Design Divas: Jennie Whitham at JLW Illustration

Welcome to this week’s talented Design Diva, Jennie Witham who designs the most beautiful patterns for both paper and fabric. Jennie really does have a great mumpreneur story so do take a read and be ready to be inspired!

JLW IllustrationWhat’s your name? Jennie Whitham
How many children and old are they?
I have 3 Children, Carla is 8, Alexander is 5 and Alice-Jean is 2 years old.
What is the name of your business? JLW Illustration

JLW Illustration
What is your business and when did you start it?
I am a Surface Pattern Designer and Illustrator, and I sell my designs on paper-based products via Etsy, and on fabric via Spoonflower. I also Freelance and have an Agent. I began working for myself in April 2012.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
I am Pattern obsessed, and it wasn’t until I attended Art College that I realised a course exists that would teach me to create them. I applied for Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design at Leeds art in 2006 and Graduated 2010. I graduated with a 2.1, having begun my degree with a 6 month old child, and graduated with 3 children.
More recently I completed an online E-course called ‘The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design’, created by Beth Nicholls and Rachael Taylor. It was this course that gave me the business know-how into starting up on my own.

JLW Illustration
Can you share 3 positive aspects about being a business mum?
I am able to work around my children, which gives me more time to be the mother that my children deserve.
They are a massive source of inspiration, they help me pick colour palettes, and help decide on which designs to put onto products. Some of my work appeals to children, as I often work with vivid colours.
I’m showing my children that I can still be successful and happy in my job, even though I don’t physically go out to work. My children are proud of me, they tell me constantly, they see my designs on products and they beam giant smiles. It confirms that I am doing the right thing.

JLW Illustration
Any downsides?
Not enough time. Because I do work around my children, it often means I don’t get to complete my daily tasks on time, or as quickly as I would like to.

How do you keep motivated?
I network a lot via twitter, Facebook and my Blog. Seeing the work of; and interacting with other like-minded creative gives me the drive to keep designing, keep making new products, and keep my blog up to date. I’ve made a lot of virtual friends over the last 6 months, and they motivate me and encourage me.

Would you change anything you’ve done in building and developing your business?
I’m still in the early stages, so I’m sure I have a long way to go, and will make a lot of mistakes, but I am prepared for that and am willing to take those challenges head on. I’m hoping I have learned enough from University and the E-Course to build and expand my business in the right direction.

What tips would you give anyone wanting to start their own design/craft/interiors business?
Do your research.
For a long time, I was confused by where my designs would fit in the market, I was adamant throughout university that none of my work would suit fashion, and yet at trade shows my work was admired most by those in the clothing industry. Although I sell mainly paper-based products, I have an online fabric store selling the same designs, because I now know that I didn’t really know much about the design industry and made assumptions early on.
Trend forecasting is also a must. Again, early on, I assumed I didn’t need to know anything about it, but now I see that I was just inexperienced and made an assumption that I could create my business without it. Trend forecasting and researching your industry is a must.

Find out more and follow Jennie on Facebook, or on Pinterest or at the JLW Illustration Etsy shop.

Thank you so much for sharing your journey so far with us Jennie. You really are an inspiration, and I’m in awe that you managed to complete your degree with 3 children!! I love that your children are so involved in your designs too and that they are so proud of you. Good luck for the future!


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1 Comment

  1. Helena Tyce
    February 20, 2013 / 9:31 pm

    Well done Jennie – your stuff is lovely and I agree that the children are such an inspiration 🙂 great dedication to get through studies with a 6 month old nipper! Recognition well deserved!

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