Our most recent ‘In the Shop Window’ is with Galashiels artist Ailsa Black. Read a little glimpse behind the scenes of Ailsa’s successful business. Her back story, inspiration, previous jobs and Ailsa’s fantastic achievements.
Ailsa Black, Dumfries
My Business: I paint and from the paintings make prints, cards, calendars and a growing range of lovely goods. I sell these through my website and to trade. I work with galleries to sell my paintings, undertake commissions and license work for production.
Starting Out: I studied Graphics and illustration at Grays School of Art in the 80’s. After art school I moved to Edinburgh and lived there for 10 years and had lots of different jobs. In 2000 I moved back to Dumfries and Galloway and started working as a manager for a big charity. It was quite a hectic job and as I approached 40 I decided it was time to start being more creative and started painting in my spare time.
Previous jobs: Arts worker, outreach worker, photographic sales assistant, barmaid, fish processing assistant, administrator, support worker, charity manager … I could go on …
My “typical” working day: Up quite early about 6.30am and have breakfast and go out with my collie dog for a beach walk. I try to be in the studio between 8 and 9am. I check my emails and reply to any messages on social media. The mornings are generally spent doing admin tasks, packing orders, answering trade enquiries etc. I try to have admin work done by lunchtime but in reality it often goes well in the afternoon. Ideally I try to start painting after lunchtime. I’ll have a break for tea and often go out again either for a walk or a bike ride. In the evening I usually carry on working and plan my next painting or work on small paintings at the desk in the living room.
Self employment highs: Making your own decisions!
Self employment lows: Not having a predictable income stream and the mortgage still needs paid …
Inspiration: I love where I live and this is my inspiration. I try to spend as much time as I can out of doors and watching wildlife and the amazing birds and sea mammals we have round here. From my studio I can see porpoises, otters, seals, flocks of birds, deer … you name it.
Business Achievements : I do love seeing my work on cards with charity names like Oxfam, Marie Curie and the RSPB.
Longterm goals: I’m working with an agent who is helping me license some work in the long term I plan to take a step back from selling to trade so I have more time to spend being creative.
Promotion: In 2014 I was shortlisted in License This! which is a brand licensing competition. As a result I now have an agent and am working on expanding my range of products.
Popular and Favourite Products: Cards and prints never go wrong but it’s lovely to have a big mug of tea with my art on the side.
With Hindsight: Don’t try to do everything yourself.
In my Private Jet: St Kilda
Favourite Independent Shop: Loch Arthur near Beeswing.
Favourite destination in Scotland: Dumfriesshire
Favourite Scottish Tourist Attraction: Edinburgh
Favourite Scottish Restaurant: My neighbours are all great cooks!
Favourite TV Show: Still Game
Best thing about Scotland: Stunning scenery, amazing wildlife, big open spaces, deserted beaches, changing light…
Do you believe in Nessie? Yes, of course.
Favourite Holiday Destination: Scotland, but I love the Lake District too.
Big thanks to Ailsa for giving us a little glimpse into her world. Look out for another In the Shop Window interview coming in early 2017.