Creative Spotlight: Interview with Spilt Milk Press Founder Bethany Mannion

"The most rewarding thing is seeing a previous customer put in another order – it means I am doing something right."

Words: Rachel Cameron-Potter and Bethany Mannion

Illustrations: Bethany Mannion

'Folklore' by Bethany Mannion, AKA Spilt Milk Press
'Folklore' by Bethany Mannion, AKA Spilt Milk Press

Bethany Mannion, otherwise known by her alias Split Milk Press, is an illustrator currently in her final year at the University of Nottingham.

Hi Bethany! First of all, how are you doing?

I’m great thank you – I’m back home for Christmas, enjoying staying inside and watching Christmas films!

Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you get into illustration?

I have always been interested in art, doing it at GCSE and A-Level but didn’t do amazingly well – I really hated being told what to draw! I did 2 years of an architecture degree in Manchester, but I didn’t enjoy it at all.

While I was there, I sold some art over sites like RedBubble and Society6, making a couple of quid a month. I took a year out before starting university again at Nottingham, and during that time I set up Spilt Milk Press where I could finally draw the things I wanted to (and hoped that people would like them too!).

What sort of techniques do you use? Is there anything you’re looking to try your hand at?

Currently, all of the drawings I sell are made in Procreate, apart from some of the base sketches which I then scan into the app. I bought my iPad in January 2019 and since then have hardly touched a sketchbook, but my whole art background is based in traditional techniques, mostly pencil and pen.

In the new year I would like to try and build up my oil painting skills! My next main goal for Spilt Milk Press is to make a range of stationery that will be helpful for small businesses and illustrators.

'Little Women' by Bethany Mannion AKA Spilt Milk Press
'Little Women' by Bethany Mannion AKA Spilt Milk Press

Between 2019 and 2020 your shop visits have practically quadrupled, and conversion rate skyrocketed. Congratulations! Can you tell us the story behind that?

Thank you, it's been really mad! I tried to make a conscious effort this year to post on Instagram a lot more and interact with people on there and I really think that has made the difference to my sales.

I know that personally I prefer to buy things from a brand that has a nice online presence rather than a big faceless corporation, so I try to make my account a bit more personal to me. I got a bit of slack when I posted some UK political drawings during the last election, but it seems that most of my followers are similarly minded, thank goodness!

On that topic, somehow Dua Lipa found one of my drawings and reposted it during the last UK election and I definitely got a big boost of followers from that!

Do you have any tips for any other illustrators looking to boost their conversion rates?

I would recommend asking your followers what they want to see from you. Obviously, I only make things I want to make, but getting ideas from followers is so nice because it introduces me to new things too. For example, I only watched ‘Booksmart’ because I had quite a few people asking me to make a print for it, yet it wasn’t until I had posted it on Instagram that I discovered the conversion rate on that piece was really high.

On a more technical level, this year I really took the time to explore the analytics side of selling on Etsy and find out how I could organically boost my viewings on there. I would really recommend anyone selling through Etsy to work out all of the loopholes of the site. It's the boring side of the job, but it really does help conversion rates!

You’re currently in your final year at the University of Nottingham – how on earth do you find the time to balance studies (especially final year!) with your commission workload?

I wish I could say that I am just incredibly well organised and good at waking up early to get to the library, but the truth is that I am winging it! I am a terrible procrastinator which means I often end up packing up orders really late at night.

These past few months have been incredibly busy, so I’ve been doing university work for a few hours at a time, resting my brain by doing the mindless jobs that I secretly love doing for Spilt Milk Press. Last month, I cut out over 1000 stickers and it ruined my hands but was surprisingly therapeutic.

A lot of your work is influenced by pop culture. What would you say your favourite film/television show is, have you drawn it – and would you say it’s also your favourite art piece?

My favourite TV shows are probably ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ and ‘The Simpsons’, both of which I have some prints designed for that will be arriving in the new year. Most of the film prints I have made are my favourite films – Eternal Sunshine, The Royal Tenenbaums, Amelie etc. I feel very grateful that there seems to be a lot of people who have the exact same taste in films as me!

Your Etsy describes you as a Louis Theroux enthusiast. Have you drawn him?

'Louis Theroux' by Bethany Mannion AKA Spilt Milk Press
'Louis Theroux' by Bethany Mannion AKA Spilt Milk Press

I am completely in love with Louis! I find it hard to do his face justice, but I have sketched him before!

Final question – what do you find the most rewarding about your work?

Every single time I get a notification of a new order coming in I feel so grateful. My business has grown quite a lot since it began and I get more orders now, especially around Christmas, but the novelty of it has never worn off! I feel so lucky to be able to support myself through my art. The most rewarding thing is seeing a previous customer put in another order – it means I am doing something right.

Also, I get to write the gift messages when people send prints directly to their friends and family and I love reading them because they are either incredibly cute or incredibly rude and they always make me laugh!

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