Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Interview with 'Brightly-coloured Designer Nerd', Sam Osborne

This month's e-interview is with Sam Osborne from Thame, UK.

Sam describes herself as a 'brightly-coloured graphic and surface pattern designer nerd'.

Sam's website
Sam on facebook
Sam on Twitter
Sam on Pinterest

As usual I started at the beginning by asking Sam, 'When did you first realise that you were an artist?'
I've always been an artist or designer really, right from an early age I was excited by and interested in drawing and painting and I can still remember the first time an Apple Mac appeared at home - a momentous occasion!

Sam, do you come from a family of artists/designers?
Absolutely! My Dad has run his own creative business for as long as I can remember, my sister is also a designer and Mum taught me most of the crafts that I know! Plus some of my favourite childhood memories are of creative & crafting fun with both sets of my Grandparents.

So presumably you enjoyed Art at school and did well in it?
It was by far my favourite subject and I did my absolute best to bring a little bit of creativity into every other subject I studied - although "Can I design a poster instead of writing this essay?" never really worked!

Have you had formal art/design/illustration training?
Yep I took the traditional art route, GCSE in Art, A-level Art then I studied an Art Foundation course (best year ever) and went on to take a BA in Graphic Design at University

What was the most important thing you learnt from it?
To first learn the rules and then to learn how and when to break them. 

Moving on, what is the most important thing you have learnt on your journey as an artist and from whom did you learn it?
To ask questions so you understand the project inside out and then take risks and push ideas as far as you can. Something I learned many times from various teachers, colleagues, creative directors and clients!

Which artists/designers/illustrators inspire you?
Wow, so many! Artists like Degas, Bridget Riley, Duran and Jenny Saville. All kinds of designers from Alan Fletcher to Amy Butler. Plus, of course, my fellow new designer-makers running their own small businesses.

What is your favourite medium?
As a designer I work mainly in pencil and pen and ink or directly in the computer, but during Art School I loved to paint and am working on new designs that incorporate that more.

How long has your business been up and running?
I left my full time graphic design job two years ago and set up my own business pretty soon after that. Since then it's been a total roller coaster working out what I wanted to do and how to make that work!

Where do you sell your work?
I sell directly via Etsy and Folksy and love packing orders up with care, making them feel like something really special. It's great to have such close contact with my customers and I always try to accomodate custom requests or alternations people want.

I also sell via Society6 where my cushion covers and iPhone cases are very popular and Envelop where you can find my designs on a range of fabric goods like aprons, oven gloves and tote bags. I have a small range of fabric and wallpaper designs on spoonflower and I am growing that steadily!

Are there any particular pitfalls that have caused difficulties for your business that you would like to warn others about?
In my experience the only thing that will hold you back is you. If you think you can't do it, then you won't, wanting it enough will overcome nearly all obstacles.

Do you enjoy the business side of things?
Yes and no, I love getting everything organised and knowing what is going on in my business but really I'd much rather be creating so balancing my time is often tricky!

Sam, do you specialise in anything particular?
I do so many things at the moment that I'm not sure I do specialise! My difficultly is that I love too much in the art and design world, from branding and typesetting to painting and most things in between. I'm not sure I could choose just one!

When I started out, a business guru warned me that I would probably spend only about 20% of my time on creating and if anything that was a bit optimistic! Do you find that the business side of things takes up more time than you would like?
At the beginning it really did but I've learned that it can be more cost effective (and certainly more time effective) to get help from experts with things like that. So, for instance, I hired an accountant who takes care of my tax return for me which saves me heaps of time and stress. However having grown up with Dad being self employed I always knew that the balance between doing what you love and making sure you're getting paid for it can be tricky.

Are you working alone or do you have help?
I mostly work alone, although I have a pretty good network of creative buddies and often collaborate with them on projects or take freelance contracts. Also as my family, including my boyfriend, and many of my friends are all pretty creative or marketing minded it's easy to bounce ideas off them.

Do you enjoy working alone?
It's not so much the working alone that I enjoy, it's more the being the captain of my own ship!

Do you paint/draw regularly?
I try to do something everyday. It's not always possible, but even if I haven't picked up and a pen or a pencil my work means that I am designing everyday in some form or another, whether that is pattern collections or brochures - it's all a creative outlet for me and something I do in my spare time as well as 'work time'

Do you ever suffer from artists/creative block? 
All the time - the mind is a crazy, tricksy thing! How do you get around it? Usually I can work through it but if it's really bad it's probably a sign it's time to take some time out, relax and unwind! Or failing that, I put some loud music on and dance around the studio - seems to help!

Are you still doing what you originally set out to do?
Well I've always wanted to be a designer so in the general sense, yes!

However when I started my business I had a list of about 7 or 8 directions I could go in and like a crazy person I did them all. The ones that worked (financially and emotionally) stuck and the others naturally fell by the wayside, plus things have changed and evolved along the way as I've learned more, so by that measure, it's not even close to what I set out to do!!

How many hours per week do you work?
Officially I try to be at my desk by 8.30/9 and work through until about 5/5.30 but my evenings are usually filled with blogging, research and packing up orders, so it can be a pretty long day - good job I love it.

What is your biggest achievement – or the one that pleases you most – so far?
Mostly just that I am doing it, for myself, by myself. And everyday I feel more and more like I'm getting somewhere!

Is there anything you would like to change about your art business – if so, what is it?
I'd love my own amazing studio space; I use a colourful corner of the spare room at the moment but I'd love an amazing architectural garden office, possibly made out of a shipping container!

Do you have a favourite quote, art-related or otherwise?
"It's not just a daydream if you decide to make it your life", it's from one of my favourite songs and it was one of the first quotes I illustrated! That's one I think most of us would do well to remember!

What are your plans or goals for the future?
Licensing, wholesale, tradeshows - generally playing with big boys! And I'm absolutely terrified!

Sam, I'm sure everyone who reads this will feel inspired to follow their dreams; your enthusiasm is infectious! So I'd like to thank you for your detailed replies and wish you and your business the success they deserve in 2013 - and hope that you get to 'play with the big boys'!

Don't forget, if you'd like to see more of Sam's work and track her progress, these are the links to follow:


Brenda Sutton said...

Great interview Judy. It is awesome to see more of Sam's work and to get to know her a little better. Very inspiring.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you for your comment, Brenda. Glad you enjoyed getting to know Sam better and seeing more of her work :)

Jess said...

nice interview, you can see how much hard work Sam puts into her business, and its really pays off - shes kinda inspiring to me.

Mariana said...

Excellent and inspiring interview, thank you!

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you for your comments, Jess - I get the impression that Sam is a bit like her designs, full of energy - and fun!

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Mariana - thank you for your comments. I'm sure it will encourage Sam to know that she's 'inspiring'!

Liz Minton said...

Very inspiring interview. I love Sam's work.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you for taking the time, and braving the captcha to comment, Liz :)

Sam Osborne said...

Thanks for all the lovely comments everyone, glad that the interview has been so well received! Amazing to be described as inspiring, full of energy and fun - I'd like to think at least some of that was true :)


Michele said...

Great interview, interesting to see how important positive thinking is - something I have always believed in...

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Michele - you are so right. Believing that we can and will succeed is essential!

Jessica Wilde said...

Really inspiring interview, love the energy in your work Sam, sure it'll take you far!
Jess :)

Judy Adamson said...

Thanks for your comment, Jess :)