Fifteen years ago, fashion designer and new mum Nessie MacKay decided to hand-paint her own Christmas cards. Sitting at the kitchen table in her home on a West Sussex dairy farm, she had little idea that this creative pursuit would grow into a business specialising in bespoke illustrated stationery with 13 staff, recognisable for its scribble-and-splash watercolour style (à la Quentin Blake) and partnered with Not On The High Street. We asked Nessie how it all began.
I used to be a fashion designer but when my first child was born, I realised that fashion design and children just wasn't going to work. I'd always made greetings cards for myself, so that became a source of pocket and coffee money while I was cradling my first-born. It was never planned as a business: it just grew organically.
Who are your influences?
I do love Quentin Blake – I think he's amazing and I that probably comes through in my artwork. But I'm also influenced by our garden and the woods around us, and of course spring is very exciting, there are flowers popping up. Being able to create collections from what's around me is a blessing.
I get the impression you are surrounded by wellies? [Mackay’s signature print]
We do live on a dairy farm so there are a lot of wellies around! But we did a collaboration with Joules recently and they kindly gave me a voucher so I'm definitely getting some new boots because we keep taking these pictures of everyone in wellies and I keep thinking, 'Hm, mine aren't nearly as adventurous as they should be!' My boys only want boring-coloured wellies in the house.
What do you love most about what you do?
Probably doing my collections, which comes back to the roots of my fashion career. I've just done my Spring/Summer collection and am beginning on the Christmas one. I love doing the commissions as well though, because it's different every day, but for me, there's something special in finding my own inspiration for new works.
What’s your favourite spot in Sussex?
I love Ashdown Forest – my kids go to school there, so we drive across that every day. Brighton's also pretty cool and just on our doorstep. One of our kids now lives down in Brighton so we're there a lot. There's always strange stuff going on there. And we love walking on the South Downs with the kids and the dog.
Your business is growing – are you still the only illustrator?
Yes – although I do enjoy running the business too and it's a great team. It's got a good family feel to it. And our partner, Not On The High Street, is an inspiration to work for – my account manager's amazing. They've open so many doors for small businesses.
This Is Nessie offers a range of bespoke and off-the-shelf gifts and stationery; thisisnessie.com, notonthehighstreet.com