Goals for 2020 Part 3

I am splitting this blog post up into 3 posts in order to allow me to discuss each goal in a little bit more detail, and hopefully shed some light on why it is a focus of mine for next year.

It might seem a little bit extreme to have 3 blogs dedicated to goal setting, but I wanted to look at each one in detail, and I’ve bee spreading my net a little wide for 2020. This is my final piece on the matter, covering my final three goals for the year ahead. 

Collaborate

I have a couple of ideas at what this might look like but I didn’t want to be too prescriptive. It’s also not necessarily something I want to be able to simply tick off my list, it’s something I want to continue to pursue. I want to create better networks around me of other artists, creatives and small businesses. This might be through working to supply spooky subscription boxes with my products. It might also be through teaming up with other artists to run projects such as joint artworks, shows or markets and events.

I don’t want to be a creator island, I want to be part of a community. This is especially important to me now I will be spending more time working for myself, as in large part this also will mean by myself. I am lucky enough that Sheffield has such a vibrant community of creators, and that we are so close to other cities such as Manchester and Derby who have great artistic scenes too. I want collaborations to become a mainstay of my artistic career.

Improve Branding

This is bigger than a goal, and definitely is not designed to be ticked off and forgotten. I just need to be more mindful of it. In particular I am thinking about my approach to social media and creating a more cohesive product range. I am not, at this point, looking at being a totally spooky or totally unspooky artist, but this brings a range of branding complications. So it’s something I need to look into and be mindful of to navigate this difficulty. Ultimately, I need to decide if it is possible to overcome. It all needs to start somewhere though, and creating a stronger branding brand on social media is where I intend to start. 

Learn More Digital Skills

This is a big one for sure. The more I want to pursue professional digital illustration commissions the more I need to learn about. I have no education in art or graphic design, so there’s a lot of info out there to learn. I have started a subscription to Skillshare in an attempt to hone in on the areas that I feel that I need to build my knowledge base upto be able to create work to more technical client specs. 

As in previous years, I want to revisit my goals throughout 2020. To see what areas I need to focus on, what priorities that might have changed and to celebrate my hopeful successes. If my business can grow in 2020 at even nearly the rate it did in 2019 then I will be one very happy gal.

Goals For 2020 Part 2

I am splitting this blog post up into 3 posts in order to allow me to discuss each goal in a little bit more detail, and hopefully shed some light on why it is a focus of mine for next year.

Be Spookier

This goal brings out the spooky little kid in me. I have always tried to strike a balance between creating work that lots of people can enjoy, and creating weird spooky silly little art for a very niche market of folk like me. This year I want to be brave and create Moore of the art that makes me so happy to create. It’s less about being more spooky I suppose, and more about having less inhibitions. I want to feel freer to create outside of what I perceive to be societal norm. Where is the fun in art that follows the rules?

Make More, Increase Handmade Offerings

I want to improve my craftsmanship, learn new skills and experiment a bit more. This means setting time aside specifically for making. In the last year I have spent dramatically less time practicing ceramics. I want to bring it back into focus and learn more wheel skills. I have product ideas for ceramics that I would like to explore too, aswell as some more ambitious plans for sculptures.

I’d also like to practice some more traditional printing techniques. Last year I dipped my toe into Lino printing and I’d light to explore this more. I’m keen to experiment with new techniques too, such as screen printing onto ceramic slabs for building.

Work Less, Live More

Striking up a better work/life balance is a priority for me this year. I genuinely believe that it will be good for my business as well as me. By making sure I have clearer boundaries it is easier to stay focused, and keep my ideas fresher, my enthusiasm high and give myself the distance you need from your work at times to be able to make the right decisions. I aim to read more books, cook more meals and spend more time with friends, because it’s all a bit sad I haven’t been making more time for it recently, and I want to do something about it!

Goals for 2020: Part 1


I am splitting this blog post up into 3 posts in order to allow me to discuss each goal in a little bit more detail, and hopefully shed some light on why it is a focus of mine for next year.

-Shakeup My Stockists

-Secure more painting commissions in 2020

-Be spookier

-Make more, increase handmade offerings

-Work Less, Live More

-Collaborate

-Improve branding

-Learn more digital skills

My goals are a lot different to last years. Last years goals felt like milestones I wanted to reach, full of facts and figures in an attempt to quantify success. For 2020 my approach is as reflective as it is about trying something new. This last year has been so brilliant, and I want to keep learning, improving and building on what I have achieved so far.

