Lockdown Business Stories … Ivylovesleaves

It’s time for part 2 of Lockdown Business Stories and this time I’m so excited to introduce you to a new business, and one that was new to me too! Ivylovesleaves creates the most beautiful artwork but I’ll let Hannah tell you all about her lovely business …

Hi Hannah, thankyou so much for doing this … tell us about your business !

My name is Hannah and I am the artist behind Ivylovesleaves. I draw soft and detailed child and family portraits that are full of personality. I specialise in bringing together a number of different photos to create a beautiful piece of art that is also a treasured keepsake. 

Come January, my commissioned portraits will run alongside art prints and poems that embody the founding principle of Ivylovesleaves; ‘to reconnect with life’s small joys, as inspired by my daughter and her love of leaves’. 

Your artwork is incredible and so special, how did you get started ?

Now there’s a question! This is a long one, sorry….

During lockdown our family had really hit a low point. My then-2 year old daughter Ivy was really struggling being shut in a tiny flat with newborn twin brothers, no garden, no friends, no parks, no library, no grandma. She was having meltdowns (a nice word for screaming, shouting, kicking, hitting for 45 minutes sessions) 4 times a day. No exaggeration. We tried all the approaches in the book (or books!) and nothing helped until I read a gentle parenting book that used the phrase ‘if you want to help your child you must first help yourself’. It was life changing. I had been so blinded by my relentless, exhausting, isolated day to day that I hadn’t stopped to look at myself and see how much my unhappiness was impacting my daughter. 

Things needed to change. 

At this point the nurseries were opening up again and I was due to go back to work as an architect for a few days a week. At last a bit of me back, a bit of adult company! Unfortunately I was immediately put on furlough and, with my husband’s pay also going down 12.5%, this meant we were really scraping the barrel and the nursery fees were looking impossible. But I couldn’t go back to being a stay at home mum! I adore working and this was my way out from the crippling loneliness I had been feeling for 12 months. 

The first few weeks of furlough gave me time to develop on thoughts that had been building during the hours I had spent sitting breastfeeding my boys over that year (that adds up to a LOT of time FYI). I wanted to do more. I COULD do more. And I wanted what I did to be something that brought me joy and that facilitated the recovery of our family emotionally, whatever happened financially.

I have drawn my whole life….for fun and for friends but also throughout my life as an architect to express thoughts and ideas. I started to take a note of what brought Ivy joy, thinking I might build a print series of drawings for kids bedrooms/nurseries whilst simultaneously using the time spent with her as a form of therapy for our bruised relationship. It made me stop and look at her more, engage with her more and share in the fact that ,actually, what brought her joy were the simplest of things. The fairy wings I had made out of cardboard with her, the fairy house that we had nestled into the bush by the front door that was now filled with all sorts of bugs and stuff. Most of all, she loved collecting leaves and we would come back from walks with pocket-loads and I would take photos of them and put them in her scrap book. 

I started an Instagram account under the name of Ivylovesleaves with a few of my drawings and a couple of portraits of my sons I had done for my husbands birthday. The commissions started coming in immediately and it was this that gave me the confidence to hand my notice into my job and take them up with gusto. The plan was to do commissions until the end of the year to test the water, get a name for myself and my company, so that in the new year I can move forward with Ivylovesleaves as a concept. In time, I will balance my commissioned portraits (which I adore doing and wouldn’t give up for anything) alongside a print collection that can be dynamic and changeable. 

I think furlough and lockdown was a catalyst for so many changes in people’s lives, what’s been your biggest learning curve so far?

100% it has been learning to trust and believe in myself (this is and, I suspect, always will be WIP)  Architecture is a team game. There is always a specialist to refer to, a design team to share ideas with and a senior colleague to double check your drawings. Setting up Ivylovesleaves and venturing away from Architecture into the art and illustration world meant not only not having no one to pitch my ideas to, I also had to grapple with that brutal deterrent of the best laid plans; Imposter syndrome. 

Imposter syndrome is such a struggle isn’t it, but it’s so important to look back on what you’ve already achieved. What’s your proudest moment so far?

