Small business spotlight on: Louise Pettifer
This month we are delighted to shine the spotlight on Kent-based artist Louise Pettifer. From partnering with the National Trust and exhibiting her work at numerous galleries throughout the South East, to having her work featured in books and working as Head of Art at a local school (whilst juggling motherhood!) – Louise is certainly one busy lady!
Louise has generously shared her start-up story with us – challenges, proudest moments and her top tips for success. Louise is also a brilliant example of how sometimes being brave enough to proactively approach a potential partner can open incredible doors! Grab a cuppa and be inspired!
Tell us a bit about your business
I am an artist working with a combination of printmaking and papercut collage. I am inspired by the gardens and countryside of Kent and East Sussex, and I make original artwork and greetings cards. I started working at my kitchen table in the evenings when I was on maternity leave from my job as an art teacher. Five years later I have an attic studio where I make my work, in between a part-time role as joint Head of Art at a local school.
What inspired you to set up in business?
I think it has been more of a gradually unfolding realisation, rather than a moment of inspiration. Initially all I wanted was time to make art, and I saw my maternity leave as that opportunity. As the work progressed I started to see ways it could grow and I think I was lucky that one of my closest friends, Kate Tompsett of Happy & Glorious, was there from the beginning. Kate is a successful entrepreneur and she really helped me see how I could think of my work as a potential business and start to push it in that direction.
Where do you sell your products?
I show and sell my original artwork in galleries and open studios in the South East. I have a show at Artichoke Gallery in Ticehurst at the moment and I am just gearing up for an exhibition with a group of artists in Rye, swiftly followed by South East Open Studios in Tunbridge Wells. I sell my greetings cards mostly through the National Trust shop at Sissinghurst Castle, as well as a few other local shops.
Tell us a bit about how your collaboration with Sissinghurst Castle came about
For me the art I was making was all about the beauty, peace and solace of being in nature, and having Sissinghurst on my doorstep was just too tempting an opportunity. I decided to approach the National Trust and see whether they would consider me as their artist in residence, so I wrote a proposal and couldn’t quite believe it when, after an interview and a look at my portfolio, they said yes. I visited the garden on a regular basis to draw and take photographs and I made work which celebrates the seasons, along with the planting, structure, beauty and history of this fascinating garden. I still go to Sissinghurst as often as I can and I have a few more ideas for new pieces based on the gardens, so I still look at it as a wonderful source of inspiration.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
My biggest challenge is always time! Since my son started school in September I have two days a week to make my art, which is definitely helping. However, it is dawning on me that running a business is not just about making but also about reaching out to art galleries and greetings card retailers and of course promotion and marketing, so that is where I am looking to find more balance.
And biggest high?
There have been a few and I always get ridiculously excited about all of them! Recently I was delighted when the National Trust asked me to work with them to develop a range of souvenir products featuring my Rose Garden design. There will be cups, tea towels and notebooks available soon. That was a real compliment and showed their confidence in my work, following the sales of my cards.
I was also very pleased to have my work featured alongside many other artists in a beautiful book called ‘Textile Nature’ by Anne Kelly, published by Batsford in 2016.
What top tips would you give someone thinking of setting up a business?
- Write down your aims. I think clarifying your hopes and dreams helps you to focus and means that hopefully you can look back in a few years’ time and see how far you have come. I have mine stuck up on the wall of my studio, so I see them often.
- Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. There is so much useful information out there, online and in some excellent courses. Other people have done this sort of thing before, so learn from the ones who are generous enough to offer advice and help.
- If you are making your own products you can’t only dedicate your time to the practical side of things. Plan when you will tackle your administration, accounts, promotion and marketing.
I’ll probably be found paint splattered in my studio but really I intend to spend the summer approaching stockists further afield to increase the number of shops where I sell my greetings cards. I also want to apply for a number of open submission exhibitions in London and locally. I plan to create a new series of pieces based on nearby gardens and the surrounding countryside of Kent and East Sussex.
To find out more about Louise and her artwork, visit: www.louisepettifer.co.uk
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Have you read our own start-up story? Read all about it in this month’s Country Living magazine – June issue. On sale now!