Introduce us to you and your brand/work
Hello I’m Islay and my company Designed by Islay is born out of a love of an eclectic selection of passions; design, travel, colour and the Scottish language. I’m a graphic designer by trade and still work part-time for an agency. I started independently last year creating bespoke illustrated Christmas cards and expanded my portfolio to include old Scottish sayings as prints and cards, inspired by phrases my mother and grandmother used to say (and still do!). I felt there was a niche for positive, inspirational Scottish quotes beautifully set in contemporary type. I also felt using a variety of colourful and muted palettes made them stand out in a busy market.
Colour is a massive passion of mine, I studied colour psychology and found it can have a physical as well as psychological impact on a person. I was in my element when I travelled to Mexico and South America where the traditional textiles and décor are so bright and vibrant. My partner is from South Africa and again I love the textiles and crafts produced there as the palettes are so vivid. The colours I’ve chosen for my work are a hybrid of these vibrant influences and the softer tones of the Scottish landscape and Scandinavian style. As I said, an eclectic mix!
"I was in my element when I travelled to Mexico and South America where the traditional textiles and décor are so bright and vibrant. "
I also create Mandalas and Pomdalas. Woven, geometric wall hangings of cotton yarn wound round bamboo or oak sticks and then finished with a complementing pom pom at each stick end. They are inspired by the Mexican traditional craft of Ojo De Dios (Eye of God) created as protection for children by their family. No one Pomdala is the same and each design emerges as I am creating them. I have a huge array of coloured yarn and part of my process is selecting the right mix of strong and neutral colours before I begin. The smaller ones take about 2 hours and the large ones about 8 hours to complete. Whilst time consuming they are cathartic to make.
How has your brand/work developed since you began?
As I mentioned it all started with illustrated Christmas card which were popular, encouraged by their success it gave me the confidence to unleash my creatively and produce a series of typographic Scottish phrase prints. As part of the original cards I created a geometric font and with further development it to become the alphabet print I have in my SDX shop.
The Mandalas\ Pomdalas began during a digital detox! I wanted to step away in the evenings from my computer screen, ipad and phone. I’d been feverishly making pom poms as décor for our wedding so had lots of yarn around. I found a youtube tutorial of how to make the Ojo de Dios and I was hooked! It does seem a slightly random mix of products but the geometrical appearance of the Manadals mirror the geometric alphabet and the print colours so I felt they did have a synergy.
What do you consider to be your most popular product?,
The greeting cards have proved really popular as have the A5 prints. The “Whit's fur ye'll no go by ye”, “She’s a Belter” and “Gie it Laldy” being three of the most bought.
Tell us a little about a piece you are the proudest of?
I would have to say the larger Pomdalas make me smile. They do take a long time to create but the result is so pleasing.
How did you find out about SDX? And what made you apply to sell with us?
I was a frequent visitor to SDX when it was in Ocean Terminal and bought lots of prints there for gifts (but mostly for my own house!) When I started thinking of how my work could appear offline it was the first place I thought of. I’m really proud to be in among so may gifted artists.
,"The Mandalas & Pomdalas began during a digital detox...I found a youtube tutorial of how to make the Ojo de Dios and I was hooked!"
What would you consider to be the most challenging aspect about being a working artist/designer?
For me is the overwhelming amount of creativity and talented designers and artists out there already doing their thing so successfully. I get big bouts of ‘imposter syndrome’! It’s daunting trying to find somewhere you might fit in and be seen but that’s why the SDX has been the best fit for me and showed me there is a market for my work.
What have you found to be the most challenging aspect to your business since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020?
I have to say that the pandemic was the catalytic for me starting my business so whilst it been a very challenging time in so many other aspects of life it’s been the push I needed to branch out on my own.
How have you spent your time during lockdowns, any new hobbies or passions discovered?
This is really my new discovered passion!
How do you think the pandemic will affect shopping habits and the retail industry moving forward?
Obviously with everyone confined to their homes there was massive increase in online sales. But it also sparked a real appreciation for shopping locally and supporting small businesses especially ones hardest hit by the pandemic. Over a year after it all begun small businesses seem to have now developed their online retail to be more user friendly so it’s easier for everyone to buy local. I also think that people realise how much they missed just popping to the shops for a wander round and they make the effort to go now so still a thirst for ‘real world’ retail! Hopefully both online and offline local support will continue going forward.
What do you hope to gain from working with SDX going forward?
Fame and Fortune! But mostly being part of a brilliant creative hub and gaining valuable retail experience and insight.
If you could share just one piece of advice to aspiring artists/designers who want to make a living from their creative talents, what would you tell them?
Take the plunge, the last year has shown us that you never know what’s round the corner, life’s too short to wonder ‘if only…’!
Tell us your favourite inspirational quote or best advice YOU were given.
From my mother it has to be “Whit's fur ye'll no go by ye”!!
Thank you to Islay for participating in our Meet The Artist blog. You can support both SDX and Islay's work by choosing to purchase her items at our Edinburgh shop!