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Q&A with Rhiannon

In case you didn’t know, Drawn by Rhiannon is run by me, Rhiannon.

The business isn’t named ironically – my name is Rhiannon and I draw stuff. I’ve had a few questions sent through social media recently so I thought I’d round them all up and do a blog post Q&A! Let’s dive straight in.

How did you start?

I studied fashion design then fashion graphics at university. After the first year of university I knew that I wanted to focus on print design so I moved from fashion design to fashion graphics. My final major project was a collection of homeware items made with my printed fabric – sound familiar? At the end of year show I had several people ask me if I would be selling any of the things I’d made so I was like hey, people want to buy this stuff! Using my FMP as a starting point, I opened Drawn by Rhiannon and it’s just grown from there. The puffins were the most popular design from my first collection so I decided to use the puffin as my logo.

My final major project at university was the starting point for Drawn by Rhiannon

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere! I love travelling and many of my favourite designs have been inspired by things I’ve seen on holiday. I’m also super inspired by the beautiful North East where I live, as well as animals, random objects and food.

Do you do this full time?

I work pretty much full time hours at Drawn by Rhiannon but I also work part time in a craft shop. This just makes sure I know all my bills will be paid. Plus it’s great to use some of my skills at the day job too. I would really love to just work on Drawn by Rhiannon all the time as my main income so hopefully one day I will be completely full time here!

How long does it take to design a print?

I get asked this question all the time and it’s such a difficult one to answer! Every print design is completely different so each one takes a different amount of time to create. There’s the drawing and colouring stage, the digital cleaning and then arranging stages. Some things are quick to draw but then take forever at the computer stage. Others take such a long time to draw but are relatively easy to digitalise. The pineapple took over 5 hours to draw! One thing that I can say about all my designs is that they are all a labour of love.

The pineapple design took so long to draw I couldn’t look at pineapples for months afterwards!

What are your future goals?

Like I mentioned earlier, my aim is to run Drawn by Rhiannon full time. I’d love to have my own shop filled with things I’ve made plus other local artists’ work. And I’d have a little tearoom in there too because I love baking!

One day I hope to have a shop where I can sell my items and bake cakes too

Did you always want to be a designer?

Not at all! I was always changing what I wanted to do when I was older. For a long time I wanted to be a pilot but then I found out how much it cost to train and that you had to do physics so that kind of went out the window…

When I first went in to the fashion world, I thought I wanted to be a stylist. Then I wanted to be a fashion journalist – until someone who worked at a fashion magazine came in to give us a talk and told us that it was exactly like what you see on the devil wears prada. I basically fell in to fabric design because I never knew the job existed! It was only after a print design project in my first year that I fell in love with pattern design and knew that was what I wanted to do.

What do you do in your spare time?

What’s spare time again? Running Drawn by Rhiannon whilst working part time in the craft shop too doesn’t leave much room for spare time. But when I do get the chance to take some time off I love to travel. If I could get paid to travel I would drop everything and do that instead! Other than that I love baking and cooking, music (my ukulele featured in one of my print designs), and going to the beach.

Which is your favourite print?

Oh that’s so tough! There are some prints that I honestly can’t stand to look at because I spent so long designing them that I kind of never want to see them again… but I think my favourite prints might be either the bananas or the pandas. The bananas were really fun to design actually and I was so chuffed with how they came out! The pandas remind me of the amazing trip to Edinburgh zoo that inspired the design so I love that print.

Drawn by Rhiannon banana dress
I would love to make a dress with my banana design fabric!

What is your favourite item to make?

This changes all the time. I used to get so sick of sewing zips because everything I made needed a zip. Since then I’ve expanded my product range to all sorts of things that don’t need zips. At the moment I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for sewing coin purses and pencil cases.

If you have any more questions for me just comment below and I’ll answer them!

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The highs and lows of running a small business

Spoiler alert: it’s a real roller coaster.

I love my job. I have always wanted to work for myself but I can tell you for free that running a small business is not easy. I’ve been running Drawn by Rhiannon for three years now and pretty much every day is a struggle. However, for me nothing beats being your own boss. Today is a beautifully sunny summer’s day so I’m writing this blog post with an old fashioned pen and paper outside in the garden. Of course I will have to type this up later but that’s a job for this evening when the sun goes down. And that’s one of the first things I love about running my own business – the flexibility.

It’s great to be flexible.

I have never particularly been a morning person so starting work at 8am every day isn’t an ideal situation for me. I find I’m much more productive later on and in to the evening so I love that I’m able to start work at 10am and work until after tea instead. Sometimes I can be working until two in the morning if that’s when inspiration has struck and that works great for me.

Drawn by Rhiannon studio
I’m lucky to have a great studio at the bottom of my garden

On the flip side, the negative aspect of working from home is that you’re never able to switch off. I’m lucky to have a fabulous studio at the bottom of my garden where I do all my sewing and most my designing. Unfortunately my internet doesn’t stretch to the studio so all the website designing, marketing and general computer work has to be done inside the house. There’s always a never ending to do list so the temptation to just quickly finish off a few things soon turns in to several hours of work when I’m supposed to be taking some time off. The work life balance is something I’m constantly battling with to prevent me from spiralling in to a full blown burnout.

