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WebinArt Emerge Member Focus - January 2021

In this Emerge member focus blog post for the 2020/21 WebinArt programme, we are proud to introduce three up-and-coming creatives - Maria Ross, Joss McAuley and Jessica Mannings.

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. 



URGHH Designs and Riia Ross

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

I started embroidering as a hobby after graduating in footwear design in 2016. After selling at a few craft fairs in Leicester, URGHH became a big passion project where I began to sell a wider range of products! Eventually I started focusing the business on quirky and rude greeting cards and prints.

Riia Ross is now my creative outlet for original illustrations and prints, embroidery pieces and possibly sculpture in the near future! How does your practice and business fit in with other life responsibilities?

I’m a night owl so I usually draw and craft right into the early hours. Luckily, my day job isn’t 9-5 so I can roll with it and create in my spare time. What has been your main challenge and biggest success up to this point?

My main challenge has probably been getting my head around marketing. When you don’t have experience in it, you feel like you’re being annoying by plugging your work but you just have to keep at it. I’m at a point now where I really enjoy interacting with followers and sharing my work so I’ve definitely learned a lot! The way I photograph my work has come so far as well so that has come with a lot of practice and seeing how others present their work!

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

My plan for URGHH is to have my cards and prints stocked in shops throughout the UK and eventually worldwide! I’d also love to collaborate with some of my favourite artists and retailers!

Riia Ross art is in the very early stages but I’d love to exhibit some large original pieces and work with interior stylists in the future! How is the WebinArt Programme is benefitting your business journey so far?

I’ve met loads of talented and likeminded people so it’s been fantastic to exchange ideas and advice within a creative network! I’ve also found the sessions with my mentor absolutely invaluable! The knowledge and experience that Chloe from ‘Cotton Clara’ has shared with me continues to be of so much value to my business and I feel really lucky to have had that opportunity!

What has inspired you recently?  I’m very inspired by strong or flamboyant female characters - This month in particular has to be Winifred Sanders from Hocus Pocus!

Fleetwood Mac’s song Rhiannon is inspiring me a lot lately so I’m thinking of some lyrical artwork!

I’m readying ‘Conversations with Friends’ by Sally Rooney right now and there are a lot of quotes in there that have spoken to me. I’ve been dabbling with hand lettering so I have a few ideas bouncing around in my head!

See more of what Maria does here - Website:


Joss McAuley

Joss McAuley Forest School

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

Forest School is an approach to connecting with nature that's based on the fantastic practice found in outdoor kindergartens in Denmark. It aims to give people time, space, and the skills that they need to be able to connect with natural environments in a really deep way. I did my Forest School training about 12 years ago, while I was an early years teacher, and have used it in my work ever since. I was made redundant 18 months ago, and decided to take the opportunity to go freelance. My work is pretty varied, and involves delivering sessions in early years settings and schools, working with Looked After children, families with a member with ASD, creative practitioners, and people looking to improve their mental wellbeing. I have a creative approach to my work, and incorporate elements from storytelling, music, photography, art, design and craft, to give people a unique outdoor experience and foster their creativity and imagination.

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

The freelance side of things is pretty much (variably!) my main source of income at the moment. I still keep on a little regular work on a creative project based at De Montfort University, but am hoping I'll be able to completely rely on freelance stuff by the summer (Covid allowing of course). I've already found that trying to keep up with developing my practice, learn new skills and try out new ideas, while delivering most days, is a really tricky balance!

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

Covid has definitely been the biggest challenge so far. Having gone freelance in September 2019, I was just beginning to get established and feel more confident when Covid hit, lockdown came in, and everything stopped. I lost all of my work pretty much overnight, and had five months where I wasn't able to deliver anything, and wasn't eligible for any grants as I was newly self employed. It was great to have time to slow down, and I spent a lot of time creating resources and developing skills, but I also needed to pay the bills! Eventually I was able to offer one to one sessions in people's gardens which was a lovely, intimate way to work, and since September more opportunities for regular work have been coming in.

