Ep.79: The vision behind your brand with Sarah Amijo (Big Bear and Bird)

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Dec 22, 2017 •  Interviews

Sarah Amijo ( Ameeyo) is the founder of Big Bear & Bird store based in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Our aim is to create one-of-a-kind illustrations and exquisitely unique design ideas on paper and also on other mediums. Character illustrations are our signature plate, but we also love creating personalized hand-crafted projects as gifts, party decorations and also personal collections.

Sarah received her Bachelor Degree in Business Accounting. However, a year later, she decided to follow her passion in art and graduated with Master of Fine Art in Illustration in Los Angeles, California. She’s been dedicating her time on children’s book illustrations, wedding and stationery designs. She appreciates the old-world craftsmanship and hand-drawn illustrations.

I enjoy drawing in a room full of sunlight with a strong coffee or tea as my companion.

Get in touch with Sarah

Key Takeaways

“Always be grateful for everything that you have achieved or makes you down, because everything makes you a better person!”

Resources mentioned

💡 Please note: We are supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you! For more info, please read our disclosure.

Special thanks to Sarah for joining me today. See you next time!

All artworks by Sarah Amijo, used with permission

Episode Transcript

Announcer  

Creative, artistic, happy! That’s you. There are endless possibilities for living a creative life. So let’s inspire each other Art Side of Life interviews with Iva.

Iva Mikles  

Hello, everyone and welcome to the next episode of Art Side of Life where I chat with inspiring artists five days a week. My name is Iva, and my guest today is Sarah Amijo. And we chat about how she switched from accounting to art and her cute brand Big Bear and Bird.

Sarah Amijo  

So my vision is to deliver my illustration, the cute illustrations that are meant to celebrate life and to encourage one another.

Iva Mikles  

Sarah is the founder of Big Bear and Bird store based in Jakarta, Indonesia. She received her degree in Business Accounting. However, after working as an accountant for two years, she decided to follow her passion in art and graduated with Masters of Fine Art in illustration in LA. Her aim is to create one of a kind illustrations and exquisitely unique design ideas on paper and on other mediums. Character illustration is her signature plate. But she also loves creating personalized handcrafted projects like gift party decorations, and also personal collections. She released her first book, journal of gratitude in September 2017. So please welcome Sarah. I’m here from Big Bear and Bird. And let’s get to the interview. Welcome everyone to the next episode of Art Side of Life. And I’m super excited to have Sarah here. Hi, welcome. Hi. And let’s start with your background. And I would like to know what was your creative outlet when you were a kid?

Sarah Amijo  

Um, creative outlet. I don’t really draw when I was a kid. I prefer to play in cooking. But when I grow older, I don’t cook at all. And I paint

Iva Mikles  

So that was Oh, so you were doing some like creative cooking cutting of like, differentiates Yeah,

Sarah Amijo  

Yeah, I cut I cut leaves use oil to make coffee, you know? Yeah, that kind. I don’t really, I didn’t really paint when I was a little. I started to paint when I was in high school. Yeah. And

Iva Mikles  

So which were kind of your biggest decisions you had to do in order to follow your artistic passion?

Sarah Amijo  

Oh, it was a big decision for me because my background was actually in business accounting. My undergraduate I, I graduated from business accounting, and then I worked in a as an accountant for two years after I graduated. And then after that two years, I feel that it wasn’t my passion. So I quit my job. And I decided to go back to school and take the master program in art. Oh, wow. That was that was my decision.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, perfect. And so did you have like a mentor or someone who inspired you to do this?

Sarah Amijo  

Yes. Back in my university when I was still in business school. So I took a lot of summer classes that were not related to business. This is classes. So I took art I took, you know, all our art related classes. And I met this teacher, his name is Larry Johnson. And he was the one who introduced me to illustrations. And he was the one who told me what illustration is before I don’t know what is illustration. So after that, he he was the one who pushed me to apply for the graduate program, master program. And so I did. And during the master programs, I met a lot of other professors, and one of them is Christian Hill. And he also had a background of finance business major. And then he also made a big decision to follow his passion in art, so I was really encouraged by them. Oh, perfect. I’m so yeah, and I’m still in touch with them too. Yeah,

Iva Mikles  

So that it’s really nice to have someone you can see like, Okay, this is where I can get to you know, when I will like how are they can do everything good. I can so that’s amazing. Yeah, yeah. And what was your like best advice you ever received?

