Today's Friday Finds is artist and illustrator Rachelle Panagarry who I met virtually when we both took the Make Art That Sells course with Lilla Rogers; she then went on to set up the Cultivate Art Collective of which I am a member.
© Rachelle Panagarry
When did you start your business and why? Did you plan meticulously or was it more accidental?
I wouldn’t say that I had an actual plan, it was more of a desire to be making art full-time rather than teaching and trying to fit in art around it all. It really became more a realistic idea sometime in 2011 when I was on sick leave from my full time job. Being out of school allowed me lots of time to draw and make art again, more as a theraputic distraction rather than anything serious, but mostly it gave me lots of thinking time.
All this time made me really sure that a career in art was what I really wanted above everything else and I set about writing a set of 12 goals to slowly make it happen. It wasn’t until my Father was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012 that I handed in my notice to care for him and used every other moment possible to concentrate on making my art career become a reality. After all, I was going to have to get myself another source of income now that I’d quit my job. It was really time for me to take a complete leap of faith and go for it. When my Father passed away in May 2013, that’s when I decided to rent a studio space and start working on my art as a serious career. I also went back to college to take a Masters Degree in Children’s Book Illustration and
set up Cultivate Art Collective as a way to get my art out there on another platform and also to enable myself and other artists to have the opportunity to exhibit at the big trade shows like Surtex. It’s been a long and rocky start but now I’m looking forward to a bright future.
(I love these sketches by Rachelle for one of her book projects:)
Did things take off immediately or has it been a slow burn?
Although I started to promote and make my art whilst I was still holding down my full time job, I still managed to get myself published twice and sell lots of original work. Don’t get me wrong, it took a lot of hours doing the promoting side and social networking to get noticed, but looking back now it was all worth it. The thing I noticed was that once I had been published in the US this almost created a ripple effect of opportunities, and thankfully they are still coming.
Do you do your business part time or full time?
I know make art full time – it sounds so good to say that!
© Rachelle Panagarry
Do you intend to grow your business into something much bigger or are you happy with it as it is and why?
At this point in time my main goals for this year are to get myself an agent, have some licensing deals as well as graduating with a published book. I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself and grow my business. The studio that I rent also has space to hold workshops so this is also something I’m planning on doing alongside everything else.
If this is your full time job do you mind saying what your approximate turnover is annually ?
At the moment, my turnover is approx 25k – with room for improvement!
Where do you sell your work?
I have shops on Etsy and Society6 where I sell smaller items like prints, ceramics and other bits and bobs. I sell larger pieces through my website, and I also host another website where I sell my online workshops.
I have sold at art and craft fairs in the past, the success of these usually depends on the weather and time of year. This year I will also be branching out to sell designs at Surtex in New York.
Which of the selling methods that you use works best for you? Why do you think this is?
Etsy has been really good although it’s one of these things that needs quite a bit of promoting as Etsy is so big and your little shop can easily get lost. My best sellers are actually my online workshops which I sell via my blog and websites. I’m not sure why they would sell more than anything else, but I have a lot or repeat customers who like to take every class. They are also very kind at spreading the word and helping in the success of the classes.
Have you had publicity in national magazines? If so how did you approach them?
I have had publicity in magazines in the US. I have been published in both Somerset Studio and Artful Blogging from Stampington. I have also been published with Cloth, Paper Scissors in one of their special didgital editions called Art Lessons which was a whole issue devoted to my art and techniques. This year, I will also be published with CPS in the summer. For the Stampington magazines, I approached them by physically sending in artwork and writing a feature article. The Cloth, Paper Scissors also came up from an email I sent with artwork, but since then they have invited me to contribute. I also keep in touch with both magazines on a regular basis via short emails.
One of my aims for this year is to be published in the UK.
© Rachelle Panagarry
Who do you think your typical customer is?
For my artwork, they are women aged 25-45, mostly in the US and Oz,they are using Pinterest and Etsy and have an awareness of styles and trends in interiors and fashion.
My workshop customers are from a much wider group. Mostly women,aged from 25-65, located mostly in the US. They are women who use facebook and they tend to follow mixed-media artists.
