Bea Bellingham is the maker behind ceramics brand Things By Bea. Nestled away in her Sydney home, Bea spends her days making, creating and hanging out with her little buddy. From her beginnings as an artist who enjoyed painting and illustrating, Bea tried her hand at ceramics when she wanted to make her very own ceramic lamp, and ended up enjoying it so much, it’s now her full time job / very successful creative business.
Read on to find out more about how Bea manages her day and hear her advice on how to run your own small business, from the fine details of planning to execution.
Tell us about what a typical day in your life is like?
6:30am – 7:30am Most days start with a visit from Buddy the dog jumping on the bed. My husband, Scott and I have breakfast and go for a dog walk before he leaves for work. My commute is much shorter *walks in to studio at back of home*
7:30am – 8:30am I unpack the kiln and try to write a list of things to do that day. I find it best to keep it to three main things, as your day can quickly spiral out of control if you try to think about all the things you still have to do.
8:30am – 9:00am I try to get all of my orders wrapped and packed in the morning. Buddy helps by lying on the wrapping paper so it doesn’t get lost.
9:00am – 9:30am Time for a walk to the local coffee shop and post office.
9:30am – 10:30am Computer time. It’s pretty hard to keep on top of emails when you’re working away from a desk. I try to give myself an hour to wiz through emails, before turning the Mac off to avoid the distracting lure of repeatedly checking for replies or loosing yourself on the internet.
10:30am – 1:00pm Mornings are generally the messiest time. It’s when I try to build my items using the slab roller. There’s lots of wet clay and trimmings. This is probably the most fun part of my job – it’s like making mud pies when you were a kid. With any left-over trimmings that are too dry to go back in the bag I make one off mini-posie vases to keep me inspired.
1:00pm – 2:00pm Lunch is almost always on the go while I start cleaning greenware. This is the stage before the item has had its first firing. It’s really delicate, but you can wipe away any marks. My items are deliberately wonky and full of character, so this doesn’t take me too long. It’s a hazard of the craft that you end up with clay in your salad from time to time, but oh well!
2:00pm – 3:30pm I visit a friend who has space in a studio complex in Marrickville with some extra items for firing that won’t fit in my kiln. Buddy visits most of the other artists – he’s a pretty big deal around the studio. We also pick up some more glazing supplies from the wonderful Kerrie Lowe Gallery in Newtown.
3:30pm – 6:00pm The afternoons are quite peaceful. I listen to a podcast while I paint the underglaze (the colour) and glaze (the gloss coating).
6:00pm – 10:00pm After a shower to try and remove some of the clay and glaze that’s covering me head to toe, Scott and I take Buddy for a walk and cook dinner. I generally I load and start the kiln and then work on new ideas in front of the TV. For some reason the evenings are when I’m most inspired. In bed I read for longer than I should before falling asleep, book in hand.
What about your weekend Routine?
We’re pretty early risers so while Scott goes for a mountain bike ride I try to cram a week days’ worth of work into a morning. Scott will usually bring back lunch (hooray for Reuben Republic, or Marrikville Banh Mi). We’ll usually try to have a long walk with Buddy in the afternoon and catch up for an early dinner with friends and their children. By Sunday evening we’ve realised we’ve not cleaned the house or done the food shopping. There’s always next week for chores.
Secret Tip to Etsy Success:
I have a couple of tips that are my go-to’s when asked for advice.
Firstly, it’s so important to *plan* to have a successful business and to do so in a way you that will keep yourself accountable.
Even though having a creative business is an incredibly personal and rewarding experience, you still need to treat it like a business. If your business doesn’t make you money, you’ll have to go back to doing something you don’t love. Working for yourself means you have this fantastic flexibility, but it also means you’re the only one who will chase you to meet your goals.
I work from a detailed business plan, a calendar of tasks/milestones and daily to-do’s. Along with managing the day-to-day making I also make sure I set aside time each week to do my finances (my most disliked task), and look big picture to make sure I’m meeting my goals. I also make sure I check to see if a new product is financially viable before I put it up for sale. There are lots of items I just make for friends and family as they don’t work as profitable items.
I use this simple formula:
Materials + time = unit cost
Unit cost x 2 = wholesale cost
Wholesale cost x 2 = retail cost.
Check your retail cost isn’t comparatively too low (raise price) or too high (it might not be financially viable).
Secondly, I also think it’s super helpful to actively try to meet new people in an authentic way. The best bit about my job is getting to meet so many new and wonderful people. I worried when I left my full-time job that I’d feel isolated, but this hasn’t been the case. In fact, I feel more connected with my community than ever before. I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to be a sales person when you meet someone new, which can be off putting. I just try to be myself and let me passion for my work lead the way.