Artist: Lucie Summers
Business: Lucie Summers Designs (Lusummers at the Blu-Shed Shop, on Etsy)
Web sites: lusummers.etsy.com and blu-shed.blogspot.com
Location: Mildenhall, Suffolk, UK
What do you create?
I mainly make mixed media paper collages that find themselves made into a couple of different products... sketchbooks, sketches for customers to frame, and paper quilts. The paper quilts are generally created for exhibitions.
Where and when do you do your creative work?
Well, the 'where' used to be a garage, but was converted into a room by the previous owners of our house. Although I'm lucky to have a space to call my own, it's certainly no homage to high design. It's also the family dumping ground; I share my space with several hundred half-used tins of paint, unused furniture, a million magazines and books, and old toys waiting to be taken to the charity shop.
The 'when'? Whenever I can! I have two small boys (aged two and five) so my time is precious. I've actually only realised that since having children! I do the bare minimum of housework, just enough so we don't all collapse from some hideous illness, so I have more time to create. (As I type, the ironing pile is perilously close to the ceiling and if I get up I risk serious injury from treading on some form of toy tractor/truck/car.) I literally snatch any five minutes I can; while I'm waiting for the potatoes to boil, after the boys are in bed, when my youngest has a nap. It's amazing what you can get done when your time is limited. I also couldn't do this without my mum and my husband; mum has my two-year-old every Thursday and my husband has both boys on a Saturday so I can get a good run at it!
Do you have another "day job"?
Nope – mother, terrible housewife and mixed media artist, that's me! Although I do write articles for Quilting Arts magazine sometimes.
Where and what did you study?
I studied 'design crafts' at Norwich School of Art and Design, a small city art school in Norfolk, a million years ago.
Where do you find inspiration?
Oh, everywhere. Leaves are a big thing for me, and flowers. I also get very excited by text and fonts, particularly old handwriting. Architecture, patterns on old teacups, old printers' blocks, the insides of envelopes, vintage bits, everything! I made a series of small paper quilts for an exhibition in the States this past September all inspired by the stories I wrote at school when I was five or six. Colour combinations are also a great inspiration; bright pink and red, turquoise and blue, red and white. I find living in the countryside a massive influence on my work.
What motivates you?
I'm actually quietly ambitious, and that really motivates me. One day I'd like to have a whole range of products (paper goods, textile designs, house goods) available both in the UK and worldwide. I want to be a household name! So I'm not setting myself up for a fall or anything... wanting the best for the boys motivates me too. Just wanting to create something everyday motivates me.
When did you start doing this?
I started by having a simple website made and tried to sell my personalised name wedding and birth samplers two years ago. I literally sat back and waited for the orders to flood in because I knew I'd got a good product. The trouble was, they were too expensive on their own... and I didn't sell one. Not one. So I decided to design and make smaller personalised 'plaques' for kid's rooms and opened another 'shop' on a UK site called notonthehighstreet.com this time last year and did much better. Then at the end of august this year I opened my Etsy shop selling completely different products which has worked much better for me, so I've dropped the other site. I'll probably add the personalised stuff to Etsy early next year.
Do you remember getting into art as a kid?
I come from a long line of women who sew, so I grew up with fabric around me. I can't specifically remember getting into art, it was just always there. I had a doll's house that didn't have dolls in it (I'm scared of them) but I used to change the decor all of the time. My boys actually still play with the little bits and bobs I made, vintage fabric covered beds, and funny little curtains made with matchstick poles.
When and why did you decide to start your own business?
Just after my youngest son was born, so two years ago. I must have been mental, what a ridiculous time. I blame the hormones! I've made tons of mistakes, some of them quite costly, but I've learnt a lot. I decided that if I was going to be a stay at home mum, I was going to have to find a way of earning some money that used the skills I knew I'd got that didn't take me away from the kids. And it sort of works, most of the time.
How did you choose the name for your business?
Erm...well, my name is Lucie Summers, and I design stuff.
'lusummers at the blu-shed shop' came about because we have a blue shed in our garden that I can see while I work at my laptop, but I decided that it should be 'blu' rather than 'blue' because it was more like 'lu'. Complicated, huh?
What do you love most about creating your work?
The weird inner peace I get and the little funny fuzzy feeling of excitement in my tummy when a piece is working well. I almost have to remind myself to breathe.
What's the most fascinating place you've been?
Ohhh, good question. I've loved lots of places, but I've just come back from a weekend in London and while I've been there lots of times, this was the first time with the boys and I suppose I saw it through their eyes. It's an incredible place, around every corner is something new to see and experience. It's so full of history, it's amazing.
A book you love:
Oh, crikey. Just one? Probably Echoes by Maeve Binchey. I first read it as a teenager and I must have read it ten or so times since. I was so in love with Gerry Doyle. I get sad when I finish a really good book, it's like friends leaving you. What a sap.
What is the most interesting thing about you?
Hmmmm... I've known my husband, Sam, since I was about five years old. We went to school together and (according to my mum) one day I came home and told my parents that there was a boy at school with the most lovely name, Sam Summers, and I was going to marry him. He lived on a farm and, aged five, I quite fancied being a farmer's wife. Then I did marry him 20 years later and I am now the worst farmer's wife in the history of farmers' wives.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Apart from the obvious answer of my boys, who I'm soooo proud of, this year I had two big achievements with my paper quilts. One, called Revealed 2 won a big award at The Festival of Quilts exhibition in Birmingham, UK. Also, a series of five paper quilt collages (boringly called 20/20, 10/10, 5/5, 2/2 and 1/1) made it through to the final of Quilt 2007 at the same exhibition. It's a huge, huge honour just to chosen. That was amazing.
What advice would you give women starting their own business?
Do what you love. If you put your heart and soul into something, it will shine through. Don't give up if you know you've got a good product. I was so low before I joined notonthehighstreet, but I knew I'd got a good product, so I modified it, made it more accessible and they sold well.
What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?
Probably getting enough time to do everything. I feel terribly guilty that my children don't live in a perfect home, with perfectly ironed clothes and a kitchen floor so clean you could eat off it.
What do you love to do in your free time?
I try to spend Sundays with the family and we'll go to the park or swimming or visiting friends. If I get time completely to myself, I love to shop!
What are you working on right now?
Right now I've got more sketchbooks to make for Etsy. I've also got an exhibition with a group of other textile artists in Ely Cathedral next year...I've not done much so far, but that's at the top of my never-ending 'to do' list.
What do you hope to achieve next?
Ohhh, so much! My short term goal is to get to 100 sales on Etsy. (I'm at 98 at time of writing!) I've also got plans to do a collaboration with another paper goods artist that I'm really excited about. Next year I'd like to start supplying my sketchbooks to indie and lifestyle shops. My long term goal is really as I mentioned previously; I'd like lusummers to be a household design name.