Inspiring : Sarah Bagshaw {surface design}
sarah bagshaw - turquoise pop

sarah bagshaw – turquoise pop


It was while studying at art college that UK designer Sarah Bagshaw had her first serious encounter with pattern love. It all started when her Mum gave her some patterned 1960s bath towels that she’d had as a child; and Sarah’s work abruptly altered direction.


sarah bagshaw - green and yellow print

sarah bagshaw – green and yellow print


“I have been making pattern paintings since my degree in Fine Art back in the early ’90s, but it was only in the past three or four years that I have been making specific surface pattern design work. I started to work on a smaller scale and selling work on Etsy which is where Lesley Merola, owner of Hunt+Gather studio in the US found my work and suggested it would translate well to textile design.”

Being discovered by Hunt+Gather was incredibly exciting for her, and has been the catalyst for many things. More recently, Sarah has become a freelance designer for Lush Handmade Cosmetics, which she loves. “Their briefs are always fun and allow me to be as wild and whacky as I can!” Other clients have included 3M and Patternbank.


sarah bagshaw - bunting

sarah bagshaw – bunting


sarah bagshaw - print and digital

sarah bagshaw – print and digital


sarah bagshaw - drawn and digital red and blue triangles

sarah bagshaw – drawn and digital red and blue triangles


Working with a vocabulary of simple abstract shapes and lines, Sarah first creates the basis of her patterns with a variety of basic techniques – linocut, collage, bits of photographs, and painting – before scanning them in and then working “quite playfully on Photoshop until the piece is ‘finished’.” Building her images up in shifting layers of colour results in patterns that sometimes appear translucent, sometimes solid, but always vibrant and bold.

Surprisingly for someone who is so prolific, she told me she doesn’t actually have any designated work space of her own. “I sometimes use the art studios of the university I work at, but more often than not it is done on my knee, the dining room table or lounge floor!”


sarah bagshaw - green blocks phtographucs and digital

sarah bagshaw – green blocks photographics and digital


Despite her success with Hunt+Gather, becoming a full-time surface designer is still a little way off. She has been working as a university lecturer in general Art and Design/Education for the past 15 years, and has young children to care for as well, so there’s hardly a quiet moment to plan out her business future. “I have a huge list of things I need to focus on and learn to do…teach myself Illustrator, do my own tax return for example, but working as a lecturer for four days a week and having three young children I am not good at working through my lists. I used an accountant local to me for my tax return and although I’ve signed up for a Skillshare course on Illustrator I still haven’t found time to do it!”


sarah bagshaw - i am the black gold of the sun

sarah bagshaw – i am the black gold of the sun


Perhaps it’s because she’s too busy cleaning ;) . When I asked her if there was something quirky or curious about herself that she’d like to share, she said “Erm, I love vacuuming – but it has to be with a Dyson so I can see all the dirt.”


sarah bagshaw - 80s all over

sarah bagshaw – 80s all over


Sarah’s work has appeared in several recent trend reports, and she has been interviewed for a number of design blogs, including PatternBooth and Pattern Observer.

You can find more of Sarah’s work on her own site,


Inspiration : Carmel Debreuil {painter/illustrator}


carmel debreuil


Carmel Debreuil says that one of the greatest things about having been drawing and painting so long is that she doesn’t have to worry about whether the nose is straight or the eyes match. “I can spend more time thinking about the story. That’s a good feeling!”

And those stories fascinate; the clues are few and beguilingly inconclusive. We can only guess at what games of imagining those blue-skinned children are playing. They look serious, sometimes like they are downright displeased at being disturbed from what they are doing, but hints of other emotions show through – a bit of bemusement; a pinch of superiority. The characters become even more enigmatic when we discover that they are most often clad in a uniform of sorts – vintage glasses and cowboy boots, and a parade of strange headwear – viking hats, sombreros and crowns. “I see kids as these amazing creatures that are perfectly imperfect. Everyone seems to be in a rush to guide kids into adulthood and responsibility, but I’m happy if they want to hang out with a giant squirrel while wearing a Viking helmet and cowboy boots. I think childhood’s an amazing time and quite funny!”


carmel debreuil


Carmel’s cast of characters are drawn from a mix of many children that she has met, both past and present, but one she has been especially inspired by was from an old photo of her two older brothers, where one of them was dressed in similar vintage glasses and cowboy boots.

