I realised recently that although I have always been trying to build a business that is good for everyone I am actually pretty terrible at telling anyone about it. Today I thought I’d share a bit about the measures I take. I want a business that can create art without creating waste. I want a business that makes a profit for me to live on without profiting off the mistreatment of anyone else. My goal is for my art to be affordable but not on the basis that it is exploitative of anyone along the production chain. The good news is that I think I’ve been off to a good start. Here’s a few ways how.
I commit to using responsible suppliers as much as I can. My wooden earrings are made from responsibly sourced wood. My acrylic earrings are made from recycled materials. The sleeves I used to protect my prints are biodegradable. They are derived from potato/corn starch and can be composted. It’s often more expensive to source environmentally friendly packaging but it is worth it.
It can be tough to find environmental options that do a suitable job. Especially to protect items in shipping. As much as I can I reuse materials to package items. In 2020 all bubble wrap I have used to wrap pins, earrings and ceramics has been reused.
Using UK Suppliers
This is a plus both environmentally and ethically. It reduces the air miles used for my business. It also ensures that suppliers are bound by UK production laws. Importantly it avoids the exploitation of workers in factories overseas.
Charity Is Important
This is obviously a no-brainier for me as I spent 13 years working in the charity sector before becoming an artist. Supporting charities when you can is important. There are so many out there doing so many valuable jobs. I also know though that people can’t always afford to give what they would like to.
I will always recommend though to consider your local charities if you are thinking about fundraising. They often do important work on your back doorstep, but rarely have the marketing budget to spread the word as far as national charities too. Your money can make a bigger difference there. But I’ll get off my high horse and get to the point. I have used my business to donate in a variety of ways. I have donated money from print and tshirt sales previously. It’s important to always be up front with how much from each sale will go to which exact charity. You can take the girl out of fundraising but you really cant take the fundraiser out of the girl. I have also gotten involved in charity projects pro bono and at reduced rates. We give what we can.
The beauty of being my own boss is that I can do whatever I want with my business. I can shape it with my goals and morals. I can try and use it for a force for good. There’s always more steps I can take though. I hope that my business continues to grow to be sustainable in every way it can be.
If you have suggestions for how I can improve, or any questions on how to make your business more sustainable. Get in touch and we can help eachother 🙂
For my second video I covered the bizarre phenomenon of Screaming Skulls. A distinctly English folklore, there are tales of human skulls the owners of which have requested them to remain in the places they inhabited in life. It’s believed to be linked to Celtic beliefs about the importance of the head. Some believed the skulls to be a good luck heirloom to be passed down for generations to ensure the fortune of the family. In this video we looked at three tales of screaming skulls.
Anne Griffith, The Screaming Skull of Burton Agnes Hall
Katherine ‘Anne’ Griffith was the youngest of three sisters living at Burton Agnes Hall, East Riding of Yorkshire. Daughters of Sir Henry Griffith, Anne was besotted with the building her father had erected. She believed it to be the most beautiful house ever built. One day, not long after the completion of the work, Anne fell victim of a violent mugging, less than a mile from their home. Anne was brought home to the hall suffering from a blow to the head sustained during the attack. She asked her sisters to promise her that once she died they would remove her head from her body and keep it within the walls of the home she loved so much. Days after the attack, poor Anne died of her injuries. However, the sisters broke their promise and Anne’s body was buried whole in the churchyard.
A week after Anne’s funeral the first strange occurrence was reported. A loud crash was heard in the hall, like that of a large piece of furniture falling over. On investigation no source of the noise could be found. A week later doors were heard banging violently throughout the home but immediately ceased upon investigation. After this many strange sounds were heard at the hall. Footsteps hurrying up and down the corridors. An unseen figure ascending and descending the stairs quickly. The inhabitants of the hall had become greatly unnerved by the occurrences.
