Saturday, 11 September 2010

My day job

So what do I do when I'm not making soap, designing soap, selling soap, all the other things that go with running your own business, keeping chickens, walking dogs, looking after my lovely granddaughter Lola, running a house, re building a ruined farmhouse in Portugal and generally running about like a headless chicken?   You might well ask...

I'm an Arts Development Officer for our local government authority East Devon District Council.  For how much longer?  That's another story.  With all the government cuts we are a dying breed unfortunately. I used to work full time but had my hours cut to 3 days a week, then 2 and it's just not possible to do the same job in only two days, nor is it possible to live on the salary.  That's one of the reasons I decided to create Naturally Made Soaps last year so perhaps it's not such a bad thing after all.

Elmfield House Honiton - Thelma Hulbert Gallery, my office is ground floor on the right, desk in the window

I am based in the most beautiful Grade ll listed Georgian building Elmfield House in Honiton, East Devon.  The house was the last home of the artist Thelma Hulbert, hence the gallery name.  We have just undergone a major transformation thanks to the support of Arts Council England and the District  Council. Our gallery now occupies the whole of the building with a stunning new ground floor gallery space that was formerly Thelma's studio so it's very apt. We also proudly boast a dedicated learning room, a project room and a shop with refreshment area.  We have also been able to retain a room dedicated to showing the work of Thelma Hulbert.  Thelma's work has largely been overlooked by the British Arts establishment. She was a teacher at the Camden School for Girls but, following a successful exhibition of her work at Whitechapel in 1962, she was persuaded to give up her teaching job.  Thelma was a contemporary of Victor Passmore and Barbara Hepworth to name a few and although these artists became far more famous Thelma produced some striking and well loved painting.  She moved to Honiton late in her life and continued painting until her death in 1995.

Our lovely new gallery space

I am based at the gallery and do feel very fortunate to work in such a lovely environment.  I work with a great team of people and, though it can be very stressful managing artistic staff and having overall responsibility for the gallery and arts provision in the area, it is a great job.

I now face the difficult decision of deciding when it will be right to give up the day job and concentrate fully on soap. It's a tough one and I know I'm not the only person with this difficult dilemma.  Do I give up my income that pays my housekeeping bills allowing Naturally Made Soaps to grow and expand or do I give it up, thereby freeing up much needed time?  I really do need the time too, an extra two days would be bliss.   Anyone out there had to make this move?  I'd love to hear how you fared and what you learnt.


  1. Thanks for sharing your story. I can't stand my day job but we need the salary to live on. I think you are lucky to have a day job that you enjoy with a positive environment. It is a GREAT DREAM of mine to do what you are thinking of doing... I would love to work full time for myself, providing healthy products that make people feel awesome and then maybe eventually even employ people and provide the most postive & amazing place to work... Please keep us posted on your decisions. I am sure you will make just the right decisions for you. xo Jen

  2. I love where you work! And of course you are an Arts Development Officer....

    I haven't had to make a decision like that. I work from home in our family business as well as being a Mum and homemaker, so I can fit my soaping in and around everything else I do fortunately :)