2014 Winners Interview: Best Vintage Artist - Curious Pip / Sarah Burford
My name is Sarah and I'm the designer-maker behind the nostalgic art dolls and illustrations at Curious Pip.
I claimed my corner of the net in 2011 after starting a blog to keep myself creatively motivated. I'd not long become a mother and was struggling with the idea of going back into acting. I'd studied performing arts and worked on and off in the theatre for over 10 years. I'd lost a lot of ambition in my career and was desperate to stay home and create a niche for my ever constant sketching, making, and obsession with old movies.
I was studying illustration at night school and received so much encouragement from my tutor (who is a published children's illustrator) it gave me confidence to record my work in a blog. She also advised me to create my illustrated, storybook showgirls in different mediums — hence I began creating dolls. Each doll is fully imagined and my collection of vintage fabrics form a dressing up box of possible outfits. Every piece I create is entirely unique and reminiscent of another time. I make each piece by hand from a large table in my small nook of a studio space at home in Bristol.
What do you have planned for your business/yourself in the next year?
I've had quite a few 'moments' during this last year as to where I'd like to take my business and how I'd like to progress. I would definitely like to explore the idea of creating a published book. I need some time to focus on that. A collaboration would be good. It's a seed of an idea, but a path I'm excited and desperate to take. Because I work solely on my own I have difficulty in meeting everyone's requirements. With the run up to Christmas I have had to turn away some custom requests because there simply aren't enough hours in the day for me to create all the pieces I'm asked to design. Organising my time wisely as well as creating a line of smaller, simpler unique art dolls is a plan that dominates my sketch books. On a personal note I'd like to build up my collection of 30's gowns and wear more hats. I'm mad about hats.
What are your favourite Vintage Events?
To be honest I'm not really much of a 'Vintage Events' person. The National Vintage Awards was the first vintage focused event I'd ever been to. I love spending hours at flea markets and vintage fashion fairs though — I guess they're events. I collect old children's books, vintage clothes (the 30's is my favourite era) and I'm always on the look out for old pre loved dolls. I don't much care for old barbie or Blyth dolls but I do love old wooden Dutch dolls and 20's boudoir dolls. As long as they have character, they don't have to be pretty.
Why did you decide to enter the National Vintage Awards?
I was encouraged by friends and followers on social media. Twitter mostly. I really enjoy social networking and felt I could get a lot of my audience to vote for me in the online poll. It was fun, and maybe a little stressful. I had a bit of a wobble half way through and wondered why I'd put myself under so much pressure. I eventually put things into perspective and got really excited about staying in a lovely hotel with my husband, getting dressed up in my favourite vintage black velvet gown, getting tipsy and chatting to other interesting people with blossoming businesses.
How did you feel when you won?
On top of the world. I didn't think I was going to win, yet deep down I was so desperate to hear my name called out. I was very nervous when going up to collect my award. I knew I had to make a little speech and my mind was just completely blank! I still don't really know what I said!? Having worked as an actor and being used to a live audience didn't seem to help at all in this instance. I'm just glad I held off on the wine prior to the announcements!
What was the most positive thing about entering?
The feedback and support from all my social media followers, friends, family and buyers of my work. It's so lovely to know that your creations are enjoyed and appreciated. I also met and chatted with some incredibly interesting and inspiring people. People that I've kept in touch with online — hopefully I'll see some again at next years event.
What would you say to other people who are thinking about entering in 2015?
I would say go for it. It's a great opportunity to promote yourself. It is a challenge. You need to put some work in in order to get people to vote for you. I used to spend several afternoons a week emailing various people introducing myself and asking them if they'd vote for me. In that way you're also drumming up business and getting your name about, so it's all very positive. Social media is a key element these days in self promotion, love it or hate it it's here to stay. I would also say enter the competition light heartedly, don't get too strung up about votes. Competition is healthy but it's also an event that's got your business and passion at heart. The National Vintage Awards is about promoting the vintage scene. It's a tremendously friendly affair and everyone is so supportive. It's a big party — what's not to enjoy!
What business tip/quote would you give to anyone starting out in the vintage industry?
Be clear from the start what you want to do and what you want to achieve. Set yourself goals. Research your target audience and don't give up. Take yourself seriously and never sell yourself short. I always pride myself on offering good customer service. I answer every email I receive and do my very best to respond to every comment people make on social media.
How has being an NVA winner affected your business/yourself
For a start It's such an honour to have that little badge of recognition on your website. I'm really proud to tell people that I won best artist at The National Vintage Awards, people take you seriously if you have certain merits to your name. I have a steady and constant stream of commissions, a lovely space to work in and a good handful of regular clients. Business is good.
For more information visit Curious Pip.