Shakeup my Stockists

This was a tough one as last year a goal of mine was to be stocked in 2 shops, and after getting a brilliant 7 stockists I am now looking to reduce them. This is because I have been able to try a range of different models, working with a range of hops in a range of cities. I am learning what does and doesn’t work for me and the capabilities and priorities that I have for my illustration work. I am planning to remove my work from some of my existing stockists and focus more on working with shops on a Sale or Return or wholesale basis. Excitingly I have already begun this transformation of my business and aim to find new partners to work with throughout 2020.

Secure More Painting Commissions in 2020

It might not be clear in the title of this one, but I’m not necessarily looking to do more painting commissions than i did in 2019, I just want to keep doing them! Over this last year I have learnt so much and had such incredible opportunities to work on murals and sculpture paintings across the UK. My goal for 2020 is to find more and grow my experience and portfolio in this area even further. I am happily already in talks about some sculptures and murals for this next year, so I just need to keep everything crossed that they come good.

2019, A Year in Review


2019 has been a pretty awesome year for my business. It all really ramped up for me and revisiting some of my highlights in the last few blogs is really just a handful of the year’s achievements. I really got to step up my experience too, from huge murals to book covers. It is safe to say I surpassed my expectations for the year as i outlined in February 2019.

I even went as far as to set some new goals midway through the year. 

My First Set of Goals

-Get 1200 followers on instagram

-Have products stocked in 2 stockists

-Increase to 100 sales on Etsy

-Have a stall at a niche market

-Get 20 reviews on etsy

-Increase etsy product number to 50

-Invest in a new type of product

-Secure a large paid commission

I reviewed those goals before writing more, but happily and surprisingly I absolutely smashed them. Well, with the exception that I listed 49 products on Etsy, but I think that’s ok. I have doubled my etsy review goal, tripled my stockists target and had six times the number of large commissions that I had hoped for. The success of 2019is going to be a tough one to replicate in 2020. 

My Revised Goals

-Secure a mural commission using my characters and style

-be approached for a large scale commission without applying

-trial a pop up shop

-run an arts event (market, workshop, drawing class)

-get agency representation

This new revision of goals wasn’t quite as successful. However, a lot for his was down to willing. I chose not to go in the direction of running my own events. After all, I do more than enough of that in my alternate employment. It’s always going to be something I am able to do if I turn my mind to it. I have no doubt about that. Similarly I did not put very much time into researching and preaching agency representation. I also didn’t trial any pop up shops as I didn’t find any with terms I liked. 

Unfortunately for me I wasn’t approached for a larger scale commission without applying. That’s ok. I successfully got many and have started to be approached about smaller commissions. This was always a big goal and will come with time. I was invited to apply for a large commission too, so it is all going in the right direction as far as I am concerned.

What I did achieve was securing a mural commission in my style. I was voted for by residents of Armley to create a 14 foot mural of my ‘Nice to Be Nice’ characters as part of a local regeneration project. It was a brilliant opportunity and a huge portfolio boost, as well as genuinely fun to take part in.

That’s a Wrap

I am really pleased with what I achieved in 2019. What is exciting about it is that I have so many ideas and such a big drive for taking it forward into 2020, but in a way that allows me to have time to relax, spend time socially and enjoy walks with the pupper on my days working at home. It is going to be hard to grow more than I have done in this last year, because it has been so incredible, but for me 2020 is more about refining my work and focusing on the quality and streamlined approach to how I run my illustration business. It’s about keeping hold of the things I have loved doing in 2019, doing more of them and doing them better.

Thankyou to everyone who has supported me through my journey so far and I hope that you can enjoy sticking it me in the year to come. 

I’ve Just Gone A Day Less A Week With My Employer….eek!

I briefly alluded in a post at the end of 2019 that I would be receiving more support in my artistic endeavours and my fundraising job too. Well, as of January 2020 I have officially changed my working hours at the day job down to 3 days a week. 

This means that I officially spend more time not at the job than I do at the job! That’s a big move but the right one. Those 3 days a week will be busy and intense I am sure, but it means that some of my responsibilities have reduced.

Plans for the Extra Day

It might surprise you, but my plan isn’t to take on more projects. This last year was the second year of my business. To say it has been busy is an understatement. Through 2019 I have worked across seven cities in the UK with painting projects. This is on top of working a four day a week job, and not counting the additional four cities hat I have worked in at pop up opportunities, markets and stockists. Then there has been all my digital commission work and online shop, my Kickstarter campaign, and designing and producing new products. Importantly it also doesn’t include the time that is spent on everything else. The admin, the commission chats that don’t pan out, the applications that don’t come good. The extra day’s work is already there.

