Hello! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?
I am really well thank you, very busy right now in the run up to Christmas!
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I was always into arts and crafts as a child and used to doodle all over all of my school books. After studying art and textiles at school I went on to do a degree in Textile Design where I specialised in Embroidery but also played around with Screen printing. My career took a bit of a different turn when I left uni, and I began working in marketing for a furniture company, and then later as a Project Manager for Retail Shop Fits at Burberry and Karen Millen.
I adore your business. What made you decide to set up Hello Marilu?
Thank you so much! When I was working full time as a Project Manager I pretty much stopped doing anything creative which was a real shame. I really started to miss it so i decided to do a screen printing workshop which re-ignited my passion again. I began printing at home, setting up my own little make shift print studio and selling a few pieces on Etsy. It gave me a real buzz, and I thought this is what I really want to be doing! I took a bit of a leap of faith and decided to leave my career in Project Management last year to focus on Hello Marilu. I had a few savings behind me to get me going and a lot of determination to make it work, and although it has been tough at times it has by far been the best decision I have ever made.
Why did you call your shop Hello Marilu?
Marilu is a nick name my best friend gave me years ago and I always liked the sound of it and thought if I started a business it would be a nice name to use. The domain name for Marilu.com was already taken so I had to think of a way to make it slightly different. I wanted something that sounded friendly, bright and cheerful and Hello Marilu seemed like the perfect fit.
How has your creative process changed since the start?
In the beginning I was just focusing on screen printing, but now I paint, hand letter, and make candles. I love trying new crafts and don't want to be purely focused on one style or skill. I really like the variety of using lots of different techniques and being able to create lots of different products. It keeps it interesting and it means I am always learning something new.
How did you manage to learn and hone your craft?
Sometimes I will do a workshop, or other times I will go online and look for tutorials. For my home print studio I spent a bit of time online figuring out how to make my own lightbox to process my screens so it was really satisfying to do it myself and for it to work. With any craft though its really about just taking time to keep doing it and become better and better. You learn from your mistakes and sometimes you discover new techniques along the way purely by accident.
Have you always been into design and illustration?
Yes I would say so. As I mentioned I used to doodle on everything...especially at Primary school. My teachers would sometimes put my doodles up on the notice board for everyone to see, which was sweet of them.
If there were no resource restraints, what would be your dream project?
Oh wow, thats a good question! I would love to have an exhibition in a major gallery or some kind of large scale art installation!
What equipment do you use for your work?
Screens, squeegee and inks for my screen printing, and acrylic paint and brushes for painting. I do like to experiment though and love to do a bit of brush lettering in ink.
What tools or materials could you not live without?
Photoshop and my mac! I use it for creating my stencils for printing! But everything really....my craft cupboard is full to the brim!
Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?
Social media is hugely important and probably a large part of the reason that I waited until now to launch my business. It makes it so much easier to get your brand out there, to gain new opportunities and to hear about new places to sell your work. Also seeing other peoples businesses on Instagram has given me more confidence that it's something I could also do. I've been really lucky to have some great projects come my way from people seeing my work on Instagram and Pinterest. I dont think I would have got nearly as far without it.
Who inspires your work?
I dont know if there is one person or company in particular that inspires me as I feel I get inspired by everything around me. But, some of the artists I love are Lamplighter for beautiful hand lettering, Rifle Paper Co for their simply stunning illustrations, and Jujujust for the most colourful and tactile textile pieces.
Do you have any favourite pieces of work that you adore at the moment from your shop?
I am currently selling a lot of my handpainted Christmas baubles. I launched them last year and this year was lucky enough to be asked to personalise them in Fortnum and Mason. I love the detail on them and hearing all the unusual names which I get to hand letter on to them, and I get lots of lovely compliments from customers. I think as its such a personal gift it feels that much more special as you know what it means to the customer and that makes it special for me too.
What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your Facebook page, Instagram and your work?
I hope to be more involved with my social media next year. I want to be brave and show my face a bit more on Instagram Stories to make more of a connection with my followers and to show everyone life behind the scenes! I dont really like public speaking or being on camera so it will be something I woudl like to overcome and be more confident with. I am also planning to do a few more giveaways - its something I have always wanted to do but never seem to get around to. For my collection I am really hoping to spend some time designing a limited edition set of screen prints. This has also been something I have wanted to do for a while and did start working on this year but haven't quite finished off. As it will be a limited edition collection I really want to make sure its perfect!
