For some reason I’ve been finding it hard to blog lately. So today, I’ve decided to focus on the Creative Inspirations series which is in fact the longest running series on my blog! I started it in 2012 to share my favourite makers and creative people with you all.
Today it’s the turn of Yellowstone Art Boutique which was launched by Hannah Stoney in 2011. The shop stocks a wonderful collection of creative work by British artists from a wooden cabin in Staffordshire. Hannah’s collection of bicycle print textiles and ceramics first caught by eye, which then led me to discover their online shop filled with amazing things! I hope you will enjoy this interview today.C: Tell us a little about yourself and how Yellowstone Art Boutique got started?
H: I knew before I went to University that I wanted to open a creative space one day. Back then I thought it might be more of a fine art gallery but over the years my love to handmade and craft developed. I graduated from Cheltenham with a First Class Honours in Painting & Drawing and then worked in a printmaking gallery in London to learn a little bit more about sales and the business side of running a gallery. I started writing a business plan and worked toward opening my own shop, then in March 2011 it became a reality. It was such a long time coming that I could hardly believe it when I had an actual shop! I’m passionate about championing British design and so sell work by trained British makers in Yellowstone Art Boutique.
C: You are located in a very skilled area of the UK, what influenced your decision to only stock British artists?
H: Being in Stoke-on-Trent is amazing as so many local customers are from very creative and skilled families. It means that our ceramics have to the best of the best as our customers really know their stuff! Saying that, when I opened there was very little creativity in the area so local people loved what I was doing. Now lots of events, shops, galleries and even TV shows (The Great Pottery Throwdown) are based in Staffordshire. I’m proud to have a store in the ‘creative county’- what could be more apt!
I think it’s important to be heralding British made work as there is so much diversity and I love supporting home grown talent. I don’t need to look elsewhere and our customers would much rather buy from British makers.
C: Tell us about your typical day in balancing a successful creative boutique and being a designer.
H: It sounds cliché but no two days are the same. Let’s just say I never get bored and I regularly forget to eat because I’m so busy (I’m working on imposing actual work times and break times but I’m finding it hard!). I thrive on doing a million things at once, even though it drives those around me crazy. So today I’m working in the shop- I’ve framed 5 pictures, packed some online orders, served customers, replied to emails, hovered up, cleaned the windows and an order has just arrived for me to check, price and display. Who knows what will happen this afternoon!
A typical day in the studio for me involves lots of spreadsheets and head scratching. Then designing commissions and Wedding stationery for clients. Like I said before it’s always a mixed bag though, and you never know what a day will entail.
C: What are the biggest challenges that come with being an employer?
H: Being an employer is both fantastic and terrifying. My team are incredible so they make managing them very easy but the legalities of it can get a little complicated. The shop (and our 3 online shops) are open 7 days a week so I physically couldn’t do it all on my own. After 5 years I’m finally coming round to the idea that I can delegate some jobs and the world won’t end!
C: Your small team at Yellowstone includes your Mum, how do you get on working together?
H: Mum and I have a brilliant relationship so it actually works very well. We do things in different ways but we rarely work in the shop together so it doesn’t cause any problems. We are on the same wavelength though so often don’t really have to explain things. At the end of the day, we keep it professional at work when we need to though, and I unfortunately for her, I’m technically her boss so I get the final say! The only downside is that we talk work lots of the time and drive our family crazy. We find it hard to switch off from Yellowstone mode.
C: Congratulations on recently celebrating 5 years of Yellowstone Art Boutique! Can you share with us what the biggest learning curve has been for you as a shop owner?
H: Thank you! I think managing staff has been the biggest learning curve. Everything has evolved massively and I think I’m a much better boss now I’ve made so many mistakes.
I wrote this blog post about the 10 things I’ve learnt from business which still rings true. One of my biggest tips is to always have new stock and change displays. We aim to have new products every time customers visit. We never want to rest on our laurels.
C: I’m sure you have to wear many hats as a small business owner including marketer, visual merchandiser, stockist and designer. Which areas of your business do you love and which are a struggle (mine is definitely accounts!)?
H: I love being a buyer and finding new work for the shop. And I love creating new work and seeing it right through to production and then selling it myself the shop- it’s very rewarding. The struggles for me are rotas, sorting out staff holidays etc, accounts..! But I have a brilliant accountant who has got me very organised so it’s less of a headache now. I’ve always been quite academic despite being creative, so I find bit of paperwork therapeutic. Paying the bills, less so…
C: Any tips for designer makers looking to get their work stocked in shops?
H: YES. Look on the shops website as most have them have a preferred method of contact. For us it is via email and I’ve even written guidelines about what info to send us.
- Personalise the email to the buyer (you’ll find their name on the website or call the shop to find out) and write a little comment about their shop.
- Don’t send huge jpeg files or wetransfer files. Just small images and a link to your website or online shop will be perfect.
- Be friendly! It’s not a job interview so you want your personality to come across if you want to work with them.
C: Lastly, can you share with us your favourite designer maker at the moment? Who has caught your eye that we need to find out more about?!
H: My favourite designer at the moment is Paper Moon. We’ve sold Nicola’s work for a few years but her prints just get better and better. The pastel colours are just ticking all of our boxes at the moment!
What a amazing shop eh? I’m so pleased Yellowstone are selling online so we can all enjoy these beautiful ceramics and prints! Don’t forget to check out the website and to go give them a follow on social too. A big thanks to Hannah for getting involved with the series today!
If there are any creatives inspiring you that you want to find out more about, do let me know and I’ll invite them to join us here on the blog.
All images in this post are courtesy of Trove Photography.