Prolific Australian designer Laura Blythman seems to have a hand in everything right now. From her latest collab with Such Great Heights, to her designs for Cotton On Kids and her delightful prints at Enemies Yay, Laura’s work is playful, beautiful and fun – and we love it. We asked her about how her career has unfolded and how she manages her time as single mum to four-year-old Xander with her amazing creative career. Here’s what she told us.
How long have you been working as a designer?
About 11 years now!
Where did you get started?
My first job was at Hallmark Cards Australia. I was there for three years. I made many friends and a lot of greeting cards. It was such an amazing introduction into one of the many elements of the creative industry.
Can you tell us a little about your style?
My style is handcrafted, perfectly imperfect, playful, vibrant and cheerful. The end result is work that I would like to think is distinctly Laura-ish, with a commercial but personal vibe.
Did you study to do what you do, or are you self-taught?
I completed a Bachelor Degree in Graphic Design in 2004, though most of what I do now was either learned on the job at places such as Hallmark, Cristina Re and Typo, or it’s been self-taught in my studio.
What led you to work the way you do today?
I definitely prefer the handcrafted, organic approach to my work these days. I think it probably has a lot to do with many years pushing pixels on a computer screen, while working as an in-house designer with crazy deadlines.
I still do use the Mac when needed, but my happiest times are when I’m with a pair of scissors and surrounded by piles of my painted paper, and scraps of found and recycled paper waiting to be given a new life. I am much more connected to the work if I have actually made it with my hands. It was always the dream to be doing what I am doing now, making a living from my own artwork.
Creating my own new products, collaborating with friends and ace brands, working independently on fun client jobs, all makes for a very happy Laura.
What inspires your work?
I’m inspired by colour palettes, texture, paper, happiness, nature, landscapes, my creative friends, my son, music…so many things.
What keeps you motivated creatively?
While the luxury of a good, long creative session with my favourite music playing loudly always helps to get me motivated, a self-imposed computer/internet ban helps keep me in that creative space.
How much time a week do you dedicate to your work?
My work days are super precious. I only get three days a week to run my business (while Alexander is in daycare). I am always switched on, promoting on Instagram, writing quick emails on my phone, late-night order packing.
It’s pretty intense doing all of this and being a single mum. It can feel pretty messy and there’s always something work related being neglected. I’ll work out the perfect balance one day I’m sure.
The biggest goal is to be able to spend more time on the creative. Maybe a full day every week only creating artwork. No email/internet/admin allowed. Wish me luck!
What does a typical day working involve for you?
9.30am (hopefully) I check Alexander into daycare. Neither of us do mornings very well. Coffee drive-through marks the start of my work day. That’s about the time my brain starts. Then it’s off to my home workspace to get started.
I have multiple to-do lists on the go at any one time (and post-it note reminders all over the house). But I always start my day by writing a new daily to-do list, quite often including much of the day before’s to-do list.
Each day is a different mash up of emails, print signing, packing and posting, framing job drop-offs, emails, client jobs, general admin, creating new art, emails, sneak in a load of laundry, emails, commissions and collaborations… No two days are ever the same. One of my best friends Pete also works alone from his home, so we generally have each other on Skype throughout the day. This helps inject a little of that much-needed human element into the day! He makes my face hurt from the laughs. I then try and work a little bit most nights once kiddo is asleep. Generally whatever I can handle doing while I watch some trash on the TV.
What are the most challenging parts of your job ?
I love my job, I feel so so lucky. I’ve taken risks to be where I am and it’s scary doing it on my own, but it’s so worth it. There are some areas that I know I need to work on big time! I struggle with over committing and taking too many things on.
Admin and emails – it’s a constant challenge keeping on top of this. I feel so bad keeping people waiting, but it can get so overwhelming. Bookwork = nightmare. I get help with it, but oh my gosh, even preparing for it is very very anxiety-inducing for me. I just wish I could cut it all up and paste it into something fun.
Which other artists inspire you?
I’ve got some super creative friends and they are always inspiring. I collaborate with my best friend a lot. His work makes my heart and eyes very happy. Such inspiration. His name is Pete Cromer. Lately I can’t stop admiring the installation work of Pip & Pop, and murals by Mina Hamada & Zozen Bandido.
What are your go-to websites and blogs?
I love Instagram the most, it’s the daily (ok…hourly) treat for my eyes. I also enjoy the occasional peruse of The Design Files, Studio Home and Design Love Fest.
What do you love most about being a designer?
I love being creative. I love the creative process from start to finish. There is nothing more satisfying than being excited to share something new that I’m proud of.
What has been your favourite project to work on and why?
Soooo excited about the range of apparel, decor and accessories that Such Great Heights have just released. I created a collage textile pattern for them and I LOVE it. The range is stunning, it’s always so rewarding when I am 100% in love with the final product. They’re so clever and I’m really proud to have contributed to the collection.
What aspirations do you have for the future and what would be your dream project?
I love collaborating with amazing brands and labels. I dream of seeing my artwork on a range of bedlinen and homewares, a full fashion range, maybe even an album cover for an ace band.
I also hope to spend more time creating original artworks, exhibiting them and not necessarily turning them into a limited-edition print.
So many ideas. Maybe one day I will have employees, a team, a shop…who knows.
Do you have a favourite design of your own?
That changes all the time. Generally it’s whatever is the most recent thing I have created. Right now it’s the Such Great Heights collaboration. There are so many amazing things that I’ve worked on recently that I can’t reveal quite yet. I’m pretty proud of them and can’t wait to share.
What’s your number one piece of advice for other creative mothers who want to work in the design field?
I think you need to be prepared to work really hard, sleep way less, be brave and take risks. You have to put yourself out there and self promote (as awkward as it can sometimes feel). Thank goodness for Instagram – less about the words (not my forte) and more about creating an ace gallery full of little square images of your life/work/process and general happenings.
Do what comes naturally to you and don’t try and be everything for everyone. Eventually your work will speak for itself and if people like what they see, the opportunities and successes will arise from that.
How did your collaboration with Such Great Heights come about?
I made contact with the amazing guys at Such Great Heights a few years ago just to let them know how much I love their brand and what they do. I said I would love to work with them one day. They contacted me earlier this year asking me to create an original collage artwork for them to use as a textile design for a new collection. I jumped at the chance.
Can you tell us if you compartmentalise time with Alexander from your creative pursuits?
When Alexander is home, he is my focus. Occasionally I’ll sneak in a tiny bit of self-promotion on Instagram, but really Alexander is what it’s all about.
We go on adventures, have play dates, or just spend the day cuddling on the couch. I try to keep work and Xander time separate. We love our ‘us’ time.
On the days he is in daycare or at his dad’s house, that is when I really focus on work. It’s always madness, but I love it.
What does it mean to you to be an Australian creative, who is also a mother?
I feel beyond fortunate to be able to do something I love so much and still be able to support myself and Alexander. I’m so inspired by other Australian creative mothers, in particular Miranda Skoszek, Amy Constable and Madeleine Stamer. There are too many to mention. I love to hear how they manage it all, how they create their perfect, or near-perfect, life/mum/creative balance.
Laura is one of six inspiring Australian women featured in the August 2015 issue of CHILD Mags. Pick up your copy to read advice on being a creative mother from Laura Blythman, Anna Walker, Christine Pobke, Beci Orpin, Amy Harris and Chantelle Ellem.
Read more about Laura Blythman X Such Great Heights collaboration.
33-year-old Laura Blythman is an Australian designer who lives in Victoria with her son Xander (4). Visit her website, follow her on Instagram, like her on Facebook and shop her designs at her fabulous store.