My First Kickstarter Campaign

Since opening my online shop three years ago it's been my dream to branch out into more gift wares, in particular totes and t-shirts. My husband and I have looked into this so many times we've lost count and have always been put off by the cost of what it would take to get our first load of stock in to start everything off. I'd been noticing on Instagram that fellow creatives were using a platform called Kickstarter to help gather funds together for their own projects and what really drew me in is the rewards for people willing to help out. I investigated and already had a design in mind, did lots of research and checked with a manufacturer that my design would be suitable, then I put together my own campaign.

We have decided to get some tote bags made with my animal watercolour painting on, with a high quality vinyl transfer on a gorgeous sky blue fabric. We decided to go for a few reward options and wanted to give back as much as possible to anyone who would be interested in helping us bring this project to life:

  •  £4 = a greeting card, badge & handwritten note from us
  •  £8 = an animal print tote bag!
  •  £10 = a animal print tote bag & sticker pack
  • £15 = an animal print tote bag, sticker pack & A5 Print
  • £20 = an animal print tote bag & Pastel Elixir goodie bag

If you'd like to get involved or would like to get your hands on one of our tote bags, you can find our campaign here and no money will be taken from your account unless we smash our goal. If we go above and beyond our initial goal, this will enable us to get another design put onto tote bags and will be a huge boost for getting brand new products into our shop that we've never had before!

This is super exciting for us as we've never done a Kickstarter before and would absolutely love to see this design as a new product in our shop, so even if you don't want to contribute money wise, a retweet or a share of this post would be just as much appreciated and a huge thankyou to everyone who takes the time to look into it.

Thanks for reading and for all of your support!

Tangible Stationery Notebooks*

Being an illustrator who works from home, I've certainly experienced the confined feeling of being trapped in one room for too long and the inspiration sometimes burns out. A great way to combat this is to take yourself to a coffee shop (yes yes everyone recommends this but seriously, try it!) and usually around once a week I take myself to my local and immerse myself in the smell of freshly ground coffee beans and if I'm lucky, a slice of vegan cake. Most of the time James and I go together but whether I'm alone or with my husband, I always take a notebook and a pen with me because I just know it's the best place for me to find some new ideas and scribble my thoughts down onto paper.

Although I doubt many of us could be without our smart phones these days and despite how organised they can be what with diaries, notes, reminders, emails and everything else imaginable all in one place, it's just not the same as pen on paper. I'm a stationery addict through and through so when Tangible Stationery got in touch and asked if I'd like to try out a couple of their notebooks*, you can imagine how giddy I was. I typically always carry a notebook with me and not just for writing things down. Like a typical creative, sometimes ideas come to me when I least expect it so having a notebook on me at all times is perfect for such moments and I can sketch out whatever I fancy, even if I'm stood in the middle of Primark.

One of the downsides to carrying a notebook all the time is the covers can get bent in your bag and this sort of thing annoys the hell out of me. I love for my notebooks to remain as clean looking and tidy as possible because it helps my brain feel productive and put together. Funny isn't it how our minds work! The Forbes range from Tangible Stationery have beautiful hard covers with a glorious smooth matte finish. You can also opt to have them personalised in gold or silver foil, or just a simple embossing. Either of the options looks so classy and I was chuffed to bits when I saw mine had been stamped with my name, the silver against the black looks so pretty and now I feel like a professional business woman ready to take on the world!

These books also come with a few options for the pages inside such as traditional lines, squares or even dots. I went for dots because it seemed to be the option that I had never tried before and I also thought it would be fun to try sketching with this different background.

The Matilda Myers notebook range are a little more fun looking and you know me, pastel colours are my ultimate weakness. My two favourites are without a doubt the pink and the blue, with gold foil detailing and again, gorgeous presentation with a good quality feel to them.

It's safe to say I feel so refreshed and motivated when I have a brand new notebook in my hands and I'm always scribbling things down whether it's ideas for blog posts, art materials I'd love to try, new quotes or ideas I see and feel inspired by when out and about or even good old shopping lists. If you're anything like me, you'll feel naked without a notebook in your bag and this set here are going to keep me busy for quite some time!

Thanks for reading,

Pitching To Brands - An Artist's Point Of View

Unless you've been living under a rock this past week, you will have no doubt heard about the drama between a hotel owner and a blogger who pitched a collaboration via email and was then taken viral and made to look like a desperate scrounger.

