Jess Taylor - Loadofolbobbins
By Kate Marsden
We’re heading to Portsmouth this week to get to know a little more about a Just A Card supporter who many of you will already be aware of! Jess Taylor is the brains behind the wonderful Fred the Pigeon, who you will have seen all over our social media feeds. She’s also been running some successful Kickstarter campaigns of late, and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on my suffragette inspired pin! Read on to find out more about Jess and what inspires her work…
Tell is a little about you. What do you do?
I’m Jess, aka Loadofolbobbins, an illustrator and textile artist based by the sea in Portsmouth, with a penchant for pigeons and a love of all things silhouette. At the forefront of a lot of my illustration work is my pigeon friend Fred, who loves to coosplay and campaign for Just A Card. I also write a monthly column for the fabulous Mr X Stitch website about all things needlecraft and Etsy, where I’m the one asking the questions so this whole experience is quite an exciting change for me!
What does a typical day involve?
A typical day is predictably unpredictable, I’m fairly open with my schedule and it will always depend on what deadlines I’ve got to meet. More often than not, when I start my day I’ll check my e-mails and review any orders I have pending so I can plan my time accordingly. I’ve also recently got into at home yoga after doing the ‘30 days of Yoga with Adrienne’ at the start of the year, so before I venture downstairs I’ll do a session to help clear my mind and get a bit fitter (long overdue!). If I’m up to date with my orders I’ll get to work on any new ideas, checking on social media throughout the day and trying not to get too distracted by hitting the refresh button on my latest Kickstarter campaign. By the time evening rolls around, depending on the day, I can be found catching up with some of my creative pals on Twitter and taking part in some of the fab hashtag hours that help us all highlight our work and support each other. As a bit of a night owl I do tend to work until quite late so I’ll get on with a bit more before bed. Over the years I’ve learned to go with it as I find I work much faster in the evenings.
Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
I dream of the day when I have a proper studio space, I currently have an armchair studio and dining table which keeps me pootling along nicely, if somewhat messily at times. My armchair has a wonderful high back which makes it perfect for when I spend long hours embroidering or glued to my laptop staring at pixels.
I’m a keen genealogist so when I’m not working I can usually be found exploring branches of my family tree. I’ve been doing it for about 14 years, since I was in college. Over the years I’ve discovered some real gems, for an example my 7 x great uncle was an infamous highwayman and my 6 x great grandfather was pen pals with President John Adams! I’ve always loved history and have often incorporated it into my textile art.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?
I think selling at markets has definitely become a bit of a tightrope walk, there’s a constant struggle to sell enough to ensure that you cover all your costs. I often find myself ruling out markets with higher fees because after you add travel expenses, it can be almost impossible to earn any profit. It’s a real shame as markets can be such a great experience, it’s your chance to get out and meet customers and fellow makers face to face, really feel part of that wider community. But, if your margins are tight it can be really difficult to justify the expense. There are so many factors outside of a seller’s control that contribute to the success or failure of an event, it really is a bit hit and miss at times.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
Like everyone, probably, I’d like to see my business grow and I’d love to get to the stage where I can afford to branch out a bit, producing new items that have been on my wish list for years. I’d also really like to collaborate with some of my fellow makers on projects, I’ve always enjoyed that exchange of ideas when working in a group, everyone sparking off each other’s creativity and always with unexpected results at the end of it.
Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/ small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?
First and foremost, I’d say try not to judge yourself or your work against other people’s too much, not easy I know, it’s something I fall victim to at times as well. But it’s your unique point of view that will make your work stand out in the crowd and remember, every single maker out there, no matter how polished their work looks, will be experiencing the same doubts and worries as you.
Another quick nugget of information is to make sure to take a good selection of lower priced items to markets with you, they make good impulse buys and I’ve found people are more reluctant to make bigger purchases in a market setting. They do love to have a delve in a selection of brooches or stud earrings though!
Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.
This is the bit where I have to restrain myself from producing a huge list of every maker whose work I love isn’t it?!
I’m extremely lucky to live very close to the amazing Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. It has a stunning permanent collection of British Modern art and a wonderful programme of visiting exhibitions, their Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera exhibition in 2011 blew me away and is still one of my favourites to this day. They also have a fantastic gallery shop with a great selection of original work, cards and all the artists’ books you could ever want.
Quite a lot of my purchases from independent shops are online. I love being able to have access to work from some of the best makers around, at the click of a mouse. I have such admiration for paper cut artists, my hands still haven’t forgiven me for when I tried it, and utensil0 Paper Art creates really stunning pieces with incredible detail – her miniature paper cuts are stunning. My new favourite earrings are by the fabulous Abbie Gaiger, I love her bold geometric designs and her use of colour is right up my alley. I also love illustrations that have a good dose of humour and the wonderful work of Victoria Draws never fails to make me smile, she manages to get such stunning colours in her paintings too.
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, I learned early on in the Just A Card campaign that it was about more than just card sales, it’s about how any sale for a small business is an important one, they all add up and help us to continue doing what we do.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
It’s absolutely fundamental to my business, and others like mine continuing to exist, so much of the campaign is about spreading the word to the general public that there is no such thing as a disappointing sale for small businesses. No matter the size, every sale can make a huge difference and never fails to makes us do that special happy dance! As a customer myself the campaign has really helped shift my own thinking too, it’s helped banish the guilt I felt at the prospect of buying myself something from a maker instead of more business related items. I now look at it as investing in the talent of someone I admire and whose work I want to see flourish and continue so I can enjoy it in the future.
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 feel like I’ve known about the campaign for a while now so it’s difficult to remember, but I think I must have first been introduced to it on Twitter, it’s where I spend a good chunk of my time. I can also be found marveling at all of the talented people on Instagram a fair bit, where I’ve been trying to make far more of a concerted effort to engage of late.
One of the best ways we can all support the Just A Card campaign is to keep spreading word of it far and wide, have fun exploring the work of more independent shops and makers, both online and in your local area. Remember, never feel embarrassed by buying small, even if it’s just a card, they soon add up!