Case study

Stevie Davies Glass

Stevie Davies is an artist and designer who works with glass. She’s spent the last six and a half years honing her craft and developing her business at Banks Mill Studios, and has just had her most profitable period ever, despite the challenges of the pandemic.

First steps

Stevie has been self-employed since 2007 and was an affiliate member of Banks Mill for a few years first while she worked from home. She started renting her own studio space there in 2015.

Stevie explains what attracted her initially to Banks Mill: “I like collaborating with other people and at Banks Mill, you get to meet people from all kinds of creative industries with different skill sets. There is always someone you can ask for help or advice. The annual Open Studio event is also a really positive event to be involved in and a good opportunity to showcase your work.”

Support and opportunities

During her six-and-a-half-year tenure at the incubation unit, Stevie has received a range of support from the University’s Banks Mill team, as well as the other tenants. “Banks Mill instantly makes you feel more professional – you get a business address and have opportunities to learn from others and make connections. It gets you out of your artist bubble and forces you to think about your business more. I would highly recommend it!

“The team that work at Banks Mill are fabulous – so generous with their time and knowledge,” says Stevie. “A really important element of the support was the one-to-one mentoring sessions with Filomena Rodriguez. She’s amazing; everyone raves about her! She’s been really good at building up my confidence and getting me to think ahead about what’s next for my arts practice and my business. I’ve also benefitted from great networking opportunities and had support about the financial side of my business, as well as the marketing and social media aspects. There are so many opportunities on offer here.”

Stevie was introduced to Professor Mark Gilman by the Banks Mill team, Mark Gilman leads the University of Derby's Regional Economic Observatory, a piece of research that has been designed to support SMEs pursuing growth. 

Stevie explains the benefits of the Regional Economic Observatory "I would say that I found having the diagnostic review with Mark to be fascinating.  It was a well-rounded conversation which was guided from what was in essence an outsider's point of view. Talking about what my business looks like on paper, not how I feel about it and how I prioritise certain aspects (rightly or wrongly) gave me a lot to think about."

Head and shoulders shot of Stevie Davies, artist and designer

Banks Mill instantly makes you feel more professional – you get a business address and have opportunities to learn from others and make connections. It gets you out of your artist bubble...I would highly recommend it!

Stevie Davies
Artist and designer

Adapting to pandemic life

Even during the Coronavirus pandemic and national lockdowns, the support from Banks Mill continued, says Stevie: “The studios were closed for three or four months but they froze our rent, which was a huge relief. Our monthly tenant meetings continued — just online — so communication remained good, and we started peer support sessions online too. Plus, we already had a Facebook group for Banks Mill tenants and members anyway, so contact with others was always available through that.”

Although the pandemic was challenging for Stevie, she reflects on the many positives that came out of it: “I had time to do more of my own artwork as well as the commercial stuff, but I did a lot of self-development too, such as learning about cashflow and the commercial aspects of running a business. I realised that the more effort I put into being a successful business, the more time I would ultimately get back to being more creative.”

“I started teaching glass art online and I also developed project kits for mail order so people could have a go at home. Teaching online is a completely different vibe – there’s a lot more pre-planning and limitations to it — but it’s been interesting, and I’ve been able to reach people all over the country.”

Moving on

Stevie’s rental contract at Banks Mill came to an end in early 2021 but she was allowed to continue renting a smaller studio space there for six months, while she set up a new, bigger studio and gallery space in Wirksworth — a small town in Derbyshire which is famous for its arts festival. 

“Things are going really well,” says Stevie. “The last few months have been my most profitable ever, and from January 2022, I’ll be based in Wirksworth full-time, working on my art and running workshops. I now have a window and ‘shop-front’ to sell my work and the work of other artists. In time I would like to grow the space so I can showcase more of my selected makers.”

You can find out more about Stevie’s business by visiting her website, Stevie Davies Glass.

Artist Stevie Davies at work in her studio
Close up of Stevie Davies' hands creating an artwork