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How Kelly Basford uses play to grow her Carrum based art illustration business

Today I had a gorgeous chat with Kelly basford, a mixed media artist and workshop facilitator that lives in Carrum,  Victoria.

Elle-May: Tell us a little about your work Kelly!

Kelly: Generally, in terms of mediums, I love to use watercolor, use some natural inks and acrylic, but kind of love to explore lots of different things. I am also doing digital mediums at the moment as well. So I give anything a bit of a try.

Elle-May: Your work has this really like playful, abstract, the colorful feel to it always lights me up when I when I see your posts come up on Instagram! It’s really inspiring to see such playful work!

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Elle-May: Do you work on your art full time? Or do you have a day job? What’s your schedule like?

Kelly: So this is not my day job. It’s just kind of a part time gig at the moment. I’d love it to be a full time job. But at the moment, I am a stay at home mum and I have a two and a half year old son. So most of my time is spent with him and looking after him. And then I dabble when I can with my artwork and  teaching classes.

Elle-May It must be hard at the moment in lockdown finding space for your art with the playgrounds closed?

Kelly: Yes, definitely, but he still goes to daycare one or two days a week which gives me some space but yeah, it’s very full on at the moment.

Elle-May Do you do art together?

Kelly: Um, sometimes but it he can get a bit chaotic! He does a lot at daycare. Supposably,  he’s the real artist at daycare! At home, not so much. He would rather be outside playing in the dirt digging and things like that. He’s got his pencils and paper on the table. But yeah, it’s only an occasional thing.

Elle-May: Tell me a little about what you’re working on at the moment!

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Kelly: Well, last year, I did a similar thing where I did “30 days of drawing” and it really got me to, I guess solidify and make a commitment to my artwork. And yet, people were commenting and really enjoying it the process with me and I had some people join as well, which was great to see. So, since we went back into lockdown again, I just felt it would be a good time to launch another 30 days of creativity, but to make it easier, rather than using a medium like watercolor or something where I would need space to put all my materials I thought I would just use my iPad and do procreate which I’ve been loving, so no water, no mess. And if I don’t like it, I can just delete it. So yeah, it’s been really cool.  And it’s been a lot, a lot quicker actually to kind of produce the work in that way.

Elle-May Do you find that little bits of play like that are actually part of your ongoing practice? Like do these often end up being like sketches for future works or inspire different types of work?

Kelly: Yeah, I definitely feel it has even though I’ve kind of done a lot of different subjects within the 30 days, and I’m still only half just over halfway through. But I’m finding that some of the subjects that I’ve done, I would like to explore further and maybe make into a couple of smaller collections. So definitely it has has kind of ignited something where I can see where I can take it, it has gotten the creative juices going!

Elle-May: I guess that’s kind of the part that play has in creativity, isn’t it? Because you don’t always feel inspired or enthusiastic about doing art? Does having a bit of a play kind of light a little fire?

Kelly: Yeah, well, it’s that kind of, I guess, recognition point where you’ve got just one word given in the daily prompt, and then you can take it anywhere. And it’s not serious. It’s just about taking a moment to reconnect yourself. Have fun. And, look, it could be really good or not great. But it doesn’t matter about the outcome.

how-kelly-basford-uses-play-to-grow-her-handmade-brand ellemay.michael 118553Elle-May:  When is comes to marketing your brand/art, what do you struggle with? Do you like marketing? Hate it?

Kelly: I don’t hate it. I enjoy connecting with my audience. I think that the problem I sometimes have is, I guess, finding my target audience. I just kind of post what I feel to post not with any real direction, or, I guess, the target market in mind… So there’s no real clarity in what I’m posting, I just post what I like and put it out there.

Elle-May: So yeah, I think a lot of artists start like that. They start art accounts as a hobby, or just on their personal page kind of just sharing what you’re doing without thinking of it as marketing.. But I think if you’re using relevant hashtags, and different things to bring new people across like Reels I think you naturally develop the target audience anyway…  So you’ve just got to go and work out how to analyze that at some stage, maybe once you get to say 500 followers.

Elle-May: Once you have that, you can go and have a look at your Instagram insights and look at the age demographics, the location, demographics, have a look at what posts they resonate with the most which posts they resonate with the least, and ask them questions about that.  Why would that be what in my work would be encouraging that audience to follow me, and they can kind of help you start talking to your target audience, because you have a bit of a better idea of who they might be. So yeah, you might find that people resonate a lot with posts about your son, because they might be mums… or that, you know, maybe it’s if you were doing some kind of stationary or something, but they tend to resonate more with that. So I think the data is there. And just by having a play and seeing what works that year, you’ll start to develop a target audience anyway.

Elle-May: It’s a different way of doing it to how like a brand would, right, like if I was launching, yeah, of course. You know, bikini brand is always the one that I think of, I would have a very specific audience in mind, right. And they’d be people that live on the beach, or maybe that are going on holidays that, you know, want to wear a specific type of swimsuit, and then working out how to talk to them would be very, very easy, right. But with art, it’s a bit more abstract.

Kelly: You are right, though, because I do look at the insights but I kind of glaze over it. I don’t actually use it as a tool…

Elle-May: I had to I used to do that. Like every couple of days, I’d look at the Instagam insights…. just scrolling through it like I was scrolling through the rest of the Instagram…

Elle-May: So what I can recommend you do, is grab a piece of paper and write down 10 questions. And then I go to your Instagram Insights and find the answers to those questions and write them down. And then that way, you’re actually looking at it analytically. Instead of Just like a whole pool of data that is meaningless.

how-kelly-basford-uses-play-to-grow-her-handmade-brand ellemay.michael 860220Elle-May: Is there something you’ve learned so far in your art career that you could pass onto an artist just starting out? Maybe who is doing art as a hobby and thinking about starting to move it into the business space?

