It's that time again - grab a cuppa and get ready to learn all about a new small business owner and their pet in my latest Crafty Critters interview. I have such fun writing the questions for this series and scrolling though instagram accounts looking at photos of cute pets - living the dream!
For this month's Crafty Critters interview I chatted to Helen of GappyGOBS: a one woman, one pug business which sells personalised portraits as prints and cushions as well as other accessories, all with a focus on pets and animals! Let's find out some more about them (oh yeah and there might be some photos of a pug wedding in there somewhere!)...
How and when did gappyGOBS begin?
gappyGOBS launched at the end of 2015. I was an illustration graduate working 9-5 in a fairly creative marketing job, I was lucky to have it, but didn’t feel fulfilled. I wanted to make my own rules and build my own brand. I got my arse into gear and started making things happen for myself.
When and where did you get Wilma and did you always know you wanted a pug?
Wilma came into my life with a bit of a bang. The opportunity arose to adopt her (for free) from a friend-of-a-friend that wanted to find her a home quickly. She was a breeding pug, and after a relationship breakdown she was no longer wanted. I loved pugs and had always imagined getting one at some point of my life.. It was an impulse decision to take her on - and probably not really thought all the way through - but I was worried about the sort of hands she could get into, as she was still able to conceive a litter at the time. She changed my life completely and I have never looked back!
What advice would you give to people who are interested in getting a pug?
Invest in a good lint roller – they malt. A lot! I would recommend doing some research to see if they would fit into your lifestyle. They have huuuge personalities; Wilma makes me laugh every day and OMG she is the cutest, but there are a few things to think about: They struggle in the summer and are prone to separation anxiety. They also snore like a small wildebeest.
Pugs are great, but are often victims of their own success and irresponsibly bred for money. So please consider a rescue pug! I wrote a blog post that goes into a bit more detail you can read if you are keen to get one.
You do a lot of pet portraits - tell us about some of your favourites.
There are so many! I love being commissioned for both pet portraits and custom pet cushions as I get to hear about other pets and how they have made an impact on customer’s lives (..so cheesy, but true). I often ask for a little description of the pet’s character – mainly for my own amusement – but it’s always fun to capture that personality in their portrait. One of my favorite portraits was one I created for @thevnicelife of her two Chihuahuas and Pomeranian. They have such expressive faces, and I really like how the arrangement of multiple pets turned out.
A pet cushion that stands out in my mind was of @Rubenthepersian for Rachel from Oh No Rachio. He was a pretty big character on Instagram, and unfortunately passed away. There was a prevalent feeling of sadness across the online community of creative pet owners. It was nice to create something for her to keep and remember him by.
How do you find balancing your day job with running gappy GOBS? Your 9-5 job is quite creative too isn't it? How do you avoid creative burnout?
A few days a week I work in Marketing for a Music Education Agency. I love my job, but it is very different to create content and artwork to fit an existing brand and please a team of people. So I treat that and my business as two quite separate beasts. Working on gappyGOBS is very much like playtime for me! It is so liberating having such creative freedom and I really enjoy being boss.
To avoid creative overkill, I try to mix up my schedule and always make time to exercise. I attend a few gym classes a week; go running along the beach as well as the daily dog walk. I really noticed a difference in my mood when I made exercise a part of my daily routine. It helps me to unwind, disconnect from technology and the rush of endorphins is a lovely little pick-me-up.
You switched up your business 6 months in, phasing out some products and bringing new ones in. What made you decide to do that?
When I began, I was still very much an artist with no clue about business. So in the early stages of gappyGOBS I was still experimenting and testing the market.
A main passion of mine was Wilma. I was posting a lot of photos of her on Instagram and I think I began to build a bit of an audience based on this. The pet-related products began to sell much better than others, and in all honesty, I loved my new focus on animals so much more! I really enjoyed communicating with this tribe of like-minded pet-fanatics. Once I had found this niche, I was a much happier designer and the business really began to thrive.
Wilma recently got hitched! Tell us a bit about her special day and what inspired you to host a doggy wedding.
Wilma and I moved into a shared house with 4 humans and a male pug named Buddy. It wasn’t love at first sight, but slowly they grew quite fond of one-another. They followed each other around, started play fighting and I noticed Wilma really come out of her shell. She seemed so much happier with a little companion to make trouble with! The idea of a dog-wedding came up one day, it seemed like a really great theme for a party, so we did it! It was such a funny day; we constructed a balloon arch for the alter in the garden, we had bridesmaids, vows, and guests dressed up in wedding attire. Our neighbors watched the ceremony out of their windows!
What are some of your favourite instagram accounts to look at for cute pets?
I love seeing Lemon Freckles' pair of pugs in her wonderfully colourful home, Winny the Corgi is up there as a firm favorite as well as Bruno the Mini Dachshund, Hello Harriet’s cats and Kayley Mills' guinea pigs in their fun curated scenes for something a little different! I could go on for hours…
You can catch up with what Helen's doing on her website where you'll also find her blog and her shop. Her custom pet cushions would make the best Christmas gift, but be quick as the cut off date for orders is November 15th!