Where it All Began

Where it All Began

Pia Designs was never a intentional business, it just sort of happened, grew and evolved, and it all started on my dining room table in February 2018.

I was scrolling Facebook one night and saw that a friend of mine had done a resin art class and she showed a picture of her artwork. As I am a lover of abstract art, I thought it looked very cool and I wanted to try it, but I couldn't justify spending so much money to just play with resin to see if I liked it. Hmm what else could I do? My mind started ticking. I started searching for 'fluid art' on You Tube. I loved what I saw and realised some people were so clever. I had to give this a go. Let me tell you it looks easier than it is.  Paint is not necessarily forgiving when it comes to fluid art.  

I went out and bought some cheap canvas and paints. I made a polyptych (doesn't sound like a very nice word, hey) of 4 small canvases with a beautiful aqua as the main colour, along with some glittery paint. I thought it turned out excellent for my first go so I decided to post my results to my personal Facebook page. Within a couple of hours of posting it, a doctor friend of mine said he wanted to buy it. Wow! What just happened? I wasn't sure this is what I wanted to do, but thought what am I going to do with it.  Have them sit in a box never to see the light of day again, so I agreed to sell.  I gave him a price (looking back it was way too cheap) but as it turned out he paid me way too much and wouldn't take the remainder of money back. I also had to ship them to Queensland and I had no idea how to do this or what shipping cost. This has been a learning curve. 

So once they were dry I bundled them up with some bubble wrap and sent them on their way.  I was all very new to this and I didn't seal the artwork! Rookie mistake! I think about this all the time and am so annoyed at myself for not doing so. I hope they have survived, and Siva if you're ever reading this, my humblest apologies!

I tried a few different techniques and soon fell in love with this way of painting. I did markets where I sold a few artworks.  I set up in the rumpus room and had the carpet covered in drop sheets.  I was so careful not to get paint on the carpet or walls.  I little paint did hit the walls, but I cleaned it up.  Shhh, don't tell my husband! I did some commissions which was very exciting!  People actually wanted this artwork on their walls! My artworks. I was blown away but also extremely excited. I have always loved art and I love making others happy with my creativeness so it was a no brainer that I continue on with making and selling art.  This is where I made up a business name and got some business cards printed.  The name of my business was Pia. Not Pia Designs, just Pia. Contrary to popular belief, this is not my name. My name is Annie. Pia stands for Painting In Acrylic, as I used (and still do use) acrylic paints. After a little while, I moved from the rumpus into the study. It was a downsize in terms of space, but it was MY room, dedicated to my little biz. We didn't use the study for anything else except storing junk (nothing's changed!), and the kids wanted the rumpus back, so this is where I created for the next 12-18 months. 

When you create fluid art, there is so much left over paint that just gets wasted sitting in the bottom of the container you've poured your artwork into.  I hate waste, especially paint wastage!  I would clean the inside of the container after the left over paint had dried by peeling it off. I noticed that it came off like a clean piece of rubbery looking sheet. After around 6 months I decided to see if I could use these pieces of dried up paint for something. I did some research and discovered they're called 'skins'. OK, so how can I use these skins. There's so many ways actually. They can be applied to lots of things, but I wasn't really sure what coating I should put on top to keep them looking their best and prevent damage. That's when I decided to put some glass cabochons over it and create some wearable art - jewellery! Now this is where the jewellery side of my business came in. 

I researched some more and found a wholesaler of jewellery findings and watched You Tube videos to figure out how to do it.  It seemed easy and to be able to create something useful from these beautiful patterns, without wasting all that paint got me excited. 

I still remember the day that package arrived in the mail. It was September of 2018. I opened it while I was in the car at school pick up and immediately put something up on my socials. That night I got stuck into creating some new jewellery pieces. I really only had studs to begin with but it was all new and exciting, so I didn't care.  We have to start small and build our business, not go in with a thousand options straight up - that's generally a recipe for failure.

Once the studs were made, I took photos (dodgy ones mind you!) and added them to my socials, and said they were for sale. Oh my god, I was inundated with orders! I couldn't believe it. I pretty much sold everything I had made, so I made more. I sold more, and made more, and sold more and so it continues. I added everything to the Facebook shop. Some of my family and friends still have these earrings on rotation now, which is a beautiful thing. The support from them has been incredible. 

