If you trawl through the prehistoric timeline in search of the unique ‘Jurassic Panda‘, you’ll discover a very current Gemma Hotchkiss. Birmingham-based artist Gemma created the project a couple of years after completing her degree in Printed Textile Design at Birmingham Institute of Art & Design (BIAD) Gosta Green.
Always encouraged to showcase her sense of humour in her work, the business fist existed as a Uni project entitled ‘Dinosaur Panda’. The name she says, came to her quite randomly;
“I’d always loved dinosaurs and had carried a stuffed panda toy around everywhere with me as a child. It had been pushed in buggies, force-fed food, dressed-up, operated on – you name it! And that’s really where the idea came from.”
She likens the dinosaurs in her designs to young, boisterous children who are best friends with cuddly Panda bears that “just go along with it all”. And why not?
Post-graduation, Gemma – like most – spent some time in the creative wilderness, wondering what it was that really inspired her and how she could turn this into something real. After she’d hand-drawn a variety of designs she felt confident that she’d cracked it and finally figured out how to visualise her sense of humour.
And it was from there, following a quick name-change, that ‘Jurassic Panda’ – the business – came to life.
Gemma searched around and found a couple of UK-based companies that produced printed merchandise in low volumes, and began by creating a few pocket mirrors and postcards.
The next step was all about experimenting, as Gemma explains;
“I set up an Etsy account and had a play around until I got the hang of it all. I then created a website myself using Tumblr, a custom domain name and a bit of very basic HTML.”
She then took to Twitter – @JurassicPanda – and it was there where she discovered an entire community of creatives that were just like her, trying to make a living out of doing what they loved.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have discovered some fantastic creative people through the ‘Jurassic Panda‘ Twitter account. They are extremely generous with their time and knowledge, and I’ve learned a great deal from them all.”
With everything set up and ready to go, Gemma’s shop was quiet at first. But as with any Etsy start-up, it took a lot of patience and time spent social networking before the sales started to come in. From there, Gemma started applying to sell her work at craft fairs.
Visit her shop here and all Created in Birmingham readers can enjoy 10% OFF until the 31st January 2014. Simply enter the code ‘BIRMINGHAM’ at checkout – thanks, Gemma!
You can also see Jurassic Panda in all its scaly, furry and humourous glory this weekend at Small Business Saturday, at The Flapper pub. It’s a FREE event and runs from 12pm until 6pm.
Small Business Saturday is an American concept that exists to encourage everyone to shop only with local or small independent retailers, for one day of the year. It has become such a success in the US that it’s been bought over to the UK.
Gemma has worked in partnership with The Flapper pub to help curate what will actually be 2-day Christmas Bazaar event on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th December, with Small Business Saturday of course taking-up Saturday’s programme.
The event will showcase talented, local creatives all running their own businesses and feature the unique work of jewellery makers, makeup artists, hair stylists, illustrators and craft makers. There will also be acoustic musicians playing in the bar.
If you can’t make it this weekend, don’t worry. You can catch Gemma at her final event pre-Christmas, on Saturday 14th December in Digbeth at the Custard Factory’s big Christmas event, ‘Digmas’, from 10am until 6pm.
Gemma will also begin 2014 with a creative bang. On Sunday 2nd February she has been invited to be a guest speaker at the NEC’s Spring Fair. She will be giving a talk on how to develop an online concession through a third party website.
So if you’ve a penchant for pandas and a real taste for mash-ups, show your support for extremely talented local artist Gemma Hotchkiss and her beautifully bizarre business, Jurassic Panda.