Kelly: Yeah, definitely.I think the one big lesson that I guess I’ve learned along my own journey is, after I had my son, I just had this feeling to get out some paper and some watercolors and just play it. It was just a spur of the moment thing. I thought, No, I’ve got too many things to do… But I stopped myself… I said NO. We’re just going to stop for five minutes and take some time to reconnect for myself. And it was the best thing that I ever did.

Kelly: It’s, I think the one thing that people always come up with, is there an excuse, you know, you’ve got too much going on in their life, I’ve got to go and do the washing, I’ve got to do the cooking, pay the bills. But what I didn’t realize even if they just took five minutes for themselves, just sit and just simply get out a little piece of paper and some paints or a pencil, even just a pencil and just reconnected and drew for themselves it can can make a big difference in your life. This really changed a lot for me just taking that five or 10 minutes a day to commit… to reconnect and just enjoy.

Elle-May: So a little bit of self care?

Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. There might have been times where I was really tired and didn’t really feel like it. But I still just made the commitment to just sit for five minutes. And I was surprised by how often it actually reenergized me, even in that five or 10 minutes to just sit and play. It’s definitely a part of like a self care rhythm that you can do for yourself.

Elle-May: I love that at the moment, your focus at the moment is your son. He’s in such an important and needy time of his life, requiring so much attention from you, but you’re also nurturing yourself a little bit. And kind of growing the foundations of what will become like a flourishing art business when you have more time to dedicate to it!

Kelly: Yes absolutely. There are probably lots of moms or people who might be maybe finished their work or retired, and they want to pick up another outlet. But all it takes is just doing one little thing a day, and that over time, you can really build it into something.

Elle-May:  think also with social media, with the way our culture is at the moment, is there’s a bit of a pull to create for profit? Like…. we start art or hobbies and then we feel almost immediately that it needs to be shared and published and then monetized. Otherwise it’s not worth our time. It’s like a capitalism thing, I guess. I think the way you’ve approached this, by giving yourself the space to just play, and see what happens, the focus is different. And yes, I think that that’s the little bit that makes a difference between a person who makes art and a professional artist…. The difference being a professional level artists has often taken that extra time to work out who they are, and their art style and not jumped a few steps.

how-kelly-basford-uses-play-to-grow-her-handmade-brand ellemay.michael 632585Kelly: Exactly! It’s definitely about keeping it simple, and just doing it for you. Because I think you’re definitely right, that it’s like “can I make something from this” and that kind of kills it a little, I think sometimes, but it can also put  a lot of pressure on you if that’s the idea that you have come in with that, you know, oh, can I make some money off this or this?

Elle-May: Or not even money but likes, or engagement on social media… we, we want those metrics. We want that data. That positive feedback loop that’s like, yes, people like you.

Kelly: Yeah, you’re exactly right. It’s that recognition that you get. it ends up kind of fueling your work it in some way. But if we take that out of the picture, and just kind of make something for the process and the act of just reconnecting to yourself in a calm stillness, then yeah, it could be a different kind of world. But yeah, the, the age we live in, I guess, you know, everything is instant and gamified.

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Elle-May: Yes, but you can create boundaries, right? So I always recommend that. One of the things that makers often say is like, “I don’t want to stop what I’m doing to take photos of my process”, “I don’t want to be worrying about that, while I’m trying to be creative” amd the thing I often suggest is to just try and get in the habit of setting up your camera, so that it is filming or I think you can even set up like a camera to take a shot every minute, or something like that and then forget about it. Just make that part of the process. Get your brushes, you get your water, set up your camera, and then leave it alone and don’t post those pictures until like a week later. This will take away the feeling like you’re creating for others away, and will distance you from the instant gratification and satisfaction (or dissapointment) loop that social media makes you feel.

Kelly: Yes I do this! I will just set up the camera, and just take a series of shots and not use them until a lot later on. It doesn’t need to be today.

Elle-May: It means that you can create more interesting content with it later, because you’ve got all these different things that you could put together and make different videos out on so yeah, kind of actually making the content creation a creative process on its own.

Kelly: Exactly.I think that’s why I enjoy using Instagram so much is that the platform itself offers us so many different ways of being creative. You’ve got Reels, you’ve got your Stories, you know, you can do polls, ask questions. I under utilize that, because sometimes I don’t have enough space. But you know, other artists that I follow do, and you can connect and learn so much from them, just by the different bits and pieces that they add onto the Instagram page! It’s very cool. And as for reels, they are longer now which is great! And you can use still photos, so you can really make it work to complement what you want to bring in.cube8r

Elle-May: It’s just a change in perspective, instead of like, this is a thing that I have to do, finding a way to make it a fun activity in itself. And not worrying too much about the data. Just worry about making it fun, because the data will come if you’re having fun and communicating that with people that you don’t want to follow along, because we all need a little bit of inspiration in our lives.

Elle-May: Thank you so much for joining me for this interview today Kelly, it was delightful!

Kelly Basford is one of the members of our online maker community, who may be joining us at in.cube8r Fitzroy in a few months time! If you’re a maker/artist you can join our free community for makers here!


Kelly Basford can be found at

Instagram @Kelly_Basford,

Website (currently updating it)

Facebook as Kelly Basford Art.

Kelly Basford also runs workshops at in.cube8r and elsewhere, keep an eye on her socials for details.