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Women Who Launch: Ofelia Botella

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By Ina Yulo Stuve on 2nd November 2022

This week, Ina Yulo Stuve introduces us to the colourful world of Ofelia Botella, a London-based artist & illustrator inspired by her travels, archaeology and folk tales.

Making a career out of your passion isn’t always as straightforward as one might think. Despite the clear enthusiasm that comes with getting paid to do what you love, the path is often far from being sustainable. “Growing up, I fell into this narrative that I’d never be able to make a living as a creative and would instead need a ‘serious job’,” says artist and illustrator Ofelia Botella. This mindset pushed her to study business and put her knowledge into practice by working in art galleries, museums, and auction houses in London, Paris, and Shanghai. “After a while I realised that as glamorous as that life sounded, I wasn't feeling very fulfilled simply working in art but not being a creative myself,” she shares. She then left the art industry and entered an entirely new space—the world of technology, whilst still maintaining her art as a hobby on the side. Botella tells me that the pandemic was a real turning point for her, where she found herself painting daily. It was also during this time that she made her first sale, which encouraged her to pursue this new channel further. She then started selling more of her work, making bespoke wedding stationery and illustrations, doing murals in private homes, and hosted her first exhibition. The biggest leap of all came this year when she decided to officially take some time off from her tech job to dedicate to her new business. “I haven’t looked back since!” she says.

Botella is a self-described maximalist who doesn’t shy away from using a variety of colours in one piece. “In my artwork I lean towards dreamy, trippy landscapes, often inspired by my own trips. I love being in nature and always find inspiration in it,” she explains. I treated myself to my first Ofelia Botella piece not long ago: a print of Richmond Park from her London Parks collection. The piece is a whimsical and colourful take on one of my favourite places in the city, complete with the different dirt paths that wind around the park and the resident deer lounging in the grass. Pre-covid, I was also lucky to take part in one of her painting classes where she invited a small group of people to her flat and introduced us to different techniques to help bring out our inner artist. “A big part of my work and my mission is around helping people live a more creative life—sometimes that's by filling their home with murals and art, and other times it’s through helping them gift really meaningful bespoke artworks to friends and family. I also try and get my audience to actually experience the joy of doing something creative themselves!” she shares. A browse through her Instagram account takes viewers on an imaginative journey with video reels on how to make illustrated menus for a casual dinner party at home or how to upcycle second-hand furniture. She adds: “I also run art workshops for charity, they're more focused on wellbeing, and finding a safe space to express your creativity without fear or expectations.” On this edition of Women Who Launch, I speak with Botella about how she’s taken the plunge from full-time tech worker to owning her own business and get her tips for how to start your first art collection.

If we asked your 10-year-old self what you’d be doing right now in terms of your career, what would she have said?

10-year-old Ofelia actually already wanted to be a painter—not a doubt in her mind! It was only teenager Ofelia who started double guessing herself and listening to the traditional narrative of “You’ll be a starving artist, you won’t make it” and decided to pursue a safe business career. 10-year-old Ofelia would be so proud if she saw where she is today.

How did you first get started as an artist?

I grew up in a very creative family and as a kid all of my favourite games involved creating things. I remember my favourite Christmas gift ever was a box of old magazines and papers to use for a collage, while my little sister got a doll. I thought that was the best gift ever!! I also used to steal my mom's nail polish and use it to make paintings and make clothes for my sister's dolls with paper and scissors.

If there was one thing you wish you knew before you decided to start a business, what would it be?

Start by defining my mission rather than my tactics. When I started, it was all about selling my art, which felt so egocentric and limiting and like it didn’t really serve anyone other than me. Since I crystallised my mission to helping people live a more creative life, I’ve felt like I’ve been able to go beyond painting and actually explore creativity in a much broader way, in a way that connects with people. I’m now running workshops, sharing how-to videos on my social media—my easy hand-painted menus are going viral on Instagram—and looking at my commission work as a much more collaborative work with clients, which is so much more fun.

What’s the business skill you’re currently trying to master?

So many! Balancing creative time with business development time is a big one right now.

Are there any entrepreneurs you look up to?

I’m really inspired by Julie O’Rourke, who’s the founder of clothing brand Rudy Jude, she seems to have mastered having a good work-life balance and you can tell her brand is just an extension of who she is, what she believes in, and the life she wants to live. I also deeply admire my friend Andrea Oliver, founder of Emjoy, an intimate wellbeing app for women. I admire her for her vision and relentlessness. A few years ago she saw there was a huge problem in how taboo it was to talk about women’s pleasure and she’s been driving change ever since. I can see the impact of her work on my everyday life. Finally, Liv and Daisy Tinker from A South London Makers Market, for the way they’ve created a community of small business owners around them and for how inspiring their mission to change the face of retail is.

How would you describe your style?

Colour, colour, colour! If I have to think of one single thing that defines my work, it’s my love of unexpected colour combinations—if you're looking for neutral and minimalist art or décor, then you really should be looking somewhere else! My most recent work is inspired by a trip I took to South Africa—the collection, "Tree of Teenage Love", is a reflection on trees and how they hold so many of our emotions and history through centuries, from being used as hedges to separate people from their native lands, to refuge and hiding places, to being a place where kids play or lovers write their names to last forever. I also engraved the initials of all my friends who have gotten married or engaged this past year as a romantic nod in the pieces.

Many people are intimidated by the thought of starting an art collection. What advice would you give to them?

I love this question because I was also really intimidated by it, even though I had worked in the art world for years! My advice is:

  • Start with small pieces by young artists you love—don’t think about whether they will increase in value, just ask yourself if you love the piece and if you’ll love it for the next couple of years. Limited edition prints are a really good place to start; they have more accessible price points and help you start defining your style without making a big investment.

  • Follow local artists on Instagram. A good place to find them is through the accounts of nearby art schools like the Royal College of Art in London. Also, emerging artists tend to do studio sales, where they sell works at a lower price to make space in their studios. I’ve got quite a few works from artists I couldn’t otherwise afford this way.

  • There’s tons of emerging art galleries which sell online at affordable prices. Partnership Editions, Blue Shop Cottage and BWG Gallery are some of my favourites.

  • The hashtag #artistsupportpledge on Instagram is also an incredible source of original art for under £200. I bought one of my favourite pieces through the hashtag.

  • Don’t rush it! Don’t try to fill a wall in one go, buy pieces you love when they are available and let your taste evolve!

For any art lovers in London, what are some of the hidden gems you absolutely adore?

So many! I’m currently loving the emerging artist programme at Huxley Parlour Gallery in Piccadilly Circus. My local art gallery, Grove Collective in Battersea Square, also has a really interesting emerging arts programme and it’s right by Battersea Park so it’s ideal for a culture fix and a coffee walk in the park straight after.

How can people discover more of your work and maybe take home a few pieces?

Right now I've got a few artworks on show at an all-female group show in Mayfair called Visions of Healing, which is on until the 23rd of February 2023 at the Hallam Conference Centre. I'm focusing on growing my bespoke wedding illustration and brand illustration business and am also working on some new art collections which will soon be available to buy through my website. Next year, I want to be exploring design in public spaces (mainly murals in restaurants, hotels etc). You can find my work on Instagram @ofeliabotella and my website.

Ofelia Botella’s work will be showing at Visions of Healing in Mayfair until the 23rd of February 2023. By Appointment Only. Contact curator Jack Trodd to book:

jack@brusheswithgreatness.co.uk | 07789 172 073

Ofelia Botella

Website: https://www.ofeliabotella.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ofeliabotella/?hl=en

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