- Carolyn Cox
- 23rd March 2021
Tell us a bit about yourself and your business.
I’m from Northern Ireland originally, but have lived in England on and off, for many years. After Art college in Belfast, I moved to London and worked as a book illustrator for 15 years, painting in watercolour mainly for children’s books. The one book that I did, that people may find they have on their bookshelves, is the Lion Children’s Bible, which sold over 4 million copies (It’s very popular in schools and libraries!)
However after having babies, I found the balance of looking after our 3 daughters and managing deadlines really tricky, and so took on less work. I so loved raising our family, but found after a while I had lost confidence in my art skills, but really missed the creativity of making my mark, and it took time to find the best outlet for it. Four years ago, a friend invited me to come with her to a printing workshop. I just fell in love with the process of linocut - the magic of that big reveal moment when you finally see what you’ve been working on when the block is first printed. And I felt free to be creative - learning a new skill without worrying about whether I was any good or not. I shared my new found love on Instagram and I found people were very kind and encouraging about what I posted of my first forays into it. So then things grew from there.
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How did you first start to grow your business?
After I had collected a few prints together, I tentatively signed up for a Christmas Fair that a friend was running, and got such a buzz from it that I looked into other ways of selling. I opened an Etsy shop and did more Makers Fairs, and learned how to make a range of products that suited all pockets. People sometimes find it hard to buy a large framed print on the spur of the moment because of the price, but if they have some lovely art on a tea towel or a notebook, or a little framed mini print it’s a guilt free purchase!
How did you keep going during the Covid 19 lockdowns?
Artistically I found it a mixed blessing. It was so difficult to concentrate on creativity with the background of sadness and anxiety. But I found great joy and inspiration in walking on the Sussex Downs where I live, and it has proved to be a time of collecting source material and reflecting which has helped enormously with feeding my ‘artistic soul’. For my business, I’ve tried to increase my presence on social media, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, and that has led to more sales. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve had to try to think a bit more out of the box to get myself seen. On Etsy I started doing international shipping, and that’s been very worthwhile. It’s exciting to be sending out my artwork to customers in Australia, the Netherlands and the U.S.A! I’ve also sourced some local retailers and museum shops who have started to sell my work, and this is something I hope to do more of this coming year.
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What are your plans for 2021?
As I mentioned, business wise I intend to try to talk with some more retailers about selling my work, and also I hope to approach museum shops with ideas of projects to collaborate on. Hopefully Makers Fairs will be back on course again in the Spring as I miss chatting to my customers and hearing the sort of things they like and are looking for. Of course, I do hope to extend my tea towel range, as I find they are really popular!;)
If you could talk to a younger you, what advice would you give to yourself when you were starting out?
Spend more time in the print room in Art college maybe, as I wish I’d made the most of learning all the techniques years ago! I’ve spent a lot of time, and used up a lot of paper trying to work things out by myself, which has been a bit frustrating. But I would also tell myself to make the most of what you’ve got. Always keep going with art, developing your skills. Don’t waste time worrying about whether or not you’re good enough. Just get on with it and enjoy, the experience and pleasure to be derived just from doing it is worth it, regardless of the outcome!
If you are interested in any of Carolyn's work you can find her here.
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