Hannah Smith, 39, is The Hambridge Artist. The name of her business is taken from the tiny village she and her family have settled in just outside Taunton, Somerset
Hannah writes, I will have been married for ten years in December to my extremely patient husband! We live on neutral ground – neither of us were born in the village we chose to settle in but Ben is a very much a Somerset boy. He has spent 12 years settling me in to life out West which I truly love! He’s an electrician by trade and a damn good guitarist out of business hours. He’s also a very willing father who seems to know exactly when to take the reins for me when I am struggling to work and entertain a curious and wildly independent three year old.
I have worked for my husband for a long time, managing his office. The arrangement is great because it allows flexibility – something we’ve needed in the past. Six years ago we started renovating an old cottage and embarking on a journey through IVF. The treatment failed but we conceived naturally soon after. After our miracle baby came along I became so absorbed in being a mum I lost touch with the outside world. The work for my husband wasn’t client-facing so I was in fear of disappearing at times, living so remotely it’s hard to make friends. I loved becoming a mum but I also felt I needed something to connect me with the world outside.
I could never source artwork I liked for home that I could afford. I wanted big pieces, but it was expensive. I was already painting when I came up with the idea and undertaking commissions, but I really loved the idea of getting creative with watercolour and producing some cool botanicals that would suit any space. I had the lightbulb moment after a meeting with a local printer who was very happy to support me in my mission. I started photographing and playing around with it, experimenting with graphic design and I just knew I’d uncovered an idea that had endless possibilities. It was at that point I started to share what I had been up to on my website – the interest was enough to push me to start selling my prints online.
I launched my business in September this year – in fact, it was the day Claudia started at preschool. Perhaps it was a way of coping with the quiet I’d suddenly gained in her absence! Filling the void or not, I had already set-up my website during lockdown as I had been working on commissions and other projects doing the year. I used the money I earned doing commissions to fund my printing costs and so far it has all balancing rather well. I used social media to research what people wanted to buy from me. I also asked people for photos of their plants and animals for me to practice on (I do a lot of dog portraits) – some of these beloved pets of friends feature in my designs! I’m still taking photos from people of their dogs and working on them now.
Being such a new enterprise, I’m still playing around with how to promote my business. I have learnt a lot from advertising on social media and I have even take a few random sales this way. It has certainly helped increase my following. I think there’s nothing more valuable than someone else endorsing your product which is why my key focus is PR and collaboration. I also use multiple selling platforms – my website, retailers in-store and Etsy.
Building self-confidence and balancing work with the needs of my family have been my biggest challenges so far – very often these are the two areas I don’t get right and I need to constantly ask myself if I’m working on that. I have started setting my challenges within my goals for 2021 – my botanical artwork would be well-suited to hotels and spas and I’m working on that already. My big focus is retail – both online and in-store. I have just applied to NotOnTheHighStreet in the hope that one day I can get to partner with them. It’s where I have always wanted to be and I’m hugely inspired by Holly Tucker who is an advocate for small businesses. The experience of others is such a valuable tool when you are new in business and friendly and welcoming support networks where you feel able to ask questions in a safe space is key.
I think when you work from home, it’s difficult not to involve the rest of the family and so I try to find ways to make it work. At times, that can be a challenge. I tend to only paint a piece for work when I’m alone as I don’t like to be interrupted or watched over. That’s just me. I also don’t want my toddler to see art as something mummy does for work at this point – certainly not the process. I want to enjoy doing art with her and make it all about her – I absolutely love sharing my paints with her and helping her to experiment. I use the time she’s in preschool to manage my orders, website and social posts. I paint at the weekends when my husband spends his bit of quality time with our daughter and I tend to share the cooking and chores with him in the evening. I recently invested in a piano – we are a very musical family, my husband and I can now jam together in the evenings with a G&T whilst we cook dinner. I think it’s important to find time as a family, but unwinding as couple if you’re married or with a partner is just as important.
In the future, I would like to take on emerging young artists. For now, building something to last is my primary focus. My advice to others would be, find what you are passionate about. You have to ask yourself if you’d be willing to share what you do with others. It’s not something everyone wants to do (even though I firmly believe everyone can draw and paint. I would love it if this inspired someone to go for it, even just as a release not as a business!). But if you do want to turn art in to a business then don’t be afraid to experiment with ideas – look around and see what you like yourself. Decide who you want to reach. Don’t print large quantities and hope for the best – get lots of feedback from friends and family about what they like. There are also lots of sluts looking for easy no-strings sex online in the UK so if you want to get laid, you easily can. It really helps. And be fearless – align yourself with people who really believe in you. Fear is the worst hurdle to get over. Find out what holds you back and move it out of your path.
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