WOMENFOLK IS A CELEBRATION OF FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS IN DESIGN IN NORTHERN IRELAND. THEY SEEK TO HIGHLIGHT THE EXISTING DESIGN COMMUNITY AS WELL AS ENCOURAGING AND INSPIRING THOSE THINKING OF STARTING UP THEIR OWN BUSINESS IN DESIGN.
So I was thrilled to feature in their profile section along with other talented female creative entrepreneurs. Read below for my interview with them.
CAN YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS?
My name is Helena and I’m an abstract artist living and working in County Down. I grew up in Yorkshire in England, but Northern Ireland is definitely now home. I can’t imagine being anywhere else! My abstract expressionist paintings focus on bright florals and untamed abstract landscapes with an urban edge – I love a bit of neon pink! My work is intuitive and driven by the energy that I feel when surrounded by the chaos of the rocky coastline and the wildness of the hills. I am a colour addict and love how colour has the ability to change your mood and outlook. My clients are often looking for a statement piece for their home or a lively print to energise a gallery wall. I paint the art that I would want on my own walls – bold, vibrant and a little bit messy.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
Although I was passionate about art growing up, I chose the ‘sensible’ job route and worked in the corporate IT industry for several years. However, the need to find creative fulfilment reignited my desire to experiment artistically and I started to take evening art classes to fill the creative void and hone my technical skills. I properly began painting again in the Summer of 2020 (yep that year…) as a result of staring at blank walls in a new rental during lock down. I felt the need to express myself creatively to help get through this ridiculously weird time. I never thought it would lead to opening my own online shop, licensing opportunities and finding a world-wide community of lovely customers.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT A TYPICAL DAY IN YOUR BUSINESS?
I would love to say that I spend all of my time painting in my home studio, but as many creative business owners will tell you, that is just not the case! I don’t have a ‘typical’ day, which I love, because it means it’s never boring! I can generally be found fulfilling print orders for my amazing customers, editing images for licensing projects, planning my content for social media and my blog, updating my website, working on commissions and I try to spend at least one full day a week in my studio painting.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
I love that working for myself provides a beautiful flexibility to my work day and I am able to manage my time to suit my personal life. I also love being able to connect with such a wonderful creative community, be that other artists, creative business owners or clients. Every time someone buys a painting or a print I do a happy dance. The fact that someone connects with my work enough to want to buy it makes me feel so honoured and grateful. I have always been an art lover and I am personally passionate about how art creates an emotional narrative to connect the story of your living space. I feel that art brings life, it shows personality and brings joy and fulfilment. So the fact that I get to do this for a living? Is there a better job? I don’t think so!
WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING?
I’m an introvert and have always been quite shy. In the age of social media and ‘putting yourself out there’, there is a natural resistance that I’ve had to work hard to overcome, although it has got easier. I have learned to consistently show up, even when I don’t feel like it. Also as an artist, it can feel very vulnerable putting your artwork out there. What I create comes from deep within and every mark has special meaning, so it can feel very scary to show your work to an audience. In addition, having had a steady, corporate job with a consistent monthly wage for the majority of my adult life, stepping into the unknown as a freelancer, has been unnerving at times. But the benefits have outweighed all the challenges by far.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AND YOUR BUSINESS IN 5 YEARS?
As a relatively new start up I still have a lot to learn. I like to think that the foundation I’m laying now, will lead to a sustainable, reliable and profitable creative business for years to come. I would love to be working with some of my dream brands, collaborating with galleries and interior designers and hosting creative retreats and workshops. But most of all, I hope to continue honing my craft, staying inspired, continuing to connect with art lovers and to inspire people with my artwork.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED YOUR BUSINESS?
I’d tell myself to relax and enjoy the ride! Progress is slow, but consistent! When starting a business there can be so much pressure to want to be at the finish line when you’ve not even left the starting blocks. I wish I’d had more confidence, clarity, and courage to enjoy the journey rather than worry about why I wasn’t at the destination yet. But it’s that journey that teaches you your unique values and helps you gain clarity about what you want to be known for. Although, I still need to remember this as my business is only a year old! And whenever I get impatient as to why things aren’t moving quickly enough, I just look back on what I’ve achieved so far. There is no such thing as an overnight success. It takes time to work hard to achieve your goals, so I can’t be too hard on myself!
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY OUTSIDE YOUR BUSINESS?
I love getting outdoors and into nature. I love hiking the nearby Mourne mountains or the Antrim coast with my family. And you’ll often find me on the coast taking a quick dip in the ocean. For me there is nothing quite like the great outdoors to rejuvenate me. I also love travelling and have usually got a trip planned somewhere or other, although not so much the last couple of years due to the pandemic. But I’m looking forward to getting my passport out again hopefully soon. I have a mild obsession with knitting, liquorice and the odd cocktail and I’m busily working my way through a long list of amazing eateries and pubs I’ve found in Northern Ireland.
OUR THEME THIS YEAR FOR WOMENFOLK IS BALANCE – HOW DO YOU BRING BALANCE TO YOUR LIFE? ANY ADVICE FOR OTHER CREATIVE BUSINESS OWNERS?
Working alone, it’s common for me to sit at my computer for hours on end and not speak to a single soul, absorbed in whatever I’m doing. But I have learned that I need to look after myself physically and emotionally for my business to benefit. I try to eat well and exercise. I’ve also found that simply reading a fictional book or listening to a podcast every now and then, that is NOT about marketing, helps me feel rested. My advice? Take regular breaks away from your desk. Pilates or yoga work wonders for your mind and muscles. A walk every day, even for just 10 minutes to clear your head, can make all the difference to perspective. Inhale and exhale. You cannot do absolutely everything (at least not well). Sometimes good enough is in fact, good enough. The world isn’t going to collapse if you haven’t posted on Instagram in over a week. Prioritise your to do list but make time for fun too! Your business is only as healthy and inspired as you are.
WHERE CAN PEOPLE FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS?
I’m friendly and would love to hear from you! See more of my work and join my newsletter at helenatarnart.com, say ‘Hi there‘ at firstname.lastname@example.org and see what I get up to on Instagram @helenatarnart.
I hope you enjoyed reading about me here. Find out more about Womenfolk and the amazing work they do (along with several resources for the creative entrepreneur here!
Until next time,