Before you read about this fabulous Crafter, WhimSicAL Lush, I think you ought to grab yourself a tea/coffee, a biscuit and make yourself comfortable for an interesting and very inspiring read.
Tell us a bit about your background and your business?
My business is called WhimSicAL LusH. A suitable name really as my work has been described as rather whimsical. One day I will be drawing and painting, whereas the next I will be knitting or creating original photograms in the darkroom. I also turn my hand to screen printing and weaving too. The wee world of WhimSicAL LusH is stuffed full of toadstools, castles, rabbits, woolly creatures, prints, cards, mugs, stickers, t-shirts and much more.
My background is in psychology and social work believe it or not! I really wanted to go to art college when I left school but my parents were quite firm in stating that they would rather I chose a course that would lead to a more secure profession. Fair play to them and I took their advice. So I went on to study psychology and biology for four years, gaining my honours degree. I was very proud of myself and thought I’d go skipping off to become a psychologist and solve everyone’s problems! Not that easy, but you have to admire my youthful naivety back then! A good friend of mine had gone straight on from our psychology course to study social work. She suggested that I might really enjoy it too. I looked more into it, passed my entrance interview and spent the next two years working to gain my diploma and masters in social work. During that time I concentrated a lot on art therapy. I didn’t agree with all the theories behind it but the general principles interested me a lot. I ended doing my final dissertation about communication, art and individuals with profound and multiple disabilities. Fascinating and insightful stuff, which really made me appreciate what I had in life. So yeah, I passed my social work and went on to be a practicing social worker for eight years, working with high tariff/ high risk young people and their families. Probably the hardest, most stressful, yet most rewarding eight years I have ever had, but
wouldn’t change the experience for anything. During those years I utilised my love of art and being creative to work with young people, build relationships and try and help them to understand and change their often very difficult lives for the better. Some of the artwork they produced was incredible and this was from kids who claimed they couldn’t even draw when I first met them. ‘There is no such word as “can’t’’ was one of my more common comebacks to such chat, as well as banning the word ‘fine’ when I asked them how they were. Ha ha! I handed in my notice in January 2010. My team was being disbanded and rather than being relocated to a new team I decided that I needed a break from social work. As much as I loved many aspects of the work, it was starting to impact on my life. I was at times very stressed, super tired and friends and family were starting to comment that maybe I should slow down a bit. Me being me, I would have probably ignored them, being rather independent and headstrong at the best of times, but my health was taking a nosedive on a more regular basis than it had ever done before. Thing is I have epilepsy, not that you’d know, but I really do have to take it into consideration sometimes. This was one of those times. And for once I listened to those who cared, was honest with myself and did what was for the best…. Quit my day job… went travelling… and set up my own business. I am now my own boss, I dictate my hours and I tell me what to do and where I can do it. I now have a healthy lifestyle where I work very hard but can also fit it around play. I mean we all know what all work and no play leads to… don’t we!!
How did your interest start?
My interest in drawing and creating has been there from as early as I can remember. I grew up surrounded by creative people so I guess it must’ve rubbed off somehow. Many of my parent’s friends were very talented craftspeople, as were my parents themselves, and I was exposed to lots of cool creations on a daily basis. I always wanted to be as talented as them and wondered how it was even possible to make a bowl out of that lump of clay, carve a spoon from that piece of wood, make a tree house of out scrap timber, knit a jumper, sew an entire outfit or turn a bit of weedy, rocky, land into a flourishing beautiful garden!! As a kid my mum and dad always encouraged me to be ‘arty’ too. One of my earliest memories was sitting at the kitchen table making things out of play dough that my mum had made, clearly to keep me quiet, whilst she got on with her cooking. He he, good skills mum, it worked! I was always drawing too and making things out of anything that came to hand, whether it was out of old cardboard tubes, paper and glue or making mud castles and houses for imaginary creatures with sticks and ferns with my little brother outside.
What training have you had?
I don’t consider myself to have had any formal training. I guess my family taught me a lot of skills. So amongst a wide range of things, my mum taught me how to knit. My dad showed me how to build things. My grandmother inspired me to sew and everyone encouraged me to draw and create and use my imagination. I loved art at school and soaked up new ideas and techniques with enthusiasm. I remember particularly loving learning pottery at high school. I also remember being pushed to paint when I didn’t really want to paint, but being so pleased with the results doing more on my own. Everyone needs to be pushed out of their comfort zone to try new things and I thank my various school teachers for that. These days if something captures my interest I will chase it, research it and if necessary take a course or two. My last course was screen printing and I cannot wait to get back into the print studio.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Now there’s an easy and tough question all in one. I don’t really know where my inspiration comes from sometimes. I really don’t. From life I guess and everything around me. I love the phrase ‘it’s the little things in life that count’ because it really is true. It’s the little details in daily life that capture my interest a lot of the time. Probably also the reason that I am constantly tripping up and walking into things too. It’s not that I’m clumsy; I’m just never really looking at where I’m going. I’m far too interested in that cool building over there, that beautiful flower, that spooky looking tree, the crazy dog running around in the woods or the crow that really does look quite evil. I also like to observe life, I don’t plan it, it just happens. Maybe that comes from my psychology and social work background but people fascinate me constantly. I often wonder what their life is like, wonder if they are happy, what their favourite colour is and why they chose to wear those ridiculous shoes today?