As a blogger and small business owner, I feel I have gained some valuable information and lessons over the past couple of years from both ends of the spectrum and I've kept it no secret that I've often been approached by other bloggers who have bluntly asked for some freebies from my shop.

In my very early days of blogging and running my shop, I did a products swap with somebody else and also sent out no more than two parcels to bloggers who had promised me a very fancy sounding level of exposure and being new to this world at the time, I 'fell for it' and was only left feeling disappointed after being promised so much. Two years down the line and although I put an end to sending free parcels out, I have definitely learnt about the things I should have asked from the bloggers like stats, their ideas for sharing my work within a post and I would have also requested to see examples of their previous collaborations with other brands and photography style, to properly make sure my work was a good fit with theirs.

The messages I've been receiving over the last few months have been down right rude, grabby, uncomfortable and a little desperate sounding. Hear me out. I always respond to emails with polite explanations that as a small business, I cannot send free products out simply because I can't afford it and also can't rely on exposure as it doesn't pay the bills. I also thank them for their interest and go on to explain that if they liked what I did but weren't quite set on buying anything, a simple like, follow, comment or word of mouth telling friends and family would be brilliant and very much appreciated. I have in fact had shitty, nasty responses back from a few individuals who thought they'd try and tell me that they didn't work for free and that sending 'samples' was a form of payment.

Obviously this felt odd on so many levels because not only was I not the one approaching them asking them to feature my brand in a blog post, they'd also made it about them not working for free yet would accept freebies as payment. One girl even had the nerve to tell me that a blogger couldn't 'forge their career' without being sent some free samples and couldn't afford to buy all of the products required to create blog post content. I'm sorry but who do you imagine pays me for my hard work as a freelance illustrator if you're asking for it for free? You're also promoting a brand you 'love so much' to your followers yet wouldn't pay for that brands products yourself? 

Another experience went along similar lines, except when I sent them my response and thanked them for their interest, they replied with 'it's my policy to only feature samples on my blog, not paid for products.' Oh how I laughed. The funniest thing was this girl was in fact one of the two I had sent products to when my business first started and although I recognised her despite her rebrand, she didn't recognise me and that just went to show me how much she 'loved' my work.

I know for a fact I've just been very unfortunate with bloggers approaching me because some of my loveliest blogger pals are always doing brand collaborations and go about it in a totally different manner. I would also expect a professional email sent to my business rather than a casual Twitter DM saying 'hey, do you work with bloggers? mwah x x'. I've been sent links to the most professional looking blog post reviews of my shop from customers who have paid for their orders out of their own hard earned money and didn't expect so much as a discount let alone free sample and I couldn't be more appreciative to these people for supporting what I do.

I myself have worked with brands in the past and have been lucky enough to receive some gorgeous products and I'm extremely grateful for every single one, but I have only approached brands I know are looking for people because quite frankly and especially after the drama from this week, I'm terrified to pitch an idea out of the blue to a brand. I do believe though that you should only work with a brand you have a genuine interest in and would support regardless of whether they got back to you or not. As a small business owner, I also understand the value of a simple retweet or comment, someone telling you they love what you do and this is support in itself, you don't have to spend a penny to support those who inspire you and those who produce content or products you adore.

In my early blogging days, I reviewed a lot of products I had paid for with my own money and most of my reviews now are things I've bought myself as since changing my blog to be more art based, it's not as common to find brands to collaborate with. As a blogger as well as freelance illustrator, I feel I can absolutely understand that pitching is exciting, fun and can help you gain more experience and develop your skills but above all I believe in a professional approach and not being in this just for the freebies, otherwise you're in it for the wrong reasons. It's also important to recognise when you're approaching a small business as opposed to a big brand who have a dedicated PR team who focus on influencer relationships because they are the brands who can afford to pay bloggers for their hard work or send a product to review as well. Small businesses often aren't able to work in the same way as this so as an influencer the best thing you can do is like, comment, retweet, share, tell everyone about what you're loving and if you'd like to, place a little order because even the smallest of orders makes all the difference. If you have amazing ideas for working with another brand then I feel by all means go for it, share your ideas, try to build new relationships and gain some experience because you never know where it might lead! 

Thanks for reading,

Ellis x

Eight Months Self Employed

It's super scary and also beyond exciting to think that very soon it will be an entire year since I waved a jolly goodbye to my old job and took the plunge into self employment. If you're new to my blog - Hi! My name is Ellis and I'm an illustrator, often sharing my life and behind the scenes experiences of running a small business from home.

