It's been a few months since my last entry for Shop & Tell, but today I'm extremely excited to share this lovely feature of the every talented Kaitlyn Shea O'Connor of Designed by Shea with you! I first came across Shea's work on Instagram when she surprised me by tagging me in a custom illustration she had created of one of my photos. I was humbles and flattered by her kind gesture and beyond amazed by her vintage-inspired depiction of me.


The illustration filled my heart with so much joy and I adored it's vibrant, vintage and whimsical feel. Naturally I visited Shea's Instagram and website and fell even more in love with her work. I adored the all the whimsical illustrations of women but delighted in the fact that they celebrated women of all ethnicities, ages and sizes. When Shea released her 2018 desk calendar, I knew I had to have it and every month is bittersweet because I'm excited to admire a new found darling but sand to put the existing darling behind the stack!

Of course I could go on gushing over Shea's work but you came here today to hear directly from her about her business so let's jump right into that!



"There's no one right way of doing things. " ~Shea

Thanks so much for chatting with me today Shea, could you tell us a bit about how you got started with your illustration shop? 

It all started when I quit my full-time job as a graphic designer to focus on my illustration skills. I started developing my own style by drawing every single day (which I still do) and was posting on Instagram for fun. Folks started to ask if they could purchase my work, so I opened an Etsy shop. It's been a great platform for me.

I adore your illustrations and think they’re so unique and colorful. What inspires your creative work? 

Thank you! I'm in love with vintage everything (fashion, Hollywood, history, etc.). I also get inspired by female style icons of all eras, ages, ethnicities, and shapes. I add bright, poppy colors to help marry my vintage aesthetic with today's design trends.

Why did you decide to use Etsy as your selling platform?

I noticed a lot of my illustration idols (i.e. Brittney Lee & Liana Hee) were using Etsy. It's a really intuitive, user-friendly platform and people can find my shop by searching keywords (vintage, musical, etc.). I'm not ready to open an independent shop yet, so Etsy is kind of the perfect middle(wo)man.

I love that you refer to Etsy as a (wo)an! There are quite a few illustration shops on Etsy and beyond, how do you set your work apart? How do you maintain your unique aesthetic and why is that important to you? 

While it's important to know what's relevant/selling, I really aspire to create art that brings me personal joy. My audience tends to want to surround themselves with bright, positive and lovely pieces, so I focus on that. I never got into art hoping to make millions, so it's important to me that I enjoy what I do. I just want to create lovely things and spread positivity. It's very lucky that that ethos aligns with many others.

You probably wear many hats in your business, what are those hats and what keeps you motivated? 

I have a background in graphic design and motion design, so it's helpful to have those extra skills in my back pocket for freelance work. I do love to innovate and try new things to peak people's interest.

How do you use social media & digital platforms to drive awareness around your business? Do you have a favorite social media platform? If so can you tell us what that is and why?

Instagram is a great tool for driving awareness. I recently created a #designmeshea contest where folks could put their name in the running for a free headshot illustration. They had to share one of my illustrations, tag me, and use the hashtag. This led to new followers, which in turn led to Etsy sales. It's fascinating to see how people respond!

That was such a clever idea and sounds like a lot of fun, I'm happy the contest was successful. What advice would you give to other women who may be looking to start their own business? 

As an artist, I recommend using Instagram as a tool to gauge people's interest in your work. You can do polls in your stories, engage in conversation, connect with other artists, etc. I've set up coffee dates with artists I met through Instagram. It's a great source of community.

There's no one right way of doing things. Find multiple shop owners who are succeeding and study their recipe for success. Adapt it to fit your business and keep trying new things!

Last but not least, can you share something about yourself that's not on your about page. 

I'm always humming or whistling...and it can actually be an embarrassing problem because I don't know that I'm doing it! Luckily, my inner circle finds it endearing.

A huge thank you to Shea for sharing her story and insights with us. Stay up to date with her latest illustrations by following her on Instagram and be sure to stop by her Etsy shop or website to snag a beautiful vintage-inspired print, custom illustration or stationery.