Making It Makers

Creativity as a Practice with Rachel Burke

From tinsel jackets to light-up crowns and all things bright and whimsical, artist and fashion designer Rachel Burke has developed an aesthetic that’s uniquely her own. When she realized she wanted as much creative control over her website and online shop as she does over her artwork, Rachel turned to Squarespace. 

We talked with Rachel about her exploratory approach to creative inspiration, the process of designing a website that highlights her brand, and the importance of sharing your work online—especially as a way of connecting with your audience during the pandemic. 

SQSP: Your aesthetic is so unique and identifiable—how did you find and refine your visual identity?

Rachel: I am constantly reflecting on the work I have produced and contemplating as to how I can push things further, develop something new, or refine something to make the concept even better. I am pretty confident in my visual language and what sets off my creative spark, so I make a conscious effort to constantly expose myself to the things that inspire me—whether that’s through reading, looking at moodboards I have created, or flipping through my visual diaries. I find the whole process of creating an aesthetic and then exploring that world to be incredibly exciting and enjoyable.

SQSP: When you first began building your online presence, what was most important to you about how you conveyed your brand online?

Rachel: When I first started building my online presence all that mattered to me was creating my best work (whatever that meant at the time) and sharing that with my audience, which at the time was very small. I had a background working as a fashion editorial stylist and also just had a natural affinity for photography, so trying my hand at making whimsical and engaging pictures that I could then share on my platforms made total sense to me.

As I evolved—and demand for my work grew—I really wanted to elevate my audience’s experience of my work, and I wanted a space to share my editorial product images that really allowed them to shine. I remember the day I decided that I didn’t want to be a part of an online marketplace (which up until that time I had been on). I had just done a photoshoot I was really proud of, but the site I was using only allowed for small, cropped, thumbnails of my pictures to be displayed. I was just like, “No! This won’t do!” I could feel that the time had come for me to really show off the work I had done: No more tiny thumbnails—I wanted a homepage!

I really wanted to express myself uniquely, be able to carve out a distinct niche for myself online, and elevate the experience of my work through the power of good design. A well-designed website platform that wasn’t difficult to use was also something that really mattered to me. I didn’t have any skill in coding, so whatever I chose needed to be autonomous and easy to navigate. I immediately chose Squarespace after realizing how simple and functional it was to use. It helped that some of my favorite creatives were also using it for their websites. This made me feel like I could really trust the experience.

SQSP: Have you found any unique ways of connecting with your audience during the pandemic?

Rachel: I have definitely found myself engaging digitally with my followers a lot more: I have hosted art nights via live functions and webinars, and I have found myself drawn a lot more to sharing DIY how-to guides with my audience—definitely more so than before the pandemic.

It’s been an interesting time though. At the start of the pandemic, I recall wondering if demand for my wild ‘party’ garments might dissipate. However, really the opposite happened. I think more than ever people have looked to find joy and express themselves through art and clothing.

“Listen to your instincts, produce work from your heart, and then be brave about sharing that work with an audience.” — Rachel Burke

SQSP: How do you see your art and career evolving over the next year? 

Rachel: I really have enjoyed connecting more with my audience over the pandemic through DIY, craft tutorials, and sharing my love for living a creative life. I can see myself finding more opportunities to do this digitally. It really is so enjoyable. Otherwise, I will still just be focusing on producing the best work I can and pushing my materials to new dimensions—and then uploading them on my website of course!

SQSP: What advice do you have for emerging artists who are learning how to find their voice and build their brand online? 

Rachel: I would advise artists to focus on the work, first and foremost. It can be so easy to get distracted by what other people are doing and how other people are developing or succeeding. But try your best to have tunnel vision: Listen to your instincts, produce work from your heart, and then be brave about sharing that work with an audience. 

Remove the pressure that everything you create and share needs to be perfect or your best work ever. Creativity is a practice, and you can only get better through constant repetition and reflection. To me, sharing your work on a platform and with your audience is also super important. By doing that, you can obtain feedback and start to connect with people who want to engage with what you’re doing! 

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