Friday Finds - Sally Swannell - Illustrator and Artist

Good morning everyone! Today's Friday Finds is an artist I became aware of a few years ago when I was a Phoenix Trader as well as illustrating - I used to sell a lot of Sally's cards. At that time she was one of their main artists as a freelancer and has since branched out with her own brand. Her business is Sally Swannell Ltd. I've spied her stand at trade events such as Top Drawer and seen her prints in John Lewis too - just one of the places she sells her canvas prints.

When did you start your business and why?

I started the business in January 2010 as I wanted more creative freedom and to build something of my own.

Did you plan how you started meticulously or was it almost accidental? 

Meticulous - absolutely not! But it wasn't exactly accidental either - I had an idea of what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it, so I started talking to people and looking at routes to market and it developed from there. 
Did things take off immediately or has it been a slow burn?

It has been a slow burn - it takes a while to build up a base of regular customers.

I bought this one myself :) it was our advent calendar one year! © Sally Swannell

Do you do your business part time or full time? 

Full time, overtime, high days and holidays!

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

I don't want to grow the business too much as good quality design, production and presentation are really important to me - staying manageable and hands on is where I want to be.

Would you say you earn a good living from your work?

It's pretty much paying for itself now but no Caribbean holidays quite yet!

© Sally Swannell

Where do you sell your work? 

I don't as yet sell my originals but we have a list of retail stockists across the UK and Europe and distributors in Italy and France.

Have you had publicity in national magazines? If so how did you you go about achieving this? 

No - I've not been great at PR - top of my very long to-do list.

Who do you think your typical customer is?

I would say mainly women who like homes and interiors, the countryside and something a bit different.

Which aspect of your work do you enjoy most?

Planning new ranges and designing them - the business side takes up about 80% of my time now so designing feels like time off for me!

© Sally Swannell

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

A very difficult question to answer as things change constantly, but I think no, experience is everything - good and bad/challenging, it's only way to learn, see and feel where you want to go.  

Are you someone who sets goals regularly or more instinctive? 

No, I'm more instinctive.

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?
We don't employ anyone, the business is run by myself and my business partner (Dad - who does all the book keeping and 90% of the packing and warehousing). I do have 2 completely fab trade sales ladies who manage that side of the business on a day to day.  They work on a commission basis and have made a monumental contribution to way that the trade side of the business has developed. Cathy found me to start with and it went from there...We used a contract packing company for the first time this year only for our Christmas cards, as it would have taken all year to get through them all!

© Sally Swannell

Could you describe where you work? Are you alone most of the day or with others? 

It depends on the time of year.  At the moment June - November I'm pretty much constantly in the warehouse unit that we rent on an industrial estate for taking in our stock and packing it.  Mostly on my own, but this may have to change next year - extra pairs of hands will be needed. The rest of the time I can work mainly from home where my drawing board is and I can squeeze in some design time. 

Do you feel that they way it is now is the best fit for you? Do you see that changing? 

I think businesses are ever evolving and so are we....things are going very much in the right direction.

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? 

There are a couple of people I discuss things with, it's good to have a sounding board or 2, I tend to chew over ideas/decisions for a while, revisit them, and then go on instinct.

© Sally Swannell

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? 

There's no such thing as a typical day really, when you're pretty much chief, cook and bottle washer no job can be left undone! Some days I can spend all day on business admin, then there's sorting out stock, stock taking, packing, ordering, talking to suppliers, updating the website, planning and designing for shows etc etc.  I tend to do my designing and creative work over a block period of time when despatch periods are a bit quieter, that's when I get my dream days...start with an early dog walk, spend the day at a drawing board surrounded by paint pots and finish with a cup of tea with a friend - lovely! 

© Sally Swannell

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

A tip I happened on a while back - do what you love, follow your instincts and the rest should follow...

Finally please tell us where we can buy your work! 

Thank you so much Sally - your work is beautiful, it's lovely to see successful, very skilful, entirely hand painted illustration.


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