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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.