“Creative Change” is a monthly series where I have the pleasure of interviewing people who have made the transition to a creative career. My hope is that through these profiles, inspiring stories are shared and readers can take away learnings from the experiences of people who have successfully been through the process.
Today I want to introduce you to Louisa Blackmore. Louisa is the founder and owner of West Egg Interiors which is an online store that sells antique and vintage one-off pieces of furniture, home accessories, gifts and quirky interiors products. The company is based in Blunham, Bedfordshire in a converted barn which also hosts a number of workshops related to home and interiors. In addition, West Egg also offers a design service, sourcing service, and soft furnishing design and make up service.
What I really admire about West Egg’s philosophy is that they believe in reusing already existing furniture and bringing it back to life and thereby helping out the planet.
*With each phase of Louisa’s life I have provided a timeline that indicates the amount of time in years each phase has taken. I think this is important to know for someone who is starting out that things don’t necessarily happen overnight and highlights that your past learnings are an accumulation of what you can achieve in the present.
Here is Louisa’s story…
After I left school I went to Durham University to study Law. I graduated in 2003 with a 2:1 degree. I didn’t have a burning desire to be a solicitor or a barrister, but then again I didn’t really have a burning desire for any particular career. I knew it was a good degree to get, so I thought it would give me options for when I graduated.
By 2010 I’d been working on the legal desk at a hedge fund in London for 4 years. Although I really value the experiences I had, and the knowledge, skills and work ethic I learned while I was there, I was really hopelessly bored and frustrated.
I set up West Egg because I love interiors, I love antique and vintage furniture and home accessories. I feel deeply passionate about the field I now work in, most of my waking moments are spent thinking about interiors and I love that I had the freedom and support to make my passion into my job.
Of course I only had limited experience of furniture restoration when I started so I did a course in Cornwall on restoration right at the beginning. Since then I’ve done many courses on everything from upholstery, to calligraphy, to blogging. Learning new skills is one of the most fun things in life. I was lucky to get tons of advice from family and friends, I still have a list of go-to people depending on the topic.
The workshops are a peculiar by-product of the business. I never intended to run workshops, it started with a chance conversation with an interior design studio on twitter. They asked me to go in for a meeting to arrange for some furniture to be painted. While I was there, they asked if I would speak at their open day. I did a talk, and then some clients asked if I taught a class. The team there persuaded me to put together a fun one day workshop, so I did. It was that simple! 6 people booked, which was baffling to me because the maximum number was 6. I was petrified when I first started, but after 5 minutes I relaxed and really enjoyed it. Since then, I have taught over 100 furniture painting workshops and each one is different. It’s inspiring and interesting for me to see how people interpret the skills I share with them, and of course I love to see how they transform their pieces and put their own stamp on it. The thing I’ve learnt from teaching workshops is that sometimes the simplest tricks and tips are the ones that people most appreciate it.
TELL ME 3 THINGS YOU LEARNT FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE OF TRANSITIONING TO A CREATIVE CAREER
Firstly, that running a business is the most rewarding (paid) work I’ve ever done. I really love the fact that I am responsible for all aspects of the business, and that every day I learn something new. Secondly, I learnt that no matter how hard you try to plan, you really can’t predict what will work and what won’t. Thirdly, every contract I negotiated, every exam I took, every meeting I attended all stood me in really good stead for setting up on my own. For a while I thought I’d wasted my legal training, but now I can see it’s what has helped me the most.
WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF RUNNING A CREATIVE BUSINESS AND THE WORST?
Doing something I love, rather than something that just pays the bills. I mean, the bills need to get paid obviously, but I feel really lucky that I can pay them by doing something I am so excited and passionate about. I get emails from people telling me how they hate their job and they just want to quit, but they feel trapped for whatever reason. That’s really tough. Life’s too short.
Having to do absolutely everything yourself, from coming up with a coherent business strategy, to mopping up the floor after a workshop. The responsibility can sometimes feel so heavy, and things inevitably go wrong, some things just don’t work and you make stupid mistakes along the way. My parents both have a very strong work ethic and I think I learnt from them that when things get difficult, you work smarter and harder.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ANYONE WHO IS THINKING OF CHANGING CAREERS INTO THE CREATIVE FIELD?
If you work your socks off, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve. It’s so true you get out what you put in so throw everything you’ve got into it and see what happens.
WHAT DO YOU ENVISAGE FOR THE FUTURE OF WEST EGG?
We want to continue growing the retail side of the business, and adding more classes to our workshop programme at the barn in Blunham, Bedfordshire. I personally will be teaching workshops in different locations over the next 6 months and we are adding online courses so that people all over the world can take part in the workshops. We’ve just launched our Design Springboard service which gives customers a design brief to kick start their interiors project. We recently hired interior designer Angelique Wisse to run this service, and it’s great to have her join our team.
What I love about Louisa’s journey is that she didn’t need to seek a formal qualification to start. She went and learned what she needed to and was still able to successfully change into a creative career. I really admire her work philosophy that you get out what you put in and agree that learning new skills is one of the most fun things in life.
Louisa holds a variety of workshops related to interiors from furniture painting and restoration to starting your own creative business – you can check them out here.
I wanted to thank Louisa for taking the time to participate in this months Creative Change interview and wish her and West Egg great success in the future.
Till next time, Doris
Image Source: Photography by Charlotte Murphy Photography