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Category: Interviews

  1. This is me...and Jack too! Come and meet us!

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    It was recently pointed out to me that not many people know what I look like! This may not be a bad thing, I think, but apparently people like to see faces and know who they are talking to and I think I understand this. Either way shortly after this conversation I was offered the chance to have some photos taken courtesy of the wonderful Spring Fling PR team which consists of Matthew Shelly and Colin Hattersley. So despite being a bit camera shy I managed to look quite here they are. 

    ailsa black in the studio with jack

    In the studio with Jack...there may be a biscuit being dangled just out of sight!

    ailsa black in my studio in carsethorn scotland (1)

    Oh dear the biscuit has disappeared and now Jack looks slightly worried!

    ailsa black in the garden in carsethorn

    In the garden...Jack is starting to get used to the idea biscuit involved!

    ailsa black in the garden in carsethorn scotland (3)

    Jack is having a break at this point!

    ailsa black in the studio again with jack my collie

    Jack is fed up at this point and obviously not too keen on this painting hence the tongue sticking out!

    Of course if you would like the chance to meet the real me in the flesh I'll be taking part in the Spring Fling open studio event next weekend 27th to the 29th May at Kirkbean village hall...hope to see lots of you there!

  2. Shop Scotland Interview

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    In the Shop Window with Ailsa Black, Dumfries

    Monday, December 12th, 2016

    Our most recent ‘In the Shop Window’ is with Scottish artist Ailsa Black. Read a little glimpse behind the scenes of Ailsa’s successful business. Her back story, inspiration, previous jobs and Ailsa’s fantastic achievements.

    Ailsa Black, Dumfries

    My Business: I paint and from the paintings make prints, cards, calendars and a growing range of lovely goods. I sell these through my website and to trade. I work with galleries to sell my paintings, undertake commissions and license work for production.

    Starting Out: I studied Graphics and illustration at Grays School of Art in the 80’s. After art school I moved to Edinburgh and lived there for 10 years and had lots of different jobs. In 2000 I moved back to Dumfries and Galloway and started working as a manager for a big charity. It was quite a hectic job and as I approached 40 I decided it was time to start being more creative and started painting in my spare time.

    Previous jobs: Arts worker, outreach worker, photographic sales assistant, barmaid, fish processing assistant, administrator, support worker, charity manager … I could go on …

    Ailsa Black

    My “typical” working day: Up quite early about 6.30am and have breakfast and go out with my collie dog for a beach walk. I try to be in the studio between 8 and 9am. I check my emails and reply to any messages on social media. The mornings are generally spent doing admin tasks, packing orders, answering trade enquiries etc.  I try to have admin work done by lunchtime but in reality it often goes well in the afternoon. Ideally I try to start painting after lunchtime. I’ll have a break for tea and often go out again either for a walk or a bike ride. In the evening I usually carry on working and plan my next painting or work on small paintings at the desk in the living room.

    Self employment highs: Making your own decisions!

    Self employment lows: Not having a predictable income stream and the mortgage still needs paid …

    Inspiration: I love where I live and this is my inspiration. I try to spend as much time as I can out of doors and watching wildlife and the amazing birds and sea mammals we have round here. From my studio I can see porpoises, otters, seals, flocks of birds, deer … you name it.

    Ailsa Black

    Business Achievements : I do love seeing my work on cards with charity names like Oxfam, Marie Curie and the RSPB.

    Longterm goals: I’m working with an agent who is helping me license some work in the long term I plan to take a step back from selling to trade so I have more time to spend being creative.

    Ailsa Black

    Promotion: In 2014 I was shortlisted in License This! which is a brand licensing competition. As a result I now have an agent and am working on expanding my range of products.

    Popular and Favourite Products: Cards and prints never go wrong but it’s lovely to have a big mug of tea with my art on the side.

    With Hindsight: Don’t try to do everything yourself.

    In my Private Jet: St Kilda

    Favourite Independent Shop: Loch Arthur near Beeswing.

    Favourite destination in Scotland: Dumfriesshire

    Favourite Scottish Tourist Attraction: Edinburgh

    Favourite Scottish Restaurant: My neighbours are all great cooks!

    Favourite TV Show: Still Game

    Best thing about Scotland: Stunning scenery, amazing wildlife, big open spaces, deserted beaches, changing light…

    Do you believe in Nessie? Yes, of course.

    Favourite Holiday Destination: Scotland, but I love the Lake District too.

    Ailsa Black

    Website –
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    Big thanks to Ailsa for giving us a little glimpse into her world. Look out for another In the Shop Window interview coming in early 2017.


