By Kate Marsden
I’m forever in awe of the artist we’re meeting on the blog today. Claire Leach’s stunningly detailed drawings are unlike any others I’ve seen and and transport you to a much calmer, quieter place in an instant. Often inspired by her extensive travels, Claire always sets off my wanderlust too! Read on to find out more about her work and how she’s settling back into her practice following a stint of backpacking…
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
My name is Claire and I'm an artist based in Hampshire, U.K. I studied BA Fine Art (Painting and Drawing) at the University of Gloucestershire and MA Fine Art at Winchester School of Art. In between my studies I have been on two backpacking trips, the most recent of which I returned from in July 2017. I make drawings inspired by nature, landscapes and my travels.
What does a typical day involve?
Every day is a little bit different. Sometimes I get to draw all day which is my favourite type of day, unfortunately there are also plenty of administrative tasks which have to be taken care of along side the creative work. One task that I'm more than happy to do is to pack any orders that have come through my online shop as that is currently my only income source, I enjoy writing a note to go with the order as each one means so much, I then take a walk to the local Post Office.
I also scan and photograph my drawings in order to update my website and shop as well as for posting on social media. Daily I spend a fair amount of time on Instagram and Twitter promoting my work and engaging with other creatives. I write a blog on my website which takes time and research, I also feature other artists monthly in an artist interview series which is something else that takes planning and emailing.
I think sometimes people have a vision of an artist as someone who just swans around in paint splattered dungarees thinking up ideas and enthusiastically working on a masterpiece everyday, but the reality is that as well as making drawings I am also the person that does everything else in order to make my art business viable.
Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
My studio is actually a little non-existent, since returning from travelling my partner and I moved in with my mum and brother in a small terraced house while we save for a home of our own. The house barely has room for all four of us (and a dog) let alone a studio space and I'm not financially able to afford to rent a space outside of home. Instead I have to be creative and willing to adapt. I currently use a corner of the living room where I have a sweet little wheeled trolley which houses all my necessary papers and art materials and a table to draw on/pack orders/write blog posts. Luckily I tend to work very small so a small space is perfectly sufficient. I'd love to have a dedicated space of my own, I dream of one day having a beautiful studio with white walls, big windows and shelves to house all my art books.
I find it very hard to switch off from work because I live and breathe it, but I do find that walking in nature helps though I'm often looking at the trees wondering how they'd look scribbled down on paper. Alongside art, travel is my biggest passion. I love visiting places near and far and enjoy art museums, hiking and eating a lot of vegetarian food.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?
The post that Just A Card shared on Instagram a few weeks ago about this very subject really hit home to me how many challenges designers, makers and artists face when running a business. It ranged from struggles with product photography to comparison and self doubt issues and not being taken seriously, to financial worries. Personally, my biggest worries are money related. My income is not guaranteed and sometimes I go weeks without making a sale. I know in my heart that I may have to get a job with a steady wage in order to support my creative life but I like the freedom that I have so much now that the idea of getting work elsewhere makes me anxious. When your livelihood is rooted in something that you love it becomes very personal and if you aren't making enough money then it can feel like your dream is crashing down around you.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
Having the freedom to structure my own day and be creative when I want to be is already an ambition realised. I'd like to be able to continue doing what I'm doing day to day but hopefully with more sales and more commissions as I steadily work on my craft and improve my skills. I've always wanted to run a creative studio space where artists could work alongside each other to make being an artist a little less lonely, but I'm not sure if this dream will ever be a reality.
Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/ small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?
The best piece of advice I could give is to be passionate about your work and have confidence in your abilities, don't strive for perfection and keep showing up. On the more technical side of things I would advise artists and makers to build a website of their own and to not put all of their energy into one social media platform. Of course utilise social media to make contacts and garner support but don't rely too heavily on it, having a clean and well managed website of your own that people can find easily is so useful.
Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.
Oh Squirrel and Liz Mosley are my favourite places to buy stationery. I love the cards that Katie of Oh Squirrel makes in her North London studio. When I was travelling in South America I wasn't able to buy cards to send home for birthdays so I decided to order online from Oh Squirrel and asked Katie if she would write in them for me and then send them which she did, that personal touch meant so much.
Liz Mosley uses her graphic design skills to create effortlessly cool cards and pins, I also use the nature inspired washi tape that she designed to add a finishing touch to my own orders.
I have to give a little shout-out to Hannah of Yellowstone Art Boutique too because we were on the same course at the University of Gloucestershire! Hannah is a big supporter of the Just A Card campaign and runs her own shop in Staffordshire which I'd love to visit in real life one day, I wish it was closer!
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?
Originally I took Just A Card quite literally and thought it was all about just buying a card from a gallery to help keep them open, but I soon realised that the campaign meant much more than that. Just A Card is about spreading the message far and wide that independent artists, makers, shops and galleries need support. If there were no artists the world would be a pretty dull place but they need help, making a small purchase from an artist goes a very long way.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
Just A Card provides an easy way to help people realise just how important it is to support small. I mostly make and sell original drawings and so a lot of my work is on the pricey side as it can take so many hours to create a detailed drawing. With the Just A Card message in mind I decided to make smaller and simpler work so that I could offer more affordable pieces in my shop and therefore use the Just A Card message to encourage people to consider making a small purchase to keep me going.
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 first heard about the Just A Card campaign on Twitter some time ago, Twitter is one of my favourite places to hang out online and so I join in with the weekly chat on a Thursday evening to see what everybody has been up to and to share my own work and the work of others. I follow Just A Card on Instagram too and I endeavour to 'like' all of their posts and comment on them, just something as simple as a like, comment or share can mean a world of difference.