Welcome 2020 and the Top Drawer Event

I hope you all had a lovely holiday season and a great start to the New Year.

2020 already! Where did last year go? 2019 flew by as I continued to develop my art practice and grow my business and in a blink, it was gone. So, welcome 2020, I am excited to see what it brings.

I love having my online shop and, even though they are very tiring, I love market days too, especially because I get to meet lots of the lovely people who support my business.

Markets and fairs are such a good way for makers to showcase their work. When I am at these events, I am often reminded of the Just a Card Campaign, which was set up by artist and designer, Sarah Hamilton. The campaign aims to encourage people to support artists, designers and small, independent businesses, by reinforcing the message that all purchases, even ‘just a card’, does make a difference. So, while I can’t buy all the goodies that I come across, buying something small, like a card, really helps creators.

Being able to support myself as an artist and maintain my practice through income generated from my illustrations, can be very challenging. Whilst I would really love to sit and make art all day, the reality is that, like makers of any kind, I must keep finding new ways to sell my work in order to make a living!

So last year, with the hope of increasing my wholesale business, I applied for a stand at the January 2020 Top Drawer event – ‘the UK’s leading lifestyle trade show for design-led brands’ – and I was excited to be accepted into their ‘Spotted’ location in this month’s show.

There was a lot of behind-the-scenes work to get ready for the show, as well as developing my new Spring / Summer 2020 designs (more of that next month) so I was grateful to have the support of my fiancé, Aneurin, especially with the technical side of getting the wholesale catalogue ready and preparing the stand plan.

The show, held in London, is a regular, bi-annual event where buyers and retailers from all over the country can come and have a look at makers of all types: It is a five day event – two days to set up your stand and three days for the actual show, meeting, greeting and networking.

It was very nerve-racking and exciting. Being quite a shy person, it certainly stretched my communication skills. We had a British Sign Language interpreter with us, which helped. I managed to say ‘hello’ to everyone who passed by and learnt a few things about networking along the way. We aimed to be easily accessible, clear about the range of illustrations available and take orders quickly and efficiently. Adding SKU codes underneath every product on the stand, with a clipboard stacked with printed order forms, a calculator and a card reader at the ready, led to some very positive remarks on our organisational skills!

The show went very well, far beyond my expectations. I met lots of independent retailers and gained EIGHT new stockists. One of them was the Royal Horticultural Society, which is one of my dream stockists. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I received an email from them placing an order! Happy, happy dance! It is a great start to 2020 for Katrina Sophia!

Whilst there wasn’t much time to have a look around at all the other exhibits, I did come across some fantastic new-to-me artists. Do go and look them up:

Both Emilia and Alice are now on list for items as we do up the house.

It was an exhausting five days. Luckily, we were glad to be able to enjoy some home comforts by staying with my mum in London! Thanks Mum!

A big shout out to my fiancé, for his outstanding support both before, during and after the show. I am looking out for something special for him for Valentine’s Day!

And lastly, but not least, as 2020 begins its sprint, a massive ‘THANK YOU’ to all of you who have supported and continue to support my creative business, from reading my blog to buying a card to commissioning art works.

You keep me doing a happy dance! Follow the link to a fun little video from the Just a Card Campaign

A Taste of Christmas Cards

I’ve launched a brand new Christmas card collection! It’s called A Taste of Christmas.

If you are a small business owner like me you will understand how we all have to start thinking about Christmas in the middle of summer and launch in the autumn to make the most of the festive season, and coming up with Christmassy ideas while the sun is still shining can be difficult! Luckily I came up with the rough idea of my new collection earlier this year while it was still chilly in spring and I have thought about it for months. A few weeks ago I felt ready and jumped in and started planning.

I knew I wanted to do a food-related Christmas card collection because I wanted to evoke a warm festive feeling, and the foods we eat in the festive period give me that warm fuzzy feeling instantly. There are also scents that give me that feeling – oranges, mince pies, cinnamons, fir spruce, vanilla, and so on.

I ended up with three different designs around this food / scent theme and these are Winter Fruits, Seasonal Scents, and Holiday Treats. I absolutely love each of them, especially Winter Fruits because it was the first design I created for the collection. When I create a collection It’s always the first design I am most proud of and I think it is down to the special moment of realisation where the design process is underway and going in the direction I hoped for.

I hope you will agree that my new cards radiate the festive feeling we get run up to Christmas and that all these three designs make a lovely collection.

Can you tell how excited I am for Christmas?!

University Of Leicester Botanic Garden

I can’t believe I didn’t visit the University of Leicester Botanic Garden sooner! It is free entry and really beautiful. There are 6 or 7 greenhouses but you can only visit three of them: the desert house – which is my favourite of all! – the tropical house, and the alpine house. The greenhouses are a tad small, not that I am complaining, but the botanic garden itself is pretty big with some water features and sculptures. It took me about two hours to really take in everything they have got to offer.

The desert house is my favourite to visit because once you go in it’s like you are in a totally different place, and the colours in there are stunning – think green, blue, peach, and ochre together! I think it gave me the push I needed to start painting greenhouses. If you have read my previous post about finding my inspiration in greenhouses, you will know that I had been thinking about adding some kind of greenhouse collection to my shop! The cacti and succulents in the desert house were also lovely and well looked after.

Naturally it was very warm in the tropical house, and the alpine house was a little bare in comparison to the others but it was still a lovely place to look around and write down some names of potential plants for my garden.

Finding Inspiration In Greenhouses

If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that I’ve been painting greenhouses! As a plant lover, I naturally enjoy visiting greenhouses and last year I decided that I want to create more greenhouse paintings for my shop. So I’ve made efforts to visit more, and most recently made a day trip to the University of Leicester Botanic Garden to visit theirs!

I collected all the best greenhouse photos I have taken and picked one to paint. It was daunting to get started and I procrastinated because I wasn’t confident I would be able to pull it off, but a few weeks ago I sat down at my painting table, ignored the Fear, and got finally started. Looking back I wish I had just got stuck in instead of putting it off for so long!

The end result two days later was a confusion. It was a mixture of:

Did I paint it?
I like it but I don’t like it either.
I beat my Fear?
This is not my style?
Wow, I really painted a scene!

After getting some feedback from my partner and Instagram followers, I came around and now I feel that it is a lovely piece. Because of popular demand I decided to get it printed, so it is now available as A4 and A3 prints!

Last week I painted a Cacti Scene from another of my greenhouse snaps. I had a dilemma whether to add a background or not… and I haven’t decided yet! Here’s hoping that I continue to push Fear aside and paint more greenhouses. I am excited to see how this collection will grow.

Plants Are Magic Illustration

Today I am excited to share an art process video of my Plants Are Magic illustration.

I painted Plants Are Magic a couple of weeks ago. The idea of painting an illustration based on this phrase has been floating around in my head since last year, and I decided to finally sit down and translate the idea to paper. What I have created is not quite what I envisaged, which does happen often with all the ideas I don’t act on quickly enough – my expectations have changed and the ‘fresh eyes’ are gone. At the end of the day though, I still love it!

To my surprise, when I did my usual routine of sharing the illustration on my socal media and collecting feedback, this illustration received a whopping 800 likes, several comments, and shares from plant loving friends on Instagram.

I seldom record videos of my art process but I want to make more in the future. I thought it’d make a great way to connect with my audience and show how I paint my work, and interestingly it is also quite educational for me because watching myself paint makes me aware of how I navigate across the illustration and think about what I would do differently next time!