So, what’s the goal?

The goal is still to improve my business but not through taking on more. It is about streamlining the work I already do. I’ts about regaining a better work/ life balance. The pace in which I have been working last year is not sustainable. So it’s about more than just having an extra day to spread my workload over, I want to make sure I am using my time sensibly too.

This does mean that some of the things I have been doing in 2019 I will not continue into 2020. But this will be discussed a bit more in my next weeks post where I look at my goals for the year ahead. 

Under Pressure

It does mean that there is now a financial expectation of my work that I didn’t hav before. I have always been working for pocket money, but now I need to account for the drop in income I have entailed due to dropping my hours with my employer. It’s not that I have put myself in a position of risk,but it is about having a more tangiable reason to set myself financial targets. I am looking forward to his opportunity to run my business more efficiently, more strategically and ensure that it has a strong and viable economic model. Ooooh do I sound fancy right now or what?

Highlights of 2019: The Record Breaking Go Wild Gorillas Auction

 

Plus my Wild In Art adventures.

How could this not be a highlight? To be commissioned to create two out if 40 sculptures that raised over a million quid? The highest Wild in Art raise ever! Featuring artists including Stuart Semple and DC’s Kenneth Rockafort, and cheerleader by Henry Cavill himself. It was the top rockstar moment of my career so far.

I even went as far as to say that I’ve peaked! As both a fundraiser and an artist. Even before the spectacular auction, the project was a highlight throughout. It marked my first visit to the island. With a distinctive continental flavour it was like a mini holiday with my art. I met some brilliant artists along the way too. My sculptures both got beautiful seaside locations, including just opposed the aging hire, I had stayed in tinlaint, beneath the castle. It meant that picturing the statue in place, despite being unable to visit, was much easier.

The Auction 

The night of the auction blew my mind, Our Island raised £27,000 at auction. Jersey Big raised £25,000. It was incredible, and all the sculptures went for one phenomenal amounts.Of course I have my tongue in my cheek when I talk about having peaked, but it feels like a tough act to follow. I felt like a proper artist though! My career is still new, and I have been drawing in the closet my whole life. These moments in the real world, where my work is being elevated so much, are still huge ‘pinch myself’ moments.

Other Wild In Art Adventures

These two sculptures joined my Wallabies Gone Wild Wallaby and my Great North Elmer as my Wild in Art 2019 contributions. Plus my Cows About Cambridge sculpture debuts in March 2020. My charity sculpture raise for the year is nearly at an incredible £60,000. A huge highlight for me indeed! 

This piece is part of a three part blog series on my highlights from 2019.  

Highlights of 2019: Armley Murals Project


This incredible project allowed me to paint my biggest mural ever in September 2019. With support from Leeds City Council and Seagulls paint, Mike Winnard of Armley House studios led the project to regenerate walls in the district of Armley.

Four artists were given four areas in Armley to paint. We were also offered mentoring time with the talented artist Mike. Getting pro tips on the painting and preparation process was a great opportunity for me. Mike was as friendly and helpful as he was knowledgeable. 

The Selection Process 

As part of the project we were given free reign over our proposed piece of art, of which mine was voted in a local forum to be commissioned. Painted over 3 days the 14 foot long mural I painted adorned the side of a local home. I was given chance to meet the locals and get their frank & honest but overwhelmingly positive response to my work.

The Inspiration Behind It 

I chose to create a piece that celebrated community and positivity. From growing up in a town facing a high level of deprivation, not unlike Armley, I know how important optimism and a strong sense of community can be. I wanted something bright and positive that would appeal to young and old. From the comments I heard from local to kids and older residents I think I managed it. 

Why It’s a Highlight 

It felt good to be trusted to paint something so huge on someone’s home and so prominently in a residential place. The positive response it got and the experience I got in painting and scaling up such a large piece were the cherries on top. Id love the chance to get back to visit the piece, so would like to resolve that for 2020.

If you have a photo of the mural, please remember to share it with me! 

This piece is part of a three part blog series on my highlights from 2019. 

Highlights of 2019: My First Kickstarter Campaign

In the Summer I ran my first ever Kickstarter campaign to produce my first ever enamel pin. I had never used Kickstarter before but had attended a free information evening ran by the website at Site Gallery in Sheffield earlier in the year. 


The Big Launch

 I think I started off with a grandiose idea of an intensive and detailed strategy. Spreadsheets and plans reviewed again and again before launch day. In reality, I found myself with an overflow of energy and enthusiasm on an afternoon I was free and feeling brave. Off the cuff, emotional and optimistic, my campaign was born.

