Spotlight: Laura Darling on the Importance of Overcoming Awkwardness

Laura Darling is an illustrator and artist educator. She is involved with the Dundee Ceramics Workshop, exhibiting at their GENERATORprojects take-over, and works at the Dundee International Women’s Centre. Laura also spoke at the September Make/Share, which you can watch on the Live Feed. For more on Laura’s work, you can visit her website

Sam Gonçalves:  Did you initially move to Dundee because of your illustration work?

Laura Darling: I moved up to Dundee after graduating from Edinburgh College of Art. I got a job in retail and tried to do illustration work in my spare time. It was a struggle and I ended up not really enjoying either. In hindsight I can see this happened because I didn’t know many people locally and lacked a bit of a creative support network. I was naïve thinking I could do it alone.

SG: Did you stop pursuing illustration at that time because of this lack of a support network?

LD: I made the decision to stop trying to get published or commissioned and focus on things that made me happy, whilst continuing with my job in retail. I found that when I stopped worrying about making money from it, I started enjoying illustrations again.

SG: And at what point did that change?

LD: I decided to do my Masters in Illustration, and got really focused on that, mostly because I did not enjoy in retail job at all. I just couldn’t see myself not being an illustrator. From then on things changed quite a bit.

SG: Yeah! It seems to me like you’ve been popping up on all sorts of different projects recently like the Ceramics Workshop, the Mix In and a few online things.

LD: I think that just focusing on work that interests me, not worrying about what it’s ‘for’, and making sure that my work is out there, has been a positive move. It’s how I got commissions like the ‘Mix-In’ and other things, just people seeing my work ‘out there’.

SG: I guess following your particular interest means your work becomes increasingly specific to you and therefore unique. In terms of getting your work more out there, how do you do with ‘networking’ and having to connect with that local creative community that you felt was hard to reach at the start?

LD: I would say it’s all about practice. It’s hard to get over that fear and awkwardness that come with it. I have a kind of ‘anti-pep talk’ before I speak at an event or enter a room where I don’t know anyone: I just tell myself “Nobody cares about you!”. Everyone has their own anxieties and most of us are more conscious of how we are perceived rather than the other way round.

SG: Right! No one is being nearly as harsh as your own brain at that point!

LD: Especially as a creative, people are the most important thing! We need to nurture that. It’s good to have a network of people who are doing similar things. I think the word ‘networking’ puts people off… You just picture people in suits standing around, and it doesn’t really have to be like that!

SG: You have also been working at Dundee International Women’s Centre for a while, could you tell me a bit about that?

LD: I’m a Project Support Lead now at DIWC. I love it, it’s the kind of job that can encompass lots of different things.

SG: I’ve only heard good things about DIWC! Working there must give you a fascinating look into a totally different ‘Dundee’ that we may not relate to very often.

LD: Exactly! There are so many things we take for granted and assume about the city, but lots of people have a completely different experience.

SG: Has your experience with all these different stories impacted your art in any way?

LD: Very much so! I’ve got an exhibition coming up next year at Verdant Works and it’s all about the women that I met through DIWC and their journeys through Dundee.

SG: Here’s the question from our previous interviewee: What’s the most vivid dream you’ve ever had?

LD: Oh interestingly I had a feature length dream last night! It was about not washing my friend’s clothes for her and her getting really angry.

SG: Wow… what does that mean?

LD: I don’t know…

SG: And what’s your question to the next guest?

LD: What’s your most embarrassing moment?

SG: I like this a lot! Thanks for your time Laura!

LD: Thanks!