Q&A with an artist: Charlotte Trimm (By Charlie's Hand)
This month I’m fan girling all over the place because I’m interviewing Charlie, the rainbow and tea fuelled beauty behind By Charlie’s Hand.
Charlie may not realise this, but when I first began my Etsy store a few years ago it was her work that inspired me to try my hand at selling paper cut commission pieces. Admittedly, my paper cutting phase didn’t last that long because I realised that enjoyed the drawing part more than the cutting (hence venturing into colouring books instead), but she was certainly someone who made me think “I can do this too!”.
If you’re not familiar with By Charlie’s Hand, you’ll soon see that there is a very strong theme throughout her work – colour, colour and LOTS MORE COLOUR! It’s impossible to not feel joy when looking at her adorable designs and use of rainbow goodness.
Read on to find out more about her journey as an artist, and find out how you can get 10% discount in her store and be in with a chance of winning a copy of her latest colouring book!
Q1. Who are you, and what do you do?
Hello! I’m Charlotte (or Charlie, I answer to both!) Trimm and I’m a papercutting artist based in the lovely valleys of South Wales. I also create colouring books and colouring pages!
Q2. How did you start making art? Did you ever study a creative discipline(s) or are you self-taught?
I’ve always been interested in art, and ever since I was a child I’ve enjoyed making and creating.
It was from around age 14 that I started to consider art as a career path – after seeing an Antony Gormley exhibition – and from that moment onwards I focused my education on it.
I have a BA (Hons) degree in Fine Art but I am self taught in papercutting. I mostly did large scale installation paintings during my time as an undergraduate, and started papercutting once I had left Uni.
I’m also currently learning to draw digitally on an iPad with procreate and creating more colouring pages.
Q3. What does it mean to you to be an artist?
Everything! I think even if I had a “proper” job I would still be an artist in my spare time.
Q4. How long did it take for you to develop your signature style as an artist?
Quite a while, but my method and way of working underpins a lot of it, along with my use of colour, so there are some really strong threads that run through my work which have been with me before I became a papercutter or drew any colouring pages.
When I was in Uni I loved making things with repetitive elements, and was very methodological – papercutting is very time intensive and methodical. I also use lots of symmetry, repetitive patterns, and motifs.
It’s all built over time to get me to where I am which is quite graphic and, I think, distinctive.
Q5. Can you tell us about your journey to becoming an artist? Have you ever done any other jobs before becoming an artist?
It’s a bit of a sad, up-and-down-one in a way.
I wanted to be an artist for years and managed to get 2 Art GCSE’s at A grade in school, but at college, I ended up with a spectacular E grade for my Art A Level! This was due to a combination of a poor tutor, a terrible timetable, and a lost passion for art. However, I did stay on an extra 2 years to gain a BTEC ND in Fine Art, which then led me to Uni where I would go on to get my Fine Art degree.
I graduated in 2010, but sadly, on the day of my graduation ceremony my Nanna (Mam’s Mam) was taken into hospital and we found out she had terminal cancer.
Sadly, my Nanny (Dad’s Mam) passed away in the February of 2011, and then Nanna (Mam’s Mam) passed in the September. In the same week, we also lost a close family friend and my Great Uncle, so I went to 3 funerals in about a week and a half which was pretty terrible.
At the time, I had a job at River Island as a sales assistant – because a girl needs money, and art jobs in this area are a little limited!
To cut a long story short, I was pretty much bullied in work and I had started By Charlie’s Hand as a Facebook page in the February of 2011 to separate my terrible papercuts from my personal page. It had potential to be more than just some fun, so I quit my day job as a Christmas present to myself, took the plunge into self employment in 2012, and haven’t looked back since!
Q6. Have you learned any lessons along the road to becoming a full-time artist? Is there anything you regret, or things you wished you'd done sooner?
I think I’ve done a few things in hindsight that I wish I hadn’t, but you don’t learn unless you have the odd hiccup every now and then. Things can always surprise you by going better than you think!
I’ve also done things which I wish I had been braver to do a bit sooner. For example, applying for and doing larger arts/craft fairs (which aren’t as scary as I thought!) or venturing into different products.
Q7. What does your creative process look like? Where do you draw your inspiration from and what excites you most about the creative process?
I usually start off with an idea in my head that I write down in a little notebook so I’ve always got a big list of to-do’s. Then, I’ll sketch out rough ideas and shapes on paper, or more recently, on my iPad.
For papercuts, I think about the finer details and start to develop these until I get to a point where I am happy with it. I then draw it out on proper paper to start cutting. For colouring pages it’s a similar process, but I define the idea and then start adding the details to colour in.
