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WebinArt Emerge Member Focus - February 2021

In this Emerge member focus blog post for the 2020/21 WebinArt programme, we are proud to introduce two talented creatives - Jo Morley and Emily Bird.

WebinArt is Creative Leicestershire's year-long professional development programme for creative businesses. Our Emerge members are early in their career and benefit from one-to-one tailored business mentoring sessions alongside a whole host of live online events and resources.

Click here to find out more about the WebinArt Programme. WebinArt 2020/21 is generously subsidised by our funding partners - Leicestershire County Council, Arts Council England, Derbyshire County Council, Hinckley + Bosworth Borough Council, North West Leicestershire District Council, Blaby District Council + Rutland County Council. 


Jo Morley

Jo Morley Art

Tell us a little about your creative business and how you got into it.

I started painting again seriously about 3 years ago (after just dipping in and out of art since school). I didn’t study Art (I did Music at Uni) but found that I was always drawn to it in one way or another. I initially dabbled in digital art but wanted to do more traditional painting, and found I had a knack for portraiture and realism, and I really enjoyed creating physical paintings.

It’s only recently that I’ve decided to spend more time on it, and focus more on my practice and establishing myself as an artist. I’m still finding my feet but I’m learning more as I develop.

How does your practice and business fit in with other life responsibilities?

This is the hard part! I work part time for the NHS so I’m always kept busy, and have two younger children, so I don’t get to paint as often as I’d like, at the moment mainly evenings and snatched hours at the weekend. Of course there is not just the painting there’s the admin/ marketing/ web aspect to it. I’ve tried to set aside certain times, and I’ve always got my next painting (or few) planned out.

I’m also on the committee for my local art group, I’m both Exhibition Secretary and Web/Social Media Secretary and I’ve been quite busy of late sorting out a virtual programme on our website. This is also giving me skills I can use in my own practice for example I’m currently applying for funding for the club, so I’m hoping to get the experience of that process.

What has been your main challenge and biggest success up to this point?

I think my main challenge is time, fitting it all in (see previous answer!), I think it’s also a lack of confidence as I’m just starting out. I have a bit of imposter syndrome, and need to have a bit more confidence in my skills. I also struggle a bit with motivation sometimes, but don’t we all! It’s been especially hard with changes in routine that this past year has bought.

I think my biggest success has been this past year getting into the Harley Open. It really boosted my confidence and it’s also nice to hear positive feedback about my work.

What do you have planned for your business in the short and long term?

Short term, I’m dropping a few hours from my day job to really focus my time and concentrate on my practice, and maybe get a few more commissions under my belt. I’d also like to try a few more open competitions as I sometimes need that deadline! Long term, I just want to keep creating paintings, enjoying the process and hopefully earning a bit of money as I go along.

How is the WebinArt Programme is benefitting your business journey so far?

I am finding it really beneficial. I’ve watched a few of the older videos and catch up with ones I can’t attend and I’m learning so much, getting so many tips. My mentor Paul is also great, he’s really helped with learning about pricing my work (which was an area I knew nothing about!) It’s really helped me to see where I should be focussing my efforts and having a network of like-minded creatives has been really inspirational!

What has inspired you recently?

(List 3 things - This could be anything, such as an artwork, album or song, book, poem, essay, film or play.)

I usually listen to an audiobook while I paint, and recently listened to Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem. It sounds fascinating, all of that history at your feet (if you can find it) history is another passion of mine and I love the stories, and the aesthetics behind the objects. I’d love to do it a friend of mine does and finds wonderful things, but knowing my luck I’d probably get stuck in the mud!

I also read “A Face to the World: On Self-Portraits” by Laura Cumming. An insight into some of the world’s most famous self-portraits and the lives of those behind them. A great insight, which has made me think more about the work I produce, and what my paintings can reveal about the sitter.

I also recently rewatched “I,Claudius” (I didn’t see the original broadcast, but watched it about 15 years ago), such an addictive watch and great cast. It’s not exactly HD, but you get past that as it’s such a great story.

See more of Jo's work here -


Emily Bird


Tell us a little about your creative business and how you got into it.

