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Welcome to Oh So Specials

AN INTRODUCTION 

Hiii! Welcome to my very first blog post on my lovely new website. I’m Jess Riley, I’m a mural artist, an illustrator and the happy owner of Oh So Specials. 

Oh So Specials was founded in 2017, and over the last 7 years my business has changed shape over this time but it’s never really changed it’s mission – which is to bring colour and joy to the local area, one wall at a time. 

If you scroll back far enough in my Instagram feed, you’ll see that I started Oh So Specials in Melbourne, Australia, and my initial projects began as a hobby – a creative outlet while I was on maternity leave where I practiced lettering while my baby napped. 

Today I’m in the UK, living in Wigan, spending my days painting murals and creating artworks for local businesses, schools and communities and I can’t believe I get to do this for an actual job!

I’m writing this to give you an idea of why I do what I do and what it means to me, as well as tell you about how I got here – the wiggly journey of it all.

LET’S START AT THE VERY BEGINNING

I loved doing art all my young life, my Grandad was a signwriter and my Mum worked in my primary school – she was in charge of all the wall displays and stage backdrops for all of our shows, so I was constantly inspired by this. I did an Art GCSE and A level, and when I was 17 I applied to Leeds college of Art and Design.

But. When I got put on an admissions waiting list I automatically thought, ‘oh no. I’m not good enough then’. I quickly changed tact. I decided it was much more sensible going to uni to study history and start working in a bank…

In 2013, after living in Manchester for the best part of a decade, I decided to move to Melbourne Australia. I was flying high as a Finance Manager working for a health insurance company. I was stressed, hated the job, (sorry old colleagues – you were lovely!) Still, I was enjoying the lifestyle my partner and I had created on the other side of the world. 

Fast forward to early 2017, I was on maternity leave with a 6-month-old. Time away from The Office really gave me some perspective on how much I really loathed The Office. I was a pretty anxious 30-something about to return to a job that offered zero fun. It started to feel not worth the dread it was imposing on my brain. Something needed to change. I needed a creative outlet. I had seen lettering artists on social media and set my heart on learning a new skill. I attended a couple of workshops in my local area and set up an Instagram account to document my progress. 

It wasn’t long before I felt a bit more confident and that I had something to offer the world. I kept seeing thoughtlessly scrawled out chalkboard specials around the neighbourhood and thought ‘yeah, I could offer to do this, make it look a bit better!’ – I got to do something that brought joy to me, as well as bringing joy to others. 

Needless to say this was a far cry from the corporate world, but something I couldn’t let go. I went back to work part time when my child was 9 months old, but by this time I’d already set the wheels in motion of a proper sideline business. 

A year after I’d attended my first lettering workshop I was back at my corporate job, but I’d also created chalkboards for local cafes and bars, wedding signs for friends of friends, I’d made hand painted cards and gifts, upcycled furniture and continued to hone my skills with lessons in calligraphy, signwriting and brush lettering. I’d tried my hand at lots of different window art and painted more murals than I had ever dreamed. 

HOW THOUGH..?

I spent any free time practicing my lettering and designing little passion projects just for the sake of creativity. I knew it was for me when the time just flew past whenever I’d apply myself with this new passion of mine. I even installed a chalk wall in my rental house. Deciding to attend creative workshops was a gamechanger – meeting likeminded people who I’d have never found in my usual day to day showed me a whole new colourful world was mine for the taking, I had unlocked a door to a place I never knew existed before! I could finally see a path to my own dream career. Probably the most important ingredient in this creative cocktail was to just SPEAK TO PEOPLE! A few seconds of bravery really pays off. I’m a huge introvert, but once I felt good enough to create art for public places I started plucking up the courage to offer my services writing specials boards for local suburban cafes in exchange for coffees and brunches (win-win!).

From there, it escalated, before I knew it I was painting big murals for local cafes and bars, and even bagged myself contracts with Westfield shopping centres. These projects came about from people finding me on Instagram, me being brave enough to ask local businesses, and word of mouth. 

AND NOW..

Me and my partner had decided to move back to the UK at the end of 2019, to be nearer family. I put Oh So Specials on hold until we were settled in my husband’s home town of Wigan. And then, lockdown happened. I spent those months creating artwork of relatable quotes, thoughts and feelings, creating mock ups of what I’d like to paint one day, and connecting with local people and businesses via social media.

I built my business up from this point and today I enjoy creating murals, illustrations and lettering art for clients across the North West – bringing joy and colour to their worlds and the worlds of their employees, homes and communities.

I love that I serve an area with such vibrant culture and history that we can celebrate through art. Murals especially can not only transform plain and unimaginative areas in to vibrant and visually appealing spaces – they can also foster a sense of unity, spark feelings of positivity in their audience and contribute to the revitalization of places in need of some love and attention. I’m so happy to brighten up this lovely corner of the world, one wall at a time – question is, will yours be next?!

If you have a space that could use a splash of colour, get in contact to discuss the details of how we can create your own custom painted mural with Oh So Specials!

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Picture of Jess Riley

Jess Riley

Jess Riley is a self-taught mural artist and illustrator, born and bred in North Yorkshire but currently living life as an honorary Wiganer. Oh So Specials was founded in 2017 following a creative epiphany and a strong desire not to return to the finance industry.

The mission? To create colourful, cheerful pieces that spark joy AND to convey meaningful messages through words, shapes and colours.

For all the latest updates, tips, and colourful creations, you can find Jess over on Instagram @oh.so.specials or sign-up to the mailing list to stay in the know!

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