Freedom is liberating

The main thing I love about running a small business is being able to design what I want. You wouldn’t believe the amount of junior designer jobs that mainly consist of making coffee and doing dry cleaning runs. I didn’t go to university for four years to do that! This is part of the reason that I wanted to work for myself because I didn’t want to lose my creativity or all the skills I worked so hard to learn. I love taking inspiration trips and deciding what prints to design next. And I love not having to work to a trend brief or having to stick to a restricted colour palette.

Drawn by Rhiannon watercolour painting
I love being able to be super creative in my job

On the other hand, not having anyone to bounce ideas off can be difficult too. When you’ve spent several hours working on a new print design, staring at the screen and nudging layouts a millimetre here and there, it becomes impossible to know what looks good any more. As the business grows I plan to take on a couple of staff to help with the workload which would be a huge bonus (and would hopefully stop me going stir crazy and asking my pet rabbit which colour background she thinks works the best). Until then I rely on all you lovely lot to keep me sane so I really appreciate you replying to my questions and commenting on my social media posts.

Money talks

Now for some serious talk – money. As much as I love what I do, at the end of the day I can’t keep doing it if it doesn’t make money. I’m fortunate to have a part time job in a craft shop which ensures my house and bills are paid for each month so I don’t have to worry about becoming homeless. However, if you’re working 30-40 hours a week running a small business, you kind of want to see some profit return on that right? This is something I still find very tricky to manage, especially as the gift-orientated things I make are really quite seasonal.

I was on such a high at the end of 2018 as I’d had my best Christmas ever and was actually taking a full time wage. Obviously this was due to a huge amount of work and I spent most of the Christmas break in complete brain dead zombie mode but that’s how it is. I even earned enough to book a holiday in February to Belgium (check out the blog posts about that trip here) which I was absolutely over the moon with.

The Christmas markets were a huge success and it was brilliant seeing people wanting to buy my items for special gifts for loved ones.

However after all the buzz of Christmas, the start of 2019 hit me like a tonne of bricks. I barely made any sales and at Easter time I almost packed the whole thing in. Which brings me to my final point.

Confidence and motivation

Without a doubt the hardest thing about running a business is having the confidence and motivation to keep it going. There are times when I’m consistently working 12-14 hour days and only seeing pocket money in return. When you put your heart and soul in to something and people don’t really seem that interested it can destroy you. Sometimes I just have to keep ploughing on because I know if I stop and really take a look at things I might not be able to carry on (sometimes doing the books at the end of the month can be really devastating).

The words ‘I can’t do this any more’ have gone through my head more in the past three years than in the rest of my life combined, but so have the words ‘I love my job’. The minute I receive a message from a customer saying how much they love their order, or see someone smile at a print I’ve designed on my market stall, it makes it all seem worthwhile.

Running a small business is hard. By supporting a small business you are supporting a dream
Every purchase you make really does make a huge difference

I would love to say that Drawn by Rhiannon has been an overnight success and every day is better than the last but that wouldn’t be true. It would mean the world to me if you could all support me to help me achieve my dream by shopping small and interacting with the brand on social media. One day I hope that I can do this full time and employ some wonderful people to work alongside me but I’m not there yet. After all, nothing good in life comes easy does it?

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Meet the maker 2019 week 3

Drawn by Rhiannon banana dress

Meet the maker week 3 was all about future plans and dreams. My head is always full of ideas of where I want to see the business in the future so this was a great week for me.
Have you seen the first two weeks of the meet the maker challenge yet? Click here to them.
So without further ado, it’s time for meet the maker week 3!

Day 15: Motivation/goals

Motivation/goals - meet the maker week 3
I’ve always loved baking so combining this with my designing would be a dream come true

Feeling motivated can be really hard some days when running your own business, especially if you’re working every hour God sends and still not really getting anywhere. My end goal is to have my own place which is half shop, half cafe so that people can come and relax with a slice of cake and buy some lovely handmade goodies all in the same place.

Day 16: Workspace

Workspace - meet the maker week 3
I have a very short commute to the studio at the bottom of my garden

I’m very lucky to have a fabulous studio at the bottom of my garden where I do all my drawing, designing, making and photographing. I’ve just written a blog post with a behind the scenes tour of the studio which you can read here.

Day 17: What I’m working on

Drawn by Rhiannon printed greetings cards
A whole range of non-fabric items featuring my designs are now available to buy!

I’m currently brainstorming a whole new range of items that aren’t fabric based. I’m thinking greetings cards, mugs, stickers… that kind of thing! These are now available to purchase in my Redbubble shop.

Day 18: Mistake or lesson

I have made so many mistakes with my business I can’t even count them all… but as long as I learn from it then it’s all OK.

