The most exciting project I have to date….Work Life is a Beach! This is the title for my book soon to be launched Spring 2014. In support of the book, I am on a mission to interview anyone who is looking to set up a new life by the coast whether to live and/or work. The plan includes brief interviews initially and then depending on your story I hope to produce a short filmed documentary that will be broadcast on this blog.
In the meantime, on this section of the blog you will find features about inspirational people and businesses who are already making a living by the coast.
If you live or work by the beach or planning to do so and would like to be featured, please drop me a message as I would be delighted to hear from you….
Talk about a woman capable of many things, not a ‘Jack of all trades’ but a ‘Master of all trades’, a busy yummy mummy and one who finds a good balance between city life and beach life. Jane Field Lewis is certainly a woman in demand and has recently been busy working with George Clarke on the very popular Channel 4 programme ‘Amazing Spaces’.
Here Jane tells me all about her cool and exciting career as a stylist and author and why escaping from the ‘big smoke’ for a bit of beach life is important to her.
What inspired you to set up MY COOL….?
The idea came in a moment of instant inspiration. Keeping my young son happy in the long school holidays by taking him fishing and camping meant hours sitting by lakes and rivers with me almost zoning out in a zen like way. On one of these trips I spied a very 1970’s looking caravan.. I loved it. It became a guilty pleasure and I felt instantly inspired by decision to purchase it. Almost without hesitation it was mine, the retro redecoration was underway, and the name ‘my cool caravan’ emerged along with the idea of a book. Now there’s ‘my cool campervan’ and ‘my cool shed’ with many more books in the ‘my cool’ pipeline.
Why are you attracted to living/working by the coast?
I grew up in Brighton, and I think if you have that sea-side living experience in your life it never leaves you. The beach was part of our family life. You would always find us there on Christmas morning, I’d often sit on the pier with my Grandma and my dad used his rickety old fishing boat to forage for us.
Although I live in London now, I’m only a short walk to the station and on a fast train I’m back there in 45mins. It’s my favourite place to escape to when I feel I need a day out by myself, find somewhere to clear my head and get some ideas flowing.
How do balance your day between being a successful stylist to art director and author?
It actually works quite well. Being a freelance stylist the jobs are usually time limited with a definite start and finish date and gaps in between. The books often demand my full concentration but I also need research and thinking time, which I can fit around my stylist work.
I genuinely love my work and feel blessed by that, so although I do actually work incredibly long hours it feels like a pleasure. In truth I think I’m never happier than when I’m stuck into a project.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love most that I learn so much all the time, and find inspiration along the way. Walking down the street you can see something or someone that gives you an idea. Watching a film, looking at a picture or even a conversation is a rich ground of inspiration too.
What are the highs & lows of running your own business?
Sometimes it’s the full spectrum of running a business that’s tough. That you have to be a book keeper, a computer department, a social media manager, run the stationary dept, plan strategically, as well as do the actual job. It can also be quite lonely at times developing your own business. I have developed a huge respect for business people and admire them greatly. You need nerves of steel, real determination and great vision.
However, running my own business has enabled me to be a working mother as well as keep a career flourishing, both difficult tasks. One major challenge was the old chestnut of childcare. It is so difficult to find sporadic help, both in irregular days and hours, and when you are styling on shoot, or pop promo’s the hours are extremely long and unpredictable. Overall though, it’s made me grow up to be self-reliant. I’m so much happier being my own boss!
Describe a typical ‘day in the life ‘ of your business?
It’s hugely varied. If we are shooting or filming we have to be on set for 7.30-8. If it’s a more regular day I am always up and working at my desk first thing, and then usually head out to appointments, see clients, prepare for a job. Like many stylists my car becomes my office during the day. I’m usually home by 7pm, then have an hour off, cook some dinner and then I’m back at my desk until about 10pm. There are always receipts and proper email replies that need dealing with rather than a rushed reply on the iphone. Then there’s always the next day to prepare for!
What and where has been your COOLEST find?
I recently got to visit a shop that I had admired from afar for a long time. ‘The Great English Outdoors’ is on Hay on Wye. I love it so much as it sells beautifully restored vintage Welsh blankets and quilts, neatly folded in open cupboards from floor to ceiling and rare breed sheepskins. Everything is beautifully curated and has a great sense of genuineness and integrity.