Sarah Amijo  

The best advice will be from the A Christian Hill. He said, When you decided to draw as a profession, you can’t draw only when you feel like it, you know, you know most of these, like they have to depend on their mood. But when it is your profession, profession, you can’t do that. And he also taught me to be wise with my spending and finances. Because income as an artist is not always stable. So having the background in accounting, it helps me immensely.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. Because a lot of art, this issue about like, Oh, now I have to run my own business, which they didn’t expect it.

Sarah Amijo  

Yeah. And what’s the worst? At lies? I don’t really remember what the worst advices that I’ve been told. Because when it’s not good, I just erase it from a memory.

Iva Mikles  

Or maybe do you see like these, like best advice or worst advice to give or other people give to young artists around you?

Sarah Amijo  

Bad advice. I think the one that stuck in my head is like the first one that I told you. Just, you know, a lot of artists have to depend on their moods. So a lot of artists, you know, it’s not my mood to do that. So depending on the painting turns out really bad. Well, you can’t really, you know, paint depends on your mood. So, yeah, that’s, that’s the worst advice. Because I followed. I followed that advice before and, and I didn’t pay at all in one month.

Iva Mikles  

Okay, that’s not good. Not good. And now you have such an amazing brand. And they’re all such a cute illustrations. And so I would be interested in how did you come up with the branding? And so what does it mean that the bird and the bear and what is your vision, always like going through your creations?

Sarah Amijo  

Okay, um, the vision or mission behind this is actually, I noticed that a lot of people are too caught up with their busy lives, you know how life nowadays, and people are sometimes too shy or too busy again, to express feelings to each other. So my vision is to deliver my illustration, the cute illustrations that are meant to celebrate life, and to encourage one another. So I post a lot of pictures with code underneath a lot of encouraging codes for people to just read. And I do a lot of cute expressions, characters just to make people happy. And, and for people to connect to each other from my product as a gift. While the Big Bear and Bird itself, it’s actually based on my personal characters. So actually, the bear is the introverted kind of animal in this story, the bear is the introverted and he’ll come he loves to be alone when he when he paint. At the same time, he also needs the second character, which is the bird who loves who is more extroverted, who loves to spread the word of love using the bears, artworks. So it’s also a stark reminder for myself to have a balance character and life that at the bear, actually, the Baron doesn’t have unisex. So I don’t know whether he or she.

Iva Mikles  

But it’s super cool to balance both sides, because you still need to be creative and calm and just do stuff. And then you have to promote yourself as well. Yeah. Oh, nice. And so what is your biggest inspiration when you are creating your artworks or just running your business?

Sarah Amijo  

My biggest inspiration, I will say a lot about other artists. I also do a lot of research in Instagram, seeing other artists how they style looks like you know, sometimes, like you get bored with your own style. So you need to see other styles but that that doesn’t mean that you have to change your style, but you have to keep improving sizing your your technique and style. Yeah. And

Iva Mikles  

Do you have something strange which inspires you as well?

Sarah Amijo  

Yes. When I’m in the shower, there is a marble wall in front of me or I mean in my bathroom. There’s a lot of marble walls around or on the floor. So I get a lot of inspiration from there. Because when I like you know staring at The wall or on the floor with the mark weird Marvel ships some times certain ships become an under ships like become animal or become a weird object. So, yeah.

Iva Mikles  

Oh yeah, that’s perfect because actually I also did this kind of workshop which we had to walk around the town and we had to find faces in a different object like either windows or doors or patterns. Yeah, it’s

Sarah Amijo  

fun.

