There’s one more man I need to mention - my dad. In a recent magazine interview I actually named him as my greatest female role model! Strange, no? But, it was my father who encouraged me and taught me that regardless of gender I could become whatever I set out to be. He also introduced me to the wonderful book by Germaine Greer, The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work. In it, Greer discusses Artemisia Gentileschi, who was enabled to become an artist through her father giving her access to his own studio. That really resonated with me, the idea of the father cultivating the creativity in the daughter. Armed with this, and my copy of the inimitable Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, I was ready to take on the world!
As a mother of three boys, it was really important to me to work and to be seen working, to continue creating and developing. I started my business because – like many other women – I needed to be flexible and creative. It is tricky to balance having children with work commitments and going down the independent route can be particularly well suited to women juggling family commitments with a need to create, innovate and – let’s face it – earn some money. Now there’s a whole team here with me, but when I started it was just me! Like a lot of my stockists, I discovered it could be very hard at times – that’s the nature of independent businesses. But, they also allow women, and perhaps especially mothers, to have flexibility. We can be our own bosses.
Many of my stockists are women, and I always love hearing their stories, how they came to start their businesses. A lot, like me, work with their families – their husbands, their daughters and sons – Connie and Sasha who own the wonderful Restyled in Indiana are an interesting combination of mother and daughter-in-law! And, of course, sisters. I mentioned Victoria and Becky Saunders of 19 alexandra road on my Facebook page the other day (do you follow me on Facebook?). These two young women have a gorgeous shop in Clevedon, here in the UK. At the other end of the spectrum I have stockists who are in their late seventies. Age is no barrier and that is really inspirational!
On a creative level, I’ve written many times about the different places and spaces from which I take inspiration. On a professional level, I want to single out two fabulous women: the tremendous Jocasta Innes and the equally wonderful Isabel O’Neil. Jocasta’s book, Paint Magic, published in 1981 truly revolutionised what we thought of as DIY and encouraged us all to pick up a brush and transform our homes. Isabel O’Neil founded her New York-based Studio Workshop, dedicated to the art of the paint finish, in 1955. She used her knowledge of historical paint techniques to create and replicate wonderful effects from shagreen and tortoiseshell to marble and malachite.
Have a wonderful International Women’s Day, and do get in touch on Twitter or Facebook to let me know which wonderful women have inspired you.