Hi everyone! I’m Emily & I’m a mixed media artist, designer and teacher from Leicestershire. I like to create fun, colourful and contemporary designs inspired by the general goings on in every day life. I often combine my illustrative style drawings with hand cut paper techniques, paint and print and hope to throw in a bit of quirky humour along the way! After completing my degree in Fine Art many years ago, I stumbled through a number of jobs (including working in Ann Summers, which my dad was mortified about! haha) before embarking on my teaching career which has lasted 17 years to date. However, a few years ago I decided I’d had enough of the job taking over my life and was desperate to find time to explore my own creative impulses, so I left the school I loved to become a supply teacher. The only downside is I don’t just teach Art & Design, I now have to teach EVERY subject.... including maths!!

How does your practice and business fit in with other life responsibilities?

The positive side to being a supply teacher is that I can select the days I’m available for work on a weekly basis, so I’m able to work around family life. Every spare minute I have between the usual joyous jobs of being a mother entails, I get down to being creative and generally making a mess all over the kitchen! (I do actually have my own ‘Arty’ Room but I seem to have a magnetic pull towards the main room in our house....much to the annoyance of my husband! )

Multi-tasking is key to making progress for me! I find it easier to have several things on the go at once so you’ll probably find me knocking up a spag Bol, whilst cutting out birds feathers and developing a commission! Its amazing what you can do with a spare half an hour!

What has been your main challenge and biggest success up to this point?

Where do I start? Well anything involving technology is always a challenge for me, unless its a PowerPoint...I’m quite a dab hand at those! I’m literally stuck in the 80’s and much prefer to rely on/trust the old pen and paper so needless to say I haven’t explored Photoshop yet! (but its on my list. Quite far down but it’s definitely an area I’d like to look into).

Marketing myself I have found awkward and somewhat challenging. I guess self-doubt & being a bit of a perfectionist come into it and I don’t feel at all comfortable ‘selling myself’. (I’m likely to have more success selling vibrators!) However, Instagram has really given me the opportunity to get my work seen and it’s been great to also see and take advice from lots of other inspirational people.

I guess I have lots of little successes to be pleased about and every sale is great obviously! I’ve had work selected for the SOCK and Ferrers galleries over the years and have very recently been approached by Wistow gallery to supply them with an exclusive series of paper cut designs. I’m really excited about this as I love this rural gallery and they really do support and promote lots of local talented makers. I also created a quirky pub illustration of my village (we have a lot of pubs!) last year which was so popular I had to double my print order!

Having too many ideas is also a hurdle I stumble upon often! I need to learn to be more selective with what I choose to take forward and develop and not feel the need to do everything! (some of the ideas aren’t that good! Haha) Hmmm, I should remind myself of this every once in a while!

What do you have planned for your business in the short and long term?

Well I’ve always loved to draw. I’m really loving the illustrative side to my work so I’m planning on developing a series of drawings I started years ago and picked back up last year in lockdown. I’m planning to combine these with my love of paper and a touch of humour based on every day events and I’m hoping to take these into cards/prints.

I’d really like to continue to explore my paper cut designs also and challenge myself with some bigger and more detailed creations that I may be able to exhibit.

Now that I’ve finally managed to set up an Etsy shop, I must focus some time to add more designs and try to make my passion become financially viable. Once we are able to return to ‘normal’ (whatever that will be) I would like to start up some creative workshops for kids and adults focusing on a variety of skills and techniques.

How is the WebinArt Programme benefitting your business journey so far?

Being part of the WebinArt programme has been great! Its given everyone involved an opportunity to connect with other like minded creative people from a varied range of disciplines. The webinars have been so informative, full of really useful advice and encouragement. It’s been really inspirational to hear success stories from other artists too and how their journeys have un-ravelled. There’s hope for us all!

I have been lucky enough to be teamed with the lovely Martha (the Stitch Writer) as my mentor this year. Her wonderfully warm and friendly approach made me relax immediately. She has been an ear to patiently listen (and I probably did waffle way too much in our first chat!) and a figure of encouragement and positivity. Her advice to “just do it!” is something I now say to myself all the time. Things don’t always have to be perfect as long as you take that step...perfection can come later!

What has inspired you recently?

Inspiration has been everywhere in the last year! Whether it be an interesting podcast, entertaining, light hearted Netflix series (Yep, ‘Bridgerton’ was right up there) or one of the many ‘heroes’ of the pandemic. There has been so much to take inspiration from. Being at home so much and limited to activities, its made us slow down and appreciate the beauty of nature and what we have at our finger tips. I’ve been lucky enough to have time to read more, (‘The Salt Path’ was truly moving) listen to old 80’s hits and reminisce on life. Homeschooling is not inspirational though.... but that’s another story!

See more of Emily's work here -


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