In this week’s podcast episode, we chatted with UK based embroidery artist Emillie Ferris about her journey navigating in the arts and Instagram space. When she first began to share her work on Instagram in 2013, there weren’t many other embroidery artists to take advice from. Thus she has had to go through trial and error and faithful Google researches to figure out how to improve. To continuously do research to better understand everything from pricing to reaching new audiences online, is essential. Especially today when there is more competition in the space than ever before. “When I first began to share my work, the embroidery hashtag had just a few hundred posts. But now it has several millions…”, says Emillie.
She feels incredibly fortunate to have been able to work full-time with her art straight out of University. Though she spends her days pursuing her passion, she still finds it important to highlight that it’s not always as glamorous as it seems. “I spend most of my time alone”. She misses to not have work colleagues and people to talk to throughout the day. The social and communal aspects of building a team at work are parts that you won’t have when working for yourself. However, it has pushed her to be more active on social media and to reach out to fellow artists.
“My Instagram friends and followers are like my colleagues. They encourage me in my work and make me motivated to improve”, she says.
One of the fellow artists that she frequently bounces off ideas with is needlefelting artist Dani Ives @begoodnatured that we talked to in episode #27. They both share a love for nature and do an incredible work on commissioned pet portraits. Since Emillie shared her first commissioned pieces about 4 years ago, she hasn’t been able to keep up with demand. This made her realise the need to set up a more efficient system. Instead of having commissions open on a non-stop basis, she releases spots in batches of five. “Every time I release a new batch I am super nervous that they won’t sell. And yet every time they do and it makes me so happy”, she laughs.
It doesn’t matter how far down the road of artistry you’ve come, self-doubt will always be there. What if people stop liking what I do? What if none will value it anymore? However, if you are able to use these questions as motivation to improvement, it can only benefit you. Even though Emillie is still working only with pet portraits, she has greatly improved her skills throughout the years. Each piece now takes her more time than they used to, but it is due to her increased attention to detail. “I am more meticulous in my process now”, she explains.
“The most difficult to embroider is the central area, because it has so many tiny hair that grow in varying directions”
With thin thread and short stitches she carefully works to capture each hair of the pet she embroiders. She thinks close observation and attention to each stitch is the most important if you aim for realism in your design. Additionally, the colour choice will also play a big role in the final outcome. “As opposed to painting where you can create unlimited number of shades, you only have a set number of coloured threads”. Emillie finds it a fun challenge to master realism with only a limited number of colours. It pushes her to pay even more attention and improve her skills.
Considering the growing competition in the space, it’s even more important to make sure you master your voice. Emillie’s advice is to go for a niche where your audience knows what to expect from you. Whenever she plans a post, she always imagines herself in the shoes of her followers. She likes to feel inspired with quality content from the artists she follows and wishes for her followers to feel the same. Thus she rather posts more seldom but high quality than the inverse. It’s very interesting to see the different strategies and stand points that artists make regarding their frequency to post. Thus it’s a good idea to take a moment and reflect on what approach you feel speaks the most to you.
“If you start out today, make sure you choose a subject that you really love”, Emily recommends.
If the path to online success is being niched, it is even more important than ever before to choose your subject wisely. In last week’s episode with Emily @salt_stitches we talked about the same topic, where she emphasises to look for inspiration from within. In this way you can be certain that you work from a place of honesty. If you want to work in the arts you have to listen to your voice to be able to make your authentic footprint in the space.
However, there is a risk with being too niched where you can feel limited in your creativity. Emillie for instance dreams about doing more human portraits as well and not just animals. Thus through our discussion we played with the idea to put more emphasise on style. If you manage to find a style so that people know who a picture in their feed comes from without having to look at the name of the artist. There is certainly a high level of style in the way of choosing colours, and making the stitches. But is that enough to make yourself distinct from the crowd?
Listen to the full interview!
If you’re curious to know more about Emillies practise and reflections after 4 years of experience as a full time embroiderer, don’t miss to hit play at the recorder! We go into more detail on techniques to figure out your pricing point, how to look for holes in the market, the role of Instagram and essential steps to take to cover your back in case your Instagram account would get shut down.
Recommended book in the episode: “Real artists don’t starve” by Jeff Goin.
Find our online courses at Charles and Elin Academy