A Grisly Sight
The sisters remembered their sister’s dying promise that they had broken and hastened to make good their word. Anne’s casket was exhumed and within lay a grisly sight. Her head had inexplicably removed itself completely from her body. Her body remained preserved and yet her head was withered and almost completely skull like. This strange sight convinced the sisters that Anne was the source of the strange goings on at the hall. They returned her body to the home and fulfilled their sisters dying wish.
From this day on whenever the skull was removed from the hall, more bizarre experiences were recorded. One tale accounts a maid throwing the skull from a window where it landed on a manure load below. To the shock of the maid and the waggoner, the horses pulling the load refused to move (despite all efforts) until the skull was removed. On one occasion some time later the skull was removed and buried in the garden by the hall’s current occupiers. A terrible wailing and screaming was heard throughout the property until the skull was brought back indoors. It is said that Anne’s skull remains at Burton Agnes Hall, hidden within a wall so as not to scare visitors.
As always you can find the Illustrated Ghost Story Videos on my Youtube channel and can support the project through my Patreon page.
I thought it might be nice to start adding the stories that I’ve been covering on the blog so you guys can revisit them in the written format if it takes your fancy.
The first video tells the tale of The Gray Man of Bellister Castle. It is said that the ghost of the Gray Man wanders the grounds of Bellister Castle in Northumberland at twilight. An elderly man in tattered robes with a gruesome gash from forehead to chin and a bloody beard. A vision feared by all that has been suggested to sometimes be an omen of death.
The Tale of the Gray Man
The tale of the Gray Man begins on a stormy night at the castle. The Blenkinsops occupied the castle for some centuries. On this night an old minstrel arrived seeking refuge from the storm outside. He was granted refuge, but as the night wore on Lord Blenkinsop grew paranoid. He suspected that his unannounced visitor was a spy for his enemies. After entertaining his hosts the minstrel noted the change in the Lord’s demeanour towards him. He sensed that his welcome had taken an icy turn. The monsters decided that the cold of the storm outside was preferable to the frozen welcome of his host and fled the castle during the night.
A Grisly Demise
Unfortunately for our poor minstrel, the Lord took his flight as an admission of guilt. Where the minstrel sensed danger and fled the Lord only saw a guilty conscience returning to the ones who had sent him. Enraged, the Lord set the dogs and his men on the poor elderly man. Accounts differ as to whether the minstrel was savagely torn to pieces by the Lord’s dogs, or that the dogs merely halted the man’s escape following which the Lord’s men captured him and hanged him from a nearby tree.
It has been some decades since a sighting of the Gray Man has been reported, and perhaps the Minstrel has found peace at last.As always you can find the Illustrated Ghost Story Videos on my Youtube channel and can support the project through my Patreon page.
So I thought this post could just be a little update into my life as an illustrator during Lockdown 2: Electric Bugaloo. I’ve reduced my time at the studio all the way down to only going there to pack online orders. This is because it is too impractical to bring home all of my stock and packing materials. It means that I don’t have to bring all of my materials home in one go either. I am the only artist in my studio space and it is in walking distance so it’s pretty safe to go but working from home still feels like the right choice given the official advice.
I do miss the studio though. It’s my happy place! I also need to get better at focusing on work at home instead of doing chores. I know I can’t be the only person guilty of doing this…
Happily despite lockdown I have some projects on the go that are easily done from home.
I even have a sculpture to paint which was my dream for lockdown last time round. It’s just a mini one and will form part of the Artwaves Festival in Bridlington in Spring. I am creating some bigger sculptures for the festival too, but that’ll be a bit closer to the time.
Excitingly one project I am working on currently is an illustrated children’s book. I’ve previously illustrated a book cover but not a story book itself. It’s a big undertaking but it’ll be great to see it come to life. I’ve got a couple of other client projects not he go too, so if I seem a bit more absent from social media than usual than this is why. I’m just really thankful to be busy given everything going on.
I am really missing large painting projects. I can’t wait for them to start again. So I am also looking at trying to secure more commissions like these for 2021. It was such a huge part of my year last year. So I am extra thankful for these other project whilst arts trails and mural commissions have all but taken a hiatus.
Is this bad?
