I finally got round to adding Alice Apple Portraits to the website, something which I had been meaning to do for a while. Alice is a mum, a dog walker and until recently the editor of Essential Esher magazine, which is how i found out about her. But more importantly, Alice creates unique works of art in a style which I adore, creating detail and emotion in a very simple but natural way. For only £25 she can be commissioned to create a portrait from a photograph.
Alice donates the £25 to the Willow Foundation, a national charity established in 1999 by Arsenal legend Bob Wilson and his wife Megs in memory of their daughter, Anna. It is the only national charity to provide psychological and emotional support for seriously ill 16 to 40 year olds through the provision of special day experiences. Each special day aims to provide beneficiaries and their loved ones with a break from the realities of their diagnosis and treatment. At a time of uncertainty, spending quality time with family and friends can help restore a sense of normality, boost confidence and create precious memories for the future….. definitely a cause worth supporting.
By 2012, we had added a new member to our tribe and taken both sprogs backpacking around Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Malaysia for 6 months. We had also sold our newly renovated house for a healthy profit and purchased a cottage in the lovely village of Claygate. We returned from our trip with ideas of setting up a B&B but we hadn’t quite figured out where we could find our investment, although we already have the name of the guesthouse certified in our heads and have researched the field as a guest quite intensively both in the UK and abroad! That is a long term dream. So when Caroline returned to work, I became a stay at home dad and after a few months started rebuilding the website from scratch in the evenings.
It was originally to be a photography website, joining the scores of others in the business, printing off cheesy photographs on canvas on people’s walls. Many hours were spent transforming photographs into 3d images for the website. Some of these images definitely shouldn’t be on the website, and I can only blame getting carried away after a few too many glasses of wine one evening for some of the selection. The idea was to create a photography base and then lure professional photographers into the domain, something which I have only vaguely attempted to do and without any success. I haven’t yet had the heart to take them off after the effort that went into it. Another job for this weekend if I get free moment – halve the amount of images at least and remove total rubbish. I decided to plunge in head first as usual and purchased a rather large epson 9600 printer which is a mighty good work horse that produces highly detailed, long lasting, brightly coloured prints. It cost a fair whack but hopefully won’t depreciate much in it’s time spent with me. I also purchased several rolls of 44 inch high grade canvas paper and about £500 of various sized high quality stretcher bars along with various tools and the like.
Epson 9600 and some examples of bespoke personalised art in the background
After some time creating this website focusing on reproduced photography, I decided that bespoke personalised printed art was the way to go. It is much more interesting, designing bespoke pieces for customers who help guide you with their preferences and spending much of the time emailing designs back and forth to customers as well as the printing, framing and packaging. Every piece sent out is different. Although more time consuming, the bespoke nature of the work means it is more profitable, especially due to low supply in ratio to demand.
So the website went live again last Autumn, around October I think, and sales started coming in around November and throughout December, once I had got my google adwords account set up. Presuming January was going to be a dry month, we cut our adwords pay per click right down and started to concentrate on building natural google placement, which it turns out is a very difficult thing to do successfully, and unashamedly the reason for starting to write a blog!
So http://www.art4chimps.com was originally set up, on precisely 7th January 2007 according to whois.com, to sell photographs of Banksy graffiti, which I had photographed in and around London where I was working. However, art4chimps itself had been around for at least a year prior to that with its own little residence on ebay. The website and/or “business” was a learning tool, and I had no real previous experience in any of what I was doing, from photography, to selling, to website building, but I managed to clunk together a basic and yet functioning website which to be fair sold very little. However, due to the novelty of the product at the time, ebay sales of limited banksy photographs, signed by the photographer, were flying out of the post room of the company I worked at like noone’s business at between £6 to £30 a go. There was a point when I couldn’t print these photographs fast enough. However, at it’s highest point, a few months after the website was created, Caroline and I discovered we were expecting our first born, Jacob. We decided to get out of the expensive Shoreditch flat that we were renting and purchase a shell of a building in Tolworth, Surbiton off my grandma, God rest her soul. Renovating that semi-detached house for the October deadline took up every spare minute, and then we had a baby to focus on. Unfortunately, as Banksy’s notoriety grew during that year, so did the bandwagon of people like me trying to make a quick buck while the time was right, driving the price of the product right down. art4chimps, the hobby or project, whatever you want to call it, went into hibernation.