artist, burnout, business, creative, sweet oxen

A Brief Hiatus

Blog Graphic

Apologies for the slight lull in posts. I’m not the most clockwork but even for me, 2 months is a little ridiculous.

I’ve taken some time out to assemble my thoughts and ideas for 2015 and decide what I want to do, and how, and for that I need a little break. I do find the online world a little overwhelming at times especially with so much inspiration and new things popping up on Instagram, blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. It is easy for my own ideas to become distorted by what others are doing, writing and advising, and it is at times very distracting.

This may be down to a slight lack of confidence in my own ideas and work, because I think I constantly look to others for guidance and answers. The problem I have found is that I just get more confused by what others are telling me to do, to the detriment of my own happiness and my own work. Which is never good.

I’ve also been organising my wedding coming up in May, which is oh-my-god not far away at all. I’ve therefore decided to take a small break while I consider a new direction for Sweet Oxen, organise my wedding, catch up with friends and regain some much needed confidence and clarity.

I’ve come to realise that I’m working an admin job part time (therefore sacrificing full-time guaranteed income) because I want to spend the rest of my time designing. I love design, I love drawing and I want to create beautiful things for people’s homes. Recently I’ve felt this ‘love’ is missing, and if I’m not loving what I do or doing what I love then it’s all a bit pointless. So I’m going back to basics, and figuring out what I want to spend my time on. Do I want to screenprint? Do I want to paint and draw original, one-off pieces of art? Do I want to make tote bags or cushion covers or limited edition art prints? Do I even want to do this anymore?

Running a business on your own is tough, it’s at times draining, exhilarating, fun, boring, confusing and for me it can feel like a rollercoaster. There are times where (on top of my admin job) I am working for 50 hours/week. So the work I create has to make me happy at the end of the day, so that I can look at it and think ‘that was ABSOLUTELY worth it’ and know that I’m on the right track. So, please bear with me while I figure all of this out, I hopefully won’t be away for too long.


artist, design, Etsy, evaluation, goals, illustration, illustrator, notonthehighstreet, review, sweet oxen

Things I learned in 2014

2014 has been the best year so far for Sweet Oxen with a big increase in overall sales and new customers, designs and challenges. It hasn’t been easy but I’ve enjoyed learning more about my business, visual style and myself.

Things I learned in 2014

Not following the same path as everyone else is ok

It is very easy to look at other people’s blogs, shops and social media and think…oh my god should I be doing that? But you are one person, and you can only focus on a few key ideas and projects at a time. Always ask yourself whether an idea is relevant to your business, and is it realistic?

Making mistakes is part of the process

If you aren’t making any mistakes it’s probably because you aren’t doing anything at all. It can very disheartening to realise a product hasn’t sold as well as expected, or to spend a whole day photographing products to realise they are not coming out right! Take a breath, and learn from it, and push on.

Make the most of free resources

Here I am referring to valuable online resources such as Codecademy, Youtube tutorials and online forums, where you can learn new skills and techniques for no monthly fee. There are also a huge number of free apps. For photo editing I use Afterlight, and productivity apps such as GTasks and Evernote make it easy to keep organised across many devices. I’ve found these have really helped keep my outgoings down which in the early stages of establishing a business is crucial.

Know when to outsource (if you can)

I have spent numerous hours on my product photos and I just wasn’t 100% happy with the results, and so I felt it was time to outsource to a professional! Enter Holly Booth, a fellow Derby Uni Graduate who has done an amazing job of my product styling and photography (a more detailed post on this to follow). They say that time equals money and if possible, it is better to pay to outsource to a professional, than spend so much time trying to get something to look how you want (and failing, in my case!). Those were hours I needed to spend on dealing with orders, developing my new website and I will now feel much more confident now I know my products have been photographed professionally, and look the way I want them to. Thank you Holly!

(Try to) focus on what you enjoy

There are aspects of all jobs that aren’t 100% enjoyable (accounts, I’m referring to you) but if you hate something and you’re only doing it because thats what you think you should be doing – re think it. I’ve realised recently I’m personally not enthused about celebrating Valentine’s Day, yet I feel a pressure to scrabble around developing more Valentine’s cards and gift products and sending press releases….because that’s what I think I should be doing. This year I’m going to focus on rushing less, and have more fun developing cards and products organically and ‘accidentally’ rather than forcing it.

Stay organised

As a notoriously disorganised person, I’ve had to really pull myself together with regards to keeping my receipts filed, sales logged and supplies well-stocked. There’s still more I can do (a big re-organise session is something I like to do once a month in the studio so I know exactly where everything is) but I’ve come a long way from the ocean of receipts floating in the bottom of my handbag.

Keep going

I’ve been known to have little blips every few months where I get impatient, consider going back to full time work and generally freak out, yet each time I think it the thought fills me with dread. I just couldn’t give this up now, and when I look back on my few first sales and products and see how far I’ve come I just know I have to keep on at it.

What have your lessons been from 2014? Let me know in the comments below!

artist, creative, exhibition, fine art, london

Tate Modern: Louise Bourgeois & Mark Rothko

On a recent trip into London I had to visit Tate Modern, and have a wander around. I haven’t been there for a few years but wanted to go and see Mark Rothko’s Seagram Murals, and the Louise Bourgeois: Works on Paper Exhibition which opened on 16 June.

I’ve seen Rothko’s work before (although I don’t think it was the same room or works as the Seagram Murals that are currently at Tate Modern) and I wasn’t disappointed. I do hear a lot of comments along the lines of “cuh, patches of colour on a canvas isn’t ‘real art'” – but then I ask them, “what IS real art?” – and they don’t really know what to say. And it’s even more frustrating when a person making such a comment hasn’t even seen this ‘modern art’ in real life, has no interest in doing so and is just regurgitating a line of thought they’ve read in a magazine. I think it’s difficult to experience work like Rothko, or Pollock, by looking at a photo of it in a book. You need to try see it in real life, and be open minded when you do – and if you still don’t like it, then fine!

Rothko’s Seagram Murals are dark, and a bit eerie, and the murals are so huge (the largest must be around 12 feet wide) – you’re absorbed by them. Stare at one for a few moments, and they’re sort of mesmerising, and hypnotic. You notice the layers of paint and colour, the way light bounces off the different areas in different ways. They envelope and suffocate you and swallow you up – pretty impressive, to me.




After sitting for quite a while in this room I left and found the Louise Bourgeois Works on Paper Exhibition, which I found really delightful. So well curated, each piece of material an important piece of work on its own but as a collection really powerful and fascinating, and just perfect.









You can read more about the Louise Bourgeois Exhibition here, or even better, go and see it for yourself at Tate Modern, London until April 2015, for free.