1. Please tell us about your design process and describe your favourite part of it.
When I was doing my Foundation Course we were guided through the design process, primary research (sketching from real life), secondary research (sketching and collecting ideas and pictures, textures, examples etc and sticking them into our sketchbooks), experimenting with different media and techniques, developing our ideas and then resolution of the idea into our final piece. I do like to do things properly so I stuck to this for the first few years after my Foundation while I was still trying to find my way and develop my style, thinking that this would give my work more strength.
Now I’m a lot more laid back and when I have an idea I like to follow this kind of path but in a more relaxed and less structured way. I usually write my ideas down and then work from that, developing them, searching the internet for inspiration, reading blogs, going to exhibitions, taking photos, looking through my design books etc. I like to plan out my designs in my sketchbook and then when I’m happy with how they look I then scale them up into the final piece.
2. When did it all start?
My love for art has been with me ever since I was young, I remember winning a Road Safety Competition when I was about 6 for a painting I did at school, and I have loved to draw and paint ever since. I did have a bit of time out through my late teens and early twenties when I was studying hard for my Pharmacy degree but then same back to my art in 2005 when I was going through a bit of a rough time, and my sister suggested I enrol on my Foundation course, since then I’ve never looked back and my art is now a big part of my life and I work part time as a Pharmacist and part time as an Artist. This gives me the security of a stable income which pays the bills and the mortgage and I now have time for my creativity and building up my business.
3. Do you have a favourite design? If so, which and why?
As a Libran I have the reputation of being quite indecisive at times so would find it hard to pick a single favourite design but I suppose it would have to be one from my bird range ‘Birds of a Feather’ is one of my favourites. In particular I like the Truly Madly Deeply design, partly due to the name, being a bit of a sentimental old fool and I just LOVE the film, and also because the inspiration for the topiary came from a lovely day out with my Mam at Thorpe Perrow in Yorkshire. My house pictures are also close to my heart as I love all things ‘homely’ and my family and relationships in my life are a big inspiration to me.
4. You exhibited at the British Craft Trade Fair in April. How did you find the experience?
I found the experience an incredibly positive one. I decided to apply to BCTF in 2011 as I knew this was the next big step for me and my business. I had decided that I really liked selling my work through galleries and I knew this was going to be a great way to showcase my work to new buyers. I was quite well prepared for the event but as it got nearer I did start to think to myself ‘can I really do this?’ and on the day of set-up I was full of self-doubt. Needless to say I got over the pre-show ‘jitters’ and had the most amazing time. It was very well-organised and friendly and I’ll definitely be going back again next year and I’m looking around for other shows to attend.
5. How would your ideal day in your studio be spent?
My ideal day would begin with a sunny dog-walk along the River Trent not far from where I live at about 8am. Then I’d have a bit of breakfast and be sat at my desk by 9am making new work and experimenting with new ideas. I’d always make sure I have a cup of tea and some good tunes or a podcast to listen to and I’d work away until my tummy told me it was time for lunch, where I’d take a quick break, check up on emails, facebook and twitter as well as planning new blog posts and I’d ideally like to back in the studio by 2ish and work through the afternoon. I like to plan my days the night before so I know what I have to do and making lists of tasks helps me structure my day.
In reality the demands of running a small business part-time can sometimes take me away from the creative stuff. You find you have to become ‘jack-of-all-trades’ and make sure paperwork is kept up to date as well as banking, packing up orders, sending them, collecting work from the framers etc. I do sometimes get a little frustrated by my perceived lack of sketching time but I know that the rest of the jobs need to be done to keep the pennies coming in!
6. What is your best achievement to date?
My best achievement to date is definitely doing BCTF 2012. I felt it took me to the next level with my work, I gained a some new stockists and was really happy with the feedback as well as all of the lovely new contacts I made. At the beginning of every new year I write myself a list of the things I want to achieve over the following 12 months and love to look back over old lists to realise how far I’ve come. I think it’s really important to celebrate small ‘wins’ and focus on what you have achieved over certain time periods.
7. What do you have planned in the next year?
This year I have also been lucky enough to be accepted onto the new Design Factory Mentorship Scheme as a Mentee, and I’m really looking forward to working with my Mentor over the next 6 months to develop my business and myself further.
I’m also going to be exhibiting my work at Melbourne Arts Festival for a weekend in September which is an established event in Derbyshire. I’m really looking forward to taking part in this as I haven’t showed my work at such an event before. I’ve also applied to a few other shows, hand-picking them specifically rather than applying to everything, in the hope that I will be accepted to a few and get my name out there a bit more.
I’ll also be working on my blog www.suebulmer.blogspot.com, growing my readership, featuring a weekly Sketchbook Peeks interview with an artist/designer-maker, a weekly Etsy treat, featuring work I love, and also keeping you up to date with what’s happening in my little part of the world.
8. Where do you find your inspiration?
I find my inspiration in a variety of places. It could be when I’m out and about exploring the great British countryside, when I’m away on holiday in my caravan, the lyrics to a song, or even just in my own kitchen or garden. I do try to make a note when inspiration strikes, and write it down so I don’t forget. I do try to take my sketchbook out and about with my so I can jot things down as I think of them. I also try to get down to London with my sister once or twice a year, to visit and exhibition or market, and also visit the inspiring Libertys of London… awesome place!!
9. What piece of advice would you give to designers starting out in the business?
Believe in yourself and have determination… if you have both of these you are on to a winner. Having the right mind-set makes a HUGE difference and if you surround yourself with positive inspiring people you will fare well through the good and bad times! Learn from your mistakes, take the knocks on the chin and if something doesn’t work the first time chalk it down to experience and try again. (Ok, I know that wasn’t one piece of advice but I couldn’t choose just one!!)
10. You returned to your artistic roots from a career in the sciences - if you could begin your creative career again, would you do anything differently?
No I wouldn’t do anything differently, I’m happy with how things have turned out for now, and can’t wait to see what is round the next corner!
Thank you Sue - great advice. It's been lovely to find out about your background and to hear about your future plans. Looking forward to seeing more of your beautiful designs soon!