I don’t know if this is a great idea or not but living in a second lockdown means that I am able to get more work done on the weekends. Ordinarily I would not recommend this. It’s important to have a break and remember that there are other important things in life besides working. During lockdown and ahead of the busy Christmas period it feels like a good use of time though. The hope being I can take a little time extra to relax by the time Christmas rolls around.
With the good news of Trump missing out on re-election and a promising vaccine for Covid on the horizon, I am hopeful that by the time winter is over we can find a bit more normality once again. With it, a chance to grow my little business out in the sunshine once again.
If you are interested in supporting my business and accessing additional behind the scenes content and digital downloads, visit my Patreon page for more info https://www.patreon.com/ThisIsSianEllis
Since the Uk has ended up in Lockdown 2: Electric Bugaloo I thought I’d throw out some more book recommendations. I don’t know about you guys but my book consumption has definitely gone up in 2020. Here are a couple more recommendations and you can see my last list here.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Iain Reid
This one has been on my list for a while and the appearance of the Netflix film prompted an emergency read fuelled by fear of spoilers. The one thing I knew about this book before I read it was that the less you know about it, the better. So prepare for a super vague recommendation here. I successfully dipped and dodged the Netflix trailers and read it in one day. Which is super rare for me! It keeps you interested and guessing all the way through. I’m definitely going to check out the film, but you should definitely read the book first if you can. Perfect for a short, thrilling read with a bit of navel gazing thrown in.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, Grady Hendrix
I’m not going to say this is the best book ever. But I do love the work of the author Grady Hendrix. He has such a great sense of humour, a penchant for feisty female characters and he clearly watches a lot of horror movies. At the very least with a Hendrix book it is exceedingly readable and his characters are strong. When a mysterious stranger moves to suburbia a group of housewives find their sleepy lives interrupted and one begins to suspect there might be something unusually dangerous about their new neighbour. I read this vampire novel on Whitby beach, where Dracula landed in the famous novel and a town where Stoker wrote parts of the seminal vampire book. An enjoyable ride.
The Winter People, Jennifer McMahon
You would be forgiven for thinking that Jennifer McMahon and Grady Hendrix sponsor my blogs if you read my last round of recommendations. Sadly for me they don’t. They have just been two authors that I have discovered this year and sunk my teeth into. Vampire pun intended. The Winter people is a hard to define supernatural mystery. Similar in vein to ’The Uninvited’, another McMahon novel I loved in lockdown. This book also focuses on interwoven stories as characters attempt to solve their own personal mysteries that interlock with each other. However it adds in missing people, grisly murders and the walking dead too. If you liked ‘the Uninvited’ you’ll like this.
Let me know what you are reading in lockdown too. I always like to hear about a good spooky book 🙂
Plus, if you fancy some more spooky stories in your life, don’t forget to check out my Illustrated Ghost Story videos 🙂
This year was easily my favourite drawlloween yet. Yearly drawing challenges are always a great way to see your progress as an artist. A direct piece of reference to compare back to and see how much you’ve grown. I think that this year I saw my biggest leap yet. Plus the reception I have gotten has been the best too. So I’m really proud of my drawlloween this year. I thought I’d cover the things I did differently that I felt made a difference.
In every way I could. That was the secret, really. It’s tough making time for a drawing challenge. This is the first year I did every prompt from one list. That meant sticking with the prompts that weren’t inspiring me. I figure it is important as an artist to learn how to respond to briefs that don’t immediately spark an idea. A drawing prompt can be a great example of this. I was pleased to pull something out of the bag for all of Mab’s 31 words.
Another way that I committed was to a consistent style and theme. I incorporated my bold black and white style in every drawing. I also made humour the focus of every prompt I could too. This made coming up with illustrations even tougher but it meant a cohesive body of work. My feed has never looked better and my instagram followers and likes soared. The consistency of the style and theme seems to build more anticipation for my next illustrations. I really felt like I had some great cheerleaders this time round and I really appreciate all the lovely things that everyone said about my work. A cohesive collection of work also meant that releasing a range of items inspired by this year’s drawlloween made total sense!
