Name : Gabriella Buckingham
Company : Moobaacluck and Gabriella Buckingham
(first published – Aug 9, 2013)
Website: I have a few! There’s my shop on notonthehighstreet.com called Moobaacluck; gabriellabuckingham.com – my illustration site, and www.moobaacluck.com; I also have an Etsy shop called GabriellaBuckingham.
Sum up your business in a sentence:
I design and hand paint personalised wooden decorations for children and the young at heart and I also paint, illustrate and produce paper products from my designs.
When did you start your business and why?
I started Moobaacluck in late 2007 making presents for my children’s friends then decided to start selling them at local craft fairs. I wanted to supplement my sporadic illustration earnings. I was popping up all over Norfolk selling Phoenix Trading products so I thought I really ought to take these opportunities to test the market with my own designs.
What and who inspires you?
My children and country life inspired my business when I started out – hence the name I came up with; we have two pet rabbits in the garden and I seem to have been inspired by them! My surroundings certainly influence what I paint. Colour is important to me.
So many people have inspired me, often fleetingly! I tend to read about people or find their work on the web and get excited about a general way of life or approach. I love watching the videos by Monica Lee on Smartcreativewomen.com. Just listening to creative businesses talk about how they do things reveals how diverse the options are.
I’ve always loved the work of many great painters. With my painting head on I might look at Mary Fedden’s pictures before setting out a still life. I love the textures and colours of a Mark Rothko for example or the sheer scale and luminosity of a giant Jo Self painting or the poetic figurative quality of the paintings by my friend, artist Nicola Slattery.
I admire the hugely successful stationery company Rifle Paper and Rob Ryan who has his own bricks and mortar shop; products in Liberty and numerous department stores yet still conveys the impression of being a small business. I’d like to chat to him! Reading about his process in his Etsy shop he does have rather a lot of help….
Fellow notonthehighstreet.com partners like Becky from DotsandSpots and Jane from Snapdragon and Ali from Milly and Pip have been very supportive and helpful too over the years. Hello girls!
I also read about a stationery designer and maker in the US, whose name I can’t remember unfortunately! I was struck by the fact that she deliberately only allows her business to grow to a certain point so that she takes on just enough work to reach a monthly financial target she sets herself. That way she still has the time for the exploration needed away from work to stay inspired to design and live a fulfilled life. That’s what I aim for.
What sets you apart from others?
My designs themselves and my slightly crazy painstaking approach! I don’t take short cuts. For example so many people advise me to spray paint my base coats for the wooden pieces which really does makes sense. I’ve experimented with this but don’t like the finish.
As I do absolutely every aspect of my business alone (apart from cutting the wood) I can be adaptable and creative quickly if need be. I am working on developing some craft kits to teach other people how to paint their own wooden items too.
What did you do before setting up your business?
When I left art college in the early 90’s I became a freelance illustrator. I was commissioned to paint romantic fiction illustrations for magazines initially and some editorial. You can see examples of some of this on my blog inkpaintpaper.com right now! Then I worked in house at International Greetings as a Christmas card and wrap designer for three years. I moved on to become the sole product manager for Card Connection Ltd a franchise greeting card company. After two years there I left to set up as an illustrator again. I had less than a month’s salary, a mortgage to pay and no savings but I had strong self-belief and a month or so later was briefed by Ladybird Books to illustrate a children’s book, which led to more and began regular work as a greeting card artist for several companies. I even flew to Holland to put together a gift-wrap collection commissioning illustrators I’d used in my product manager days. When I moved to Norfolk in 2003 and had children the pace of life slowed but Notonthehighstreet.com found me somehow in 2008 and wrote to me and asked me to join them; I hadn’t heard of them! But I started selling with them in 2009 and it’s been great.
The best running your own business:
Is the freedom of being in charge of my own destiny, knowing it’s up to me and living life on my own terms. Even though at busy times I can spend days on end hardly leaving home, swamped with piles of wood that need painting I wouldn’t swap that for an office life again (unless it was my office;)). I can be here for my children whenever needed yet happily painting at the bottom of my garden a lot of the time. My husband is freelance too so during the summer holidays we constantly swap childcare. If he’s here I work and if he isn’t I have to adapt!
Your favourite product and why:
My spotty and floral wooden rabbits are my favourite wooden product but I also love the cards I do featuring my handwriting and the baby face first Christmas card that can be turned into a decoration for the tree. All these products exemplify what I want my work to be about – fun, beauty and thought. I always love the things I am currently working on too, like these Christmas tags with a squirrel, owl and robin on. Hopefully I will produce a gift wrap to match but I need to be convinced that people will buy Christmas sheet wrap rather than rolls!
