It was on an evening back in 2012, when I was sitting with my 3-month-old baby daughter in my arms, reading her Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, that I began to wonder what it might take to become an illustrator.
We read stories together every night before I put her to bed, which for me, was an unexpected joy of becoming a parent. I hadn’t had very much to do with children up until that point - I’d been busy; engrossed in the demands of my youth - studying for my degree, and then working every hour I could to forge a career in London, climbing my way up the ladder in the television industry. But with parenthood, there began a new chapter in my life, and alongside that a need to re-think my career plans…
In the year since my daughter had been born I’d begun drawing, and taught myself how to use a sewing machine. I hadn’t done anything remotely like it since my teens when I did my Art Higher at school, but reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” with my daughter had re-awoken something creative in me, and it set me on a path I hadn’t imagined I’d take. And what a journey it’s been!
In April of 2013, we moved from London to Derbyshire. To say it was a shock to my system is an understatement – I was in a new place, with a one-year-old baby, where I knew practically no-one. Money was tight, and I needed to make a plan for my future.
At the beginning of 2014, I started a Masters Degree at The University of Derby in Visual Communication specialising in Illustration. My dream was to write and illustrate children’s books, and this opportunity allowed me to explore my ideas and creativity, guided by my wonderful tutors in the university Arts Department.
I realised fairly quickly after graduating that there are a lot of artists and illustrators out there, and I was going to have to work very hard to find my place within a diverse and overflowing market. If I’m honest, I didn’t have the first clue what I was doing, but the need to make money and provide for my daughter, coupled with my eternal optimism, spurred me on to start up my business in 2015 – Duck & Peach Illustration.
I worked hard, doing craft shows and markets every single weekend I could throughout 2015 and 2016. I was asked to take part in the Air Arts exhibition in the Derby Royal and supply artwork for the hospital walls, which was very well received. At the same time, I began stocking in shops locally, and some further afield. Occasionally, I entertained the idea of having my own shop, but financially, stocking with others and selling online and at craft fairs was as much as I could stretch to.
In the summer of 2020, amidst the angst and uncertainty of COVID-19, an opportunity arose locally in Belper, where I live. An old dance centre was being refurbished to accommodate twenty small businesses – it seemed like a potentially brilliant chance for me to get the little shop space I’d longed for, albeit not the best climate to be opening one. Never one to take a conventional route in life, or be too daunted by “what if it doesn’t work” kind of thoughts, I decided to go for it, and on December 4th, along with a few other like-minded creatives and small businesses, I opened my first shop, welcoming people in for a bit of pre-Christmas trade.
It was a really exciting month for me, to feel like my hard work over the years had come to some sort of fruition, to have my own space to decorate and adorn with all of my art work and products. And with plans for new work I want to create and offer my customers in the pipelines too, it really is a bit of a dream come true. My daughter, who’s now nearly 9, loves it too and comes to help me along with her little sister whenever she can.
Despite the current lockdown restrictions, we are still working hard behind the scenes, selling online via our Etsy shop and working on new designs and products we can share. We are very much looking forward to welcoming visitors back to the shop, which is in the beautiful 1924 Building on Campbell Street in Belper, as soon as we can re-open. There will be a café opening too which will be a great addition, and hopefully some new shops will be joining us, filling up the spaces and making our 1924 Building community whole.
As for me, what started out as nothing more than a faint idea, and a dream that would keep me awake in the night hoping and planning how I might set the wheels in motion, well… it’s been a lot of hard work coupled with long hours and grit determination to stick with it, and being able to open my shop was a true milestone in my journey.
I have a few exciting things coming up in 2021, which I’m looking forward to sharing when the time comes. In the meantime, you can have a look at my work via my website, on social media, and through my Etsy shop which is updated regularly. And hopefully, when the current restrictions are lifted, you can come and visit us in the 1924 Building too!
Until then, stay safe and well,
Sophie, Duck & Peach
Facebook: Duck and Peach
Duck & Peach Illustration
The 1924 Building