Today is the first instalment of Creative Maker, a series of interviews with different makers that will be posted every Sunday. Each one will bring you an interview with a creative and get to know know more about the person behind the craft. My first interview is with the lovely Emily Atherton, who creates unique hand illustrated stationery and gifts and offers lovely personalised creations. I am very fortunate to know Emily through work, watching her creative drawings come to life in her designs is so lovely and inspiring. Here I ask Emily all about her work, inspirations and any advise she would give to anyone wanting to start out.
Hello! So, can you tell us all a bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Emily, I’m 27 and I am an Illustrator and Surface Pattern Designer from Wirral! I work full-time as a designer at a large retail company and also run a teeny creative business, designing and illustrating my own products for gifts and stationery. I run an Etsy shop to display and sell my products, as well as, attending local fairs and events.
I had previously worked in the craft industry, but the role wasn’t quite right and I felt the need to be more creative. After 18 months of living apart from my boyfriend (he had moved to London), we decided life was too short to be unhappy and we made a decision to both quit our jobs (parents were thrilled!) and travel around Australia! This was a bit of a turning point for me – I knew what I wanted to do, I just needed the time to figure out how to do it!
I feel very lucky to be part of a huge, forever-growing family, a wonderful group of friends and to live with my other half that makes me laugh and gives me all the support I need – these are some of the most important things to me!
What got you into what you do now?
I studied Surface Pattern Design at Leeds College of Art – to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what it was before I started! I knew I loved (and still do) to draw, by hand, in a sketchbook, with a pencil but the course gave me the opportunity to bring those doodles to life! I think I have always had a creative flair – I know that I’ve always felt the need to make or sketch or paint. My Mum has always made things for the house – curtains, cushions, tablecloths etc. nothing was ever ready-made, straight out of a box so I guess this had a huge influence on me growing up – if it’s worth doing, do it with love!
What do you love the most about what you do?
The thing I love the most is seeing my ideas come to life. I literally get these ideas at some of the strangest times and I have to sketch them out. I love to think that the tiny doodles made on the back on an envelope, might become a product that can make someone else happy.
I also love meeting other creatives – I am currently part of the Wirral Artisans Committee. It’s been a fantastic way to meet so many local, talented artisans that are all from different backgrounds and everyone has a different story. There’s so much you can learn from how others work. The aim is to support each other, share skills and encourage each other to be part of this fantastic artisan community on the Wirral. It means that we are reinvesting in our own economy and supporting local. Seeing the passion and love people have for what they do, encourages you to carry on and that’s something I love.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I love the outdoors, I think most creatives would agree that as soon as you step away from your desk and get some fresh air, your mind is opened up to so many possibilities! It can be hard sometimes with working full-time, to not get stuck behind a screen on Pinterest, but I think exploring new areas, independent shops, even sitting in a coffee shop or having a conversation with someone can spark a new idea.
I am always inspired by my Mum and Dad more from a general sense – they have run a successful business for 35 years (not a creative one, but hey) and raised five kids on that – I always find that pretty inspiring and something to think about when you have a tough day!
How do you balance full-time work and creative work?
Quite honestly, I find it difficult! With full-time work and a hefty commute, it’s not always the easiest. It’s nice to be creative in my job, but sometimes the last thing you want to do when you get home is sit in front of a computer again! But, I like to keep ideas for my own work quite fresh, with my own style and not necessarily always following trends. I love working on commissions as it gives you the chance to talk to other people so no two jobs are the same!
It usually means, getting up early, going to bed late and eating dinner quickly to finish something off or to pack up orders. I like to cram my weeks full so I can spend the time at weekends with my favourite people. It involves a lot of lists, a lot of tea, the occasional biscuit, the occasional gin and a lot of ‘remember why you’re doing this’. At the end of the day though, the balance comes from loving what you do and there is always time to squeeze in more when you see how happy the outcome makes you or other people.
How do you switch off and recharge?
Switching off and recharging usually involves food and drink. Looong walks and nice cider usually helps a lot. It’s so important to have the recharge time with the people you love – there is no alternative for that! I’m so lucky to live on the Wirral where there are hundreds of beauty spots to just sit and wind down. I love the summer for this – many BBQs and just having everyone together is the best place to be after a long week. I have also recently been learning how to just let the small things go – after reading Ruby Wax’s ‘A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled’, I thought a lot about how to live more in the present and not treat everyday as a big long list of things to do. I was worrying that I couldn’t enjoy what I was doing at the time because I was thinking about what I had to do next – I quickly realised that you burn out and lose motivation living like that. I know try to include mindfulness techniques to feel on top of things.
What advice would you give anyone starting out?
Don’t sweat the small stuff! I have been in so many positions where I’ve got so wound up about the smallest issues and it turns out not to be the end of the world. Also, don’t feel guilty about having a day off. Everyone needs to recharge and everyone needs their own time to reconnect. It IS allowed and you have to find your own balance. Also, always enjoy what you’re doing. If you lose the love for it or it makes you miserable, you can decide to stop! Everything happens for a reason and not everything has to be planned from day one – this is me rambling because I can be guilty of this and need to take my own advice sometimes!
What has been the best advice someone has given to you?
I think this is just something I have seen in the past but I always come back to it. ‘Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.’ It’s so easy to do with everything that is put out on social media etc. but if you want it, you can make it happen. Don’t worry if people get there before you.
‘Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.’
Tell us a fun fact about yourself?
Before I started my current job, I had a slight career wobble, not knowing which path to take. I was offered a role from a craft company to appear on a Live TV selling channel – Create and Craft – representing them. I had about two days to prepare about a million craft projects and to learn all their products!! I took part in about 10 live shows but, after travelling back and forth to Peterborough (where the studios were) 2-3 times a week, staying in random hotels and trying to keep up with new products, it ended with me crying to my Mum about how I didn’t have time to organise my own birthday party and we collectively agreed… it just wasn’t for me!
What is your why?
I do what I do because… I honestly love it. I couldn’t imagine not doing it. It’s a way to express myself and to meet new people while doing it. It means I can explore new ideas all the time and find new ways to motivate myself! I also love working with people to bring to life ideas that they have for loved ones or their own celebrations. I would eventually like this to be my full-time work, but for now, I am so happy to have the opportunity to work on the things that I do. I want to be able to share it with others (especially younger members of my family) and just to, hopefully, inspire them one day that dreams can come true if you work hard enough at it! I also may have promised my 10-year-old niece, that we would one day open a coffee shop/gift shop/workshop space for all creatives when she presented me with a very well thought out business plan – this might just keep me going!!
Thank you Emily for being a part of Creative Maker. Your words are inspiring and such a great motivation for us all. You can find Emily’s shop and social links below, go check her out!
I hope you all enjoyed this first post of my Creative Maker series, click follow at the bottom of my blog to keep you up to date with all my posts. I would love to hear your feedback too so pop me a comment below or head to my Contact page to see where you can find me,
Thanks for reading!