Illustrator Amy Hastings on growing her brand with TikTok, her love of tufting and the joy of play.
Amy Hastings is a designer and maker based in York, UK. Having always had a passion for art and design, she studied creative subjects throughout school, college and University, and having a creative job was always a huge dream of hers.
Fast forward to today, and Amy is one of the most prolific creatives out there! We’ve seen her career boom over the last 18 months and couldn’t wait to sit down with her and find out more about her journey so far.
Ahead of our upcoming Illustrated Merchandise course in June, we caught up with one of our favourite creative makers to find out more about her route into the industry and her tips for building a successful career as an artist and seller!
On Instagram you’re known as @amyhastingstextiles but you now work across a variety of media, were you always a multidisciplinary maker?
I actually started out using Instagram as a way of sharing the work I was creating on my textiles degree, hence the ‘textiles’ part. I’ve always enjoyed working across a variety of mediums but most of my work for my degree was surface design / textiles design. For my final project I learnt how to do rug tufting, which is where I found my love for making rugs, and my business was born from that!
Over the last couple of years of running my business I’ve been able to explore new methods of working and learn new techniques and there are still many things I’d like to try.
Do you have a preferred way of working?
I think my favourite medium to design with is definitely gouache – I love how flat and matte the colour is and it can be easily replicated in digital work and rugs etc. I will also always have a love for rug tufting, it’s so much fun and I love seeing my ideas come to life in such a tactile piece of work.
We absolutely love your Staffordshire cats and dogs. What inspired you to start customising found objects like this? Has their popularity surprised you?
I’ve always loved kitschy objects and collected trinkets and ceramics that I find in charity shops / car boots / ebay / fb marketplace. The first Staffordshire dog I decorated I found for £4 in a charity shop, it was completely blank with no face and I thought I’d buy it and give it a little makeover at home. I was so blown away by the response on social media and so many people messaged me to ask if I’d sell it / make more. After this, I started buying them whenever I found them – my best find was a job lot of 23 dogs for £180 on Facebook (I’m still working my way through decorating all of them!).
I was definitely surprised by the popularity of them, I get so many messages about them! I still really enjoy doing them as well, and try to make every dog or pair different. I’ve also decorated other ceramic pieces like cats, swans, glug jugs etc which have all been popular too.
We’d love to hear a bit about your business. Do you remember the moment you decided to get more serious about your practice?
When I’d finished my degree, I listed some of my rugs for sale on my Etsy and was absolutely buzzing because I sold 3 of them. I used that money to invest in more materials and a printer so I could sell my own art prints as well and it all grew from there on! It was during lockdown so I was able to dedicate a lot of time into working and creating which I think really helped me to kickstart my business.
When did you start selling your work?
I started selling a few small prints and stickers for some extra money in around May 2020 while I was finishing at University. Then when I’d handed my work in I was able to create more designs.
I would say the vast majority of my income comes from my Etsy shop. I’ve only ever used my Etsy shop to sell my work.
Do you sell wholesale to independent shops or mainly on Etsy? And have you tried any other platforms / ways of selling your work?
I do wholesale my prints to a few independent shops around the world, it’s something I’d like to do more though. I would say the vast majority of my income comes from my Etsy shop. I’ve only ever used my Etsy shop to sell my work although I’d definitely like to do some markets at some point too! I also really need to build my own website but I’ve been putting it off.
Would you say your business has changed since?
I think so – I’ve learnt what kind of work I enjoy the most, and what I enjoy the least. I’m also way more confident in what I’m doing now. When I started I had no idea about taxes / posting to foreign countries etc. I think a lot of it is learning from your mistakes and also researching beforehand – I watched so many YouTube videos about filing a tax return.
I would recommend putting your work out there as much as possible, even if you don’t think it’s good, you never know what could happen!
Did social media play a big part in you getting started?
Yes definitely. As I mentioned previously, I started posting my work on Instagram during the first lockdown and it grew so much during that time. I went from 1k followers to around 30k followers in only a few weeks and I was taking any orders and commissions I could to fill the time in lockdown. I still use social media to drive my business now and I think it can be a very powerful tool for a small business.
How do you use your online presence to build your customer base?
I try and post my work and products as frequently as possible on Instagram without repeating the same photos over again. I also try and vary my content between product photos / behind the scenes posts and videos. When I’m posting regularly, I have more regular Etsy sales. If I haven’t posted in a few days I definitely notice a dip in my income. I also really like TikTok for showing more BTS content and in depth looks at products.
How did you collaborate with brands like casetify and northern monk, and would you like to collaborate with other brands in the future? We’d love to hear some tips for makers who are interested in following a similar path.
All the collaborations I’ve done with brands have been from brands getting in touch with me after finding me on Instagram or TikTok! I have my email address in my bio so it is easy for brands to get in touch if they’d like to work with me. I love doing collaborations with brands, it means you can design cool things that you’d probably never do yourself!
I love doing collaborations with brands, it means you can design cool things that you’d probably never do yourself!
What are your 3 best tips you wished you had when you first started?
- Don’t overwork yourself. It’s so hard to create good work when you’re burnt out.
- Save plenty of money for tax, my first one was so much more than I imagined.
- Post your work online even if you don’t like it! You never know what could happen.
And finally what’s next for Amy hastings? How do you plan to expand your collection / build your brand in future?
I’m currently building a garden studio which is going to help me grow my business so much! I’ll have loads more space for products and I can finally get back into rug tufting as I haven’t had the room for the last year. I can’t wait!
Feeling inspired? Fancy learning how to make and sell your own illustrated products like Amy? We’ve got you covered!
Illustrated Merchandise: Making & Selling for Illustrators returns on June 8th. Covering everything you need to master the art of design, production and marketing your own products, we’ve got four incredible speakers joining us for our Summer edition!
Secure your spot & enrol now »
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