Taking Risks and Daring to be Different....

Throughout my childhood, my parents encouraged me to be different.  Don’t follow the pack.  Walk your own walk.  I love this message and encourage my own kids to do the same.  There were times though when I wanted to be just like my friends and yearned to be accepted, to be a part of the crowd.  At 12 years old, I remember desperately trying to persuade my Mum to buy me the blue anorak (jacket) that all my friends were getting from Mackay’s for the school trip to Inverness.  My Mum begrudgingly did relent, but bought me the brown one and not the blue.

Like most stumbling teenagers, I often doubted myself.  I remember being 17 and inconsolable when I came home from finishing my Higher Art exam.  I was convinced that because I chose to paint a still life instead of painting a portrait like everyone else, I was absolutely going to fail.  I’ll never forget how astounded I was when my amazing teacher Archie Forrest, pulled my work from the bottom of the pile, making it an example of excellence.

Many years later, I still have to go back to this story when those insecure pesky doubts start creeping in.
Finding my own “voice” in my life is ongoing.  Whether it’s with the art I create, the décor I choose or how I parent, I’m learning to trust my instincts, and to own my “voice.”

A few or my risky hairstyles over the years, not necessarily the most beautiful choices, but I sure was expressing myself:)  The peroxide blonde was a mohican hairstyle growing out, and the one on the right is a very bad dreadlock which I ended up shaving off......

I’ve now been licensing my art for 12 years.  Licensing is a balancing act. It’s a marriage between good art and good design.  You have to be aware of what companies are looking for, and ultimately what the consumer will buy, while at the same time create what feels right.

Over the years I’ve had many successful products out in the world, but I’ve also had many rejections.  I’ve been told I’m “too sophisticated,” “too European,” “too whimsical,” “not commercial enough,” “too wonky.”  At the same time, my work has been successful for those exact reasons. I’m blessed to have worked with Joan Serena, who was the Christmas trim buyer for Macy’s.  She fell in love with my work after buying one of my Caspari Christmas cards, and sought me out at SURTEX to create a collection of my “Wonky” stars and angels for Macy’s.  Finding the right partner is key. 

It’s important to get feedback, because we artists often work in a vacuum, but it can be tricky too.   There are things that can be changed, like the subject matter or colors, but I believe your core, your sensibility, can’t be changed, otherwise you’re in danger of losing the essence of who you are.

I found this piece of wood and thought it'd make a great clothes rack for our new guest bedroom, who needs a wardrobe when you have a beautiful piece of wood like this
I feel most passionate about my craft when creating is a cathartic experience. Recently I’ve felt the need to merge more of my personal design style with my work.  I’ve always loved recycling and bringing together opposing materials like fine gold patina with the rough natural look of burlap.  I think it’s my wee way of expressing my yearning for tolerance, to show that even the most opposing things can be harmonious and beautiful when mixed together.

A new illustration I'll be showing at SURTEX

It can be scary taking risks and going in a new direction, and on the other hand it’s unbelievably exhilarating when you feel such deep passion about what you’re doing.

So as I move towards exhibiting at SURTEX this year, I’m keeping in mind to embrace change, to celebrate my uniqueness and to have faith in myself and my process, knowing that I’ve followed my heart.  And to my fellow SURTEXERS and creative folks, I wish for you to celebrate your uniqueness and to have faith that you are following your own path, regardless of the results.

Come visit me at SURTEX, booth  641....
see you soon


  1. Lovely post Debbie! It IS hard to be yourself in this business at times. My favorite part of your post.... "It can be scary taking risks and going in a new direction, and on the other hand it’s unbelievably exhilarating when you feel such deep passion about what you’re doing." So very true!

    I hope you have a wonderful Surtex this year. Wish I were going to see all of you lovely artist friends!

  2. Big bummer! Sorry I won't get to see your lovely self. You too, I hope you have a fantastic SURTEX.

  3. Great post Debbie, and you're awesome... and I'm so glad you're you. Keep at it! :)