Yes, today I'm celebrating 2 years in my Banks Mill studio! Well, I say 2 years but that includes 6 months of lockdown just after I moved in (who knew), and if I did would I still have still moved in? Maybe or maybe not!
There's no getting away from it - these last two years have been tough on all of us, for all sorts of reasons. My business plan went completely out of the window as workshops and in person events stopped in March 2020. During the first lockdown I really had to scratch my head at how I was going to keep my business going, especially when I had just taken the plunge to be a full time artist.
Did I give up and give notice on the studio which I had just received the keys for? No, even though most of my materials were locked away in my own studio, I persevered and carried on. I still had a few bits and pieces at home and continued to create smaller items and take smaller commissions.
Workshops were obviously a non-starter, although I did do a couple of online ones. I decided to create a mini-kit to make a china mosaic coaster to keep people busy until I could start workshops again. This kit had a fabulous response and I was asked if I have any other kits to try. This got me to explore kit design to allow more people to try mosaic at home and get creative whilst we were all locked away!
As well as selling kits and mosaics through the China Petals website I opened an Etsy shop. I was amazed at the response - especially after dabbling with Etsy a few years beforehand and having only received a single sale in 12 months! Maybe having a bit more experience online and social media helped. Etsy has now become an integral part of China Petals and has helped me reach a larger audience to my work.
Kits have also become an important part of the business too - with fabulous highlights like being invited to sell them on a national TV Shopping channel! But also lows like when someone bought my best seller, changed a single element of the design, and then proceeded to undercut my price by £5 per kit! My best seller dropped like a stone and I really do not know how the other person makes any profit because my margins were already very tight to begin with.
Anyway, rather than remain despondent I looked at my kits and decided to improve and shape them into the best user experience I could. I am in the process of updating all the kits with new, colourful step by step instructions, with attractive and vibrant packaging professionally printed by a local print firm. I do all the designing myself - both for the packaging and, of course, for the mosaic itself.
It takes months of development for each one, making sure that the mosaic design can be easily achieved by a wide audience whilst still looking amazing as a finished product! I want to make all of my kits interesting and even aspirational. I scour the internet to source materials at a cost effective price. I want the buyer feels value for what they have bought - both for their money and in their finished piece - plus it is important to me to be valued for the work I personally do in putting every kit together.
The success of my kits has made me re-evaluate my business and where my time in the business is spent. My studio is fairly small and really can only accommodate 4 guests comfortably, especially during these times of conscious social distancing. In business they say for every 1 hour of actual workshop delivery takes 7 hours of prep, content planning, marketing, photography etc beforehand. So for a 3 hour workshop it takes almost 3 whole days of planning - plus of course the day of the workshop itself. That's practically half a week! So after talking things through with my artistic mentor I have decided to take a step back from regular advertised workshops in the studio, at least for the time being. I will still be available for private/group workshops of up to 4 people - so you can still get your mosaic fix - but dates will be arranged one to one, rather than at a publicly advertised time. This will also allow me to tailor a workshop specifically for the private booking and allow people to try different materials and techniques. Corporate and group workshops will be unaffected by this decision. This change will give me time to actively develop and promote the mosaic kits, without me working 14 hour days, 7 days a week, - with a plan to sell them wholesale before the end of the year!
So what about the art and commissions Diane?
I'm glad you asked! I have a plan to split my artistic practice into two - China Petals as a brand for the mosaic kits and Diane Daley Mosaic Artist for artwork and commissions - but I'm still trying to work out how to do this in a practical way online.
I love creating mosaic, exploring different materials to use and have fallen in love with coloured glass. Using coloured (stained) glass has given me more creative freedom, allows me to make much larger mosaics than I could before and I know I can source glass online in the colours I want (generally) when I need them. During lockdown, sourcing fine china to recycle into mosaic became increasingly difficult. The only real avenue to buy from was eBay and the prices for pretty or colourful pieces had skyrocketed. This meant that using fine china was no longer cost effective - and, hand on heart, if Royal Albert side plates are £10 each could I justify chopping them up? My ethos is to repurpose the old, broken or unwanted and this shift in the market didn't sit well with me. So I took a side step and started to explore and use other materials for my work. This doesn't mean I have given up on recycling china for mosaics, definitely not. I still have a huge stash of china to work through, so if you wanted to book a group of friends on a china mosaic workshop you still can.
I have recently been offered a different studio in Banks Mill. It's on the first floor, so only one flight of stairs to climb everyday, and whilst it is a bit smaller it's a bit cheaper to rent each month. My first instinct was to say no - but thinking about what I've mentioned earlier regarding workshops and slimming down on china resources it made sense to take the offer. The lady in the studio next door (Sarah Perkins Art) has offered me her space for workshops if I need a larger space when required so it was a no-brainer. I will be moving studios at the beginning of April, just after my 'Meet the Artist' evening.
Piece by Piece - a solo exhibition of Mosaic Art
I am so excited, proud and nervous to be having my first solo exhibition in the Foyer of Banks Mill 28th March through to 22nd April this year.
It's a great opportunity to see so much of my work hung on display all in one place.
I am currently working on a huge (for me) mosaic created with coloured glass in all different tones of blue - of which the in-progress pictures can be seen above. It has taken me weeks of cutting, shaping and sticking of glass so far and I know it will look magnificent when displayed.
I am so fortunate that a couple of clients have agreed to lend me back their precious pet portraits to be part of the exhibition. It will be lovely to reacquaint myself with work that I spent hours and weeks to create.
I am going to invite you all to my 'Meet The Artist' event on Friday 1st April 6 - 8 at Banks Mill, 71 Bridge Street, Derby, DE1 3LB. No pressure to buy anything, but I wanted to celebrate my two years of being a full time artist with my followers, supporters and friends. There will be drinks and canapés, a chance to look at the art and have a chat - it's all very informal and I would love to share the evening with you if you can make it!
I'm looking forward to the next 2 years at Banks Mill in my new studio. Thank you for your love, kindness and support during my journey so far - I know I wouldn't be where I am today without you!