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Vanessa Smith

One Year On

Tue, 23/01/2024 - 10:48

Vanessa Smith, owner of The Velvet Village; a nostalgic brand offering an eclectic mix of fine art, illustration, accessories, clothing and homewares, looks back at her first year at Banks Mill and how being part of a creative community has helped to shape her future.   


How have you developed over the last 12 months since moving into Banks Mill? 

I can't quite believe it’s been 12 months already! I’ve experienced a lot of setbacks in the last year, both within the business and with my mental/physical health, which I wasn’t expecting to deal with. So, I’m really not where I hoped I would be at the end of my first year. It’s all been a learning curve I suppose. I think the biggest development for me would be stepping out of my comfort zone with Open Studios and dealing with people face to face when I’ve been very used to being a solitary creature working from home. 


Have you managed to expand your business over the last 12 months?   

Financially, that’s not been possible this year which has been a bit of a blow. However, I’ve invested heavily in my business over the last 12 months in a way that I haven't done before; which hopefully sets me up for more selling events and exhibitions. Open Studios was my first ‘live’ face to face event in 13 years and was a great success, so I’m really hoping to do more events like this. 


Have you invested in any new equipment or employed any staff over the last 12 months? 

Yes, I bought a LOT of furniture for my studio. From vintage wingback armchairs for my little ‘lounge’ area, to the 4 desks. It’s important to me that my studio feels homely and welcoming as well as being fully functional. I received a lot of compliments on my studio during Open Studios, so I think I achieved what I set out to do (although it’s STILL not quite finished). With not having exhibited for 13 years I’ve also had to buy a lot of display equipment for my stock.  


What have you been working on recently? 

I’ve been working on an oil painting, which I’ve not had chance to much over recent years. I intend to spend more time painting this year as I’d like to build a bank of original fine art paintings. The art I’ve been offering up to now has predominantly been prints only. I’ve been stuck working mainly on the fashion side of my business for a long time, but, I’m really hoping to expand my art and homewares now 


Has being based at Banks Mill helped your business? 

I underestimated the value of being surrounded by like-minded people, people who understand the struggles (and joys) of being self-employed with a ‘twirly’ creative mindset. People have been so supportive and encouraging of me, and each other. 


What are your plans for the next 12 months? 

I’m actually a very shy introverted person, believe it or not, so doing my first Instagram Live (with Clare of Curious Inky Me) and Open Studios, for me, has felt like breaking through barriers! I’d like more of this! More stepping out of my comfort zone and certainly more painting! 

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