She paints directly onto plyboard, and utilises the grain and knots in the wood as part of the picture. Wood becomes patterns on dresses, animal skins, and an interesting textural element.



She is absolutely adamant about the need to have disciplined technical skills in the fundamentals of realism – drawing skills in perspective and proportion, and a solid understanding of colour theory.

“No child is just told to express themselves on the piano. They do scales. You learn the alphabet and spelling and punctuation before you write your novel.” It is an attitude that she learnt from her father, Canadian artist Marcel Debreuil, and those skills were honed when she lived in Paris, where she worked as a street artist drawing people’s portraits for a few years. “There was nothing quite like being nineteen and living in a hotel in Paris, eating out every day, living this fantastic bohemian life and paying for all of it being an artist. I not only paid for my lifestyle, but I saved heaps of money and travelled for a year afterwards. Dad was really happy that I had this skill that, no matter where I travelled and how much money I had, I could, if nothing else, barter a portrait for some food!”


carmel debreuil


Now Carmel makes her home on the NSW mid-north coast, where she lives with her husband and two small children. She paints full-time, but admits that it is a difficult juggle with family, and it’s important to stay focused on what you intend to achieve.

“I think my big advantage is that I’m ADHD and a bit OCD, so I have lots of energy but I can really focus it. It’s not unusual for me to paint for nine hours a day. Basically in the morning the kids get off to school, then I check all my emails and do some updates on social media. Next I would head to my studio and pretty much work steady til the kids get home from school. Sometimes if I’ve got a deadline, I’ll keep painting, but I generally stop so that I can make dinner. Dinner is family time and we really like to catch up and chat and connect. I do a lot of my business side of things at night in bed – I might start around nine or ten and then work til two in the morning. This means sending out query emails, updating social media, connecting with clients and that sort of thing.

“It helps to be organised so I make tons of lists. It helps to be obsessive and work til the job is done. I find the more I do, the more comfortable I am with doing a lot. I took a holiday to Bali last year and although it was great fun, I felt like it put me off my routine! I am most happy when I’m productive and the more productive I am the happier I am.”


carmel debreuil


Her father has been instrumental to her career in more ways than one. As well as learning skills from someone who worked as professional art teacher and artist in their own right, Carmel says it was really after her father passed away a few years back that things really started happening for her.


“Just after he died, he came to me in a dream. He said  “You need to be an artist.” That was pretty good advice.”


“In the dream he talked to me for about an hour about what I needed to do to make it happen. I followed his advice and things have not stopped getting better. It’s pretty freaking amazing. I wish he was here to see what those words meant to me and see how my life has changed as a result. Life is good.”

At the moment her studio is “a bit all over the place” as they’re smack bang in the middle of building it. “So in the meantime stuff is piled up here and there. I have staked out a space in a downstairs area that used to be where the kids played games, and I’ve moved the tellies into their rooms and so now it’s a space full of art supplies. We also have a big deck so sometimes I work out there if the weather is good. I’ve also worked on the kitchen floor on occasion! I’m not super fussy in some ways, ‘cos the desire to work is strong. But I tell ya, I can’t wait to have my own space. It’s going to be awesome! It’s going to be great ‘cos it’s going to be mine, mine, mine and only mine! I also want to teach classes there and have it as an open studio during holidays. Plans!”

“I feel so lucky and grateful that I’m making a living doing art again and supporting my family. Everyday I wake up and can’t believe my good fortune. Still there are highlights. I was stoked to be a finalist in the Portia Geach Memorial Award – that was a huge achievement. I’m also looking forward to creating my Archibald entry this year. I have the perfect subject and although it’s a secret right now, I think it’s also going to be one of those things that makes you pinch yourself. And you know, there is this warm fuzzy feeling every time someone buys one of my paintings and brings it to a new home. It’s pretty cool when people like your stuff!”


carmel debreuil



Carmel has shown her work in over 32 shows in the last two and a half years, throughout Australia, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. She has also worked as a portrait artist in Paris, Amsterdam, Mexico and Byron Bay, and has had her work featured in a large range of publications, including Ink and Arrows, and Australian Art Review.

