I don’t know if it’s really possible to ever feel like you’re finding balance, but I find that different things get more of my focus at various points and overall it balances out.
I juggle my business with freelancing, and I’m lucky that my main client is very understanding and very flexible so it’s mainly me giving me a hard time! What I do know though, is that in the last year, I could not have physically done any more. There is no looking back and going ‘oh I shouldn’t have had that month off’. So I guess apart from being slightly burnt out, that’s a good thing. You can look back and think, I’ve done the best I can and just try and give yourself a little bit of a break that way.
Yes and there’s a peace in that! Anyway… we digress. Jessica I want to learn about your career background. Did you grow up in Australia?
Yes, I grew up in Perth and I came to the UK in 2008. Before I left I was working in a law firm as an assistant to a Barrister. I’d go into Court with him and help run his cases from an administrative side. That then helped me step into that sector when I came over to the UK, where I stayed for 10 years. The role I was doing when I left was a board level secretarial role, similar to a company secretary. I enjoyed the job, but I think I worked over 12 hours a day, every day, and it was one of those environments where the goalposts were constantly moving. I love working, I’m a workaholic, but the frustration and consequent burnout of consistently trying to hit a moving target made me reassess what I wanted in the future.
I’ve always loved art, drawing and design and so started looking into pattern design. I was renovating a flat at the same time, so it sort of came together. I took an online course on pattern design, but mainly taught myself how to work with Photoshop, (which probably means I still don’t know how to use it properly!). I use a mixture of hand drawing and lino printing to create designs with intricate detail. Some of my work from this earlier period are digitally reconstructed in my current designs, so that initial creative phase was constructive! I dipped back into a corporate role briefly but it made me realise I definitely did not want to go back full time.
“I took an online course in pattern design, but largely taught myself how to work with Photoshop, (which probably means I still don’t know how to use it properly!)”
Along that journey, what was the foundation moment for Wild Lone where you shifted and decided, OK, I’m going to establish this formally as a business?
I had a slow warm up to that from 2019. I designed some products over a couple of months and did a soft launch of those, taking them to artist maker exhibitions, learning, selling, and growing those connections. I was freelancing alongside this (because fabric and wallpaper is really quite expensive to produce!) and then got to a place where I had enough income to start getting some professional help with promotion. I still continue to freelance but have an also rewarding design, social media and PA role which then helps fund Wild Lone.
Around May last year, I mentally decided to step it up. It felt like it was sort of now or never. I know you’ll always have opportunities to do things so the ‘never’ element isn’t necessarily the case, but the feeling is there. That this is my opportunity to make a go of it. Since then, it’s been a real journey but there’s been so many positive things which have happened. The mental focus and the energy has been there. I’ve also been accountable to my PR team, not that they’re my boss, but they have objective opinions, and are a real supportive voice. Being accountable to them has definitely transformed how I’ve worked.
“It felt like it was sort of now or never. I know you’ll always have opportunities to do things so the ‘never’ element isn’t necessarily the case, but the feeling is there. That this is my opportunity to make a go of it.”
Yes, other people who have energy to contribute. What have been some big learnings from the last six months, given that’s been a key change period for the business? They might be practical things, or they might be emotional things.
Probably, both. In terms of emotional, I don’t do balance unfortunately. I’m just one of those people and I don’t think I’ve actually improved on that, but working from home, you need to manage your space and how your time around that working space is spent. Introducing a bit of self-care into my working practices is something I’m working on. Access to devices as well – I’ve tried to divide up my day into chunks. Some I have to use a device, and others, where I don’t need to, I just sit with a pen and paper. I also really prioritise my reading time. Even if it’s one in the morning, I will still read for 15minutes because it’s a different activity for my eyes and helps me switch off.
On the other side of things, in work, I’ve never been told how to deal with manufacturers and never was taught the language they use. Like going into any new environment, there are gatekeepers and you’ve got to know the terminology. That has caused some serious problems with print runs. Collections have been delayed simply because of misunderstandings between me and the manufacturer over language, where no-one has told me I’m not making any sense. I learned quickly, and the hard way, that serious logistical issues can be caused by minor tweaks in language: which I found really interesting, but frustrating! So now I make sure I talk with the person in the studio room who’s processing the digital files, colour matching and setting up the print run, and have everything agreed in writing before going into production.
I had a conversation with someone who runs a fashion business and she said very similar things. That because she wasn’t from a fashion education background she would try and explain, but wouldn’t necessarily use design school terminology or language. It’s funny because it’s such a simple thing that shouldn’t be a blocker, but it can be.
Right, if I had the time I’d do a blog about the terms that you need to know! I probably will at some point because I’ve learned a huge amount about digital printing.
On the balance side, I have no regrets but managing time spent with loved ones (because I have tunnel vision) I’ve probably not done that particularly well. So lots of things to learn for this year and lots of things to take forward.
Absolutely, it’s a real challenge as an Entrepreneur because it’s all on you.
In terms of reading, what kind of reader are you? Do you lean to non-fiction ‘teach me things’ books, or are you more of an escapist?
Both. Up until a couple of years ago I read exclusively non-fiction, but then my mum sent me a fiction novel and I was reminded how much I loved fiction. If I’m reading non-fiction it’s usually British history, especially in the period from the Stuart Monarchy into the Regency. I particularly love Georgian London and its dodgier, criminal underside. I have a section of my library dedicated to it.
I also love Salman Rushdie – he’s probably my favourite author. His books are an incredibly intelligent interpretation of history, written with a magical realism that makes it even more powerful.
Are there any books that you specifically recommend to people?
Well I’ll start with Rushdie and would recommend a book called ‘Shame’. It’s a commentary on the violence of history and politics, but written with the surreal black comedy that I love about Rushdie’s novels.
And then also, ’All the lights We Cannot See’ which was winner of the Pulitzer prize in 2015. It’s set in St Malo in WW2. I’ve also just read ‘Shuggie Bain’, which is the Booker Prize winner for last year. And it’s brilliant. It’s beautifully written and the characters are really well developed, although it’s unrelentingly depressing – so if you’re a little bit upset about something, maybe don’t read it.
Haha, if you’re in that mood then maybe not the one, but otherwise!
Thank you Jessica, your library sounds like a rich place. The final question I have for you is who are some women that inspire you?
Yes, actually, Belinda Weaver and Kate Toon, who do the Hot Copy podcast, come to mind. Copywriting isn’t – objectively – the sexiest topic, but the podcast is relevant to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a copywriter or not, the business advice is so applicable and enjoyable to listen to. You could be in any industry and learn something from their podcast. What also impresses me about them is that they’re both women who’ve had to, for want of a better word, pivot at some point in their careers. They’re very funny, and also honest about their challenges and the struggles they’ve faced working together on the podcast. I find them very inspiring.
I like that. I always find it an interesting question because some answers feel very obvious, you know, big name entrepreneurs or Michelle Obama, but then there are people who have impacted us more intimately sometimes.
To explore the designs of Wild Lone, you can take a deep dive into their website and follow them on Instagram @wildlone_studio