The word ‘growth’ is used so much in business, often to suggest unreasonably accelerated expansion where the buck being made has to be quick, decimating whole environments, exploiting workforces and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.
Growth, however, is actually a great metaphor if used while bearing in mind that it is something actually invented by nature, and that only nature knows how to do it sustainably and sensibly.
Natural growth is in complete harmony with the environment upon which it depends. It happens slowly and steadily when the conditions are right; it enables living organisms to reach sizes and quantities that are appropriate for their environment, and it keeps progressing until a plant blossoms with beauty and elegance.
This is the version of the metaphor that I want for my business. Over recent months, through small decisions I’ve made, my design business has just started to grow a little, like cress on a windowsill. I have produced and started to sell my first few sets of greetings cards. I have introduced new designs, intended for a wider range of decorative items. Now, my sister, Joanna Henwood, has introduced me to a company that can help artists place their designs upon products, which are then printed on demand. I like the sustainability of this idea – no waste of energy, space and resources while thousands of items sit in warehouses – and the possibility of slow organic growth. Just starting with a few sales and building.
So there it is: ‘time’ to grow, just a little, to go on doing what I am doing but do more of it and share it with more people. And as I have mentioned ‘time’, what better to illustrate this piece than the new clock, bearing my Woodland Jays pattern, which is now available through my partner supplier Red Bubble. If you would like to look at my products (or Joanna’s motivational range called MotifAtion), please go to their site. See image above and link below.
Much of my art is inspired by wildlife. Two birds – the magpie and the jay – are the theme for my brand and one of my first sets of designs. Birds are such fascinating creatures. They have been evolving since the time of the dinosaurs and have perfected a way of life from which we can learn much. Through their flight and their virtuosic song, they focus on the moment and infuse sheer joy into it. The poet Shelley was so right to call the skylark a ‘blithe spirit’.
Can there be another class of creatures (Class: Aves) that displays such wonderful colours, such iridescent textures? This is of course why the tribes of Papua New Guinea hunted the birds of paradise almost to extinction.
We have such an odd relationship with nature. Birds inspire our artistic endeavours, yet when we want something we are quick to prey upon them.
A few years ago, there was a fashion for gorgeous textile patterns featuring songbirds. They were achingly lovely, but somehow I did not want to buy these clothes. Behind the prettiness, I suspected, were industrial processes that probably did grave harm to the environment – and the birds that inhabit it. Surely, if you are going to feature birds in commercial products, there is a moral imperative to protect them; otherwise it’s hypoocrisy.
Yet as an artist I am inspired by birds and want to depict them. When I started Magpie & Jay, and developed my designs of the eponymous birds, I promised myself that this inspiration would be partnered with a commitment to sustainable production. I also decided to make the back of each card work hard: to promote the appreciation and protection of the birds depicted, giving information about charities that also have that aim.
Meanwhile, selling my cards through a local online shop, Stroudco, I found there was a demand for bird seed to put in people’s garden bird feeders. So I began to sell that too. Now I even offer a gift hamper for bird lovers through Stroudco, including treats for both the person and the birds! If our love for birds is serious, then we need to show it with our actions.
Having eclectic interests, it has taken me years to find my creative home. Continually flailing around with too many interests – the arts, maths, history, language, nature and the environment – I realised at last that all things that inspire me also inform my art, and that art is essential to my mental wellbeing, along with contemplating nature. Together these pursuits obviate the need for meditation.
Since our natural heritage is so central to my emotional life, inspiration and background, it seemed logical to name my company after two very beautiful, clever and resilient birds, the magpie and the jay.
From time to time I shall be sharing with you those magpie-like eclectic thoughts that underpin my work, and also my ideas on how to care better for the wonderful environent that inspires me.
Oh, and my cat might pop up in some of the posts too (see picture with this one)!