Name: Karen Grenfell
Known for: MimiloveForever. Hand embroidered watercolour paintings.
Currently working on: Watercolour paints and mixed media/ textile artist specialising in animal portraiture.
When did you realize that you were going to work with this:
I’ve always painted but it was around 2008 that I took up embroidery and combined the two together.
If you could choose one place only to live, where would that be and why?
I’m quite happy where we are now. We have plenty of room/space, a nice garden, friends nearby and a lovely neighbour. Although it’s not the most attractive of areas so I’d love to live near the sea or a lovely forest…or both!
How would you describe your design:
I like to think my work is loose and free and full of life and humour.
How and when did you start to work with this in a serious manner?
I’ve been painting for many, many years but things became serious when I learnt how to use the internet approx 2002 and realised the potential to sell my work globally.
What do you do at the moment?
My main source of work/income is bespoke portraiture, predominately pets. I also produce original painting/embroideries, prints and accessories for the home. I sell mainly on my website and also have an Etsy store.
A recommendation for those who think about starting and running a creative business?
Do it! Ok it’s risky. The hours are long. The work is hard; you’re not just producing something you love, it has to be photographed/promoted etc. It can be quite lonely, you have to be disciplined with your time and the pay is often way lower than if you were working for a *normal employer*. BUT! In return you have freedom to do what your heart wants and not be forced into doing something that you don’t particularly want to do by someone else.
It’s really empowering and there’s never been a better time to get your own business off the ground. Even if you are working for someone else and it’s only a spare time venture. Thanks to the internet there are so many opportunities to get started, from free or low cost venues to sell your wares to free website building/hosting, free marketing via social media etc. I started many moons ago before the internet was even heard of and relied on selling locally/word of mouth etc. Now I have a global platform, works on every continent, have had my art published in magazines and even in a book for the national curriculum in Brazil!
Tell us how it all started.
Initially I produced paintings for family and friends and word of mouth. I’ve been painting pet portraits for as long as I can remember, but I just felt there was something missing.
I’ve always had a love of embroidery/stitching but the two mediums didn’t come together for a while and when they did it was more by accident then design! I owe a huge debt of thanks to fibre artists & authors Aimee Ray, Jamie Chalmers and Tilleke Schwarz for their inspiration, encouragement and support of my work plus a whole raft of fellow stitchers and artists out there who are just awesomely fabulous…I’d need several more pages to name them all! I posted my first mixed media works on Flickr and received lots of positive feedback so opened an Etsy shop and the rest is history. I’m still learning and developing and try to push myself in different directions and always on lookout for new opportunities and avenues but that’s the exciting, scary and best part about it all.
What is the most important thing in a workplace/studio for you?
Calmness and my radio. I listen to music, comedy shows or a play when I work. I find if I concentrate too hard on what I’m doing I tend to overwork a piece and it becomes laboured.
What is your favorite film?
Oh that’s a hard one! It’s mood/time dependent for me.
Who would you like to invite for a dinner and why?
Cooking bores me rigid so probably Marco Pierre White (swoon!) so I wouldn’t have to do any actual cooking. As for guests, my best mate – keeps me sane, makes me laugh and I just love her and Brian Sewell… I figure he’d probably rip my work to utter shreds but I adore his voice and just think he’s outrageously wicked! 🙂
How do you like to spoil yourself?
A day off from everything!
What is luxury for you?
See my last answer!
What is the nicest compliment you’ve received for your design, and from whom?
Smiles and tears…(but good tears!) Most of my work is commissioned based and in many cases the works have been memorial pieces; I’ve had a lot of emails from clients who said they were moved to tears when they opened their painting and really you can’t get a much better response/validation.
What do you fear most?
Failing and having to go back to a “proper job”….and being eaten by a shark…or zombies 🙂
What is a happy life to you?
How I’m living now really. I work from home and earn a living doing what I love, I have my loved ones around me and they are all relatively healthy and happy, think that’s pretty much all one can ask for…apart from a big gold crown and a Mercedes maybe?! 😉
What does a regular day look like for you?
Myself and husband are early morning people so the day starts at the crack of sparrows! I care for my disabled mother-in-law so our days are mostly centered around her needs; it’s challenging but we all live together so in many respects it’s easier too. Once the usual household chores and various animals (and us!) are fed I usually hit the internet and check emails etc. Then off into my studio, evict a cat out of it, put radio on and work until hunger gets the better of me or I’m needed.
Generally I work until early afternoon until it’s time to prepare evening meal (I hate cooking but I’m the only one in house that can produce something edible!). I try not work in evenings but that never works out, so I usually end up updating social media/website and so forth. I do sometimes wake in middle of night with an urge to paint so I will scurry off and do that too and that’s what I love about being my own boss, it’s the freedom to be able to do that.
Tell us about your dream project.
I’ve always had a yearning to collaborate with a fashion designer and produce gorgeous, outrageous and lavishly painted/embroidered gowns. It would have to be a collaboration though as I’m absolutely useless at dressmaking!
Who is your favorite designer?
Oh I couldn’t name them all but I do adore the works of Klimt and Van Gogh.
How would you describe your style?
My work as above, free/loose/lively. My personal style; sort of punk bag lady come aging hippy!
Which is the one thing you can’t live without?
My glasses, the world is just a big blurry mess without them!
What inspires you?
Everything! Nature/animals… It’s all going there. Music, memories, literally anything and everything. This is why I love working on commission pieces so much. To make a work really special and personal I ask people for a list of their favourite things so I can include them into the embroidery and I’ve received all kinds of requests from food, tattoos, aliens, songs, cartoons… You name it! But it’s a fantastic way of working because you’re never entirely sure what you’re going to get and I think that’s what adds to the life of a piece. Certainly keeps me on my toes too!
A book that has changed/made the most impression in your life?
Alice in Wonderland. It’s magical and also a manual on how you should live your life! “The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today”. Be in the present! 🙂