From making paper watches as a child to designing contemporary jewellery and objects – design has always featured in Simon Lownsborough’s life. In starting Found Form he says, ‘I wasn’t so much following my passion but being pushed along by it’.
Read more about the creative world of Simon:
How did you come to be a designer?
When I was in primary school I made paper watches – I think I drove mum mad. So I have always made things and drawn images. I wanted to go to art school (Stanley St at the time) but I was persuaded into a government job, for the income and security. And that was it, for years.
Eventually it became too much and I enrolled in a graphic design course and changed careers. This sharpened my design skills. I began life drawing and painting and exhibited a few times. Having this creative outlet threatened to take over because I was increasingly working until 2 or 3 in the morning and then struggling to concentrate at work. At the same time it didn’t feel right – I kept looking at established painters and hating the comparison. So I stopped painting, and for years there was a hiatus and family life took over.
I kept ‘tinkering’ though, making small-scale clay sculptures, leatherwork and rudimentary jewellery. As the web exploded graphic designers transitioned from print into web design – websites, email campaigns, social media strategy – and I followed. This lead me into another career change as I taught myself to design and build websites. For a while it was enjoyable – there was an element of creativity, and the satisfaction of building a site that worked. And then in 2016 I was made redundant. HR at the company I had been working for couldn’t understand why I was smiling. I was over it, the whole design process had become a mad dash to meet a deadline, five days a week. It had lost any sense of craft or soul.
I took a few weeks off and reflected. And then one day my partner and I walked into a market and saw a jeweller’s stall and I just cried. It was like my whole life I had been avoiding or been sidetracked from what I should have been doing.
Tell us the Foundform story
After being made redundant I enrolled in a short introductory course in silversmithing at the Jam Factory in December 2016. At the same time I began a Cert IV in Business Management. In February 2017 I registered my business name and started making jewellery.
I had most of the skills I would need to run a business. I had always thought I’d be rubbish at the admin side of things but I learnt through the Business Admin course that I could manage that. I could build a website and design email campaigns, and I could shoot my own stock photography. I had a little money from the redundancy so I invested in some of the tools I would need, and built myself a bench. And then I started making jewellery. The only way to learn is to make, and the more I made the better my work became, which I guess is self-evident.
The other thing that concerned me was marketing. I have always found it hard to talk about myself, so the idea of promoting myself was terrifying. But the only way is to dive in and do it. The first time I spoke to a potential retailer about stocking my work I felt sick. I learnt a valuable lesson that day: speak from the heart and realise that whatever happens it’s not the end of the world. They are now my best retailer.
I established Found Form because I had no choice. I wasn’t so much following my passion but being pushed along by it.
What’s are some of the challenges you faced with a second/third career?
Money, or the lack of. As an artist there is only a small percentage of people who see your work and are drawn to it. In effect I am in a niche market. In the first two years everything I could earn was sunk into the business – buying new stock and tools and replacing consumables.
I have been extremely fortunate that my mortgage is paid off, and my life partner is hugely supportive. Even so, things have been very tight.
Another thing has been self confidence. I have always had the safety net of employment. There has always been someone else handling taxation, marketing, contracts, purchasing and everything else. And the other thing has been the big question “What if I’m not good enough?”. While that one doesn’t really go away I have developed a ‘f#@k it’ attitude – in other words, I’m just going for it regardless, and trusting in myself.
What are some of the great things about your current lifestyle?
For years I rode – I rode to work, I rode up Mt Lofty or Nortons on weekends. And then I started working for myself and for these first two years I just haven’t had time. Now that I have begun to establish I can see that I will be able to ride again. And I can choose when. Maybe when most people are starting work on Monday I will start my week with a ride.
And as for work – I don’t ‘work’, not any more. I just create, and let that happen. I love my weekends, and keep my work from intruding, pretty much, but at the same time I am looking forward to what I want to make on Monday. And I am in charge, this is my destiny. I am getting recognition for my work, and it is work from my heart, not distorted by any client’s agenda. It means a lot to me because people are interested in my conversation, my story, my view of the world around me.
When I started this I thought I would be stressed, and sometimes there is stress, especially around money. But mostly I love what I do. I love that fact that I craft something to the best of my ability, and that is all I have to do.
Louis Armstrong is often credited with saying: ‘Musicians stop when the music stops’……is this the same with people in creative fields?
Yes. Absolutely. Painters don’t stop. They leave unfinished canvasses on their easel when they go. I don’t plan to retire. I’m sure there might be a time when I don’t work the hours I do now, but I will always want to make things. That never stops. How could it?
What tips would you give to other people considering an ‘encore career’?
Unless the business you want to start has a clear, strong need in the community you are targeting then expect the first two years to be slow. This is the time when money will be tight and recognition scarce. Work ON your business as much as IN it. It really helps if you have passion. It shows when you talk to potential clients, it shows in the product you make or sell. Keep your overheads low. Personally I’m happy to stick with a ten-year old car rather than aim for an upgrade, because I don’t want the stress of having to finance a loan when my income is so low and fluid. Talk to people – recently I had a trip to Melbourne and talked to a couple of galleries, on a fairly casual basis. For months nothing happened, and I just figured nothing was going to happen. And then within weeks of each other both galleries have asked me for work. I don’t think this would have happened without that initial face-to-face contact.
*To find out more about Found Form or to contact Simon Lownsborough
Visit Simon’s website: www.foundform.com.au
Email Simon: firstname.lastname@example.org