What are you currently working on?
At the moment its all Christmas, Christmas, Christmas! I have to build a stock pile of baubles for personalisation at F&M, which actually has been a great time saver when I get online orders too. I used to make each one to order from scratch, but being able to grab a pre-painted one and just add the name has been great. I have also been lucky enough to be asked to work at a few Christmas events and have a workshop lined up with Pandora this week, and a bauble personalisation event at House of Fraser next month.
What’s your typical working day?
It really depends on what project I am working on. At the moment I have been quite full on with making which is great so a typical day is spent painting or screen printing. I do need to make time for admin though and placing orders for materials...I think the DPD delivery guy is a bit shocked by how many deliveries I get!
What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business off the ground?
I left a full time job to focus on Hello Marilu but at that point I hadn't really progressed my business at all. It was in very early stages and probably a bit of a gamble as to whether it would work. In the first few months I wrote to a few independent retailers and got no response. I also applied to my first craft market and didnt get accepted. Rejection is tough at any time but particularly when you first start out. You take it very personally. I have really learnt to just keep going though even if things dont go as you woudl like. Eventually things did start working out - I got accepted to a few markets and had a response from some bigger retailers, and got approached out of the blue from some other companies! Its made me a stronger person and made me realise that you shouldnt give up.
Do you have any exciting plans for this year?
I cant think that far ahead right now! I would love a holiday somewhere exotic! i have also been dreaming about possibly hiring a bigger studio space or employing someone part time! These are just thoughts though....I'm not sure I am quite in the position to do that yet!
What are your career plans with your online shop?
As I work alone I know there are areas where I fall behind and my online shop is one of them! I do plan on taking some better photography next year - to include more lifestyle shots - which I will also use to put together a wholesale catalogue. I would like to also have a bit of a revamp with the overall layout. One thing I meant to do regularly was a blog on my website but again I dont have time to do it all. Next year I will put a bit more thought into it all but you should expect to see some changes.
Do you have any advice for anyone doing craft fairs?
Yes - dont panic! For my first fair, and every big fair which I have done for the first time I have compleltey gone into panic mode...but when you finally get there it is always fine. Just make sure you are happy with your product, be friendly to your customers and you cant go too wrong. Oh, and make sure you have a card reader for payments - that is a must!
What advice would you give to people looking to define their own style?
Do what feels right to you. Its easy to be influenced by other people especially if they are successful in what they do, you can start to loose track of what it is you like yourself. If you are a designer/maker the reason you are doing what you do is for your passion and enjoyment, so stick with the things that you like and your ideas will naturally flow and evolve.
Do you have any advice for anyone starting their own online shop?
I think getting an Etsy shop is a great way to start. It's cheaper for one, and also people are more likely to find you in a search on there. Launching your own website takes a bit of investment and a lot of promoting for people to know you are there. I think there is a misconception that as soon as you start an online shop the orders will start flooding in and thats just not the case. I don't think I had an order for a couple of months when I first started. There are so many online shops out there that its a bit like being a needle in a hay stack.
What’s next for Hello Marilu?
I woudl love to grow my brand and have my products stocked in shops. I think it would be a great feeling to see my products in an actual shop! I have stuff stocked in a couple of places, but I woudl definitely like to be in more.
What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?
Not to compare yourself to others. Seeing everyones successes on Instagram for example is great but can also be a bit detrimental as it makes you feel like you are not good enough. I used to really worry about how many followers I had on Instagram or how many likes i had on each post. If someone else had more i felt like I wasn't successful enough! it was a really silly way to think and i dont actually worry about it any more and it makes me feel so much better. Now I just try and focus on all the good things I have going on and that makes me feel so much happier!
You can follow Hello Marilu on their website 'https://www.hellomarilu.com'. You can also find Mary-Ann on Instagram 'https://www.instagram.com/hellomarilustudio/', Twitter 'https://twitter.com/marilu_studio/' and Facebook 'https://www.facebook.com/hello-marilu-393884230799605/'.