Iva Mikles  

It’s actually interesting exercise for everyone just to try. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker  

Yeah, true. Sometimes you don’t really think, hmm. Is that a dragon holding an ice cream? And then you just draw a dragon holding an ice cream or something? Yeah,

Iva Mikles  

That’s perfect. Yeah. So everywhere, just tried to go out and see some things which are maybe not there. But maybe they will be there in your ease. Yeah, illustrations afterwards.

Unknown Speaker  

Are clouds clouds too? Yes.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. So if someone would want to do what you do now, what would you like advise them to start with maybe, which are the mediums you’re using now and maybe what you started with.

Sarah Amijo  

When I started, I just start with watercolor, paper, and iPhone. So I will suggest for people who want to start, maybe you can start posting your artwork, but try to post something that is unified, or something that represents you. Because if you have a coherent style, people will follow you and people will remember you have have that specific style. If you don’t have a specific style, then maybe you can find one, by like I said, by looking at other artists and recreate your own style until you find the one that best describes you. And maybe make friends with a lot of other artists or designers and invest on your tools.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. Do you have like a favorite pen or favorite brand of watercolors now?

Sarah Amijo  

Yes, I’m in love with Windsor Newton. I’ve been using the interior of Newton since like 10 years till now. And I use all the brushes and all the watercolor from Windsor Newton.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, no. Do you have a favorite color?

Sarah Amijo  

Yes. I love burned Amber. I love all the forest green shades. And what else? Oh, I love pink Potter.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, nice. I have to try though, because I don’t draw so much through the show. So I’m just trying to get to it more. So it’s actually really interesting to try different colors.

Sarah Amijo  

Yeah, I like the muted colors, not the neon colors one.

Iva Mikles  

And so how do you design your day when you are creating your stuff? And you have to split also running your business promotion and creating? So how does your normal day look like going? Maybe? How do you plan like a week or a month? If you have a planner?

Sarah Amijo  

Okay, yes, I have a planner, I carry them around. So I write everything in my journal. And I revise it a lot. So let’s say I put my to do list in in one in every day for every day. And I tried to keep track on on the list. And I try to I make sure I completed all the list in that day. If not, I will draw like an arrow. Let’s say this is a Wednesday. If it’s not checked, I will draw an arrow to the next day. And then if it’s not done, I will draw another arrow to the next day. So I can see oh wow, I’ve been postponing a lot of stuff. So that will keep me on track. And I would say I draw I mean I paint during the day when the sun is up and I will reply emails and do digital painting in the afternoon. When the sun’s down

Iva Mikles  

and the digital painting you do on the like procreate it or iPad or do you have like Cintiq back home or how do you work?

Sarah Amijo  

I use Wacom and I use Photoshop mainly. But the Wacom the Wacom and watercolor is a different style. But I’m still experimenting with that. And so far, I’m trying to make the digital painting as close as possible to the organic feel of the watercolor work. So far, so good. I’m still learning.

Iva Mikles  

Perfect. And so I would like to know as well how do you get noticed or how do you find your new customers? Or maybe also new projects because you do a lot of collaborations as well. So I have two questions right so customers and also collaborations.

Sarah Amijo  

Okay, customers, the first customer I get is from Instagram. And then from referals, but mainly from Instagram, because before I get featured in this Instagram that has a lot of followers, usually they have like a specific hashtags that we have to put in our posts. So I got discovered by that. So a lot of people start to email me and that’s my, that’s how I got my first job. And then for the collaboration, when you get a lot of followers, people will start looking for you, people will start to want to have a collaboration with you. And then from there, other companies saw that you have collaborate with this company that makes a good portfolio for them to work with you as well.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And so can you share also the the Instagram account which shared you like, or maybe some you would recommend?

Sarah Amijo  

Yes, art we inspire? Very good exposure and water block. And my favorite is children’s Writers Guild.

