This week I am delighted to share a conversation with Suzanne Woolcott, the inspiring creative brains behind the Gorjuss™ empire. Some of her fans are so crazy about her work, they have had her designs tattooed on their bodies! Suzanne’s Gorjuss™ Girls are licensed by Santoro, a brand creator, design and publishing company with distribution in over 50 countries around the world.
Suzanne runs her company with her husband Grant, from their studio in Glasgow, Scotland, where they live with their three children. Her work has been exhibited in galleries across the globe, but most regularly in Hollywood, LA , New York, NY, and Hong Kong (how cool is that?!)
Can you tell us a bit about Gorguss™?
Gorjuss™ is about bringing beautiful emotional art into everyone’s lives. I love to play with words, especially taking things literally, but I also think that love runs deep within all my art. I choose to paint only Girls, as I can only paint what I’ve felt, experienced and imagined. I couldn’t put so much emotion into something I haven’t felt myself.
I have always been a fan of portraits, and the scope of what can be captured in a moment, the stillness of the figure, the stare looking out at you and the placement of the objects around the subject, everything is there for a reason, to accentuate the meaning behind a portrait. I would always rather hand a portrait on my wall than a nice landscape!
Where did your girl designs come from? What inspired the first one?
The style of my girls really came naturally, as I was learning to draw, I always wanted to show my emotions and to do that you have to concentrate on what makes the viewer feel emotion, it doesnt always have to be a facial expression, and I think my art proves that!What has been your greatest challenge on your journey to here, and how did you tackle it?
I’ve recently become disabled, and now can’t walk. This has made a huge difference to my life, and I think I may be going through the greatest challenge of my life right now. After many months in hospital, I’m now trying to work out how to keep working. I’m sure we will get there eventually but everything is taking twice as long ( or more!) to do right now, so I’m grateful for my fans’ patience and support through this very difficult time.
Art-wise, it has to be just learning and learning, to create what’s in my head. Getting the ability to create exactly what you want to can take time. I do remember how frustrating it was. Now I’d say “Don’t panic, but do keep trying and learning.”
I love to learn and I’m constantly learning new techniques to help my art be stronger. Learning should never stop, or there can be a great risk of staleness in your artwork (eek!)
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of what I’ve done – everything – sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe it is real! I’m very proud to be working with Santoro. They are such a warm welcoming company. They don’t just look after me, they also love and care for my Gorjuss™ Girls with so much respect, I couldn’t imagine anyone better to look after them.
I’m extremely proud of my paintings, I always tell people to paint what they would like to see. If you love it, then someone else will too!
And I’m very proud of my fans. They are such a wonderful bunch, and always surprise me with their love, loyalty and support!
What do you wish you had known when you started out with your creative business?
I wish I’d know it would be all okay ‘in the end. It’s very scary in the beginning, and not knowing what the future held for us was terrifying.
How do you juggle creating with managing your creative business?
People have an absurd idea that being self-employed, and particularly in a creative business, means you spend all day doodling away dreamily. But the reality is that creating is only about a third of the work to be done daily. It’s important to have a head for business, not just a great product or brand. If you think you don’t have the knowledge then take some free courses. You’ll find them everywhere right now as the economy tries to support start-up businesses.
Everyone finds their own way about this, but I have no time to play on Facebook, sometimes I feel like the only person who doesnt!!, and often can work til 2am daily, you HAVE to put the hours in to see a result!
You have a licensing agreement with a major manufacturer in the UK (Santoro). Can you tell us a bit about how this came about, about your decision to license your designs, and what freedom this gives you?
My goal was always to license, right from the start. As I get older it will take a lot of the workload off myself. I won’t always be able to work until 2am every night! I was very lucky to have it happen with Santoro, who stumbled across me, we like to call it fate!
What is the best piece of advice you can give to artists aren’t sure if they are ready to start making money from their creations? What should they consider?
I’d say making money only comes when you have a product that is unique and which people want. If you haven’t got that then you will waste your time, so spending time on your product is just as important as trying to sell it. Also, think about how to present yourself. You have to come across as presentable, and if your products are cohesive it will help keep customer loyalty.
Where is your favourite place in your city (Glasgow) to go when you need time to think, recharge or get inspiration?
Glasgow is a great place, full of culture. The music and art scenes are vibrant here. We love going to live music gigs, visiting galleries and eating out. Glasgow is known as the ‘Green green city’ because it has so many parks, so we have visited those a lot too. I’m not able to sit in my wheelchair yet, as it’s still early days, but as soon as I can, I’ll be wheeling back to these places!
Thank you so much Suzanne!
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