Jane Livesey is an artist who trained as a Sculptor and Printmaker. She an MA in Art as Environment and has worked extensively for many national museums and galleries in developing both formal and formal education programmes and resources. Jane now runs Pinkyminky.com, where she makes and sells her own unique handmade toys and dolls. She is married with three children.
“…One of the things about having children I have found, is that they do make you brave. I don’t just mean going down the swirly whirly slide at the swimming pool…”
I have an M.A. in Art as Environment – I am a sculptor. In a previous life I had worked for and in Schools, Galleries and Museums, developing creative forms of interpretation and activities. This had started as a small aspect of my creative practice, but rapidly took over as the main focus of the work. When I had our three children, this focus shifted unalterably.
I wanted to take the opportunity to make a little business out of simply doing things that I love
I know lots of people say they wanted to make things for their children when they started sewing and to a certain extent this is true for me, but really, (if I am honest) I wanted some time to make things to please myself.
My previous work had shifted far away from making things for a living, and with so many demands now on my time, I wanted to take the opportunity to make a little business out of simply doing things that I love.
I started making my little doodles of cats and birds and other animals into dolls, and my toys have developed as I learn more about how to sew. I approach my toy making very much as my sculpture; I never use ready-made patterns but work from my own drawings and from my imagination.
Opening up a whole wealth of techniques to master. Sewing as an act of rebellion…
I really enjoy learning new skills and sewing toys has opened up a whole wealth of techniques for me to master. I had always wanted to sew but it was not encouraged in the Fine Art world I had experienced at Art School, so it does feel a little bit like an act of rebellion!
The simple, yet empowering notion of selling what you make
I wanted this new endeavour to work as a business. I have never wanted to make things just for a hobby. I have always very much enjoyed the satisfaction of earning a living through making. Selling what you make is a simple notion, but also empowering.
My children have no fear in putting themselves forward, and see no reason why I should
One of the things about having children I have found, is that they do make you brave. I don’t just mean going down the swirly whirly slide at the swimming pool, I mean plunging myself into the world of social media and promoting what I do – my children have no fear in putting themselves forward, and see no reason why I should.
There are opportunities now, online, for makers to reach their audience, and each other, directly, and this is a fantastic opportunity. There is a lot to learn and there are important choices to make.
Steep learning curve
It has been a steep learning curve – I had no real interest in social media beforehand and had no idea there were such things as business pages on Facebook, which is now where the bulk of my custom orders come from. It suits my business style – I want it to be a personal experience for customers.
I tried a couple of fairs and PinkyMinky handmade toys was born…
One of the big surprises for me is how quickly it all took off. I tried a couple of fairs, with quite low expectations, which were immediately exceeded. PinkyMinky was born I and have not stopped selling since.
Though I really like to spend quite a lot of time alone working, the fairs are a real buzz – I enjoy engaging with my customers and other stall holders. I do supply a small number of shops which I balance with meeting the demands of my customers.
My main market is The Treacle Market in Macclesfield, Cheshire, which is a fantastic event that is very enthusiastically supported by people in the area.
Plans for my business: Mass production is not one of them!
I had no idea when I started out that my makes would sell so well. I have plans for my business. Mass production is not one of them! I have a desire to make things more complex, more hand finished, more unique, I am always striving to make my toys more like those in my imagination. It’s all about learning, discovering – about what you do, about yourself, and what the possibilities are. And enjoying it.