Iva Mikles  

Okay, good. Those three No, perfect. Yeah. Because sometimes you don’t know if they are really counts. And if they have actually like real followers, and you know, so it’s really hard to find like, like, yeah,

Unknown Speaker  

Yeah, I think what? Everyone artist has different styles, right. So those three that I have mentioned, is mostly like big, bernburg style. But if you’re more into expressionists or realistic kind of style, then you must find an Instagram account that suits your style. So you will get featured more.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. And so now you’re doing different projects as well. Can you share something which is exciting now or something? Which is coming up? Because I saw something about book on Instagram as well? Yes.

Sarah Amijo  

Yes. Yeah. I’m working on my book, my first book. Yeah. It is actually written and illustrated by me. I have a book before that someone else wrote, I just illustrated. So this is like, completely be Burnbrae. So I’m very excited for that. It’s coming. It’s coming. Next one.

Iva Mikles  

Next one. Perfect. Good. So maybe actually, because this interview will be out after September, so it might be already out so we can put the link for you. And then people can check it out. Yeah. Okay, super nice. Perfect. And so and when you are creating new projects, or you do the collaborations, how do you choose to do like, when do you do like yes and no for the project, because sometimes you cannot do everything at once. So yeah, what is going on in your head with the decision making?

Sarah Amijo  

Trust me, it’s very difficult for me to decide which one is which. It took me two years to learn that. So back then, I used to take all the jobs that I can, because I need the exposure, I need the money. But then at the end I was very exhausted and overwhelmed. And at the end though worth is you know, some jobs got postponed because of my greediness. So I learned that I have to pick which one is the most related to my art style, because I can use them as my portfolio and I will pick the ones that have a promising future opportunities and good long term relationships. And also the ones that fits big bearing visions and aesthetic style.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. And so how do you generate money or what do you leave from? Is it mainly from your business? Or do you combine with I don’t know selling art prints or merchandise or? Or what is your recommendations from your experience? Like should you put like all eggs in one basket or kind of like spread the income streams

Sarah Amijo  

I used to I used to make a wedding album design. But again, I can’t really I couldn’t really use them for my portfolio. So I put that aside even though the money is pretty good. Right now I’m focusing more only on big very work by doing custom illustrations. I make a lot of money from the custom illustrations and other little things or from the merchandise products that I have. I sell them via Instragram and my left side. So that’s all, oh, but then like you have to keep, keep posting stuff to remind people to buy your stuff, you know?

Iva Mikles  

And but you can also automate some things, right? If you want to grow and scale your business, is there something you’re already automating? And like helping your business to grow?

Sarah Amijo  

So far not, but I’m planning to use that for most Instagram. I’ve seen a lot of people do that promote or sponsored Instagram, but I haven’t done it yet. I’m planning to do it next year, after my my work, because this year, I’m focusing on my work.

Iva Mikles  

Nice. Nice. And do you work with other people? Do you have like the remote team or someone who is helping you to bride or, or something? Yes,

Sarah Amijo  

I work with one people. She’s a graphic designer. And another one’s coming soon. Next month. She’s a new admin, the one will be helping me reply emails and stuff. And my husband who works on my website.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, perfect. Nice. It’s nice to have people around you who helped you with the with the business and kind of progress. Yeah, future? Well, I’m

Unknown Speaker  

Grateful for my husband who can make my website for free. You know, how expensive website is?

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. Luckily, he’s helping me as well. So I have to say. And so what keeps you motivated? You know, like, what is the kind of the biggest, you know, motivation when you feel like, okay, like, I have a down day. And of course, you said as well, like, sometimes you have to create even when you don’t feel like it. So what do you do, which kind of contributes to your success?

Sarah Amijo  

Okay, you know, I believe that everyone will experience that season eventually. For me, if I have a lot of money, I would go travel. But if I don’t, I would just go to nearest town with good, you know, sightseeing places, or you go I go to galleries, I go to museums, I watch movies, or weird movies that I don’t usually watch. And I go foot hunting, it’s my main mood booster. And let’s say if I’m really, really stuck, like I can’t think of anything. Usually, I will just take a moment to will rest will not force myself but not too long. Don’t take like one month off. I will pamper myself with non related our job, I will go out with non related non art related communities. Usually at the end of the day, I will miss painting again. And I will come back to painting with a recharged spirit and mind.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, perfect. Great. Nice. Yeah. And if you think about maybe the most difficult time of your career or kind of like a moment, then maybe what do you learn from it if you can share with our audience? Because usually we learn a lot from these experiences.

