23 Jan A Short History of my Business
In December 2018, Elwin was only eight weeks old, we were in the tender stages of a newborn baby for the second time, but I was already itching to start on a new project that didn’t involve being a mum.
Having our first son Gryff had been a shock to the system, not only in the myriad of ways that looking after a baby is, but also in my sudden shift in identity. All the things I had felt made me, me, were no longer possible. I was desperate to find them again, I felt so lost as a stay at home mum, and of course also felt immensely guilty for feeling this. So when we found out I was pregnant with Elwin, I knew I would need to somehow create a sacred space for my creativity and interests.
I have drawn all my life but never had the confidence to do anything with it. When I became pregnant for the first time with our daughter Alma in 2014, I experienced a surge in creativity, which reawakened my love of illustrating. When we had a late stage termination for medical reasons at six months, writing and drawing became a comfort and a place to pour out all the love and grief I had inside me.
After revisiting my sketchpads from around this time, I decided to work towards creating a collection of cards and prints to sell. It would give me focus and purpose, and a brief reprieve from feeling like a milk machine/snack making slave.
Alongside this, I returned to selling vintage online (I used to have an etsy shop called Tin Cup Vintage) via my Instagram account Java Finds. Styling comes instinctively for me and I love taking photos, so it feels like a natural fit. As an extension, I began laying plans to expand into prop hire and styling for events (I had a very busy head and slightly over ambitious ideas for someone with two tiny ones).
By November 2019, my designs were finally ready to print and after announcing this to my small following on instagram, much to my complete and utter shock, I sold out within days. Encouraged by this unexpected turn of events, Jon helped me build a website for my designs (who am I kidding, he did it all) while I continued to sell vintage as a separate business. It all felt a bit scattered but I couldn’t figure out how to bring all the elements together. By this point, a year after conceiving the idea, I had started to realise that prop hire and event styling were off the cards: I was already feeling overstretched and needed to simplify.
And then the pandemic hit and we all went into lockdown. I remember feeling like an animal on high alert, tense and on guard. We pulled the kids out of nursery and school and quickly realised all our plans for the year (a second attempt at getting married in the summer, applying for stalls at fairs, Elwin spending more time at nursery so we could work) weren’t going to happen.
It was time to regroup. So in our usual way, when faced with a crisis, we threw dinner party after dinner party after dinner party. The only guests were two knackered parents, a soon to be four year old and a 1 and a half year old, but we made these meals special. And as a way to feel less isolated, I shared them in my stories on Insta.
We weren’t the only ones, a lot of people were spending time in their kitchens. As a result, I began to notice more interest in what I was sharing: our cooking habits and the crockery and utensils we use. And through this, it became clear to me, I didn’t need to work on figuring out how to merge my businesses together, I simply needed to lean into them. My business could be an extension of me, I didn’t need to be either an illustrator or a vintage seller, I could bring it all together. And in addition to vintage homewares and my illustrations, I could incorporate select homewares from small businesses that I love and have bought from for years. The heart that brings it all together is our home and kitchen. My love for pieces that you will keep forever, vintage illustration, a celebration of the everyday, a life revolving around the kitchen table, cooker and fireplace. A relatively simple life where we find the beauty in the imperfections.
And so that’s what I did. I brought it all onto my website, decided to simply use my name as the ‘brand’ name, chose a few select homewares to offer for sale and launched the newly packaged website at the end of August (this would never have been possible if we had still had a wedding, so… silver linings).
The response was more than I could have ever hoped for. I launched the new website on a Wednesday and by Friday the work room and landing were piled high with packages ready for their new homes. You cheered me on, shared my posts, shopped with me, gave me valuable feedback and took the time to support me in whichever way you could. I was and still am completely blown away by this and am eternally grateful.
Within just over a year, I had gone from feeling completely lost in motherhood, yearning for an identity outside of the repetitive mopping up of porridge and a reminder that there was more to me than wiping bums and snot, to having a very clear idea of what I was doing and where I wanted to go. I owe so much of this to my two little boys for being the incentive I needed to create this business.
So despite the pain and heaviness of 2020, I had hugely happy moments in my personal and work life. I am exhausted and slightly in shock, but I also have a head full of plans and a stronger sense of self. 2021 definitely feels even heavier right now on a dark January day, with the challenges of Brexit, an indefinite lockdown and the impacts this is having on the economy. All I can do is carry on creating, keep organised and stay open. It’s not easy, it’s a lot of work, often late into the night, but it’s something I have created, and alongside my friends, family and the beautiful Yorkshire hills, this keeps me going in the darkest of times.
Thank you for being part of this, it would not exist without you.