Posted on May 27 2020
We chat to Bex Ling, designer, maker and founder of jewellery brand 'Misfit Makes', who has kindly agreed to share her experiences of what it's like to own and run an independent online business.
Hi Bex, tell us a bit about your background and how your brand / business started?
I studied Graphic Design at NUA specialising in Illustration, after graduating in 2007 I continued in my student job at an off licence as I didn’t know what to do next. Alongside my shifts at work I was creating loads of different types of artwork in my spare time, including making accessories out of fabric, leather, polymer clay... anything I could find really! I used to display the things I made at local group exhibitions, but would never really sell much. I did a few craft fairs too, but again not much came of it.
Eventually I started an Etsy shop and discovered shrink plastic. Shrink plastic was great because I could just turn my drawings into jewellery and found that my graphic style translated really well into these miniature pieces. A year or so in a blog picked up on my work and the sales started to roll in! At this point every piece was hand drawn, hand cut, shrunk in my oven and then varnished, it was a lot of work and eventually I couldn’t keep up with demand, so I started looking for alternative ways to make my work, that’s when I discovered Zap! and I’ve been making printed acrylic pieces ever since!
What inspires you and your designs? They are fantastic!!
I love the graphic style of tattoo art. I also like to look back in time and pull inspiration from the past, things like Victorian Mourning customs, Memento Mori art and ancient Egyptian symbols fascinate me. Nature also features heavily in my work, especially snakes and moths and skulls.
What is your favourite product you have ever created and why?
I think the latest thing I create is always my favourite, but an older piece that I will always love are my Snake Head earrings, these were a design I came up with pretty early on and are still one of my best sellers. I love them because they are bold and colourful and the way their little beaded tongues move when they are worn is really fun. This design will be making a comeback in new colourways pretty soon.
What has been the hardest part of running your business / brand?
I think just wearing all the different hats is the hardest part! I’m a quiet person so promoting my work and opening up on social media is sometimes a challenge for me. Product photography is also something that I find really frustrating, I don’t know why it’s so difficult to get what I'm seeing into the photo... on the plus side people are usually pleasantly surprised when they receive their orders and the pieces look even better than they imagined!
What is your greatest success with your brand / business so far?
My biggest success will always be the fact I am able to support myself solely on the artwork I create. It seemed totally impossible in those first few years! Also seeing Sara Pascoe wearing my jewellery on the telly is pretty damn cool, not only because she’s a celebrity but she is someone I really admire too.
What is your favourite Zap! Creatives Product. Aha! I had to ask.
Metallic Printed Charms!
What advice would you give to a designer starting out and potentially wanting to make their own designs into products?
I would say just have a go and persevere! Don’t wait for things to be perfect, just get started and then you’ll have somewhere to work from. It took me a really long time to find out what worked for me but I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t just kept making and trying all those different ideas and techniques. My business is still a work in progress now.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what is the one thing, you could not live without?
Tea bags! I’m not really a functioning human until I drink my first cuppa, and it’d be a shame to let all that water I’d be boiling go to waste!
a. Favourite album and Why?
Descendents – Milo Goes To College. Because it’s full of awesome melodic punk songs and makes me wanna jump around like an idiot.
b. Favourite book and Why?
East of Nowhere – Robert Chalmers. Because It’s a really unexpected redemption story of a man that completely implodes his life and starts a new one. It’s full of bizarre situations and mad characters. it’s really funny but also sad at times.
Favourite movie and Why?
The Fly (1986) Because I love campy, 80’s body horror and weird Sci Fi stories and this has it all, plus Jeff Goldblum!
Where can people go to find out more about your awesome brand and browse the products you have available to buy?
You can find me on Etsy, just search search MisfitMakes.
I also have a website with some of my newer pieces on it: www.houseofmisfit.com
And I’m on Instagram @misfitmakes which has links to both my shops.
Have you used Zap! Creatives to produce custom merchandise? Do you own a cool, indie business or other creative endeavour, that you would like to shout about? If so, we'd love to hear from you and perhaps feature you on our blog.
To take part, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief overview of your business / creative endeavour and we'll be in touch.