Your greatest business tip:
Do whatever makes you feel happiest and know that will probably change. Really spend time working out what that is; I’m still doing this and loving the process. I took the Make Art that Sells course with Lilla Rogers this year and will be doing a painting course in September that I know I will love. The web is an incredible place for making friends and learning, definitely embrace social media. Meanwhile get to work making or developing things that you love because if you love them that will show and people out there will pick up on that (as long as you show and tell). Of course don’t ignore the financial side completely. I do tend to do this on scraps of paper in a ballpark sort of a way and am guilty of not being precise enough. Once you’ve worked out postage and packing, commission, materials, and your time and what a customer might perceive a product to be worth – there might not be any profit left. However the beauty of being a small business with low overheads is that you can experiment on a small scale and make mistakes or compromises. There are ways of working things out.
Your biggest weakness:
Being obsessive about working and not taking enough time way from it.
Your biggest success:
Is yet to come! I’m eternally optimistic; whenever I have had a goal I’ve achieved it so life is full of little successes. The key is to know what you want which isn’t so easy with so many options. I am proud that for 15 years I’ve earned a living through my painting and manage to learn other things I enjoy too – like ceramics.
I can’t remember any! I do daft things a fair amount of the time so it’s all a blur …one small thing; somehow I started to paint ‘Grandad’s First Christmas’ on a star, which my husband and I had a laugh at.
“Bloom where you are” … I don’t know where it came from but essentially it means make the most of what you have, wherever you happen to find yourself. Recently I painted a picture for the wall art section of Lilla Rogers course with the quote “Life the life you have imagined” on it, a great aim.
Up until now it’s been “ Where there is a will there’s a way”. The words “How do you want to feel?” (a question Danielle La Porte has built an entire self help business on) are very thought provoking and deceptively simple.
Your favourite colour: So many – usually bright and warm, but if you push me to chose: Greek island sea blue green.
Your favourite artist: Mary Newcomb and Elaine Pamphilon. Mary always led a creative life but didn’t start trying to paint for a living until she reached the age of 50 and her work has a magical slant on the way she saw the world around her. She really played with humour and scale. I love Elaine’s seascapes and still life paintings. I’ve been lucky enough to see their work in real life.
Your favourite season: Spring – all the promise it has, plus the colours suit me!
Your favourite flower : deepest dark chocolate hollyhocks; blousy peonies and ragged, spikey dahlias.. oh and recently on a family bike ride down an old railway track we came across a red brick cottage with an entire field of pom-pom alliums in front of it, just beautiful.
Your star sign: Capricorn
Business dream :
This is such a tough question to answer. Partly I am living it. I don’t have one single goal. I have many small ones. I’m someone that has to try things and see how they fit. I do want some sort of trade range, I have regular enquiries but I am not ready for that just yet, it needs more work and planning. I realised from doing one trade fair with my wooden things that it wasn’t what I wanted with that particular range. Bringing out a range of lovely children’s stationery under the Moobaacluck brand would be; as would a card range featuring many of my existing eponymous designs so that is where I will go next. I’m keen to continue to grow what is a lifestyle business alongside working as an illustrator and designer more in the future. Last August I set up a twitter challenge of a daily draw. It was great fun and a lovely way to connect with other people, something I really enjoy. Setting up some sort of creative network might be a project. I’m full of ideas but sometimes that results in head spin! I’m thinking about finding an illustration agent in 2014. I fancy writing a book and teaching an e-course. Plenty to get on with.
Your simple pleasure: hugging the children and watching the sea.
What’s your brew: Green tea and wine. Not together.
Tell us a joke: the only jokes I know are ones my husband drums into me but they rarely stick, this one tickles me… My husband says it isn’t one but I like it.
“I stand corrected” said the man in the Orthopedic shoes.
Thanks so much Gabs. I hope you all enjoyed hearing a bit about yet another very talented and gorgeous artist. Gabs is yet another painter who I have admired from a far for some time. Her painting simply makes me happy, it’s joyful and theres not other way of putting it. The colours and light always take me to another place. I eventually plucked up the courage to message Gabriella for a chat and introduce myself and I’m so glad I put myself out there because Im normally so shy and worried that these clever people will think I’m a pleb but Gabs was just fab. She’s as joyful as her art, thanks lovely lady for so many lovely chats. Xx