Textile lover, Isabelle Lewis founded her creative business, Zaza Lewis, in 2017 after a period of experimentation with thread, fabric remnants and card cutting and soon became enthralled in her new passion. We talked to Isabelle about her start-up journey and how her creative business has benefitted from NBV’s small business support.


Can you tell us a little more about your business?

I use card-cutting and fabric to illustrate my ideas. I marry bright and colourful textiles with contrasting card. I love the clean, sharp lines and contrasts of the cut card, which is then softened by the addition of textured or finely woven fabrics. This gives an extra dimension and effect to the image, which isn’t always recognisable until you get up close. I am inspired by interesting shapes and colours of things around me from architecture to plants, to still life.

I produce a range of products including:

  • First hand-cut 3D card and fabric original
  • Limited series 3D card and fabric originals
  • Prints
  • Greeting cards


What led to you deciding to start your business?

I am originally from France and I studied graphic design, specialising in infographics and cartography. I started my career as a graphic designer for publishers worldwide, then specialised in cartography.

Back in 2017, with some free time on my hands, I wondered how to fill my days and began thinking about the possibility of planning a new career. I reconnected with my passion for textiles and threads and started making pictures using appliqué and embroidery, but ideas just kept coming faster than I could make them. Hand-embroidery takes a lot of time!

I have always experimented with a wide range of media to realise my ideas, and I thought card cutting mixed with fabrics really worked for me. I was finally using the hundreds of fabric remnants stacked up on my shelves, and it gave me the excuse to buy more!


How did you find out about the support on offer from NBV?

In November 2018, I was told about Banks Mill Studios, and through meeting Karen Holland, I learned about the the Big House and got in touch with them. I had a meeting with NBV’s Creative Business Coach, Filomena Rodriguez, and it was fantastic to think someone was on my side, wanting to help me in my new found artistic career.

I have met with Filomena 6 or 7 times since then and I have been to a workshop on “Pricing Your Work” in Nottingham, as well as having Social Media help and advice from Kaye Booth. I also had a General Business Support meeting with David Richards.


How has the business mentoring support helped you?

The mentoring has helped me gain confidence that my work was good enough and I was going about things the right way. I found that my self doubts were completely normal and I should believe in my abilities. The business advice has helped direct me into entering competitions such as Art Open where I won an award in March 2019.


What are your plans for the future?

I am applying for a studio space at Banks Mill this October. I feel that I need a dedicated space to work from, as well as wanting to be part of the community, that renting a studio will offer. Future plans are to carry on investing in marketing, social media, art fairs and local events. I should have a fully working professional e-commerce website at the end of October. This will be especially useful for developing the online sale of greeting cards and prints.. I also want to design different products other than pictures.

I am taking part in the Roy’s Art Fair in London early October, Chester Art Fair in mid-November, and Banks Mill Open Studios 22-24 November. I have also booked my place at Bath Art Fair for February 2020. I feel that I need my work to be seen by a wide audience and this is part of the investment I need to make.


Do you have any tips or advice for others who are starting their business?

My advice to others is to firstly allow yourself the time to think about your ideas and to experiment. Don’t rush in with your first idea. It’s also a lonely business, I am on my own working through ideas and I constantly have self-doubt, but I cast aside the negative thoughts and carry on. The feedback from events and shows are necessary to confirm you are doing the right thing. I’d also recommend looking for any help and support – similar to Big House – that may be available in your area. Getting feedback and discussing doubts and issues really helps to keep you going.


If you’d like to follow in Isabelle’s footsteps, contact NBV today to see how we can help your business grow: register or call us on 0844 887 2568*