Rachel, founder of Akers of Art went through six months of pain in 2020 as she re-focused her business to offer online clay and jewellery-making workshops, and art installations for public spaces. With support from her mum and a local charity partner, she is busier than ever and optimistic about the reach her new digital presence will deliver. A conversation with experts at Digital Boost inspired a dream to create a life-size tree installation in Birmingham dedicated to victims of Covid-19.
Rachel is an artist, creating stunning tree-forms as jewellery and sculptures from wire and gemstones. Her dream is to create a life-size memory-tree installation for a public space in her home city of Birmingham, UK, whose leaves will be tokens dedicated to victims of Covid-19.
The idea came from a conversation with a mentor at Digital Boost, who provide unlimited one-hour mentoring sessions via partners, as well as workshops and extensive digital training. As business has got busier in 2021, and she gets to grip with the multiple roles small business owners undertake, she is learning to value of free expert advice and making time to put it into practice.
Akers of Art ran as a side-line until a couple of years ago, when Rachel decided to dedicate herself to it full-time. An art teacher for fifteen years, she specialised in teaching young people on the edge of exclusion, helping uncover potential in those with few academic prospects.
So, it was a natural extension to start out by offering art workshops, the first one being a clay workshop in partnership with a local charity. When the pandemic hit, they went online, sending out kits in advance, focusing on very specific projects and setting up a camera to show her hands at work.
But that took some time and the pandemic nearly destroyed Rachel’s dreams. She struggled to keep her head above water. As a single mum of a nine-year-old boy, she was worried she would have to give up and find a job. Her amazing mum jumped in and gave her the six-month breathing space she needed.
Her hard work is paying off and she is now convinced that demand for her online workshops will continue after the pandemic, giving her reach into a world of potential customers. But workshops alone won’t sustain Rachel. Her passion is to create sculptures as installations for public spaces.
Commissions are starting to come. She loves those that allow her to explore the therapeutic nature of art. Like the care home in Warrington where she created three ‘snapshots’ of the Warrington Golden Gates to remind residents with dementia where they are and give them a sense of home.
Setting up a website and a social presence has been new to Rachel. That’s where her Digital Boost mentors, two from Google and one from RSG Consulting, have been invaluable.
As well as the idea for a community-based memory tree, she has discussed creating an online gallery on her website, investigated the price points for her art and who she should be targeting, whether B2B or B2C customers.
“I can’t believe all my hard work is finally paying off. I’m my harshest critic but am finally beginning to believe in myself.
Digital Boost is fantastic. I’m so grateful the experts there are willing to give up their time free of charge. I’m now focused on making my memory-tree installation a reality.”