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April 2024 Meet the Artist: Hannah Smith

Hannah currently runs a gallery and shop in Ilminster, Somerset selling her own prints and homeware as well as other brands that fit with her bright and contemporary ranges. As well as having a space to invite customers to she sells all her products and prints online and has other retailers who stock her products and prints in other locations around the country. Hannah opens up about some of the questions she gets asked in the shop below and her very honest responses.


What got you started?

My husband and I have always renovated properties and at the end of every project we appreciated that artwork can really alter the look and feel of a property. I started creating large poster prints initially for my own home to fill some of the large walls in the extension we had built. At the time you were really limited on what you could find and I didn't want something that was readily available on the high street although my finances wouldn't stretch to anything more exclusive so I decided to create my own. Soon after I did I realised I had something other people might appreciate.  

How do you come up with new ideas? 

It's a practical approach mostly. As a child growing up in the 80s, we didn't have much but we did love to draw and if you didn't have it but wanted it, you made it or drew a picture of it and appreciated looking at it or playing with whatever you had made. It's quite rare even as an adult that I save for something special so I tend to make my own version of whatever I like and that idea then tends to get drawn in to my work. It's also by word of mouth - I talk to stockists around the country and my own customers too. I try to incorporate others ideas in to what I do where I can and follow the direction customers are taking. 

How do you know prints will work in homes if you are trying to appeal to people with such contrasting lifestyles?

I think about what people might have been up to in their home and there was a stretch of people creating outdoor bars during and after lockdown which is when my outdoor prints started to take off and my deckchairs / outdoor cushions. People are always doing things like painting a drinks cabinet or chest of drawers so why not create art to sit above their projects that tie in by colour. I try to make the subjects versatile enough to fit in certain kind of rooms (bedrooms - botanicals, dining rooms - champagne & cocktails, kitchens - crustaceans or champagne etc) but the colours interchangeable to fit with different kinds of homes / wall colours etc. Amazingly things got finely honed when I opened the shop after consulting with more and more customers and my approach felt more considered rather than going with just my own thoughts or throwing it out to see if it would stick.   

Do you believe art should be timeless?

For me it's not always possible to be timeless with art in the home. I believe it should be ok to switch up as your world develops. That's possibly because I am the one painting and developing more as I go. As a serial decorator though my taste changes - everyones tastes change at some point. I am not the same person I was in my 30s when I started really getting in to homemaking. I can't afford to buy expensive artwork myself, and nor can many of my customers. I believe it should move around the house and it should be interchangeable if you move house completely. You can buy an unframed poster from me further down the line and slip one in front of the other in a frame if you have a seasonal changeover in the home. I'm certainly not suggesting it's a throwaway concept - but definitely switch them around throughout the year if it brightens your mood. I can guarantee botanicals feel great in spring - but if you're entertaining a fair bit leading up to Christmas pop a champagne design in front of the trailing leaves to create a celebratory atmosphere. 

Has the shop been a success?

Absolutely - even after just 9 months I've gained hundreds of new customers who've come back to see me twice. I'm rarely overrun with customers though as I am not in the main part of town, but I'm definitely surviving and at times thriving with business. I could do with getting busier but I am still growing and I can always fall back on online sales.

What do you like most about your shop?

It's very small but it's become a modular space that changes constantly and helps me develop my ideas as well as a place to play shops and showing off new things just by dressing the space. You might pop in one week and the counter has moved - I simply have to move things around to make it work for me, I do the same at home and for me it keeps it fresh. 

Why can't you do 9-5?

It keeps you on your toes trying to be open like any other retailer for regular hours when it's just you and you also operate as an online business which requires a different kind of discipline, but if it's quiet and people aren't buying things in the shop - I refocus my efforts to online. And besides which, I have the extra responsibility of picking up my six year old from school so 3pm is my cut off. Often I stay open later if I can when I don't need to do that. 

What are your thoughts on how to survive the high street when so many people think it's had its day?

I try to be in touch with the reality of other peoples lives and you quickly learn about spending habits so if it's quiet I might share offers to stimulate sales but I tend to hold off doing this until people have likely been paid. Also, I don't stand and wait for people to walk through the door - I give them a reason to want to, it's exciting to see other shops here doing the same thing. There are increasingly more businesses in the town that are run by likeminded women wanting to offer boutique shopping experiences and by connecting with them we share information and customers. Jumping on local initiatives and events and collaborating wins every time. I couldn't go back to just doing this online - I now really need the shop to keep moving forward and people still want to see things up close and connect with what they are buying. Not all shops are doing badly either and if you have a tactile product it's important to give it a visual platform. People need to see and feel a cushion really or look at how the prints are in reality - you can put things together in store for them. Everyone loves to touch the velvet lampshades too!

How do you not overspend in the wrong area?

I try to introduce products that are low batch, affordable and British-made - I love finding suppliers who are flexible and can work small with me. I refuse to order anything in bulk - what if it doesn't sell? When you are building your own interiors brand it's tricky to stay within the confines of a budget but I am adamant I am never producing one design at any time on every product - it would bankrupt me. I balance requests with my own purse strings. 

Why are you called The Hambridge Artist? 

It's a little village in Somerset we lived in for some years. I've always had the text The Hambridge Artist on almost every print I've produced - I love words on posters and I wanted to sign off on everything with something that wasn't my name that was connected to where I was working. We moved but I kept using the name and it just developed in to my brand. I won't change it even though we have lived in Ilminster for three years now! 


More About The Hambridge Artist

Artist & designer Hannah Smith launched as The Hambridge Artist in September 2020.  Having spent many years renovating properties she draws on her interiors knowledge, creating a vision for how the art will sit in the home. She has developed a very unique style and her artwork is designed to inject vibrance in to a large space. Inspiration for her prints is drawn from everything she sees and she creates an impression of the subject rather than a detailed painting. There's often patterns and repetition in the way she designs each print.

In 2021 Hannah opened her first shop within The Emporium in Wellington, Somerset as well as stocking other retailers around the country. In August 2023 she moved her business to East Street in Ilminster where she has opened her very own self managed shop and now combines her online selling with her high street presence. 

Her print sales have gained momentum rather quickly due to the unique design, whimsical nature and great quality of the product- the prints are a stunning matt-finish on a 230 gsm fine art paper. 

Hannah now adds her prints on homeware and outdoor living products like cushions and deckchairs for the garden as well as outdoor art prints. 

Take a look at what the customers say here

Find out more about the shop here


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