Making the decision to leave my job. That took serious balls at a really risky time but I felt I had to do it; for for my kids and for myself. What I wasn’t expecting was the guilt I felt moving away from a career in Architecture that I had spent 14 years building. Architecture loses women to other professions at an embarrassing rate as it is STILL caught up in the ‘work yourself to the bone for very little pay because you were born to do this shit and you do it for love not money’ culture.  

I no longer feel guilt because I have come to realise that success for me isn’t its about struggling along valiantly in an unsuitable scenario to save face. Its about working with, rather than against, your constraints. 

Such a huge jump but it definitely seems to have paid off for you! So what’s your work set up, do you have a go to podcast or tv show ?

Ok. You can judge me all you like with this but here goes. I have now listened to the whole set of Harry Potter Audiobooks about 3 times and have just started again on book 1 this week. 
I try to listen to ‘how to build a business’ podcasts or ‘how to get your toddler to do what you goddam ask of them’ (or words to that effect) podcasts but Harry has been there for me since the beginning. 

I think it’s the pure, comforting escapism. Like a friendly hand to hold. Some of my drawings are emotionally hard ….the other week I drew twins who only got to meet each other for a few minutes before one went off to NICU and the other passed away an hour later. Their parents hadn’t managed to get a photo of them together and had taken 4 years to find someone who could take the photos she had of the two of them and bring them together into something beautiful. Having twins myself there was no way I was ever going to turn this request down, I was absolutely the right person to create this for their family, but I did need emotional support through it and luckily Harry was there for me….always. 

No judgement here, I think we all have our comfort things that are our go to’s when we want to watch or listen to something! Have you got a top tip for someone running a business ?

Find your community & get out there. 

Instagram, the twin community and now also my local community have encouraged me and empowered me more than I would have ever thought they would or could do. I have cheerleaders, who I had never met before Ivylovesleaves, going above and beyond to support me and share my message. Personal recommendation is far more powerful than any SEO or Facebook Ad. 

I thrive on contact with other people thanks to a friendly but inherently needy personality type (according to Mr Briggs anyway). I am therefore in the early stages of developing a bit of a local community of working mums in order to get a working group together. This, I hope, will in time become a physical co-working environment, which will then become a studio/stop model. That’s the plan, anyway. 

100% agree with that … that’s the exact reason I started my Creative Community! There is so much value to find within your customers and other business owners. I’d love to know what your favourite thing about running your business is …

The flexibility of being in control. 

I am a mum of 3 kids 3 and under. Anyone who has kids at this age will know that this means a lot of them being at home with illnesses, awkward pick up times, prospective school tours, doctors appointments, etc etc….. Setting up my own business has meant I am in total control of what I do, how much I do and when I do it. As long as I am upfront and open with my clients . This does mean my husband having to take the kids off while I catch up on a saturday and a lot of working in the evening, but I know what I am capable of and I can adapt when I need to. 

That’s such an amazing thing to have got out of starting Ivylovesleaves! Ok, what does the future hold for your business ?

Oh my goodness, yes I have plans!!! Ivylovesleaves is in its infancy. 

I have a small catalogue of prints developed, which I will be growing in January after the crazy christmas commission period is over, ready to launch them in February/March time. 

The premise of Ivylovesleaves is one of sharing joy in the simple things, as inspired by my daughter. This has a huge amount of longevity as my family grows, adapts and learns from each other and I will have my sketchbook at the ready as they do. 

I can’t wait to see what you create … Thankyou so much for letting us into your business and I hope that your story will inspire more people to pursue their passion!

If you’d like to follow Hannah at Ivylovesleaves head over to her Instagram here or checkout her website to order your own piece of beautiful artwork. She also has some really incredible videos showing how she creates her pieces … it’s genuinely so interesting to see how skilled Hannah is!

I really hope you are finding these stories inspiring … there will be another one in a couple of weeks time! So you don’t miss out make sure you subscribe to my email newsletter here and I’ll send the new blog post straight to your inbox.

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