Yas of Quill & Fox
As an illustrator myself, I knew I had found something special when I stumbled onto Quill & Fox on Etsy. Yas’s work is so whimsical and humorous that you can’t help but smile when you see it. I also couldn’t believe that someone was making a full-time living from note cards. Yep, you read that right. The stationery market demands a constant outpouring of new work and that’s why I knew I needed to interview Yas. I think you’ll really like what she has to say about doing what you love.
Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?
I think my interest in clever and unique concepts started when I was working for an ad agency, thinking up “cool” ideas for ads to break through the usual clutter. It was an arduous effort but I always relished what creativity I can have in it. I have never enrolled into a design school then but decided to eventually. I’ve done graphic design ever since I was a teenager, so I was honestly very excited to finally formally go to a design school. Ironically, my advertising classes proved to be so underwhelming, but I really enjoyed the very tactile projects I had a chance to do in graphic design. Meeting my husband in school towards my senior year, and getting married soon after almost just made everything fall into place. Andrew came from very a traditional background of illustration and it renewed my love for it. That coupled with my natural affinity for design, and this new found experience with paper felt like a creative love child waiting to happen.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?
The biggest challenge for me is getting it started and staying motivated enough to keep going. A lot of times, especially in the beginning–the time and creative investment I put into this business felt so feeble, it’s like a glorified hobby. But I soon realize that, that’s actually the amazing thing about it. That I get the chance to do “my hobby” for a living and I only need to just brave through putting my head together and getting it off the ground.
What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?
Getting a wholesale inquiry from Anthropologie–which was amazingly enough, our very first whole inquiry! It was a surprise of sorts, and I felt so motivated. I was also so excited–I couldn’t eat any thing that day!
Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?
I do a lot of times. I’ve always maintained to keep my business a certain way that it fits our lifestyle, and not the other way around. But I’ve started to let myself give in on the pressure of people’s expectations, and the fear of letting people down that I’m starting to make compromises on what I had initially set out to do for my own shop. I love pressure, and I don’t mind it as something that spurs me on, but I’m still striving to achieve that balance where I don’t become too hard on myself either.
I want to eventually expand comfortably (I’m horrible at delegating but I’m slowly learning to do so for certain aspects of my business) so I can free up time to draw more.
Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?
I just rest it off or indulge in something completely off tangent. Sometimes, doing something creative other than Quill & Fox helps renew my creative energy as well. So, sometimes you pull away on a completely different tangent, sometimes you just drive your nose deeper into creative activities. Whichever works at a given time!
How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?
I’m kind of a late riser, many thanks to my late hours. Although it has become a chicken vs the egg thing now, where I honestly don’t know how to unravel this body clock. I wake up at a vaguely decent hour to catch up on emails. Usually I do a round of production if there are any orders that need shipping out. I have an intern that comes over sometimes to help me with production work as well. We live within walking distance of the P.O. so I usually drop off mail en route to our coffee breaks. After having a proper lunch, I head back to our studio, to touch base with more emails if there are any left for the day. Work trickles into the night with illustration work. But most of the time, if I’m beat, I call it a day and hang out with my husband at home for the remainder of it.
What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?
I’m not the savviest, I’m afraid when it comes to marketing. If social media counts, which is probably the extent of promotions we do–I think my best move was opening up a pinterest account and putting our products right on the radar of blogs and social media influencers. It was such a turning point.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?
Have a plan, make a goal. It doesn’t have to be a strictly financial one, but it always helps to have your eyes set on a “prize” somehow. Invest in people and community. Something I’m still really learning. I’m always amazed at how genuine people are about small businesses and their own sincere drive to help you succeed, grassroots style. So naturally, always be kind to people you meet through the industry and your networks. Be kind period.
Where the magic happens.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I’m hopeful that I can expand into a separate studio for the shop, not quite a store front but just shy of–where there is enough space for inventory, and showroom for people who want to “stop by” and see Quill & Fox for themselves, as well as a growing team by then. Right now the biggest on my wishlist is having help, and the ability to entrust it.
You can find more of Yas at:
On Etsy: Quill & Fox
On her own site: Quill & Fox
On Twitter: @quillandfox