The Christmas period was far from what I was used to after spending the last five years working in a place I didn't want to be over the festive season. Day in, day out, working over Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing Day, not to mention New Year. Instead I found myself managing my own time, venturing out to do the shopping at quieter times rather than cramming it all into busy evenings or weekends and it was really lovely to spend Christmas at home with my husband and our doggies without it looming over me that I would have to return to work the very next day. However it's not all been easy and that's what these update posts are all about. Documenting what's been cracking off and being able to reflect now and at a later date. 

I thought I had prepared pretty hard for being freelance and self employed. I really thought that I was ready and able to tackle anything that was thrown at me and whilst my confidence and overall health has improved, the last few months have been very quiet and I was faced with new issues, ones that I didn't really see coming. I try to stay as organised as possible with my work, since I'm a one man show I just find it so much easier and less stressful updating things like paperwork once a week, doing regular stock checks and keeping track of everything. When I quit my job I didn't expect magic to happen, but sales certainly became a lot more frequent and I was going to bed every night really quite content with my hard work and success. Granted I wasn't earning as much as I used to, but a drop in pay was to be expected and I was totally fine with that.

Then October came and out of no where everything seemed to plummet. Luckily I'm part of a couple of arty small business group chats and have made some lovely creative friends on Instagram and Twitter who have not only been a huge support but a source of comfort since I quickly learnt that we were all experiencing the same thing. What with all the new algorithms that all of the social media platforms seem to be meddling with, it's become so much harder to promote work and get seen and this is something that started to get me very down. Believe it or not, running accounts is very hard work let alone when you're running a personal and then a business one alongside it. I've been burning myself out and worrying myself sick that my work just wasn't good enough, that I was aiming at the wrong audience, that no one actually liked me, the usual anxiety monsters who like to whisper nasties in your ears late at night.

I've managed to work out as much as I can that this awful feeling seems to be the product of working so, so hard and not actually getting any results from it all. I 100% work longer hours than I used to for a fraction of the pay and money isn't everything after all, but there are odd days where I can't seem to shake the guilty feeling that I'm just not doing enough. I've looked around and seen other people doing so well and oh look there we have it, the terrible impostor syndrome or comparing oneself to others. It never does anyone any good and it's self destruction at it's finest.

I'm very fortunate to be in a position where I can stay at home all day, locked away from the rest of the world doing what I love more than anything else. Many people feel it's an unhealthy way to live and that I should be 'around people' but being a huge introvert, I'm only left feeling sucked of energy when I spend time with people for too long. How awful does that sound of me? Why does that make me feel like an asshole of a human being just for recognising what recharges me and what does the opposite? I have my routine at home, I eat well, I exercise daily, I organise my time, look after the house, and spend valuable time with my dogs. I'm a much nicer person when my husband comes home from work than I used to be when I worked a nightmare job, working for myself has only ever done wonders for us and my health. So why the guilt of not being enough?

I'm not really one for 'new year new me' resolutions but what I would really like to start practising in 2018 is the art of believing in yourself. For many years I've looked in the mirror and seen nothing but a failure, I tell myself in my head that I don't look nice enough and the constant bullying I put myself through is something I wouldn't even expose my worst enemy to. So when shit hits the fan and things are quiet again, which they will be because different months have different levels of spending activity for consumers, I want to step back and tell myself I'm doing my best and that I'm also doing great. Instead of panicking about where the sales have gone, I'm going to work on a new piece of art, actually get stuck into the art journal I've been meaning to commit to for months and just immerse myself even further into the creative world that I love so much. Yoga has become a huge part of my life now and I usually do my sessions in the evening but there is no harm in trying to start the day with a few stretches too and continuing to self care through eating right and taking the time out when I need it. I've absolutely had enough of the constant negative outlook I seem to have when work is really quiet so this year, my first proper year as a self employed person, I'd really like to bop it on the head and become a lot more optimistic.

Thanks for reading,

My Physical Struggles As An Artist

I started my creative career ten years ago when I decided whilst choosing my A Level subjects that I wanted to pursue a job within that industry. I focused so much time and effort into my work and I fell in love with art to an extent that I would always be looking for it. I can't pass street art without stopping to admire and I could spend hours upon hours in Paperchase perusing all of their wonderful greeting card designs. Stick me in an art supplies shop and you'll loose me to the paints, pens, paper, that varnishy smell...I just adore it all.

