the front of the house and I really do feel away from everything when I'm working there. It's quite a jazzy space with lots of nick knacks around that keep me feeling jolly and inspire me.
When I'm not working, I just love to get out and see friends/family or go visit my lovely boyfriend who is currently living in Aberdeen as he studies up there. I do work solo most of the time, so it is so important to make sure to get a coffee and catch up with pals as much as possible. I also love travelling and try to get away a few times a year for a week or a long weekend here and there. I had never had this flexibility with working hours until going self employed, and I love the freedom to be able to work hard and then get away whenever suits me.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?
Getting yourself out there is hard. I feel like I have really noticed the impact on social media this year and how much harder it is to get your work seen and your voice heard. Social media is such a big part of the job if you want to have an online business, and it is so much work in itself to always have fresh content and good images especially when you have a mega to do list and deadlines looming!
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
Just to keep growing! I don't want to overwhelm myself too much so I do let the business grow quite organically, and so far that has worked pretty well for me. I have all my products on Etsy at the moment but I would like to get onto some other platforms as well as have my own website with shop on so that's what I'll be working on next. I also just want to create more products for my shop and somehow strike a better work/life balance too!
Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?
Keep going! It can seem daunting and so hard at times but I truly think if you work super hard and are nice to people you will do well. That saying it is ALOT of work. When starting out for the first two years of my business I was working in a day job too, and as my business grew I gradually cut my hours in the day job, until I knew I had a leg to stand on and could go for it being fully self employed. Also I would say stay true to yourself and your style, I try to keep research to a minimum at times when designing products as I do feel the more you trawl the internet for ideas the more likely your work is going to look similar to something else that already exists.
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?
Yes, and I love the message. I remember reading the story of the gallery that closed and the idea that if each customer had just bought a card they would still be open today, and it really resonated with me. I always try to shop local as much as possible and think it is so important to support indie talent and creativity, as anything that has been made and designed with care and love is worth 100 times more that mass produced generic stuff.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
It is so important as I depend on people even just buying a card, these little sales really add up and can see you through month to month. Also if you are sending that card onto someone else you are doing a great thing of supporting that small business and also spreading their name and their talent onto other people and that is what it's all about. Supporting and sharing the work of indie designers is so important and such an easy thing to do through just a card!
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 of it on Twitter I'm sure though my favourite social media channel has to be Instagram as I love the visual element of it. I also don't even feel that bad when I get lost trawling through my news feed as I only really follow fellow designers and indie businesses, so it's a great way to keep in the loop and do some research too. I'll be supporting Just a Card by continuing to shop local and independent as much as possible. I always buy gifts through small shops anyway as you can find much more quirky and fun items, and I would much prefer to give my money to these businesses as well!