‘If I couldn’t sell or work online, I don’t think I’d be living here at all’


24 Aug 20182.59k Views

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Image: Milosz Maslanka/Shutterstock

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Illustrator Annie West preaches in praise of online shopping and the digital economy that allows her to live and work online from Sligo – or anywhere she chooses.

I have to get up on my rickety soapbox for a minute as an online trader living and working in rural Ireland. I sell my stuff online. I get my clients online.

I read in various places about how online shopping is killing the high street. I sort of disagree with this, if that’s allowed.

I go to my office in Sligo every morning at 8.30am. I do my drawings with pencils I bought in Sligo Supply. I then go and get limited edition prints made at DigiCreatiV, two miles away – email the order and then drive the few miles to collect. Dawn at DigiCreatiV uses Hahnemühle FineArt papers ordered online and delivered by our local Fastway courier.

‘Being able to say you can safely and efficiently run a business here is half the battle. That and the cake’

Once that’s done, I make a few calls in Lyons Café while I’m having my lunch (almost entirely made from local growers) and check orders, because there’s Wi-Fi practically everywhere. I answer emails from people in Hong Kong and Mullingar asking about work they need done.

Later on, I have a couple of meetings with clients who have come to Sligo to meet. We have lunch in Knox and, once the meeting is over, I suggest, “While you’re here, why don’t you take a walk up Knocknarea?” One client did that and he’s still here, six years later. So that’s good. One more city dweller who succumbed to the charming yet irresistible witchcraft (and Wi-Fi) of Sligo.

Being able to say you can safely and efficiently run a business here is half the battle. That and the cake.

Back to the office having bought a load of cake in O’Hehirs Bakery, I parcel up prints or books people have bought online. They’re off to Dublin or Amsterdam or Connecticut using the post office down the road.

‘If I had to try and stay here without running an online business, I’d spend every day sprawled on the couch in my jim-jams watching Judge Judy and eating beans from a tin. And then I’d leave’

Annie West with her head resting in her hands, surrounded by her illustrations of Seamus Heaney, James Joyce and others

Image: @anniewestdotcom/Twitter

Later on, it’s down to business with some serious drawing using paper and inks from the art shop in Carraroe. Later again, I phone Caroline in Printfix and get a couple of quotes. I realise I have one of those meetings tomorrow that requires The Suit, so I run to Master Dry Cleaners. A quick visit to Liber Bookshop to see how the book is selling – the book that, had I never been introduced to Eoin Purcell online, the idea for which would never have been suggested and it would never have been published.

For me, it’s simple; some might say too simple. So sue me for oversimplifying but if I couldn’t sell or work online, I don’t think I’d be living here at all.

The internet allows me to live and work anywhere. I use local suppliers for nearly everything. I spend a fairly sizeable chunk of my business and personal income in Sligo town and county – as far as is possible at any rate.

I make a decent living by working in rural Ireland and doing business online, without personally being responsible for closing any high-street shops. If it weren’t thus, and I had to try and stay here without running an online business, I think I’d spend every day sprawled on the couch in my jim-jams watching Judge Judy and eating beans from a tin. And then I’d leave.

Online shopping doesn’t kill the high street. It gives it another reason to be there. Both can (I think), if allowed, exist happily together.

By Annie West

Annie West is an award-winning illustrator living and working in Ireland. She exhibits annually in Dublin, Sligo and Galway, and permanently via her online gallery. A selection of her work was recently added to the National Library of Ireland’s permanent illustration and cartoon archive.

A version of this article originally appeared on Annie West’s blog.

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Street in Sligo town. Image: Milosz Maslanka/Shutterstock