“I got to the point where I didn’t want to build someone else’s dream and I didn’t want to work for a big company.”
Our next Creative Business feature is the wonderfully talented, and exceptionally lovely, Emma Rees of Dainty Forest. Emma creates colourful and feel-good illustrated prints and gifts, with a simple but confident style. She also offers design services for other small businesses, and does lots of creative bits and bobs for And So To Shop (which is where our paths crossed). There is a super friendly and fun feel to everything Emma creates, so I’m looking forward to finding out more about the woman behind the brand…
What does creativity mean to you?
I have always been creative and my parents always encouraged my creativity. It has been incredibly important to me and is a core part of my identity. Creativity helps me to make sense of the world and find my place in it. It is an escape, a refuge, a way to connect with others, to make the world a better place, to understand who I am and who I want to be. I would be completely lost without it.
Have you always been creative?
Ever since I could hold a pencil, I have been drawing! My parents are both creative. My mum was always making things and my Dad loves photography and they have always encouraged me to pursue creativity. There has never been a time in my life when I haven’t been creative!
What first got you interested in your field?
After my A Levels, I did a foundation degree in Art and Design. I really loved it because we got to experiment with different disciplines, fine art, textiles, fashion, graphic design. I really loved focusing on illustration and throughout my foundation degree this became more apparent. I went on to study Visual Communications, specialising in Illustration and then completed my Masters before starting my career in Illustration.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
After I graduated, I moved to London and worked for one of the biggest UK giftware companies for several years. I learned a lot and loved the process of designing for giftware, it was fast paced and exciting and products that I had designed were in high street shops around the UK, but I never felt really fulfilled. It was hard to create products that were made cheaply and quickly without a transparent supply chain. I got to the point where I didn’t want to build someone else’s dream and I didn’t want to work for a big company. I’ve always loved small businesses and wanted to be one myself so I left London, freelanced for a little bit and then set up Dainty Forest. Now I spend my days creating products for my own brand that are made in the UK, fairly and ethically and help small businesses with their branding and design needs and I couldn’t be happier!
What is your favourite thing about your work?
I really love my clients! They are the kindest, loveliest people and I love helping bring their dreams to life, and knowing that they have designs that they can be proud of. I really love my customers too! It brings me such joy to see my products in people’s homes or knowing that they are choosing to buy a card from me to send to a loved one. Finally, my gorgeous stockists, it is such a joy to have my work stocked by so many brilliant, hard-working bricks and mortar (and online) stockists and I’m so grateful.
What is a ‘reality’ of your work that other people don’t realise?
The amount of admin! The best days are the ones that involved drawing but many days involve sending out contracts, invoices, doing accounts, emailing… it’s not very glamourous but that’s the reality of running a small biz!
How do you handle creative ‘blocks’ in work?
I usually go for a walk, meet up with a friend or take myself off to a co-working space for a change of scenery. If I’m feeling particularly stuck, I’ll visit an art gallery or read some of my favourite beautifully illustrated magazines (flow, lionheart, caboodle). Sometimes taking a break is all you need and a creative block can be a sign that you need time to rest. I often find if I take a break from work I can see things much more clearly and solve creative problems easier.
Do you have any other creative interests?
I do really love drawing and painting so when I’m not creating for work, I get out my sketchbook and just draw for fun!
What one thing would you say to someone dreaming of starting their own creative business?
Persevere and remember why you started. Running a business is not for the faint hearted and it can be hard going sometimes but if you really love what you do then you’ll be ok! Don’t see setbacks as a negative thing, sometimes things we think will go well, don’t and that’s ok. Running a business is an exercise in becoming adaptable and learning new things all the time. Be patient with yourself and once in a while make sure you stop and look back at how far you’ve come.
Well, that was as lovely as I expected – but I also learnt so much about Emma that I didn’t know before. That’s why I love these features so much, because we really get a glimpse into the story and background of both the brands and inspiring women who make the creativity happen!
Here is Emma’s self-portrait. It’s so fun and colourful (not that I’m surprised!) – it’s a great example of the Dainty Forest’s illustration style…
P.S. Don’t forget to sign up to my email list (and select business, or business and lifestyle) to receive the ‘Creative Business Edit’ which includes further insight from the Creative Business features, as well as guest experts giving tips on the other side of creative business.