  3. House of Cocoa Magazine

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    CREATIVE SPOTLIGHT : ALISA BLACKfor the love of a sand dog house of cocoa

    Alisa Black grew up in a tiny village in Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland during the 70’s. The family of four children was supplemented with chickens, ducks, doves, cats, rabbits and mice and it’s from here that her love of nature and wildlife grew. She was always painting and drawing the things she saw around her and loved to be outdoors. So it was no surprise that she would, one day, launch her own brand.

    Here, Alisa talks to us at House of Coco to tell us more…

    When did you launch the brand and what was the reason behind it?
    When I hit 40 I was working full time in a job which was exhausting and leaving me feeling unfulfilled.  I decided it was time for a life change. I found myself a part-time job and decided to start painting, things have just grown from there really.

    Whats your background?
    I studied Art and Design in the late 80’s and then spent 20 years working in the community mostly with people with mental health problems, initially running arts groups and then later in management.

    wooillit wanderers house of cocoa
    How many people are involved in the company and what are their roles?
    It’s me and the dog with a lot of support from my partner Alan who does my photography, pours the odd glass of wine, helps me at trade shows and has given me the confidence to do this whole thing!

    What is the hardest challenge you have faced since you started the company?
    People sometimes don’t realise that being an artist is a real job. Being self employed can be very hard work and you have to be prepared to put in the hours which can be long. I regularly work weekends and evenings and even then you never know how much money is going to be in the bank at the end of the month and that takes some adjusting to when have become accustomed to a regular salary. It takes a big leap of faith but it is worth it and it is exciting!

    Tell us one fact about you that people wouldn’t know?
    Although I went to art school I studied art and design.  I always wanted to paint but I wasn’t accepted for the painting department.  So although I been taught to have an understanding of design and illustration I have had to teach myself to paint and I didn’t start until six years ago.

    2016 is here, where do you plan on taking the brand?
    I am working with a fabulous agent this year and she is working hard to have my art licensed on a range of products across the UK, Europe and the United States so that is very exciting.  I am also looking forward to painting a new collection of work on a slightly different theme.

    To date, what has been the highlight since launching?
    I love seeing my work on shop shelves especially when it’s in partnership with big brands like Oxfam and the RSPB. Having my first solo exhibition was great as was exhibiting and the Royal Glasgow Institute and the Paisley art institute. In 2014 I was shortlisted in the License This! competition at the Brand licensing Europe Show at Olympia in London.  I presented my work to a panel and a live studio audience.  I didn’t win the competition but I made some great contacts who have really helped me since then.

    mousie capers house of cocoa

    Which city do you feel most at home in, London, Paris or New York?
    I am not a city girl any more although if I have a favourite it would have to be Edinburgh where I lived for a while.  I love the old town and the hidden streets and back lanes which are so atmospheric. Edinburgh has a fantastic world music scene and you can see great bands playing in the pubs in the evenings.

    Style means….?
    I think the importance of style should be about being able to have nice things which make you feel better and I do appreciate the value in being able to have some lovely things.  People have said to me that owning one of my paintings or even one of my prints makes them feel better about themselves because it cheers them up. If that is what owning something you love does then I think it has to be a good thing.

    If you had to, what piece of clothing from your wardrobe would you wear everyday?
    When I am not in the studio I spend my time walking on the beach or climbing nearby hills and watching the wildlife with my dog.  So for me my statement foot wear is my purple neoprene Buckboot wellies…I just love them and they keep my feet warm!

    Best place for a coffee?
    I don’t drink coffee but I love my Clipper tea especially when it comes in one of my mugs and I have it in the studio where I have views of the sea and can listen to the birds singing.  Sometimes I catch sight of a seal, a porpoise or an otter.  Sometimes a neighbour wanders past and gives me a wave.

    Guilty pleasure?
    Wild swimming with my dog! In amongst the lilies in a nearby loch and sometimes in the sea if I can persuade him to come in. Only in the summer though..I’m not that hardy!

    jack and i swim  house of cocoa-1

    If you could spent 24 hours in anywhere in the world, where would it be?
    I have always wanted to visit St Kilda which is an archipelago in the outer Hebrides which was evacuated in the 1930’s. It is now a World Heritage Site and is owned by the National Trust.  It has its own species of sheep and is a fantastic seabird colony.  I’d love to stay there and paint the wildlife and the islands.

    In future, how do you plan on expanding the company?
    I’m working on building the brand and expanding my range of imagery. I’m looking forward to some successful partnerships going forward this year which help raise my brand awareness.