I didn't like the Facebook shop and I knew I needed to set up a website, so I found a 'free' one. You have to remember that I had no income as such from this business - everything I made I put back into it, so found the cheapest way possible for me to be able to sell online. So in October 2018 I registered a business name, created a domain name and set up a Wix website. The website worked for a while, but I wasn't overly happy with it, but it's all I could afford (I still had to pay for some features, so it wasn't entirely free).

By June 2019 I was getting bored with making the same shapes - round or square. I had no variety. I also desperately wanted to pick up a paintbrush and physically paint something. That's when I decided to try some resin. I got some crappy resin from Bunnings, it was a two part epoxy in a small tube, just enough to try it out to see if it would do what I wanted. I made some small shapes as studs for me, as prototypes. I stuffed up a few and some worked perfectly and I was in love with them! I was heading to Darwin to stay with my sister and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to test them out. I put them through their paces. They were in 30+ degree heat, I wore them swimming in both fresh water and chlorinated water, I wore them in the shower and I wore them to bed. I was tough with them and put them down on the resin side. By the time I got home I was convinced this was it, and I was busting to try out some proper resin. 

I again researched the hell out of this, watching You Tube channels and searching stuff up on the internet. I remember watching a video where someone painted a picture of a leaf on watercolour paper, cut it out and put resin on it to make a pair of earrings. She must have used UV resin because she put it under a UV light to set. I didn't want to have to buy more gadgets so looked at another way of making the shapes I wanted to make. More You Tube videos, more research into the paper, the paints, what kind of resin to use - all the things necessary to be able to create what I was looking for. Resin was not overly common when I started using it. I couldn't get it shipped to Tasmania as the postage rules didn't allow it, so I found a supplier close to me, which was surprising in itself, and used the only brand of resin she had. I knew I didn't want to stuff this up as resin is a chemical, I needed to be careful and take proper precautions. Also it's bloody expensive. My husband had an old respiratory mask and I bought some new vapour filters. I got a supply of gloves, a small blowtorch thing, I had the fan going and windows open when I resined and spent many hours working away. I could make whatever shapes I wanted. I made templates from old business cards. I would draw the shape I wanted and cut it out and use this as a guide when cutting the paper for my earrings. I continued like this for quite some months. In July 2019 I remember going away for a week when my son was playing in the state footy competition and I took some paintings with me to cut up of a night when I had nothing else to do. I had them all laid out on the bed and my husband walked in and said "you're obsessed" and walked out. I assume he wanted to go to bed but I had it covered in little cut up bits of paper!  But you know what - I was obsessed. I loved it! 

After a little while, I would have regular releases where I would sell out of stock.  What was happening!? How can this be my business? Stuff I have created and people love it. I actually still can't believe it. The first time I got 20 orders in one night I cried. I then went and used all my 'income' and bought a dymo label printer because there was no way in hell I was writing another 20 addresses out on the boxes. No thanks! It is such an incredible feeling knowing people love what you make, love your designs and want to wear them, and I will be forever grateful. Not long after, I bought a machine that allows me to cut the shapes instead of using a pair of scissors and cardboard template. This was a game changer! It cut out hours of work (pardon the pun) and I could make way more pieces than before. On a whim one day (I must have had a few dollars saved up) I went and bought an iPad and app that would allow me to draw shapes and upload them to this new fandangled machine. This also was a game changer. Now what I am making are 100% my own designs. Completely and authentically mine. 

My family and I started talking about building a man cave. The boys were getting older, they probably wanted somewhere to hang out with their mates. So we started to build something off the side of the shed outside. It is small enough that doesn't need council approval, but the perfect size for....a studio!  As the build went on for the next 12 months, I pleaded with my husband and kids about using it as my studio instead. By now I was making a little bit of money and could help bankroll the build. The boys were dead against it, but we tossed up the fact I was using resin inside the house and although I had the windows open, the fumes were still going up through the heat pump. We didn't want the family exposed to it any longer. So in February 2021, once the building works were done, I moved all my stuff outside into my new studio. I did about 14,000 steps that day, taking stuff from inside out into the studio. I'm stuffed if I know how I fit all that into a room that is 2 x 3m. I despise moving, but this was an exciting moving day! I have now been in my studio for just over 18 months and love it. It's my happy place.

So as you can see, what started out as an accidental side hustle has turned into my full time job with me quitting my government job of 21 years to be an artist. Crazy! (More on that in another blog). But I wouldn't have it any other way. I love what I do.

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