Spotlight on Susi Bellamy
Welcome to today’s spotlight with Susi Bellamy, ex fashion editor for Conde Nast Publications, now painter, creating abstract paintings which she basis her interiors on. Her designs feature rich colours and texture, the marbling and layering of paint which she then transfers onto velvet, cotton, linen or silk and wallpaper.
You will see from the photos throughout this post, her designs are a colour lover’s dream.
Susi is based in my birth region of the North East of England. Having studied for a MA in fine art from Northumbria University, she now works from a studio in Ouseburn, Newcastle. Susi is Chair of the Colour Collective, a group of like-minded people and a not for profit organisation for the dissemination of all things “colour”
So, read on to find out more about how Susi got started on her creative journey.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
I started my business after I finished my MA in Fine Art at Northumbria University just before my 50th birthday! I had worked as a Fashion and Beauty Editor at Brides Magazine in London back in the day and I think I was looking to fill that creative gap in some way. Cropping and editing was part of my remit at Conde Nast so the idea of taking a part of my 2d painting and evolving it into a 3d piece of soft furnishing was very seductive. The idea of ‘Art for the Sofa’ was born.
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
Once I had left university I took up a studio space in the Ouseburn area of Newcastle known for its art studios, furniture makers and creatives. I had made a shelving system in my studio to look like magazine shelves and I was arranging the pieces - both collages, paintings and block coloured boards when I decided that I could translate the square artwork into cushions. I soon progressed to making designs from my photographic, marbled and collage work and expanded out to include wallpaper, fabrics, scarves, bags and lampshades. I rent the space at Cobalt Studios and I am still there.
3. How did you fund your business?
I funded my business with funds from an ISA and also had some support from the DTI to attend trade fairs
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
The most difficult part of the business was putting systems in place and working out pricing. Finding stockists wasn’t easy but I am not shy about contacting people cold. Also, I felt that as a 50 something I had dinosaur tendencies in the IT area so I did find a very helpful Millennial to help me get started with Instagram and work more fluidly online.
5. What help was missing for you?
I could have done with a sales agent to begin with as I found it hard to be a creative and then tap into the business side. Also selling yourself can be awkward although you always hope that the product speaks for itself.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
At the first trade fair at Top Drawer in London I found that the buyers thought my wholesale pricing didn’t make sense to them. I didn’t really expect that they were looking for such a high mark up.
7. What have you learnt?
I have learnt that it is good to be clear from the start, be proud of your price and to try not to compromise too much. I am still not achieving all of this but I try to remind myself that it is ok
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
We live in a visual world so my advice would be to invest in both a good website and also good photography in order to populate your online presence. With Instagram for instance, I was popping lots of photos in of the family and my dinner and I was advised to be more focused on my brand so people understood the story you were trying to put forward. I also engaged a book keeper and use a very good accounting system online called Quickbooks - that has helped enormously.
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
I love designing. I love meeting my customers. I love doing pop ups. And I really enjoy the Instagram process and the community I have met since I started. But I think my most favourite thing is collaborating. I recently collaborated with the lampshade company Beauvamp and I am very excited about the results.
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
I would say that 7 would sum up how hard it is to run your own business.
The Girl with The Green Sofa