Inspirational Women: Jess Purser

As a self-employed business woman, I decided to surround myself with positive, motivated and inspiring people. So I started a monthly networking group called 'Wonderful Women: Minding Our Own Business'. To encourage and motivate us I interview inspirational and creative business women, and so far I have picked the brains of Bernie Dexter, Angelique Houtkamp, Michelle Ward, Maureen Jann, Hayley Southwood and Rebecca McWattie.

Jess Purser owns Purrr, an Etsy shop selling her own unique style of art featuring her own fabulously wonderful women. She has opened up so honestly in her interview, and I think many creative business women can learn from her insights.





ReeRee Rockette: How did Purrr start?

Jess Purser: I guess you’d call my business a cottage industry. I love to paint, combining a love of history, literature, vintage fashion and of course, art. It began as a little hobby without much direction, and then a whole load of ideas and inspirations which had been growing in my mind for a long time suddenly consolidated and came together. I was lucky to have been introduced to Etsy when I was at a loss for both money and something ‘useful’ to do with my time.  

We were living in Spain (myself, boyfriend and our small daughter), helping my mum to look after my dad who had recently been diagnosed with arteriosclerosis. There wasn’t much work around and our daughter was too young to attend school, so things were pretty difficult at times. Then my friend Jo (herself a rather stylish vintage-loving beauty!) told me about Etsy and suggested I could do ‘something arty’, so I gave it a go, made and painted a few things and opened my shop ‘Purrr’ (which comes from my surname ‘Purser’) tried out a lot of different styles and spent every spare minute creating, researching, perfecting. Now we live back in England, not far from London and I’m working hard on developing the business further. I feel very comfortable with little vintage-style paintings I’m doing at the moment, but am also fearful of getting too stuck on an idea. Have a style – yes, but keep an eye on yourself so you don’t go stale!

ReeRee Rockette: Do you find it challenging to have a business mind as well as a creative one?

Jess Purser: Yes. Massively! I really dislike and find it hard to keep up with all the paperwork which goes along with having this kind of business. On the outside, being an ‘artist’ appears to be very much an ideal, almost lazy lifestyle, lying around, flapping away at a canvas but if you’re to earn a living from it, it’s anything but! My house (ahem, ‘studio’) is piled high with paper receipts, printing paper, invoices, my daughters’ drawings, my own drawings and notes, books, inspirational magazine clippings, endless to-do get the picture!



ReeRee Rockette: What have you found most challenging running your own creative business?

Jess Purser: Keeping up with life! Then again, I think we all have that problem, don’t we?!

I’m still in the process of learning not to be so critical of my failings. Forgiving oneself and gradually working on improving your situation is way more productive than just kicking yourself and making the same mistakes again! I’m naturally a very disorganised person, but have found that if you can find good storage solutions for your office space, you can save yourself a lot of hassle. What a revelation!
Something I’ve learned is that if you have a dream, don’t give up if it doesn’t work out right away. Learn, research, see what successful people in your line of business are doing and how they do it – you’ll eventually find your own voice and way through the maze! I am always learning and reading up on other artist’s blogs and interviews. In fact, I’m guilty of doing that a bit too much when I should be just getting my head down to my own work!
ReeRee Rockette: What have you been most proud of so far?

Jess Purser: As far as work goes, I am constantly amazed that people actually fall in love with and want to own something that has come out of my very own brain!
I have to mention my daughter here, too – she’s only five, but the creative ideas she comes out with are sometimes so mind-blowing – she drew a ‘quackodile’ the other day! Brilliant!
ReeRee Rockette: Where do you get your inspiration from?

Jess Purser: I’d have to say that my dad was an amazing inspiration to me, although I didn’t really realise it while he was alive, unfortunately. He was a brilliant business person, leader and motivator, and very aware of how just one person can have such a great effect on those around him – and he did! I hope I can pass on just a bit of that through my art and actions.
More specifically creatively, I was brought up watching old movies and my mum has an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things musical and cinematic so that has always had a huge influence on me. She went to art school in the 50s and would have loved to go into fashion design then, but as it was, things didn’t work out that way. When I was little, she used to draw little princesses and pretty ladies for me to colour in and of course, I would also draw my own, so I guess things quite obviously evolved from there. I’ve always been interested in stories, secrets and the way peoples’ minds work and read a lot of poetry (mainly Sylvia Plath) in my teens. I tried poetry. It didn’t work. I knew that there was some way of expressing myself in some kind of creative way, though, so I went back to drawing in every spare second I had (and even seconds that weren’t so spare!)
ReeRee Rockette: What advice would you give to other creative business women?

Jess Purser: Work from your heart. Think about what excites and makes you happy and RESEARCH. Be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid. Create your own thing, and don’t try to imitate (although conversely, sometimes I think practising imitation can teach people a lot about what direction they should be headed).
Also, really look after your customers! I put a LOT of effort into making sure the parcels I send out have reached their destination in good condition and pop a free little goodie in with orders whenever I can afford it. I love my customers to bits! – I guess it’s nice to know you have a little community out there who appreciates the same kind of ideas and aesthetics as you.
I think it’s good to keep on dreaming up new items and interesting surprises for your customers to keep things fun. I’m hoping to do a little competition on the blog soon, which might just become a regular thing if it goes well.
ReeRee Rockette: What be your dream for Purrr?

Jess Purser: I’d love to be able to really make a difference to other peoples’ lives and make the world just that bit to awe! Oh dear – do I sound like Miss World participant?! There are so, so many ideas buzzing around in my head all the time and I’d love to get them all out on paper.
To be able to travel more would be a big personal dream – to travel and paint. I adore the Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens: she was a travelling artist in the 19th century who painted hundreds and hundreds of botanical images and I keep on coming back to the idea of doing something like that...if I can afford it! I have a feeling my paintings might be a little more human/vintage/fashion-oriented, though, of course!
ReeRee Rockette: Do you still have skills you'd like to develop further?

Jess Purser: All of them! I still don’t feel I’m technically as good a painter as I’d like, but I think it’s the same with all artists, be they musical, theatrical or doing the same as myself. I’d love to develop my skills at painting animals and plants, but any creative career is forever evolving and I’m trying not to be too focused on any one path and to just take things as they come. Outside of that, I would really love to learn crochet, basket weaving, tree and rock-climbing and more gardening (which I haven’t had time for at all recently)!
ReeRee Rockette: Do you ever find it hard to sell your work? Do you get attached to it?

Jess Purser: Some pieces I do really, really get attached to. I don’t know how it happens, but sometimes, I end up feeling such an affinity to my little characters that it seems a little bit of my soul has popped out onto the paper! It’s as though I’ve been able to reach into a collective unconscious (if you believe in magic, it might be called evocation). Then I remember that if it has done that to me, someone else might also be (hopefully positively) affected by it. Funnily enough, those tend to be the pieces that sell the fastest.
ReeRee Rockette: What do you hope you'll achieve this year?

Jess Purser:  I’m really hoping to get to some local craft fairs this year and hoping to dress more like my characters! That means lots of vintage shopping in and around London, wearing red lipstick and pouting, methinks! Woohoo!     
Perhaps we should investigate the possibilty of a commissioned Wonderful Women:Minding Our Own Business portrait!?