Lifestyle and Interviews

Interview: Yellowstone Art Boutique’s Hannah Stoney

February 8, 2015
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Let me introduce you to Hannah Stoney, the owner and creator of Yellowstone Art Boutique. This is one of my go-to places for creative ideas, gifts and homeware. The walls are full of trinkets such as bobbin spools reworked into coat hooks and maps of the world transformed into artwork. The stock consists of handpicked, British artist’s work and Hannah’s own paintings, fabric and stationary.

Hannah launched Yellowstone when she was fresh out of University and it has since become a roaring success. She recently launched a series of master classes including: Approaching Shops & Galleries (to sell your artwork), Mixed Media and Floristry.

Here is my interview with Hannah and photographs from my tour of Yellowstone Art Boutique.

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Where did the idea for Yellow Stone Art Boutique come from?

I always knew I wanted to have my own space, even at University. I thought it would be more of a gallery back then, as I was on a Fine Art degree. I wanted torepresent artists and makers who didn’t have a reputation and give them achance. As soon as I began looking in to the work I wanted to showcase, Idiscovered a world of handmade that got me so excited! It shaped my businessplan and the idea for Yellowstone was born. I worked on my business plan, researching and sourcing for a few years before I even thought about renting a retail space so I felt more than ready.

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Have you always wanted to run your own business?

I never really thought of it like that – I knew I wanted my own gallery so I guess I did, but I’ve only recently come to think of Yellowstone as a business. I knew I couldn’t open up with anyone else because I had such a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I also knew it was a risk, and I didn’t want anyone else to be responsible if things went wrong! I’m so glad I do run my own business now. It totally balances out my brain. I’m too organized to paint all day every day, but wouldn’t hack the business side 24/7. So being an artist and business owner is the perfect combination for me.

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In the recent years there has been a craft revival, why do you think people love handmade?

I hate it when people harp on about the recession (we opened in it’s lowest low) but I really think it made people stop and think. We found that our customers wanted to buy less, but of higher quality. Customers began to care where the item was made, who by and why. They trust us to be fair on pricing and they know that their money isn’t going to a big corporate company of suits (I don’t even own a trouser suit). Their purchase supports a small independent shop, that in turn, supports over 40 British artists. We have lots of customers that are creative themselves, and although they may not be full-time makers, they come for inspiration, for positive words, and to learn about what other creatives are up to. It’s lovely to feel part of the handmade community.

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Your brand prides itself on championing the work of British artists; tell me more about how you meet the designers and select the products?

Mostly, I find new makers at shows (both trade and retail). There are some wonderful craft and design shows all over the country, and that way, I can meet the artist and chat straight away. I also find artists on twitter on instagram. I find there are little networks of like-minded artists who ‘hang out’, so if you find one, you often find a little team of brilliance.

The bottom line of it is, that when I see a product, I just know. If I have a flicker of doubt, it’s usually right, so I always trust my gut.

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What is your favourite piece in the store and why?

This question is impossible because I don’t stock anything that I don’t love! I’m so proud of everything in here. However, Emma Louise Wilson’s ceramics still make my heart melt even after years of selling her work. She’s become a firm friend, and we’ve watched each others businesses grow. The care and detail that goes in to every single bowl astounds me. They really get our customers excited and I totally understand why.

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Who or what inspires you? Both creatively and in a business sense too?

My customers. I get all my best ideas from them. Not many artists get to stand and listen (mostly anonymously) to feedback from ‘real life’ customers. They often assume I’m not the artist, so you get pure honesty- for better or worse! But this is invaluable to me, as those comments have grown my collections for my exact audience. My partner and family, inspire me to keep pushing the
boundaries of Yellowstone, as they know I have more to give. Just knowing that people have confidence in you can make a world of difference.

I used to gain lots of inspiration from blogs and other businesses, but if I was having a bad day, I’d compare myself to them and beat myself up about it. It can be so damaging to compare yourself to strangers on the internet but it’s so hard not to! So I try not to spend too much time doing that these days. And I feel much better for it.

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What is the goal for Hannah Stoney and Yellow Stone? What does the future hold?

I decided last year that rather than push the business in its obvious way (to open another store), I’d focus on my work as an artist to grow Yellowstone. Since then, I have developed my range of cards, prints, ceramics and fabrics and I have launched my Wedding Stationery Design, which I run alongside the shop. I split my time between my ‘freelance’ design work, Yellowstone design work, and ‘business’ work (invoices, chasing orders, ordering etc.). I also work in the shop – sorting framing, displays, commissions, customer queries and serving. Oh and run the social media channels. Basically, my aim for the future is to keep
doing all of these things that I love, together. I’m so lucky to spin so many plates at once. I think it really shapes what I, and Yellowstone Art Boutique are about. I’m not sure if you can tell but I’m not very good at doing nothing…

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