I had used the tips I learnt at the Kickstarter advice evening. I set my campaign for 4 weeks and made sure to have pledge rewards at range of price points. Specifically I ensured there was a £20 tier, the most popular Kickstarter pledge amount.

The Stressful Bit

Trying not to constantly survey the campaign is a challenge in itself. Watching the amount rise and sink was surprisingly stressful. Luckily for me I had very few cancelled pledges, and I reached my target goal within a timeframe that meant the pressure wasn’t onme for longer than I could handle. It meant that I could review my goals. Hope for higher amounts and add additional rewards. When the campaign hit 100% funded after just one week of being live, I was grateful, surprised and humbled.

Lessons Learned

Some kickstarters add rewards that are only available to claim once they are unlocked when the campaign reaches a certain target. I was far too giddy and excited for that, all my rewards unlocks were free gifts for all physical backers. This could have been something in which to monetize and encourage higher pledges, but I was happy just to offer rewards and share the love with my amazing backers. 

I also didn’t realise that the shipping costs registered to your target. This is only a problem if your minimum is really the very minimum you need to produce and you only hit that. In future I would factor these costs in too.

The bestest most wonderful lesson was what fab folk are out there supporting my work, and what wonderful new people found me on Kickstarter and took a chance on my art. The success of my first ever Kickstarter campaign reaching £1000 pledged was the nicest compliment in the whole of 2019. Thankyou! 

This piece is part of a three part blog series on my highlights from 2019. 

Barker & Stonehouse Button Badge Commission

I previously wrote about the five miniature wallabies I was commissioned to paint by Villa Gaeity.  This was part of the Wild in Art app incentives that sponsors are encouraged to provide. Happily it was not the only trail where I was commissioned to create some of these incentives.

The Brief

My Great North Elmer was sponsored by Barker and Stonehouse, and the prominent furniture store put in a special request for their sculpture to be placed outside their store. This gave them a unique stand point to easily hand out their Elmer’s unlock incentives from their store. They chose to commission a small token that they could distribute in high volume. Taking inspiration from my current range of button badges I was asked to create a range of designs for the Great North Elmer trail.

The Inspiration

 I took inspiration from the colourful characters on my Elmer. From experience I knew they would work well in a badge design. I just needed to keep it colourful, bold and simple in design. I designed 5 badges in total. Each took colour and character cues from the Elmer. 

I enjoy designing badges and they are popular items. They are small and my designs often appeal to my littlest fans. They come with a price tag to suit little budgets too. I have a surprisingly diverse customer base and am proud to have done fab mini fans.

The biggest challenge in badge design is creating something that will stand out as a tiny wearable design. Contrast needs to be good, lines need to be clean and simple. The badges I created for Barker and Stonehouse were just that. I hope that they found lots of happy homes during the trail and they get worn often.

If you have managed to pick up a badge please remember to share your photos with me! 

Why the election results make me proud to be weird artist


There have been a lot of emotions this week following the horrific election results in the U.K. We are a nation under the right wing. I flit between sad, angry and optimistic. Hopeful that the good eggs amongst us can fix it. That we can see each other through and help our friends and neighbours in the meantime. That we can pull together to support the vulnerable people our government has forgotten.

What has this got to do with art?

Politics, outrage and passion are always going to inspire art. What I am focusing on more is how this result has affected my own approach to my own art. It has forced me to accept that I feel am at a moral bypass with the majority of my voting countryman. It has forced me to accept that no matter how crucial a government can be in the difference between life and death for vulnerable people, there will still be many folk who don’t even get up to vote. I am forced me to accept that I am in a minority, at a complete impass with many of those around me.

So what has it got to do with YOUR art Sian?

I have always felt a conflict within myself when it comes to my art. Between the ultimately alternative work that I especially enjoy to draw, and the mainstream stuff that tends to have a more mass appeal. I have felt the need to defend my art from people who find it strange that someone wants to draw ghosts all year long. I have often felt a societal pressure to ‘be more normal’. This election has redefined what normality is in the U.K.  It has taught me that I don’t really want to be it after all.

Weirdos 4 lyf!

Now this isn’t all down to the election. Growing support for my spooky pieces over the last year has been hurtling me towards this point also. The election results just cement it. It doesn’t mean all my work will be spooky and weird, but it means I will have the confidence to promote more obscure work more proudly. I can’t maintain my business on only proving super niche creepy illustrations, but I can allow myself to explore that art freely. What I can do is I can allow myself to be proud of it. I can enjoy that I am different, because after brexit and the tories, who wants to be like the Great British public these days anyway?