Last week I participated in a panel discussion for the Canberra Ladies Wine & Design August event where we discussed one of my passions - Passion Projects!! As I love this topic so much I thought I'd turn some of my responses into a blog post. If you have a Passion Project of your own or one you'd like to begin I'd love to hear from you. I've popped some links at the end of this article that are worth checking out for anyone interested in this space too.
Tell us a bit about yourself: do you have a background working design?
I graduated with a Graphic Design degree in 2005 and went on to work as an in-house designer for a couple of years before focusing more on web design, development and management. I moved to London in 2012 where I worked for a university, looking after their websites and digital communications. Throughout these years I also worked on and off as a freelance graphic designer on the side.
What is your 'passion project'?
My Passion Project is my textile design business Clare Mazitelli Designs! While on maternity leave in Brighton, UK in 2017 I decided it was 'now or never' and brought an idea that had been developing in the back of my mind to life.
How has your 'day job' or previous jobs affected the way you approach your 'passion project/s'?
My experience working in design and digital communications has been a huge help. I was able to to get started with photography, a website and social media accounts quickly and by myself. I think graphic/web designers must be some of the best placed people to get a small business up and running cheaply and efficiently.
What got you interested in this project?
Despite always having a love of art and design, once I started working in this field I completely stopped doing anything for myself. There was always something niggling away at the back of my mind that I needed to get back to doing something creative and although I didn't have the time I'd imagined having on maternity leave (ha!) I did have the mental space to explore the idea further. When I was talking to my husband about going back to work and what I might do to allow me flexibility with the kids he really encouraged me to think about what I really *really* wanted to do and this was the final push of encouragement I needed to get started (and buy a sewing machine!).
Do you see your passion project as something you want to focus on for enjoyment, some passive income on the side, or more of a profession?
My passion project started out as something on the side while I spent my days, and a good part of some nights, looking after my two young kids (they were 1 and 0 when I launched). Since moving back to Australia late last year I now enjoy 2-3 dedicated days per week and it is absolutely amazing to have this time to focus on growing my business and making it my profession.
What have been some of the challenges?
It was quite daunting at the start, telling people what I was doing, as not everyone understands but it's something I've become a lot more confident about over time. I'm lucky to have a really supportive family and some wonderfully encouraging friends.
I've had to teach myself a lot but that's something I love and have been used to working in the digital space where there are constantly new programs and skills to learn.
What have been some of your favourite achievements or moments so far?
I'm actually still proud of myself for getting started in the first place and feel that was the biggest leap of all so far. When a couple of stockists first contacted me about having some or my products in their stores I had to pinch myself!
What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time?
Despite there being many things I've learned along the way I can't imagine changing anything. I feel like I couldn't have started it without the different experiences I've had and lessons I've learned along the way.
Do you use any kind of scheduling/planning to keep yourself motivated/accountable?
I use a planner (I'll pop a link below) specifically focussed on creative businesses. It has been incredibly useful for setting goals and structuring time to achieve these and focus on what's most important.
Do you sell work (online/in-person at markets etc)? What have been some of the pros and cons of that experience?
I sell online through my website, through Etsy and am about to get started with an online curated marketplace I'm very excited about. I've sold at a couple of markets and hope to do some Christmas ones later this year and am stocked in a couple of gallery stores and retail stores. I really enjoy selling and marketing online however it lacks the personal interaction that is so important for customer feedback and that's where I find markets are great. Galleries and retail are wonderful for exposure.
Do you find that you target your style or type of products to a target audience, or does the work mostly follow your personal style/interests?
I design patterns and products I love and that are inline with my personal style and interests but I certainly take into account the wishes and feedback from my target audience too - there can be a happy balance there I think.
Have you found support amongst other creatives or groups?
Yes and I think it's so important! I've found the creative community on instagram to be fabulously supportive and I'm a member of a heap of Facebook groups that are really helpful - there are Etsy ones, Shopify ones, Surface Pattern Design ones, Women in Business ones and endless others. I joined the Brighton Etsy team when I lived there which was a beautiful group of like-minded supportive people that met up every month. It was a great way to get to know people in a new city too. I'm so glad to have just found this group (Ladies Wine & Design Canberra) and also Keep Co and can't wait for more meet-ups and events!
Do you actively promote your work online? What platforms have you found to be most successful for you?
In a short answer (I plan to write a separate blog post about this!) I've found Pinterest and Instagram the most successful for different reasons. I'm currently doing an online course through The Digital Picnic to upskill in this area too.
Here are the websites and instagram accounts of the lovely artists/designers who were on the panel with me and also pursuing their passion projects:
- Sami Sparrow - @samisparrow020
- Kate Conrick - @iskateness
- Raye Sommers - @rayesommers
- Juliette Dudley (host of Ladies Wine & Design, Canberra) - @poyostudio
... and here are some links to various groups and websites I have mentioned above: