Pretty soon all our makers, crafters and artists will be able to down tools, stop the mad prep work that always precedes a Fair, and start to enjoy actually showing their creations and meeting as many of you as possible, tomorrow, at St Andrews Street Baptist Church in Cambridge! There’s just one more slot left in our series of artist profiles, for Cambridge Made team member Sasha De Witt.
We find Sasha quite inspiring, in that she used to firmly believe she couldn’t draw — and yet she’s come such a long way that she recently graduated from an MA in Illustration at Anglia Ruskin university. What really motivates her is communication.
“I create artwork that tells a story – sometimes in conjunction with a text and sometimes on its own. I keep going back to what really attracts me to drawing, and that is telling a story. Illustrating has opened my eyes and my heart to what is around me. I can slow down and look closely at a flower or an insect and revel in the beauty of nature.”
Another of Sasha’s sources of inspiration is illustrators she admires. “I did an MA in Children’s Book Illustration and through this course came into contact with so many talented artist. If I had to name only three, I would start with Shaun Tan, for the fantastical worlds he creates, Beatrice Alemagna, for her unusual use of proportion, and Isabelle Arsenault, for her use of negative space and a rubber!”
Sasha got her business started when she set up an Etsy shop shortly after graduating from University. She also showed at a few local craft fairs. The attraction of having her own business is independence.
“I like being my own boss. I don’t like being told what to do, as I’m highly self-motivated. I like having full responsibility for my failures and successes. Not to mention that I was widowed when my daughter was an infant, so working from home made good sense to me.
“It has been trial and error all the way for me. I knew nothing, and I mean NOTHING, about business when I set up. Figuring out pricing has been the hardest thing to understand. I used to make handprinted fabric bags, but could never really make them work cost and time wise so I stopped making them to sell.
“Pricing is easier when I make work that I really love. Then I price it high enough so it’ll make it easier to part with. And if no one buys it, I’ll feel just as happy because it’s a drawing I love.
“I guess I’m still pretty bad at business! I don’t want to just make what people want to buy (i.e. top sellers). Experimenting and pushing myself is important to me. I’m looking for ‘my’ people. People who think similar enough to me to like my stuff. I’m not looking to create for the mainstream. I’m looking to create for a niche of buyers who are a bit like me – a bit weird, a bit different.
“I like that if I do not follow the crowd, but search for my own voice, what I make will be uniquely mine. I also like to buy things that others have made, as they’re interesting and have their own story. I think making makes us better people.”
Sasha’s advice to would-be makers echoes that given by a few of our other artists in this series: “I wouldn’t quit my day job in the beginning. Running your own full-time business is incredibly stressful. I’d speak to more people who run their own businesses. There are lots of local organisations you can join that give great advice. Having said that – when you get it right, it’s so rewarding, because you can be proud of yourself and all you’ve been through. You’ll know that you did it all yourself.
I keep going back to what really attracts me to drawing, and that is telling a story. Illustrating has opened my eyes and my heart to what is around me.
“In the next five years, I’d like to have an agent to represent my work. I’d like to have a few books published by then. I’d like to have a stronger direction with my work. I’d like to remain experimental and exploratory with my work and with what illustration means in the wider context.”