I love looking at other artist’s work which is an obvious inspiration really. Some of my favourite artists will come as no surprise to a lot of you. Tim Burton, Brian Froud, Arthur Rackham and Maurizio Anzeri to name but a few. I draw inspiration from many anime films, my favourites being Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo and Spirited Away. French films such as Amelie, The City of Lost Children and Perfume are amazing. As are the works of the director Guillermo Del Toro (Chronos, HellBoy, Pan’s Labyrinth). Jim Henson and his Fraggles and Muppets are fabulous and still make me smile every time. Jim Henson and Brian Froud also teamed up to make the Dark Crystal and what a fantastical world they did create! It would also be rude to leave out Labyrinth with David Bowie and his crazy critters. Books too. I love reading and could list hundreds that have inspired me over the years with their stories of far away lands, battles, struggles and those who win through, but really I don’t want to bore you too much. So here are my top five (at the moment): The Lord of The Rings, The End of Mr Y, The Chrysalids, The Curious incident of The Dog in the Night Time and The April Rabbits. And finally music; lots and lots of music. It is always around me changing my moods and inspiring pictures. I won’t even get started on the music that has inspired me over the years as this piece about my artwork would quickly turn into a music article!
Friends are a massive inspiration to me, especially my talented, artistic, creative ones. They chuck ideas and opportunities my way all the time. They challenge me too and I love them for it. One of my closest friends is the reason that I had the guts to set up WhimSicAL LusH in the first place actually. I always loved my artwork but never really had the confidence to put it out there but she soon changed that attitude. Over a very inspirational evening of chatting about hopes and dreams, what we would like our lives to look like, and maybe one or three glasses of wine she took the reins and bullied me, yes, you read right, bullied me into setting up a Facebook Page called WhimSicAL LusH. Not to sell work or anything fancy at first, just a gallery of sorts, just so folks could see it. One of the best things I have ever done. I remember watching my friends slowly but surely ‘liking’ the Page, sharing it around and commenting on my work, what an awesome feeling… and even more so when it started coming from complete strangers. Strangers, who didn’t know me, didn’t have to like my stuff but who genuinely liked it for its own merits and took the time to give me feedback. What a glow!
As I said before, my family are all very clever when it comes to making and creating. My dad is fantastic at building things out of nothing, he can make fishing nets with the trickiest of knots and used to make the most amazing leather gloves and hoods and thing for his hawks. My younger brother has his own carpentry business, his work is amazing. He has made whole staircases from old timber and carved the most gorgeous designs into pieces that he has built from scratch. My mum spins her own wool, knits the most incredible garments. She used to sew so many beautiful clothes and toys for us as kids. My grandmother is also a very talented seamstress, knitter, crocheter (if that’s even a word) and maker of all things so precise and delicate. And at 84 she still enjoys trying to teach her granddaughter some crocheting skills. So not to be inspired by them would be impossible really!
My awesome boyfriend is a constant inspiration to me. He notices the little things in life too and we enjoy them together whether we are out walking, travelling, exploring or just chilling out and being ‘us’. He also looks at things in a different way to me sometimes, well he is a boy after all, he he, and gently challenges my perceptions of things from time to time. I like this. I like new angles. I think it would be so boring if everyone agreed all the time and thought exactly the same all the time. He supports me every step of the way, keeps me real and keeps me motivated if I’ve had a bad day. But most importantly he is there just to hold my hand and be by my side.
People interact with me a lot on my Facebook page. They leave comments, they share ideas, they suggest things and let me know what they like. This is a big inspiration for me too and often invaluable too for new ideas and new ways of thinking. Every comment is really appreciated as it is not only inspirational it is an incentive to keep going.
My inspiration also comes from my travels. In fact when I’m travelling there are so many new things to take in that I am constantly scribbling notes and drawing in my journals, notebooks and any scrap pieces of paper that I can lay my hands on. Not so handy when it happens to be on the back of a speeding ticket, but that’s another story!
This picture was inspired by my friend’s little girl Heather. Heather’s mum told me about Heather trying to reach the moon one night when I had posted a comment on Facebook about the ‘Supermoon’. This picture immediately popped into my head and I couldn’t resist.
This might be a silly question now, but how do you manage to keep yourself motivated?
I think I’ve probably covered a lot of what keeps me motivated already but asides from that, what keeps me motivated is that I love what I do! I also try and keep things fresh and do something ‘just cos…’ at least once a week (a regular feature on my Facebook Page). Something not for work, not even for a particular purpose but just purely for relaxation or fun and just because I felt like it. I try not to think too much about impending bills and other such horrors but at the end of the day I do have to pay them, so this also motivates me to think about what people really want to see and what people will buy. It’s all fine and well being uber creative and doing one-off pieces, which I do in the form of my X-Ray Bottles, knitting and weaving. These pieces regularly appear in exhibitions, but they are not regular sellers as they have a higher price tag on them due to the unique nature of them and the fact that they’ve taken me an age to make. What does sell regularly are my cards and prints… they are what I call my bread and butter work and they sell best at the moment at craft and art fairs. I love doing events but they are very hard work and keeping levels of motivation up for doing these can be super hard when you’re tired. When you’re doing a craft fair/ art event you suddenly become the artist/ creator/ seller/ marketing director and the rest all in one. It can be hard work but also very rewarding. I have met so many lovely people who are now very good friends through various events… we all keep each other motivated.