There’s lots of nature in my work – I like happy things, and I base a lot of work on having my 13 colours included. It’s really important to me to incorporate that but not shoehorn it in! I love colourful art, and often go on walks around the local area with my boyfriend. It’s a good time to think.
Q8. Have you every suffered from creative block or burnout?
I have little dips every now and then where I feel a bit lost and do doubt what I’m doing, but never a complete burnout or block.
If I feel a bit lacklustre or frustrated, and like nothing is going right, I just take a step back and have a day or two to maybe create something I really want to make, or I take complete time off to refresh…even if it’s just half an hour with a cup of tea, or a whole day. Whatever it takes to feel like I can do it again. Having that space usually works for me.
Q9. Have you ever suffered with any struggles as an artist?
It can get lonely, and I am very much ok with my own company a lot of the time, but sometimes it can be a bit much to just be talking to yourself. My boyfriend is super lovely but does have to go out to work, so I’m alone at home most of the day.
I try to visit with my friends or my family as often as I can. My Mam is always there on the end of the phone too, and I try to catch up with her once a week with a cuppa. A good chat and seeing some of my friend’s children is always fun, and tackles the lack of colleagues.
I also swim 2-3 times a week which is a little bit social and time out of the house. It’s really good for me to exercise as I’m very sedentary day-to-day. It’s also good for getting some head space as there is zero pressure, no social media or a phone pinging…it’s just me against the water! I find I’m fitter, sleep better, and I’m much happier since I started about 2 years ago.
I also have some lovely online friends, and I’m a member of a few groups on Facebook, and also the Sparkle Showcase market nights which is a very supportive. It’s nice to have a community of likeminded creatives to chat with, whether it’s personal or business.
My biggest struggles were in 2011 when everyone died, and I think if I can get through that year, then I can face anything. It was horrendous. However, it’s both the best and worst thing that’s ever happened to me, because if I had been happier and earning more in my job at the time, I think By Charlie’s Hand could have potentially been a side project or hobby for a lot longer and never become what it has today.
Q10. Are there any tools in your studio that you simply can't live without?
Scalpel, cutting mat, and pencil! I could probably get by without everything else, except maybe my phone for social media, emails and photos.
Q11. What does your work space look like?
A mess! I am not a tidy person. Every so often it looks like a show studio, and then 99% of the time I work in a small square on my desk and it’s chaos! It’s the small box bedroom of our house and it’s my little slice of heaven.
Q12. Describe your typical day as an artist…
I usually get up after my boyfriend has gone to work and have a shower and dressed. I can’t work in my pajamas, and I feel like showering and getting dressed – even if it’s just leggings and a comfy top – sets me up for working.
I’ll then grab a cup of tea, maybe something little to eat, and then hit the studio. My day isn’t always the same as I do different things, but generally I work until 1pm and then have lunch. I make sure I take 30-60 minutes for this as I found I wasn’t taking time to eat or have a break, and it’s important to do that. I pop to the post office when I need to, usually in the afternoon.
Then I work until 5.30-6pm when my boyfriend comes home and we have dinner. I’ll either go back up to work until 9ish afterwards, or just chill on the sofa doing some drawing on the iPad.
I find this works for me as I’m trying to switch off more during the night and put my phone down, and ignore social media and emails. Instead, I try to watch TV with my boyfriend, or go swimming.
Q13. What things do you do in your day-to-day life to encourage personal growth as either an artist or an individual?
I always have a bit of time each day to work on something for me. If I have commissions, I ensure I have an hour on ‘my’ work too, so I’m working to satisfy and explore my own ideas and not someone else’s.
Personally, I try to watch or read the news everyday so I’m informed about the outside world, and I’m always trying to fit in reading more books.
Q14. Are there any themes you try to capture in your art?
Happiness, because I like to make people happy and it makes me happy too!
Q15. What is your dream project? Have you got anything exciting in the pipeline you can tell us about?
I’d love to have my own little studio and gallery space.
Another local artist I know, Louise Collis, has a lovely little shop in Abergavenny. The front half is a gallery space for her work, and she uses the back half as a studio space. I’d love something like that! It’s lush to see her work, and see her working at the same time. Or, something similar to Kyleigh’s Papercuts where she has a shop, but also hosts papercutting workshops there too.
My dream of dreams would be to to do a collaboration with Rob Ryan – he’s my papercut hero, and also the reason I picked up a scalpel to begin with, so I’d love to work with him!
Q16. Have there been any milestone moments in your life that you've channeled / used as inspiration in your art?
