This month, we chat to abstract artist Kate Chesters.
Kate's work is inspired by the landscapes that she has seen on her travels around the world. She loves to experiment with different materials and techniques to create unique works of art.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you create.
Hello there! My name is Kate Chesters and I work as an abstract artist. By the time this article is published it will have probably been my birthday, so I am 27 years old.
I have been working self-employed in an art studio since March 2016, which was around a year after I finished my Masters degree. For the first year or so I was mainly experimenting with various materials, art forms and techniques to try and figure out what it was that I wanted to create.
In early 2017 I started working with resin. I had seen other artists using it on Instagram and I was completely inspired by the delicate and intricate abstract patterns that could be created. It wasn’t until Summer 2017 that I began putting resin on wooden chopping boards. After seeing how well my first collection sold at the Summer Arts Market in Liverpool Cathedral I decided to make more. The boards then quickly became my most popular and best selling items, so I pretty much converted my whole business to creating resin art on chopping boards.
When did you open your Etsy shop & what inspired you to do so?
I opened my Etsy shop at the same time I moved into my studio - March 2016 ish. I had put a lot of thought into how I could make a little art business for myself, and selling on Etsy was one of the things that had come up during my research. At that time though I was so busy experimenting in my studio that I didn’t really have very much to upload to Etsy in terms of product listings. And I was pretty clueless as to how to navigate the platform - how to effectively optimise my listings, market products, take good photographs etc. So for the first year of having my Etsy shop, my sales were few and far in-between.
How do you balance full time work and your creative business? or How do you balance your business and personal time?
I’ve been very lucky to be honest with my work life. Since I was around 21 I have worked as a shot girl in various bars in Liverpool city centre. The money is generally very good in this job, so I had the freedom to only work 2-3 nights a week, and use the remaining days to focus on my art.
As time has gone on, and my art business has progressed, I now only work 1 night a week selling shots. I do this for extra cash, but mainly because it’s a fun and sociable job. It can get pretty lonely being self-employed - most of my days are spent working in solitude in my studio. So for one night a week I get to interact with other humans - what a treat!
Tell us a bit about where you work… Do you have a dedicated workspace, office or workshop?
I definitely need to work in a studio space - resin is such a messy material to work with that my house would be destroyed if I worked from home. I leave an old pair of shoes in my studio which I wear when making my boards!
My first studio was based on Victoria Street in Liverpool city centre. It was a shared space, with around 10 other creatives. The building is from the Victorian era (I think?!) so it was bloody FREEZING in the winter. But it was a great location, and the other floors of the building housed other artists and musicians.
Unfortunately, around a year or so ago, the building was sold to a hotel chain, so our time left there was limited and I needed to find a new space to work in. Research for a new studio proved disappointing - the vast majority of spaces in Liverpool were either already taken, too small in size, or (the main issue) massively overpriced.
In the end I went with a storage building. I rent a storage pod which is around 6x3 metres, so it’s the ideal size for me to work in right now.
How do you organise your day and manage your time effectively? (Do you follow a strict working routine or are you more organic with the way you work?)
I try to be as organised as I can when it comes to my art business. There’s several things that I need to accomplish each day/week/month to keep my business ticking over, so I set myself a schedule so I stay on track.
I’m extremely motivated to make this work for myself as a career, and I’m very aware that nobody else is going to do this work for me (unless I pay them!), therefore, I need to be very strict with myself.
I find it hard to give myself a day off to be honest, because my to-do list is never ending. I don’t want to feel like I’m ‘wasting time’ when I could be editing my Etsy shop, or photographing new boards, or researching shops to stock my pieces etc.
However, it’s definitely important to have time off, to physically and mentally relax.
But at the same time, I like how motivated I am to succeed. And when successes happen for me - an Etsy sale, being featured in an article by a prominent blog, my boards selling in a shop, wonderful feedback from a happy customer - it’s the best feeling in the world.
Tell us about the way you work, do you work on one product at a time or do you often have more than one project one the go?
I tend to make my boards in colour batches, and I’ll make a few boards with each batch. It’s always a bit of a guessing game trying to work out how much resin to mix for how many boards, so my batches generally consist of 10-20 boards, depending how much resin there is.
What inspires you to be creative?
I love being outdoors in nature and travelling to beautiful places. Epic landscapes and seascapes are my main inspiration, so I always make sure to take plenty of photos when I'm in vast places.
Instagram is always full of creative inspiration too though. There’s a few artists that I follow whose work is completely different to mine, yet still very inspirational.
What is your favourite creation in your Etsy shop and why.
My best selling boards are my blue/green olive wood ones, and they are my own personal favourites. Close second favourite is the purple ones. I love them because I think the colours work really well together and contrast beautifully against the wood.
What is your favourite accomplishment?
Gosh I don’t know! There are several things I’m very proud of - being stocked in several shops, being featured by some big online blogs, being chosen three times for the Etsy social media campaigns.
But I have certain business goals for myself - earning income targets, shop distribution, hiring staff etc, - which I haven’t reached yet, but when I do, they will be my favourite accomplishments.
What do you love most about your job?
It’s got to be the freedom. I organise my schedule to suit my life. The freedom can also be a downfall though - making decisions can be really hard when you have NO IDEA what to do! I’ve had to teach myself so many things about business, ecommerce, websites, dealing with clients, accounting etc. And not having a boss/manager to guide you and tell you what to do next can be disconcerting at times.
Customer feedback is also amazing too. I want to forge a strong business for myself to live off, and it’s so gratifying for me to see that other people love my work enough to buy it. I work so hard to create pieces which I find beautiful, so it’s incredible when customers love them as much as I do.
What other interests do you have?
My hobbies include climbing mountains, reading books, binge watching a tv series, using my telescope and star app (I know, what a geek), and just generally socialising. Because I’m often alone at work, it’s genuinely such a treat to see other people! The Merseyside Etsy Monthly Meet Up is really good for that, as I think most other creatives generally work alone.
What music/ podcasts are you listening to at the moment?
I’m about halfway through listening to the Me and Orla podcasts, which I’m finding really interesting. I try to listen to informative podcasts/videos whilst I’m working, just so I can always be learning and hearing advice from other makers.
Once I’ve finished these podcasts I’m going to move on to Holly Tucker’s ‘Conversations of Inspiration’ series. I’m really new to listening to podcasts though, so I would love to know what other creative makers listen to!
What advice would you give to anyone who’s thinking of opening up their own Etsy shop.
Do your research first - find out about Etsy and how it works. Then research SEO and learn all about that. Then work on your keywords, then research how to take good photos. All of this will take a while, and it’s worth putting in the groundwork before you even open your shop so you can get it off to a strong start.
What has been the best advice someone has given to you?
Various quotes stick in my mind that I’ve seen/heard over the years:
Do you have any future plans in the pipeline that you can share?
My main goals over the next few months is to get my boards in more shops. I also need to actually MAKE lots of new boards too!
Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
I’ve been on holiday on my own a few times - which I LOVE. I’ve been on solo trips to Barcelona, Madrid, Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Jamaica and Florida.