Sarah Amijo  

Yes, it just happened. The last year have been last year. My art got stolen by a pretty big company in in here in Tunisia and swapped around 12 to 20 characters of my characters was made into merchandise. So I went to that store. And I saw like the whole store with my illustrations on it. Oh my god nightmare. Like I literally cried in the store. And what’s worse is the stores is I think they have like hundreds of sores all over Indonesia. So they dispersed everything all over Indonesia and also Singapore. Yeah. But I learned that I started to copywriting my characters. And before that incident happened, I was not really confident with my own artwork. So by seeing that, in a way, it gave me like a better visualization to see how my artworks will look like in a real products. So it actually encouraged me to make my own merchandise line. So I did make my own merchandise line, and I’m still doing it now. And I’m making make a living out of it so

Iva Mikles  

Well. So he does good in bed as well.

Sarah Amijo  

Good and bad. It depends how you look at it, right?

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. But then it kind of encourage you to continue and you can see like, Oh, this is cool. And so yeah, how did you approach it afterwards? Did you have to take them to court or did you just talk to them?

Sarah Amijo  

Yeah, I retried to contact them a few times. They ignored us for a few days. But then after that, my husband called them I think, and you told them that you know, that you’re stealing from us. And what’s the words is they actually have contacted us before? So they actually know us, you know, it’s not just random artists that they stole like they know us, you know. So. So we told them to take to take down all the products. And they did but only on a few on a couple of cities. Not not all over Indonesia. But

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, okay. Oh, well, Oh, good. But now at least like, your artworks, and your merchandise looks amazing, right? And can you share maybe, what were your learnings from starting your own merchandise? Maybe? How did you find the materials or production? Did you just walk around the town? Or did you search for it online? Or how did that work?

Sarah Amijo  

I do a lot of research. Yeah, I would do, I would call people and meet them and go to their go to their warehouse and see, and then a lot of trial and errors, you know, you meet a lot of vendors, and then it came out that the results is really bad. You know, they’re only photogenic and Instagram, but the real one is ugly. So, yeah, it’s a lot of trials and errors.

Iva Mikles  

So you should go see it in person and see and touch the material products. Perfect. Yeah, yeah. And what is something you wish you knew before you started the whole business, you know, like, like, advice you would give to young self.

Sarah Amijo  

My advice, or some things that I wish I have learned before is about copywriting. Because I see that not only me, but a lot of other artists are gross got stolen. So I wish I knew that earlier. You know, I already bought a lot of books about being illustrators, and I skipped all the licensing chapters, because I thought it’s not that important. But now I regret it. I should have learned earlier. And the other thing I should learn is, and I suggest other people to learn is about creating contracts between you and companies expect, especially if it will be a collaboration, because there’s a lot of like, royalty and everything, you know, like copyright, like where you should, you know, sometimes we come up with people we give the artworks, right, and then they say they’re gonna print it on, let’s say, backs, but at the end, they printed on other stuff that they don’t share the royalty this so that kind of thing that you need to.

Iva Mikles  

So you should specify, like, what you are getting the rights to, and what is the limitation and everything? Yes, yes. Yeah, perfect. Good idea. And do you have maybe some recommendation for some books or resources where we can learn something like this or other books you like?

Sarah Amijo  

The books that I would recommend, I have it here. I think the title is Ark and I forgot the title, but I will email you. I forgot the title. But it’s about find books that says life as an illustrator or life as a designer, you know, and see, usually they have a lot of lesson on licensing on creating your own brand on grading your Instagram on creating your product line. I think those kinds of books really help. And yeah, I would recommend those kinds of books. And another book I would recommend is my own book. My book is about being grateful. So in any condition, you should be grateful because I think that I need to share to the world that if you have a grateful attitude, then it will change your life.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, and you will be happy and you can spread the love around so definitely yeah.

