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INSPIRE: The Road Less Travelled...Liz Samways
This week, we meet Liz Samways of Inkylinky. She creates unique etched silver copper and semi-precious jewellery using traditional printmaking techniques. She also creates handmade prints of etchings, linocuts and monoprints, all of which are a far cry from her days of working in sales. After many years of working in unfulfilling jobs, she focused on her creative side and has never looked back.
Tell us about yourself
I was born and brought up in Enfield, North London but came to Uni in Leeds 22 years ago and never looked back. I now live in suburban North Leeds with husband and boys of 4 and 8.
Give a brief description of your career path up until you started your creative career.
I did a Degree in Art History at Leeds Uni, then worked in Sales Admin at an Estate Agency before moving on to Royal Mail, progressing to Account Manager, advising businesses on Direct Marketing and Direct Mail. I loved the Direct Marketing side but the sales part made me miserable, so I took voluntary redundancy. I retrained in teaching ESOL and volunteered whilst working as Administrator for a Voluntary Sector Organisation. I also trained in Horticulture and then Garden Design while my first son was younger. I still teach occasionally.
What prompted you to pursue a creative career?
I never really made the big decision, I just drifted into it as I have with a lot of things in my life. The biggest decision was leaving my sales job - now I get cross for wasting so much of my life doing a job which didn't suit me. I would have liked to go back to my admin job part time after having my first child, as I enjoyed the job and its ethos, and my colleagues were great, but there wasn't a job to go back to! Luckily, we realised that, with some adjustments, we could manage without my income – I would never have dared make the decision if it hadn't been thrust upon me.
When it came to the boys starting school, I realised that in the current economic climate it was going to be very difficult to get a part-time admin job which fitted in. I decided to focus more on the creative side, which I've been doing in the background for 20 years. I thought if anyone should know how to market and sell themselves it was me, with my work background and lots of great training at Royal Mail.
What was the most difficult thing about this decision? And what was the easiest?
The hardest part was knowing that it would be a while before I earned any proper money again, and feeling like I had to rely on my husband's income. The easiest part is not having to choose between mine and my family's happiness, and my job. We don't have relatives nearby so childcare is an issue - if one of the children is poorly I can take a day off and school holidays are no problem.
How supportive of your decision were your family, friends and (former) colleagues?
My husband is a fantastically supportive person, in 'spiritual' and practical terms. He listens to my creative ramblings and looks after the boys when I'm doing craft fairs (3 days over the May Bank Holiday weekend!), not to mention the teas he ends up cooking when I'm 'just finishing off' something. I've had support and advice from artist friends, some who I've known for twenty years and some just met through the local Craft Soup Facebook group.
How has pursuing a creative career been compared with your previous career? What are the challenges, and what are the highlights?
I love not spending the weekend or holidays dreading going back to work – I left my sales job 10 years ago and I still have nightmares about not meeting my figures. I do miss the cameraderie of work, that's why I like to connect through Facebook for a bit of banter and the occasional good-natured barney.
Sometimes I really wish someone would just tell me what to do! I find it hard to switch off, and when I have a big deadline coming up I tend to push myself really hard and have to stop myself from begrudging time looking after the kids, which I feel really awful about. Not getting a pay packet at the end of the month is a downside too, but when I do make money, it's just for me to put back into the business, not to line someone else's pocket.
The first time I was selected for quite a prestigious Makers Fair and sold to people who were wearing gorgeous things and who were actually prepared to part with cash for my work, I realised I could actually do this, and that was the highlight of my creative career so far.
Have you had any regrets about choosing a creative career?
No, but I appreciate that I'm very lucky not to be having to pay the bills from my income, otherwise there would have been more than a few!
What has been the best thing about your decision to pursue a creative career?
I never felt comfortable in my skin in previous careers. Now I feel I'm doing something that really suits me and I'm so happy to describe myself as a jeweller and printmaker, though I still feel like a bit of a fraud!
If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering taking up a creative career, what would that be?
Meet your potential customers face to face - do fairs/events – even if you don't make your stall fee back, you can see what catches people's eyes, and also see and hear what could be stopping them buying. When you get good feedback it's very encouraging, and it's even better when people buy something!
What are your plans for the future?
I'm looking to expand my stockists at the moment and am planning a mailshot to galleries. I'm hoping to get better known and perhaps do some Trade events in the next year or so, but it's a big investment. I also need to concentrate on perfecting a few pieces rather than getting carried away with too many ideas at once!