Friday Finds - painter and surface pattern designer Claire Leggett

Good morning! Today's Friday Finds is illustrator and artist Claire Leggett whose richly colourful and detailed work I discovered on line. 

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 your business came to be!

I had trained as a Surface Pattern designer but post-degree had immediately gone into admin jobs that paid and then retrained as a Primary school teacher. This turned out to be a super plan B for about 19 years; I love children, loved teaching and specialised in special needs teaching in mainstream education and was fulfilled for many years supporting the kids and their parents. 

But back in 2009 I was nearing 40 and having that moment of life assessment that so often comes with it, when I had a dawning realisation that a large part of my hopes and dreams had remained unexplored. At that stage I was working part-time in school and so I secretly began my own other part-time work of painting again in my days off.

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

It took me a while to get good again – my paints had been in the loft for years! Then one day I produced something that my husband thought was good enough to get framed as my Christmas present and all of a sudden I saw that I’d reached a special point. It was the beginning of me finding my style of painting. Skip forward past three years of painting and beginning to find exhibition opportunities whilst still teaching and I took the momentous step of finishing at school and going full-time at Claire Leggett, and that came about as a now-or-never moment when a change in family circumstances came about. I then had time to learn new things like pattern design on the computer and explore wider options.

Do you do your business part time or full time? 

Full time.

Do you intend to grow your business into something much bigger or are you happy with it as it is and why? 

They say you live and you learn and it’s true – I know from past experience that I don’t like managing people so I already know I don’t want a big business but I am learning to say yes to every opportunity and keep pressing to make new ones so I hope it will grow organically but remain intrinsically me.

If this is your full time job do you mind saying what your approximate turnover is annually (before costs and expenses)? 

Turnover!!! If I plotted my income on a graph for the last 18 months, it would be going upwards – that’s all I’ll say!

Where do you sell your work? 

I sell my original paintings through galleries who exhibit them but also take commission and through website enquiries. I sell my giclee prints and cards myself through a local arts market and I’m applying to other venues to widen those sales. I design surface patterns for two licensing agencies and have an art agent for licensing card designs and wall art.

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

I think you have to stick at something for a long time before you see rewards and it’s too soon to say yet – that said it’s best not to put all your eggs in one basket. It’s important to do things that are authentically you.

Who do you think your typical customer is?

I did an art festival recently (Patchings) and was delighted to find men as well as women enjoying my work. It seems to appeal to anyone who loves colour, pattern, textiles or plants.

Which aspect of your work do you enjoy most? 

I love the variety – each discipline: painting, designing, patterning – requires something different and so I love circulating through these, as it’s all creative but different – one feeds the other.

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

They say that creative businesses are the first to fail because the creative takes rejection personally whereas the business minded with a product to promote just moves on and tries again – I could have toughened up a little quicker maybe…

Are you someone who sets goals regularly or more instinctive?

I love a list! I love to plan -in January I cleared my pin board and made a time line and pinned onto it all the things I had been meaning to do and contacts I had meant to approach etc. That was enough, I haven’t touched it since but it set me off into a period of activity, which hasn’t lulled yet. But play to your strengths – lists don’t galvanise everyone. I also sometimes have chats with my husband and allow myself to be accountable for getting things done which I avoid because I dislike doing them – like marketing. 

Have you ever or do you employ people part time to help with any aspect of your business? For example, book keeper, accountant, packers? If you do how did you find people who were the right fit for you?

I am very fortunate to have a partner who has run a web design company for 22 years so it is a resource to me in many ways – web design, accountancy, business planning theory etc.

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?

We live in a three-story house and I have a room on the top floor as my studio. I’m never alone as we have a dog (dog lovers you will know what I mean) I also have two teens – one works as a chef and does irregular hours and the other is at college so I often see them during the day. I sometimes miss the staffroom laughs we had at school, but not the agro or bells or dramas - usually I am so absorbed in what I’m doing that I don’t watch the clock. I was worried about becoming lonely but it just hasn’t happened so I think I’m in the right place at the right time.

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?

My husband did a business management course for his own company development and I have learnt a lot through him. I’ve done a few good online classes too that have developed this thinking in a more specialised way to my field of work. And I’ve made some great Internet friends through blogging and have approached one or two of them over things along the way.

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 had my dream day a couple of weeks ago when I hung my first solo painting exhibition and because it was close to home, a lot of friends and acquaintances came to the private view or saw it in the local paper and so people have got a better idea what I’m doing - I feel like I ‘came out’!

Anything else you want to add… tips or plans or ambitions...

Well I’m saying this to myself as much as anyone else – keep working, create beautiful things that are authentically you, get up everyday and go to work and keep throwing yourself into it. 60% of a good business is marketing – so get the balance right, and don’t be put off if you don’t succeed quickly – shooting stars are bright but over quickly. 

Finally please tell us where we can buy your work! Links please ...

My work is current showing in Harborne Art Gallery but you can contact me at if you see something on the paintings page of my website

It is on my pin board list to open an Etsy shop really soon and I will have prints and cards available on this – my blog is so please feel free to follow by RSS feed or like my Facebook page Claire-Leggett-painter-and-surface-pattern-designer and I’ll blog about the shop when I open it.

Thank you so much Claire  - I look forward to seeing your Etsy shop and hope to join you later this year! 

*Stop press: Claire is also exhibiting tomorrow at Moseley Arts Market, Alcester Rd, Moseley - Saturday 28th June from 9am until 3pm*


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