Meet Fi Douglas, the creative mind behind homeware brand bluebellgray

To celebrate the launch of her three latest prints with King & McGaw, we catch up with Fi Douglas to find out more about the early days of her homewares company bluebellgray, daily life at her shop and studio in Glasgow’s West End, and the role nature and colour have on our wellbeing.

Q. Hi Fi, you began bluebellgray 14 years ago with six cushions designed at your kitchen table. Could you tell us about your journey to creating your colourful homeware brand? 

A. Bluebellgray is that classic kitchen table story, it truly did start on my kitchen table, it was the only table I had, so it was used for everything: painting, designing, wrapping orders… and as our kitchen table! I always loved colour and being creative as a child, there were lots of artists in my family so I think it runs in my genes. I always knew I wanted to do something creative in my heart. I’m forever grateful for my high school art teacher who believed in me and encouraged me to follow a creative path. Without her believing in me I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to choose art school as my path. 

When I graduated from art school in printed textiles I worked in the industry for a few years before taking the leap to set up on my own. My husband was instrumental in encouraging me to go for it. I’m forever grateful to him for allowing me the space to do it and for being there for me throughout the journey.

I didn’t have money or come from money, but I managed to secure a very small start up grant which helped me pay for a trip to London to show at a design showcase. I truly had six cushions and a wall hanging when I first showed my designs. I didn’t have money to buy any large amounts of stock and it was only through the kindness of people in the industry who let me print/make in a very small way and favours from photographer and web developer friends that I managed to get going. 

The real turning point was getting discovered by an amazing journalist from Elle Decoration – he saw my designs and featured them in the magazine and from there I got amazing stockists like Lane Crawford In Hong Kong and Liberty in London.

From there things snowballed and I found myself showing and selling all over the word, from Japan to New York and LA. It’s been a whirlwind ride and I’m just grateful to still be here 14 years later. Each year I’ve grown and learned as a person and as a businesswoman, and my creativity has grown too. 

‘Quentin’, bluebellgray

‘I really believe your environment affects how you feel, and it’s an often overlooked part of our wellbeing’

Fi Douglas

Q. We love your ethos of creating colourful designs to contribute to a sense of joy and wellbeing. Can you tell us more about this? 

A. Living in Scotland I’ve always felt very affected by the weather and my environment. Growing up surrounded by beautiful views brought me a lot of happiness, peace and a deep appreciation for nature that I truly didn’t appreciate the effect of until I was an adult.

Contrary to that, those dark days in winter can feel so long and as beautiful as winter can be, I miss colour in the winter. I very much started bluebellgray with the primary focus to bring joy into people’s lives through colour. 

I really believe your environment affects how you feel, and it’s an often overlooked part of our wellbeing. Looking at something that you personally find beautiful or uplifting every day is a great and relatively simple way to bring joy into your life. That’s always been my aim with bluebellgray, to bring joy and wellbeing to the people that connect with my art and designs. 

Q. You have a beautiful store in the West End of Glasgow, is this your creative base? 

A. My shop in the West End of Glasgow is very much my creative hub – it’s a special place for me as it’s a physical space where I can really showcase the overall vision of bluebellgray in a way that is hard to do just online. 

It evolves with my designs and it’s a lot of fun to have such a beautiful space to work with. We also have a studio above the shop where I work day to day alongside the bluebellgray team – everything from product development to finance meetings happens there in the studio space. It’s an amazing high ceiling, open plan space and a lot of collaborative creativity happens there.

However, my personal creative space where I paint is very much in my home studio. I have three young children and often find the time for creativity and painting is when they are in bed. When we moved into our new house, I converted one of the rooms into a studio for myself and as a mother it’s been an absolute game changer to be able to have a creative space to paint at home. I love that space, it’s full of beautiful light and it has great wall space for my large canvases… although the canvases often get nabbed to paint on by my four year old before I can paint on them, she loves painting on canvas!

‘Making weekly time for painting and creativity once a week is my goal for this year, painting is where my heart truly lies’

Fi Douglas

Q. How does an average day look for you? 

A. I think doing what I do, there is always something different happening almost every day, it’s one of the things I love most about what I do. Most days I take the dog for a walk first thing. I love it, because I really see the seasons walking him every day. 

I drop my two older boys at school then head into the shop/studio. Mondays are always about catching up with the team, meetings around marketing, sales, etc. Tuesdays and Wednesdays we do a lot of product development work, reviewing samples, looking at different textile qualities, and thinking up new product ideas. 

Social media is a big part of what I do these days too, posting on Instagram every day and communication with customers through our social channels and creating content for that is one of the main parts of my job these days – something I couldn’t have imagined when I set it up 14 years ago. 

This year I’m making a conscious effort to make Thursday my day for creativity in my home studio, it's all too easy to get caught up in the day to day, and I have for many years. Making weekly time for painting and creativity once a week is my goal for this year, painting is where my heart truly lies. 

‘Sod it, let’s paint it pink’, bluebellgray

Q. You studied at The Glasgow School of Art. How did your time there shape your artistic practice? 

A. I originally studied painting in the Fine Art department at Glasgow School of Art before ultimately changing over to printed textiles, which is the department I graduated from. 

In many ways I was too young when I studied painting, I was 18, fresh out of school and just hadn’t lived enough yet to understand how to explain my creative vision, despite knowing how to paint my creative vision. Textiles was a softer landing, it was 1999 when I went to art school, and actually painting was very much not in vogue with the tutors at that time. 

Textiles on the other hand embraced drawing, painting and colour, so with the encouragement of my best friend I transferred over and found a place where my love of pink paint and colour was accepted. I look back at that time and see a young girl who had the ability but just didn’t have the confidence to explain her love of colour and why she made huge abstract colourful canvases at a time when they were very much not in fashion! 

It’s a hard art school, but ultimately it’s an art school that certainly toughens you up and pushes you creatively. I met some of my dearest and best friends there and discovered a world of creativity and creative people I will always be grateful for. 

‘April’, Bluebellgray

Q. Your three newly released prints with King & McGaw represent three distinct times of the year. Could you tell us more about these emotive works and the feelings they convey? 

A. Living in the UK I always think so much of our lives are influenced by the seasons, and I love so much what each season brings. These three new prints, April, August and October each conveys a strong feeling from each of these months. Colour plays such an important part in seasonality for me, and these paintings are my response to that.

April is very much about light, the feeling of those light evenings when Spring eventually arrives after a long winter and the excitement over the possibilities of what lies ahead. 

August is about the warmth of summer, and the colour that summer brings. The joy of the sun and the colours that burst open in summertime from nature and in day to day life, from paddling pools to ice creams. 

October is about the feeling of rain, of Autumn closing in, but still holding onto colour. Some of the most incredible seasonal colours happen in October. 

I tend to always paint on raw canvas and all three of these works are painted on raw canvas, which lets the colour and paint flow and layer in a beautifully soft way.

‘August’, bluebellgray
‘October’, bluebellgray

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