When did you set up your business and why?

I’ve been a craft maker for as long as I can remember. I always dreamed of having a creative career, but for a long time it was just a dream.

I sew, knit, love paper crafts and jewellery making to name a few.

When I was in secondary school, I had a pocket money business taking in my friend’s jeans on my nana’s sewing machine. It was the 80s, drain pipe jeans were a thing. The rule was, if you could sit down, they weren’t tight enough!

In 2010, I had started to paint my little characters, which I call Polly Dollies. I attended a few craft fairs and had sold some prints and cards.

In 2011, the business I worked for closed due to the recession. I decided to take a year off to be at home with my children and also spend it learning how to sell what I was making.

In a dream world, I would stay at home and make things and people would just knock on my door wanting to buy it… it didn’t happen!

Felicia Thomas' collection includes prints, cards, cushions and notebooks. \ Nada Simonne Creative

In 2012, I went to my Local Enterprise Office, registered with Revenue, and suddenly I had a business! It was very slow, I was doing as many craft fairs and markets as I could and also teaching crafting classes to adults and children.

Then in 2013, I had an accident in which I lost 80% use of my dominant hand. Part of the rehabilitation was to paint.

I had to learn to hold pencils and brushes differently and honestly thought that the arty part of my life was over. I also thought that I would never be able to do a 'real' job again.

But every cloud has a silver lining. Because I practised so much, I actually improved my art and then I thought, if I can’t do a real job (as in working for someone else) I will just be self-employed.

I started to supply my prints and cards to shops, introduced more characters to my collection and added cushions and notebooks.

Can you explain your process?

The Polly Dollies are collages. I start with a wooden board, which I cover in papers, fabrics, acrylic paints, inks, stencils – anything I can find to create an interesting background.

The dollies’ faces are drawn with pencil, sometimes the clothes are painted or I use fabric or paper. There are lots of tiny details that go into a painting to create layers of interest.

Then I layer everything together and quite often add a quote or sentiment.

Before the original painting is framed, I scan the image. Then I can use it to make limited edition prints or resize it to create cards or bookmarks.

The cushions are made in Donegal by Pixalili. I send them my images and they send back the most beautiful velvet cushions. And my notebooks are outsourced to Badly Made Books in Cork.

I also paint pictures of whimsical houses. These are also collage, again painted on wood as it doesn’t sag when you put pressure on it. I tend to have a similar colour palette, lots of soft blues and greens with splashes of bright colours.

What is your best-selling piece?

This is hard to answer as I make lots of different things.

My ‘Polly Rabbit’ print is very popular, as is ‘Imagination’.

I wrote a children’s book in 2021 and the publisher recently told me they are doing another print run, which I am thrilled about!

What is it about your business that brings you joy?

When someone buys one of my prints because they fall in love with it.

They look at the character and it reminds them of a person they love.

When I meet someone who gets my quirkiness and shares my love of the whimsical.

I was doing a book reading in the library and a little girl asked me to sign her book. That made me so happy.

I’m really good at starting things, but not great at finishing them. So, I’m happy that I can paint one day, but be updating my website the next or meeting with shop owners.

It’s the variety that keeps me interested – that and a fast approaching deadline!

Occasionally I am asked to do a commission. Working with a customer to produce something personal to them is very special.

What are your hopes for 2023?

I have so many!

This year I want to increase the amount of shops I stock. At the moment they are all in Kerry and Cork, so maybe Dublin or Galway?

I intend to take part in more markets and fairs. I love meeting customers and chatting with them.

I’m going to start teaching art and craft classes again. I stopped during lockdown and haven’t got back to it yet.

Kerry-based artist and illustrator, Felicia Thomas. \ Nada Simonne Creative

Patreon is something I’m looking into. Building a community of like-minded people based on art and friendship is a huge goal.

I’ve started to film an art class that will be available on my website. I just have to learn how to edit it now!

And of course, there is the next children’s book…..

What advice would you give to another start-up business?

I really believe people regret the things they didn’t do, rather than the things they did. It can be scary. There will probably be a lot of self doubt, but my advice is do it anyway!

Do your homework, reach out to your enterprise office and learn as much as you can.

Learn who your ideal customer is. Watch YouTube and Skillshare to learn new skills, such as website maintenance and how to keep your accounts.

If you want to start a creative business, join a Facebook group called 'Bite the Biscuit'. There are thousands of friendly, creative people who can answer any question on any subject. It was the best advice I was given when I started.


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