University wasn't all it was cracked up to be for me personally so I went down my animal lover route instead for five years but kept doing the art on the side, hoping to one day make it my full time job and work for myself. Then in 2016 I had an accident with my hand and everything changed. Whilst doing some washing up from home, a glass broke whilst my hand was inside it and I severed the tendon to my ring and baby fingers on my right hand. My fingers drooped, I couldn't move them and from the second it happened I knew my hand would never be the same again. I was rushed to A&E only to sit and wait for 5 hours with a shard of glass still implanted within my hand, I had it removed and spent the remainder of that week in despair because no one was taking me seriously when I said my fingers just didn't work anymore. I was told that this was to be expected due to the level of trauma I had suffered but I knew my body and I knew something just wasn't right. I dragged my ass down to my walk in centre twice pleading with them to help me and in the end I was told to return to A&E for another assessment. Even whilst at A&E, two different doctors tried telling me that the swelling and trauma was preventing me from moving my fingers but a third doctor took a look and decided it was beyond their expertise.

pastels, art materials, art shop, artist, rainbow

I was referred to the Derby Hand Clinic and within seconds of placing my hand on the table, my consultant told me I had severed my tendon and would need surgery to repair it. I went down for surgery 20 minutes later under a local anaesthetic and spent the following three months returning to the hospital once a week for check ups and physiotherapy. I had to fill in forms with my left hand so over time I developed some skills with my left and started to favour it for obvious reasons, but when filling out the 'occupation' section I always noticed my doctors and physiotherapists always looked a little shifty. I was told on numerous occasions to rethink my career choices because drawing would be something I would struggle with for the rest of my life.

A year and a half later, I'm still shocked that I have managed to get my artwork to a point where I could quit my job with the animals and return to the creative world full time. I'm incredibly lucky to work from home and continue to build my little business, but there are definitely some challenges I face on a daily basis and some things that I feel prevent me from opening up other avenues of work. For months I've wanted to start doing commissions for people and most of all do pet portraits but I've been terrified to start in case I can't keep up or get work completed within a certain amount of time. I'll eventually find a way of working that suits me and my customers but right now I struggle to hold a pen for more than 10 minutes at a time. Things are improving there is no doubt about it, there was a time where I couldn't even hold my pens! I tried working left handed but the control just wasn't the same. I'm a righty through and through so I took my time and got back on the horse. Even writing my blog when it happened was difficult, I was typing one letter at a time with my left index finger and let me tell you, it's infuriating not working at your usual speed. It's also not just the pain and stiffness that holds me back; I still have nightmares and loose sleep when my brain gets lost in the moments when the glass was removed from my hand with no pain relief and then lying on an operating table wide awake with someone sewing my tendons back together. Feeling the motions but not feeling anything else. I was terrified and it haunts me.

fox art, fox artwork, fox illustration

I experimented a lot with mediums whilst at Sixth Form and uni but a black ink pen is always my number one go to for drawing, it's just not always possible these days. Instead I took up painting again and depending on what mood I'm in, I'll go for acrylics or watercolours. Acrylics are for when I'm feeling a bit more expressive whereas I can still achieve the illustrative style that I love with watercolours so I think it's great having more than one favourite material to go to. The best thing though is being able to hold a paintbrush much more loosely than a pen meaning there isn't as much strain on my hand. If anything this whole experience has taught me to be stronger and if one way doesn't work, just try another. It's as simple as that.

I never used to be a clumsy person before all of this but I'm now one of those person who drops things, I can't count and hold change especially when it's cold which is a nightmare for craft fairs, I can't lift heavy things or grip onto something if I need to. But I have recently taken up yoga to try and gain some strength in my wrists and arms to hopefully support myself a bit better with all of that. As for the finger movement and stiffness, all I can do is carry on and with a bit of luck over time it should become a bit easier and if anything, art was never something to consider giving up - it was and is the very thing getting me through it all.

Thanks for reading,

Illustrated Veganism

Seven months ago I chose the vegan lifestyle, for my health, the environment and the animals. As cliche as it sounds, it's the best lifestyle choice I have ever made and I couldn't be happier with where it has taken me already. I have a new found passion for self care and worth which I hope will only continue to grow. I'm excited to become stronger through exercising and doing daily yoga, discover more amazing food dishes and also continue to do all we can as a household to reduce things like plastic and carry on supporting cruelty free brands.