Which aspect of your work do you enjoy most?
I LOVE creating, just the simple thing of actually painting or drawing something. That’s the thing that gets me stirred up and excited. More recently, I’m also enjoying learning new skills in Photoshop and Illustrator.
Is there anything you would have done differently if you were starting your business today?
I think I would have actually followed the same process, just perhaps been more self assured that I could do it if I worked hard at it and not listened to those inner voices that say no-one will buy your work.
© Rachelle Panagarry
Are you someone who sets goals regularly or more instinctive?
I was always a more instinctive kind of person generally despite the fact that in my job as a teacher I had to be very organised and structured etc. I do now set goals. When I first set out to make the change in career, I listed 12 goals to complete in 12 months. Some where (or they seemed to me) big goals such as getting published in Somerset Studio, or teaching art workshops in the US. At the end of the 12 months, I had ticked off every one! Since then I always start January by making 12 BIG goals for the year with December as my deadline, and each week I also set small deadlines depending on what projects are going on. I usually have about 4 deadlines on any week.
Have you ever or do you employ people part time to help with any aspect of your business?
This isn’t something I have done yet, I manage everything myself butthe closest I have come to this is finding someone to share my studio space with to cut costs.
Could you describe where you work? Are you alone most of the day or with others? Do you feel that they way it is now is the best fit for you? Do you see that changing?
I work in my studio which is about 5 mins away from my home. It’s actually an office space in a business center but it’s great as it has a large room with space for two of us. The studio also has a half dividing wall with a separate space that has a table for 10 people for workshops or meeting clients etc. It’s a really bright and lovely place to be, and just the fact that it is away from home helps with the fact that it is ‘work’ that I go to everyday.
I share my studio space with a friend who also does creative work along with other things. She is in the studio a few days per week and I work alone the rest. For me I find it a good balance, I work best alone but I do enjoy company too. I also really enjoy it when there are workshops happening in the studio – it creates a real buzz.
Do you have a mentor or people who you are able to discuss your business with? If not how do you find you best make decisions about your business?
I’d love to have a mentor! At the moment, my husband is my sounding board. Besides his patience, he is also really good at helping me see the bigger picture and keeping me business focussed rather than swept away in the art!
What is a typical day for you in your business as it is now? What would be a dream day for you – business or otherwise?
I arrive at the studio at 8:30am after the school run, put on the coffee machine and whilst that is brewing I check emails and have a quick run through all my social media. I like to take this time to see if there is anything I need to respond to, comment on, or even something that might affect the days schedule. Once the ‘business side’ is done, I’ll generally get down to working on projects. I often get totally engrossedand work right through lunch without even realising. I tend to pack up around 5pm and go home. The only ‘work’ I do at home is the social media stuff or maybe reading.
Everyday is pretty much a dream day for me, I think the icing on the cake would be an email for a big licensing deal!
© Gabriella Buckingham
Anything else you want to add… tips or plans or ambitions ...
One of the best things that has helped me is to observe people who are doing what I wanted to do, find out how they did it, and take the same steps in my own way.I’d read tons of books about art related business, especially if they were written by people I admired and wanted to emulate. I also have a notebook where I write ideas down or take notes from books. For the business side of things, especially art licensing, taking onlineworkshops has really helped. For example, Make Art That Sells from Lilla Rogers really opened my eyes to the possibilities of where you can take your art. It helped to hear from the business side of someone who does this for a living.
Networking is also something that I take very seriously, its usefulness can’t be underestimated. Finally, social media is an artists best friend. Besides being free, it canopen up your world and bring in opportunities. It’s always important to take care of your social media accounts and nurture relationships built there. I always take time to comment, reply and thank people and this again has brought me work and opportunities. You never know who’s looking!
Finally please tell us where we can buy your work..
My Etsy is http://www.etsy.com/shop/ArtEyeCandy
Thanks so much Rachelle - your work is delightful and I wish you great success in New York in May at Surtex. Booth nos.214 and 216 if you're visiting!