My Early Hour: Lizzie King, artist and maker

“My business cards say ‘LIZZIE KING – I MAKE THINGS’ – I do so many different things that I thought that was the easiest way to describe what I do.” Meet artist, maker, teacher and soon-to-be published author Lizzie King…

Lizzie King, 29, lives in Stoke Newington, north London, with her boyfriend Marshal, housemate Duncan and cat Ricco.

What’s your home like?
We live in a ground floor flat, it is painted in very bright colours – I’m not a fan of neutral tones! The living room is pink and the hall and front door are bright yellow. We are very lucky to have a garden. Unfortunately for the past six months we have been in temporary housing as our ceiling fell in.

What time are you up in the morning?
Depending on what I’m doing that day – 7 or 8am.

What wakes you up?
My alarm or the cat.

How do you feel?
Sleepy!

What do you do first thing?
Have a cup of tea, feed the cat and make some eggs.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Breakfast in Pyjamas.

Tea or coffee?
Tea for me – coffee makes me go mad.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
If I’m teaching, I’m out of the door by 8. If I’m at the studio it’s a bit more leisurely – I cycle there at 10ish then spend the day making something, probably out of cardboard, before coming home around 7pm to make some dinner with Marshal. If I have a meeting in town I try and fit in a visit to a gallery or do some drawing at the British Museum.

What’s your workspace like?
I share a lovely studio in Hackney with three friends: florists and a set designer, which means that there is usually someone else in the space, which I love. There are fresh flowers around a lot, which is a treat. My desk space is quite messy but full of colourful postcards and photos that inspire me. We always have music on. If I’m there on my own I take the opportunity to listen to soca or bashment!

Lizzie King on being a freelance creative…

Tell us about your creative business/freelancing…
My business cards say ‘LIZZIE KING – I MAKE THINGS’ – I do so many different things that I thought that was the easiest way to describe what I do. I have been working freelance since I left uni six years ago. I make props for events, adverts and window displays. I teach workshops in primary schools as well as running tie dye and Piñata workshops for adults. I have just finished writing a ‘how-to’ book about tie dye. There are 15 projects ranging from socks to duvet covers. Tie & Dye comes out in January 2017, which I am very excited about!

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I worked for set designers and window display companies, while working in a pub, for two years after university before fully starting out on my own. It happened quite naturally. I have never had a business plan, which sounds mad but everything grew organically. Looking back on it all, I think being more structured would have helped but I like that I do so many different things.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
The pressure of knowing that it is all down to me. No one else is going to sort out my website, reply to emails, make things. It can be quite overwhelming when you have a super busy period. It’s easy to forget to leave time to relax. If I get a last minute job it is very normal to work late and not to leave time for a weekend. I am lucky that lots of my friends are freelance so when we meet up we can share our worries and frustrations.

What makes it all worthwhile?
When you feel like you’ve made something that you’re really proud of and can say ‘I made that’! Also, getting to make things every day – and getting paid to do it. That is all I have ever wanted to do. I had a moment the other day in Paperchase where I realised I was being paid to go shopping for paper and shiney cardboard – one of my all time favourite things to do.

When I first left university I felt like I had to prove myself by working every moment possible. I made myself ill

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others… like the accounts?
I do all of my accounts and then send the spreadsheet over to my accountant to do the official stuff; that is not my strong point! My friend Kit built my website and designed my business cards. Basically anything where you need computer skills I hand over to someone else. My friend Katy helps me with big workshops.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I love being around other people, when I have to work all day on my own I go a bit stir crazy. Even if we aren’t talking I like having people around. At the studio we usually make lunch together which is great. If I’m drawing I go into a zone where I don’t notice how long I have been in silence so that’s the only time I don’t mind if I’m alone all day.

What’s the secret to career success?
I’m not sure I am there yet! Working hard and being nice to people seems like a good place to start. I am learning to say ‘no’ more now. That feels good. I think you have to listen to your gut a lot. If a project doesn’t feel right or if someone asks me to copy someone else’s style I know it isn’t for me. For a long time I felt like I needed to specialise and focus on one thing but things have really started coming together in the past 18 months. I am so glad I persevered.

Tell us about the work you do with kids…
I started working at an after school art club when I was 14. I wasn’t much older than the kids I was working with but I loved it and was very excited to get paid £4 an hour. I suppose it just seems like a natural combination of two of my favourite things, art and working with children. I couldn’t do it full time as it so exhausting but I love that one or two days a week I get to hang out with these funny little people.

Do you find it difficult balancing relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
I am getting better I think. When I first left university I felt like I had to prove myself by working every moment possible. I made myself ill, as I wasn’t sleeping enough. Now I am more aware of making time to see friends and to see Marshal. I also don’t feel guilty about booking a holiday every now and then. I think the thing that suffers most is making time to do nothing. It’s hard as there is always something I could be doing. I need to learn not to fill every moment…

Describe an ideal weekend?
Going to the seaside! I love swimming in the sea. Then going for an ice cream and a beer on the beach. Dancing with friends to great music, then a lazy breakfast and a car boot.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
Trinidad carnival.

Check out Lizzie’s website: Lizzie King

And her brilliant book Tie and Dye: Colourful Clothing, Gifts and Decorations by Lizzie King – published January 2017 by Pavilion Books; £12.99

Would you like to be featured in our ‘My Early Hour’ series? If so, leave your name and email address in the comment section below – and tell us a bit about what you do with your time…

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