Going it alone

I’ve just realised its pretty much five years to the day since I registered as self-employed. Five years since I took a massive leap into the unknown, and five years since I went through one of the most traumatic periods of my life in order to climb out the other side and (quite literally) cut my own path.

The world at my feet… Graduating with my MA, July 2000.
A lot can happen in five years. For me it’s included a complete career change (from very stressed-out national magazine editor to mostly-relaxed papercutting artist), rediscovering the love of my life (my fiancé was also my secondary school sweetheart), a house move of 211 miles between two different countries, a serious health scare which miraculously led to the arrival of our enchanting, energetic daughter, several huge life experiences from which we’ve learned a lot, and two too many tragic family losses.
A couple of the awards I received during my time as  journalist.
So a lot can happen in a short space of time. A very lot.
I first put scalpel to paper in December 2011 when I was designing a Christmas card. Prior to that, Holmes-made was set up as a sewing-driven sideline to my publishing business – a creative escape from, well, being creative (as a writer). I showed the card to some other papercutters I knew via Facebook. With open arms, they welcomed me into their secret little groups where tips, advice and knowledge were shared, helping me to hone my skills and give me the confidence to develop my own hand-drawn style (something that’s vital in this sector). Friends placed orders for family trees or asked for important song lyrics to be rendered in paper – it was all a learning curve and it helped me realise that practice really does make perfect.
IN AT THE DEEP END
It had been a long 12 years or so since I’d even picked up a pencil to draw anything – since finishing up my A-Level Art course back in 2000, all my creativity had been via writing, sewing or photography. But it wasn’t long before I figured out my papercutting direction and the orders started coming.
And coming.
And haven’t stopped.
Fair enough, I’ve had a few hiccups along the way – atrocious pricing at the start which saw me make pennies an hour, a couple of major cock-ups with spellings on personalised items, a huge pizza-induced grease mark on a well-progressed A3 family tree (I work at the kitchen table and *always* scrub it down now before I start) and of course the obligatory copycats and imitators who have caused me so much stress I’ve wanted to jack it all in. 
As if I would. My clients would kill me!
CHOOSING FAVOURITES
I’ve been papercutting for 18 months now and, for someone who has had a whole bunch of different roles since graduating (learning support worker, college lecturer, magazine editor, pub cleaner…), I kinda feel like I’ve found my niche. Papercutting is a role I can (kind of) balance with motherhood, running the house and enjoying my life. I’m not chained to a desk for 18 hours a day with other people making such demands of me that I end up having a nervous breakdown (no joke). I’m not answerable to anyone. In fact, I’m only answerable to myself, so if I bugger it up big time, I’ve only myself to blame and no one is going to bail me out. 
Scary huh? That’s self-employment. It can be a lonely path, sitting at home, putting in a lot of hours and not even planting my arse on the sofa for weeks on end. But with a supportive fella and an incredible bunch of talented artists and adorable Facebook likers keeping me company (at a safe distance) day by day, it’s definitely my favourite job so far.
Last week on the beach with my daughter – I’m very happy in my own skin now!
DOING MY BIT
So I may not be saving lives, or changing communities, or doing vital research, but I am making a difference. I’m often reminded that my work brightens people’s lives everyday. And that’s just fab. Client feedback gives me such a boost, like this today: “You have a phenomenal talent and your love for what you do really comes through in the pieces that you produce.” What a fantastic compliment, ’eh?
Busy working hard at the job I love.
So. Here’s to five more years of self-employment. And then five more. And maybe a whole bunch more after that. If I can keep making people happy through my work – and importantly (given my own past experiences) keeping myself happy through my work – then long my it continue I say.
I’ll drink to that. But drinking means I can’t cut straight, so I’ll have some chocolate instead.
Cheers 😉

One thought on “Going it alone

  1. Bumblebee says:

    I almost cant believe you've only been doing this since 2011, and December at that!!! Your work is so unique (copycats surely aren't a patch on your work?!) and intricate. Enjoy some chocolate, you deserve it 😉 Bx

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