The thing I feel proudest of up to this point is getting funding to run a wellbeing group for women who had experienced domestic abuse. Me and my Forest School buddy ran the group for six weeks just before Christmas, and despite the cold, rain and mud, the feedback we got from the ladies was great. I am really passionate about the effect that nature can have on our mental health, and to feel that I had played even a tiny part in helping someone feel better about themselves, and help them begin to develop a relationship with nature that will hopefully carry on after the group has finished and continue to be a comfort to them, that's pretty special.

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

Short term, I have applied for more funding to run a longer programme of the group we ran just before Christmas, so I am crossing my fingers for that.I'm planning on putting on more Creatives Playtime sessions as soon as we are allowed. This is a session for creative and therapeutic practitioners to come together in a secret location, to relax, get inspired, and make connections with nature and each other. I also started playing with rock wrapping over the Christmas break (have a look on Youtube, it's so lovely!), so I'm practising that and playing with the techniques I'm learning.

Longer term, this year I am planning to establish a CIC (Community Interest Company) with a friend so that we can put more funding into delivering the creativity and mental health aspects, without having to charge people who would otherwise not be able to access this kind of thing. We are also planning that the CIC will work collaboratively with other creative practitioners and artists to deliver specific one off and longer projects, so get in touch if you are interested in working together!

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

I feel really inspired by the wonderful artists and creative community, and feel proud and privileged to be part of it. I have had two sessions with my mentor so far, and both times I have come away feeling inspired and invigorated. I constantly have nagging imposter syndrome, that I am less of a "creative" than other people, and my mentor has been so accepting of me and my practice that it has made me feel that I do have a right to call myself a creative practitioner. She also has lots of fantastic ideas that have helped me explore new possibilities and think about different ways of working.

What has inspired you recently? 

I am currently more than a little obsessed with a song called Funeral Singers by Sylvan Esso. I love the simplicity, melodies and rhythm, perfectly soothing and melancholy.

On two of the sites I am currently working at, there are Robins. They are so inquisitive and brave, so small and yet assertive and beautiful, that inspires me.

I am constantly inspired by family, who support and believe in me, encourage me to keep going and keep trying new things, and humour me when I get very excited about a tree, fungus, or jumping in puddles!

You can see more of what Joss does here -


Jessica Daisy Mannings

Jessica Mannings Art

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

After graduating from Loughborough University with a BA (Hons) Fine Art (1st), I stayed in Loughborough, where I started my artistic career with a number of commissions, including a large mural project in town, alongside employment both full-time and part-time. When the pandemic struck, I took the situation as an opportunity to completely commit to my artistic goals, starting by creating my website, and launching my own Digital Portraits enterprise.

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

Given the current global situation, I am lucky enough to live in a house which I am renovating in exchange for rent, and so my days revolve around fixing up the property, and spending the remaining time developing my practice and business. This involves working on my website, running weekly competitions on my social media, creating art and content, and exploring all I can to fully expand myself as an individual and artist before life goes back to normal.

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

The biggest challenge I face is mental health, most prominently my eating disorder. This was severely exacerbated over quarantine, but led to a relocation and a total redirection in my life. Advocating for mental health is something I intend to direct the energies of my work towards, using my own experiences and failures to help others with similar struggles. In this way, I am determined to transform my greatest challenge into a wonderful outcome.

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

In the short term, I am concentrating on Digital Portraits, whereby I am commissioned to transform photographs of individuals into unique digital paintings. This includes commemorating special events and dates, the next upcoming one being for Valentine’s Day. Long term, I will commit more focus into painting, and also in bringing together a positive, creative and healing community of like-minded individuals.

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

The mentor programme run by Webinart has been extremely helpful and insightful in giving me direction in my artistic career, and I am very grateful to John Holmes for all his advice and wise counsel. It is also very refreshing to be a part of a creative community, and to be able to bounce ideas off people and be helped by others experiences.

What has inspired you recently? 

My path has been crossed with that of Ethan Sisser, a Yoga teacher, healer, coach, writer, and artist, who is affected by Glioblastoma. His strength and bravery in the face of his condition, and his spiritual message to the world has moved me deeply. Ultimately, courage in the face of adversity, and a calling for community motivates me, and alongside this, some LoFi Beats and funky fresh tunes to keep me in groove while I create.

See more of Jessica's work here -

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