Meet Megan Isabella: From Green Thumbs to Cottagecore
Think cottagecore, quaint country motifs and floral themes and then you’ll be in sync with artist and pattern designer, Megan Isabella.
Megan is on a mission to create joy with her hand-painted illustrations that spark playfulness, childhood nostalgia and memories of lazy summer days. Her art is adorable and colourful that circles back to nature.
Chatting with our blog editor, Jacqui Taylor, Megan reminisces about her magical childhood being outdoors, balancing motherhood and work for the first time and making connections happen.
Hello Megan, thanks for taking the time to chat. Let’s start with yourself, where did you grow up and where do you call home now?
My childhood was magical. Our family lived in a small town in the southwest of Australia close to the river, bushland and coast. We spent a lot of time outdoors appreciating nature. After school, my sisters and I were free to run wild around the bushland near our house with the other neighbourhood kids and our school holidays were filled with camping, beach trips and nature walks. I will be forever grateful to my parents for that gift.
Now, I have started a family of my own. We live in a small place in an inner suburb of Perth. It’s a different lifestyle, but we try to make a point of visiting some of the beautiful places of nature that Perth has, most of which are only a short drive away.
Talk me through your creative process.
I have a background in graphic design so I have a strong base in conceptualising ideas. I brainstorm first with sketches on paper or in my sketchbook. I like to start with a chosen theme for a collection I want to build, but then I think it’s important to allow myself the freedom to explore whatever motifs come to mind. From there, I trace these on to smooth watercolour paper and hand render them in gouache colours. The rest of the design, layout choices and repeat pattern-making is done digitally after I’ve scanned them into Photoshop.
Considering the climate we are in, what has changed for you due to COVID-19?
Things had already considerably changed for me prior to the pandemic because I’d just become a mother for the first time. I’d spent most of my ‘maternity leave year’ working on building up a body of work during my daughter’s nap times. I was looking forward to re-starting my career and launching my new collections when we went into the first lockdown – it was terrible timing. I really lost confidence in myself. I’m very encouraged to see signs of it picking up again now and creatives getting work again – that’s really positive.
When and how did you meet Nerida Hansen?
I think I first learned about Nerida Hansen on Instagram. I like to research the career progression of other successful creatives and figure out how they landed their gigs. When I discovered who Nerida was, I looked her up on my podcasts app and found a few interviews to listen to so I could get to know her better. Reaching out to Nerida and showing her my work was my big goal for 2020 and I’m so glad I made that connection.
Tell me about your upcoming designs for both Nerida Hansen Fabrics and Future Folk Designs. What were your inspirations for this body of work?
The designs are from my Secret Garden collection which was inspired by my walks around the suburban garden beds in my area. I set out to design patterns that could spark a conversation between parent and child and foster a love of gardening. The ‘Green Thumb’ print in particular contains everything from a seed packet to a Bunnings Hat – I wanted it to feel familiar and fun.
Do you enjoy seeing your designs on everyday objects and garments?
Of course! It’s the reason I moved my illustration career in the direction of pattern making. I love seeing the printed fabric because it gives my work this extra layer of texture that is just so beautiful. Seeing it then come to life in the form of a product that is going to become a part of someone’s everyday life is just the best. I get excited every time!
Do you have a typical day, what does it look like?
I’m still working out this whole motherhood/artist thing. My two precious days of day care per week are my ‘official’ workdays but gosh do they fly by fast! It has definitely made me laser-focused. On those days, I try to decide the priority item I want to work on that day in advance so that when I return from the morning drop-off I can get straight into it. Setting a gigantic to-do list just leaves me feeling depressed and mourning my pre-mum capabilities. By prioritising the ‘most important thing’ I actually complete something that day, which then gives me a sense that I am chipping away at progress.
Who has inspired you the most to date and why? Whose careers do you follow?
I look to other creative mums to inspire me, I want to feel that it is possible to be both Mother and Artist. I have followed the careers of Ellie Whittaker and also Karina Jambrak for a while now and both are proof that consistently showing up for yourself does eventually pay off. Their success, coupled with the honesty about how hard the slog can be, gives me the hope and validation I need to keep getting back into the ring. If they can do it, I can do it too.
Do you have a dream collaboration or project that is on your ‘bucket list’?
I sure do. I would love to do a cottagecore themed kids’ bedroom range with co-ordinated bedding, teepees, flip-out sofas, laundry hampers etc; with lots of butterflies, mushrooms and garden florals (I’m looking at you, Adairs).
What is in the pipeline for you for 2021?
Right now, I’m working on a European style Holiday/Christmas collection filled with lots of cosy motifs. I’m in the sketch and paint stages still and really enjoying it.
Name three words that best describe your style of art.
Playful, colourful and hand-painted
Megan, what advice would you offer to those that are starting out as an artist?
Every time you make something you are building your career – even if you hate what you’ve just made, you still learned something in the process. The only way we can improve our work or push it in a new direction is if we experiment so just pick up those tools and keep going.
If you could chat to your younger self, what words of wisdom would you say?
Just stick to what you are good at (making art) and make lots of it – once you have a good body of work the rest will follow.
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