2011. I tend the thrive in the face of adversity, so I took the sadness, anger and grief and channeled it all into work that was the exact opposite. That was important to me.
Striving to do more, and not be dragged down by people and circumstances, and not allow those experiences to make me cynical. My mental health could have very easily gone down a darker path and I used art and papercutting as a therapy and something positive to focus on.
I also want to make my grandmothers proud, and I hope I’m doing that.
Q17. What do you love / you dislike most about your job?
LOVE: Getting to make beautiful things everyday and having people enjoy what I do.
DISLIKE: Admin, accounts, math, and all that boring stuff!
Q18. What tips would you give to other artists that are looking to start making an income from their passion?
Try and save for a rainy day, self employment can have peaks and troughs, especially when it comes to money. Try to make sure you have a little put away to get you through some leaner times. Register with HMRC and file your tax returns, even if you don’t make any money. It’s better to tell them you haven’t made any profit than have a fine for them seeing you making money and not declaring it. They are not the boogeyman and are super nice and helpful.
You are allowed to say no and set limits on the amount of work you take on. Don’t over stretch yourself. Aim to work smarter, not harder. Otherwise, you will burn out and hate things if you try and do too much.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, everyone is different, and at a different point in their career and development. You can only go on your journey and do what’s right for you, and you are good at it! Your style is just that – yours! Don’t try to be or make something that isn’t authentically you because nobody likes a copycat, and it’s not sustainable. If you make your own original work, your originality will always shine through and you’ll always be ahead of anyone who tries to copy you.
Enjoy it! it’s hard work but so, so wonderful too.
Quick fire round 🔥
My most embarrassing EVER moment is...
A secret never to be told!
One thing that scares me is...
Falling from a height. I don’t mind heights and I love flying, but I hate the idea of falling out of control. Rollercoasters / bungee jumping / sky diving are not my idea of fun!
If I could eat one meal for the rest of my life it would be...
Either pasta or pizza. You can have so many different options for either with toppings and sauces so it wouldn’t get super boring.
The artist that most inspires me is...
If I had to describe myself in 3 words, I would say I am...
Artistic, sarcastic and nice. I asked my boyfriend and he said ‘small, funny and purple’ not because I’m Violet Beauregard, but because I have purple hair.
My biggest accomplishment is...
Having my work in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff as part of their contemporary craft showcase. That was pretty amazing!
If I could travel to anywhere in the world, it would be...
New Zealand. I’ve been there before and I’d love to go again and see more!
My favourite book is...
The Harry Potter series, I re-read it at least once a year.
My favourite band / solo artist / music genre is...
Rock. I’m a pop punk princess really.
One thing people assume about me is...
I’m a vegetarian, I really don’t know why…
My guilty pleasure in life is...
FREE COLOURING PAGE, PLUS YOUR CHANCE TO Win CHARLIE’S COLOURING BOOKS!
To celebrate the release of her upcoming new colouring book, Charlie is offering one lucky person a chance to win her latest colouring book, plus a copy of her first colouring book Land, Sea and Air.
How to enter
To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is:
Colour in the gorgeous Whale page in your style. This is all about having fun, and all ages and abilities are welcome to participate!
Submit the completed coloured page via Instagram using the hashtag #colourwithbch OR by posting your entry in Charlie’s colouring group on Facebook.
Entries will be accepted from 1st July to 30th July 2019, and the winner will be announced on 1st August 2019.
Nitty gritty details
The competition will run from 1st July to 30th July 2019.
A winner will be chosen at random, and announced on (or soon after) 1st August 2019.
In order for your coloured page to qualify as an entry, you must use the correct hashtag (so Charlie can find your work) on Instagram OR ensure you’ve posted your entry in her Facebook group.
Only one entry per person, but feel free to colour as many times as you like if you enjoy the page :)
Discover more of Charlie’s art 🎨
Want some rainbow goodness in your life? Below are the links to all the places you can find Charlie’s paper cutting and colouring. She’s also given us a 10% discount code for her Etsy and Folksy shop!
If you’d like to support Charlie even more, don’t forget that you can become a Patron of her work. She’s got a variety of tiers that offer a mix of her products, and of course, you’ll be supporting an indie artist which is awesome!
Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/1083966764989491
Instagram (Papercutting): www.instagram.com/bycharlieshand
Instagram (Colouring): www.instagram.com/colourwithbycharlieshand
Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/bycharlieshand (Get 10% for the month of July with promo code HAPPYLIFE10)
Folksy shop: www.folksy.com/shops/bycharlieshand (Get 10% for the month of July with promo code HAPPYLIFE10)