A peek into a UC Davis student’s Redbubble business

A peek into a UC Davis student’s Redbubble business

Photo Credits: KAITLYN PANG / AGGIE

Kathleen David’s advice to aspiring artists and Redbubble sellers is to trust their art

It’s a rite of passage for most UC Davis students to own a Hydro Flask and slap stickers on their cup. I remember very clearly my first year at Davis when I asked a girl where her stickers were from and exploded when I saw the wide variety on Redbubble. That day, I along with my roommates, who were just as surprised, ordered stickers and a laptop case. Redbubble has a special place in every student’s heart so I set out to find a student who is behind some of the UC Davis stickers we have pasted on our computers.

Kathleen David, a second-year biological sciences major, found that the best way to sell her art was through a Redbubble shop, kathdvd, where she can sit back and focus on school work, all while building up a passive income. 

“The great thing about Redbubble is that all artists have to do is upload their art,” David said via email. “There is no need to stress about financing, marketing, production, shipping and everything else involved in a typical business like one on Etsy. Sales come in every now and then—sometimes during times where I’m busy with school—so when they do pop up, I don’t have to worry about anything.”

In addition to David’s egghead stickers that represent our beloved sculptures, she has a total of 79 different designs. 

“My shop is all over the place in terms of a niche,” David said via email. “I’d like to think that my designs revolve around the things I enjoy most such as animals, music, gaming, and Netflix shows. I’m focused on expanding my shop. I feel that I can build my shop as if it were an art portfolio and eventually find my true aesthetic as an artist.”

The only thing needed to sell art on Redbubble is a free account and a bank account for direct deposit, but the account can be accepted in multiple ways including Paypal. According to Redbubble, payments occur on the 15th of every month but creators won’t receive any money until they reach a payment threshold of $20. 

“I was absolutely ecstatic when I woke up to find that I got my first sale,” David said via email. “There was something so satisfying in seeing that all my hard work had finally paid off.”

After artists upload their design, Redbubble creates an abundance of merchandise. This includes stickers, art prints, tote bags and even bed sheets. Redbubble created a post on what to think about before uploading a design in order to maximize all of the products on which they print the art.

“I recently just had a couple of sales that made me laugh only because you can never tell what someone might be interested in buying,” David said via email. “On that same day, two different people from two different states bought bedsheets of two different designs, both of which I never expected anyone to purchase. It’s kind of unreal to know that someone is out there sleeping with bedsheets of a design I doubted.”

Buyers from all over the country appreciate David’s unique designs just as much as UC Davis students love finding their egghead stickers.

“I had only found out about Kathleen’s shop a few months ago through a Phoenix Suns subreddit post she had made to display her artwork and I reached out willing to purchase it,” said Alex Thompson, a customer of David’s Redbubble shop. “Looking at the website now, it has grown quite nicely and I like how there are products for everybody with her many collections.”

David’s best selling products are based off of a role-playing video game where players enter a farming stimulation and restore a shambled community center.

“As an artist, I’ve been discovering new art styles while trying to find one for myself,” David said via email. “On Redbubble, the most successful shops have a niche that caters to a specific audience. While in quarantine, I began to play a popular video game called ‘Stardew Valley.’ After a few days of playing while putting my shop on hold, I realized that this game has a lot of potential for attracting a huge audience. I used my laptop to download sprite sheets of the characters from the game and got to creating what is now my best-selling collection.”

With over 70 designs in her shop, David is able to see the development of her work overtime. But her love for art started as a young child doodling on random pieces of paper. 

“I have never taken an art class to develop my techniques,” David said via email. “My mom has kept an album full of my doodles dating back to when I was only three years old. Throughout middle school and high school, I joined an annual drawing contest hosted by Kaiser Permanente’s anti-smoking program called ‘Don’t Buy The Lie’ and won as a school-site winner every time.”

David’s idea of opening up a Redbubble shop—which takes less than five minutes—started with a Youtube video. 

“I wanted to test out the Youtube video’s claim of passive income so I only uploaded a couple of designs,” David said via email. “I doubted myself the first few days of uploading my art on Redbubble and often questioned myself if my art wasn’t good enough. When I got my first sale, that’s when I felt motivated enough to upload a few more. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Oh wow, I just started up a small business.’”

Opening up a Redbubble shop meant David had to try new things with her artwork. 

“I’ve never really had the time to experiment with digital art before starting my Redbubble business,” David said via email. “It was more of a learning experience to somehow convert my usual techniques onto the digital format. I don’t use anything fancy. I only use Paint 3D, a digital art program that came with my HP laptop.”

Like many small student business owners, David’s biggest supporter is her mother who has been an advocate for David’s art long before her first sale. 

“My mom has supported me ever since the day I told her about uploading my first design on Redbubble,” David said via email. “We would celebrate every time I got a sale and check where the sale is coming from and what item/design the person has purchased.”

As she gets to track each purchase, David admits that like her mom, her family and friends have been immensely supportive of her art selling on Redbubble. 

“When my sales started to shoot up, my family was very supportive and persistent in buying my designs to wear in public,” David said via email. “My aunt bought three designs of mine on t-shirts, and my dad specifically asked for an NBA design that he wears around the house.” 

David’s Redbubble is organized to include the different types of art she sells. Her featured products include monochrome and animal designs. The small store consists of something for everyone, but her main source of inspiration comes from Andy Warhol, the American artist, film director and producer. Warhol even has a museum in Pennsylvania dedicated to him and the work he did throughout his career.  

“I look up to Andy Warhol and his concept of pop art,” David said via email. “My monochrome designs are inspired by his iconic colorful prints of celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe and Mohammed Ali. I’ve done a similar approach that focuses on one color scheme per celebrity. I’ve illustrated several members of the world’s biggest boyband BTS and the actors from the Netflix series ‘The Umbrella Academy’ using very vibrant colors as Warhol once did.”

David’s advice for aspiring artists and Redbubble sellers is to trust their art. David’s own sales have led her to realize that there will be someone out there that could potentially love the art you doubt.

  “If you have an idea about something, you shouldn’t doubt yourself, but you should go for it instead,” David said via email. “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” 
Written By: Itzelth Gamboa — arts@theaggie.org