Katie Edwards Illustration
Featured Image By Milton Haworth
Katie Edwards is unsuspecting. An illustrator, screenprinter & general embracer of the outdoors. In her professional life Katie has an impressive (and growing) list of high profile clients who have commissioned her to create custom, dynamic and creative solutions. Outside of work Katie is rarely seen standing still!
Mountain biking, swimming, paddle-boarding, practicing yoga and general adventures with Ryder, her energetic Kelpie, Katie appears to have that work /play balance figured out. We got together with Katie to find out more about the journey of Katie Edwards Illustration, what inspires her and how she manages to play just as hard as she works…
Tell us a little bit about yourself & your journey so far with ‘Katie Edwards Illustration’...
I left university in 2007 with the hope of being a freelance illustrator. I secured myself an agent through the process of entering a graduate competition and got noticed that way. I moved to London in the October of that year and got a part time job as a Graphic Designer, I got my first illustration brief that same month and that marked the start of Katie Edwards Illustration. It was a tiny illustration, just 6cm, commissioned by the Radio Times and I was so excited to have my first published commission. I continued like this for 4 years in London, splitting my time between part time work and commissions for various newspapers and advertising campaigns. I then got a job designing children arts and crafts which I loved but it was full time, which meant late nights working on my freelance briefs, but I made it work. Then we moved to Canada for over 2 years, where I continued to work on my freelance commissions along side jobs such Action Photographer, and Stone Carver. When we moved back to the Lake District 5 years ago after being away for 10 years that was the big plunge into running my business full time without any other income.
Photo by Milton Haworth
Aside from work you appear to be a very active person – either out on your mountain bike, doing yoga or on adventures with your dog Rhyder. What does your typical day look like? And how do you keep a good work / play balance?
I tend to plan my day around the weather, if its a nice day, instead of 2 separate hour walks ( Rhyder is a 2 year old Kelpie x Border Collie and needs a lot of exercise) we’ll go for a bike ride instead. Or if its raining we’ll go for an early morning run in the woods, in summer we’ll go swimming in the lake or take the paddle board out (Rhyder will sit on it and then jump off every now and then to swim to the shore and back). We save the rainy days to get stuck into work. When I’m really busy a short local bike ride can take up less of my working day than two walks. I enjoy it more and Rhyder is tired out, double bonus.
On the days that I take out a few hours for an adventure I’ll get up and work early and work later into the night. I’m not a big TV fan, I’m quite happy working in the evenings if it means I get to get out and enjoy the sunshine.
When I first went full time freelance I felt guilty going for a walk or ride when I should have been working, and I wasn’t very motivated to go on my own when most people work 9-5. Rhyder is the perfect excuse to enjoy what I love doing in this amazing place that I live. No matter how busy I am he still needs exercise and is a welcome break for looming deadlines.
Getting outside is great stress relief and rest for your mind when everything is getting on top of you. I’m lucky to live a beautiful part of the Lake District. Woods, lakes, tarns and hill tops right on my doorstep, I rarely do the same walk/ride twice in one week. When I have meetings or gallery deliveries, Rhyder comes too and we explore a new place. He really is the perfect adventure buddy, loves everything I love and gets me outside every single day, rain or shine. When I lived in Canada, I really felt everyone worked to live, not lived to work. I wanted to keep this mentality. I work hard but I play hard too, in fact I tend to burn myself out and have to remember to take a day off every now and then.
Does life living in The Lake District and the things you enjoy doing in your spare time influence your work?
A lot of my illustrations are nature or animal inspired. Sometimes I place objects or animals in unusual compositions to communicate a new idea, often funny, quirky or thought provoking.
I’ve recently being exploring mountain biking screen prints, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. ‘One More Brew’ finally kick started this, a collective of mountain biking creatives working towards a premiere night where we share our new biking inspired projects. As a result I now receive commissions to transform photographs of all sorts of outdoor activities into a unique screen print, they make a great gift. I have many outdoor adventure ideas in the pipeline, its just finding the time to do them.
Photo by Milton Haworth
Have there been any particular highs or lows which stand out since starting your business?
That first published illustration was pretty special, but every commission is really exciting, going out to buy the magazine or newspaper its in, or your friend sending you a picture of your work on a hotel wall or a poster on the London Underground.
I love selling my screen prints direct to my customers at art shows. I do a little dance inside every time and you can’t help but smile from ear to ear. I’ve won 3 awards, 2 of them were in my 10th year of business, so that year was a very memorable time, I really felt all my hard work was paying off.
I’m currently working with the hotel chain Roomzzz and have been creating new screenprints for their new locations (three so far) Manchester was the first one and at the opening night the CEO that I hadn’t met before thanked me personally in front of everyone for all the art on the walls, that was pretty amazing.
My most noted low point was when I went freelance full time, when we moved back to the Lake District from Canada (it didn’t help that I missed Canada terribly). When I first started out I did a lot of self promotion and then when I didn’t have much time to work on my freelance work, I didn’t self promote, I just took the work that came to me through my agent, this worked fine as I was getting a good amount of work. So I thought if I have all my time to spend on my business surely I would be getting full time work. It didn’t work that way and it was actually my quietest time for briefs coming in. I had totally forgotten how to self promote and so much had changed since leaving uni. Social media marketing was all new to me and I was doing it but all wrong. After going on quite a few workshops it eventually started working for me. It didn’t happen quickly, its just about getting your name out there. There were a few times I looked at having to support my income with another job, but all my ideas were also freelance which would have been just as hard to succeed in. I have my other half Dave to thank, he believed I could do this full time, made me persevere and is very supportive. My business is now growing from strength to strength every year and I love what I do.
What tips would you give someone who is looking to start a career in a creative industry like illustration and screen printing?
Be prepared to spend at least half your time on marketing and admin. Go on some social media courses, find one you like and do it well, its the most powerful free marketing tool. Network, get out there and meet people, I make a lot of sales through facebook and people that I know and their friends. Enter competitions, its a great way to be noticed by the right people, it can be disheartening to not get any where with them, but it only takes one to have a dramatic impact on your presence. Try to do art shows where you can sell direct to public, its great to talk to your potential customers, to build a relationship with them and hopefully they’ll want to follow you in your journey. If your having a creative block, go for a walk.
What exciting ventures are you most looking forward to in the near future?
I have been invited back to my uni to do a professional practice lecture to my course, I’m petrified but honoured to be asked. My ongoing projects with Roomzzz is exciting, currently working on their Newcastle location. I’ll be teaching my first long term screen printing course at the Brewery Arts Centre starting in January. On a more personal note attempting to build our own house, getting married and trying to fit in as many adventures at home and abroad as possible.