In today’s Balancing Act, a new twist: Lisa Kirkpatrick is a full-time student, in addition to running Estasketch. Her work is incredible — if you’ve seen her things on popular blogs like Decor8 or VenusZine, you would never suspect that she wasn’t a full-time professional with a million years experience behind her. Her work is clean and polished, with personality. If you want an artist to watch, check her out!
1. Tell a little about your business — what do you make/ sell, how long have you been in business, and what do you love most about it?
I make 2D original artwork like printmaking and collage. I love working with paper and recycling materials so I also play around a bit with paper goods and small artworks made from recycled prints. I opened my etsy store mid 2006, shortly after I’d begun studying Fine Art at university and was looking to sell maybe a few extra prints I’d been making in the studio (the nature of many printmaking methods allows you to create multiple copies, often we’re required to make larger quantities to work on editioning and consistency.. and as lovely as they all are, I don’t need all of those prints sitting around my house forever!) Anyway, to my surprise things sold surprisingly well, especially considering the total lack of promotion I was doing at the beginning. I decided to take advantage of this potential for a side-income and work on other products for this handmade community, as well as my own artwork.
2. How does it differ from your day job (creativity, skill, autonomy)?
I’m a full time student currently so most of my day is spent in the studio or the library, which flows into my home-studio time very nicely. The two do differ surprisingly quite a bit but I think having the two running side by side has helped my business and my studies – looking at historical, academic and professional art practices informs my business, and using my online store to look at business practices, marketing, the DIY movement and the expanse of ideas coming out of the online creative community, and just in general what people are interested in helps my art theory and practice
3. What has been the most challenging part of juggling a business and school? How have you gotten through the difficult parts?
I think the most challenging part is managing your time, and learning how to say no. Unfortunately I’m not too good at that part yet and often commit to more than I can handle. That, or things will come up unexpectedly that you’ll suddenly have to find time for – when that happens I just put my head down, get up earlier, get to bed later, eat cereal for dinner and turn off the television until everything finally gets done. I think I get through it by making a mental list of all the wonderful things I’ll be able to do again after this deadline has passed – cook a proper meal, sleep in, read that book I bought a month ago, try out some new ideas for products, etc…
4. Identity is often closely linked to what we do professionally. How do you identify yourself?
I suppose I identify with my artistic side, since it does take up the majority of my life currently. I am always looking at things from an artistic perspective these days, seeing what I can do myself, make myself, trying to find harmonious solutions to things. I’ve been reading a lot of art theory for school currently too, including interviews of artists, and some of the things written or said resonate with me so deeply that momentarily I feel as though I’ve definitely made the right decision pursuing this career path. (Though most other times I am not so convinced).
5. Give one organizational or business tip (or product) that has been invaluable.
My tip is to keep in touch with your customers, make sure they have all the information they need, it *really* helped me cut down on the amount of emails I receive and have to take time to answer. Give as much detail as you can on your shopfront, every detail about the item as well as your business practices – shipping cost and estimated time, whether you do custom orders and a rough timeframe, where you’re located, how often you ship, whether or not you gift wrap or can include a note if the item is for a gift, etc, etc. And once somebody has bought something, let them know you’ve received their order, payment and when you intend to ship it. I know personally when I hand over my money to a stranger online and don’t hear a word back I get a bit concerned. Most of the time there is no problem but as a customer I think good communication is really important. (And as a seller I think it’s incredibly time-saving.)
6. Some people use a side business as a way to slowly change gears. In the future, do you ever see yourself as a full-time entrepreneur? If so, what would ultimately help you ultimately make that leap? If not, what benefits do you enjoy with your current situation?
I still have a whole lot to learn about this business, I haven’t had a chance to research the viability of it at all yet, but even if it wasn’t to be, being a part-time artist or crafter would be just as rewarding. You might have less time for it but you might have more freedom too, when you aren’t relying on your passion to provide your income, you can turn down jobs, not have to make the same thing over and over just because it’s selling well, and just have a bit more fun with it. At the moment I’m just really enjoying making things, trying new things and meeting people from the etsy and online arts community, I’ll have to see where it takes me.
7. Any additional words of wisdom you?d like to share?
I think it’s important to be passionate about what you do… people will pick up on that. And really get involved in your area as much as you can, everything you do doesn’t need to be profitable or teach you something you can translate to your business. Admiring the work of others, learning the history of your craft, new techniques, experimenting with or teaching your own techniques, and connecting with like-minded people you can share your passion with. I think just generally immersing yourself in what you love to do will affect your own work positively.
Thank you for the wonderful insights! Best of luck to you in the future!