Professional painter and printmaker and mum of two, Jane Duke shares the story of Stoneflower Studio, her home business in York.
After exploring several different career paths, Jane went back to the drawing board - literally - and turned her painting and printmaking hobby into a business.
“As was fairly normal back in the 1990s, I left full time work when we started our family (my career had included the civil service, retail management and course administration). While I was at home with small children I started to practise my painting hobby more seriously.
“I’ve now got back up to the professional level of exhibiting, selling and teaching but as any printmaker (in fact any artist) will tell you, there is always more to learn and progress to be made.”
Juggling kids and a career change led Jane to focus on her art as a source of income: Stoneflower Studios was born, a name inspired by her two children, Peter and Poppy.
“When my children started school I went to college to update my IT skills and then got a part time job in a university social policy research department (my degree was in Politics). When the funding dried up, I decided I should go for it and invest full time in my art rather than start job hunting again.
“My colleagues at the university were hugely encouraging and pointed out that I would never know if I didn’t try. It really is as simple as that. As long as you accept you could lose your initial financial stake and make sure you could handle that worst case scenario, then there should be nothing to hold you back.”
Are you thinking of turning your hobby into a home business? Here are Jane’s top tips:
#1 Price your work like a pro
“Work out a fair formula for pricing your work which includes your time and reflects your expertise. No matter how much you love what you do, never be tempted to sell at a price that merely covers your material costs; not only is that not a viable way to run a business, it is also damaging to fellow artists and makers who charge more realistically. Ideally your work should retail for the same price everywhere (or as close as you can manage). Don’t undercut the galleries and shops who stock your work when you sell direct to the public; it’s unprofessional, discourteous and a quick way to lose an outlet.”
#2 Get a Create website
“Create allows me to present a clean professional image which gives confidence to site visitors. That’s important not only to customers thinking of buying work from me or booking a class, but also to galleries and event organisers who will check artists’ online presence as part of their selection process.
“It was a huge relief to find a company that makes everything so easy and where, on the rare occasion I have a problem, I can get help instantly from a friendly account manager who speaks the same language and is in the same time zone.”
Boost your business with help from a Create website. Jane sells her artwork and offers lessons in different types of printmaking via her online store and booking system.
#3 Get connected
“Networking and social connections are important: there are lots of independent crafters working at home on their own and you have to make yourself visible. For me, social media is crucial. Twitter in particular has been incredibly rewarding in opening doors and presenting opportunities.”
It’s easy to get connected by simply adding free social media icons to your Create site.
#4 Stay motivated!
“You have to be ready to pick up your brush or roller even when you don’t fancy it. American artist Chuck Close’s famous quote, "Inspiration is for amateurs - the rest of us just show up and get to work", holds so much blunt wisdom you could almost suspect him of being a secret Yorkshireman.”
Starting your own business from a hobby is not only a financial risk, but a personal one. Make sure your passion doesn’t become a chore in the process. Of course starting your own business is hard work, so you’ll need to be able to maintain the fundamental passion that got you into the hobby in the first place.
The future of Stoneflower Studio
This year, Jane is taking part in Comic Relief by releasing a limited edition print for Red Nose Day.
“I’ve been a supporter of Comic Relief since its inception in the 1980s. The use of humour and fun to generate goodwill, generosity and compassion brings out the very best in people and changes the lives of fundraisers as well as those receiving help. In 2013 I gave money I had raised selling a popular print and then in 2015 I went one step further and produced a special limited edition print just for Red Nose Day. That was such a success I am doing it again this year. ‘Cutting a Dash’ is a linoprint dachshund wearing a red nose. The edition of 50 is available only during March and every penny goes to Comic Relief.”
To read more about Jane’s involvement with Comic Relief, and for more information and business tips regarding her home business, visit her blog and Twitter page. Check out her Instagram for pics of Jane's inspiration and more of her beautiful artwork.