Upcycling for creative reuse

Yal-Art

Yal-Art is an Award-Winning Art brand started in 2019 by Founder Bertha Wensah, a self-taught prolific fabric artist born in Ghana and raised in the cosmopolitan city of London. The company was born out of her fascination of the vibrant fabrics of Ghana as well as her environmentally conscious attitude.

Yal means fabric in the language of MO, from Northern Ghana where Bertha’s parents come from. Bertha produces pochoir art. Pochoir, which is French for “Stencil” is distinguished from ordinary stencilling and is a highly refined technique of making limited edition prints. She uses fabrics to incorporate into the stencils to create individualised art work for all occasions.

As you can tell, Fabric is the overarching theme of every unique handmade piece of Art. Each piece of fabric is delicately and intricately fused into a design to create timeless art you can treasure or give as a gift.

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The company was created when Bertha started using fabrics ethically sourced from Ghana in addition to unwanted pieces of fabric from friends and family, to make art pieces. She quickly realised that she wanted to contribute positively to the environment, and therefore moved to purely using upcycled fabrics for creative reuse. “I find this to be sustainable for the business as it affords me the unique opportunity to contribute, in a small way to the environment”, says Bertha.

In 2019 Yal-Art won the BWB Award in the category of Business Start-Up of The Year. This was a great opportunity for the upcycle business, which was less than a year old at the time. In 2020 the business was rebranded with the new name Yal-Art. Art lovers can buy Yal-Art pieces directly from their online store or work with Bertha to commission one-of-a-kind art pieces, therefore allowing environmentally conscious art lovers to add a personal touch to create the final results.

Yal – Art

Do you have a creative process? If so, what is it?

I don’t have a creative process as such but work really well when the sun is out. I am able to work at my peak with natural lighting and the sun helps me feel relaxed and engaged. UK weather is so unpredictable that it makes it quite difficult sometimes, for me to work at my best. I am not a sun worshiper by the way, I worship the one who created the sun.

I think I may have that sad syndrome where I don’t do well during winter months but thrive tremendously during the summer and warmer months.

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How easy did (or do) you find selling your art? What made you decide to sell it?

I didn’t initially set out to sell my work. I created my first prototype for my brother as a gift. The first image I created was the map of Africa. I took a picture of it and posted on my WhatsApp status just to see what people thought. I didn’t tell anyone that I had created it at the time. I sent it to quite a few people in my contacts list to get their honest opinion and feedback.

The response was overwhelming and I decided to start an Instagram page to post images of my art. My brother and friends supported me to get the first company name and things just took off from there.

To date, I have sold my work through word of mouth, online via my website and through markets and exhibitions, that I have participated in. Friends and family also help but they don’t account for a large market.

What do you enjoy the most in your entrepreneurial journey?

I enjoy meeting new people along the journey, especially when I do markets or exhibitions. Learning new ways to do business and improve what I do and getting feedback from my customers.

How do you find and decide on which markets / exhibitions to participate in?

I have a few different ways of doing this.  A lot of market holders have reached out to me in the past to trade with them.

I also get recommendation from other business owners who have traded with a particular market and feel that it’s a good fit for my business. Therefore, I would reach out to those markets based on that feedback.

Sometimes it is as simple as coming across a sponsored ad on social media. I then follow up with the organisation in order to exhibit with them.

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Yal-Art

What about the operational side of the business, does this play a big part in your business?

I do everything (marketing, accounting) myself and I still work part-time for social services on top of that. Hence, it can be challenging juggling everything, however I purposely work part-time so that I can run the business. I still have a lot to learn in order to structure it properly so that I can make a real success of it. I constantly receive excellent reviews for my services and creations and I guess this is what won me my first Award in 2019 when the business was less than a year old

What is your most popular piece? Why do you think customers like it?

I don’t have just one popular piece because all my pieces are personalised, customers always have the opportunity to put their own personal touch on what they order making it unique to them.

What challenges have you faced so far and how have you dealt with them? 

I have faced multiple challenges as an entrepreneur. For example, I don’t drive and this weighed heavenly on my purse and physical health as I have often needed to travel to multiple markets or exhibitions for a period of time. Sometimes as far as Manchester, Luton etc.

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