I have always loved ceramics, my Dad used to have a potters wheel and I used to enjoy the feeling of clay squeezing through my fingers as a little girl. So naturally as I’ve got older I have always appreciated the skill and craftsmanship it takes to make something beautiful. This weeks Creative Corner interviewee does just that. I hope you’ll enjoy MB designs work as much as I do.
Hi, I’m Mandy Billington, an illustrator based in Staffordshire. Born in London I then moved to just north of Edinburgh, Leicester and then Staffordshire which is where I was fostered to by a lovely family at age 6. I’m a single Mum to Charlie 11 and Alex 9, 2 cats Jasper (with a missing tail) and Simba. Home is a Victorian terrace and my passion is historical buildings. If I’m not visiting drawing or photographing beautiful British towns you’ll find me somewhere warm with a sketchbook and a glass of red!
Tell us a bit about MB Designs.
My business is a new business and my illustrated tableware is selling well locally with Chester and the Cotswolds lined up next. I also do commissions and recently did a series of drawings for a coffee shop. A joy to do as it was formally a toy shop so gave me the opportunity to research and draw Victorian toys, old prams and the penny farthing. Starting my own business has been one of my life goals for many years but now is the right time. Unfortunately I split up with my ex husband 3 years ago and so it was finding something that would work around the boys. This was the perfect solution (not the easiest)! Having returned to university later on in life I studied Contemporary Craft and specialised in ceramics. My studies are continuing and I have another year on the Ceramic Design Masters course in Stoke-on-Trent. Where could be better to study ceramics I feel very blessed and my china is all made in Staffordshire which is crucial to my business.
Explain your creative process.
My creative process is first and foremost to look and really see all the time. We were taught to always look up! Essential to my practice is drawing on location. I set out with a camera, tablet and sketchbook. Taking hundreds of photos and drawing outlines on my tablet enables me to capture the information to take home and finalise drawings. From the line drawings I then add colour on photoshop and then my designs are screen printed. The decals are then transferred by hand onto the fine bone china and fired to ensure quality and endurance of design. The week is very varied and there is no average week which is fantastic. Monday is my office day, setting up for the week, paperwork, invoicing, deliveries etc. Tuesday is university which can involve design work, painting, colour testing and discussing new surface pattern options with my lecturer. Other days involve networking, marketing, mentor meeting, drawing, making up orders and social media.
What’s your biggest seller?
My biggest seller has to be my half pint jug with the yellow hall on. A great size jug for the family dinner table for gravy, custard etc but many people buy it to use as a vase. As you can imagine I have a house full and it gives me an excuse to buy flowers for myself!
What have been the high and low points of running MB Designs?
Gosh I knew it would be a rollercoaster but I hadn’t anticipated quite how fast it would be. The highs are when you get asked to judge at National events and are commissioned to draw someones home. Home is so precious and so it’s a privilege to be asked to draw these. The lows are when you’ve been at a fairs before Christmas where your wares have been broken and you drive home in blinding snow wondering if you’ll survive!
What would be your top tips for running your own creative business?
Creative businesses are like no other, as a creative with a small business you have to learn pretty quickly to become a sales and marketing person too. Working from home you have to become more organised otherwise it becomes overwhelming. Use social media, it’s not an option to avoid it. Say yes to as much as you can but don’t become a busy fool.
What are your aspirations for MB Designs?
I want my work in some of the finest shops in the land. That’s why I’m doing my Masters because my wares will be unique and this will push my practice forward. More than anything I want to take my boys to Florida just once before they leave home. Giving back is part of my plan and I want to mentor care leavers to become all they can be. My favourite car is the Austin Healey Frogeye Sprite so for one Summer I’d like to own one and drive the South of France with my shades on and a scarf blowing in the wind.
Where can we find you?
Hope you’ve enjoyed my interview, if you want to find out anymore of follow me I’m on Instagram www.instagram.com/billingtonmandy Facebook Mandy Billington Artist and my etsy shop is
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