This week I sat down with art designer and mother, Islay Brown, to discuss the influence motherhood has had on their creativity, and career.
Let's start with what motherhood means to you?
Two aspects really, I’m a mother myself and a daughter. To me motherhood is, love, support, and lots of patience! You're creating building blocks for little human beings to become a fully rendered adult.
Does that resonate with being a designer?
You’re building up layers of humans, as a graphic designer you use software to create your images, you build layers and there are so many aspects, you’re creating a little being. When you love and cherish something like creating a design you put so much of your heart and passion into it.
So how did your mum inspire you?
My mum is one of the key people who inspired me, I worked as a graphic designer in a studio and was creating cards for my family. I wanted to move on and do more and my grandmother had great Scottish sayings, things like “Whits fur yell no go by ye” so I started using these in my designs. In terms of influence it was massive, I wanted to use these Scottish phrases and had to ask my mum to give me more.
It's almost like a lost language, those phrases are so generational, it's great to hear them and see them!
I love all these phrases but in terms of design and prints, Scottish phrases can be misconstrued as negative, so I tried to focus on the positive expressions that are inspirational rather than any negative phrases. I was very conscious of the generational aspect, to do these in colourful fonts and be designs that people would want in their homes. That goes back to motherhood, trying to keep things positive.
Were there any other women in your life that inspired you?
Other than my grandmother and mother, I’m lucky to have such a large network of friends and women that I can rely upon as a designer and a mother. When you become a mother this whole world opens up of women who are working and mothering. Other women are a massive influence when you become a mother. I use that network to help promote places like the Scottish Design Exchange, and local artists and designers in Edinburgh.
What lessons did you learn from your mum or what lessons are you passing on to your children?
I think it’s that kindness and empathy is a lovely attribute in children and that doesn't make you weak, you can be strong minded and a strong person, knowing your worth. In the past, women have perhaps been undermined and not felt their worth, I’ve been lucky to have a supportive family and I know my worth, so I’m passing that foundation on to my children. They have a good work ethic, and they believe in themselves. As a mother you have to juggle a lot of things and you just need to go for things and that was a lesson I learned from my mum was to just go for things, I’ve passed that on to my children to believe in themselves.
What was it like starting out on your own?
It’s daunting, because there’s so much amazing creativity out there! When I visited the Scottish Design Exchange I spoke with the wonderful Judy who was helpful and encouraging and I decided to go for it. I was worried that my prints might not sell, one piece of advice I got was to have a range of small to large items which opened up the door for me to start producing greetings cards which has been a massive help to me. My sales at the Scottish Design Exchange have been good and I believe in myself more, my sales keep growing and now I'm selling in Edinburgh and Glasgow. It’s daunting to start because of the size of the creative pool out there, even in the Scottish Design Exchange, but you realise that there is a niche and an audience for your work. With the Scottish Design Exchange, it’s wonderful for me because I don’t have the time to do markets and at weekends I have to look after the kids, so it gives me a venue to get my products out there, it’s been fantastic for me.
How does being a mother or your relationship with your mother influence your creativity? Is it part of the foundation that keeps you grounded?
In terms of why I’m doing this, it's because I think you need to have other outlets and as a mother you can feel stuck in a pigeonhole of being a mother and the domesticity of that. This gives me an outlet to do other things and grow, this also shows my children that I have a career and a creative career is a great option. They both enjoy drawing and it’s great to show them my work so they can see what mummy does.
That's something that I think is really taught at home, at school you're not really taught the ways to have a creative career but you do learn it at home and from other people's examples.
I was lucky, my father was an architect so I grew up with creativity in the house. My house has an art desk that my children can help themselves to at any time, paper, pens, and glue sometimes but no glitter! There are more opportunities and better exposure for people nowadays.
What would be your motherhood legacy?
Being nurtured, have the strength to keep going and know that they are supported and believe in themselves, and a bit of pride in themselves, to be proud of me as their mother and proud to be my children.
You can find the full Designed by Islay collection of prints and greeting cards in our stores or online here and if you're looking for that perfect Mother's Day card, Islay has you covered, with her popular "Tae ma wee braw maw" greetings card.