Updated: Jun 26
Back in May 2017 I did a post on Instagram with an illustration that I am now too embarrassed to share- because it's terrible! The caption to the post talked about my long held dream of becoming a well-known illustrator.
At that point my eldest was in Reception and I had a feisty two year old at home. I was a frustrated creative, with what felt like an unused graphic design degree and limited time to pursue my dream.
I'd recently been made redundant from my job as a Display Technician in a secondary school, a job that was badly paid, but fitted around the kids and allowed me to be creative and hopefully inspired some young minds along the way.
When I left this job I felt it was time to forge ahead with illustration. Thankfully we had enough money in the bank for me to stay at home with my youngest and begin to develop my creative practice. I'd done a lot of freelance graphic design jobs- but never got enough work to make a living- which frustrated me.
I began to design cheerful, illustrated products that could be sent in the post (snail mail), to spread a bit of joy to the receiver, which is why I gave myself the name: The Happy Snail Company. It also refers to my cheery, yet introverted personality.
My colourful products were popular, and made some money but growth was limited by my amazing ability to get distracted and overwhelmed. I found it really hard to balance motherhood, with the creative process and all the business-y stuff too. My mind has always overflowed with ideas, but I've struggled to focus on one idea long enough to make any headway.
I dabbled with the idea of being an art therapist, as I thought this would be a way of using art to make a difference in the world. I became a volunteer at Marie Curie Hospice, as a digital art therapy assistant, which was an amazing and inspiring experience, but ultimately I realised that I still wanted to be an illustrator...
Fast forward to January 2018 and I came across an ad for an online Master's degree in Illustration, at Falmouth University. Having discovered that I qualified for another student loan (I'd paid £9 off of the first one), I applied and was accepted on to the course.
This course was life-changing. I was introduced to hundreds of different ways of making a career from drawing. I loved the practical side of actually drawing and creating, but I also loved the research about semiotics, philosophy and psychology.
My final piece was a colourful mural, which I painted for a church baby bank. My research looked into how a deep, spiritual message could be conveyed to people, without being preachy and weird. Amongst layers of colourful, pattern were the words 'you are loved', written in some of the languages that were represented at the baby bank. I loved the process of painting the wall, but the reaction it received was probably my favourite bit. Both staff and clients loved it and some genuinely cried when they saw these words in their own language.
I completed the degree mid-pandemic, whilst homeschooling a 5 and an 8 year old. We'd also decided to move from North London to Norfolk, so we were homeschooling, washing ours hands, baking banana bread, bleaching the groceries, studying for an MA, washing our hands again and doing P.E with Joe, surrounded by a wall of cardboard boxes.
My family and I have now lived in Norfolk, for the past two years and although my career is not where I want it to be- I've made some serious progress. My portfolio is starting to look cohesive, my online following is growing(slowly), as I learn who my audience are and what it is that I do.
I feel so grateful to be part of a group of East Anglian Illustrators, called Dog Eared Creatives, who meet up, drink coffee, eat cake and look at children's picture books (what's not to like). The majority of the group are published authors and illustrators and although I'm not there yet, I've made some lovely friends and I feel like I'm making steps towards my goal each time we meet.
Some of my work is being exhibited in No.1 Ingate Studio in Beccles, run by the lovely Rebecca and Paul, who have been generously sharing career tips with me, whilst supplying me with coffee and dachshund cuddles.