In conversation with Two for Joy Founder and Visual Artist Stacey Williamson
Inspired by nature, wildlife, and ‘far-off mystical lands’, Stacey Williamson creates exquisite works of art for her startup business, Two for Joy. Using the medium of paper, Stacey creates beautiful framed cut-outs, as well as limited-edition screen prints, t-shirts, and bags. She lives and works in her studio in Shoreditch.
J: Tell us about your startup, Two for Joy. How did you come up with the name?
S: I came up with the name Two for Joy whilst creating a wedding commission for a couple in Ireland. I wanted to include two magpies in the image to symbolise love, luck and commitment – the name just came to me whilst I was cutting! I’m quite superstitious anyway, and always salute magpies when I see them! The name seemed to incorporate everything that I wanted the company to be about, love, luck, nature and a joyous feel.
J: Where does your art get its inspiration from? Why have you chosen paper in particular to work with? Do you use any other materials?
S: I’ve been cutting paper for a long time, so it was a natural progression to do it more as a profession. The rise of the paper cutter is ever growing now, and I think its great that so many young people are embracing this time old tradition.
I take my inspiration from all around me, from the colours and shapes I see. It could be from something as simple as a pattern on a railing or the markings on a leaf. I’m also very influenced by travel and far-off lands. I’m particularly interested in the Aztecs and the Mayans at the moment, which inspired my latest limited edition screen print The Day of the Dead.
I also paint and draw, but that’s mainly a personal hobby. I have lots of my paintings up at home but feel that my paper cutting is where my heart lies. I feel people relate more to my paper cuttings as I’m able to put a visual story into them.
J: Although paper is convenient to work with and environmentally friendly, it doesn’t stand up particularly well against the elements. Has this ever been an obstacle in making or selling your artwork?
S: It’s never been a huge problem, to be honest. One thing I have to make sure of whilst cutting is to stay focused on what I’m doing. There have been the odd mistakes made in the past, misspelled words, cutting the wrong parts, etc. It’s not like a painting where you can simply paint over – if I make a mistake, the whole piece is ruined!
The only disaster I’ve had whilst selling my work has been due to the weather. One very blustery day in Spitalfields Market a breeze blew over some of my original framed pieces and shattered the glass to smithereens. Thankfully the artwork was salvaged!
J: Have you had any exhibitions thus far? How is the public receiving your art?
S: As yet I haven’t had a solo exhibition, but have taken part in a few mixed shows. My first was at a small gallery in Buckinghamshire, followed by a larger exhibition at A1C Gallery in Canada, featuring artists from around the world. All the work I’ve put into exhibitions have sold, and I’m thrilled that someone is enjoying my artwork half way round the world!
I’ve also donated original artwork to the Hidden Artists exhibition in Surrey. The money taken from the sale of each piece goes to the NSPCC and local charities around the Surrey area. This is something that I will be taking part in again in January 2012.
The public seem to be liking my artwork, which is so lovely! When I started Two For Joy I was so scared that no one would like it, but it appears to be quite the opposite! People seem to love the playful nature of the work, sprinkled with a little bit of love and wanderlust.
As well, I’ve recently designed two t-shirts for a new clothing label, TidyPlayer.com and so far the feedback to my designs has been great!
J: As an aspiring artist managing a startup, have you ever been strapped for cash? Is this your full-time job?
S: Yes, I can definitely say I’ve felt the pinch! But I feel that if you believe in your work and yourself then you can make a living out of it in the end. I think it will take me a little while longer to get out of the ‘struggling artist’ category as most of my profits go straight back into the business. I still have a part time job which provides me with a bit of financial stability, though I feel that the business would benefit from me giving it full attention in the near future. Scary as that is, you never know until you try!
J: What have been biggest obstacles in launching your company, and how did you overcome them?
S: The obvious answer is probably a lack of money. Starting out on a shoe string means I haven’t been able to have a fancy website designed or pay for things like advertising. Saying that, I’ve put a huge amount of work in which I feel people appreciate more than a big company with cash to flash. Everything I’ve done, I’ve done by myself and there’s nothing like a bit of hard graft!
Twitter and Facebook have been fantastic free sources to promote Two For Joy which I think has really helped get it noticed. I’ve also got a social media guru friend who owns moremachinedigital.com who has offered me a lot of advice that’s been priceless!
J: What would you say has been your most memorable moment since launching Two for Joy?
[quote_left]I went to the pub and a friend was wearing one of the t-shirts I had designed. It was the first time I’d seen anyone wearing it. It was a bit of a surreal moment and I couldn’t stop staring at his chest![/quote_left]S: There are two moments that spring to mind. One was at the first gallery exhibition I took part in. Mine was the first piece of work to be sold on the opening night which was a fantastic buzz. I met the person who bought it and he just loved it so much, which meant such a great deal to me.
The second was more recently when I went to the pub and a friend was wearing one of the t-shirts I had designed. It was the first time I’d seen anyone wearing it. It was a bit of a surreal moment and I couldn’t stop staring at his chest!
J: Can you give us a few ‘Dos and Donts’ for setting up a new business?
- Go for it! You only live once and you’ll never know if you don’t take that first step!
- Seek out all the advice you can from people you already know. You’d be surprised how many people have a wealth of valuable information. Be it advertising, social media, promotions. Just ask people, they won’t mind!
- Expect to be making a fortune over night. The expression ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ is very true. Put a lot of hard work in and it will eventually pay off.
- Be disheartened if not everyone likes your work. I’ve heard a few nasty comments in the past, which can be quite hurtful, but you have to remember that everyone has different tastes. The world would be a pretty boring place if we all liked the same things anyway!
J: Why did you choose Shoreditch in launching your startup?
S: When I first moved to London I lived in a flat at the top of Brick Lane. After a brief stint in North London the pull of Shoreditch brought me back to the same street! It was from there that I set up Two For Joy. It was a great place to gather inspiration, and perfect for selling at Spitalfields Market and the Sunday Up Market on Brick Lane.
J: Who are your favorite artists and/or entrepreneurs in Shoreditch?
S: Gilbert & George and Tracey Emin lived a stone’s throw away from me. They are great innovators and fantastic artists. I used to pass Gilbert & George on my morning runs around Shoreditch and Whitechapel!
ROA is a great Belgian street artist whose work I love. I watched him paint the huge heron on Hanbury St, just round the corner from my old house.
J: What does the future have in store for Shoreditch?
S: I think the future is positively gleaming for Shoreditch! It’s a vibrant area with so much life and soul. Everything you want is there – art, food, history, music – you name it. It’s a perfect example of embracing the old and working it in with the new!