As I sit beside my freshly showered husband of ten years
he watches Olympic hockey and I secretly start the typing for this post.
My aim is not public kisses and hugs for my husband
but more to address his vital role in my business and to thank him publicly for it.
I am at a cool stage now where (a few!) people I meet have read my posts or more importantly followerd my art for a while.
It is easy for me to take the credit for the recognition my growing business gets. But there are now three of us keeping this little machine ticking over, and we’re expanding all the time which is VERY exciting.
So it is only fair that my main man gets a nod.
Michael and I met through mutual friends at an Ulster rugby match in 2004. I liked the way he ate and the way he walked (!) as well as his witty sense of humour.
Ten years on I now see that he sits far too hunched when he eats, he walks with a weird stoop and his sense of humour is his main tool for winding me up!
Nonetheless, I reckon it was as close as one can get to love at first sight. *Cue retching noises*
I worked as a waitress at the time when we met ( read my jobs post here) and I remember asking the chefs “How do you know… when you know?”.
My mother in law called us “Love’s young dream.”
We were keen!
Fast forward seven months from when we met and we were engaged. Then married the next year.
I was studying my Masters at the time and as most artists feel in their “career” I wasn’t sure where I was going to go after I finished.
Before my masters I had applied to do a PGCE (teaching qualification) in art but was turned down.
So when I was chosen for the Masters in Fine art with only seven other students, Michael and I felt there was a reason why I hadn’t succeeded in the PGCE despite my being extremely well versed in teaching art informally.
It still seemed like my friends around me were set on the direction of their career. Meanwhile, I grasped at the possibility of social work after my Masters. I had worked for social services specialising with young people with autism and other learning disabilities.
Or maybe I could work as a full time community artist?
I was stuck.
Over time we went with what worked for us; I ran community art workshops and taught art one to one with young folk in social services.
Then we were blessed with our first baby boy!
This “life event” was both amazing and confusing, for me. Confusing because I found myself to be a full time mum for the most part yet making day trips to the art supply centre to get materials for random workshops I signed up to teach.
My identity was all over the place.
Even my dress sense took a bashing as my twenty five year old body had changed dramatically to house our beautiful baby.
And still Michael never placed any pressure on me to do one thing in particular or to be more assertive in my strive for “my calling”. He was happy with me being a Mum and making a passive income.
When we had our second boy we moved house.
Simultaneously Michael stepped up to a more senior role in his job which meant more security for our family.
I got my emotions in order ( parenthood can be tough and it had me struggling from time to time) and learned quickly that my desire to be make art would not be fading fast- I had trained seven years at art college after all!
So I started to make artworks and to take photos for a tenner at a time.
I found happiness in the everyday moments I had with people when I held the camera and for people when I drew an artwork for them. I painted pictures and edited photos in our spare bedroom.
Word of mouth was a strong tool for me and provided interest around my work .
But it wasn’t earning me a living.
That wasn’t really the point at that time, I just wanted to make and to help people. In doing so this helped me.
Michael still didn’t probe me about the financial side of things even though he must have noticed that it was costing us more in childcare and time management than I was making!
I stand by that business decision of pricing low at the start. I (felt at the time that I ) needed to do it to get shoots and to book in paintings. I have learned so much about people and the value of my time because of it.
I would advise start ups to be clever but generous with your time and your wisdom. You will be rewarded for your patience.
Eventually after bursting out of my spare bedroom where I worked we weighed up the pros and cons of renovating a studio.
We initially thought we would live in Belfast ten years before we would make a working space but it was clear that it was the next move for my business.
So be prepared and excited – Your dreams can catch up on you sooner than you expect!
After this I invested in a slick website, joined a few women business groups and read more business books.
I still have a long way to go and constantly feel self doubt but I’m loving this roller coaster journey!
I hope this is an encouragement for you if you have fire in your belly and an idea in your heart.
Be open with your partner or those around you who you trust.
Keep them in the loop with your plans and do what is manageable for your family and your finances.
As for my own partner and wing man Michael –
thank you for being there, for organising my prints into systems , doing my accounts in front of Match of the day and for allowing me to give you a three sheet print out explaining how to wrap a print for mailing. You drive me bonkers when you don’t listen and you don’t think the same as me but this has proven to be very helpful for the less creative yet often more important side of business. For this and for you I am truly grateful.