I have always had a great love for nature and the outdoors; for as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by birds.
When I was younger my grandad had an aviary in his garden. I loved to watch the colourful canaries and zebra finches flapping around and the sweet little quail at the bottom of the enclosure, pecking up the dropped seed and making funny cricket noises.
I spent a lot of time poring over dusty field guides and when I was a little older, keeping my own pet budgies.
Fast forward some ten odd years and I find myself living in a two bed flat with my patient boyfriend and our ever-growing flock of finches and quail. At the last count there were 30 of them! If you’re wondering where they live, (a very reasonable thing to wonder) it’s the spare bedroom. Or as it’s affectionately known in our household, “The Bird Room.”
So really, it was inevitable that anything I created would be inspired by my everlasting love for our feathered friends.
I became aware of Etsy in 2012 and since then I have been hooked, loyally shopping small and independent whenever possible. There’s something about products that have been designed or crafted by a real human being that feels so personal and special to me, not to mention the quality is far superior to that of mass produced. I have always had my own somewhat unique sense of style so couldn’t think of anything worse than wearing a necklace or piece of jewellery that a million other people had. And at the end of the day, I just think it’s a really nice, glowy feeling to know that by buying small you are supporting someone’s dream, not just buying some faceless CEO another expensive car.
I am a naturally creative person, and I have tried my hands at all sorts, from knitting to clay, to painting and everything in between. I had been toying with the idea of opening up my own Etsy shop for awhile, maybe a year or so before I actually did. I followed a lot of creative people on instagram, admiring those that could make an actual livelihood out of selling the things they created. My problem was I didn’t know what media suited me best of all, or even what I really wanted to sell. This meant I spent a long time observing others but not actually doing anything myself. One day I decided to just go for it and to create the things that I would want to buy. I am a big fan of junk jewellery and, as I mentioned earlier, birds so I decided to combine my two passions and make bird jewellery. I called my shop ‘Pretty Little Finch’ as a play on the saying ‘pretty little thing’ as I think birds are really beautiful and I do love a good pun!
With Pretty Little Finch I initially wanted to focus in on the birds we spot in our back gardens with an emphasis on colour and pattern.
One of my hobbies is feeding and documenting the birds that visit my own tiny little garden. Sometimes I will watch them for hours, camera in hand ready to snap photographs through the glass patio doors. I quite often share updates on the birds visiting my garden over on my blog. My first design was the wooden blue tit necklace which was directly inspired by the blue tits that regularly visit my garden and (well-stocked) bird feeder. I adore the bright colours of this particular bird (yellow being my favourite colour!) and thought it would work well as a little necklace.
I loosely based this design on a photograph I took of a particular feathered visitor. The process started with me sketching, then painting the blue tit in acrylics. I probably created five different alternatives before I settled on a final design that I was happy with. Afterwards I adjusted the image digitally, cleaning it up but keeping in little details such as the brush strokes in the paint. The reason I did this is because I wanted the design to look like something I had sat down and painted which of course, is what I had done. I think that gives it a bit more of a handmade and personal feel which I like, I definitely think it’s important to put a piece of yourself in to your work.
Shortly afterwards I created another design, the robin. Robins are without a doubt one of my favourite birds and I wanted to immortalise my most beloved garden visitor. They say that when you see a robin it is the sign of a loved one who has passed looking down on you. I see robins on an almost daily basis and have even managed to feed them from my hands before. I sometimes wonder if perhaps the saying is true, and my visitors are a sign that my also bird-loving grandad is still with me in a way.
The nuthatch and bullfinch followed. These are two birds that I greatly admire for their vibrant plumage. I have never been lucky enough to spot either of these birds in my garden but I would be very excited to and knew they would make lovely pieces of jewellery. I built up a portfolio of designs quite quickly but to this day I still have a pile of painted birds that I would like to turn in to necklaces if the opportunity arises.
Now, as anyone with an Etsy will tell you, starting a shop is never easy and business doesn’t just come flooding in right away. I struggled quite a lot at first and began to question myself as a creative, nevermind as a business woman. I started to share stories of my garden birds, my pet birds and my ideas over on blog to get people to understand what Pretty Little Finch was, and is, all about. Around this time I faced some harsh criticism surrounding my work which was pretty disheartening. I experienced moments of feeling like a total failure and wanting to give up, but instead I decided to try something new.
I am a collector and a hoarder. There’s nothing more satisfying than adding an elusive piece to a collection. One of the things I like to keep is enamel pin badges and right now the market is absolutely saturated with amazing pins created by talented designers. Despite all the wonderful designs I couldn’t really find anything bird-related. This gave me the idea to create the pin I wanted to wear most of all.
This time I wanted to play with colour a little more. I designed the blue tit hard enamel pin in a palette of pastel colours. This was obviously a little different from the necklaces I had been creating before but, it felt like quite an organic move and I was still creating out of my love for birds. The pin is probably my most favourite item in the shop and it has been doing pretty well; I have been getting a lot of positive feedback from customers which is so incredibly nice (and validating.)
It’s still early days and baby-steps for Pretty Little Finch but I hope bigger and better things are to come. At the moment money from sales is going back in to the business, paying for the costs of production. When Pretty Little Finch really takes flight I’d like to be earning enough to make a contribution to my everyday life. After all, 30 beaks is a lot of beaks to feed! I also want to create a sense of community around my shop and blog. I’m very much open to collaborating with others, supporting other shops and organisations, running competitions and taking in feedback. This is not my fulltime work but I think that’s every creative’s dream really; to be able to live off of what you create. There is nothing nicer than seeing someone wear something that you have designed and created. Having an Etsy shop can be difficult and a little depressing at times but when someone tags you in an instagram post and it’s a picture of them wearing your piece, well, there is no other feeling quite like it.
Birds will always be my biggest inspiration and I still want to keep creating items that budding ornithologists can wear with pride. As Pretty Little Finch grows and develops though, I would like to introduce different designs and incorporate other animals and wildlife in to my ranges, inspired by the animals I like to photograph. I also want to diversify from necklaces and pins (although there are definitely more pins in the pipeline!) and create tote bags, stickers, brooches and more. The one thing that will never change is my love for the subjects I am immortalising and my passion for creativity and independently produced jewellery and accessories.
Originally published at https://www.nfreads.com/article/the-inspiration-behind-pretty-little-finch/