Name: Java Bere

Job title: I am an Illustrator and also have an online shop which sells vintage homewares and sustainable curated homewares

How I got the job… I trained originally as an actor, went to drama school and ended up working as an agent for other actors. When I had kids, I gave up working as an agent because it no longer suited my lifestyle and I couldn’t go out in the evenings to see shows.  

But I continued to yearn for an outlet for my creativity – and also an income. After my second child, I started selling my illustrations, which then progressed into doing commissions for people. Once I set up a website with all my work on, it naturally became clear that I could also expand in to homewares as a lot of what inspires me is our home, our kitchen and the life that we have here. I didn’t train as an illustrator, or go to art school, but it’s something have always done – my parents are artists and I learnt from them.

My typical day… If I can, I will squeeze in a run, drop the boys off at nursery and race back to my work room to try and get as much done as possible. I will generally work on commissions, wrap orders to take to the post office, reply to emails, order supplies. Once the boys are back and in bed, I then carry on working – it’s hard working with two young kids so I try to squeeze in work when I can.

My most memorable moment… When I first sold my cards – I couldn’t believe that people wanted to buy my cards and send them to their friends and family – that was incredible. Making the money back I had spent on the print run was really exciting.

The worst part of my job… Definitely admin, but it’s also one of the most important parts of my job, because being self employed you need to be super organised when it comes to doing your self-assessment and keeping on top of your books. Also, technology isn’t one of my strengths, so I’ve had to work really hard at that aspect, as it doesn’t come naturally.

The best part of my job… Doing the thing that I love –  I cannot wait to get into the work room most days. I live for it – it keeps me up at night because I want to be doing it more.

Key skills/attributes needed for anyone wanting to be an Illustrator… In my role it’s important to be able to draw, which you can only learn through practice, doing classes and keep challenging yourself and testing yourself. Organisational skills are very important because I work for myself and I’ve got to self-motivate. Prioritising tasks is important, it’s a constant juggle.

Advice for anyone wanting to make and sell their own illustrations…  Start drawing! Test things out on people – one of the tools I found valuable was Instagram and being able to run things by people. Before I did my first run of cards, I shared some of the stories and drawings and asked if it was the sort of thing people would be interested in buying or if they could work as a Christmas cards and the feedback was really useful.

I also shared my drawings and asked for people’s favourites, which gave me an idea on which I should invest in and get printed.

Set up a website, or Etsy and go for it! Collaborate with people on social media platforms and establish a community and a network – that comes in really handy.

Something you can do right now to develop skills needed as an Illustrator… Take your notepad with you everywhere, draw everything, draw people, don’t look at your phone, just sit and draw. It will help you develop your style and it’s also a beautiful record of your journey as an illustrator.

You can find out more about Java and view her work here