You can find more of her work on her website,, but if you’d like to see it in the flesh, you can! She’s got a new solo show opening on Thursday, 16th April, 4-6pm at M2 Gallery, Shop 4/450 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills NSW. The opening night will also be featuring music from DJ JoeSpoon (Grinspoon) and international DJ Ewol.


Small biz how-to : Get yourself a mailing list (part 2)

Hiya! I’m glad you’re here again, because I really want to help you get a solid mailing list together – it’s a REALLY important thing to have in your business. If you think you don’t need one, think again – read Part 1 of ‘Get Yourself a Mailing List’ here, and find out why. {Part 1 also talks about what sorts of things you should be including in your newsletters. And it’s not all about you.}

So, no more chit-chat; let’s get stuck in.


How do you build your list?

Choose an email marketing service provider

Mailchimp or Aweber are by far the most commonly used, but there are many many others too. They offer lots of great tools for statistics and analysis, and if you’re starting small and/or you’re on a budget, Mailchimp is free for the first 2000 subscribers. However, if you upgrade to their paid service, they also offer lots of add-ons and extra tools which are useful. Aweber also offers a free 30 day trial.

ALWAYS use a double opt-in (this where people give you the email address, which then gets an email from the service asking them to confirm their subscription) – this helps to filter out dodgy spambots (double opt-ins are standard for Aweber and Mailchimp). It also confirms that the person is obviously seriously interested in what you have to say, if they have to work to get the information.


Make sure your opt-in forms are visible.

Um… perhaps a better word than ‘visible’ would be OBVIOUS. Don’t hide them away in tiny writing at the bottom of your page; be proud of what you have to offer! Good places to put them include the top of your sidebar, along the very top of your page (you can do this with the free Hello Bar), and very definitely include an opt-in form on your About page. You can even add in a pop-up – they are THE most effective way to build your list quickly (and p.s. they don’t have to be yukky. I use the free ITRO pop-up plugin for WordPress and I’ve found it great. You can set how big it is, how quickly it appears, and how frequently it appears for people who return to your site).  Another useful and obvious place to put your sign-up link is in your signature at the bottom of your email.


Keep it clean.

Another important thing to remember is to avoid clutter on your webpage. When people are confronted with too much choice, they tend to avoid decisions and just walk away… and by default they’ve just made a choice to take the NO option. Do you want that?  Think about how you react when you see a messy page! Look at your own page/s critically and make it easy for your audience to find what they want; you’ll be rewarded.


Give them a reason to subscribe

You might feel entirely comfortable with simply offering updates on new products. Some people go a bit extra and offer special discounts for subscribers. Sometimes, however, this alone might not be quite enough to entice people to give you their email address.

Especially if you’re offering services such as consultancy or coaching, it’s best if you offer something special and useful.  Think about what would be most helpful to your customers – a free e-book, a discount voucher, a list of resources, the latest market report, a printable – anything that suits. For instance, if you’re a portrait photographer, offer them a bunch of tips on how to prepare for the shoot – how to choose an ideal venue, what kind of overall feel they want, what clothes look best in photos etc. Don’t offer them a free recipe book because it’s nothing to do with what they’ve come to you for. People love free stuff, but only if it fits their specific interests at the time.


How often should you send?

That depends on what you’ve got to say and what you can manage, but most recommendations I’ve seen are for at least once per month, and probably every two weeks is better. If you send TOO frequently, you’ll end up with your subscribers getting bored and ignoring you – or worse, unsubscribing (unless of course you’re Seth Godin); and if you send something only once a year, people will have forgotten who you are… and probably unsubscribe as well. Whatever frequency you choose, be reasonably consistent with it too.