Which one piece of advice would you give to someone wishing to set up their own business?
Learn as much as you can along the way. A lot of it is instinct but I have found it really helpful over the years to talk to other business people, to read some books on the subject and to learn to challenge yourself and your own thinking. Quiet determination is a great friend of mine. It’s very hard to get to the answer in one step. It’s always a journey and a process that needs chipping away at over time.
What are your brief plans for the future?
There are plans for more ‘my cool’ books, and series 2 of ‘Amazing Spaces’ has just been commissioned for next year… oh and the day job still needs attending to 🙂
Where is your favourite beach?
Holkham Beach in Norfolk. It’s well known but that it has an amazingly wide horizon there and the lovely beach huts, sand dunes and bracing wind from the north sea clears the mind, and lifts the spirits every time.
Where is your favourite place to visit near the coast?
Lewes in Sussex is a big favourite of mine and only 15 minutes from Brighton. It has lovely individual shops, great architecture and it also means I can see my good friend and designer from ‘Amazing Spaces’, William Hardie, who lives and works there.
What is your most cherrished beach essential?
I have a bit of a thing about vintage beach towels. I’m always on the look out for them, both for aesthetic and practical purposes, and essential if you fancy an impromptu paddle or just to chill out for half an hour.
Books by Jane Field Lewis
All images provided from http://www.mycoolhomepage.com
Which city/town did you move away from? Where are you based now?
I’m based in Tenby and have been living here for nearly 10 years. I grew up in the Aberystwyth area and moved around a fait bit during my college years but always remained somewhere close to the sea. After a stint travelling I came home and ended up settling in Tenby and I love it.
What profession did you leave behind?
For a few years I taught Art and Design at a local secondary school and it was that profession that I left behind when I decided to bite the bullet and try my hand at working full-time as a freelance Illustrator. I did a degree in Illustration quite a number of years ago (I won’t say how many, ahem) and after completing it I had a variety of jobs from working on play schemes to weeding melon fields in Australia! But, I always knew that one day I would return to Illustration as a career, it just took me a while to get here!
Why were you attracted to living/working by the coast?
Clean air, beautiful beaches, healthy lifestyle, space, wildlife, the great outdoors, need I say more?! I can’t remember far enough back to a time when I didn’t live near the sea, so it’s not something that was ever really a conscious decision for me, I can’t for a minute imagine living anywhere where I’d be land locked.
Where did your business idea come from?
I studied Wildlife and General Illustration at college but it took me a long time to believe that I could make a go of it all on my own as freelancer, especially living somewhere like Tenby, which can be pretty isolated from the big wide world! I’d always done a bit of freelancing on a casual basis and painted in my spare time at home, but after a few years in teaching it just wasn’t quite cutting the mustard! I felt a bit stifled and was missing the days gone by where I got to spend all day on my own artwork.
How was the transition from old business to new ?
Frightening but liberating. It took a while for me to pluck up the courage and believe in myself enough to go for it. Friends had been encouraging me and telling me to do it for ages but it took a long time for me to find the confidence. Leaving the security of a well-paid job at the beginning of a recession was pretty scary and as some people thought, foolish, but the time just felt right for me. I settled into it quite well and the novelty of not getting up at the same time every morning and doing the same old drive into work and living life by a timetable still hasn’t worn off!
I think the hardest thing was not to freak out about money, which in the early days I probably did a little every now and then. I had to get used to being really careful with money as I earn a lot less now than I did in teaching and never usually know from one month to the next how much I’ll have coming in.
What are the highs & lows of running your own business?
Highs– Too many to list! I get to do what I love all day everyday and work rarely feels like work. I get to manage my own time so if I fancy spending the afternoon outdoors in the sunshine I can, unless of course I have a pressing deadline!
I get to work with some great people but sadly more often than not I usually only get to meet them over the phone or by email! That’s definitely one of the hardest things about doing what I do from Tenby, it’s quite far away from what’s going on out there in the rest of the world, thank God for the Internet!
Lows – Boring paper work and sometimes it can get a little lonely working on your own all day.
