The Getting To Know series features interviews with makers, artists, designers and small business owners at all different stages of their careers. I’m always interested in how other adventurers in the world of creative entrepreneurship run their businesses, get inspired and how they got started in the first place.
Like quirky illustrations? Think Wes Anderson is a genius? In need of some visual inspiration? Then you will love Andsmile! Viktorija Semjonova, the super-talented artist behind the brand, is a must-follow on Instagram and deserves piles of Etsy hearts. Let’s get to know her:
Hi Viktorija! To start with, I’d love to know a little bit about you and your business.
My name is Viktorija and I’m the person behind Andsmile. I’m a Latvia-born and London-based illustrator and maker. AndSmile is a quirky brand, specialising in novelty brooches and paper goods (prints & postcards), and also offers custom illustration services.
Did you always know that you wanted to be an illustrator?
Since I was a small child, all I wanted to do was draw, make stuff and imagine things. But at the age of 14, I was reading a book by one of my favourite authors, E.T.A Hoffmann, and saw the most beautiful illustration. It moved me so deeply that all I could think about was that I wanted to become an illustrator.
What’s the story behind the name “Andsmile”?
I find it very hard to express myself in words and using my name for a brand was out of question (it’s too complicated and people rarely remember it) so the only idea I had was that I wanted to make people happy, to make them smile when they would see quirky brooches and colourful drawings, so hence the name.
Where do you find inspiration for your illustrations and products?
A lot of my illustrations are based on popular culture – Wes Anderson films, some tv shows, artists and musicians. Also, a big part of my work features my imaginary friends – like Party Fox or Panda with balloons, they all have stories, hobbies, families and their own lives.
Do you have a favourite medium to work with?
Watercolour is my absolute favourite! It’s so much fun and a little unpredictable.
What’s your best-selling item? Do you have a favourite?
My absolute best-selling item is the Frida brooch. She’s travelled all over the world! My favourite item is always the one I am working on, I get very excited about current work.
What does your typical work day look like?
My work day starts with a cup of delicious, gorgeous coffee, while I write down my to do list for the day. Then I pack orders, reply to emails, do a post office run and get busy with commissioned work, wholesale orders, working on new products or whatever else needs to be done that day. Plus some social media squeezed in between (I am not very strict with planning though).
What do you love about running your own business?
The freedom to say no. The opportunity to stay true to yourself and your values.
What do you find the hardest?
Taking time off. There is always another thing which needs tweaking, something else which needs to be done, another email to be answered…
How do you feel about social media? Do you have a preferred platform?
I am an instagram addict, I love this visual platform so much! It’s a perfect place to share and to meet people. I really enjoy using all social media outlets but instagram in particular. Probably because so much of my time is spent working alone in the studio, I enjoy it even more and treasure the opportunity to connect with like minded people!
Your products can be found in online and brick & mortar shops around the world. Do you have any tips for getting started in wholesale?
My main tip would be to make sure your pricing works, that you are getting your fair share and making money and that your fabulous stockists are getting a good percentage for all their hard work.
Do you have any secrets to balancing business and life while working from home?
Absolutely not! I really would love to but I find it very hard. However, I am working on improving my life/work balance. This year I am taking at least one day off a week and trying to treat my body to occasional exercise, both of those things boost creativity, help me to think more clearly and be more productive.
What would your perfect day off look like?
Waking up to a cup of coffee and freshly baked cinnamon roll, then take a forest or beach walk/cycle, visit an exhibition/book/stationery shop or have a market stroll, warm food, a nice magazine/book/film and some snuggles with my partner. So pretty much all things nice in one day please!
If you could give someone just starting out on their creative business journey some advice, what would you say?
I wish I was in a position to give someone advice but I feel that I’m in the very beginning of this creative journey myself! But if I could give advice to myself in the past, I would say – do what you love, believe in yourself and stay positive, keep going no matter what, and (very important) be nice to people!
Treat Yourself To Some Andsmile
Connect With Viktorija
Instagram – @andsmilestudio
Twitter – @andsmilestudio
Facebook – Victorija’s Illustration
Blog – Andsmile Blog
Pinterest – Andsmile Studio