Today we’re talking with Barbara McConkey, the multi-talented artist from Zazzle shop WasabiRose, about her artistic journey and graphic design career.
Zazzle: Tell us about you! Where are you from/where do you live?
Barbara: I’m a graphic designer and mixed media artist originally from California but I now live in Washington state. I live with my husband and three kids, and work from my home office for my design business called InForm Design.
I’m very active in my community as a volunteer for nonprofit organizations. I specialize in work for nonprofits, so they are my regular customers and I often donate my design services to them as well.
Zazzle: What is your background in art and design? When did you first start creating?
Barbara: I started creating at a very early age! I was always creating something: sewing, drawing, or building things. As I got older I learned about a whole bunch of different artistic mediums, so over time I tried out a lot of different creative pursuits.
As a young adult I started a career in graphic design. I didn’t go to school for it, but just got started when computers began to come in to play in the graphic design field. I learned along with the rest of the industry. The other thing about my creativity is that, while I was really confident in my professional life as a graphic designer, I struggled privately to find myself as an artist. I was looking for that special niche thing that was going to be mine. It was frustrating to me because I was trying so many different things – felt-making, sculpture, pottery, and photography– and then I realized that I was in love with all of them! It took me a long time to figure out that I am a mixed media artist. I thought I was looking for one thing when I was really looking for a lot of them. So, I do a little bit of everything!
Zazzle: Where do you find inspiration for your creations?
Barbara: I like to paint, so sometimes my designs will be inspired by something I painted or drew. I have some painted designs in my store, as well as some computer drawn images. I’ve found I can even use some of my collage designs on Zazzle. I can use a variety of the things I do as long as they are 2 dimensional. I also do a lot of black and white pattern work.
I’m very inspired by my pets. My yin yang cat design is very popular! That one was definitely inspired by my cats. I volunteer for a Japanese nonprofit organization in town, and have many Japanese friends, so that’s really inspired me as well. That definitely played into the yin yang cat design, and the design called Dragonfly Journey. Those are two of my more popular ones.
Other designs like the tattoo inspiration ones with black and white patterns are from sketchbook drawings I’ve done over time, and from tattoo designs that I’ve created for people.
“Shine” is a digital collage that was meant to look like a silk screen print. That one was really just for fun – I do a lot of sketching and I ended up drawing this bird, and then was inspired by my son who is a musician to add the guitar and other musical elements. That’s a happy one!
Zazzle: How did you get started with Zazzle?
Barbara: I heard about Zazzle online; I just ran into it while looking for something online and thought it was cool. I decided to set up a little shop and see how it would do with offering design work, but not having to worry about all that goes with the sale of physical art. It’s nice that Zazzle handles everything and I don’t have to worry about things like shipping.
Zazzle: Which are your favorite Zazzle products?
Barbara: T-shirts are good sellers, and I like designing them. Also mugs and bags – the tote bags are great. I like that there are also print products like the posters. There are just so many options! I love how easy it is to put your designs on so many different kinds of things, like phone cases. People are always looking to have a unique phone case, and with Zazzle you can get just about anything. I really like the necklaces a lot, too, and they’ve done well. They’re very pretty!
Zazzle: What advice would you give new Zazzlers starting out with their own store?
Barbara: Use your best ideas. Post the ones that are your absolute best. Make sure that you follow the templates as well, that makes a big difference with how designs look on the products. You want to make sure they’re scaled properly and that the proportions are correct. The biggest thing would be to really think like a shopper when you’re tagging your products. Tags make a huge difference! It took me a while to figure it out but if you keep working at it you’ll get the right tags and find that people will be able to find your designs much more easily.
Try your designs on a lot of different products, and also try designing for the product so that you’re thinking of the product itself when you’re designing. Make sure you have enough products, so that you have a good variety and customers have more options.There are also neat tools Zazzle provides like the flash panel so that you can show off your work. Try showing it on Facebook and other social media to get the word out.
I’ve had a great experience on Zazzle – it took a while to build my sales, but you do eventually get a decent-sized audience and start to see income. It takes time to get out there, but don’t give up hope!