Describe a typical ‘day in the life ‘ of your business
Now that I’ve sat here and thought about it for a bit my days actually sound pretty dull! I‘ll usually start the morning with a coffee while I sort my emails, unless I’m working on a fine detailed drawing, in which case I’ll have tea as the coffee jitters can wreak havoc when I need steady hand! I’m normally interrupted at some point by ‘Shed Cat’, the friendly neighbourhood stray who seems to have taken a liking to my kitchen table! Depending on what I have on I’ll spend the rest of the day either drawing, researching, sketching, planning, working on the laptop , maybe taking a walk out at some point, weather and work permitting. I find that in the Spring and Summer I’m too easily distracted by wandering outdoors and will often end up working late into the evening if I’ve allowed myself too much time off during the day, but hey, that’s the beauty of being your own boss.
Working from home is great but I probably do spend far too much time looking out of the window watching what’s going on in the garden. I’m a bit of a nature freak and all too often can get side-lined by something as daft as watching a blue tit pecking around in the garden and before I know it half an hour has gone by!
As my workload varies so much the hours I work vary hugely from week to week. My days can start from anywhere between 7am-10am and finish anywhere between 5pm-11pm.
Which one piece of advice would you give to someone wishing to set up a business by the coast?
Allow yourself the time to step outside and enjoy where you are. After all, that’s the whole point.
What are your brief plans for the future?
I’m considering finding myself an agent so I can spend more time on commissions and less time on the ins and outs of boring paperwork! I’d also like to find the time to get back into painting; it’s been too long. I’d also like to set up a little screen-printing studio, just for myself as it’s something I’ve always fancied getting into.
Also, I’d quite like to write and illustrate a children’s book at some point!
Where is your favourite…
Beach: Priory beach on Caldey Island
Place to visit near the coast:Either Skomer Island for the Puffins or Caldey Island again, I’ve had some great trips over there with friends that I’ll remember forever.
What is your most loved beach essential? A blanket, either to sit on or for wrapping up warm.
All illustration images were courtesy of Millie Marotta
The Reefer Sail Company
As its Jubliee weekend, I thought The Reefer Sail Company needed a plug, especially, as in my opinion it represents all things British and coastal. From the moment I stumbled upon their website I wanted to buy every single product including their funky double deck chairs to the windbreaks and gorgeous door stops.
I am in the process of planning a trip to Devon to see my good friend Sarah from inspiredcamping.com and hope to pop into some shops that supply the reefer sails company goodies.
Here is a bit about the owners of Reefer…….it was founded by company directors Emma & Mark Turner in 2008. Re-engineering old sails and wings was a unique concept they had been thinking about since the 1990’s and and a relocation to Devon provided time, space and facilities to develop the idea. In 2012 Reefer now provides employment for 6 staff and is at the forefront of ‘upcycling’ sails and adventure sports equipment. They manufacture a diverse range of sailcloth products which are supplied to individuals, shops and corporate clients both in the UK and overseas.
Their home on county Devon is blessed with great coastlines and is famous for its seafaring and sailmaking past. These days it’s a county well known not just for traditional seaside holidays and stunning countryside but increasingly for quality food, art and craftsmanship. As a local employer Reefer is proud to be maintaining traditional manufacturing skills and playing its own small part in the resurgence of interest in quality consumer products not just designed but also made in Great Britain.
With Devon a natural playground for sailors, kiters and foot launch pilots many of the sails and wings are sourced within the county allowing for a very sustainable business model.
So not only is a cool and hip brand but its very eco-friendly with a fabulous promise of performance. The perfect beach lifestyle business!
Here is a lady who takes the beach where ever she goes. This fashion brand is beautiful and bursting with colour. Her designs are unique and her purpose inspirational! Here is a little bit about Anna….
‘I design and produce top quality surfy style clothing here in my little studio in Amroth, Pembrokeshire SW Wales.
Everything is limited edition……no more than 50 made of any same design, and many pieces made to order….you can have it as you see it or choose your colour and print or even request your own totally unique design.
These garments are not mass produced.
All the prints originate from my hand drawings and photographs which are then developed, made into screens and used to produce a print. Therefore each garment may have slight variations, making it even more unique.
My emphasis is on producing comfortable, colourful, fun, high quality clothing for all the family.
I use natural products and fabrics sourced in the UK whenever possible, and have a strong environmental and eco ethos, recycling materials and avoiding damaging chemicals whenever necessary.
I also run screen printing workshops for small groups and schools on request.’