Sarah Amijo  

Read grateful is contagious.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, I agree. And so do you also maybe have like favorite movies you like and is there maybe also something which simplifies your life you bought recently like a tool or medium?

Sarah Amijo  

Okay. I will answer the first question first, the movie. My favorite is Ratatouille, Gina and ratatouille the mouse who can cook I like it because it encouraged people to trust themselves and, you know, finally achieve what they thought they couldn’t Do and the best investment on tools will be my brushes. And that lack home it says my life and think yeah, just those two Oh, a very good scanner.

Iva Mikles  

Oh yeah. Okay, so what do you have for like, oh, because I don’t think we mentioned what type of a vacuum also you have? Is it a Cintiq? Or Intuos? Or Cintiq? Okay, so like the 3022? Or which one? Do

Unknown Speaker  

I prefer? That one.

Iva Mikles  

So I guess it’s like a 22 or 24. So the bigger one, my,

Sarah Amijo  

my husband is a set kind of tools guy. So he just gave me a birthday present. So I’m like, Oh, this is cool. And I don’t even know what’s the type? I just know. It’s Wacom. Cintiq.

Iva Mikles  

Perfect. And then also, you just mentioned what did we just get there? Do you know?

Sarah Amijo  

I’m using Epson 370 It’s really good. You can scan it up to 1200 pixels dpi.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, wow, that’s really nice. Yeah, yeah. No, because it’s nice to have also like scanner and also a printer at home if you want to, you know, produce or try out your artworks how they will look. Yeah. And then let’s talk about the future. And if you have some dream scenario in mind already, like five to 10 years, like what would you be doing and everything goes according to plan and what do you want

Unknown Speaker  

It sounds funny, maybe, but I want to have my own physical store. And with Big Bear and Bert signage, like huge in front of the store. And I also want to have bear and Britt costume for little kids. You know, like the Halloween costumes like elbow costume. And avert and those little kids will be you know, proud to wear them around. That was my dream. It sounds silly, but I don’t know. It makes me happy to see someone else wearing costumes off the ground.

Iva Mikles  

You can have maybe also themed parties. You know, like if someone has a birthday they can have you know, this new birthday party but burden Bear IT’S birthday party. Yeah. Perfect. Very nice. If you think about like really far, far in the future, I would like to know what would you like to be remembered for in like, 100 years?

Sarah Amijo  

For 100 years? I probably already died? Yeah, I want to be like, remembered as the creator of Big Bear, Berg and friends you know, like a mill, the One who created the Winnie the Pooh? Yeah, I want to be like him.

Iva Mikles  

Super nice. And I’m super happy that you took time off and join us here for our audience to share your inspiration and tips. It was my pleasure.

Sarah Amijo  

It was good to.

Iva Mikles  

So thank you again. And before we say goodbye, maybe you can share the last piece of advice, or key takeaway and then we say goodbye.

Sarah Amijo  

The advice will be you know, as long as you’re doing your job with passion, it’s not a job. And always, always, always be grateful for everything that you have achieved and everything that makes you down, because you can always learn from anything, and it makes you a better person.

Iva Mikles  

Perfect. Do you have a favorite quote? Maybe as well?

Sarah Amijo  

Yes. Blast to be a blessing.

Iva Mikles  

Amazing. Perfect. So thank you again so much for being here. And thanks, everyone for joining and see you in the next episode.

Sarah Amijo  

Thank you. Bye

Iva Mikles  

Hope you guys enjoyed this interview. You can find all the resources mentioned in this episode at artsideoflife.com. Just type a guest name in the search bar. There is also a little freebie waiting for you. So go check it out. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a review on iTunes, hopefully five stars so I can read and inspire more people like you. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to Art Side of Life podcast because I post new interview every single workday. If you want to watch the interviews, head over to artsideoflife.com/youtube. Thank you so much for listening. Don’t forget to inspire each other. And I will talk to you guys in the next episode. Bye.

Announcer  

Thanks for listening to the Art Side of Life podcast at www.artsideoflife.com

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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