Here on the Meet the Maker series we showcase local artists and creators from York Region. This week, I to invite you to meet Nicki from Life I Design!
Tell us a bit about yourself and why you started your business? I was a stay at home mom and a professional makeup artist for 12 years and needed a change. I’ve always been artistic and really wanted to live a life where I could create artwork and share it with the masses. So, I decided to take a 6 month sabbatical from “working” and in that time, I took a course to learn how to set-up my website, create graphic designs, how to use Adobe illustrator (this is always ongoing) and I enrolled in my first mixed-media course. All of this learning was the beginning a journey of a life that I designed. Hence, the birth of life I design. My business has changed so much over these last 4 years and so have I. I’ve learned a great deal about how to run a creative business, how to balance my personal aesthetic with what my clients want and how to make a living from it. I have found my groove of lettering sassy and inspiring quotes as well as working on surface patterns for a variety of home décor, stationery, tech cases etc. I love black and white, it is always my go-to, but am slowly added some color to my work. I believe that we should surround our everyday with things that inspire us. That aren’t precious. That inspire conversation, emotion and laughter!
Your designs are both inspirational and witty and definitely reflect a dry sense of humour. Does your work reflect your personality and overall approach to life? Yes! I have a sarcastic sense of humour and a bit of a potty mouth, but am passionate about nurturing positive relationships and experiences in life and looking at things with a positive mindset… even if that includes a curse word here and there. Everything that I letter is something that speaks to me. And often, I letter something that I need for that day! I also love the reactions that I get from some of my greeting cards and mugs. Sometimes holding a mug that expresses how you are feeling that day is better than saying the words yourself! Or you read something on a card, or mug or poster and it makes you think of someone in your life that you have to share it with! Humour is the key to life I think. We just need to laugh more and feel more!
Your photographs are amazing! Any advice for a new Etsy seller setting up a shop? Thank you! It’s been a process for sure! Finding the best lighting and simple background has made the biggest difference for my photos I think. Also, knowing how to lighten the exposure and editing the photos has really helped. I also use mock-ups for some of my products so that people can imagine what the item would look like in use and to give them an idea of how to enjoy using them too! My advice for new Etsy sellers is to look for inspiration and what they are drawn to in product photos and invest in a few props to help tell a story about your own products. Edit. Edit. And brighten! Make sure your item stands out and that it is clear to the buyer what they will be receiving in the mail!
What is your bestselling item? Why do you think it is the most popular? I have two items that are tied for being most popular. They are my “Congrats on getting knocked up” greeting card and my “Every great mom says the F word mug”. I think that they are popular because of the reaction that you get when you experience them. The pregnancy card is pretty with flowers and calligraphic lettering but the wording is very casual and gets to the point. How funny and sassy!!!? My Every Great mom mug is simply stated, and has so much truth in it that we as Moms are so passionate about our kids, family, life, that once in a while (or more often in my case) does the F word pop out!!! I think it’s the blatant truth that is shocking, but funny. Emotion and laughter… the key to life!
Are you managing wholesale accounts and attending markets alongside your direct sales? If so, how do you balance your work day?
I do wholesale to a few local retailers and only do markets closer to the Holiday season. Balancing my work day is something that I still struggle with. I tend to look at emails earlier in the morning to see if there’s anything that needs my urgent attention. Filling orders probably is next on my daily to-do list. I try to get orders out as quickly as possible. I know that when I buy something online, I am anxious to receive it myself so I want it in my customer’s hands quickly! When it’s market season, I spend a great deal of time printing cards and mugs that have been popular in my shop and hope will be as popular at the markets. That’s always been a challenge with markets, not knowing what will sell and what the clientele will be like. As you know I have a variety of sassy and inspiring quotes so I can never be certain about what the customers attending the market will want. The beauty of print-on-demand is printing what has been ordered so I’m not holding inventory which makes for a tidier work-space in my case.
Do you have a home studio or do you work at another location?
I am very lucky to have a great home studio space to work out of. I’ve toyed with the idea of renting studio space, but I have so many tools, printers etc. that it just wouldn’t work.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a creative business owner?
There are many challenges I think with any business and especially a creative business that runs out of a home studio. Have laser focus is key because as a creative, we have many great ideas and can be distracted from our core goals. (I’m sure you can all relate to this). Also, working from home means you see everything that needs to be done around the house and as tempting as it is, dishes have to be left in the sink or laundry sits in bins until the workday is officially over. And secondly, I’d say time management is a challenge. I have 2 busy teenagers and a husband who travels often, so balancing my time between my creative business and taking care of my family is often a very delicate balance! I’ve never worked a full 9-5 work day – that would be heaven! Instead my 8 hours are broken up between the hours of 6am and 8pm. Small chunks when I can grab them. But it is all very rewarding and I couldn’t imagine any other lifestyle!
What do you hope to accomplish in 2017?
I’m really excited to be sharing that by the fall I will be offering ongoing, in-person, Modern Calligraphy instruction and perhaps the odd mixed-media collage workshops. I love lettering and I really think we could use some fun workshops in the 905 area! Stay tuned for more info on workshops!!
Red or White?
Neither! Scotch and imported Beer.
Checkout Nicki’s clever and inspiring work at the links below!