Meet the Maker: An Interview with Abbie Imagine

Our ever so popular 'Meet the Maker Interview' feature is back for another year! I absolutely loved discovering more about the amazing makers behind some of the top small businesses that we are so fortunate to have on offer. However twelve months wasn't enough to reach as many makers as possible so I've rolled it out again in the hope that we can meet even more makers! We start off with an amazingly talented illustrator whose work I adore and I just know you will too...

1. Tell us a little about you and your business.

Hello! I’m Abbie, twenty something (I only have a few months left of saying twenty something, which makes me feel horribly old and I’m going to milk it to the very last second) owner of Abbie Imagine and I’m very lucky to be based in beautiful Cornwall. I’m never quite sure how to categorise my business because I’m constantly diving between ideas and seem to produce such a random mix of products! I suppose the simplest description is ‘illustrator’. I design greeting cards, prints, mugs and wrapping paper in an array of themes, from animals to literary inspired to tongue in cheek humour! I just like to make people smile in any way I can.

2. What inspired your business name?

I was just being very unoriginal! So, I started my business without any real expectations and simply needed something to call it. My name is Abbie and imagine is my favourite word because I can’t go a day without using my imagination, be it writing or drawing, so I mashed the two together and thought, ‘that will do!’ Sometimes I do wonder if I’d known it would become my full time job, if perhaps I should have gone a bit more classic and just used my name, but I’ve grown a bit attached to Abbie Imagine- it’s become part of my business identity, so I’d never really change it.

3. How did you first discover your passion for your craft?

Drawing is something that has always been part of my life. In year two at school, when the teacher asked me what I was going to be when I grew up, I said I was going to write books and draw the pictures. Those two dreams are still my every day. I draw pictures for a living and technically, I’ve written a book (I’m just avoiding the scary publishing part at the moment…)

4. How long has your business been running?

Five years. Gosh, I find that mad! But it hasn’t been full time for that long. It took little bit of nurturing (and luck) for it to grow.

5. What inspires your creations?

On the surface, I’m mostly inspired by the things I love. Books, animals, the glorious countryside that is Cornwall. But on a deeper level, I’ve always been inspired by my grandad, Ted.

My grandad was an artist. Not professionally, but he drew every day, often on whatever scrap of paper he could find, be it a letter that had come through the post or the back of a cereal box. He never used references, but the things that came out the end of his pencil were fantastic. I used to sit on the floor of his living room doodling in the back of his sketchbooks pretending I was half as good as him. When he’d go on holiday, he and my Nan always brought us back sketchbooks and pencils. He died when I was thirteen and then I kept drawing him instead of with him. I have one of his drawings on the wall above my desk and it pushes me every day.

6. What is your proudest achievement to date?

That I kept going even when things got tough. 2017 was a very hard year for my little business. I think it was a combination of Brexit, people’s spending habits changing and Etsy changing their algorithms (don’t you just hate that word? What does it even mean?!). Sales dipped hugely and the whole year became a real struggle. I began to wonder if this was it. Was this the end? Was it time to get a ‘proper’ job again? But the slow orders meant I had time on my side, so I decided to focus on my greeting cards, something I had put minimal effort into until then as most of my sales before had come from prints. Once I started designing them, I couldn’t stop and 2018 became a brilliant year almost entirely because of my greeting cards- one of my best years in fact (at least it would have been my best by far if Brexit hadn’t seen my expenses sky rocket, but I won’t make this political ha!). Supporting a small business really is as simple as buying ‘just a card’(as the campaign goes).

7. What is the biggest lesson you have learned?

That I must keep going! Just because things look bad at one point, it doesn’t mean they will stay bad. As long as you have passion and a dream to succeed, then you’re doing fine and everything is still in reach, even if things have momentarily gone wrong. Nothing is permanent. The creative landscape is constantly changing and there is always room for you within that. Keep going, keep doing what you love and you can turn it around. You can always turn it around.

8. What is your favourite make?

I love my Autumn Brew mug! I love it! Autumn is my favourite time of year. Drinking tea/hot chocolate is one of my favourite things to do. Bobble hats and scarves are my favourite things to wear and you get all of that in one little product! Whenever someone buys it, I get so happy that there are people out there that love each of those things as much as me.

9. What is the best feedback you have received?

Oh gosh, that’s a really difficult question. Every positive customer review I get on Etsy means the absolute world to me and just knowing how pleased someone is when they receive something I created feels like the best feedback each and every time.

Last year, off the back of my bad year and new focus on greeting cards, I had Spring Fair reach out offering me a stand at their trade show. It’s the next step I want to take with my business, but at the moment, we’re in the process of buying a house, so all finances are tied up in that for the time being and unfortunately, I couldn’t take the spot. We chatted back and forth for a while as I tried to decide if it was the right time for me (though ultimately, I couldn’t make it work), but it came at a time when her validation really meant something and showed me that I was on the right path- what she had to say about my products meant people were really interested in what I was doing and that was priceless (and definitely needed).

10. Is there anything you regret?

No. No regrets. Even the mistakes I’ve made have been invaluable and a lesson I needed to learn. I think success comes from the good and the bad.

11. What are your goals for the future?

I have so many ideas! The first step will be trade fairs. I fully intend to start attending and with that, I intend to expand my range of products. I have lots of ideas just waiting for the right time to be unleashed!

12. What is the best part of being a maker?

I love that by simply unleashing my own creativity and ideas, I can make other people happy. It might be a silly card someone receives on their birthday that makes them chuckle, it might be a print with a quote that resonates with them as much as it did me, but it’s something I can give to people, which is amazing.

13. What is your least favourite job to do?

Admin. I hate the admin side of running a business and honestly, I’m so bad at it. I keep the worst records. Tax time is a nightmare. Once I move and have a better studio/office space, I’m determined to get on top of it all. If I hate something, I have a tendency to avoid it entirely. It’s not the best quality to have a business owner and I really must work on it!

14. What advice would you give your old self?

Your style will come! I spent so much time when I was younger worrying about ‘my style’, but the thing is, you can’t overthink it. It’s not something you can force. It’s only in this last year or so that I’ve been able to look back at my catalogue and think, ‘oh! Look! I have a style! It’s all working together!’ and I didn’t consciously force that. It just happened by itself. So keep going, keep creating, keep doing what you love in whatever style you love and your own take on it will start shining through without you even realising it. It’s a natural thing and that’s what makes it yours.

15. What advice would you give other makers?

Never give up and don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t or you’re not good enough or you should try doing it this way or that way. Do what you want to do- always. No dream is too big and no goal is out of reach (like, I fully intend to be a bestselling author in the future. Potentially with a Netflix series deal. I just need to listen to my own advice… it’s a work in progress!).

A year from now, everything could be so, so different.

To find out more about Abbie and to see more of her beautiful work, follow her here:

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