My First Ever Drawlloween Range
This is the first time I have used my drawlloween illustrations to create a range of items. I am really excited about launching and hope to do so as soon as I can. I have selected a number of the illustrations to release as A5 prints. Beyond that I have launched some merchandise too. Without revealing too much just yet, it includes a new pair of earrings and a brand new product for my shop! Something screen printed and useful day to day… that’s all the clues you’re getting for the moment.
A Sense of Community
I always find so many great new artists drawing Drawlloween too. It is so huge now that it is a fantastic way to find artists who enjoy the spooky thing in life (or death). I love sharing art to the challenge and enjoying the art made by others during the challenge too. If you took part in the challenger this year, give yourself a big pat on the back. I hope there are many more years of #mabsdrawlloween club to come 🙂
I hope that you all had a most wonderful Halloween! Mostly I hope that you aren’t done with the spooky stuff for another year though! I love Halloween but I definitely do not love seeing the back of it. Halloween is a state of mind, right? Of course I keep the spooky vibes going all year, but here’s some of my highlights of Halloween 2020. The weirdest, freakiest Halloween night of all. But not in the way we’d usually expect!
Top Movie Picks
Watching films is always a big part of my halloween. Usually I like to carve a pumpkin and watch something spooky. This year though I was too slow and couldn’t find a pumpkin anywhere! Boo! But there is more to Halloween than that. If this year has shown me anything it’s that a surprising number of people associate the day with such specific things. Trick or treating, parties. The insistence that the cancelling of these is the cancelling of halloween itself. To me that is just crazy talk! Well, even being pumpkinless on Halloween 2020 was not going to ruin it for me.
I started the day watching the big boss itself, ‘Halloween’. An absolute perk of living in a kid free home is that the scary stuff can start early. A Parr’s chocolate apple for breakfast and a classic slasher. If chocolate is a good enough breakfast for Easter it’s a good enough breakfast for Halloween!
I moved onto ‘Brahams: The Boy 2’ and ‘The Wind.’ I slightly regretted not planning my halloween movie watching in advance. I loved ‘The Boy’ as a total guilty pleasure and the sequel was watchable but really not as good. I’ve had my eye on ‘The Wind’ for a while. I’ll hold my hands up and say I didn’t quite give it the attention it deserved. After promising myself I wouldn’t work on Halloween, I just can’t help myself! So I think I’ll try that one again another day. Earlier in the week I watched ‘Host’ and the moment I finished I knew that should have been the film I saved for Halloween. A Covid aware, zoom filmed horror, what a perfect treat for Halloween 2020! Definitely one to be watched on a laptop screen…
Daisy Spooks Drive in Cinema
Halloween morning I got a bit hesitant about this one. I read some really pants reviews of the company’s other showings. However the evening watching ‘Scream’ at the makeshift drive in cinema at Sheffield Arena was awesome! Martin had never seen it before and it’s been a good few years for me too. There never seen to be many classic slashers on streaming channels in the UK. Has anyone else noticed this? Halloween was my first ever drive in experience and we got a great view and I loved it. Plus scare actors roaming round and popping up at your windows was a great bit of fun during the showing too. Watching Ghost Face on screen and then pop up in front of your car was definitely fun! Even the trailers beforehand with halloween trivia and spooky music videos got us in a great halloween mood.
Staying Home, Staying Spooky
We ended the night with a spooky board game, wine and cheese. Heaven! The game we played was ‘Horrified’, It features the classic universal monsters and is great monster fun for a board game novice like me.
The reality for me was that my Halloween was always going to be great. That’s because my favourite thing about it is just knowing that there’s loads of spooky things going on and loads of people enjoying them. I’ve loved seeing artists I like branch out into creating spooky things. Seeing kid’s homemade decorations pop up in so many houses down my street this year has been such a treat. The events are always a great part, but that means online events too. So I loved my halloween this year. I always knew I would. I know I always will!