I believe you have been travelling, tell us a bit about that?
I have just come back from Western Australia. Wow what a country, what an experience and what awesome people. Three months really was not enough, that country is simply too big to explore in such a short timeframe. Something that I didn’t quite get until a friend of mine said that she lived just down the road from where I was residing in Perth. ‘Just down the road’ here in Scotland is an hour tops, in Australia it is a three or four hour drive!! We travelled as far north as Coral Bay and Ningaloo reef and as far south as Augusta. And in that space of land is was like driving through three different countries. Down south is lush and green, with beautiful big rivers, pelicans, parrots and flowers; whereas up north got drier and drier the further we drove, hotter and hotter and more and more desolate. The term outback really isn’t used lightly. There is literally miles upon miles of very flat bush and scrub, as far as the eye could see. It impressed me so much. It made me feel so small and insignificant, a bit like when you think of how big the universe is and where you fit in, a bit like that! Australia was one big bundle of inspiration for me. The climate was warmer, the lifestyle was more outdoors and family oriented, the plants and trees were different, the animals and birds were different and I loved it all!! I have done a few Australia inspired items since I came home as well as the ones I did over there! Travelling is like opening a window to let fresh air into a stuffy room for me. It never fails to inspire new thoughts and ideas! I wish I could afford to travel more often but then again maybe it wouldn’t be such a treat if I did it all the time.
Do you have a favourite tool/piece of equipment?
It depends what I’m doing. I do love my marker pens and knitting needles a lot!
Where do you sell/exhibit your work?
I sell my work at craft fairs, art events and markets. I also sell online on my Facebook Shop on my Facebook Page:http://www.facebook.com/WhimSicALLusH and my Etsy Shop: WhimSicAL LusH by WhimsicalLush: http://www.etsy.com/shop/WhimsicalLush.
I also have work in several local shops: Zig Zags in Dunkeld; Lovely Things and The Windsor Gallery in Dundee; Maise & Mac in Cupar.
I have some exhibitions lined up for this year too in Dundee. I update events regularly on my Facebook Page.
Some of my favourite pieces?
What are your goals/plans for the future?
To have more exhibitions.
To do more markets/ craft fairs/ events and maybe even put some on myself.
To gather more stockists locally, national and internationally.
To make WhimSicAL LusH more worldwide, including doing markets and having exhibitions in other countries.
To get more people buying from my Etsy Shop and Facebook Shop but these haven’t been up and running for very long so I am being patient.
To run workshops to teach others some of my skills… share the fun!
To publish the books that I am working on. I really want to get it right and have them looking perfect so I am treading slowly with this project. Have enough material and ideas for about three books already.
To do more collaboration pieces with fellow artists.
To do more commissions.
When you first started if you could have been given one piece of advice what would it have been and what advice would you pass on?
A piece of advice that I have only just been given myself and really made sense. You need to wear different hats on different days and stick to them to be effective. One day you can wear your boss hat and make sure everything is in order, do all the ‘boss’ jobs like dealing with money, promotion, accounts, stock, ordering and the rest. But you have to keep that hat on all that allocated day, which is tough for us creative types, in order to get all the jobs done. You have to allocate boss days at least once or twice a week. Then on other days you wear your employee’s hat. The bit where you get creative and do all the fun stuff like designing, creating, drawing, knitting and the rest… This way everything keeps ticking over and you are not left with a mountain of the work that you dislike most that can take days to wade through. Yuk! It’s also important to take days off. Days where you are not doing anything work related. This is tricky and I’m still struggling with that one. I have to often resist the urge of getting up in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep to draw an idea because that is not work time and I’ll be exhausted in the morning when it does come to having to be effective. But the flip side of that is you can manage your own hours and if you’re more creative in the evenings then do so and make time for other stuff in the day which suits better. You are your own boss after all 😉
The other top tip I would give to anyone doing markets and fairs and other such events is always leave enough time to get there so you’re not flustered and rushing around trying to set up in a panic. Always bring some extra cosy clothes (my friend even brings a hot water bottle sometimes!). Always bring food and something to drink (something I often forget in my rush to leave the house). And lastly, see if you can bribe a friend or boyfriend or mum to come with you. They are great company and also very helpful at lifting, fetching, manning your stall whilst you make a dash for the toilet, hunting down food and strong coffee and can be awesome at selling your work (because it’s not always easy bigging up your own stuff).
Want to see more?
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/WhimSicALLusH
Etsy Shop: WhimSicAL LusH by WhimsicalLush: http://www.etsy.com/shop/WhimsicalLush
Thank you Suzanne.
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