When it comes to being dotty, Donna Taylor has it all figured out. The Mornington Peninsula mum is the creative genius behind Dots by Donna – a collection of images (namely animals) drawn freehand by thousands of tiny dots. Her prints are being spotted and loved all over the country (Natalie Bassingthwaighte and Megan Gale even have a Taylored Dots print hanging on their walls!) and her social media popularity is growing daily. But it’s not just Taylored Dots that drew Mama loves to share to feature the full-time artist as a Mama’s Inspire mum, it was the fact that she is juggling her sudden success all while being a wife to Pete and a mum to two young kids, Milla (8) and Leo (3). We recently chatted with Donna about how she tackles her job and her family life.
MLTS: Tell us about how Taylored Dots started and why?
Donna: It started in Year 11 – I drew Brighton Train Station in dots for an assignment and received an A+++ from my teacher! After that I didn’t continue it until a few years ago. Then it became something to do after work, to release all my frustrations. At the time, I was a regional manager in a retail company, even reaching national in other positions and work was stressful. Drawing with dots was a hobby, something to relax me and bring me back down to earth and at the same time take me away to a blissful place. Sneakily, and without my knowledge, my husband Pete put a pic of The Indian (my first real drawing) on his Facebook page. I was so mad!! I was so embarrassed!! But the comments he received on the photo though were so positive and people loved it, even offering to buy it. So from there Taylored Dots grew. I suppose I owe it all to Pete really.. shh don’t tell him.
MLTS: You’re a super busy woman now with drawing, orders, packing, markets, being a mum and a wife, how do you stay on top of it all?
Donna: I find it all a daily challenge to be honest. I have days where I have to allocate certain jobs, every day is regular orders, then wholesale orders. There’s phone calls, emails, framing, printing, packaging etc. These jobs all get done while Leo is sleeping and in-between school pick up (Pete does drop off). All of my family is a massive help, though. Pete is the Wholesale Manager of my business and runs many of my errands for me. My mum helps me with markets, flat packing, orders and the kids. Pete’s family have the kids when we have a double market weekend or an expo or if Pete just has his own work on (he owns his own business – a tennis academy).
MLTS: Do you ever have time to do anything for yourself?
Donna: Haha nope. I feel a lot of my friends probably hate me as I am forever saying no, I’m too busy for their invitations. I’m either at markets, going to expos or getting ready for one. I have in the past four months made it part of my routine to go to boot camp twice a week, this is now my me time and i love it… that and obviously drawing which I also need to make more time for.
MLTS: Since you started Taylored Dots last year, the business has grown significantly, how do you distance yourself from it and just be Donna or Mum?
Donna: I need to be better at this. Its hard when your work is just right there when you walk through your house. I work, work, work. Pete is forever telling me to stop working, but its not in my nature!! When the kids are asleep I do my main work like answering emails, dotting and prepping for markets that are ahead. Pete tries to pull me away from it by going on little family outings, breakfasts or holidays and for this I thank him. We always have a family dinner once a week also.
MLTS: Are you surprised with how successful Taylored Dots has become?
Donna: Absolutely!! I never expected this for a second and to be truly honest, its a little overwhelming. When putting your work out for all to judge its a little daunting, ok… very daunting!! Someone once said to me, its like putting yourself up on a wall for all to judge, no-one likes doing that. Recently at the Life InStyle Sydney Expo the comments I received were so overwhelming that during one conversation, I found myself looking away and welling up… I just couldn’t believe that people loved my work as much as they did, when there were so many other beautiful things around them. In the past after successful days at the market, I have even had a cry in the car on the way home… I just can’t believe that I have made such a successful career out of drawing in dots.. who would have thought? Two years ago, none of my friends even knew i could draw!!
MLTS: What do the kids think about your dotty friends? Do they know them all by name?
Donna: Mills knows them all by name and tries to teach Leo. Milla has her favourites, at the moment it is Rebekah the Rabbit with Flower Crown. When I first started out in the market scene, Milla didn’t quite understand the concept. Every time someone purchased a framed print, she would get upset thinking she would never see it again. I think it took a year to sink in. Now she has her own prints hanging on the wall in her bedroom and she is happy.
MLTS: If Milla or Leo ever came to you and told you they wanted to be artists too, what would you say?
Donna: I would be so honoured that my baby wanted to follow in my footsteps!! Mills already tries to draw in dots and it is super hard to get her away from her drawing books. There are textas always floating around our house (something we need to get better at, as Leo has just figured out how to take the lids off..eek!). Gone are the days of the ‘starving’ artist… I will always tell my kids to follow their dreams and make money from what they love doing, not from the normal 9-5, I did that for 17 years and that’s the hard way. My way now is the hard way too, but I am my own boss, no-one tells me what to do or takes me away from watching my children grow.
MLTS: Do you think working for yourself has helped or hindered home life? And how so?
Donna: Definitely helped. I used to work as a Regional Manager in Retail, some weeks I could work 70+ hours. Early morning stocktakes, late night floor moves, meetings, training.. you name it, I always had to be there. Pete hated it and I was missing out on watching Milla grow (pre Leo). My weekends were spent on the phone to stores or cleaning my house. I never had family time. Now, I don’t get stuck in traffic, I lay in bed with my family, we bond and we get ready for the day together. I pick Milla up from school on time, I used to get stressed and cry about being late for daycare pick up when I was working. I offer my time to the school. I take the kids to extra curricula activities. I get to know other mums. When I quit my last full time job, I will never forget Pete saying to me; “I feel like I have my wife back”, thats when I knew I had made the right decision.
MLTS: When you first had Milla did you ever think being a full time artist would be on the cards?
Donna: Never. Its funny, like all new mums I used to sit there and look at my new baby and think, I never want to leave you. I used to think of ways of making money to stay at home, I even made babies shoes once (well half a pair). I tried other crafts too but I never thought of drawing. I ended up going back to work when Milla was 18 months. I quit that job when she was 3 years old and had no idea what I was going to do next so I pulled out a drawing I had started many years earlier, started dotting away.
MLTS: What would you say to other mum’s who are thinking about pursuing their dreams but not sure if they could do it with young kids?
Donna: Do it!! I was lucky that I had the financial backing from Pete, he paid for all of my markets and my first ever trade show, without this I would have struggled. Now my business funds itself and gives us a comfortable living. If you can get past that initial set up and have a great idea/product, why not? As long as you are willing, its a lot of hard work to own your own business but if you have strict self management skills it will only be smooth sailing into success. Having a baby is the best time to re-evaluate your life, your career and your goals. You change so much as a person and you now have this little person to share it all with. This is your chance to change your life to the way you want it.
Such beautiful advice, Donna, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us and for this stunning insight into your life as a mum and as an artist.
You can purchase one of Donna’s gorgeous pieces by visiting her website www.tayloreddots.bigcartel.com/