OK, so you want to get serious about getting a list

There is tons of great information out there. I am the queen of Google – I know. But I would suggest you start with these people –

  • I love Natalie Lussier! If you get onto her 30 day List Building Challenge, you won’t look back. She’s got tons of fabulous info, including a great Facebook group that she pops into fairly frequently.
  • As I mentioned in Part 1, Derek Halpern is also fab with the info on mailing lists. And he’s expert on the psychology of marketing, so he’s got some great info on what sorts of things you should include on your opt-in forms, and what to include in your newsletters.
  • And lastly, I love this idea of swapping skills for exposure to build your list, from Ben Settle on Copyblogger. It’s all about making connections – and I know that some of you might not feel confident enough to do this, but always keep in mind that those people that you look up too and admire – they’re real, and they started where you are now. Reach out, and you never know where it might get you!



Your newsletter is all about sharing with your customers, your audience. When you build up a relationship with them by being generous with quality information, they will reward you with loyalty, and they will reward you with glowing testimonials. And that’s how word spreads.


Have you got any burning questions about how to set up in Mailchimp or Aweber? Or you need help putting together your opt-in form? Anything else? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll find you an answer!




oh, and p.s. – you can join my email list here. I’ll be sending something to your inbox shortly. Spread the love!

Julie X


Small biz how-to : Get yourself a mailing list (part 1)
desert mailboxes

{image: ‘Desert Mailboxes’ by  Jillian Audrey, here}


If you’ve got a small business, you have to get yourself a mailing list. (I’ve written a little about it already, here – but I’ve got some more to say about why it’s an essential thing for your business, hence today’s post).

Derek Halpern of Social Triggers gives some excellent reasons as to why you should. He says it is WAY more effective than social media and he’s got some convincing arguments. For instance, the average person gets thousands of Twitter updates in their stream in one day, but most people get less than a hundred emails per day. For that reason alone, they’re more likely to open your email than click on a twitter link. Add to that the fact that if your customer is not looking at their twitter stream at around the time of your tweet, they are VERY likely to miss it. Your email remains in their inbox until they do something about it.

There are other limiting factors in social media too. Facebook in particular ranks posts, so that not everyone sees all of your posts (and depending on how active and engaging you have been in the past, your post might not be seen by very many people at all. Email has no ranking system. Guaranteed they’ll see it in their inbox.

Another compelling argument is that your subscribers, by definition, are already specifically interested in what you have to say. They’re already receptive to your ideas and what you have to offer. So, don’t disappoint them.


The point is this: everybody has an email address that they access on average a couple of times a day. Using an email to stay in contact with them is personal and direct.


What should you include in your newsletters?

DON’T just use your newsletter to sell, sell, sell (unless of course you set up that expectation with your subscribers in the first place). If you promise useful stuff on the opt-in form, deliver useful stuff.

Some of the biggies in the biz, such as Derek Halpern or Marie Forleo send out fab videos every week or so, posing a specific problem and explaining how to deal with it. Some others, such as Alexandra Franzen, simply share insights and ask thought-provoking questions.

You don’t have to be fancy to be helpful. Here are some of the types of things I always include in my email newsletters. There are lots more, just keep in mind who and what your customer is, and what they would find interesting.

Tips and tricks specific to your area of business are good. It’s always a pleasure to read Colette Patterns‘ newsletter, because they’ve always got great sewing tips – I’ve seen some really tricky, neat stuff, too!

You could include items of interest from elsewhere around the web. Keep it focused on the core content of your business; for instance you could include a great article you found, or reports on trends in your specific field.

Another idea is to base your newsletter around either a great quote, or an article you’ve found, or some insight that you have gained in your life/business recently. Amy from Pikaland does this, and I always love reading her stories and insights.

Lastly, yes! include your stuff – because this is the point of having a list in the first place, right? The idea is to present things to your potential customer that are of value to THEM – links to an article you wrote, pics of new work, a special discount code, what new ideas you’re working on. Of course, if you’ve got some special amazing thing that you’re launching and you’re very excited about, sure, headline it! Write the whole damn newsletter about it! That’s fine; just don’t make a habit of ONLY talking about yourself/your products in every email.




In part 2 of this post, I’ll show you how to build your list effectively, about how to choose an email provider, and other necessary stuff.

Email lists are important – When you build up a relationship with your customers by being generous with quality information, your customers reward you with loyalty, and word spreads.


That’s it!

oh, and p.s. – you can join my email list here. You’ll be getting mucho goodies in your inbox shortly. Spread the love!


Julie X