I've been in somewhat of an arty rut since I left university a few years ago and have never really felt like I've had much direction or 'niche' for my work. It's as though I have a few different styles and I developed my quick and basic line/block colour doodles as a way of still producing work whilst working my long seven day rota at my old job. When I quit the job, I started to create a routine for myself and put a lot of my energy into feeling well again and starting my freelance career for real. I think it always felt like it wasn't very serious because it was something I did alongside a 'real' job so plunging headfirst into this self employed world has taken some getting used to and over the last few months, that's what I've been doing. But since I've had more time to work on new pieces, I've had more time to actually sit and work on artwork for a few days as opposed to half an hour. I can sit and paint for a whole day and focus on developing the skills which I felt had become quite rusty over time because I never had the chance to use them.

vegan art, vegan artwork, vegan illustrator, vegan painting, vegan watercolour, animals painting, farm animals, animal art

Something which I feel really helps me to produce my best work is when I have a passion for the content and the theme I go with. For example...I'd be hopeless at drawing or painting cars or buildings. I just know it, but over time I hope I can come to challenge myself to try new things. Painting and drawing animals however has always been my number one strength and this year I'd really like to expand on that and help to promote animal welfare at the same time. I'd also love to step into the world of food illustration and use my own photographs to work from, so that will mean making some delicious food first, win win!

As with my channel, I've always had this fear looming over me that talking about veganism won't be very well received and it's always made me think twice. This year however I really want to embrace what I'm passionate about and this new lifestyle I chose half a year ago excites me a lot, so why not share it both here and in my artwork. So what now? 

I've been working on lots of new things for my shop since the start of the new year and today I released some new mugs and a brand new jewellery range, which is something I have dreamt about for months! Tomorrow I'd like to continue working on some new designs for the jewellery and see where I'm at with my new prints. I'd love to have a proper sit down and plan out some blogging because I feel like I've been neglecting it since I got the flu just before Christmas and I really miss the posting routine I had, but at the same time I've been super busy with the new products so at least there's a huge positive! I'm SO excited to see what happens with my shop this year and really enjoy my first full year of being self employed. I'm scared shitless but what an adventure it's going to be.

If you're trying out veganuary this year do let me know how you're getting on in the comments and if you're missing that chocolate, this recipe will sort you right out!

Thanks for reading!

Vegan Rocky Road

Two weeks before Christmas I did a spot of vegan baking...if that's what you can call it because after all, this recipe requires no cooking. We'll just call it baking because it involves cake and that's good enough for me. Then I fell ill with the flu and never got round to sharing my creation, I think James must have snapped up most of the cakes but I managed to get one or two pieces for myself! I'm a huge lover of rocky road and if you're starting out on your vegan journey or taking part in Veganuary right now, you may be wondering whether or not the vegan life can still involve treats like this. Fear not, I got you covered!

For these yummy delectables all you need are the following ingredients, but feel free to mix things up a bit by adding in some cherries (I would have if I remembered to get some!), some nuts, different dried fruits, or even some cheeky sweeties. It's entirely up to you!

vegan food, vegan baking, vegan chocolate, vegan cake, vegan rocky road


- 50g vegan butter
- 70g vegan marshmallows
- 100g vegan milk chocolate
- 75g vegan dark chocolate
- 3 tbsp golden syrup
- 90g rich tea biscuits
- 50g sultanas
- extra chocolate to drizzle on top

freedom confectionery

Start by beating the hell out of your biscuits. I did this by popping them into a bowl and pressing the end of a wooden rolling pin into them repeatedly so that it absolutely destroyed my rich teas. You want to be left with a variety of sized chunks, not all tiny crumbs.

Next, whack your butter into a bowl with your syrup and chocolate and you can either microwave this with 30 second stints or melt using a bain marie method. I used a microwave because it was a little easier and faster but once it's all melted, mix it well and add that to your smashed up biscuits. 

Then you can get creative and add in your different textures, marshmallows are a must for rocky road and luckily Freedom Confectionery do gorgeous mallows in vanilla and strawberry and they're now being stocked in Sainsburys! Not sponsored - I just adore these sweets and it's amazing being able to still eat little treats like this without exploiting the animals.

freedom confectionery, vegan marshmallows

Once everything is well mixed, chuck it all into a parchment lined tray and then you can add some marshmallows on top if you like and perhaps drizzle on some of the spare chocolate to make it look all fancy. I used a 7x7 inch square tin which was around an 1 inch deep and my mixture filled it perfectly. Pop it into the fridge for a couple of hours and BOOM you're done! You can cut your rocky road into small squares or nice big chunky slabs, whichever you prefer!

vegan rocky road, rocky road, vegan cake, veganuary

Let me know if you try this recipe and what you decide to add into your mixture! Happy Veganuary everyone :D

Thanks for reading!

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