By Kate Marsden
Another familiar face from #justacard hour for you this week in the form of watercolour artist Kate Brazier. Kate’s quirky and colourful cottages always brighten up my feed! Read on to find out more about Kate’s work and why she considers the Just A Card campaign to be so vitally important…
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
My name is Kate, a contemporary watercolour artist and card designer living in leafy Worcestershire. I love painting little cottages, flowers and seaside scenes that I sell as originals and prints. I also sell my range of greetings cards through Holy Mackerel.
I started my creative career, after studying illustration at Hereford Art College, selling other people’s artwork in a gallery in Birmingham. It gave me a great insight into what makes art collectable and what makes a customer buy artwork. I got to meet some very talented artists too!
I started selling my paintings when I went on maternity leave and now sell my range of paintings and cards on Etsy, at designer craft markets and via galleries.
What does a typical day involve?
After the usual madness that is getting two children breakfasted and off to school I usually take the dog for a walk. I find that being out in the open countryside, striding through a field, helps to clear my head ready to start work when I get back. It also gives me endless inspiration and I can often be found standing still looking into space as an idea forms!
I don’t have a set routine with work as it really depends what is most pressing! I’m working on some secret commissions at the moment so they are taking up a lot of time.
I usually have to take a break around school run time but I can often be found working into the evening. The radio is my best friend!
Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
I work from home and my desk is right in my front window. Initially the location was so that I could maximise the light, but actually it’s great being able to watch the world go by. Luckily we live on a lane, so most of the traffic is tractors and horses! I work from our dining room and am surrounded by art and craft items purchased from my fellow indie businesses.
I love supporting other makers and it gives me a lot of pleasure owning something handmade and unique. I love visiting the Contemporary Craft Festival in Bovey Tracey every year and find it so inspiring to be surrounded by artists and crafters who are making a success of their creative business. It’s a wonderful atmosphere!
In my spare time I like walking and I love gardening, when I get time. Spending an hour or two weeding might not seem like a pleasurable activity but it can be very therapeutic, especially when you can stand back at the end and see that you have made a difference!
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?
I think one of the biggest challenges facing makers at the moment is a saturated market. I started out when social media was fairly new and as I was already selling commissions to friends I only dabbled a bit to see what would happen! Actually I started my Facebook business page and then left it blank for quite a long time before posting anything! It felt so odd talking to people I didn’t know. But gradually things started to snowball and I was lucky enough to be carried along on the wave of market nights and page-sharing that meant I was suddenly being seen by thousands of people! It was great for a while but some good things are never meant to last and suddenly there were lots and lots of new people vying for the same market. It was at this point I focused a lot more on my Etsy shop and other social media platforms.
It was on Twitter that I discovered the Just a Card campaign and it really resonated with me having seen a lot of my fellow artists question their future.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
One of the ambitions I have for my business is to try and be a little bit more ‘off-line’! I love taking part in craft markets because it’s so good to meet other makers and also to speak to customers face to face. There are some wonderful designer maker markets springing up across the country now and I love seeing familiar faces! It can get rather lonely working by yourself! I intend to spread the ‘Just a Card’ message to the masses too!
Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/ small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?
Don’t ever stop being inspired by what you love and don’t forget what compelled you to follow this crazy, creative path in the first place. Not every day is going to be the best day and that’s part of being a creative force, with creativity often comes heightened sensitivity – but use that to your advantage! Only you can be you and do it so well!
Surround yourself with like-minded, wonderful people too! I have made some friends for life who completely get me and where I am headed. Something I have Facebook to thank for and now I have made a host of new friends thanks to Twitter and the Just a Card and Handmade Hour movements!
Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.
I absolutely love independent shops and galleries and have been known to get the family to stop in a town just because I saw a shop that looked “Gorgeous!” as we drove past!
I love visiting The Lion Gallery - in Leominster, where I grew up, for a wonderful mix of current designer makers, heaven! I also love to visit Ferrers Gallery - in Staunton Harold when I am in the area, a mix of fantastic cards, gifts and contemporary crafts. I have recently sent some work to the Bessemer II Gallery - in Sheffield, another must visit!
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 did indeed, and what a great ethos it is! I have heard of so many lovely, small businesses sadly deciding to close their doors (virtual and otherwise!) recently and they may still be going strong if people had just made that one purchase! I think the message that just one sale, no matter how small, can mean everything to an independent business is an extremely important one!
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
It’s a hugely important message to me, and all small businesses! It’s a great campaign highlighting how important it is to support indie businesses. It sounds like a cliché but every sale does make a difference and means that an indie somewhere is doing the legendary ‘Happy Dance’!
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 the Just a Card campaign via Twitter and have just started taking part in #justacard hour where I have met some lovely creative people!
I try to spread my time over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for different things. Instagram is great for sharing my work and Twitter is great to meet fellow creatives and see their work. Facebook can be a great platform for both things too!
I will keep on shouting about the Just a Card message because I think it is so important! Supporting small businesses helps to promote diversity in a market place that can so often be dominated by the big boys! There is room for everyone. I will keep buying from indie businesses, when I can, and sharing the handmade love on Twitter!