Day 19: Dream collaboration

Drawn by Rhiannon banana print dress
I would love to make clothes with my printed fabrics

I would absolutely love love love to see my designs used on clothes! Originally I trained in fashion design so I’ve always got that in the back of my mind. Seriously tempted to make a banana dress to wear at markets…

Day 20: Design process

Drawn by Rhiannon design process
Everything I produce is hand drawn, designed and handmade by me.

If you didn’t know that I design all my fabrics from my hand drawings, where have you been?? So just in case you weren’t sure, here’s what happens…

1. I see something that inspires me which I photograph for later.
2. I draw it – pens, pencil, paints.. whatever takes my fancy!
3. I scan the drawing into the computer and design a digital print.
4. The designs are sent to the fabric printing company in London.
5. When the fabric returns, I cut it up and sew it in to lovely things!

From start to finish it’s all done by me! (Except the physical fabric printing, I don’t quite have enough money for a fabric printer yet…)

Day 21: Throwback

Throwback - meet the maker week 3
My final major project at university was the start of Drawn by Rhiannon

I decided to choose this photo of my FMP show at Southampton Solent University as this is basically where Drawn by Rhiannon began! I made a homeware collection of cushions, notebooks, towels and buttons and several people asked me if I would be selling any of it, so I did ? The puffins were by far the most popular design so when I officially started Drawn by Rhiannon I chose the puffin to be my logo.

Day 22: Proud of

Drawn by Rhiannon craft market
I love doing markets and getting to meet and chat to you all!

To be honest, the thing I’m most proud of is the fact that I’m still going! Running a small business is really challenging so I’m just really chuffed that I haven’t given up. Other than that, I’m proud of all the markets that I do every month. There’s so much prep work that goes in to a market and it’s an early start and a long day, so it would be easy to decide not to do them. But I love seeing all you lovely people in real life and getting to chat to you!

(I realised half way through doing these blog posts that there were more than four weeks in March so meet the maker week 3 and 4 will have extra days in them to fit all the days in.)

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Meet the maker 2019 week 2

Drawn by Rhiannon photography setup

Welcome to meet the maker week 2! Have you read the first week of the meet the maker posts yet? If not, click here to catch up.
Read on to find out more in the meet the maker week 2.

Day 8: Product range

Flamingo makeup bags and reusable makeup pads
Flamingo makeup bags and reusable makeup pads

I love making matching products, especially if they’ll be used together like the flamingo makeup pads and makeup bag ? would you guys be interested in a special offer if you buy a makeup bag and matching makeup pads together? Let me know!
The flamingo makeup bag is available here, and the flamingo reusable makeup remover pads are available here.

Day 9: Story behind the name

Behind the name - meet the maker
My name is Rhiannon and I love to draw

Mine is super simple – my name is Rhiannon and I draw. I wanted a name that wouldn’t restrict me in the further if I wanted to branch out from fabric homeware items so I decided to go with Drawn by Rhiannon as no matter what products I would be making, it would always start with one of my hand drawings.

Day 10: You

Meet the maker
Meet me in real life at a market in the North East.

In case we haven’t met before – Hello, my name is Rhiannon! I design all the fabrics from my hand drawings and hand make all the items myself . I’m one of those people that doesn’t particularly like having their picture taken so I chose one of me behind my market stall from last week at the make and mend market ? I love meeting all you lovely people in real life at the markets so if you’re ever in the north east when I’m at a market, please do come and say hello.

Day 11: Reducing waste

Squirrel reusable makeup remover pads
Reusable makeup remover pads are a great way to reduce waste

This is something I’m really passionate about so I’m working on a whole new line of products to help you reduce waste. This includes the reusable makeup remover pads and the reusable beeswax food wraps. I’m also thinking about reusable sponges and reusable paper towels. If you would like to see any other eco-friendly products please let me know.

Day 12: Hands at work

A sped up video of what goes in to the editing of photos

After all the sewing, the next step is photographing everything, editing the photos and uploading the new products to the website. I use Photoshop to even out the lighting and tidy up the background. I also use it to make the colours look as true to life as possible ?

Day 13: Photography

Photography setup - meet the maker
My current photography setup – very tricky to get right!

Photography is my biggest struggle with running my own business. It takes me as long to photograph and edit the photos as it does to make the items in the first place! I’ve finally worked out a good set up but it hugely depends on the British weather…

Day 14: How I learnt

Meet the maker

I learnt how to draw properly when I started my fashion degree. You wouldn’t believe the difference having proper drawing lessons makes! That’s where I first learnt about print design. My mum taught me the basics of sewing when I started A Level Textiles and then I was thrown in the deep end with industrial sewing machines and overlockers when I started my fashion degree. After two years of unbelievably complicated garment construction I realised fashion design wasn’t for me. When I switched my major to fashion graphics, I learnt more about digital art and started to refine my print design skills. Every print I design teaches me something new so I’m constantly learning everyday.

Other than that, everything I’ve learnt has been through experience. I’ve made so many mistakes and felt like giving up a lot, but I keep on trying. Running your own business is really hard work so a big shout out to everyone who has made it a success ?

Meet the maker week 2 really focused on background information about me. Would you like to know more about my design process, education or past projects? Let me know by commenting below. Week 3 coming soon!