Meet Jessica Swift, Full Time Artist and Surface Pattern Designer
I am very excited for today’s interview. I first came to know Jessica’s work in 2009 via my good friend Stacy of Inkspotworkshop. I have since been a fan and watched her success continue to grow with leaps and bounds. A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit Jessica’s booth at Surtex where she exhibits yearly and licenses her designs to companies. She is the most down to earth, fun, full of life personality you’ll ever meet. I am so happy she’s here today!
1. Tell us a bit about your business. How did it start? What was the main inspiration behind it.
I started my business in Boulder, CO (my hometown) when I was 23 years old, after selling my paintings in a booth at my first juried art festival. The show was a huge and surprising success for me, and I was surrounded by artists all weekend who traveled around the country selling their work at shows and making a living as working artists — my eyes were opened to a whole new world! I decided I wanted to be one of those artists. I was so shocked and thrilled at the success of the show and I had so much fun that I made it official just a few days after the weekend show was over and opened my business, as a sole proprietorship. I painted my little heart out and sold my work at juried shows all around Colorado at the beginning– I was so inspired and excited about being in charge of my own schedule and career!
2. Being an artist and a business owner means you have to wear different hats at once. Do you have any tips in achieving a harmony?
Oh gosh, this is such a hard question, and I don’t think there’s an easy answer. I spent many years working long hours and not taking many days off, bouncing from task to task so I could get everything done on my never-ending to do lists. And for a long time, it was exciting and great to work in such a fast-paced, go go go kind of way. Working that way eventually led me to feeling burnt out and extremely overwhelmed, though, so now I make a conscious effort to not bounce from task to task without stopping in between to give myself time to shift gears mentally. Going straight from answering emails to painting to shipping orders to working on new patterns to bookkeeping to working on client projects without stopping in between is too much and makes me feel anxious and like I don’t have enough time for everything! The key to finding harmony for me with all the hats I wear in my creative business is to know that short breaks will help me focus, feel more relaxed, and will keep burnout at bay.
3. What’s your creative process? What inspires you?
My creative process is very intuitive. It always starts with simply playing with color– whether it’s covering a white canvas with blobs of colorful paint, or starting with a white square on my computer screen and choosing a color palette for a new pattern, it always starts with color. I never have an idea of what I’m going to create when I set out– my work reveals itself as I work. The act of working is truly what inspires me. I never wait to begin until I’m feeling inspired– I cause inspiration to happen BY starting! If I’m ever feeling particularly stuck, though, going for a walk through my neighborhood always helps. There’s something about being outdoors and in nature that gets me in the mood to make stuff!
4. You license your work. Can you list three tips for someone thinking about pursuing this path – what can they look out for?
- You can often find submission guidelines right on the company’s website with whom you’d like to work. You can often use google and LinkedIn to find out who the correct art director/creative director is if it’s not listen on the website, too. Make sure you follow the instructions for how to submit your work to the T!
- Create artwork that you’re passionate about, not what you think you “should” be creating. If you’re not inspired to create 4th of July or Easter artwork, don’t do it! You don’t need to create every time of artwork that could possibly be licensed in order to have success in the licensing world. You just need to create work that’s uniquely YOU. You can’t be everything to everyone– just focus on what excites you and make the best work you can possibly make.
- Get your images out into the world — start a flickr page, start a blog, create a website, open an etsy or Society 6 shop, start a Facebook fan page, get on pinterest… the more potential places that an art director could find you online, the better! Create lots of new work and update your sites/shops as frequently as you can.
5. What’s a typical day for you? How many hours do you work?
I usually work between 8-10 hours a day. A typical day begins with a 5am wake-up, a 5:30am workout, and then a green smoothie for breakfast while checking email. I usually answer any important emails in the morning first thing, write a blog post and then jump into whatever projects I’m working on at the moment after that. If it’s a shipping day, which is twice a week, I process and package all my orders in the morning and get those sent out as early as possible. Then the rest of the day usually involves some mix of the following: painting, designing new patterns, working on promo plans for The Declaration of You (a book I wrote with my friend Michelle Ward that’s coming out in June 2013), working on my sea elf collaboration with Laura from le animalé, photographing products, working with my licensing partners on upcoming products/mock-ups, marketing/PR efforts for my rain boots and other products, preparing for my upcoming Surtex show in May, answering emails, bookkeeping, updating my website, and social media-ing it up. I take short breaks in between tasks during the day and do things like play with my cats, eat lunch, eat snacks, do laundry, sweep the house….. I bounce around doing a lot of different things every day! My husband and I eat dinner together most nights and chat about our days, and then I often work for a couple more hours in the evening, on fun stuff like painting or designing patterns. I’m usually in bed by 10!
6. Name one of your best seller products.
My e-book, Jump Trust Repeat, is a good seller for me.
7. What’s your perfect day like?
My perfect day is one where my husband and I go adventuring together all day in the sunshine. I love doing things like driving out to the Oregon coast and going for a hike in the woods and a walk on the beach, or riding our bikes around town and grabbing lunch or coffee — days where we don’t have any agenda or anywhere in particular to be are the best. I love being outdoors in the sun– it fills my soul and rejuvenates my spirit!
8. What makes you smile?
My cats. Every single day.
darling sea creatures – read about them here
9. Where can you be found on the web?
Thank you Jessica for sharing your creative business with us. Wishing you much continued success!
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