From A Newbie To A 2 Year Old: Reflections On Being Self-Employed

Here is one of my newest articles for Aura Creative. I talk about what I’ve learned in the just over two years I’ve been in business:

I’ve just finished my third Spring Fair, which marks two official years of business. How??? All trade shows are a good opportunity to reflect on what’s working for you and what isn’t; take stock; be inspired; catch up with friends and remind yourself you aren’t the only person in the world trying to do this; get re-motivated if the fire in your belly has dwindled after months of solitary studio time. But Spring Fair is especially reflective. It’s long and huge and my business birthday. Here are some rambling, honest thoughts and observations after two-ish years of Louise Mulgrew Designs.

1. You can’t be new and different forever. Some friends have recently started their own card publishing business and their cards are EXCELLENT. They launched at Spring Fair, exactly two years after me and I knew they’d just kill it. I’ll admit I felt a twinge or jealousy for a moment. I’m only two years in and many moons off being “established”, but I’m also not quite the “new, fresh, different” that I was before. Most people in the world still haven’t seen our cards, but there are many more “ooh I’ve seen these somewhere” comments than there used to be. That’s so brilliant! But it just represents a subtle shift that I’m finding hard to explain: we’re just beginning to mature from newborn cardie babies to toddler terrible-two-hood and it’s a bit sad and a bit amazing.

See the rest of the article at:


New Zealand

I’ve just arrived home from a two-week road trip through the South Island of New Zealand and it was the most epic, spectacular adventure of my life and one I’ll never forget.  We flew on Boxing Day, arriving in Auckland on 28th where we stayed for four nights, including New Year’s Eve.

The view over Christchurch from Mt. Eden

We are massive foodies/coffee lovers so we pretty much spent the time here eating our way round the Asian food offerings, going to amazing breakfast spots and strategically timing our coffee stops so that we could have at least three a day at various trendy hipster establishments.  It was actually pretty quiet in Auckland as all the locals were taking time off over Christmas and New Year to travel south.  New Years eve was a bit of a flop – predictably.  We were so jet lagged still, but determined to go out and be interesting, instead of finishing the third series of Peaky Blinders in bed with take away sushi.  We started too early though, and after a hilarious three hours we ended up back in bed at 10pm.  Our hotel overlooked the Sky Tower that had the most spectacular firework display (I found out from my Mum the next morning who’d seen them online) – we were sound asleep through the entire thing.  We also got the ferry over to Waiheke Island whilst we were in Auckland, which was absolutely beautiful in door-to-door sunshine.

On 1st Jan we flew down to Queenstown to start our road-trip up through the South Island.  Queenstown was my favourite town/city that we saw.  We immediately collected the car and drove around Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy.  Again it was glorious sunshine and the views driving around the lake were like nothing I’ve seen in my life.  This was the first of many spectacular drives – my favourite being the one between Queenstown and Wanaka the next day.

Wanaka in the top row and the most amazing view during the drive between Queenstown and Wanaka

The scenary seemed to change every 5 minutes like different chapters in a book.  One minute the road was steep and winding with imposing mountains on either side and then suddenly it would open out and you could see for miles.  The colours of the trees and the mountains and the fields and lakes changed so much.  In Wanaka it felt very green and yellow where as Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki, the day after, were every shade of purple and navy.

Queenstown, Mount Cook, and a little peppermint flavoured caravan called Myrtle that we drove behind for a couple of hours

The hour we spent at Lake Pukaki was the best hour of the trip for me.  We had miles of lakeside to ourselves.  The water was so clear and cold and silent.

Lake Pukaki at 8am

On the 4th we arrived in Christchurch after a brief visit to the seaside town Akaroa.  This was our first cloudy weather and we had two night’s here so I spent it catching up on work and it was also the best vegan sushi of the trip.  New Zealand is the place to travel if you’re a fussy vegan like me!  Most places have brilliant vegan and veggie options and sometime even more than just one!

We then drove up to Kaikoura which was another absolute highlight! We expected it to be quite stuffy and touristy but it felt really relaxed and quirky and small.  Our first morning there we went dolphin watching where we saw hundreds of wild dusky dolphins and beautiful albatross.  Seasickness was a bit of a distraction for Mike but I had a great time haha!

The next day we went in search of seals.  We couldn’t find them where we expected them to be, but we did see them further along the coast.  At this point we were at the top of the cliff and they were on the rocks below.  Somehow I was persuaded to scale this cliff on my bum, clinging onto tufts of grass and swearing a lot.  It was worth it to be amongst these wild seals.  There were hundreds of them; so many families and babies.  Eventually we were chased off by an alpha male 🙂

A terrible attempt at photographing the seals top left (they’re camouflaged), and Mike and I before our traumatic decent to the seals

Unfortunately I’m the worst photographer in the world, second only to Mike, so we were never quite able to capture the magic of it all.  I wish I had more paintings to show for the trip as well – there were so many inspiring sights, but with so much driving and eating and walking and swimming to squeeze in, I didn’t get many more opportunities.  I loved the special moments I did spend drawing though, on hotel floors, beaches, ferries and forests.  My ‘travel kit’ is not very travel-freindly I must admit, but I’m refining it with each trip so that it is a bit more portable.  I use a water brush if I can’t get hold of a water pot, but these paintings are always more scruffy (like the trees in the painting below).  But otherwise I just bung all my gouache, watercolour and ink pots into a plastic tupaware and carry round a sketchpad of watercolour paper and disposable pallet sheets… although I often just use the side of the drawing as my pallet!

We’d planned to go from Kaikoura to Nelson after the seals but the East Coastal highway between Kaikoura and Nelson turned out to be closed because of a storm so we had a long drive ahead of us, travelling in-land instead.  This clearly was meant to be, because we stumbled across these incredible hot springs in Maruia when driving through the rainforest and ended up spending a night here.  It felt like something out of Jurassic Park! There weren’t any dinosaurs but we were eaten to pieces by sandflies!

Maruia Springs

When we reached our bnb in Nelson, the view was, yet again, incredible!  We had an amazing evening swim in the ocean and got the ferry across to Wellington the next day, where the rain really set in!  Wellington is coffee capital and sushi heaven so we ate and drank as much as we could justify before the big long horrific journey back to the UK!  Mike was alright – he only flew to Australia!  I’m still waking up at 3 each morning but NZ was just the best that there is on this planet and the absolute trip of a lifetime!

Article 2 for Aura Creative Media – Trade Shows For Beginners

Why exhibit at trade shows?

Trade shows are a brilliant way to launch or to begin to grow the wholesale side of your business. They are the perfect opportunity to meet other publishers as well as potential customers and are an authentic environment in which to sell your brand (if, like me, you are not a natural salesperson or a hard-seller.) And, as you become a regular exhibitor, you are validating your brand for the buyers who like to see you a few times before they commit to a purchase.

As a designer, trade shows are also great for providing you with a deadline to work towards. Being my own boss, I don’t have anyone telling me what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by. I find myself procrastinating over designing, burying my head in the sand to all the work that needs doing and just generally lacking structure and focus. So I always like to launch a new range or a number of new designs at each show to give my design-time a bit of structure and to make sure I never go too long without producing new work, which can be really challenging when you’re juggling emails, accounts, sales, fulfilment and a million other adminy stresses that come with a business.

To view this article in full, visit: The Aura Creative website .