Friday Finds - Debbie Bellaby Illustration

Morning all! I hope you enjoy today's interview with illustrator Debbie Bellaby whose lovely work I came across very recently. She's also a maker as you will see from the stunning hare ceramic decoration below. I love the energy in her work - clear to see in the bicycle sketch which I am fond of having been brought up in and around Cambridge myself.

When did you start your business and why? Did you plan how you started meticulously or was it almost accidental? Tell us your story of how you came to be!

Having worked in the design industry for many years I decided to freelance when expecting my first child. Drawing has always been my passion (I will doodle on anything) and maternity leave brought me back to this. 

I needed to choose hours to fit around 2 pre-school age children so I began to freelance as an illustrator and sell my own work. It has been tough putting in the hours, often very late at night. But I’m excited to now be in a strong position take on much more this year as the youngest starts school. 

I think if you are lucky you come back round to working on what you love the most and this is what I want to do.

© Debbie Bellaby

Did things take off immediately or has it been a slow burn?

It’s been slow burn through necessity but I’m happy with that.

Do you do your business part time or full time?

Technically it’s a short day, but in total, probably full-time hours.

Where do you sell your work?

Online at ‘Not On The High Street’ and ETSY. In Local galleries and at Christmas fairs too. Also through Cambridge Open Studios  

Which of the selling methods that you use works best for you? Why do you think this is?

‘Not On The High Street’ is brilliant for an online presence, but personally I enjoy selling directly from Etsy and face-to-face, as I love to meet my customers.

© Debbie Bellaby

Have you had publicity in national magazines? If so how did you approach them?

Not nationally, but local magazines have been a fun and helpful experience. I would say a polite, persistent approach and be positive about your work. Maybe send a parcel of goodies so they can see, at first hand what you are all about. It’s good to cheer up someone’s desk on a Monday morning.

Who do you think your typical customer is?

I think it appeals to a wide age range and generally female.

Which aspect of your work do you enjoy the most?

Always drawing the initial ideas, sometimes this is the best part and it feels overworked by final artwork stage. Admin comes at the bottom of a very long list..

© Debbie Bellaby

Is there anything you would have done differently if you were starting your business today? 

Maybe less doing and more planning?

Are you someone who sets goals regularly or more instinctive?

I set goals and make lists (and tick them off). I think it’s easy as a self-employed person to sometimes feel a bit directionless.

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?

At the moment it’s a home studio, if cabin fever sets in I catch up with other creatives. 

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?

When starting out family and friends are invaluable. Further along I have been lucky to meet some great fellow creative people (through freelance work, local and online groups) they have become a trusted network for honest, impartial advice and we support each other. If you are a sole trader I think you need this camaraderie to help boost your motivation. And of course listen to customer and client feedback and try to act on it.

© Debbie Bellaby

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?

A dream day is variety. Projects that challenge me are important, so children’s or editorial illustration. I want to work more with local schools and colleges, plus the opportunity to develop a greater printed range of work. I would love to have more time to keep a sketchbook going too. Having more time is a theme here isn’t it..

© Debbie Bellaby

Anything else you want to add… tips or plans or ambitions or even special offers to my blog readers?

I have learned the value of mutual support from fellow designers and illustrators. I’ve also finally found my own style and discovered my strengths, so I am trying to stick to what I am good at and not repeat mistakes!

As a thank you to all the lovely readers you can use this voucher for my ETSY shop until the end of July: Summer14 - which gives you 15% off my range.

Finally please tell us where we can buy your work or find out more about you:

For portfolios, info and directions to everything visit:

You can find my Etsy shop here:

And a sneaky look at work in progress here on my Facebook page

I am also addicted to Pinterest (who isn’t)

Thank you very much Debbie - it's been lovely to find out more about you.


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