Meet Your Maker-Shoshana Illustrations

This week on MYM we have the lovely and talented Shoshana from Shoshana Illustrations. She makes all kinds of interesting and unique items with her own original paintings on them.Some of Shoshana's items include art prints, stickers (who doesn't love stickers!!) and cards! Be sure to go show her some love and check out her Etsy for some unique gift ideas.

Introduce yourself and your business

My name is Shoshana Schwebel, and I run Shoshana Illustrations. I like to paint and DIY, and I experiment with turning my paintings into everyday objects, like stickers, notebooks, temporary tattoos, tote bags, and greeting cards. Over the past year, I’ve been selling my products in several stores in Canada (in Victoria and Montreal), as well as on my Etsy shop.

How did you launch your business and what made you want to start a small business?

I can’t pinpoint one day that I launched, because everything happened in small and sporadic steps. I’ve had some freelance work over the years doing video animation, graphic design, and illustration, and then I also painted for fun on the side. One day, a friendly conversation with a pop-up shop employee ( led to me selling prints of my paintings in that store. Then another store, then another. Then I left my awful 9-5 job and I suddenly had so much time to make stuff! I opened an Etsy shop and starting making different types of products: stickers, cards, tote bags, notebooks, etc. I started doing local markets. I’ve since gone back to working part-time, but the groundwork that I laid during that time off (getting my products into stores and opening my Etsy shop) has kept the business running even when I’m too busy to put new creative effort in.
The first products that I sold in stores were these plant prints

What are some struggles you had starting your business and how did you overcome them? 

My biggest struggle was putting myself out there, especially before I even knew if I had anything to put out. The art that I make is mostly silly or cute, so I didn’t want to draw attention to it as something I took seriously (I also didn’t want to call it “art”). I was able to overcome this by working a lot with a good friend of mine,@des.innovates. She is an artist with a totally different (i.e. healthier) mindset, and she and I would make small goals and meet up once a week to work on stuff like photographing our work, making our websites, and eventually, for me, opening an Etsy shop. She helped me develop a ‘growth mindset’ when it comes to art. I do what I can, and it won’t be perfect or finite.

Where do you draw inspiration from? 

So many things. Other artists on Instagram (@helen_dardik and @angelastaehling, for example). My favourite TV shows. Silly puns. Colour palettes. Children’s toys. My plant-babies. Old natural science illustrations, especially weird, beautiful insects and deep-sea creatures. I go to the library and flip through the natural science books, and sketch the most intricate beetles, moths, fish, and other small animals.
Painting of a Norway Pout Fish

What motivates you as a maker?

I think I’m motivated by wanting to figure out how to make stuff without paying lots of money to get someone else to make it. For example, I love beautiful printed dishware, but printing your own designs onto dishes is really expensive and you don’t have much flexibility in the overall product design. So last year I went out and bought everything I’d need to transfer my designs onto thrifted glassware. I didn’t end up with any saleable products, but I needed to scratch the DIY itch anyway.

What is a goal you set for yourself as a maker/artist and how did you achieve it? 

Most of the art-goals I set for myself are deliberately tiny. Otherwise, I would psyche myself out. But even with the small goals, it is amazing to look back and see how they actually accumulated into a functioning small business. Making stickers has been a goal for a long time, because I just love cute stickers, but getting them printed at a shop was expensive, and most places had a minimum order in the hundreds. So, once again, I tried to figure out how to do it myself. I bought sticker paper and used the library printer to test it (with permission), then I bought my own printer, a cutting mat, a scalpel, and some Bristol board to make the packaging. Funnily enough, after making hundreds and hundreds of sticker packs, I am now starting to reconsider printing my stickers at a print shop. My process is quite labour-intensive and is actually limiting what I can make.

Sticker-making in progress
 What is your favourite part of being a maker?

It is so satisfying to share what I make with other people. It’s just so neat that I can sit in my office and cut out little stickers or start painting a new card, and then a few days later, someone in another country is receiving that card or those stickers and sharing them with someone new. I also love seeing the finished products and having something tangible to hold in my hand and know that I made from start to finish.

Do you have any tips for new makers/small business owners?

I would echo what I learned: it’s not all or nothing. You don’t have to have a perfect business plan. You can just dip your toes in, share your work, or join a community of other makers and see if you like it.

What are some hobbies or interests you have outside of your small business? 

Since I live in a very naturally beautiful place (Victoria, BC), I like to visit the ocean or go on hikes and look at all the tiny beautiful creatures and plants. I like to read and talk about mental health and feminism. I’m also going back to school this September, to finish my abandoned-PhD in German literature.

Share a fun fact about yourself. 

I can sneeze on command and do one-handed cartwheels. 

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